Chris Christie Sat on a Wall. Chris Christie had a Great Fall. Can all the King’s Horses and ….?

The biggest political news of the moment is the emails released revealing that Chris Christie’s top aids prompted that shutdown of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey last September as political payback for the Democrat mayor of the adjacent town failing to endorse Christie for New Jersey governor.  Christie laughed off accusations at the time, but he’s not laughing now.

Instead he’s having a press conference this morning to try to convince us all that he knew nothing about these shennanigans by his top aids and he is outraged by the revelations.  If  his presidential hopes survive this mess he’s an even better politician than I have thought, though these skills diminished in my eyes when he chose to have a separate election for the governorship costing New Jersey some 20 plus millions of dollars.   He gave some high sounding b. s. reason but there is little doubt that the separate election’s true value was to make his margin of victory all the more impressive to a national audience.   This from a governor who constantly avows he does what is best for New Jersey.  Certainly those misspent millions contradict that claim.

And despite that huge victory, his aides still decided to teach the recalcitrant mayor of Fort Lee, N. J. a lesson, this despite endangering some people’s lives due to the traffic jam, not to mention disrupting the lives of many others.  How ugly is that?

If your news watching is restricted to planet FOX, this may still be news to you because they barely covered it yesterday.   The fact that their news director Roger Ailes was a big backer of Christie for president last time around just might have something to do with that omission in fairness and balance.

I noticed they brought up the subject this morning, but it was like an appetizer prior to the bigger meal covering the never ending congressional investigations by Republicans of Benghazi, the IRS and of course Obamacare.   I give Chris Wallace some points on being fair and balanced on his weekend panel show, but I see little balance elsewhere on that planet.

Not that  MSNBC , an entirely different planet, is all that balanced, either, but they at least don’t make it their motto, which makes Fox a more deserving target for derision.

As far as politicians go, I have actually liked Christie, though if he ever tried to bully me as he is wont to do it could change my mind.   In a  post last January I picked him as the most likely Republican presidential candidate  even though I distained the ridiculously early attention to the subject.   At least I said my piece and have shut up about it until now.  By the way, I think my implying Rand Paul was a putz as a presidential candidate has held up well.

I am not gleeful about this revelation, like let’s say Rachel Madow or Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, for whom this seemed a second Christmas.  I was believing Christie was both better and smarter than this situation implies.   Christie’s knowledge of the payback plan has not yet been proven, and I don’t want to be like Darrell Issa (R.)  with his investigations in the House whereby he begins his inquiries first asserting guilt and then setting about trying to prove it.

However, as has been pointed out by various commentators left and right, Christie is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  If he convinces us he did not know about this heavy handed retribution, his image of being a hands-on governor takes a huge hit.  And, of course, if it is proven he did know about those actions, well sayonara White House and perhaps even the governor’s mansion as well.   The sharp politician able to work across party lines would suddenly look like the stereotypical Jersey thug, a real life production of “the emperor has no  clothes”.

I would actually like to see Christie somehow triumph over this, though I don’t see how he can.  Perhaps I just like being right and now doubt I was right about this guy.

I want to stop before I see the press conference and become tempted to go on and on and ………………………………………………………………………..

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The Republican and Syrian Civil Wars, the Never Ending Budget Battle, the Ubiquitous NSA, Obamacareless, or…? OR the Chris Christie and Cory Booker Show?

I heard testerday that the President’s approval rating is down to an all time low, around 42%, though the ray of sunshine for him is that the approval of the GOP is a lowlier 22%.  We have little confidence in our national future and almost no confidence in our government, which is commonly seen as a big part of the problem, not the solution.  It’s depressing.

Where is Ronald Reagan when we need him?  No, he’s not a presidential hero of mine, but he was excellent as a cheer leader for America.   He made Americans feel good about America at a time when, like today, most of us didn’t.   Confidence or the lack of it creates its own reality.  The relationship between consumer confidence and a growing economy is a case in point.   Student success or failure in schools is another.

