Posted tagged ‘chris christie’

Christie, Does He Believe What He’s Saying?

May 14, 2015

Governor Chris Christie is in a tough spot. In a potential field of two dozen GOP Presidential hopefuls, how does a New Jersey Governor make his candidacy relevant? Christie whose personality is a mixture of charismatic and bombastic qualities, thinks he needs to emphasize his conservative economic views to gain attention. Hmmm.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed column, Christie outlined his plans to get America going again. Briefly his thoughts were:

  • Tax Code Reform involving lower across the board rates
  • Reduce Government regulations
  • Implement a National Energy strategy
  • Eliminate “counter productive laws and regulations like (you guessed it) Obamacare
  • Invest in R&D (increase the rate compared to entitlement growth)

Christie claimed that these steps will unleash pent up demand and help the middle class break out of the stagnation is has experienced for the last 20 years or so. Hmmm.

Christie’s dramatic speech make one wonder whether he realizes that these proposals were made 4 years ago and can be found in part in just about every other GOP hopefuls’ canned speeches. Even worse than a lack of originality, this prescription also hides some important misconceptions. For example:

  • Tax Code Reform – any proposal which calls for across the board tax rate reductions is in fact a plan to provide the wealthy with lower tax liability even when loop holes and exemptions are also eliminated. Tax Code Reform is certainly an important and worthwhile goal but it will be a herculean task to remove favorites like mortgage and health insurance deductions and not look the other way on all the big loop holes and exemptions that the wealthy and special interests have lobbied to get in the tax code.
  • Reduce Government Regulations – This is an inadequate proposal. Does Governor Christie want to reproduce the conditions that lead to the subprime/mortgage backed securities near melt down of the world’s banking system? Voters should be weary of this type of claim unless the candidate gives specifics.
  • Implement a National Energy strategy – This is an amazing statement which makes one wonder where Governor Christie has been for the last 4 years? “Energy Independence” has been a campaign pledge in past elections and to the extent Christie means to push a 25-50 year strategy which moves the US to renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources, this could be game changing proposal. But Christie in more in step with the “drill Baby drill crowd” and is speaking to big money and big oil interests.
  • Eliminate counterproductive regulations (like Obamacare) – This is probably the most shameful proposal of the lot. Modifying, improving, and replacing the Affordable Care Act should be a welcome proposal if it leads to good or better healthcare outcomes and lower total medical costs. Christie’s swipe at Obamacare is a crass politically hollow statement.
  • Invest in R&D – In principle this a worthwhile proposal. In practice this usually means another exemption or deduction to be added to the tax code. And where is the investing in our aging national infrastructure upon which the economy depends?

I have taken exception to Governor Christie’s proposals not because he is likely to become the nominee. I have taken exception because Christie’s proposals are a not so clever regurgitation of previous GOP proposals.  Added together. the GOP advocates that money be transferred from entitlement programs and spent upon defense and tax breaks for the wealthy. Voters must look beyond these carefully turned phrases and uncover the intended outcomes.

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Ebola and A Missed Lesson on Disease Control

November 13, 2014

Quietly on Monday, the lives of two individuals went from outcasts to regular citizens without notice. Doctor Craig Spencer and nurse Kaci Hickox completed their 21 days and were declared Ebola free. With that, both were free to move around as any other normal citizen. So what is so unusual about that?

The answer is both “nothing” and “everything”. Both individuals had worked as healthcare workers in Ebola treatment centers in Africa. Both had been exposed to patients with Ebola. Both had returned to the US symptom free. Dr Spencer developed symptoms after a few days in the US and reported voluntarily for medical treatment in New York City. Kaci never developed symptoms but did check her medical condition daily.
Both were viewed with fear and unrest by the general public.   Many political figures labeled them as extreme risks to society and subject to complete isolation. Scant recognition or appreciation was accorded either for the personal risk and sacrifice they had made in treating Ebola at its roots.

Ironically, their efforts were the first line of defense for the US yet one would never know it from our politicians rhetoric.

Both Dr Spencer and Ms Hickox conducted themselves professionally during their “re-entry” periods. Both continually reminded anyone who would listen how Ebola was spread and how it was not. And alas, as of today, the sky has not fallen.

