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“One Christie Scandal Begets Another”: With Lost Credibility, It’s Hard Not To Take His Denials With A Grain Of Salt

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal did more than just expose serious wrongdoing in the governor’s office; it also opened the door to a rash other Christie controversies.

In some instances, scandals came to light after – and largely because of – the revelations about Fort Lee and the George Washington Bridge. Allegations from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D), for example, about Christie administration officials connecting post-Sandy aid to a private development deal were unknown before the bridge story, in part because the mayor didn’t think anyone would believe her. Once the public learned what Team Christie was capable of – the governor has apologized for his aides’ misconduct – Zimmer hoped her accusations would get a fairer hearing.

But some controversies unfolded long before Fort Lee became the center of a national firestorm, and are suddenly getting a second look in light of recent revelations. The editorial board of the Star-Ledger, for example, highlighted another simmering matter over the weekend.

[W]e are reminded of the accusations of Ben Barlyn, a former Hunterdon County prosecutor who says he was fired because he refused to drop a case against a Christie ally. For the past year, he’s been striving to prove his story, paying through the nose for a civil lawsuit against the state while telling it to anyone who will listen.

Barlyn says that after he secured an indictment in 2010 against Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, a Republican with political ties to Christie, he was fired and the case hastily killed by Christie’s appointed attorney general at the time, Paula Dow. The real story isn’t the mundane crimes that were alleged: hiring without proper background checks, making employees sign loyalty oaths, threatening critics and producing fake police badges for a prominent Christie donor. It’s the possible abuse of power by the administration’s head prosecutor.

Barlyn is now trying to compel the state Attorney General’s Office to release the grand jury transcripts to prove his case had legs.

He’s not the only one who says so: Four grand jurors and other dismissed prosecutors have come forward to agree. A judge even ordered the release of the transcripts – yet still, the state is refusing to comply. It has filed a torrent of briefs in an effort to suppress the grand jury record, and will continue this fight at a hearing Tuesday.

That’s tomorrow.

Barlyn’s concerns pre-date the bridge scandal by years, so it’s not as if one could plausibly accuse him of trying to exploit an unrelated controversy. On the contrary, he’s been eager to tell his story, though the Christie administration has tried to stop him from speaking publicly about the grand jury proceedings.

The governor’s chief spokesperson described Barlyn’s accusations as “wild-eyed conspiracy theories,” though the governor’s office has said this before. Indeed, Team Christie dismissed the Fort Lee allegations as “crazy,” right up until the governor conceded that many of the allegations of corruption were, in fact, true.

Indeed, it’s part of the lingering problem the governor and his team will have to deal with for a while: once someone has lost credibility, it’s hard not to take his or her denials with a grain of salt.

In Barlyn’s case, we don’t know whether politics was involved with his dismissal, but the Star-Ledger believes the accusations are serious enough to warrant a broader investigation: “What we need is a state legislative committee, the U.S. Attorney’s Office or a specially appointed prosecutor to get involved and issue subpoenas. Dow must be compelled to answer questions under oath, and the grand jury transcripts and other investigative materials must be turned over immediately.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 27, 2014

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mission Accomplished”: Rand Paul Says ‘War On Women’ Is Over, Everybody Get Married

Yesterday, Rand Paul (R-Ky) declared an armistice in the “war on women” when he told Candy Crowley that the war is over and besides, “women are winning it.”

“The whole thing with the War on Women, I sort of laughingly say, ‘yeah there might have been,’ but the women are winning it,” he said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ “I’ve seen the women in my family and how well they’re doing. My niece is in Cornell vet school and about 85% of the people in vet school are women.”

Mazel Tov to your niece, Rand Paul. It’s so great to hear that there are more women in vet school than in Congress.

“I think women are doing very well, and I’m proud of … how far we’ve come,” Paul said. “I think some of the victimology and all this other stuff is trumped up and we don’t get to any good policy by playing some charade that one party doesn’t care about women or one party isn’t in favor of women advancing or other people advancing.”

On the one hand, Paul’s not totally wrong. Here are all the ways women are winning:

  • Women outnumber men on college campuses 57% to 43%, and the gap is expected to reach 59% to 41% by 2020.
  • The pay gap is shrinking for millennials, with younger women making 93% of what men make
  • Women are 48% of medical school graduates, up from around 10% in 1965
  • Three words: Hillary Rodham Clinton

But on the other hand, women still have the cards stacked against them, especially poor women:

  • 1 in 3 American women live in poverty or on the brink of it
  • 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women, and they usually don’t get sick days
  • The average woman makes 77 cents on a man’s dollar, and that’s lower for minorities; black women make only 64 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic women make only 55 cents
  • Even for the rich and well-educated, there’s still a disparity: men with MBAs make an average of $400,000 per year a decade after grad school, women with MBAs make around $250,000

But what Paul said next about marriage is the real nugget here.

