New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said over and over again that he isn’t running for president in 2012 — a line he repeated once again just this week. Still, Republicans dissatisfied with their options are turning up the pressure on Christie to jump into the race. The GOP base has gotten its hopes up before — over Donald Trump, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and, most recently, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — only to promptly find fault with each new candidate (or, in Trump’s case, would-be candidate) and resume the search for a savior. Here are five reasons Christie would fare no better:
1. Christie is no hardliner on immigration
“The biggest chink in Rick Perry’s armor so far has been his record on illegal immigration,” says Dan Amira at New York. It’s a problem for Christie, too. He has said being in the country without proper papers is an “administrative matter,” not a crime. And between 2002 and 2007, as U.S. attorney in New Jersey, he prosecuted so few illegal immigration cases that then-CNN host Lou Dobbs said Christie was “an utter embarrassment.”
2. He has a soft spot for gun control
In 1995, when Christie was running for state general assembly, he distributed flyers calling opponents “radical” and “crazy” for supporting repeal of the federal assault-weapons ban, says Daniel Foster at National Review. And he still fights any move to let people carry concealed weapons in New Jersey. In 2009, he told conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity that New Jersey had a “handgun problem,” and that he supports some of the gun-control measures the state uses to contain it. “Bad idea,” Hannity said.
3. Hardliners won’t like his stand on the “ground zero mosque”
Last year, Christie accused politicians on the Left and Right of using the proposed “ground zero mosque” as a “political football,” says Thomas Fitzgerald at The Philadelphia Inquirer, suggesting he thought conservatives were exploiting anti-Muslim emotions stirred up by the 9/11 attacks. This summer, he faced another backlash after appointing Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim lawyer, to be a New Jersey Superior Court judge. Critics were angry that he would appoint a lawyer who had defended a cleric accused of terrorist sympathies. Christie responded: “I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
4. He’s got an uncomfortable Madoff connection
In his days as a lobbyist, Christie once fought for the rights of Wall Street. On his client list: The Securities Industry Association, then led by none other than Bernie Madoff. That, says Abe Sauer at The Awl, is the kind of thing “that’s easy to understand no matter who you are, involves a universally despised villain who has come to represent all the illegality of the 2008 market collapse, and it would be devastating to Christie in much-needed Florida” — a critical presidential swing state where many Madoff victims lived.
5. A possible clincher: He believes people are causing climate change
Perry delights the Right by saying that climate change is “phony,” says James Oliphant at the Los Angeles Times. Christie says 90 percent of the world’s scientists have concluded that the climate is changing and humans are playing a role, so “it’s time to defer to the experts.” If Republican voters are looking to nominate a hardcore conservative, this is pretty solid proof that Christie “does not fit the mold.”
By: Best Opinion: New York, National Review, Philadelphia Inquirer, Published in The Week, September 30, 2011
By the very nature of political journalism, the attention of those covering the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest tends to be focused on areas of disagreement between the candidates, as well as on the policy positions and messages they are eager to use against Barack Obama. But there are a host of other issues where the Republican candidates are in too much agreement to create a lot of controversy during debates or gin up excitement in the popular media. Areas of agreement, after all, rarely provoke shock or drive readership. But the fact that the Republican Party has reached such a stable consensus on such a great number of far-right positions is in many ways a more shocking phenomenon than the rare topic on which they disagree. Here are just a few areas of consensus on which the rightward lurch of the GOP during the last few years has become remarkably apparent:
1. Hard money. With the exception of Ron Paul’s serial campaigns and a failed 1988 effort by Jack Kemp, it’s been a very long time since Republican presidential candidates flirted with the gold standard or even talked about currency polices. Recent assaults by 2012 candidates on Ben Bernanke and demands for audits of the Fed reflect a consensus in favor of deflationary monetary policies and elimination of any Fed mission other than preventing inflation. When combined with unconditional GOP hostility to stimulative fiscal policies—another new development—this position all but guarantees that a 2012 Republican victory will help usher in a longer and deeper recession than would otherwise be the case.
