Chris Christie is not about to say he sees himself capable of winning the presidency of the United States, especially not on the heels of a cluster of scandals that have threatened to engulf his administration. He did tell Yahoo News this weekend, however, that he is “readier” than he was years ago to make the run.
Speaking to Yahoo in his first interview since his now-famous two-hour press conference in which he apologized for some members of his senior staff closing lanes of the George Washington Bridge to the town of Fort Lee to hurt its mayor, Christie expressed exhaustion and embarrassment over the scandal. He insisted to Matt Bai that he would “learn things” from the experience of being at the center of such a firestorm, despite being unsure what lessons the bridge scandal holds for him. Christie also described reading the emails between his former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and his former senior aide David Wildstein as being “completely disorienting, like I got hit across the forehead with a two-by-four.”
Whatever those lessons may be that Christie has yet to learn, he insists that he is not in need of a personality change. “I think I’m a fairly good politician,” he told Bai, insisting that he is too old to change the brash style that made it so effortlessly easy for enemies in the media to portray him as a man capable of the kind of petty political retribution on display in the BridgeGate story. He also insisted that he was right to say he wasn’t ready to run for president the last time he was asked if he was thinking about it, long before his record received what many consider a deathblow to any national political possibilities. Christie didn’t say he was quite ready yet–convenient, because the presidential elections are two years away–but he did say he is “readier, if that’s a word.”
In the interview, Christie also emphasized how “awful” the past few weeks of national media attention had been, adding, “I don’t think anybody knows what it feels like to have the kind of attention that I’ve had in the last nine days until you go through it.” He confirmed previous reports in the New York Times that he did not have the heart to watch Bruce Springsteen’s BridgeGate parody with Jimmy Fallon, though he added that Fallon himself had sent him a message via Twitter to confirm that “it was all in good fun.”
The question of whether Christie feels ready to run for President of the United States is, now more than ever, a relevant and central one to the narrative of the 2016 election. Before this weekend, the numbers were looking up for Christie, with most New Jerseyans willing to believe he had nothing to do with Wildstein and Kelly’s scheme to damage Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s reputation. But now Christie must contend with allegations that his second-in-command threatened another mayor across the Hudson River, Hoboken’s Dawn Zimmer, over funding what was previously the single greatest achievement of Christie’s career: the state’s recovery after Hurricane Sandy.
Few would deny that if Christie manages to weather this storm intact, he is presidential material. But how many are willing to bet that he will? What does a politician like Dawn Zimmer–who would not be in office had Christie not, as U.S. Attorney, investigated and arrested her predecessor–have to gain from lying about this?
These are the questions voters will ponder as they head to the polls years from now and the media assure that Christie’s name is indelibly linked to these scandals–and only they will get the chance to evaluate just how “ready” Christie is to be the most powerful leader in the world.