“The number one cause of poverty is having kids before you’re married,” he said. “I tell people over and over again, I can’t make you get married, I can’t do anything about that.”

But, Rand…what if there was some magical way to make sure women didn’t have babies before they were married? What if there were some kind of pill, or even a procedure that would allow women to not have babies when they couldn’t afford them? How bout it, Rand? Maybe science has the answer! Let’s check!

Oh wait, this the same Rand Paul that co-sponsored the Life at Conception act to completely outlaw abortion and opposes the Obamacare birth control insurance coverage mandate. Right, I forgot.

He did seem very, very concerned about the plight of women on CNN. “It would be very difficult to have a government policy… how would you institute a government policy that didn’t create incentives to have more children?”

It’s a real head-scratcher.

The fact that Rand Paul thinks the war on women is over means he had no idea what it was about in the first place. Nobody accused the Republican party of standing in the way of women going to veterinary school– women’s financial and educational advancements are propelled by social changes that aren’t being specifically debated on the Senate floor. The “War on Women” is about abortion rights and access to affordable contraception more than anything, and Paul is fighting against both of them.

It’s giving me deja vu to when Bush stood in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner in 2003; a false victory, a pat on the back, and nothing really accomplished.

 

By: Charlotte Alter, Time, January 27, 2014

 

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Rand Paul, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP’s Hot New Craze”: Why Everyone Wants To Give A State Of The Union Response This Year

Are you ready for the television event of the year? That’s right: It’s almost time for the annual State of the Union address and its rapidly multiplying responses. Tomorrow, following the president’s address, Americans will also (if they choose to) hear from three separate elected Republicans. Because if there’s anything Americans love more than lengthy speeches from politicians, it’s three successive lengthy speeches from politicians. Maybe this year my pitch for C-SPAN Redzone will finally catch on?

Last year, the official Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address was delivered by a famously parched Sen. Marco Rubio. Then there was another response, from Sen. Rand Paul, representing the Tea Party. This year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers will deliver the official Republican response, followed by a Tea Party response from Sen. Mike Lee. And then Rand Paul will also deliver a response, representing … himself.

When Michele Bachmann delivered her “Tea Party” response to the State of the Union in 2011, it seemed unlikely to become a tradition. But the next year, presidential candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cain delivered his own Tea Party response. Then came Paul, who apparently enjoyed it so much that he decided to deliver his own totally unaffiliated response speech Tuesday, to be posted on YouTube and sent out directly to his followers and fans via his email list.

Traditionally, the official opposition party response to the State of the Union was an opportunity to take advantage of free airtime to deliver the party’s official platform and message to a captive national audience (back when the speech was the only thing on TV). The response was sometimes used to showcase a party’s rising stars, but it was also common to have it delivered by recognized and respected senior members of Congress.

But the official response is a thankless, largely pointless assignment. The responder doesn’t have the benefit of the president’s large audience and impressive backdrop, they have little advance knowledge of what they are responding to, and, let’s be real, no one’s paying attention. Official responses have done next to nothing for opposition parties. (Not that the track record of State of the Union addresses is so hot either. Let’s just go back to making it a brief letter delivered whenever a president feels like it, and save all the political bloggers the trouble of liveblogging it.)

But what if the responder wasn’t hemmed in by the requirement that they represent their entire party, and appeal to as broad an audience as possible? What if the response could be used purely for naked self-promotion, and narrowcast solely to the true believers? Then the response morphs from a mostly thankless burden to a canny campaigning and fundraising opportunity.

Rand Paul’s response won’t be on the networks, because Rand Paul’s audience isn’t everyone, and his intention isn’t necessarily to persuade the median voter. He will sit for cable news interviews after the speech, and hit up the Sunday show circuit a few days later, because he’s still campaigning for 2016 and needs as much free media as possible, but a YouTube response sent directly to people who already support Paul is mainly about energizing and expanding his list.

And that’s sort of the problem the Republican Party faces right now: For Paul, there’s not really any reason not to distract from the “official” party response with a nakedly self-serving bit of early campaigning. There’s nothing stopping whomever wants to declare themselves “the Tea Party” from delivering a response too, because part of identifying with the Tea Party is rejecting the “Washington” leadership of the GOP. (The percentage of Americans identifying as “independents” is at a 25-year high, and many of those “independents” are partisan Republicans rejecting the label for various reasons.) It’s good for building up your list, and a good list is what makes a successful modern politician.

