By Jonathan Miller, on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 8:35 AM ET
I never thought I’d say this again, but…I’d like to ask for your vote.
Don’t worry: I haven’t fallen off the recovering politician wagon.
Lisa and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary by competing in Lexington’s version of Dancing with the Stars (sponsored by our local Rotary Club). And despite my two left liberal feet, with the awesome instruction of Arthur Murray dance teacher Rae Dunn, and the continued fitness direction of globally-recognized personal trainer Josh Bowen, we’re actually getting in pretty good shape for the competition on May 10.
But I need your help.
(Sorry for that last sentence. My fundraising letter-writing muscle is to blame)
Your vote matters. and it is easy, affordable and for a great cause. Click here and scroll down the left side of the page to my picture, enter the number of votes you want to cast (at $5 per vote), and click the button at the bottom of the page to “pay now and vote.”
Your $5 contribution will go straight to benefit an incredible local program: Surgery on Sunday, as well as to the Lexington Rotary Club Endowment Fund, which supports more than 15 local community initiatives and charitable endeavors including the Carnegie Center of Literacy and Learning, Central Kentucky Radio Eye, Saint James Place, Explorium of Lexington, The Friends of the Arboretum, God’s Pantry Food Bank, International Book Project, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Mustang Troop, OWL-Opportunity for Work and Learning, Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League, World Fit and the YMCA of Central Kentucky Back to School Rallies.
So please click here, vote for me early and often (just $5 a vote!!!), and I promise not to run any negative campaign ads against my opponents. (Of course, if independent groups and 527s join the fray, I can’t do anything about that.)
The good news for Chris Christie is that some of the country’s most prominent pundits believe that nearly three months after the George Washington Bridge scandal first broke, the New Jersey governor is in good shape.
“You go around and you talk to Republicans, and they like Chris Christie more today than they did three months ago … other than Jeb Bush, he still has the clearest path to this nomination,” said“Morning Joe” host and Politico columnist Joe Scarborough last Tuesday, apparently not as an April Fool’s joke. Scarborough reasoned that the liberal media’s Christie pile-on might have endeared the governor to some conservatives put off by his post-Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Barack Obama.
The bad news for Christie is that unlike some pundits, federal prosecutors are not persuaded by white-shoe law firms’ “independent” investigations or confrontational press conferences during which politicians are said to have regained their “mojo.” Political pundits don’t tend to think like lawyers; they’re focused on the horse race. It’s no wonder the narrative thus far has downplayed legal liability.
I noted this divide in January, when I predicted that Christie’s real problem was legal, not political, and that he would ultimately be brought down not by Bridgegate itself but by an unrelated investigation stemming from it in the same way that Monica Lewinsky had nothing to do with an ill-fated Arkansas land deal called Whitewater and Al Capone went down for tax evasion. Federal prosecutorial tentacles would make an octopus envious. And so despite two marathon press conferences, a 360-page report produced after an internal investigation by Christie’s lawyer Randy Mastro and beheadings for much of his inner circle, Christie is actually in worse shape than he was in when the scandal first broke.
The first reason for this is simple. As I know all too well, having gone to prison for charges related to campaign finance violations, years can elapse between the time federal agencies first begin probing a target and the time they actually bring charges, and the deliberate, exhaustive nature of federal investigations is legend. (To take one example, when I reported for my post-conviction interview with agents, they knew the dates I had visited a casino and amounts of money I had withdrawn from an ATM a decade earlier, despite this being totally unrelated to the investigation.) Just ask Vincent Gray, the soon-to-be former mayor of Washington, D.C., who has been on the defensive after a multi-year federal investigation into his campaign finances. The recent lull in the Christie case (briefly interrupted Friday afternoon by the appearance of Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak before a grand jury) may be just an illusion—a glassy ocean surface with vicious activity occurring in the depths. No one who talks to the feds would breathe a word, for multiple reasons, from the obvious (prosecutorial orders/fear of an obstruction of justice charge) to the more subtle (the shame of snitching on a beloved boss and patron).
Christie’s continuing travel and exceptional fundraising as Republic Governors Association chair and likely presidential candidate is aimed in large part at combating the impression of a weakening governor with all avenues of political advancement quickly closing. But given the length, breadth and opacity of federal investigations, this is like a surfer in the eye of the hurricane exhorting his pals, “Rain’s stopped – surf’s up!”