I have heard this expression a few times of late:   The Democrats can’t  govern and the Republicans don’t want to.   Of course, the two are closely tied, as the main Republican mission since the President was elected and re-elected has been to stymie his plans, whatever they may be.   That is what not wanting to govern has meant.  On the other hand, the President and his administration has raised numerous doubts as to their ability to govern, receiving barely passing grades on most fronts, and an ‘F’ on the Obamacare roll out, a grade hopefully raised through a series of make up tests.   Hopefully, if you lean Democratic and hopefully not if you lean Republican.

Significantly, the hope of both sides is not for anything good anytime soon, but with an eye to 2014 and 2016, seeming to assume that nothing much can be done to break the gridlock until there are changes in the cast of characters.   As if those mid-term elections in 2014 and then the one for President in 2016, will radically alter the dynamics of stagnation that have become our governmental stamp.   I can imagine it happening, but it feels more like a fantasy than a likelihood.

Now we are so busy concentrating on our mess at home that we, I mean our main stream media and most of us, pay little attention to the world at large, as if we are incapable of a world vision that goes beyond a constant examination of our collective navel.  It is less and less an American world and dealing with those changes should be our central focus, not tripping each other up.

Hmm…. I guess I just needed to vent, my way of saying I don’t feel like dealing with all of this today.  I  can use a laugh or two, and maybe you can as well, so I dug out the video below made in 2012 staring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and then Newark Mayor, now brand new Senator, Cory Booker.   If you can recall way back then, Booker was receiving a lot of national attention for a surprising number of heroic feats saving lives or at least shoveling someone out of a snow bank.

So, despite disagreeing on most things political, Republican Christie and Democrat Booker made this video, and I imagine had fun doing it.   So, today let’s put some of that “fun”  back into dysfunctional.  (You hearty band of regular blog followers will have to go to the main site to see the video.)

Evaluating the Presidential Candidates for 2016

Here is the proper response to the title above:  “Are you effing kidding me?”  That has been my reaction when seeing THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION seeping into many discussions of politics right now, on TV and in print.   Didn’t we just inaugurate this president a few days ago?  MSNBC pundits and guests seem the most addicted to jumping ahead to 2016.    Not all of them, but Chris Matthews was positively drooling even prior to the last vote at the prospect of an H. Clinton vs.  Chris Christie contest.   Chuck Todd’s Daily Run Down often speculates on that next big election day, too.  And their sickness is contagious.

Horse race

Could that be Hillary in front?  (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

They call themselves the “place for politics” but they should call themselves The Great Race Place. I’ve spent a few decades involved in horse racing, so I’m familiar with gambling addicts.   These people are similar, but instead of gambling, they are addicted to the race itself.    Having the big early favorite in their stable, Hillary Clinton, juices up  their excitement.   They love comparing her chances with, oh Joe Biden I guess among the Democrats, but more so vs.  several potential Republican rivals whose every action is evaluated in terms of their jockeying for position in that NEXT BIG RACE.

I have a few words to say about the matter, which might add to your irritation, but then I’ll shut up for two years, or so, unlike so many others.   If Obama’s second term is judged to be more positive than negative, and if Hillary wants to run, she very likely wins.   No surprise there.  If  for some reason she doesn’t run, then the race opens up among Democrats and the door opens for Republicans.

Chris Christie is the big horse in the Republican barn, and I’m not referring to his size.  Though he’ll need some skillful navigation through the wreckage of his own party, elements of which would rather be right than elect a President( “right” as in far right).    In  a country hungry for a politician who doesn’t envision a focus group reaction before every word he says, Christie is unique and could give Hillary a good fight if nominated, especially if bad things happen over the next four years that Democrats can be blamed for.

As for the other potential Republican candidates?  I don’t see Paul Ryan at all.  His plan to balance the budget by 2040 didn’t make sense and now he’s talking about balancing it by 2023, without new taxes.   What?  Also, consider this:  No VP candidate in a losing race has ever become president.   My guess is that Christie sensed this if he did not know it.

