Chris Christie

The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

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The Republican Threshold

Aggregate poll averages from RealClearPolitics, as of 14 June 2015.

Steve Benen raises an interesting point:

We’re nearly through the initial phase of the presidential campaign – we know who’s running, who’s well positioned to compete, and roughly what the candidates’ platforms are going to look like. If this were a literal race, the runners have all effectively taken their place in the starting blocks. The next phrase tends to get a little … livelier.

On ABC yesterday morning, “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos said, in reference to some of the shots across the candidates’ bows, “The gloves are off, I can see that right now.” I think that’s probably a little premature, but there appears to be one Republican presidential hopeful who’s more eager than most to throw some jabs.

As political pugilism goes, all of these jabs are pretty mild, and we’re still months away from televised attack ads.

But let this be a reminder to campaign observers: one of the under-appreciated byproducts of a crowded Republican field is the inevitable crossfire. These GOP candidates have spent the last few months complaining about President Obama and Hillary Clinton, but we’re slowly reaching the point at which they start turning on one another – they have primary rivals to dispatch before they can prepare in earnest for the general election.

We may have reached a threshold, to be certain. But this is happening for a reason. With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie mere days away, the field is ready to shift. As Mr. Christie begins jabbing at his soon to be opponents, so also is Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin aiming at or near his fellow Republicans. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced today, and that creates a new dynamic that bears considering.

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A Whimpering Roar

NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R), speaks in April 2014. (Photo: AP)

When we last checked, the Chris Christie Show was still in development, though leaked hints coming from the New Jersey governor’s camp suggested the beleaguered Garden State boss hoped to appeal to voters over common ground by claiming his one-percenter financial status is somehow a hardship.

Sometimes it seems a good idea to stick with a bad idea; this happens when the new good idea is even worse than the old bad idea. For instance:

For months, we have wondered how Gov. Chris Christie thinks he can win the presidency when New Jersey is in such rotten shape after his six years in office.

Now we may have our answer: The man has lost touch with reality.

In a national TV interview Monday, Christie was asked to explain why 65 percent of New Jersey voters think he’d make a bad president.

His answer: We love him so much that we want him to remain our governor.

“They want me to stay,” he told Megyn Kelly of Fox News. “A lot of those people in that 65 percent want me to stay. And I’ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings.”

Maybe he doesn’t believe that himself. That might step on his core pitch about telling the truth, but it would at least tether him to the planet earth.

The worry is that he really believes it. Politicians like him live in a bubble, surrounded by sycophants. Hard truths have a tough time penetrating.

(Star-Ledger)

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Hillary and the Clowns

Republicans attempts to turn the discussion to Hillary Clinton and 2016 are getting silly.

“Republicans’ intransigence has created an obvious opportunity for Hillary to rip off our arms and beat us with the bloody ends. She’s expertly exploiting our party’s internal problems.”

Fergus Cullen

Wincing in abject human sympathy is probably fair. So is former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Fergus Cullen’s assessment. As David Nakamura and Robert Costa explain for the Washington Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fighting words on immigration this week, designed in part to provoke Republicans into a reactionary counterattack, instead drew an unusual early response from several top-tier GOP presidential candidates: silence.

Two days after Clinton vowed to expand on President Obama’s executive actions to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was one of the only leading Republican 2016 contenders to strike back, calling it a “full embrace of amnesty” that is “unfair to hard-working Americans.”

By contrast, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not weigh in publicly on the remarks Clinton made Tuesday at a campaign stop in Las Vegas. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), one of Obama’s most vocal critics on immigration, waited to make a late evening post on Facebook, writing that Clinton “wants to expand and continue” Obama’s programs and “lawlessness.”

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told MSNBC that Clinton was wrong, saying the country needs to focus on border security first.

This is, as the WaPo duo put it, a “relatively subdued GOP reaction”. Typecast tinfoil and tuneless, tin-can triviality are hardly the stuff of candidates aspiring to show their presidential leadership, but they are hallmarks of the Republican clown car.

And while Jeb Bush might not have responded directly to Hillary Clinton, at least the offered up a Cinco de Mayo message … in Spanish. As platitudes go, that one apparently counts as creative; or, as such, Jeb Bush hopes to be the serious clown.

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Nakamura, David and Robert Costa. “Why Clinton’s immigration speech left many Republican rivals speechless”. The Washignton Post. 7 May 2015.

DelReal, Jose A. “Here is Jeb Bush’s Cinco de Mayo message to Mexican-Americans”. The Washington Post. 5 May 2015.

