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“In The Dark By Choice”: Christie Still Unsure About Traffic Study

As Rachel reported on the show last night, there were quite a few developments late yesterday in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, including the governor himself answering questions on the controversy for the first time in weeks.

Indeed, one of the more striking moments last night came when Christie, appearing on a local radio show, stuck to a position that’s literally hard to believe.

CHRISTIE: [A]s I said at the time of January 9th when I did my press conference, I still don’t know whether there was a traffic study that morphed into –

HOST: You still don’t know at this point whether there was a traffic study?

CHRISTIE: Well, what I’m saying, Eric, did this start as a traffic study that morphed into some political shenanigans, or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study?

The host’s incredulity was understandable, since the notion that there was some kind of legitimate traffic study was discredited quite a while ago. Christie hopes to maintain his credibility as multiple scandals surrounding his administration continue to unfold, but the more he suggests the traffic-study fig leaf was real, the more suspect his defense appears.

It’s worth emphasizing that in the same interview the governor “unequivocally” denied having anything to do with the Fort Lee scheme before it was executed by his team last September.

It was, of course, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, who said it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and it was Kelly who also raised some eyebrows late yesterday afternoon.

Kelly, whom Christie fired last month, has refused to comply with the subpoena issued by the state legislature’s investigatory committee.

In a letter issued [Monday] by the lawyer for Kelly, who last month was fired as Gov. Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff after emails emerged showing she had apparently orchestrated the lane closures, Kelly cited both her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

Michael Critchley, Kelly’s lawyer – widely known as an aggressive and highly skilled trial lawyer – wrote in the letter that, “Here, the information demanded from Ms. Kelly … directly overlaps with a parallel federal grand jury investigation being conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

Kelly is not the only former member of Team Christie to take the Fifth in response to investigators’ request for information – Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, and David Wildstein, Christie’s former aide at the Port Authority, both did the same thing in January.

And speaking of subpoenas, Christie also acknowledged last night that his office has received a federal subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s office as part of its investigation into the bridge scandal. This is separate from the subpoenas issued by the state legislature’s investigatory committee. The governor said his office will comply with the federal subpoena.

Finally, Christie said during the radio interview last night that he’s “curious” about “what happened here” and remains “really anxious to find out.” It’s unclear, however, why he didn’t ask Bridget Ann Kelly why the scheme was hatched before her dismissal.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 4, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Mad Men Problem At Home”: Closing The Wage Gap Begins With Remedying The Housework Gap First

When President Obama addressed the gender-based wage gap during his State of the Union address last week, women cheered and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro even gave out high fives. Obama called on Washington and businesses to help women succeed at work and “do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.” However, the President forgot to name a key constituency in his call to help women succeed: husbands.

All the workplace policies in the world aren’t going to get women to parity unless we do away with our Mad Men-era policies at home, too. Despite the fact women are the sole or primary source of income in a record 40% of U.S. households, they still do the majority of housework and childcare. According to the Pew Research Center, during an average week[OK? The study, if I’m looking at the right one, seems to have measured weeks rather than days.], women spend more time cleaning, doing laundry, and preparing food then men do. Men, on the other hand, spend more time watching television than women do. And even in households where the woman is the sole breadwinner, the labor division is far from equal. Men who stay home average 18 hours of housework per week, while their working partners average 14. Stay-at-home mothers, though, average 26 hours of housework. Their working partners average just a third of that time. America has a housework gap, and it’s fueling the gender gap at work.

Research indicates there is a direct and negative correlation between housework and the wage gap. One theory, from research in The Journal of Human Resources, suggests this could be employers’ negative reactions to women who appear dedicated to household activities. It could also be that many employers believe mothers are less committed to their jobs than other employees, as Shelley J. Correll, a sociology professor at Stanford University, posits. As a result, employers are reluctant to hire them and offer them high salaries. The “mommy penalty” is real. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is greater than that between women and men, according to the advocacy group MomsRising.

It appears that in 2014, we have high expectations of what a woman can accomplish at work, but we still have 1950s expectations about her role at home. But it’s time to rethink and renegotiate who does what where. Men who have opted out of housework should lean in at home so their wives can lean in at work. And they should advocate for, and take advantage of, family-friendly policies such as paid sick days, paternity leave, and flex benefits in order to create a more equitable arrangement at home.