Perhaps there’s even a whiff of denial on Christie’s part: If I just pretend that everything’s back to normal, and wow the national Republican audiences who like me more than ever, maybe this will all fade away.
I know the psychology well: After the feds knocked on my door the morning of my re-election kickoff fundraiser, I gritted my teeth, raised $100,000 that night (on the advice of counsel, who recommended that I proceed as if nothing were amiss) and wished the successful event could make it all go away. (I ended up returning all the donations.) But while a federal target is traipsing around with billionaires in Orlando and Las Vegas, the gears of justice continue grinding away with a singular focus. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail; and for federal prosecutors focused on public corruption, the bigger the public figure, the larger the scalp. Of course, the only thing sweeter than bringing down a front-running presidential candidate would be nabbing one who made his name prosecuting public corruption as a U.S. attorney.
The second reason Christie may be in worse shape now is the accumulation of troubling information about David Samson. The Christie-appointed Port Authority Commission chairman’s continued silence in the face of emails suggesting that he wanted to “retaliate” against Port Authority staff who re-opened the lanes is disturbing enough. In another e-mail, Samson accused the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye (who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat) of “stirring up trouble” by talking about the lane closures. Both of these contemporaneous emails strongly indicate that if – as Christie has maintained – Samson denied knowing the reason for the lane closures, he was lying. If Samson, per the emails, knew the truth then and told Christie, the governor has been lying. Neither option suits Christie, which may explain why the internal investigatory report essentially ignored the emails.
But far more problematic from a legal perspective are the myriad conflict of interest questions raised by the involvement of Samson’s law firm, Wolff & Samson, in Port Authority business. First came Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegation that New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Christie ally, threatened to withhold hurricane recovery aid to Hoboken – one of the state’s hardest hit cities – unless Zimmer agreed to support a billion-dollar development project spearheaded by a Wolff & Samson client. Guadagno strenuously denies that accusation as “false” and “illogical,” but MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki obtained emails related to the project sent from a Wolff & Samson attorney representing the developer to a Hoboken city attorney, pressing Hoboken’s attorney to speak with Samson and copying him on the email. If the Port Authority chairman’s law associate was trying to muscle the city into green-lighting a development—and keeping him in the loop on his activities—that would obliterate the line between Samson’s personal business interests and his public role as chairman.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast
By Jonathan Miller, on Sat Apr 5, 2014 at 11:00 AM ET
Yesterday, on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., I wrote this piece at The Daily Beast declaring Robert Kennedy’s eulogy to King as the greatest speech of the 20th century.
A loyal reader, the obscenely youthful looking media personality/stand-up comic/right-wing-nut-job Lee Cruse disagreed:
Cruse makes a point: John “Bluto” Blutarsky’s most famous line:
What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!…
is certainly more quotable than RFK’s exegesis on Greek poet Aeschylus:
And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
But it is only fair to compare the speeches as a whole. So, in the spirit of a fair competition, I post the videos of both orations and ask the RP Nation to decide. Is either the greatest speech of the 20th Century? Or does another surpass it? King’s “I Have a Dream”? Reagan’s “Tear Down that Wall”? Carl Spackler’s “It’s in the hole!”?
Well, to be more precise, Kentucky’s incumbent Attorney General and I used to occupy the same crowded political space: two young, big-city, over-educated, well-connected, center-left, aspiring pols, each trying to elbow out the other for the chance to grasp the political brass ring that was the opportunity to be anointed the next great hope for Bluegrass State Democrats.
Our journeys finally came into direct conflict when, in 2007, all of our political mentors withdrew their names from the gubernatorial hat, compelling Jack and I to engage in a hyper-awkward, Elaine Benes-ian dance to explore teaming up as a ticket…which ended, of course, when both of us insisted on leading. I ultimately plunged into the seven-person governor-wannabe scrum from which I never emerged, while Conway found open daylight running and easily winning the state’s top law enforcement position.
In the intervening years, as I have found a permanent seat on the sidelines as a recovering politician, I’ve watched Jack’s career with consistently wistful cognizance that “but for the grace of God go I.” During his 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate — a race that had our paths been reversed, I undoubtedly would have run…and lost — I saw Jack pilloried in much the same way I had been skewered for my own policy-wonkish, retail-politics-averse approach to campaigning. And when his ultimate undoing came at his own hands — the ill-advised decision to run the now infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that challenged Rand Paul’s faith, I could see myself succumbing to the same pressures, within the oxygen- and rationality-deprived political bubble, to employ a desperate, risky strategy in order to stop an “dangerous” opponent with a diametrically-opposite ideological worldview.