Jeb Bush’s name is often tossed around and he was an effective, popular governor with sensible thoughts on an immigration policy, not to mention fluent in Spanish with a Latina wife.  All that could help with a needed boost in the Latino vote.   Maybe in four years he won’t seem like one Bush too  many.   Our American inclination towards amnesia as to unpleasant pasts could help.   If Christie upsets enough big donors and others on the right, Jeb’s stock would likely jump up.

Governor Bobby Jindal says some good things, but his record in Louisiana conflicts with them.  Also, if you recall, he bombed giving a Republican reaction to a presidential State of the Union message awhile back and I can’t see him in the top spot now.   Not yet.   Senator Marco Rubio maybe, but he needs to show more, like help shape an immigration policy both parties can buy.  Unlike potential rival Rand Paul, he asked some good questions in the hearings with Hillary Clinton on Benghazi, so perhaps the chatter about his rising star status has some validity.  I’m not convinced yet, though again, if Christie takes a tumble, he along with Jeb seem likely to benefit most.

As for Rand Paul, forget him.  When he stated at those hearings that had he been president, he would have fired Hillary after Benghazi, I can only imagine her thoughts which she wisely kept to herself.  Maybe something like:  “YOU fire ME?  Listen piss ant, I know up close and personal what it takes to be president and you’re no president.”

So, that’s basically all you need to know right now about the next Presidential race.   Unless some surprise candidate pops up and picks up steam.   Here is one long shot.   Suppose Hillary doesn’t run, Joe Biden would be an OK Democratic candidate but no shoe in, so how about a real  surprise:  Cory Booker.   He is going to run for the Senate and if he wins and does a few things to catch attention there to build upon his reputation as a popular Newark mayor, who occasionally turned super hero, saving a citizen here and a dog there…???

A contest between the Jersey boys.  The press would eat it up.  Maybe the crew from Jersey Shore would get press credentials, too.  And whoever won, Bruce Springsteen would still play at the inauguration in the spirit of togetherness.   You never know.  Who was Barack Obama back in 2004, four years before the election of 2008?

Obama’s Inauguration Address: Leveraging an Election Victory

Barack Obama's 2009 presidential inauguration ...

Barack Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the inauguration on TV while doing chores around my place, and caught most of his address.   Most of what he said he hoped to accomplish included a  swipe against positions the Republicans have taken, like arguing that the dangers of climate change are just one more liberal over reaction.   Obama’s response:  No more Mr. Nice Guy.  No hands reaching across the aisle, but a fist.

I think at the beginning of that first term, Obama actually hoped and tried to develop some bi-partisan proposals, but when Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell stated that his foremost goal over the next four years was to make Barack Obama a one term president, he meant it.  Of course, that did not stop the Republicans from berating Obama’s failure to reduce polarization.  This reminds me of a friend’s suggested way of handling an unwanted guest:  “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”

I have never seen it explicitly stated, but the plunge into recession just as Obama was taking office made any kind of real cooperation virtually impossible, because the two parties had contrary approaches to deal with the crisis.  The Democrats believed that since business was not spending, government needed to in order to boost the economy, hence the stimulus package.   Meanwhile, the Republicans…..well I’ll stop here, because I do not see a clear line between Republican rhetoric that blamed Obama for everything and an actual belief that tightening the budget would help us out of the recession.    There are conservative and/or libertarian economists that argue for austerity as the way to go, but this is a tricky business that I will explore at a later time.

The point here is that when two people, or two parties,  reach a fork in the road, there is no room for compromise.   One either takes one fork or the other, and that is the situation Obama faced in his first term.

Along with a difference in basic beliefs,  the Republican party was undergoing an identity crisis.   The party’s combination of Neo-cons, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and libertarians (who are a unique breed of conservatives who in some cases agree with the far left) are not the sort open to compromise   The moderates who used to guide the party now tend to be painted by the rest as Republican in name only (RINO’s).

The one thing that united this disparate group was a common desire to get rid of Obama.   Hence, the circus clown act of unlikely presidential hopefuls who interchangeably jumped up and then fell on their faces .   Romney got the nomination simply because he was the least unacceptable candidate to the most Republicans.

