I am not the first to note the striking similarities between the Watergate scandal and the Bridgegate fiasco Governor Chris Christie is facing but as someone who knew many involved directly in Watergate and many in Christie’s inner circle I can say the similarities are more telling than they appear.
Christie was leading his opponent by 25 points when his operatives launched their dirty trick, Nixon was up by 29 when a crew broke into the Watergate.
Both would win by landslides. Neither the Watergate break-in or the George Washington Bridge closing were about winning votes. The motives of the Watergate burglars and those who directed them are still not clear. No one is sure why Christie’s henchman closed the George Washington Bridge, either.
Christie invited this comparison when he said “I am not a bully,” evocative of Nixon’s famous “I am not crook.” We know how that worked out.
When Christie’s Port Autority hatchetman David Wildstein said he would plead the Fifth Amendment rather than say what the Governor knew and when he knew it, I recalled Nixon’s instructions to Haldeman for his White House Staff: “Tell them to cover-up, plead the Fifth, anything to save the plan.”
Just as it was impossible in the early days of Watergate to determine the true extent of the damage to Nixon (it took 17 months before Watergate eroded Nixon’s public standing and thus his ability to govern) it is far too early to determine how Bridgegate will ultimately impact Christie and his governorship. Those like the National Review‘s Rich Lowry who think Christie can transcend Bridgegate misjudge how deep the Governor’s hand is into the tar-baby. The governor’s claim that he knew nothing can be disproved by so many people. Two people can keep a secret — if one is dead. …
For background on the above article, see the interview with Stone by Joe Conason in Truthdig
By Taegan Goddard
Steve Kornacki, anchor of MSNBC’s weekend show Up and a longtime observer of New Jersey politics, gave us an extensive analysis on the Political Wire podcast of the bridge scandal that has vexed Gov. Chris Christie (R) and has put a cloud over his political future.
Here are five takeaways:
1. The endorsement retribution theory in the Christie bridge scandal doesn’t make sense: New Jersey Democrats repeatedly accused the Christie administration of closing the lanes as payback against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D) for his decision not to endorse the GOP governor’s re-election. The media repeatedly echoed that theory as it speculated why a Christie staffer said it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” But the theory doesn’t hold up. Said Kornacki: “This is a town of about 35,000 people in a state where there are 565 municipalities, so it’s not like you’re really needing this [endorsement].”
The timeline of events further casts doubt. Assuming that the available information on the timing is correct, three months passed between when Christie sought the endorsement and when the lanes were ordered to be shut. “There’s no direct causation there. Even if you had that, it’s so disproportionate… the risk involved in a scheme like this for what you’re getting.”
2. For another theory behind Bridgegate, follow the redevelopment money: Political corruption in New Jersey often involves development projects. Land for development is scarce in New Jersey, especially up north, making it highly valuable and a big target for influence peddling. “There’s just so much money at stake for so many people,” Kornacki said. It just so happens that right in the vicinity of the closed lanes is a $1 billion redevelopment project, whose business prospects and value would fall if lane closures made the site difficult to access. …
From pretty much the minute Chris Christie‘s Bridgegate scandal broke wide open, the news media’s coverage of the story has been a major topic of debate, with much of the focus on the volume of coverage. At first, it was Fox News that drew criticism for practically ignoring a huge breaking news story, but as the last nine days wore on, it began to look as though Fox’s competitors were swinging way too far the other way.
One way to measure the volume of the coverage (a clumsy, but handy one) is to search mentions of “Chris Christie” in the nine days since the scandal broke wide (to people other than Rachel Maddow), and compare that with the preceding nine days. Here’s how the three cable news networks stack up:
The competing narratives on the media’s coverage of Bridgegate are either that Fox is ignoring a super-important scandal, or that MSNBC (and to a lesser degree, CNN) are going overboard on a nothingburger that voters don’t care about. Fox’s performance in the opening day of the scandal, devoting 14 minutes over 4 segments to a scandal that could end Christie’s presidential ambitions and/or career, looks like proof of the former, while the chart above literally shows that MSNBC has a hard-on for Christie.
But the overwhelming quantity of coverage doesn’t mean that they’re covering the scandal too much; rather, it’s an indication that they may or may not be covering it well. There are avenues of inquiry, and fresh observations to be made, about this story, but in the gaps between new developments, too much of the coverage has been repetitive. Some of that repetition was downright infuriating, like the oft-repeated, “no poop, Poirot” observation that “If emails emerge directly connecting Christie to the lane closures, then he’s really in trouble.”
Some of it was actually helpful at first, like MSNBC host and David Wildstein authority Steve Kornacki, who quickly became a human pop-up ad on all of MSNBC’s shows. Kornacki’s deep knowledge of New Jersey politics, however, makes it worthwhile to stick with him. Rachel Maddow, who has been on this from Day Negative 30, and Chris Hayes have managed to move the ball forward with interviews and analysis that justify their attention to the story. …Print This Post