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“How The Media Created Chris Christie”: Sloppy And Power Mad, He Never Was A Scandal-Free Moderate

Poor Chris Christie: It gets worse. If you don’t pay close attention to politics, it’s got to be stunning how quickly he’s gone from the great “moderate” presidential hope of the mainstream media and Republican establishment to embarrassingly sloppy, power-mad and quite possibly corrupt governor. Let me explain.

But first, let me recap the latest in Christie scandal news. In the last day alone: CNN reported a federal probe into why Christie spent $4.5 million of Hurricane Sandy aid on what was essentially a political ad for himself (instead of just over $2 million on a New Jersey tourism ad that didn’t feature Christie and his family). MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki identified what looks like the real impetus for the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal: a huge real estate development. That was almost inevitable: All politics is about real estate.

New email and text message evidence emerged that Christie lied last Thursday when he said bridge official David Samson had nothing to do with the lane closures.  Oh, and I love this one, from Friday: Christie’s old baseball coach seemed to refute his pettiest and most predictably refuted Thursday lie, that he wasn’t friends, wasn’t even acquaintances, with key bridge scandal player David Wildstein: He and Wildstein were both on Livingston High’s baseball team, according to their old coach.

Now, Wildstein was the team’s nerdy stat guy while Christie was a player, but given other evidence that links them, the coach’s story makes Christie’s Thursday claim that he wasn’t even acquaintances with Wildstein in high school look extra petty and vindictive and, well, just plain mean.

But nerdy stat guys tend to like data and documents and have long memories. Wildstein displays evidence of all three traits, as proven by the 2,000 pages of documents he’s already dropped relating to the bridge scandal. So, as I’ve already written, twice, Christie’s 2016 hopes are dead, and his governorship is in real jeopardy.

Still, as the bridge scandal unfolds, and brings with it renewed media reporting on all sorts of old Christie troubles, from his playing ugly politics with state Supreme Court nominees (Rachel Maddow’s novel theory for raining punishment on Fort Lee) to the lingering controversy over his use of Sandy aid (and it’s not only about commercials), it’s hard not to be shocked anew that Christie was ever considered a leading presidential candidate. It’s also shocking that he coasted to reelection just two months ago, crushing state Sen. Barbara Buono – but the two phenomena are connected. Christie’s strong national reputation convinced local and national Democrats and even liberal media figures to either ignore the New Jersey race or, in some cases, back Christie.

My colleagues Alex Pareene and Blake Zeff do a great job explaining some of Christie’s outsize media appeal. As Zeff notes, though Christie is a hard-line conservative, not a moderate, he took a page from other blue state Republicans, most notably Rudy Giuliani, and picked a couple of issues on which to break with his party and/or buck extremists – for Giuliani, it was abortion and to some extent gay rights (or at least abstaining from homophobia); for Christie, it was abstaining from Islamaphobia and then, of course, seeking Hurricane Sandy aid, for which he literally and figuratively embraced President Obama.

It didn’t hurt that both men are larger than life bullies, because for odd reasons, media folks seem to like bullies and mean guys, as long as they’re mean to the right people.  As Pareene points out, the central fetish of the mainstream pundit class has been fiscal austerity and rolling back the welfare state. So as long as Christie hummed Bruce Springsteen songs while sticking it to the union workers and struggling folks Springsteen sings about, he was a Beltway hero.

I think there’s something else at work, something psychological, maybe, and harder to get at. I think the mainstream media and its dominant pundits are unable to take in exactly how far to the right the Republican Party has swung in the last decade, and so they need to invent “moderates” to keep from writing over and over about the party’s departure from political sanity. And when their moderates either show themselves as extremists, as Christie has repeatedly, or else as severely flawed politicians, as Christie has lately, those pundits either ignore it or rush to rescue them over and over.

Mark Halperin is, as always, a good example. Now, to be fair to Halperin, the biggest news he and John Heilemann broke in their “Game Change” sequel had to do with the Romney team’s misgivings about Christie as a running mate in 2012. They weren’t just about his temperament, as in Christie’s self-promoting loose cannon, though there was some of that. They were ethical, going back to investigations he endured into abuse of power as well as overspending back when he was U.S. attorney. It was fascinating reading.