When Conway later admitted his mistake — arguing that the ad was “the only time in my political career I’ve gone against my gut,” I recalled my greatest gut-check regret. In the 2007 race for Governor, I was questioned by a newspaper’s editorial board about how I voted in the 2004 statewide referendum over what I felt was a pernicious constitutional amendment that would not only ban gay marriage, but anything that looked like it, such as civil unions. Privately, I’d supported marriage equality — strongly — ever since Andrew Sullivan introduced much of the country to the possibility in his historic 1989 essay in The New Republic. But while I had openly supported anti-discrimination laws, and was especially proud to have been the first gubernatorial candidate ever to pursue, secure and embrace the endorsement of gay rights organizations, marriage equality was a third rail that I was still too timid to touch — the amendment, after all, had passed statewide overwhelmingly just three years earlier, with 74% support.
So I did what I had done my entire political career on the issue: I lied to the editorial board. And I didn’t come out of the political closet until I had formally renounced politics a few years later.
Today, my former political doppelgänger faced a similar challenge on this very same issue. When federal District Judge John Hayburn’s recently ruled that the Commonwealth must recognize lawful same-sex marriages from other states, Conway was confronted with the decision on whether to appeal the decision — on behalf of the voters who had so overwhelmingly voted for the ban a decade ago.
For some of Conway’s Attorney General colleagues in blue states who encountered similar circumstances, this may have not been a difficult decision. But here, in an inner notch of the Bible Belt, marriage equality is still quite an unpopular position. A few brave Democrats had stepped out months earlier — including, most prominently, Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, and State Auditor Adam Edelen — but general election voters, who Conway will likely appeal to in a 2015 gubernatorial run, still oppose the practice by a 55 to 35 percent margin in a recent independent poll. (And today, a GOP candidate who had donated. $20,000 to support the constitutional anti-gay effort in 2004 just announced his entry into the 2015 governor’s race as the standard bearer for social conservatives.)
Worse yet for Conway, his client, the popular Democratic Governor Steve Beshear — who won statewide liberal plaudits for vetoing an Arizona-like anti-gay, “religious freedom” bill in 2013, and national progressive celebration for successfully implementing Obamacare in the state — wanted to pursue the appeal.
So Conway chose the route he had abandoned in his U.S. Senate race: He went with his gut. In announcing his decision to refuse to pursue an appeal, the Attorney General stated that “in the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it’s about placing people above politics…I can only say that I am doing what I think is right…I had to make a decision that I could be proud of – for me now, and my daughters’ judgment in the future.”
Conway’s decision will not have a significant practical effect: Governor Beshear announced a few minutes after Conway’s press conference that he would hire outside counsel to pursue the appeal. But for a populace desperately seeking politicians who are authentic, who lead from their heart, even at great political risk, Conway’s choice may instill a small ray of hope that even in this most cynical of times, conviction can sometimes trump politics.
And for this recovering politician, who has forsaken the arena for many of the same reasons that so many Americans hate politics — as well as for the chance, finally, to live a life when I can always be true to my most passionate beliefs — it’s great comfort to see my former political frenemy take the kind of brave, selfless action that I would have loved to put on my political resume.
By Jonathan Miller, on Tue Mar 4, 2014 at 6:16 PM ET
As I wrote today in this The Daily Beast cover piece, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway took a very courageous stance today by refusing to appeal federal District Judge John Heyburn’s decision that requires Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Here’s an excerpt:
For a populace desperately seeking politicians who are authentic—who lead from their heart, even at great political risk—Conway’s choice may instill a small ray of hope that even in this most cynical of times, conviction can sometimes trump politics.
And for this recovering politician, who has forsaken the arena for many of the same reasons that so many Americans hate politics—as well as for the chance, finally, to live a life when I can always be true to my most passionate beliefs—it’s great comfort to see my former political frenemy take the kind of brave, selfless action that I would have loved to put on my leadership resume.
When California Congressman Ami Bera met New York Rep. Christopher Gibson at a dinner last April, they began a conversation about how the two of them — a physician and a retired Army colonel, a Democrat and a Republican — might work together in Congress to advance the country’s interests.
It didn’t take them long to come up with an idea.
