Does this plot line sound familiar?
A powerful politician assured of a big victory wants even more: a landslide. He is accused of a dirty trick.
He denies it dismissively, laughing it off, but then the evidence trail leads straight to his office.
He blames it on a staff member who he says betrayed his trust and is fired.
Then, it was Richard Nixon flailing to evade responsibility for the Watergate burglary and cover-up.
Now, it’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pleading his innocence of the monstrous traffic jams inflicted on the people of the borough of Fort Lee after their mayor refused to endorse his re-election.
But the comparison goes only so far. Beyond that point, it may be unfair…
To Nixon, that is.
Although Nixon went for the throats of his perceived “enemies,” it was never shown that he tried to hurt other people in the process.
Trying to prostitute the IRS, the FCC, the FBI and the CIA was certainly serious business.
But for triumphant maliciousness, consider the e-mails between a Christie deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, and her co-conspirator David Wildstein at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote.
Soon, three of four lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed for a nonexistent “traffic study,” causing four days of fearsome gridlock. School buses were trapped, making children late for school.
And when Wildstein messaged that “I feel badly about the kids,” here’s how Kelly replied:
“They are the children of Buono voters,” she said, referring to Christie’s badly outmatched re-election opponent.
They are the children of Buono voters!
Not even Nixon targeted children.
Nothing in modern political literature matches the cynicism of the now-departed Kelly.
For a degenerate equivalent, we have to look to such classic fairy tale characters as the wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty.
If Christie is the new Nixon, Kelly is the new Maleficent.
Unlike a fairy tale, however, this real-life nightmare may have had a fatal consequence.
Fort Lee’s EMS coordinator told Mayor Mark Sokolich that the traffic jams delayed emergency responders on four occasions, including one in which a 91-year-old woman who had fallen unconscious subsequently died.
The New Jersey legislative committee whose subpenas flushed out the e-mails remains in the hunt, and a federal prosecutor has announced his own, appropriately.
It will be interesting to see whether Christie’s alibi holds up.
But for the moment, it’s no more persuasive than King Henry II pretending that he didn’t intend for his knights to murder Archbishop Thomas Becket when he supposedly asked, “Who will free me from this turbulent priest?”
Christie’s trouble is that he has a long and well-documented history of bullying and vendettas. Politicians of both parties have remarked on it.
As chairman of New Jersey’s legislative redistricting commission, Rutgers professor Alan Rosenthal — a nationally honored political scientist — crossed the Republican governor by casting the tiebreaking vote for a Democratic plan. Soon, $169,000 vanished from two of Rosenthal’s programs at the university.
After Christie complained that state Sen. Richard Codey, a former governor, was “combative and difficult” toward two of his appointees, the ex-governor’s state trooper protection was withdrawn and a cousin and a friend of Codey’s were fired from government jobs.
After saying Christie was too slow to declare a snow emergency in 2010, a Republican state senator was barred from a Christie press conference and he was redistricted out of his seat.
“Every organization takes its cues from the leadership as to what’s acceptable and what’s not, and this governor, in his public appearances, has made thuggery acceptable,” said Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chair of the lane-closing probe. “For the governor to say, ‘I knew nothing about this?’ He created the atmosphere in which this is acceptable.”
Whatever else comes of it, Christie should no longer be the presumptive front-runner for the 2016 Republican nomination.
As for Mayor Sokolich, maybe he should count himself lucky that he didn’t find a bloody horse’s head in his bed.