Like an Atlantic City high roller, he blew on the bones and let fly in front of the Fourth Estate.
He humbly and abjectly apologized to the New Jersey citizenry. He said he accepted full responsibility for “Bridgegate,” and made two members of his inner circle fall on their swords.
Christie said he sacked his deputy chief of staff. He said he asked his campaign manager to pull his name as top dog of the Garden State GOP and forsake a new post at the Republican Governors Association, of which Christie is top dog.
Christie said he had been lied to by his staff and “blindsided” and swore he had nothing to do with Bridgegate.
The dice are still tumbling.
When the governor insisted, “I am not a bully,” I heard Richard Nixon vowing, “I’m not a crook.”
It is way too early to tell if Bridgegate is another Watergate. Yet parallels between the two scandals are there.
Both happened on the watches of tough guy, micro-managing Republican politicians who were shoo-ins for reelection.
Nixon beat Vice President Hubert Humphrey in a fairly close race in 1968. But in 1972, the polls put him way ahead of Sen. George McGovern, the Democrat. More than a few Democrats jumped ship and backed Nixon over the liberal, anti-Vietnam War McGovern.
While Christie edged Democratic Gov. John Corzine in 2009, his reelection last year was all but a foregone conclusion. Polls showed the Democrat, state Sen. Barbara Buono, badly trailing the governor. Many New Jersey Democrats bolted to Christie.
The Watergate break-in that ultimately doomed the Nixon presidency happened in June, 1972. But the scandal was yet to break full blown. So Nixon cruised to victory in November, burying McGovern under one of the largest landslides in history.
The George Washington Bridge political payback shutdown was last September. Lucky for Christie, the pot didn’t start to boil under him until after he creamed Buono at the polls in November.
I live in Kentucky, about halfway across the country from New Jersey. Like the Garden State, my native Bluegrass State has not been free of political scandal —Republican and Democratic — far from it.
But I’d diagnose Christie as suffering from the same self-inflicted malady that brought Nixon low: hubris, the Greeks term for overweening pride.
It’s also in the Good Book, “Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
We’re all guilty of hubris. Yet powerful politicians seem most susceptible to the ailment, which is most effectively warded off with humility. That was in short supply in the Nixon White House and seems to be all but absent from Christie’s medicine cabinet in Trenton.
Anyway, in Greek mythology, there was a divine punisher of hubristic souls. She was called Nemesis.
History records that Nixon ended up plagued by multiple nemeses. Some of the earliest ones were determined newspaper reporters, notably The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of All the President’s Men book and movie fame. Likewise, New Jersey newspaper scribes, notably Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record, are bird-dogging Bridgegate.
Will Christie’s roll end up snake eyes like Nixon’s did? Will the “redacted emails” in Bridgegate end up equaling Nixon’s pile of navy blue-bound, edited tape recordings in Watergate? Is there a John Dean nemesis lurking in the governor’s inner circle?