Like Aphrodite, who was born fully grown from the brow of Zeus, Governor Chris Christie has literally burst onto the national stage as a complete and outsized piece of work. It is hard to exaggerate when describing him, because Chris Christie is a walking, talking (lumbering, blustering) series of exaggerations. And now the George Washington Bridgegate scandal has arrived to reveal him in the full glory of his exaggerated contradictions. And somewhere, Richard Nixon is smiling up at him.
In following the bouncing ball that is the Chris Christie story, it is important to realize that he and his supporters have built and polished and built and polished an image of him as the straightest straight shooter of all time, genetically incapable of telling anything but the plain and unvarnished truth. The only spinning happening on the Planet Christie was the spinning of a pizza.
That is why it was all the more amazing to watch Governor Christie do a combination of the Limbo and the Macarena last week as he tried to explain how a senior member of his staff could virtually close off access to the busiest bridge in America without his knowledge or consent. He even doubled down on this bit of spinification by announcing that he had terminated two of his inner circle after e-mails damning both of them were released.
And that should have been the end of the story. We had Chris Christie, responding decisively to betrayal by craven, outlier members of his staff. And then we had Chris Christie, “sad” because of the betrayal and apologizing for his own humiliation.
There were a lot of “I’s” and “me’s” in Governor Christie’s Bataan March press conference last week, but “there was no there there” (to quote Gertrude Stein). There was no acknowledgement of the obvious question of how and why his Deputy Chief of Staff would pursue the madcap, career-suicide mission of closing the George Washington Bridge on her own.
He seemed to be totally oblivious to the other elephant in the room – the busiest bridge in his state being choked with traffic for four days without the Chris Christie, Giant Slayer and Champion of New Jersey, rolling up his massive sleeves and getting the problem fixed? After all, we have seen those shirt sleeves rolled up after hurricanes and other disasters, why did his cuff links stay affixed this time?
And most importantly, why did it take 107 days for Governor Christie to begin to get to the bottom of what now appears to be a pretty slimy barrel of petty revenge, power madness and rampant meanness? For the ultimate Take Charge Guy Chris Christie has come across as pretty passive.
As this Bridgegate scandal waddles along it will probably be apparent that Governor Christie did not specifically order the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge. But then, Richard Nixon did not order the burglary of the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate. What Richard Nixon did do is create and foster a cultural climate within his administration where his senior staff felt that it was right and appropriate to conduct burglaries, create enemies lists and to lie to the American people at will.
Indeed, it appears that Governor Christie is the most out of touch governor in the history of governors. Or, Governor Christie also created and fostered a cultural climate within his administration where revenge and petty meanness are considered virtues. And now, as thousands of pages of e-mails and other documents attest, it wasn’t just one or two members of the Team Christie who were involved in Bridgegate and other improper acts, it was an entire cohort of the Christie Praetorian Guard that committed these transgressions.
And now, Governor Christie has to beware of the danger that trapped Richard Nixon. Chris Christie needs to beware of the cover-up.