If we truly believe that, as Obama said, “when women succeed, America succeeds,” then we need to stop ignoring the housework gap. Laundry and dirty dishes may not be standard agenda items for our legislators and business leaders, but they should be. After all, a woman can’t have it all if she’s too busy doing it all.


By: Liz O’Donnell, Time, February 4, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Gender Gap, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stick A Fork In Chris Christie”: A Textbook Lesson In How Many Politicians’ Public Personas Often Conflict With Reality

If Chris Christie knew, his presidential ambitions are kaput.

There’s a reason why nearly everyone who came to Christie’s defense left a wide-open caveat—if he’s telling the truth. Friday’s allegation that Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures, coming from the lawyer for his Port Authority official, David Wildstein, suggests he was lying during his epic two-hour press conference by claiming no knowledge of the situation.

“Christie would have to be the world’s biggest fool to say what he said in the way he said it if he did have any responsibility,” former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told me after the governor’s press conference. “If there’s anything that contradicts what he said at the press conference, it would make it almost impossible for him to survive.”

One Democratic operative who was always skeptical of Christie’s outright denials pointed to other famous politicians caught in scandal who lied in order to forestall immediate consequences. Bill Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards lied about his affair and child with staffer Rielle Hunter, and Anthony Weiner misled reporters about his online sexting. All hoped to buy time, desperately wishing that the media would turn its scrutiny elsewhere.

If Wildstein’s allegations are accurate—he’s seeking immunity from prosecutors for his own role in the scandal—Christie’s cover-up will be even more brazen. A former U.S. attorney, Christie is fully aware of the legal jeopardy he put himself into with unequivocal denials of involvement, all for only a short-term public-relations gain. He fired two of his closest loyalists, even though they may have been acting on his orders—or at least with his consent—all along.

Christie’s approval ratings were already taking a nosedive even before Friday afternoon’s revelations hit. His personal favorability in both national and New Jersey polls dropped underwater, and increasing numbers of voters have expressed skepticism that Christie knew nothing about what was happening under him. His main selling point for any presidential campaign was electability—that he was popular with independents and some Democrats—and that is no longer operative, even if he can recover from this scandal.

Depending on where the evidence leads, there are a lot of other political implications for the New Jersey governor. Can Christie stay on as chairman of the Republican Governors Association under the cloud of scandal? Republicans, already facing a bruised brand, won’t want to have a scandal-plagued governor as the face of their party. It’s hard to see even the most enthusiastic prospective donors, like Home Depot cofounder Ken Langone, sticking on the bandwagon. And it’s hard to see how Christie will be able to accomplish much in his second term with investigations poised to continue indefinitely.

Christie’s downfall is a textbook lesson in how many politicians’ public personas often conflict with reality. Christie has assiduously developed an image as someone who was above politics to get things done, but in reality, he was a product of a New Jersey political system where trading favors for political support is ubiquitous.

As I wrote this month, Christie’s downfall stems from his hubris—the belief that he could win over many Democratic officials to a landslide reelection victory, and his confidence that he could use his impressive rhetorical skills to talk his way out of this mess. On both counts, he got what he wanted initially, only to see the house of cards collapse.

By: Josh Krausher, The National Journal, January 31, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“So Much For Republican Rebranding”: The Mike Huckabee Boomlet Betrays The GOP’s Lack Of Seriousness

Since Mike Huckabee delivered his anti-contraception “Uncle Sugar” speech to the RNC two weeks ago, he has catapulted to the top of two GOP presidential primary polls.

Yes, that is what it takes to become the Republican frontrunner these days. Not innovative policy solutions. Not an impressive legislative record. No, what you need is to let loose a politically incorrect swipe at a liberal caricature, stir up a bunch of media outrage, and Republican primary voters will want to give you the nuclear codes.

The Republican Party is suffering record low favorability and struggling to be seen as capable of governing. And the Huckabee boomlet provides the latest evidence that the party’s rank-and-file are still allergic to seriousness.

