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“Pulling Back The Curtain”: In The Presidential Race, Atlantic City Isn’t Just Another Place

Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech today in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which at first blush doesn’t seem like an obvious locale for the Democrat. Polls show Clinton with a comfortable lead over Donald Trump in the Garden State, and few expect Republicans to compete seriously in New Jersey in the fall.

But by all appearances, Clinton is headed to Atlantic City to drive home a rather specific point about her opponent’s ostensible strength: his private-sector background. The editorial board of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, published this piece over the holiday weekend.

There is still a lingering misperception that Donald Trump is some kind of business wizard, but it’s actually easy to identify one of his key strategies for success: He excels at ripping people off.

The Associated Press pulled back the curtain on his ruined casino empire in Atlantic City last week and exposed a gold-plated scam, on in which survivors from the Taj Mahal disaster – a long parade of naïve artisans who still have Trump’s skid marks on their backs – all told similar stories, cautionary tales that make you wonder how anyone would consider him trustworthy enough to hold elected office.

Their consensus: Trump is a master grifter, who uses bullying and arrogance as negotiating methods, before ending the relationship by withholding payments and making contractors settle for far less by threatening them with litigation – knowing the cost of litigation would eat up most of the money in the dispute.

As is usually the case with so many of Trump’s failed business enterprises, it was small businesses that suffered – and in some cases, collapsed – after the Republican’s venture went bankrupt.

As recently as May, Trump boasted, “Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for me. The money I took out of there was incredible.”

But as the New York Times reported last month, Trump’s ventures in Atlantic City failed – badly. The article quoted a local investment firm’s casino analyst saying, in reference to Trump, “There’s something not right when every single one of your projects doesn’t work out.”

And a USA Today report added this week, “Donald Trump often boasts he made a lot of money in Atlantic City, despite the repeated failures of his casinos there, but what he does not mention is his casino empire’s repeated run-ins with government regulators over broken promises and violating casino rules.”

To hear Donald J. Trump tell it, he’s ready to be the Leader of the Free World because of his extraordinary success as a businessman. The assertion that private-sector experience is relevant to serving in the Oval Office is dubious in itself, but there’s also no reason to accept the underlying claim at face value – because Trump’s business background isn’t nearly as impressive as he likes to pretend.

I realize that casinos may not be as sexy a story as email server protocols – the political world’s interest in IT appears to be endless – but Trump’s Atlantic City efforts show a wealthy developer who made millions while everyone else lost big. It’s the sort of story that should undermine his entire candidacy.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 6, 2016

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Atlantic City, Casino Industry, Donald Trump | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“He’s Shifted, Backflipped, And Outright Lied”: Christie; A Personality-Driven Candidate Makes Contradictory Campaign Promises

“Telling It Like It Is” — That’s Chris Christie’s campaign slogan, revealed the day before he formally announced his candidacy for president. It’s meant to evoke his brash persona, which is the biggest advantage he has in a crowded GOP field.

Christie is the 14th Republican candidate to announce, and is not expected to be the last. But with trailing poll numbers and an iffy record in New Jersey, where he is in his sixth year as governor, he will be a hard sell for GOP primary voters. It makes sense, then, that his announcement speech Tuesday morning touted bombast over bonafides, rhetoric over record, and a promise of a clean campaign that runs contrary to everything we know about the bellicose, secretive governor.

His speech opened with “We Weren’t Born to Follow” by Jersey rockers Bon Jovi, whose blue-collar, hard-won affirmations provided a fitting soundtrack to the event. (The announcement closed with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” by the same group.) Christie’s address was rooted in his humble origins, beginning with his choice of venue — the gymnasium of Livingston High School, from which he graduated in 1980 — and segued to his family history: a tale of blue-collar success and the American Dream realized, with Christie himself embodying the dreams of his parents and grandparents.