This incident is important in several ways. First, it has exposed the unpleasant reality that US medical facilities were not uniformly prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak. Training and adequate equipment was inadequate in most hospitals.   Somewhat like open heart surgery, specialized hospitals are better bets than general facilities.

Second, the disgraceful display so many of our politicians put on as they catered to the least informed fears of the public does not portent well should there ever be a serious infectious disease outbreak.

Rejecting fact based recommendations in favor of crowd pleasing over control speaks poorly about these political leaders and puts everyone in potential jeopardy if a modern day SARS or Plague were to hit our shores in a big way.

The lack of appreciation for the sacrifices of both Craig Spencer and Kaci Hickox was disgraceful and speaks volumes about the narrow mindedness of these political leaders.   This suggests strongly that we ought to look for new fact based leaders for our own well being.

An Anxious Waiting

July 28, 2014

The fall elections cannot come soon enough for 2016 potential Presidential candidates.   There are so many juicy events, both domestically and international, which Presidential demagogues could jaw about but they, for the most part, are resisting the urge to brag the limelight. I wonder why?

Why, for instance, does a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio not wax eloquently (on national TV) contrasting what the Obama Administration is doing (or not doing) with what a Cruz or Rubio Administration would do?

Or, why hasn’t Chris Christie or Rick Perry not sold their children in order to raise funds for Israel in its latest Palestinian clash?

And, although not 2016 candidates, why hasn’t John McCain or Lindsay Graham lectured the President on how he has lost the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

Why, indeed, when these subjects still make the front page with one headline after another? Are these suddenly mute GOP leaders wasting an opportunity?

It is, of course, summer and vacation time. Accordingly, it could be that relaxing, recharging the batteries, and keeping off the national stage might be a sufficient answer. Hmmm, maybe not.

And it could be that none of these candidates has a better idea (almost assuredly true). Hmmm. I don’t think that excuse has prevented them from “speaking to Americans” in the past.

I would suggest a more basic motive. From poling data, the GOP has a definite chance of capturing both the House and the Senate this fall. Why take a chance by pontificating on one of these issues and un-intendedly turn voters against the party?

All of the issues facing the President these days are complex, thorny, and nuanced.  These issues require careful analysis and mostly require long term strategies for which there is no national consensus. Efforts to build a national consensus does not fit 10 second sound bites. Worse, any serious recommendation ties the candidate to a position which can be later evaluated.  Hmmm.

Latin American immigration, support for Israel, and the Middle East (including Afghanistan) are all issues which are not new. The GOP learned as recently as 2012 what a hard line on immigration reform would bring. And while 2016 will see both parties stand up to say how much a friend of Israel they are, the American public can count and know the difference between 800+ and 2 civilian deaths in the current Gaza crisis. And strangely, most Americans have had a stomach full of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Sunni-Shiite-Taliban craziness.

The 2016 hopefuls could turn their attention to jobs but there is a reasonable chance that after a slow but steady decline in unemployment that the percentage might fall below 6%.  Think about these previous hot button topics… debt, deficit, jobs, tax cuts, and healthcare.  Only healthcare has not had enough time to play out and undermine the conservative position.

There is for sure plenty of room for GOP candidates to offer alternative routes to achieve debt reduction or balancing the budget.  There is plenty of room for creative ideas on job creation and tax code reform.  And there is an ocean of room for how to bring US healthcare into the 21st century.  Among the many thoughtful proposals, however, one would not find “leave it to the States” or “cut taxes and cut social network spending” or “increase defense spending while decreasing any other spending”.

So, come Thanksgiving, I wonder what we will hear from these now silent candidates?

Yin and Yang

March 30, 2014

The GOP has begun its unofficial process for selecting its next standard bearer. Over the weekend Governor Chris Christy began his quest with an appearance before the Republican Jewish Committee. Some consider it Sheldon Abelson’s cattle call because he has promised to pledge so much money to the one candidate he things can win. I wonder why?