With the first 2016 primary contests two years away, Republicans have already begun replicating the dynamic of the 2012 primaries. Last time around, primary voters fleetingly embraced anyone, regardless of their plausibility, so long as they tossed out fresh “cable catnip” to make liberal heads explode. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum… The revolving door of unpresidential wingnuts reduced the Republican primary to a traveling circus, hamstringing eventual nominee Mitt Romney as he struggled to keep up in the pander parade.

Another circus is not what party poo-bahs have in mind. Indeed, they’re already moving to condense the primary schedule and wrest some control of the debates away from the media in hopes of dialing down the nuttiness.

Wipe the dust off of the RNC’s year-old “autopsy” of its 2012 debacle, and you’ll find a forgotten plan to “Promote Our Governors” because they “have campaigned and governed in a manner that is inclusive and appealing. They point the way forward … working successfully with their legislatures to enact meaningful changes in people’s lives.” In other words, the governors were supposed to be the ones with the ideas to make the party look serious again.

But over the course of 2013, the only governor that got widely promoted — or, more accurately, promoted himself — was New Jersey’s Chris Christie, and we know how that turned out. Other governors touted in the autopsy have had their own struggles, be it Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, who was recently indicted for corruption, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal ,who flopped trying scrap his state’s income tax, or Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who is polling below 50 percent in his re-election campaign this year.

There are other low-key Republican governors who are doing just fine. In particular, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval is hugely popular, and is a swing state Latino to boot. Unlike the controversial Walker, Sandoval doesn’t even have a serious opponent to his re-election this year. But he’s popular because he is governing pragmatically, implementing ObamaCare in good faith and forging budget compromises that raise some tax revenue. And so he is completely ignored by Republican primary voters.

The upshot is this: No Republican governor begins the race as a top-tier presidential candidate. No Republican governor’s ideas are reshaping and rebranding the party. And a joke candidate like Huckabee can waltz into the lead, however briefly, with a low-rent crack.

Why are Republicans insistent on setting themselves up for more mockery? Because conservative obsession with fighting political correctness clouds their political thinking, compelling them to repeatedly alienate the moderate voters they need to get back in the game.

Many conservative Republicans seem to believe that political correctness is such a societal scourge, silencing ideas and warping debate, that it must be fought at all costs — even at the cost of forgoing new ideas.

This is why RNC Chair Reince Priebus was engaging in folly last week when he dropped everything to demand MSNBC apologize for a tweet suggesting the “right wing” is racist (after the network had already apologized). He was scratching the Republicans’ politically incorrect itch, instead of finding the ointment.

Priebus can cram the primary schedule down to two weeks and turn every debate into an infomercial. But until he can clamp down on the victimhood and crank up the idea machine, 2016 will be another cacophonous GOP circus.


By: Bill Scher, The Week, February 4, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Lawless’ Presidencies Of Barack Obama And Ronald Reagan”: Consistency Must Count For Something, Otherwise It’s Hypocrisy

The headline emerging from last week’s SOTU address continues to be the President’s stated intent to go around Congress, where necessary, to effectuate elements of his agenda through the use of the executive order.

So grave is the situation—according to conservative leaders and pundits—Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) took to the airwaves this weekend to warn one and all that we now have “an increasingly lawless presidency.”

Tea Party firebrand, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, could not agree more.

Indeed, so concerned is King with Obama’s decision to order up a raise for those employed by federal contractors, he referred to the executive action granting the wage increase as a “constitutional violation”, adding “we’ve never had a president with that level of audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.” 

Still, a highly placed White House aide noted that there are a number of things “the President can unilaterally do,” stating that “With a hostile Congress that doesn’t show much sign of coming toward us on some of these issues, it behooves us to take the initiative when we can take it.”

There is, however, one thing I should point out regarding the sequencing of events set forth above.

While Paul Ryan and Steve King are certainly functioning in today’s highly charged political environment, the White House aide who made the statements regarding the President’s ability to do many a thing unilaterally—particularly when a hostile Congress is not cooperating with the president’s agenda—was none other than Gary L. Bauer, chief domestic policy advisor to President Ronald W. Reagan. What’s more, the statements were made in August of 1987 and were the direct result of the years of frustration Reagan had experienced at the hands of a Congress that simply would not get with his program.