2. Anti-unionism. While national Republican candidates have always perceived the labor movement as a partisan enemy, they haven’t generally championed overtly anti-labor legislation. Last Thursday, however, they all backed legislation to strip the National Labor Relations Board of its power to prevent plant relocations designed to retaliate against legally protected union activities (power the NLRB is exercising in the famous Boeing case involving presidential primary hotspot South Carolina). Meanwhile, at least two major candidates, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, have endorsed a national right-to-work law, and Romney and Perry have also encouraged states like New Hampshire to adopt right-to-work laws.
3. Radical anti-environmentalism. Until quite recently, Republicans running for president paid lip service to environmental protection as a legitimate national priority, typically differentiating themselves from Democrats by favoring less regulatory enforcement approaches and more careful assessment of economic costs and market mechanisms. The new mood in the GOP is perhaps best exemplified by Herman Cain’s proposal at the most recent presidential debate that “victims” of the Environmental Protection Agency (apparently, energy industry or utility executives) should dominate a commission to review environmental regulations—an idea quickly endorsed by Rick Perry. In fact, this approach might represent the middle-of-the-road within the party, given the many calls by other Republicans (including presidential candidates Paul, Bachmann, and Gingrich) for the outright abolition of EPA.
4.Radical anti-abortion activism. Gone are the days when at least one major Republican candidate (e.g., Rudy Giuliani in 2008) could be counted on to appeal to pro-choice Republicans by expressing some reluctance to embrace an immediate abolition of abortion rights. Now the only real intramural controversy on abortion has mainly surrounded a sweeping pledge proffered to candidates by the Susan B. Anthony List—one that would bind their executive as well as judicial appointments, and require an effort to cut off federal funds to institutions only tangentially involved in abortions. Despite this fact, only Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have refused to sign. Both, however, have reiterated their support for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion forever (though Romney has said that’s not achievable at present).
5. No role for government in the economy. Most remarkably, the 2012 candidate field appears to agree that there is absolutely nothing the federal government can do to improve the economy—other than disabling itself as quickly as possible. Entirely missing are the kind of modest initiatives for job training, temporary income support, or fiscal relief for hard-pressed state and local governments that Republicans in the past have favored as a conservative alternative to big government counter-cyclical schemes. Also missing are any rhetorical gestures towards the public-sector role in fostering a good economic climate, whether through better schools, basic research, infrastructure projects, and other public investments (the very term has been demonized as synonymous with irresponsible spending).
Add all this up, and it’s apparent the Republican Party has become identified with a radically conservative world-view in which environmental regulations and collective bargaining by workers have strangled the economy; deregulation, federal spending cuts, and deflation of the currency are the only immediate remedies; and the path back to national righteousness will require restoration of the kinds of mores—including criminalization of abortion—that prevailed before things started going to hell in the 1960s. That Republicans hardly even argue about such things anymore makes the party’s transformation that much more striking—if less noticeable to the news media and the population at large.
By: Ed Kilgore, The New Republic, September 19, 2011
Whatever their differences, the leading Republican candidates all swear that they love states’ rights. If elected president, Rick Perry vows to “try to make Washington as inconsequential as I can.” Mitt Romney declares his faith in the Constitution, which, he says, declares that the government “that would deal primarily with citizens at the local level would be local and state government, not the federal government.” Michele Bachmann “respect[s] the rights of states to come up with their own answers and their own solutions to compete with one another.” With lots of help from the Tea Party, the Tenth Amendment which, not so long ago was familiar mainly to constitutional lawyers and scholars, may now be as popular as the First or the Second. But, what this resurgence of federalism overlooks is not just the historical consolidation of federal power but also the inanity of attempts to reverse it.