If one considers only Governor Christy and President Obama, the Chinese symbol of “yin and yang” comes to mind. Christy is a shoot from the hip, take charge, personality who exudes the message “I can get it done”. President Obama, who cannot run again, is almost the opposite. Obama thinks about things and seeks information when his facts are not sufficient. Obama speaks a great game but somehow seems to move onto the next issue leaving the last one to flounder under insufficient management control.

The question this begs is under which type of leadership would the country be better off?

For the past 6 years, the GOP has never failed to inform the public that the America as we know it, was about to end. The deficit was out of control and the resulting debt would sink America’s greatness within the next generation. “Tax and spend” democrats need to be kicked out of office for the good of America, they said. Hmmm.  While the economy is not great by US standards, it is by world standards.

In addition, the GOP formula for success, when tried elsewhere in the world, have had awful results. Austerity which is a by product of the GOP wishes to shrink government spending has lead to no growth and increased unemployment where ever it has been tried (following the 2007/8 economic recession).

Entitlements reform, another GOP mainstay, has exposed either a naivete or outright cruelness. GOP proposals about how to reform entitlements patently favor the wealthy (no new taxes) and suggest a class distinction (lower Medicare, Medicaid, and safety net programs) on where the American dream should be focused.

From the public record, there is no basis for any Republican to think they deserve election. The public record, however, holds also the Democrat’s accomplishments. Not much.

With the primary exception of the Affordable Care Act, “a lot of hot air” and not much else could sum up Democrat proposals. While Democrats have fiercely defended entitlements, they have also not offered any ideas on how to fund or how to ensure entitlement spending was wisely being spent.

Yin and Yang does not have to reflect only the differences between a Barack Obama and Chris Christy type of individuals. A thoughtful President does not have to an ineffective executive, nor does an effective President have to be a thoughtless person either.

What has been missing from both Parties has been a holistic approach. The need for entitlements signals a greater problem within the society. While every society will have poor, uneducated, mentally ill, and the sick citizens who cannot provide for their own well being, the size and scope of US entitlements may go well beyond this number. Why?

I cannot recall any discussion by either Party which dissects entitlement spending, assigns a cause for the various needs, and offers alternative ways to eliminate these needs. (This is not a bad approach for all government spending including defense.)

I wonder whether who ever represents the Democrat or Republican parties in 2016 when viewed side by side will look the same or as yin and yang?

Christie’s Report

March 28, 2014

Yesterday a 300+ page report was shared with the public. The report alleged to reveal all the relevant facts about “Bridgegate”, the mysterious closure of three on ramp lanes of the George Washington Bridge. A genuine “who dunit”.

No surprise, the report found no involvement by Governor Chris Christie. This may actually be the case but that totally misses the point. Those implicated were Christie appointees. If they acted on their own, they never the less remain examples of the type of appointees the Governor thinks capable, competent and loyal.

As in the business world, internal governance and the values that any organization believes stem from the top. Hmmm.

There is another report soon to be written which has nothing to do with bridge lane closures which may speak even louder about the nature of Christie’s Presidential timber. This weekend he (and other GOP Presidential hopefuls) will meet with Sheldon Adelson. The hopefuls are responding to Adelson’s promise to dump all his money on one candidate for the 2016 election and wants to begin the process of deciding which one. Hmmm.

Remembering 2012 and Adelson’s fondness for Newt and then his switch to Romney, and in total spending more than $100 million on various conservative candidates, the question is obviously which Republican will Adelson back?

The question, which more than any other piece of information, will provide insight on Christie’s Presidential worthiness is how far right will “moderate” Christie twist?

Getting More Than Even

February 2, 2014

This past week, public television presented a 2 hour documentary on Pete Seeger’s life.  For anyone who enjoys “folk music”, it was a special treat to see folk music history replayed.  For those who are weary of uncontrolled government, there was something for you too.

Seeger’s life was about people and unfortunately included a special group of “little people”.

“Little people” does not refer to the young or to those small in stature.  Rather, “little people” might better be called bullies.  This class of bullies possess relatively powerful jobs who use their power for petty personal objectives.