As in interviews he’s given, he was light on policy and the specifics of his accomplishments as governor. He mentioned “reforming tenure” and “reforming pensions and health benefits,” but didn’t delve into details, possibly because he has a messy and contentious track record on the subject. Other than a line about fixing the country’s “broken entitlement system” and “encouraging businesses to invest in America again” through deregulation, he didn’t say much about what his platform would be. (He may not have much to say, period, other than the word “reform.”)

What he did play up was his persona — imperious, truth-telling, no-nonsense Christie, who tells it like it is and has the ability to work with the other side to get things done.

“Both parties have failed our country,” he said, his voice rising. “Somehow now ‘compromise’ is a dirty word. If Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed compromise was a dirty word, we’d still be under the crown of England.”

Befitting the high-school setting, he drew parallels to high-school concerns — namely, popularity contests. He said that he was not running for prom king, and that respect was more important than love. “I am not looking to be the most popular guy who looks in your eyes every day and says what you want to hear,” only to turn around and do something else, he said.

And yet his critics allege that he’s done exactly that – on pension reform and gun legislation, Christie has shifted, backflipped, and outright lied, and always managed to modulate his style of confrontation and candor — to suit whatever position was most expedient at the time.

His pledge to run a campaign that wouldn’t “tear people down,” is quite a leap for a man who is widely known for his humorous, often nasty takedowns of others – YouTube is littered with videos of him calling out those who criticize him or ask what he thinks are silly questions, calling them “idiots” or “stupid” or worse.

And when he’s not belittling those asking the questions, Christie has been known to simply not answer them.

He promised a campaign free of pandering, spin, or focus group-tested answers: “You get what I think whether you like it or not or whether it makes you cringe every once in a while. A campaign when I’m asked a question, I will give the answer to the question asked, not the answer my political consultants told me to get backstage.”

Christie’s bravado about not being run by political operatives belies the fact that he’s a career politician who obviously knows how the game is played.

“I mean what I say and I say what I mean – that’s what America needs right now,” he said in his closing remarks. He promised to be the kind of candidate who would be open – in his eyes, heart, ears, and mind. Ironic, since his administration isn’t known to be forthcoming, and it’s hard to imagine that as president he’d be any more “open” than he is now.

Surrounded by supporters, against the backdrop of the American flag, and flanked by his family, Christie choked up as he recounted why he does what he does: “I wake up every morning knowing that I have an opportunity to do something great. That’s why this job is a great job and that’s why the president of the United States is an even greater job.”

 

By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, June 30, 2015

July 1, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Must Examine Our Own Prejudices”: Removing The Confederate Flag Is Easy; Fixing Racism Is Hard

Protesters hold a sign during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina.

When the Republican National Committee chose Tampa as the site for the party’s 2012 national convention, it seemed quite fitting—Florida being a red state and all, and one in which evangelical fervor mixed freely with the brand of Tea Party vindictiveness epitomized by Governor Rick Scott.

As I traveled to the city limits, destined for a motel reserved for any C-list, left-wing journalists covering the confab, the taxi I occupied exited the highway on a ramp dominated by perhaps the largest thing of its kind I had ever seen. Hoisted on a 139-foot pole, this Confederate battle flag measures 30 feet high and 60 feet long. That’s a lot of cloth, and the day I viewed it, it whipped violently against the winds stirred up by Hurricane Isaac, who mercifully defied predictions by remaining offshore.

I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sight of the immense flag; whoever had placed it there clearly meant to make a statement, and not one of peace, love, or understanding. When I recaptured my ability to speak, I stammered to the cab driver, who was black, “What on earth is that?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “They put it up a few years ago,” he said. He drove past it pretty much every day, he said.

It was 2008 when the flag first ascended the pole at the junction of I-75 and Interstate 4 on June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the short-lived Confederate States of America, a day observed in many Florida localities as a holiday. In what may or may not have been a coincidence, Barack Obama was closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination. (Hillary Clinton would suspend her campaign four days later.)

