Journalism v. hackery

Is there anyone now saying that Christie might be innocent who wasn’t predicting a Romney win in Oct. 2012?

Steve Kornacki is a reporter.

Jennifer Rubin is a partisan hack. So is Stuart Rothenberg. So is Ruben Navarette. And of course Rich Lowry.

Query: Is there anyone telling us now that Christie is, or might be, innocent who wasn’t telling us in October 2012 that Mitt Romney was going to win or that the election was “too close to call”?

Is the Christie campaign now a corpus?

The Republicans’ best shot at the White House in 2016 just got stuck in traffic.

Some political reporters have been parsing poll questions about whether Conegate makes people think better or worse of Gov. Soprano, and Christie’s cheerleaders are rejoicing over the results. I never know how to read those answers; it matters too much whether the X% who say they think better or worse of someone due to Y were previously for him, previously against him, or previously undecided, and the crosstab cell sizes are usually too small to say anything about that.

But this only matters because Christie was getting set for a Presidential run, and because Christie – and only Christie, in all the polls I’ve seen – was close to HRC in 2016 trial heats. In the CNN poll from December, for example, he was two points up, 48-46, with Paul Ryan down 52-44 and all the others were down by 13-21 points: e.g., Hillary 58, Jeb 37. (Quinnipiac also showed Christed doing best, though with the others not as far back.)

So: Here’s the latest from the Marist poll:

If Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie were to face off in the 2016 presidential election, Clinton would defeat Christie by double digits. Half of registered voters — 50% — would support Clinton compared with 37% for Christie. 12% are undecided. When Marist last reported this question in December, voters divided. 48% supported Clinton while 45% were behind Christie. Seven percent, at that time, were undecided.

And that, as they used to say back when newspaper copy was typed, is a

– 30 –

End of story.

Of course I still hope the cover-up breaks down, just to make Christie’s defenders look as stupid and unprincipled as they are. But in terms of Presidential politics, I’m not sure it matters. It looks to me as if the Republicans’ best chance to retake the White House in 2016 just got stuck in traffic.

Update Ooops! Ed Kilgore had this first. The way I look at it, if I’m only half a day behind Kilgore in political analysis, I’m doing OK.

Twitter as political haiku: Christie presser

Greatest Tweets from the Christie presser. E.g.: Governor throws aide under bus. Bus stuck in bridge traffic.

Yes, the 140-character limit in Twitter can encourage superficiality. But Raw Story has a compilation of Tweets after this morning’s bout of histrionics, and some of them are pretty great. My favorites (lightly edited):

Steve Martin:

Governor throws aide under bus. Bus stuck in bridge traffic.

Bruce Arthur:

I do hope Chris Christie spends the rest of his life searching for the real traffic study.

Ben Jacobs:

If it’s a legitimate traffic study, the female body finds a way to shut the whole thing down.

Michael E. Cohen:

What do you call someone who dies because of a politically-inspired traffic jam? A “corpus Christie.”

 

Christie’s tangled web

Good performance. But it won’t wash.

Compare these two passages from Chris Christie’s cornered-rat press conference:

(1) Well, let me tell you, everybody, I was blindsided yesterday morning. I was done with my workout yesterday morning and got a call from my communications director at about 8:50, 8:55, informing me of this story that had just broken on the Bergen Record website. That was the first time I knew about this. That was the first time I had seen any of the documents that were revealed yesterday.

(2) And what does it make me ask about me? It makes me ask about me what did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me? And there’s a lot of soul-searching that goes around with this. You know, when you’re a leader of an organization — and I’ve had this happen to me before, where I’ve had folks not tell me the truth about something — not since I’ve been governor but in previous leadership positions — you always wonder about what you could do differently. And believe me, John (sp), I haven’t had a lot of sleep the last two nights, and I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. I’m sick over this. I’ve worked for the last 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well-deserved. But, you know, when something like this happens, it’s appropriate for you to question yourself, and certainly I am. And I am soul-searching on this.

[emphasis added]

Last time I counted, between “yesterday morning” and “now” there is only one night. What was keeping the Governor awake the night before he was given the bad news? Prescience?

Mike O’Hare notes below that Christie’s account of why he fired Bridget Anne Kelly suggests a certain lack of proportion: lying to him counts for more than putting citizens’ lives in danger. He also notes that Christie’s failure to talk to his staff to see if their stories matched was slightly odd behavior for someone with experience in conducting investigations.

But if that was slightly odd, how bizarre is this?

I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the email came out. And so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had. And I’m, quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment.

Huh? Chris Christie, former prosecutor, wants to know what’s going on, but he’s so offended by having been lied to that he doesn’t call Kelly on the carpet and say, “OK, Bridget. You screwed up big time. Your job is on the line. Who the $#%* told you to pull this stupid %$#*ing stunt? Tell me the truth, tell me all the truth, tell me the truth right now, or you’re dead to me from this minute.” Srsly? Either he didn’t want to know what she would tell him, or he knew already and didn’t want to hear it.

And of course the same is true about Wildstein and Baroni. In working out their resignations, and before vouching for their innocence, did Christie really never ask them, “Who was behind this?” You can only disbelieve your suspenders for so long.

Christie gave (judging from the transcript) a great performance. But it just won’t wash. He has known for a month that the Executive Director of the Port Authority didn’t believe the “traffic study” story and considered the lane closure outrageous and probably criminal, and that Baroni, Christie’s $291,00o-a-year patronage appointee at the Port Authority, responded by saying “There can be no public discourse”: i.e., “We need to cover this up.” So Christie’s pretense that he only learned about the falsity of that fairytale this week is laughable.

