New Jersey

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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The Hook (Hillary Under the Sun)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. (Detail of photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

And there is the hook:

Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remain two of the leading contenders for Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick, but Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is also under active consideration, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the process.

Booker, a freshman senator and former mayor of Newark, has drawn relatively little attention throughout Clinton’s vice-presidential selection process but remains a serious prospect. He was among the roughly half-dozen potential running mates who met with Clinton at her home in Washington on Friday, a fact first reported Thursday by Politico.

(Wagner and Gearan)

Please let this be the hook.

On Sen. Booker (D-NJ): It is easy enough to say if not Warren then Booker. But neither is Mr. Booker a second choice for lack of better. Nor, in that context, should we view Sen. Kaine (D-VA) or Sec. Vilsack (D-IA) so poorly. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Photo by Jake Rosenberg/The Coveteur. But in the case of the latter, Hillary Clinton can at least perceive the need for someone less institutionally ensconced than either of these stalwart political résumés offer the powerful left-flank movement asserting policy influence, a bloc whose votes and continued support she needs.

Sen. Warren (D-MA) seems the obvious choice, but truth told there is a fine argument for what she can do from the Senate, but this also presumes enough pressure on Democratic leadership in the Senate to buck future Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Whip Richard Durbin (IL). It’s a tough proposition, but the Senate Democrats under Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray (WA) or Amy Klobuchar (MN) would be a powerful majority caucus; as a minority, it seems an easy suggestion that they would be more effective than what Mr. Reid (NV) has managed in the face of Republican intransigence. It’s all speculation, though. The bottom line is determined by Hillary Clinton, this time; she can perceive the need, but how will she address and reconcile it?

Elevating Sen. Booker as her running mate is one of the things she can do. And should anyone find cause to doubt we are getting civil rights president out of this, selecting Mr. Booker would put that question to rest.

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The Donald Trump Show (Total Devastation)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), at left, joins Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump during a press event at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Super Tuesday, 1 March 2016. Christie, who suspended his own presidential campaign in February has been widely ridiculed for endorsing Trump.

“A spokesman for Christie denied he was a manservant.”

Andrew Kaczynski

Two important points:

• Do you really want to know what that sentence means?

• Okay, look, the thing I still can’t figure out about the phantom candidate conspiracy theory is why. Still, though, it occurs to wonder at the actual reason Donald Trump has every appearance of trying to destroy the Republican Party. The bizarre bits and pieces we hear about Chris Christie seem nearly emblematic. Whatever hell the New Jersey governor’s reputation had already discovered one wonders at the penance of such humiliation in Donald Trump’s shadow. That the Republican nominee apparent is so vicious is beyond doubt, but what does Mr. Christie think he’s doing? Or Republicans, for that matter? The RNC, many congressional Republicans, and various prominent voices in the conservative discourse seemed to shrug and roll, shuffling in line behind their party’s primary winner. And then what happened? Look at what Donald Trump is doing to conservatives. This is astounding. This is unimaginable. This is your Republican Party, and if it wasn’t for the fact that they were Republicans we probably ought to pity them right about now. I mean, sure, for a lot of the rest of us our diverse grievances against and disputes with Donald Trump are pretty clear, but what the hell did the GOP do to piss him off this badly?

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Kaczynski, Andrew. “Scott Brown Says He Won’t Fetch Trump’s McDonalds Like Christie (Reportedly) Did”. BuzzFeed. 15 June 2016.

Glenn Beck on Fatherhood

Glenn Beck, circa 2016, via Twitter.

And then there is this:

… a teary-eyed Glenn Beck and his studio audience engaged in something of a therapy session as they struggled to come to grips with the fact that God’s chosen candidate, Ted Cruz, has withdrawn from the Republican presidential race.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)The rejection of Cruz by Republican voters was “the last reckoning for us,” Beck declared, warning that God will now allow this nation to suffer the consequences of our decisions. America, Beck said, has become “a petulant child” that God has warned and scolded and disciplined over and over again “but the behavior is getting worse” and so punishment must follow.

God cannot allow this nation to escape the punishment that is due, he said, because “that would be a bad dad. That would be a very bad dad and the one thing I know about God, He ain’t a bad dad.”

(Mantyla)

Three brief notes:

(1) Remember, the difference between the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and other religious condemnations of America is that he sounded like he was suggesting God should damn America, while Sarah Palin’s preacher, or Pastor John Hagee, or … I don’t know, how many along the way? At any rate, they simply said God would. And Glenn Beck? He just says God cannot not. You know. Because something about a “petulant child” and how God “ain’t a bad dad”. Because, you know, it’s not the bad dads that nail Florida and Louisiana with hurricanes. And what the hell did Canada do to deserve all that? I mean, come on, sure, we know the whole tar sands thing is a bad idea, but really?

