Rem Rieder is a media columnist for USA TODAY. / USA TODAY
There is an aura of inevitability about the Chris Christie crisis.
That's because the New Jersey governor's overarching strength is located perilously close to his Achilles heel.
Christie's appeal stems from the fact that he is forceful, direct, blunt - and visceral. He comes across as authentic. He says what he thinks and feels, and doesn't worry whether it's politically correct or if it hurts somebody's feelings. And when he wants something, better stay out of his way.
In an era when so many politicians seem paralyzed by fear of offending their base, when so many responses are so predictable, when talking points and staying on message are the coin of the realm, there's something refreshing about someone who has a little loose cannon in his arsenal.
The ultimate good Christie was on display in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The governor, whose love of the Jersey Shore in general, and Seaside Heights in particular, is real and deep, was more than willing to embrace President Obama - optics be damned - when the president moved quickly to help the shore.
But the bad Christie has never been far from the surface. There's a fine line between tough and too tough. And for certain personality types, it can be awfully hard to negotiate.
It's one thing to tell sun worshipers to "get the hell off the beach" when Hurricane Irene is bearing down on Asbury Park. That's intelligent, if unvarnished, leadership.
But the flip side has frequently made its presence felt. Christie pursuing someone on the Seaside Heights boardwalk bellowing, "You're a real big shot. You're a real big shot. Just keep walking away." Christie telling a former Navy SEAL, "Your rear end's going to be thrown in jail, idiot." Christie asking a reporter, "Are you stupid?" and later adding, "I'm sorry for the idiot over there."
Who even acts like that?
Last week, Christie found himself engulfed in a scandal about a traffic disaster in Fort Lee pettily triggered by his people about a perceived political slight. At a marathon press conference, he declared, with echoes of that classic Richard Nixon moment, "I am not a bully." But all-seeing YouTube suggests otherwise.
Christie insists he knew nothing about his aides' decision to shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge in apparent retaliation for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee's refusal to endorse him in his re-election contest last year. Never mind that Christie is a Republican.
When a situation he made light of closer to the event exploded into a high-profile scandal that has put his political future in jeopardy, the governor was quick to throw two top aides under the bus.
But as The New York Times detailed in December, Christie has quite a history of exacting revenge on those who cross him.
So it would hardly comes as a surprise if it turns out Christie had a hand in the traffic snafu that inconvenienced so many. But it almost doesn't matter. Clearly, the top aide (now ex-aide) who thought it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" wasn't operating in a vacuum, but rather in a culture in which harsh retribution is par for the course.
Christie confronted the potentially disastrous situation head-on last Thursday. But he's hardly out of the woods. In politics, image is all. Christie's two-fisted Jersey Guy persona has served him well, winning him a second term as governor in a landslide and vaulting to the top of 2016 Republican presidential possibilities.
But images can morph, and if the notion that Christie is a vengeful brute sets in, that's a serious branding problem.
You also have to wonder how the notoriously thin-skinned Christie would fare under the bright lights and merciless scrutiny of a presidential campaign, where every misstep can rapidly become the cable- and Internet-fueled flaplet du jour.
Meanwhile, the Bridge Too Narrow is not going away any time soon. A committee of the New Jersey Assembly is going to investigate. If it comes out that Christie knew more than he's saying, that's huge, given his unequivocal denials. Already, half of the residents of New Jersey don't believe him, according to a new poll.
While it's clearly too soon to count out the combative governor, one thing is true: He faces a Chris Christie-size problem.
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Read the original story: Rieder: Can Christie dig out of Christie-sized jam?