Gov. Chris Christie has an explanation for why he never would have ordered lane closures as "political retribution" against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., that rings true — but it's also one that he might not want to rely on too often.

"But the thing that -- the other part of this that just shocks me is, as I've said to you all many times before, Mayor [Mark] Sokolich was never on my radar screen," Christie told reporters during a Thursday morning press briefing. "He was never mentioned to me as somebody whose endorsement we were even pursuing. And in fact, I think he said on CNN last night that he doesn't recall ever being asked for his endorsement. So, part of this is, I never saw this as political retribution because I didn't think he did anything to us."

As a former U.S. attorney, Christie understands that the question of motive is an important one when looking to understand wrongdoing, but that's a line of defense that holds danger for him.

"So which do you prefer? The kind of ruthless, Nixonian maniac who's willing to screw enormous numbers of people to get revenge on someone he perceives as disloyal? Or the kind of ruthless, Nixonian maniac who builds a machine that can do that without getting him personally involved?" Reason's Jesse Walker wrote in response to Christie's denial that he knew his deputy chief of staff ordered the lane closures.

If he wants to recover politically, Christie should take care not to come off as a "ruthless, Nixonian maniac" who is innocent of targeting the Fort Lee mayor for "political retribution because I didn't think he did anything to us."