The bridge-gate mess engulfing Chris Christie
is reminiscent of the Watergate scandal that haunted Richard Nixon, because like Nixon, the Garden State's top lawmaker bred an atmosphere of paranoia among his staffers, New Jersey State Sen. Robert Gordon believes.
"These are not normal activities. In fact, what they remind me of is Watergate in the '70s," Gordon told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"I was in Washington during the 1970s, in fact, I worked for an organization that had its office broken into by the plumbers and the paranoia of Richard Nixon permeated the Nixon White House.
"There were individual staffers who were going off and orchestrating these break-ins, the Nixon administration created an enemies list, and they used their power not to move some cones, but they used the IRS, the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission to go after people that they perceived as their political enemies."
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During a nearly two-hour press conference on Thursday, Christie apologized for the scandal.
He said he'd fired a top aide amid new revelations his staff played a key role
in closing lanes in Fort Lee leading to the George Washington Bridge, in what critics say was a political vendetta.
The closure clogged traffic and emergency vehicles for days and made the streets around Fort Lee and transportation nightmare.
"I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team," Christie said.
But Gordon does not believe the apology is enough, particularly as Christie mulls a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
"This raises some serious concerns about a Christie candidacy, I believe. It has been my impression that a president should be surrounded by people who are not just going to click their heels and agree with what the boss wants to do, but stand up and tell the president, you know, Mr. President, that's a dumb idea, you may want to consider another approach," Gordon said.
"And if we had more people like that in high office and surrounding the president, Democrat and Republican, we would have been able to avoid a lot of debacles over the last couple of decades. Vietnam . . ."
Gordon says he would like to give the governor the benefit of the doubt, up to a point.
"I'd like to believe that the governor is telling the truth. However, these sorts of things don't happen unless there is a culture within an organization that allows them to happen, if not encourages them to happen," he said.
"It's been my experience that the atmosphere at any organization is established by the person at the top and it has been my experience in the few years that Gov. Christie has been in office that there is a culture of petty vindictiveness in this administration.
"They have zero tolerance for people who disagree with them. If you disagree with them you get called a name … they punish you and sometimes in the most petty ways."
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