For most of U.S. history, the primacy of federalism was taken for granted. Except during major wars, states exerted far more power over the daily lives of their residents than did any of the three branches of a national government located in a swampy river city on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard that most Americans had never visited. In the nineteenth century, as the historian Gary Gerstle explains, states funded canals, highways, and railroads. They decided which groups could vote and which could not. Some tried to regulate working hours. Others outlawed a variety of private acts—interracial marriage, drinking, and theater-going. In 1837, Illinois even forbade “playing at ball or flying of kites” as public nuisances.
All these policies fell under the legal sanction of “the police power,” which one influential Massachusetts judge in 1851 defined broadly as insuring the “good and welfare of the Commonwealth.” For its part, the Supreme Court, until after World War I, rather consistently ruled that the celebrated protections of the Bill of Rights—from the freedom of speech and the press to the right to a speedy trial—applied only to acts by the federal government and not to those of the states.
But, by the middle of the twentieth century, this arrangement no longer served the needs or desires of most Americans. During the Great Depression, state revenues, based mainly on property taxes, plummeted. The federal government stepped in to provide relief, and citizens everywhere began to count on Washington to keep the economy afloat and their Social Security checks arriving promptly. Then World War II and the cold war bound Americans to a national-security state that financed education for veterans and interstate highways as well as aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons. In the 1960s and ’70s, Congress passed laws to safeguard the civil and voting rights of every citizen, regardless of where he or she might live. Policies to protect the environment and regulate hazards at the workplace further diminished the sway of state governments. The Supreme Court, even with a conservative majority, has done little to reverse these changes.
Yet, states’ rights never lost its appeal to that minority of Americans who are ideologically committed to lambasting the federal state as both overweening and ineffective. (It should come as no surprise that these conservatives were so alarmed at the emergency measures taken by the Bush and Obama administrations to address the financial meltdown of 2008: the formation and rapid growth of the Tea Party was the predictable result.) However, any Republican elected to the White House in 2012 will find it impossible to lead a headlong charge back to the past, and not just because of the difficulty of undoing a half-century of tradition and Supreme Court precedent.
Voters unhappy with the inability of the federal government to restore prosperity may like the sound of “states’ rights.” But how many would trust their governors and state legislators to pay their Medicare and Social Security checks on time and at current or higher levels? How many really want 50 separate immigration policies or 50 different standards for what constitutes clean air and clean water? Or the possibility that state, seeking to lure business away from its neighbors, could cut the minimum wage in half and not requiring employers to pay for overtime?
When you look more broadly at their promises, the GOP hopefuls reveal the emptiness of their own rhetoric. Bachmann, never a paragon of consistency, supports a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, as well as the right of individual states to legalize it. In 2007, before Romney got in trouble for his Massachusetts health care law, he predicted, “that all these states … who follow the path that we pursued will find it’s the best path, and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” Rick Perry favors federal action to stop gay marriage and restrict abortion—and, last month, asked President Obama to speed up aid to stop wildfires from burning up whole sections of his vast state. Like a lot of other Americans, these ambitious conservatives like to rail against Washington in the abstract but cannot imagine how the nation would operate without a strong central government. And the specifics of their smaller hypocrisies are underscored by one giant irony: They’re all running for president.
The U.S. has long ceased to be a country in which most people look to their state instead of to the national government to address and solve their most vital problems. State pride is pretty rare these days, except for residents and alumni who dress in the old-school colors and root hard for a college football or basketball team from a major public university.
Of course, state governments still perform a vital role in education and economic development and can still be “laboratories of democracy,” sites for testing out new policies that aren’t yet ready for national consumption. Progressives who cheered when New York legalized gay marriage and look forward to the day when Vermont begins operating the single-payer health care system it passed this spring can hardly object, at least in principle, when red states pass laws they abhor. But, as an alternative philosophy of governance in a modern nation, states’ rights is very wrong. In fact, it’s ridiculous.
By: Michael Kazin, The New Republic, September 20, 2011
I have a great idea for a new show on Fox. It would be a reality comedy show with Sarah Palin as the host. It’s what Hollywood calls “high concept.” The idea would be that all the Republican presidential candidates would travel across America in Sarah’s RV. Hilarity follows.
