Character is destiny, and politicians usually get the scandals they deserve, with a sense of inevitability about them. Warren G. Harding surrounded himself with corrupt pols and businessmen, then checked out, leading to the most sensational case of bribery in American history. Ronald Reagan combined zealotry and fantasy, and Oliver North acted them out. Bill Clinton was libidinous and truth-parsing but also cautious, while George W. Bush was an incurious crusader who believed himself chosen by God and drove almost the entire national-security establishment into lawlessness without thinking twice. Christie, more than any of these, is reminiscent of the President whose petty hatefulness destroyed him—which is why, as NBC’s newscaster said when signing off on an early report on that long-ago burglary, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.
Packer thinks “petty hatefulness” and narcissism are central to Christie’s personality; I’d say they are central to his political appeal, and serve to obscure his occasional ideological heresies. In this, too, Christie is highly Nixonian. The 37th president, too, frequently offset liberal policies and bipartisan political gambits with a base-thrilling public savagery towards The Enemy that was reflected in private skullduggery, and all wrapped in a self-absorbed and paranoid inability to accept honest disagreement with his decisions. Add in a background as a prosecutor—an occupation that’s all about using intimidation to expand the scope of one’s power—and nothing that’s happening to Chris Christie right now should be at all surprising.
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