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Chris Christie's 'Bridgegate' given a $1-million coat of whitewash

PoliticsChris ChristieBridgegateBarack ObamaPort Authority of New York and New JerseyGeorge Washington

Well, as they say in Jersey, “Chris Christie didn’t do nuthin’!”

On Thursday, the New Jersey governor’s handpicked legal team cleared him of any wrongdoing in "Bridgegate" — the four-day traffic tie-up in Fort Lee, N.J., in September.

The governor played no part in orchestrating the traffic nightmare, the report (which cost New Jersey taxpayers about $1 million) said. Instead, it faulted two Christie loyalists who basically, it found, went rogue.

PHOTO ESSAY: Chris Christie, President Obama and the 'ignorance is bliss' dodge

It also said that one of those rogues, David Wildstein, insisted that he had told Christie about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge while they were happening.

Christie’s defense? He doesn’t remember that conversation. Which is, you know, very, well, Reaganesque. Or, OK, equal time (if you’re a Republican), very Clintonesque.

It’s all so neat, so clean, so tidy. Just like on “The Sopranos.”

It also still stinks.

At worst, it’s a whitewash, a report bought by the man who had the most to lose if it found he was involved in this little piece of political dirty tricks. Full disclosure: That's my pick.

At best, it raises this troubling question: Assuming that “the rogue aides did it,” just what kind of people is Chris Christie surrounding himself with?

The report itself offers no help. It says that Wildstein, who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, orchestrated the traffic tie-up with Bridget Anne Kelly, who was Christie’s deputy chief of staff. (Christie either a) fired her or b) threw her under the bus, in January.)

Why? The report doesn’t say, other than concluding that the two had “an ulterior motive.”

But the investigators are sure of one thing: “Whatever motivated Wildstein and Kelly to act as they did, it was not at the behest of Governor Christie, who knew nothing about it.”

So, they couldn’t dig deep enough to find out the why, but they’re absolutely certain of the who — and the who not?

Is that what passes for “thorough” in New Jersey?

Christie is likely to survive this little scandal. The folks who like him — meaning those Republicans who think he can wrest back the White House from Democrats in 2016 — were never disturbed by this whole thing in the first place. And those who were paying attention probably didn’t like Christie much anyway.

But the report doesn’t change a troubling impression about Christie: Either he, or the people around him, or both, are at times petty, vindictive political hacks.

If you’re a Republican, you may say, “So what?” You may point to the IRS’ supposed targeting of tea party groups and the like and say this is just politics as usual.

But if you truly decry that type of behavior, it shouldn’t be OK for a Republican to engage in it, just like it’s not OK for a Democrat to do so.

Christie could be president someday. But if so, let’s hope two things: This report is right, and he didn’t do nuthin’ — and that he learns his lesson and starts surrounding himself with much better people.

One Dick Nixon is enough.

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Follow Paul Whitefield on Twitter @PaulWhitefield1 and Google +

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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PoliticsChris ChristieBridgegateBarack ObamaPort Authority of New York and New JerseyGeorge Washington
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