“I am not a crook … I mean bully”

January 14, 2014

Following the Christie scandal in New Jersey is to experience déjà vu. A powerful politician recently wins a re-election by a wide margin faces a minor scandal involving people peripheral to his administration. The press investigates and lo and behold … 

Nixon had his Halderman and Erlichman, close aides who orchestrated the “plumbers” – a group of loyal thugs who were willing to punish people on Nixon’s enemies list. The Watergate break-in pre-election was meant to help assure Nixon’s re-election – an election that was already virtually assured. But the Nixon people were arrogant, and they were bullies. The cover-up of the act was as damaging as the crime. Nixon was held ultimately responsible because he was discovered to have known about, and participated in the cover-up. However, many argued that Nixon’s grandiose, paranoid character created a culture among close aides that translated directly into bullying, and even criminal behavior among loyal aides. For a President who has incredible power, these character flaws can prove to be dangerous. The Nixon White House culture and arrogance was at least as much a concern to Congress as the break-in. Nixon’s repeated denials and defense of his aides never broke until secret recordings revealed the truth. 

Now Cristie (“I am not a bully”) appears to be a man cut from the same cloth as Nixon. His early denials of the scandal were arrogant and dismissive. As the scandal got closer to his house, he fired a few people but still denied any wrongdoing. Then the secret e-mails broke and the man who claimed to be in charge now claims he was totally in the dark. The fact is that Christie created a close-knit cadre of loyal and like-minded aides, and a culture of arrogance. As his mentor, former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, pointedly asked if we really want a president with those qualities he put his finger on the essential issue. Investigations should continue, and my money is on the announcement of impeachment proceedings in the future. A man that much in control could not be so clueless. 

 

    

 

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