Giving an unsanctioned State of the Union response isn’t quite the same level of leadership-defiance as, say, launching an unsanctioned, time-wasting stunt “filibuster” (speaking of which, why, exactly, isn’t Ted Cruz also responding to the State of the Union?), but the responses are multiplying for the same reason phony talking filibusters suddenly caught on among Senate Republicans last year: because the GOP is effectively leaderless and acting like a rebel insurgent is the only way to win over grass-roots conservative voters.

In other words, expect even more responses in 2015.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 27, 2014

January 28, 2014 Posted by | GOP, State of the Union | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s About The Guy In The White House”: The GOP Hypocrisy On Privacy And The Pill

I’m sure you chuckled at this weekend development as much as I did: At its winter meeting, the Republican National Committee, , passed a resolution condemning the NSA’s data-mining policy. The language about “unwarranted” government surveillance being an “intrusion on basic human rights” passed by voice vote, with only a few dissenters.

This is being read in the media as evidence for the party’s continuing turn away from war-mongery, Ari Fleischer-style, “watch what you say and do” Big Brotherism and toward a Pauline (as in Rand) libertarianism. And I wouldn’t deny that there’s something to that. The libertarian streak is very in vogue on the right, and neocons can’t seem to get Americans agitated about anything.

But let’s not kid ourselves. The passage of this resolution is mostly about the guy in the White House. If you want to try to tell me this was an act of principle by the RNC, then put Mitt Romney in the White House for a moment. Do you think the RNC would have considered such a resolution? Please. Reince Priebus would have had a stroke. He’d have quashed it in minutes. But with Barack Obama in the White House, the rules are different. The RNC passed this resolution to kick a little extra sand in Obama’s face.

This isn’t new of course, this rancid hypocritical sand-kicking, but it keeps getting worse, more comically transparent and more brazen. You may have read last week, for example, after Mike Huckabee’s birth-control throw down, that back in 2005 when he was Arkansas governor, Huckabee approved legislation requiring health-insurance plans in the state to cover contraceptive pills and devices. In fact, according to The Arkansas Times, Huckabee’s exemption for religious employers and organizations was narrower than the exemption in Obamacare.

So how did this policy go from being something a Southern Baptist fundamentalist could endorse to something that’s fodder for the next front in the culture war? What’s changed? Well, let’s see. It’s not that government is forcing insurers to pay for contraception. That’s what Huckabee approved in 2005. It’s not that contraception is different. True, we’ve had controversies in the past year about the age at which girls could have legal access to emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), but that has nothing to do with “Uncle Sugar” providing women with birth control, which was the crux of Huckabee’s lament. And besides that, it’s not as if ECPs [what does that stand for?] themselves are new—they’ve been legal for 15 years. It was George W. Bush’s FDA that changed ECPs from prescription-only to over-the-counter (for adult women), back in 2006.

No, those things aren’t very different. What’s different is who’s in the White House. What’s an acknowledgement of modern reality when a Republican is president becomes, with Obama as president, another manifestation of how he’s taking America straight to hell. If you believe the president is the Manchurian Candidate, acts that were once benign or ignorable take on a new and more sinister coloration.

Do liberals do this too in reverse? Sure, to some extent. But on the topic of the NSA and data mining, you certainly can’t say that liberals and Democrats have been silent. Many have been fierce critics of the administration, far more so than conservatives and Republicans, in fact. To the extent that Obama is changing his policies in these realms, it’s because of pressure from the left, not the right.

But now the GOP wants a piece of this action. I’m sure that to some extent the sentiment among the RNC members—national committee-people from across the country, many of them local politicos, few or none of them members of the Beltway foreign-policy establishment—is genuine. Most people don’t like the idea that the government has a log of their phone calls. It’s not exactly hard to get a bunch of conservative activists to cast a voice-vote against the government and against anything Obama is doing.

But proof of libertarian dominance in the GOP? Don’t buy it. If the Republicans nominate Rand Paul, then sure, they’ll keep sallying forth down the libertarian alley. But if they nominate a more conventional Republican who has ties to the neoconservative establishment, the delegates stand up at the 2016 convention and cheer their heads off every time that nominee talks about the homeland. And should that person become president, and do the same things Obama has done and worse…well, I wouldn’t be looking for any censorious RNC resolutions if I were you.