Seeger’s “little people” contact came with the House Un-american Activities Committee.  It is true that Seeger had been a member of the Communist Party, but it was also true he was someone against war, pollution, Fascism, and poverty.  The “little people” in Congress (and in television management) were only to happy to label Seeger a subversive and black list him.

Even though it was clear from the evidence that Seeger had not and was not working for the overthrow of the US government, he was to be made an example.  To HUAC members, pay back and “getting more than even” was the black list.  That struck at the other person’s pocket book.

During the television tribute, Bruce Springsteen commented that today we think HUAC and resulting black listing is in the past and could not take place today.  Springteen warned that retribution  is a human condition and remains just below the surface even today.  Really?

Sure.  Just ask former Vice President Dick Cheney or Governor Chris Christie.

The outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame was a blatant “pay back” with an extra helping of “getting more than even” action from the highest level of the American Government.  Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson had written an op-ed article exposing the falsehood of charges that Iraq was trying to acquire Uranium yellow cake.  The White House was trying to use this allegation to support its intentions to invade Iraq.  By outing Plame, an undercover agent, Cheney hurt Plame’s ability to make a living.

Governor Christie is currently caught up in a mess and maybe abuse of power targeted to support his personal ambitions.  Christie subordinates sought to “pay back” and “get more than even” with political opponents who would not play ball with his administration.  In one case, subordinates closed three lanes on the George Washington Bridge essential shutting down access from Fort Lee, New Jersey.  The victims were, of course, residents of Fort Lee but the real target is alleged to have been the Fort Lee Mayor who declined to endorse the reelection of Governor Christie.  Hmmm.

One needs step back in order to connect these dots.  HUAC, the Iraq War, and Governor Christie’s second term election seemed purposeful and well intended activities by supporters.  What each failed to recognize was there were valid opposing views and just people who held those views.

These “pay back and get more than even” behaviors certainly can reveal bully-like character flaws, but is that all?

No, there was something else they all had in common.  Each of these had at its core the reelection of its participants and allies, and the continued flow of government contracts to thier supporters.  While bully behavior is to be condemned, we should not lose sight that there are even greater motivations than just being a bully to want to “get more than even”.

Do you think term limits, full campaign donor disclosures, and an investigative press might help?

Making News

January 13, 2014

The brouhaha taking place over the closure and resulting traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge has uncovered a number of assumptions and probable misunderstandings.  News presenters are breathlessly wondering whether Governor Chris Christie’s Presidential hopes have been dashed.  What did he know and when did he know it they all ask?  How can someone who does not have his staff under control expect to become President?  Hmmm.

As usual the news media’s questions all seem logical on the surface.  They simply overlook that some of their unstated assumptions are just that… wild and unproven assumptions.

Begin with the idea that Chris Christie could win the GOP nomination.  What are people smoking?  Think back to the 2012 nomination circus and remember the GOP hopefuls trying to get more to the right of each other.  Sane people like Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman were quickly marginalized in favor of raving ideologues.  While common sense would argue that the GOP should recognize the folly of their nomination process (a process guaranteed to nominate someone who can’t win a national test), there are few to no signs that that reality has set in.  Therefore, the notion that Chris Christie can suddenly win the nomination from these same GOP primary voters and not seal his national election fate seems a big stretch.

Next, think about the pure chance that Christie could win a nomination against the current crop of GOP hopefuls.  Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rad Paul will offer no safe harbors for Christie.  They will snipe at him from every angle trying to paint Christie as moderate to liberal, a big city, northern politician.  Christie might try to focus his campaign on the failures of the Obama Administration, but he will be consumed trying to put down criticism from fellow GOP hopefuls.

There are plenty of reasons to consider Christy not ready for prime time.  The bridge lane closures are mind boggling since it is difficult to understand how the closure in any way represented pay back for the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee.  And, it is reasonable to assume Christie’s finger prints are not on it.  What is inescapable, however, is that very close aids and appointees were linked to the closure.  So do these types represent the type of people who appeal to Christie?

Like most all political flaps, if this is the only one and none further occur, time will heal.  But like most political flaps, they represents potentially underlying character fault.  Underlying faults do reoccur from time to time, and if so, we shall see whether Governor Christie is ready for prime time.