Footnote Note to cynical political journalists:  Ordinary Americans are actually not OK with the blatant abuse of power. People in the heartland hate traffic jams as much as bicoastals do. And that old lady is still dead.

 

Journalistic query: Who got hurt in Ft. Lee?

Who got hurt when Chris Christie decided to gridlock Ft. Lee as political payback?

When a politician calls a scandal involving himself “sensationalized,” you know he’s in deep yoghurt. When he says “mistakes were made,” the passive voice is a tell for near-panic. When he starts firing subordinates, that means he knows he’s near the edge of the cliff. And when he says he wants to “turn the page,” it’s a good bet the story is far from over.

The New York Times story on the Chris Christie/Ft. Lee gridlock story includes all four of those markers of a major affair in the making.

[For those of you joining us late, the background is that the Mayor of Ft. Lee, NJ, a Democrat refused to endorse Gov. Soprano for re-election, and suddenly, without warning, two of the three lanes on the on-ramp from Ft. Lee to the George Washington Bridge were closed during the first four days of school in September, gridlocking the city for four days. Fortnately, the mayor doesn’t seem to own a horse. See the scorching email from the Executive Director of the Port Authority to his subordinates unearthed by the Wall Street Journal.]

The punchline is that the Governor wants to know whether Ft. Lee should permanently lose access to the bridge, which seems to be a not-too-subtle way of telling Ft. Lee officials that even worse things could happen to them if they get too friendly with investigators.

What the story lacks so far is the voices of the victims. You can’t tie up traffic for four days in a town of 35,000 people without someone getting really and truly hosed. It’s not very likely that anyone actually died in an ambulance, or waiting for one (the death rate in a town that size is somewhere short of one per day), but I strongly suspect that there was more dramatic harm than kids being late for school and parents late for work. If I were running a journalist enterprise – or the DNC – I’d want to put a bunch of effort into shoe-leather reporting.

If you’re wondering how much damage this sort of story, properly exploited, can do to a national candidate, ask President Dukakis about Willie Horton, or the water quality in Boston Harbor.

Footnote The backstory about the first Port Authority official to resign is that he’s an old friend of the Governor’s who ran an anonymous political blog back when Christie was U.S. Attorney. The blog was, the Times reports, “noted for scoops from the United States attorney’s office.” I wonder whether the Inspector General of the Justice Department, or the Office of Professional Responsibility, has scanned those “scoops” for violations of Rule 6(e), which forbids the release of grand jury information?

“Jokes and fairytales”

The Start-Leger weighs in on Ft. Lee. Yes, Baroni ought to testify under oath. But why not Christie? “Never talk to the monkey if the organ-grinder is available.”

The Newark Star-Ledger wants to know howsa bout the Ft. Lee affair. I agree that Baroni ought to testify under oath. But why not Christie? “Never talk to the monkey if the organ-grinder is available.”

Yes, Chris Christie is a thug

Chris Christie and the Ft. Lee lane closing: looks like a Soprano, sounds like a Soprano, acts like a Soprano. Lies about it.

Looks like Tony Soprano, sounds like Tony Soprano, acts like Tony Soprano.

When the Mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse him for re-election, Christie had his henchman in the Port Authority close the on-ramp from Ft. Lee to the George Washington Bridge. Then he and his buddies lied about it.

If you think about it, that’s much nastier than garden-variety corruption of the kind Christie engage in as United States Attorney, when he used deferred prosecution agreements to funnel money from corporate lawbreakers to his buddies – including another prosecutor who had declined to indict Christie’s brother – in return for not pressing criminal charges.

Christie as the GOP nominee for 2016? Bring it on!

Does this look like a President to you?

Chris Christie needs to send his inner spoiled child to his room. Yelling at voters isn’t Presidential.

Me neither.

christiehatesteachers

After he finished yelling at a teacher “I’m tired of you people!” Christie called a state Senator he’d like to see defeated “an animal.”

Some political journalists seem to think that the Soprano-for-President campaign might go somewhere. I really, really doubt it. Even if Chris Christie were able to send his inner spoiled child to its room, there’d still be the sleaze to deal with.

What price democracy?

There’s an old joke about a man who asks a woman to sleep with him for $1 million. She agrees, whereupon he asks her to sleep with him for $1. “What kind of a girl do you think I am?” asks the woman indignantly. “We’ve settled that,” replies the man, “We’re just arguing about the price.”

This came to mind in response to this story about the price of the Broad Foundation’s generosity to the schools of New Jersey. A recent Broad Foundation grant stipulates that it will be available only as long as Chris Christie remains governor.
Continue reading “What price democracy?”

Governor Chris Christie on Drug Policy Reform

It is very difficult for elected officials to talk seriously about drug policy reform (It is easy for them to talk about it non-seriously, but that’s a separate matter). The issues require nuanced dialogue, but the debate is dominated by polarized shouting matches. Reform minded politicians are typically reduced to un-sound-bite-worthy statements such as “I’d like to reduce the number of people in prisons but I am against the legalization of drugs so don’t accuse me of that” or “I think we need to be tougher on violent drug markets but I mean violent dealers not drug using teenagers so please don’t accuse me of being a heartless drug warrior”. It’s a lot of work and political risk to fight for a cause that most voters aren’t too thrilled to hear about in the first place.

I recently had the honor of being asked to join an advisory council to the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The main reason I agreed is that Chris Christie is one of the few governors in the U.S. who is elevating drug policy reform discussion in a way that both does justice to the complexity of the issues and acknowledges the need for change. Here are two 60 second snippets; the reaction to the second is particularly noteworthy.