The land on which the flag stands was owned at the time by Marion Lambert, a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and who since donated the parcel to the group. According to a June 21 report in the Tampa Bay Times, Lambert called the flag “a catalyst for a mental movement.”

“The reason we put that flag up is to start people thinking,” he told the Times.

He said this as white people across America began debating whether the white murderer Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine black people in a church rooted in the rebellion of enslaved people, is a simple racist or a mentally ill one. In Lambert’s “mental movement,” Roof is, at the very least, an army of one.

Roof’s actions, combined with photographs of him bearing the treasonous battle standard, have touched off a furious cry to rid the land of the symbol of one of America’s original sins (the other being the genocide of the land’s indigenous people). While it would be lovely to never gaze upon such a disgraceful emblem again, the rush to do so is fast becoming a diversion useful to those who seek to continue the nation’s long denial of its own bloody history of race-based oppression, which will do nothing to forestall the growth of racism in its lesser-seen forms.

Yes, it is a big deal when even Republican governors and luminaries—including the party’s last presidential nominee—call for the removal of the flag from state capitols and public buildings, a phenomenon unthinkable a decade ago. But party leaders also know it’s what needs to happen in order for the party to survive, since millennials are not terribly keen on displays of racial hatred.

But allowing the removal of the flag to stand as the sole answer to the Charleston massacre would let the North entirely off the hook for its own brand of racism, often every bit as brutal, if occasionally more subtle, as that displayed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans—or an almost entirely white Republican Party entertaining speech after speech at its Tampa national convention peppered with the Jacksonian language of “makers” and “takers,” and throwing the old welfare-queen card in the face of a black president.

But the white people of the North have plenty to account for, too, in the construction and maintenance of a racist society. I grew up in a New Jersey town that no black person dared to drive through. It was a nearly all-white town; we had one Chinese family, and two or three Latino families. No real estate agent who valued his or her job would show an African American buyer a house there. The cops in the Township of Clark were notorious for pulling over African American drivers seeking to enter the Garden State Parkway from the on-ramp that put our town on the map. And Clark was hardly an outlier among the burgs of the Northeast; it was just crassly obvious in its redlined bigotry.

You can take down all the Confederate flags in the country, and you won’t change a thing in Clark, or the thousands of towns just like it above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Nor should the progressive movement be let off the hook, despite its vociferous and righteous cry against the racist evil channeled by Dylann Roof the day he went on his murderous spree. In organizations not specifically focused on matters of race, it’s rare to see a black person in leadership, just as it’s rare to see women lead progressive organizations that are not specifically feminist. Until that changes, the underpinnings of a racist society remain intact. Until that changes, the false and evil narrative that claims those of African descent to be a lesser race lives on in the recesses of our minds, shaping the nation to its confines.

So, yes, remove the Confederate flag—that standard of dehumanization, treason, and murder—from our sight. But proof of our intention demands great change in the way in which we lead, the way in which we live, the way in which we think; we must be willing to truly open the riches of progressive society and culture to all. To do that, we must—each and every one of us—examine our own prejudice, and be determined to transcend it. Then the real work of a just society can begin.

 

By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, June 24, 2015

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Prejudice, Racism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Brazen Arrogance Bordering On Amusing”: Christie-Brand Leadership: The Buck Stops Over There

About a week ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked about the governor’s “Bridgegate” scandal. The Republican presidential hopeful made it seem as if the entire fiasco had nothing to do with him.

“I’m the governor; it happens on my watch,” Christie said. “But you can’t be responsible for the bad acts of some people who wind up in your employ.”

A day later, the Garden State governor told the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader, “I’ve learned to be less trusting and ask more questions, first off. The fact is my general nature is to be a trusting person.”

All of which led to yesterday’s Christie interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who asked about the scandal that’s helped drag down the governor. From the transcript, by way of Nexis:

KELLY: So far there’s nothing tying you to giving the order in the bridge gate scandal.

CHRISTIE: Nor will there be.