Sound familiar?

Of course, nothing President Reagan did through the use of his executive order power could possibly match the severity of Obama’s attempt to get around an obstructionist Congress in order to accomplish his own agenda, right?

Not so much.

Do the words ‘National Security Agency’ ring a bell?

The NSA, of course, is the government body that has been collecting our phone and Internet data while spying on Americans and foreigners (including foreign leaders) in ways that have infuriated the very Republicans—along with just about everyone else—who hold Ronald Wilson Reagan up to be the icon of modern day conservatism.

As a result, you might be surprised to learn the following bit of history:

It was President Reagan’s infamous Executive Order 12333 (referred to as “twelve-triple-three”) that established and handed to the NSA virtually all of the powers under which the agency  operates to this day—allowing the agency to collect the data that so many now find to be so offensive.

McClatchy describes Executive Order 12333 as follows:

“It is a sweeping mandate that outlines the duties and foreign intelligence collection for the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies. It is not governed by Congress, and critics say it has little privacy protection and many loopholes.”

If you view Reagan’s actions as an appropriate use of the executive order, Tea Party/GOP Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) would beg to differ.

Speaking at a gathering hosted by the Cato Institute, Amash described Congressional hearings into the actions of the NSA as follows:

“Amash describes those briefings as a farce. Many times, he says, they focused on information that was available from reading newspapers or public statutes. And his account of trying to get details out of those giving the briefings sounds like an exercise in frustration:”

“So you don’t know what questions to ask because you don’t know what the baseline is. You don’t have any idea what kind of things are going on. So you have to start just spitting off random questions: Does the government have a moon base? Does the government have a talking bear? Does the government have a cyborg army? If you don’t know what kind of things the government might have, you just have to guess and it becomes a totally ridiculous game of 20 questions.”

Congressman Amash’s displeasure over Congress’ neutered role when it comes to the NSA does not stop him from frequently quoting the words of Ronald Reagan—despite Reagan’s responsibility for supplanting Congress in this regard—particularly when it comes to The Gipper’s declaration that “libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.”

The use of the Executive Order has long been controversial, dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s use of the device to suspend habeas corpus along the Philadelphia to Washington line in response to the assault on Union troops in Baltimore.

What made Lincoln’s move so dramatic is that the suspension of habeas corpus is placed by the Founding Fathers in Article I of the Constitution—the section that lays out the powers reserved for Congress.

However, as Jennifer Weber of the New York Times notes in her excellent piece on Lincoln’s use and abuse of power, the Founders “muddied the water” on just who could order a suspension of habeas corpus by writing, “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Whether you view Lincoln’s actions as a proper exercise of power by the Commander-In-Chief during a time of emergency, or blatant defiance of the Constitution by the President of the United States, I don’t recall too many modern Americans—Democrat, Republican or otherwise—referring to Abraham Lincoln as a “lawless” president.

Nor do I recall many of the Republicans who worship at alter of Ronald Wilson Reagan referring to him as a “lawless” president.

None of this is to say that Presidents Lincoln, Reagan, Obama—or the many other American presidents who have relied upon the executive order—are acting in obedience to our Constitution or that they are not. That is up to the Courts to decide.

What it is to say is that, once again, consistency must count for something.

If you disagree with what President Obama might have in mind to do through the use of the executive order, you may have constitutional authority to back you up. Indeed, I acknowledge my own concerns about presidents who go around Congress’ lawmaking authority by using the executive order, no matter how much I may disapprove of our current and recent incarnations of Congress.

However, to take the tact of accusing Mr. Obama of a “lawless presidency”, while lauding previous presidents who did the identical thing, is just so much more hypocrisy on the part of leaders like Congressman Ryan who are far more wedded to the process of scoring political points than they are to remaining true to history or governing with good intent.

Or could it be that people like Paul Ryan—a man who holds a great deal of power and responsibility in our government—are simply ignorant of our history and the subject matter upon which they deign to expound?

Either way, there is little comfort to be gained when our system is so disgustingly politicized that a president is accused of lawlessness when following in the very same footsteps of previous presidents hailed as some of the greatest heroes of the nation.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, February 3, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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