(2) Preachers and media celebrities can say what they want about God’s will, but if California needs to answer the Lord for something, so do New Jersey, Florida, and North Carolina. Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, and, well, Pat McCrory. Alabama must be terrified.

(3) Or perhaps we ought to try something a bit more rational? Because, you know, it would be best to pay no mind to raving, bigoted stupidity, but when it’s actually functionally dangerous, we would be remiss to ignore it.

So, Glenn: What are you going to say when you wake up in Hell? Are you going to say, “Thanks, Dad, I know I deserved that!”

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Image note: Top ― Glenn Beck, circa 2016, via Twitter. Right Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). (Photo by Daniel Sangjib Min/Times-Dispatch.)

Mantyla, Kyle. “Glenn Beck Says God Must Punish America For Rejecting Ted Cruz Because ‘He Ain’t A Bad Dad'”. Right Wing Watch. 6 May 2016.

My Superstition (Anti-Prophet)

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin poses with a snow truck Saturday, 23 January 2016; the Republican governor posted the image to social media in order to show Bluegrass State residents how hard he was working on the snowstorm shortly before flying to New Hampshire for a campaign event. Detail of self-portrait by Matt Bevin.

This is a personal superstition:

Aside from the obvious, it’s worth noting that when governors go to New Hampshire to headline fundraisers, it often means they’re thinking about raising their visibility ahead of a national campaign. Bevin’s entire career in public office has only lasted a couple of months; is he already eyeing some kind of promotion?

Every once in a while a paragraph like this comes up, or some similar circumstance. One reads or hears something, and, you know, just … oh, come on.

And while it is easy enough to knock Steve Benen for sounding histrionic partisan alarms early, the truth of the matter is that I also scoffed, nearly three years ago, at the proposition of Ben Carson running for president.

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Dignity

Transgender pride

Thank you.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made her state the third to outlaw the use of conversion therapy on minors on Monday, eliminating the controversial practice that President Barack Obama called to ban in early April. Oregon joins California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., in prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a child.

(Steinmetz)

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Steinmetz, Katy. “Oregon Becomes Third State to Ban Conversion Therapy on Minors”. Time. 19 May 2015.

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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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.

Just Another Day in Conservative Insanity

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in undated photo by Susan Walsh/AP.

Sigh.

A brief summary, via Steve Benen:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) looked a little silly when he argued Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) may face criminal charges because he disagrees with the White House on Iranian policy. Yesterday, however, he quickly discovered he had some company among Republicans who were equally eager to appear foolish.

Yesterday morning, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested he’s sympathetic to the conspiracy theory, too ....

.... By yesterday afternoon, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) went even further ....

.... Conservative media figures from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal are on board, too.

The point-by-point is actually kind of excruciating, but mainly in the context that someone actually needed to say it.

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Some Guy Who Thinks He Can Be President

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Satire is tough when some politicians become caricatures of themselves.”

Steve Benen

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has potsherds. Some of the finest-grained potsherds in existence.

Again we reiterate the importance of narrative; the tale sounds silly enough in the straightforward reporting, but the commentary can lend appreciable dimensions:

When reports surfaced last week that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) may face criminal charges as part of a federal corruption probe, it seemed like a possible opportunity for Republicans. Because so many of the recent political scandals have involved GOP officials, I thought Republicans might connect Menendez and Oregon’s John Kitzhaber to make the case there’s something rotten in the Democratic ranks.

But Kasie Hunt reported from Iowa over the weekend that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has a very different attack in mind.

Cruz also suggested pending federal charges against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez were politically motivated – tied to Menendez’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition to a U.S. deal with Iran over their nuclear program.

“The timing is curious,” Cruz said .... “It raises a suggestion to other Democrats that if you dare part from the Obama White House, that criminal prosecutions will be used potentially as a political weapon as well,” Cruz said. “That’s a serious concern.”

The Texas Republican added, “This investigation has been going on for over a year and yet the very week they announce a pending indictment comes within hours after Sen. Menendez showing courage to speak out against President Obama’s dangerous foreign policy that is risking the national security of this country.”

Greg Sargent noted the other day that he was planning to joke about the right concocting a conspiracy theory involving Menendez, the White House, and Iran, but the mockery was already too late. “They’re already saying [it],” Greg said.

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