A Low Rumbling Noise Out of New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month [Feb. 2015]. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit Jim Young/Reuters)

It is not exactly what we might call vacation, but sometimes we find ourselves somewhere else, doing other things, and the result is a cheap, quick-hit, read-this blog post.

You know, kind of like this. Read this bit from Steve Benen:

If the GOP candidate is comparing himself to the American norm, Christie is in rarefied economic air. Unless his income fell dramatically last year from 2013, it’s both factually and politically wrong for him to say he’s “not wealthy.”

In a speech on entitlements this week, the New Jersey Republican said, “Let’s ask ourselves an honest question: do we really believe that the wealthiest Americans need to take from younger, hardworking Americans to receive what, for most of them, is a modest monthly Social Security check?” He added, “I propose a modest means test that only affects those with non-Social Security income of over $80,000 per year, and phases out Social Security payments entirely for those that have $200,000 a year of other income.”

In other words, Christie this week defined “the wealthiest Americans” as those who earn far less per year than he does.

The Chris Christie Show would seem to be counting down to liftoff, and one can only wonder at the advisability of doing so with such odds of a deeply-reverberating crash. We must remember that the Clown Car is mostly an entertainment spectacle, so try to keep all this early disgrace in perspective. After all, even Herman Cain had his moment atop the polls during the 2011-12 primary season. Maybe these failed political campaigns should try a PR stunt―a dollar a vote, given to charity after they drop out. At least then it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time and money.

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Benen, Steve. “Despite 1% status, Christie says he’s ‘not wealthy'”. msnbc. 16 April 2015.

A Problem with the Politics of Distraction

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media in regards to her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State in New York, on March 10, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Gombert/EPA)

This would seem one to keep an eye on:

The chairman of the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks asked Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday to appear for a private interview about her exclusive use of a personal email account when she was secretary of state.

(Schmidt)

Obviously, there is more to the New York Times report than just the lede, and for the moment we might pause for an exercise in contrasts. To wit:

Mr. Gowdy said the committee believed that “a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary Clinton’s privacy, the security of the information queried and the public’s interest in ensuring this committee has all information needed to accomplish the task set before it.”

But Mrs. Clinton indicated on Tuesday that she wanted to give her testimony in a public setting. In a written statement, a spokesman for her said she had told the committee months ago that she was prepared to testify at a public hearing. “It is by their choice that hasn’t happened,” said the spokesman, Nick Merrill. “To be clear, she remains ready to appear at a hearing open to the American public.”

There is, actually, a lot going on with this story that amounts to essentially nothing, which in turn allows such moments to slip beneath notice. Kevin Drum noticed―

Go ahead and call me paranoid, but this sure seems like the perfect setup to allow Gowdy—or someone on his staff—to leak just a few bits and pieces of Clinton’s testimony that put her in the worst possible light. Darrell Issa did this so commonly that it was practically part of the rules of the game when he was investigating Benghazi and other Republican obsessions.

Who knows? Maybe Gowdy is a more honest guy. But since Clinton herself has offered to testify publicly, why would anyone not take her up on it? It’s not as if any of this risks exposing classified information or anything.

―and perhaps what is most significant there is the reminder that while much of the nitpicking going on around our political discourse often seems petty and pedantic, it is sometimes important to check these aspects because they are, in fact, revealing about the nature and condition of the discourse itself.

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Fiscal Prudence in New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month [Feb. 2015]. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit Jim Young/Reuters)

As New Jersey reels from yet another legal scandal reaching the office of Gov. Chris Christie (R), it really is hard to know where to begin. Naturally, it is tempting to start “at the beginning”, but sometimes that is a difficult proposition, since nothing ever begins. So let us start, then, with Katie Zernike of the New York Times:

In a major blow to Gov. Chris Christie, a New Jersey judge ruled on Monday that he violated state law when he declined to make the full payment into the state’s pension system for public employees last year and ordered him to find a way to fund it now.

Earlier this month we learned that the governor, who once promised “a new era of accountability and transparency” was “waging 23 battles to keep state documents secret” amid a flurry of ethics investigations that have challenged his political ambitions. Zernike notes:

The decision further complicates Mr. Christie’s hopes of reviving his presidential ambitions, which have suffered in recent weeks as his approval ratings in New Jersey have sunk to the lowest point of his tenure, and Republican donors have moved to other contenders for the party’s nomination.

Mr. Christie will now be scrambling also to find the $1.57 billion the judge ordered him to pay.