In the meantime, the thing to keep looking for is Republicans having no memory of LB09—Life Before 2009. It makes no difference what position the party or any individual Republican took before January 20 of that year. All that matters from their way of seeing things is that on January 20 of that year, everything changed. That’s the governing emotional reality of the GOP opposition, and it will remain so until the day the black guy leaves the White House.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 27, 2014

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, GOP, National Security Agency | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Stupid Goes Unchallenged”: Dim And Divisive Rand Paul Self-Destructs, Again

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is what you get when traditional and corrosive American nepotism meets the 21st century GOP echo chamber: a pampered princeling whose dumb ideas have never been challenged by reality.

If you missed Ron Paul’s son on “Meet the Press” Sunday, go watch it. I am honestly not sure what was most ridiculous or offensive: attacking Hillary Clinton for something her husband did, or declaring that “if there was a war on women, I think they won.”

Leave that question aside for a moment. Paul’s performance was most interesting for the window it gave us into his character, as the indulged but slightly dim scion of an eccentric political family whose every utterance, all his life, has been treated as important. At some points in interviews with the freshman senator, including this one, you can see the wheels turning in his head, maybe a little slowly, as he winds up to deliver what he thinks is a political humdinger. It’s the oily crazy of Rand Paul being adorably Rand Paul: saying what he thinks is brave and leader-like, but that thing turns out to be simply nutty.

Then the media collectively scrunches its forehead and tries to decide if he’s brave or nutty.

So it was with “Meet the Press” Sunday. Paul obviously set out to say cleverly what Mike Huckabee said stupidly: Republicans aren’t going to take the Democrats’ “war on women” rhetoric lying down, especially if they’re facing a Democratic woman running for president in 2016. You can almost see behind his eyes as he thinks to himself: “I’ve got it: I’ll throw a haymaker at Hillary Clinton for something stupid her husband did almost 20 years ago!”

Oh, and the man who opposed the Lilly Ledbetter pay equity act had the stones to frame his critique of President Clinton’s long-ago relationship with Monica Lewinsky as support for workplace laws supporting women.

One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to be — have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that. And that is predatory behavior, and it should — it should be something — we shouldn’t want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office… I mean, really — and then they have the gall to stand up and say Republicans are having a war on women? So yes, I think it’s a factor.

Though Paul allowed that her husband’s behavior is “not Hillary’s fault,” he added, “with regard to the Clintons, sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.”

But wait, there was more. He came right at that whole war on women thing, echoing men’s rights advocates everywhere by declaring that “if there was a war on women, I think they won.” Evidence? “The women in my family are doing great.”

It’s not defending President Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky to marvel at Paul’s raising it all again. Forget the fact that the issue was litigated 15 years ago, and every time Republicans went at Clinton, his public approval numbers went higher. Also forget that Paul’s claim that “the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this” is demonstrably false and idiotic. The man was impeached, and an awful lot of mainstream journalists shamed themselves by being stenographers for Kenneth Starr.

But on the self-pitying right, you can never lose by blaming the media for coddling awful Democrats. Paul’s brilliant declaration about women winning the war on women was likewise fact-challenged and paranoid. “I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things,” he told David Gregory. “In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women are out-competing the men in our world.”

Never mind that women still make less than men and are more likely to live in poverty. Even more cruelly, the man who opposes legal abortion and the contraception-coverage mandate also suggested last Thursday that women who have “too many” children should lose welfare support. “Maybe we have to say, ‘Enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount,’” Paul said Thursday. He backed off a bit on CNN Sunday morning, telling Candy Crowley: “I mused about how you’d have a government policy, but I actually came down saying it would be very difficult to have a government policy,” Paul said.

Only last week reasonably smart people declared that Paul was the beneficiary of Chris Christie’s implosion. The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart called him the new “front-runner,” and Andrew Sullivan endorsed Beinart’s piece, tweeting, “Those who dismiss Rand Paul’s chances are missing something, I think — a revival of true small-gov’t conservatism.”

I want to get this straight: I know someone is going to win the Republican nomination for president in 2016. The party may be headed toward demographic extinction, but they’re not going to forfeit the election. They’ll nominate somebody. I just can’t see it being any of the people regularly mentioned, as the party’s supposedly “deep bench” of candidates splinters.

I could be wrong. On “Morning Joe” Mark Halperin suggested Paul might have advanced his candidacy by proving he’ll attack the Clintons and go on the offensive on the Democrats’ “war on women” claims. He’s definitely on the offensive. Very offensive.

Of course Peter Beinart left himself many outs in his Paul-as-front-runner piece, noting the freshman senator’s plagiarism and neo-Confederacy problems and adding: “Who knows what the media will turn up when the real vetting that greets a presidential candidate begins?”

He should have added: And who knows what will happen the next time the candidate opens his mouth?

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 27, 2014

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Rand Paul, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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