Well, that collective strategy failed to replace the President, and since the election the Republicans have resembled a collection of episodes of “Family Feud”.  Though I don’t recall the source, I heard John Boehner say the other day:  “We cannot be the party of “no,”  suggesting that he finally got the point after four years.   He showed what he meant when allowing votes to be taken  on the mini-fiscal deal and federal aid to Hurricane Sandy victims in the House, even though a majority of his own caucus would not support them.   In other words, he allowed votes he knew he was going to lose.

This is the kind of leveraged bi-partisanship we are likely to see in upcoming months, to the extent we see any.   The President feels he has the upper hand and, unlike most of his adversaries, he will not worry about being reelected.  If the Republicans are not going to continue being the party of “no” they will have to divorce themselves from the Tea Party crew, who do not seem capable of being reasoned with.  This should be interesting to see.

The prospects of a Republican party in shambles probably makes most liberals feel a bit giddy, but I believe in the need for checks and balances in all relationships, personal and professional as well as in government and between the two parties, so I would prefer seeing Republican moderates reclaim the soul of that party and become an active force to help get things done again.

I think Governor Chris Christie might be able to lead them in that direction.  Or maybe I just like the fact he answers reporters’ questions instead of dodging or deflecting them.  Can you believe it?  A politician who often says what he actually thinks.

A Real Political Debate is as Rare as a Great Prize Fight

The Pacquiao-Marquéz rivalry known for its lac...

The Pacquiao-Marquéz rivalry known for its lack of a definitive triumph suddenly had the most definitive ending of them all. (Photo credit: Erolle)

Barack Obama and John Boehner met two days ago and their aides are remaining mum, other than rumors that Obama made a proposal Sunday and Boehner just made a counter proposal today.    I can’t imagine much of a real deal taking place at this time, though perhaps a small agreement can come about while  kicking the rest of the cans down the road months into 2013, per usual.   We can only wait and see.

In the meantime, anyone like to watch prize fighting? I love a great fight and the Pacquiao-Marquez one Saturday night was great, a battle between two skilled warriors dramatically ended by one Marquez punch in the 6th round (*1).   Great fights are rare, but so is real political debate these days.   Mostly we have two sides flailing their talking points about, often with feckless moderators allowing lies and lesser truth misdemeanors  to score hits below the belt.

An exception would be the Jon Stewart interview of Governor Chris Christie a few days ago.   Stewart has been called the Walter Chronkite of our time, which I think is fitting in that our political scene has literally become  a joke over the past 30 years or so,  and parody is the best way to illuminate its phoniness.  Christie, on the other hand, has been called a rarity by newsman Bob Sheaffer:  “A politician who actually answers questions.”   In short, two men worth listening to when they tangle.

While no knock out punches were thrown, there was lots of sparring in what was a real debate.   Some of that debate was edited to fit the show, but you can see it in its entirety at the link shown at the bottom of this post.

There were three segments, like rounds, totaling about 26  minutes, but you can watch each separately if you don’t have the time or inclination to watch them all at once.  In the first round there were mostly love pats, two Jersey boys having some fun and building rapport, including Christi proudly telling of a hug he recently got from Bruce Springsteen.

Things got serious in the second round, though, as Stewart kept punching away at the Republican tendency to see things others need as “mooching” entitlements.   He said more than once that cancer for someone who lacks health insurance is a personal example of what a hurricane is to many, a tragedy as in New Jersey, stating that Republicans can see the need of relief for a whole region in an emergency but not the calamity of an individual who can’t afford health insurance.   Christie parried those blows and got in a few shots of his own in a debate that helped illuminate the issues involved.

In the third round, there was less punching and more badinage once again with the two agreeing on one thing in particular:  Real political debate seldom breaks out anymore.

Well, it broke out here, which is why I recommend your taking a glance via this  Huffington Post ink.


(*1)  A related political tidbit:  Mitt and Ann Romney had seats ringside compliments of the chair of the Nevada State Boxing commission.  I didn’t know he liked boxing, but there’s a lot I don’t know about him because he has wanted it that way.  I’m waiting for someone to shed light on the matter with a book possibly titled:  Who was Mitt Romney?