The worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted. Nixon and Watergate. Clinton and Monica. Reagan and Iran-Contra. Bush 41 and Read-my-lips, Romney and 47 percent, Anthony Weiner and Twitter.
Gov. Chris Christie may not have directly ordered the fiasco at the George Washington Bridge, but he is responsible for the atmosphere that made it possible.
The Nixonian touches are inescapable. I’m not saying he’s another Nixon or Bridgegate is another Watergate, since one is a local New Jersey story and the other had global implications. But there are similarities. There’s the chiefs’ pious declarations “I am not a crook” and “I am not a bully,” and the staff’s apparent efforts to give him plausible deniability .
No one had to be told what the boss would like; they’d been around him long enough to figure that out for themselves without needing explicit orders. In both cases, the boss was cruising to easy reelection but apparently wanted to run up the score, and when caught conceded “mistakes were made” but took no personal responsibility. When the proverbial substance hit the fan, both were ready to toss loyal aides under the bus.
Both had cultivated reputations as tough investigators early in their careers, but neither seemed to bother asking the tough questions any good prosecutor would and should. The barrage of federal subpoenas has begun and, if history is any guide, look for a hemorrhaging of documents, charges, finger-pointing and revelations.
But don’t count Christie out for the 2016 sweepstakes. He still has the fire in his ample belly and the only things that can put it out are a spiraling scandal, more self-inflicted wounds and a right wing party base that thinks he isn’t close enough to the edge of the flat earth.