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Chris Christie channels Nixon in Bridge-gate

Christ Christie said "I am not a bully" in his news conference Thursday channeling Nixon in the Bridge-gate scandal.
Christ Christie said "I am not a bully" in his news conference Thursday channeling Nixon in the Bridge-gate scandal.
Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

On August 17, 1973 a beleaguered President Richard M. Nixon assured reporters in Orlando, Florida he knew nothing about the Watergate scandal which his top aides ran from the White House under his nose. “I am not a crook,” the president said. "People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.”

Nixon summed up his interview declaring that the White House tape recordings would prove that he had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in. Nine months later the former Republican Vice-President Richard Nixon became the first president in the history of the United State to resign his office to avoid sure impeachment.

We’ll never know if he was a crook because President Gerald Ford pardoned him before he could be tried.

In September, on the first day of school, lanes were closed on the George Washington Bridge essentially shutting down traffic in Ft. Lee. The lanes remained closed for nearly a week. No explanation was given to explain why this happened other than a “traffic study” the no one ordered, no one conducted, no results were ever releases, and no one in authority at the Port Authority (which runs the Bridge) knew anything about.

When reporters began asking Christie about the unfolding bridge-closing scandal, he mocked them saying at one point that he was the one who put the cones there. He said that he asked his staff to brief him; they did, he said, and there was no involvement by anyone in his administration in the lane closings that tied up traffic in Ft. Lee for a week. In other words, “I am not a crook.”

Wednesday, e-mails between Governor Christie’s top staff and his political appointees who ran the George Washington Bridge show that his top staff said it was time for a traffic problem in Ft. Lee. These staffers have offices in the Governor’s office and who meet regularly with the Governor. Yet on Wednesday, after months of denial his office was involved, Governor Christie said he just learned this that morning.

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge,” Christie said.

As for motive, one e-mail gives a clue. It referred to Ft. Lee’s Democratic Mayor as a “Little Serbian” (the mayor is of Croatian ancestry), and it dismissed the suffering by school children who were late for school calling them “children of Buono voters”—Christie’s Democratic opponent in the Governors race.

If Christie was known for being a detached, passive, uninvolved Governor, one might be able to buy that. Everyone knows that staff members of the micro-managing Governor would not dare to attempt to do something so dangerous to the Governor’s career behind his back. Reasonable people know they would not have been able to get away with it either—for several months.

Only 22 of thousands of documents that have been subpoenaed have been released. People close to the investigation suspect the worse is yet to come. On top of the state investigation, there is a Federal investigation as well. This could mean that there will be legal ramifications on top of the political ones.

As with Watergate, the question is “what did Christie know, and when did he know it?”

On Thursday, Chris Christie held a news conference to “clear his name.” He said "I am not a bully." He repeatedly denied any knowledge, and threw one of his staff under the bus saying "she lied to me.” He gave his staff “one hour” to tell him what they knew about this. Christie said his staff all reported there was no new information and no one else was involved except the now-fired Bridget Kelly.

Christie is going to Ft. Lee today to apologize to the Mayor his staff called a Serbian.

Ms Kelly should pursue a new career at the CIA in the Black Ops Division. Her ability to pull off something this huge in the Governor’s office without detection is uncanny. Her country needs her unique abilities.

This may not be the end of the story. One of the two is true: Either Christie is a liar, or an incompetent administrator and poor judge of character. Both of these damage the brand he has tried to put forward in his race for the White House. His Republican primary opponents are happy as clams.

Stay tuned.

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