What Scandal?

Conservatives Dodge Questions On Bridgegate

Prominent Tea Partiers were more concerned about Benghazi than Bridgegate at CPAC.

03.08.14 7:25 PM ET

What do fervent conservatives make of Bridgegate? The Daily Beast checked in with Tea Party firebrands Michele Bachmann, Allen West and Sharron Angle to see what they thought about the political scandal enveloping Chris Christie. They all agreed one thing: Benghazi.

Just a few months ago, Christie was a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Now, he is the subject of state and federal investigations concerning his administration's involvement in the scandal surrounding politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. This has threatened to prevent him from being taken seriously as a contender in the 2016 GOP primary. But these Tea Partiers echoed Hillary Clinton’s famous words on the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi when asked about the infamous “traffic problems in Fort Lee.” They all essentially said, “what difference does it make?”

As Bachmann, a 2012 Presidential candidate and four term member of Congress from Minnesota, ducked a question on Bridgegate entirely "Oh, I'm not going to talk about that. Who cares? It's irrelevant. It's relevant to the left, but it's not relevant to the right...I think what the left wants to do is they want to distract us to have us focus on 2016."

Bachmann swiftly switched topics "Unfortunately, through President Obama's policies, the world is on fire. The United States is under greater threats than we've ever been before. The President tells us that Al Qaeda is diminishing -- not so much if you go to the Middle East! When you go to the Middle East you see that they're on the rise and Jihad central is in Syria right now....The world's worst nightmare, which would be Iran with a nuclear weapon, could be realized because of President Obama's very dangerous policies. I'm very concerned...I'm interested in reclaiming a magnificent nation."

The Daily Beast found former one-term Congressman Allen West in a hallway outside a FreedomWorks party. Asked about Christie, he glared. "Uh, let's see, two traffic lanes are that important, instead of what happened in Benghazi? Come on, give me a break." He shook his head. "Let me ask you this: what's more important, four Americans being abandoned to die in Benghazi, Libya, or two traffic lanes being closed?" Pushed further, he asked “What's your priority? What's your priority? What's your priority?" West explained, "Nationally, what's a bigger priority for me is the IRS targeting Americans, what happened in Benghazi, the fact that we have Vladimir Putin in the Crimean peninsula. And you're asking me about traffic lanes? Come on."

West then lectured "I think you need to get your priorities straight. The priorities should be what is important to the American people. If you want to know what I think, you can go to AllenBWest.com. You can see what I think everyday. I've got better things to talk about [than Christie]. You probably should."

Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican nominee for Senate in Nevada who lost a gaffe-filled campaign to Harry Reid, wandered the hallway outside CPAC's main ballroom. She laughed about Christie’s scandal "I think that whole Bridgegate stuff is just another diversion that the Democrats always try to pull on the Republicans. You know, we don't want to talk about the real issues like Obamacare. We don't want to talk about the real issues like Common Core. There are so many things the people of America want to know about: IRS, NSA, Fast and Furious, Benghazi. “

She urged Republicans to ignore Bridgegate, “But no, the liberals want to say, 'oh, look at this bright, shiny thing over here on this bridge! Let's talk about that!' So, I think that whenever we see a Republican attack, we have to say, what's the bright, shiny thing that Democrats want us to look at instead of the things that are important?'

The Daily Beast did try to track down mainstream Republicans on the question, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose security detail helped him fend off admirers outside a Thursday night bash at a bar located a block from the hotel where CPAC was being held. When asked about Bridgegate, he was surprised at first, "What do I think about [Chris Christie?]" He paused. "I don't think about him. I think it's all --" Then his security detail hurried him away.

But, it’s a fair assumption that if he had been able to answer that the Texas governor likely just would have said something about Benghazi too.