Yet Halperin immediately praised Christie’s Thursday press conference, otherwise known as his two-hour pity party, as a “virtuoso” performance. And on Sunday Halperin Tweeted:

Best ’16 political news for @GovChristie : no one else in the field is strong/rising or had a great ’13. He remains as strong as anyone else

— Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) January 12, 2014

Sadly for Barbara Buono, the Halperin-Heilemann book came out the day of her landslide loss to Christie. It belatedly opened the door for the national media to reexamine Christie’s ethics problems; then came the bridge scandal. Looking back, I think even I was taken in by Christie’s Hurricane Sandy performance and the perceived inevitability of his reelection.  I didn’t write one word about Buono’s campaign, though I may have said one or two nice things on MSNBC.

I saw Buono at an MSNBC studio last week, and I apologized to her for not doing my job – for assuming Christie was a shoo-in and mostly ignoring the New Jersey gubernatorial election, paying attention to closer races. I hope a lot of Democrats are doing the same. Mostly, though, I hope the media can learn a lesson from its Christie fever, but that’s even less likely.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 13, 2014

January 16, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Politics Of Division And Sexism”: The Republican War On Women Can Be Blocked At The Ballot Box

Question: How do you get politicians to pay attention to issues that matter to women?

Answer: Get them elected — or defeated.

A month from now, voters in two states will go to the polls to elect a governor. In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe; and in New Jersey, Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono is running against Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Both campaigns know they can’t win without strong support from women.

According to the National Journal:

In New Jersey and Virginia — the two states with gubernatorial elections this year — women made up more than half of the 2009 turnout (52 percent in Virginia and 53 percent in New Jersey), ensuring an intense competition for their votes in 2013. These battles will be closely watched as the national Republican Party seeks to boost its appeal to women and to lay a positive foundation for the 2014 midterm elections.

If the Republicans sweep the 2013 contests, you’ll be reading blog posts here and seeing pundits on TV saying that the GOP and the Tea Party have gained valuable momentum for 2014. That’s why the financiers of the Republican war on women are doubling down in Virginia and New Jersey today.

As I wrote in Politico back in June,

The anti-abortion rights group that calls itself the Susan B. Anthony List has announced plans to make this year’s statewide elections in Virginia a “template” for rolling out national strategies in 2014. It plans to spend $1.5 million to elect Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli governor and political gadfly E.W. Jackson lieutenant governor.Would Susan B. Anthony agree with Cuccinelli, who frequently attacks Planned Parenthood, charging that they have “an open willingness to participate in human trafficking?” Or that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul?”

Would Susan B. Anthony stand by Jackson, who called Planned Parenthood “more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was?”

I know about Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony is a hero of mine. This List is no Susan B. Anthony.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the race is between a tireless champion for women’s rights, Barbara Buono, and Chris Christie, the first anti-choice governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade

Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning service, and used his veto pen on marriage equality legislation, equal pay laws and a minimum wage increase while signing off on a record $1.57 billion in corporate tax cuts.

Like Barbara Buono, Terry McAuliffe is providing a clear contrast to a candidate with a record of attacks on women’s rights.

A New Republic article headlined “Ken Cuccinelli’s Record on Women’s Issues Is As Bad As Ever” says:

Cuccinelli does not support a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. He does not see the need for the state to fund Planned Parenthood — which provides services as wide-ranging as HIV testing, prenatal care, and adoption referrals for thousands of women living in the Commonwealth.He has supported legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to provide emergency contraception if it violates their conscience, and feels employers should be able to dictate whether the health insurance plans they offer cover contraception. He pushed legislation that would have banned third-trimester abortions in Virginia, even in emergencies that endangered the life of the mother.

Four years ago, he had the opportunity to help amend Virginia law in a way that would make sex with minors a more serious offense; he opted instead to defend the statute lawmakers were trying to replace, an unconstitutional state ban on sodomy. He is silent on whether he supports equal pay legislation.

Cuccinelli demanded that Virginia institute a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, which has rightly been characterized as state-sponsored rape, is a zealous proponent of TRAP laws designed to shutter abortion clinics, and even supported a law that would have criminalized later-term abortions including those necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life.

Ken Cuccinelli was one of only three state attorneys general to refuse to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. His relentless focus on restricting women’s health care caused the Washington Post to call him “the most overtly partisan Attorney General in Virginia’s history.”

Elections matter in this country for a wide range of reasons. They codify our values and priorities as a society and help determine our future. They put the breaks on destructive policies and fuel the progress of urgently needed solutions.

My message to women in Virginia and New Jersey is that these elections are doubly important, because not only will they set the path that these two states will follow, but they will also deliver a verdict on the politics of division and sexism that Republicans think is a winning formula for 2014, 2016 and beyond.

Your vote is your voice. Use it!

 

By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington post Blog, September 25, 2013

September 26, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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