New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have the support of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican establishment, but House Speaker John Boehner isn’t hitching his wagon to Christie, telling Jay Leno last night that he doesn’t see BridgeGate “going away anytime soon.”
Boehner, making his debut on The Tonight Show, took some time to address the various scandals surrounding the governor. “This is not going to go away anytime soon,” he told Leno, not elaborating on which of the scandals he specifically meant. Leno asked Boehner whether what Christie was being accused of could be interpreted as politics as usual, referring to examples of Lyndon Johnson browbeating some union underlings during his tenure. Speaker Boehner did not accept this as an excuse, quipping, “that might happen in New Jersey; it doesn’t happen in Ohio.”
Ohio, it should be noted, has its own unique, compelling political stories.
Elsewhere in his interview with Leno, Speaker Boehner declined to discuss Christie’s presidential ambitions when prompted to discuss the 2016 race, instead invoking the specter perennially haunting every Republican primary for the near future: Jeb Bush. “Jeb Bush is my friend, and I frankly think he would make a great president,” said the Speaker of the former Florida governor who has not held public office in seven years. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are expected to attract voters from a similar pool of moderate conservatives.
Part of the Speaker’s job is to maintain a united front in the Republican Party. Even Boehner told Leno himself that being Speaker requires “learn[ing] to deal with every jackass that walks through the door,” a skill he acquired while helping his family run a bar, he says. And last year, it was Christie who was barging through the Congressional Republicans’ door, storming in to berate them for canceling extra funding for Hurricane Sandy-affected states.
Having demanded an extra $83 billion from the federal government through the President, with whom Christie famously and warmly engaged on the Jersey Shore last year, the news that Congressional Republicans had refused to pass a bill with $60 billion worth of pork for Sandy relief hit Christie hard. Calling out Speaker Boehner directly, Christie railed that, “the House Majority failed the basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state.” Calling it “disappointing and disgusting,” Christie heaped “shame” on Boehner’s delegation. It was a brutal statement against the leadership of his own party, one that appeared particularly vicious in light of Christie’s friendly relationship with President Obama on the same topic. Christie dismissed the scathing criticism as part of the job, telling the media that he “would have reacted differently if the Speaker had picked up the phone and explained what he was doing.”
Except Christie didn’t react differently when he attacked Speaker Boehner again, this time for an issue not related to New Jersey at all. Christie told CBS News that he thought the government shutdown was “irresponsible,” and that Congress lacked “responsible Republican leaders” countering those “advocating a shutdown of the government.”
Up to last night, this establishment feud had been a one-way street. After all, Boehner had more occasion to affect New Jersey residents than Christie has to affect Congress, and Boehner likely had neither the time nor the political desire to get involved in the politics of another state. But now Boehner was asked directly what his opinion of a national scandal implicating his party’s presidential aspirations was, and he had little positive to say about a figure that had been merciless in attacking him years ago. Whether the relationship will sour further and more publicly remains to be seen, but Christie has little need for such a powerful enemy during the biggest crisis of his career–one he cultivated deliberately nearly a year ago.