Late night comic Jimmy Fallon put it best: “Obama was in Ireland. He thought about buying a four-leaf clover for good luck, and then he looked at the field of Republican candidates and decided it wasn’t necessary.”
Dramatis personae include:
Gary Johnson—Ex-governor of New Mexico who favors the legalization of pot. He didn’t get an invite to the next GOP debate, but his hopes are high and he has grassroots support.
Herman Cain—Multi-millionaire and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. He’s rolling in dough.
Newt Gingrich—Former speaker of the House. If he really is a fiscal conservative, he would use his $500,000 revolving charge account at Tiffany’s to make a payment on the federal debt. He is clearly the jewel in the GOP crown. The former speaker is currently on a cruise with his wife in the Mediterranean. He will return to the campaign trail after he decides whether he supports or opposes the Ryan plan to gut Medicare. It might be a long trip.
Palin—Can the former half-term and half-baked governor of Alaska see Russia from her magic bus? This trip is her magical mystery tour because we have no idea where it will lead. She rained on Mitt Romney’s parade by showing up in New Hampshire on the day of Romney’s formal announcement and popping him for his support of a state run healthcare program in Massachusetts with a personal mandate. National surveys indicate that twice as many voters dislike her as like her. So, I don’t think she will get a mandate from Americans.
Michele Bachmann—Tea Party favorite and conservative congresswoman from Minnesota. When baseball players have a short stay in the majors, it’s a cup of coffee. She will have a cup of tea in the presidential race. Last week, Representative Bachmann said she and former half-governor Palin were friends. That didn’t last long. This week, Bachmann’s campaign manager said Palin wasn’t a “serious” candidate. At least the Minnesotan and I agree on something.
Chris Christie—Governor of New Jersey. Teddy Roosevelt described the presidency as a bully pulpit. Christie is just a bully. Don’t be surprised if he helicopters into the race.
Rudy Giuliani—The former mayor of New York City. Why not? He did so well last time. If he runs, he should borrow Donald Trump’s toupee and MapQuest Iowa so he can find it this time.
Jon Huntsman—Ex-governor of Utah who served two years as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China. He will charge Obama with incompetence. Just look at the clown the president made ambassador to China.
Bobby Jindal—The governor of Louisiana who is not ready for prime time TV. But that hardly disqualifies him in this field.
Mitt Romney—Former governor of Massachusetts and the father of Obamacare. This would be the grudge match of all time. Healthcare reform 1.0 vs. 2.0. A Romney position is like the New England weather. Don’t like it, just wait, because it changes every 15 minutes.
Ron Paul—Paul is the anti-Romney because the Texas congressman sticks to his positions for more than 15 minutes. Actually, he still holds Herbert Hoover’s positions. But will socially conservative voters buy his opposition to drug laws and will the neocons accept his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? I don’t think so.
Tim Pawlenty—The former two-term governor of Minnesota is as bland as his fellow charismatically challenged Minnesotan, Walter Mondale. Jay Leno described T-Paw to a t when he joked, “You know, I don’t want to say Tim Pawlenty is boring, but his Secret Service codename is Al Gore.” Bland is good, though, because the other GOP candidates have enough baggage to fill a Boeing 727 headed for LAX.
Rick Perry—In 2009, the governor of Texas threatened to secede from the union. The question is whether he wants to lead or to secede. Too bad Jeff Davis isn’t still around to be his running mate.
Rick Santorum—Why does he torture himself with the hope he could win? Is the GOP this desperate for a candidate? He lost his Senate seat in a presidential battleground state, Pennsylvania, by 16 percent.
This may be why four out of 10 Republicans in a new Pew Research Center poll say they are not impressed with the GOP presidential candidates. But I think the reality TV show would get good ratings hammocked between Family Guy and The Simpsons on Sunday nights.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, June 9, 2011