KELLY: But the case is not yet closed and so some say, what if you get indicted? Are you a risky bet?

CHRISTIE: No, the U.S. Attorney said in his press conference weeks ago, that there will be no further charges in the bridge matter. He said that affirmatively three or four times. This has been 15 months of investigation and there’s been no connection to me because there is no connection to me. I had nothing to do with it, knew nothing about it and nor will there be evidence come to the contrary because it just didn’t happen.

The more the governor says the scandal has “nothing to do with” him, the harder it is to take his defense seriously.

Indeed, looking back at Christie’s comments to Jake Tapper, note that he refers to his former aides – now under criminal indictment – as people who “wound up” working for him, as if the governor showed up at his office one day and discovered some random people who just happened to somehow end up in his administration.

The truth is far more straightforward. Some of Christie’s top aides conspired to punish some of Christie’s constituents because a local mayor failed to endorse Christie’s re-election. These Christie administration officials abused their powers – allegedly to a criminal degree – in Christie’s name.

“There is no connection to me”? C’mon. Even if one is inclined to accept the governor’s explanation at face value – Christie was simply too ignorant of what was happening around him to be held responsible – clearly the scandal has at least some connection to him, given that this was his team acting in his name.

What’s more, there’s also the possibility of a more direct link. David Wildstein’s lawyer said two weeks ago that the governor “knew of the lane closures as they occurred” and that “evidence exists” that proves it.

In last night’s interview, Megyn Kelly also reminded Christie that two-thirds of his own constituents do not believe he’d be a good president. The governor replied, in reference to New Jersey residents, “They want me to stay. A lot of those people that 65 percent want me to stay. I’ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings, ‘Don’t leave,’ and ‘Don’t run for president because we want you to stay.’”

Christie also probably believes they were saying “Boo-urns.”

To be sure, the brazen arrogance borders on amusing, but the notion that New Jersey voters are so in love with Christie that they can’t bear the thought of him moving to the White House is plainly silly. As of two weeks ago, the governor’s approval rating in his home state was down to just 35%.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2015

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not A Great Sign”: Christie Sinks To Embarrassing New Low In 2016 Poll

Since shortly after the 2012 presidential election, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has made it very clear that he plans to run for the White House in 2016. But according to a new survey, Republicans would rather he stay in the Garden State.

That’s the takeaway from a CBS News poll, released Sunday, which asks Americans who they would — and would not — like to see run for president.

Republicans are intrigued by several potential candidates. They agree 59 to 26 percent that Mitt Romney should launch a third presidential bid — a much warmer reception than he’s received from party insiders — and 50 to 27 percent that former Florida governor Jeb Bush should try to become the third member of his family to win the White House. Former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee also polls well, with 40 percent wanting him to run and 29 percent hoping he declines.

But Republicans are much more sour on Christie: Just 29 percent want to see him join the race, while 44 percent disagree. Only former Alaska governor Sarah Palin polls worse, with 59 percent urging her to stay out of the race and 30 percent hoping she jumps in.

Considering that Christie has been traveling the country in a highly publicized shadow campaign, while Palin has been filling her days with impeachment calls and incomprehensible rambling, that’s not a great sign.

It’s not just national Republicans who aren’t crazy about a potential Christie campaign; his own constituents don’t seem very enthused by the idea, either. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released last week found that 47 percent of New Jersey voters disapprove of Christie’s job performance, compared to just 39 percent who approve. Furthermore, voters agreed 53 to 32 percent that Christie is more concerned with running for president than being governor, and an overwhelming 72 percent said that Christie’s gubernatorial decisions are influenced by his presidential ambitions.

Previous polls have found likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton walloping Christie in New Jersey in a hypothetical presidential matchup.

According to the CBS poll, Democrats are much more excited for a Clinton campaign than Republicans are about Christie; 85 percent of Democrats want Clinton to run for president, while just 11 percent want her to pass on the race.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, January 19, 2015

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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