And while it is easy enough to start, and even finish, with a roll of the eyes because Chris Christie has once again managed to do whatever it is he thinks he is doing, we ought not gloss over the other powerful irony, here. After all, what did Christie accomplish by skipping out on the pension system?

Well, he actually managed to convince Fitch Ratings to downgrade New Jersey debt. And he only had to break the law to do so. At some point, nobody can rightly claim to be surprised.

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Image note: Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit: Jim Young/Reuters)

Zernike, Kate. “Christie Broke Law With Pension Move, New Jersey Judge Says”. The New York Times. 23 February 2015.

Redden, Molly. “Chris Christie Is Now Waging 23 Court Battles to Keep State Documents Secret”. Mother Jones. 4 February 2015.

Rizzo, Salvador. “Fitch downgrades N.J. debt, saying Christie is repudiating his pension reform”. The Star-Ledger. 5 September 2014.

An Angel Giving You the Finger, and Other Notes

PSG-10-Help-PantyFinger

“Garterbelt, you keep slappin’ my butt around. Answer line: Freaky girl coming your way.”

TeddyLoin featuring Debra Zeer

You know, some days you just don’t feel like you’re in the groove, so you end up saying, “Here’s a list, read this.”

Right.

Here’s a list. Read this.

• Sally Kohn on “How the GOP Invented Elizabeth Warren”. (The Daily Beast)

• If you ever wondered how long Chris Christie would remain in consideration as a serious GOP presidential contender, Perry Bacon, Jr., explains how “Christie Faces Growing Doubts Within GOP About his 2016 Campaign”. (NBC News)

• Amanda Terkel notes that “Apple Breaks Ties With Anti-Gay Alabama Lobbyist”, which seems almost inevitable, when you think about it. (Huffington Post)

• Shaun King reports on the Lone Star Republic values after “Texas students flash ‘White Power’ signs at rival team, may have defecated on rival team bus”. (Daily Kos)

• Conservative family values advocacy takes another hit “MO’s Country Club Committee Meeting Goes Wrong for Republicans, Get Caught on Camera talking Choice”, and we know that one doesn’t work out quite right as a sentence; deal with it. (Daily Kos)

• And speaking of things that don’t work out quite right, Caitlin Dewey explains why “Pinterest deleted Rand Paul’s sexist and unfunny Hillary Clinton ‘parody'”. (Washington Post)

And now, Anarchy, just because:

Not Exactly the Moral of the Story

"U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014." (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Compartmentalization. Equivocation. Misdirection.

Watch the birdie.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has once again dug himself a hole, and yes, he’s annoyed that anyone noticed:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday continued to walk back his comments that parents should be allowed to choose whether to vaccinate their children, saying he holds the same position as President Barack Obama on the matter.

“I got annoyed that people were trying to depict me as someone who doesn’t think vaccines were a good idea,” Paul told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday, noting that he had been vaccinated before a recent trip to Guatemala and had vaccinated his children.

“I’m not sure I’m different from the president or anyone else on the position,” Paul said. “We have rules to encourage people to have vaccines in the country, but I don’t think anybody’s recommending that we hold them down.”

(Levine)

Did you catch that?

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Something Useless

Sometimes it happens that something strange and seemingly inconsequential occurs, and for some reason you can’t let it go. To wit, Steve Benen of msnbc, earlier today:

It’s generally been assumed that the Republican presidential field in 2016 wouldn’t just be competitive – it’d be enormous. The Huffington Post’s Pollster chart ranking the GOP presidential hopefuls by poll support shows literally 15 candidates.

Now, the truth is that Benen goes on to discuss what is wrong with that thesis, but I also think some of the problem is his own setup insofar as he seems to be simply reminding people of the obvious:

Looking ahead, it’s easy to imagine a Republican presidential field that includes (in alphabetical order) Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker. That’s 17 people. It’s also easy to imagine a handful of fringe figures – John Bolton? Herman Cain? – dipping their toes in the water, too.

msnbcBut I’d bet good money that some of these folks will do exactly what Paul Ryan did: think about running, have some serious conversations with their families and aides, enjoy some of the media attention that comes with being a possible candidate, and then stand down.

Every once in a while, I pause to wonder if Benen one-drafts his blog posts the way we often do in our insignificant corner of the world. And, yes, those occasions often arise because of something like this; one would expect him to tack the punch line onto that first paragraph like a proper thesis, or even in the guise of mere foreshadowing.

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