While the two men held different career perspectives, they shared a deep concern about health care for our military’s men and women. They knew that there were serious problems, particularly with the muddled and inefficient health-records system in which active duty service members received care through the Department of Defense and veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The doctor and retired officer understood that with little coordination between the two mammoth agencies, service members often encountered frustrating bureaucratic delays in accessing benefits and health care as they returned to civilian life. And they agonized that this was a terrible way to repay those who’ve served our country.
Both Rep. Bera and Rep. Gibson are members of No Labels, a fast-growing movement of citizens and political leaders who are dedicated to the politics of problem solving and consensus building. As members of No Labels’ Congressional Problem Solvers, a group of nearly 100 lawmakers from both parties and both houses, they were committed to working together to find a better way to take care of our service men and women and returning vets. And they did.
Out of their conversation that night came the 21st Century Health Care for Heroes Act, a bill to construct a streamlined and easily accessible electronic health-records system for military service members and veterans.
The bill became part of a legislative package, Make Government Work!, that the No Labels Problem Solvers unveiled last summer with sponsors on both sides of the aisle.
So clearly beneficial was the No Labels bipartisan, common-sense bill that key language from it was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December. The language set out standards for the creation of an authoritative health-data system that will, for the first time, merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs—thereby, as Rep. Bera stated, “saving money, making the transition to civilian life easier for vets, and helping address the VA backlog.”
If all goes according to plan, patients will be able to download their own medical records and, in time, share them via a secure, remote storage system with their healthcare providers.
As Rep. Bera noted after the original bill was introduced, “Creating an efficient and responsive health care program for service members and veterans isn’t just a Democratic or Republican priority, it’s important to all members of Congress regardless of party, and it’s something we can achieve if we just listen to one another and work together.”
The adoption of this measure is proof that listening to one another and working together really can make a difference and lead to results. This is just one example of what No Labels and the Problem Solvers group can do and continue to strive towards.
The group has just embarked on a three-year campaign to develop a national strategic agenda, a shared vision for this country built around goals and concrete actions that reasonable people of differing political persuasions can agree upon and rally around.
The group is working with members of Congress — people like Congressmen Bera and Gibson and more than 75 others who’ve said they support the concept of a national strategic agenda — as well as other political leaders and some of the nation’s leading voices in business and economics to develop a set of objectives and policy options. No Labels hopes its national strategic agenda — a new sort of governing process based on shared goals — will emerge as a major part of the political discussion in the next presidential campaign.
The process won’t be easy—nobody ever said democracy would be. But the continued progress of our nation and the well-being of citizens depend on our earnest efforts and more constructive, good-faith conversations between Democrats and Republicans.
The paralysis of Atlanta—and its rising-star mayor, Democrat Kasim Reed—during the first of two recent storms highlighted more than just a possible managerial deficiency. The fact that Reed had spent the morning of the storm receiving an award from Republican Governor Nathan Deal—as well as Reed’s post-storm refusal to blame the flummoxed governor—suggests something broader: a durable alliance between the Obama 2012 pit-bull surrogate and his conservative Republican governor. Such an alliance is less rare than one might imagine. In an age when people lament partisan polarization, one area of stubborn bipartisan cooperation endures: the seemingly counter-intuitive pacts between black Democratic mayors and conservative Republican governors.
National political observers detected a similar relationship a thousand miles to the north in 2012, when then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker tied himself in knots to pretend he was considering a challenge to Governor Chris Christie. Most New Jersey political insiders understood this to be a necessary feint—one that a playful parody film featuring the two men seemed to confirm. After Senator Frank Lautenberg died, Christie repaid Booker—and did himself a favor—by spending $25 million in state funds on a special election for Senate just three weeks before his own November election. It wasn’t enough to simply not run against each other; Christie ensured that he and Booker would not be turning out their own supporters (who would be unlikely to split tickets) in the same election.
Given that black Americans voted for national Democratic candidates at a 90-plus-percent clip in 2008 and 2012, why would leaders from Democrats’ most loyal faction tacitly support conservative Republican governors? What exactly does each side have to gain from these political non-aggression pacts—and are they durable or likely to collapse?
From the white governor’s side, there are several things to gain:
Direct short-term electoral benefits: By dividing urban black mayors from their party, a Republican governor can do slightly better in cities for his reelection campaign, either by winning a premium of black voters above the roughly 10 percent a generic Republican can expect, or by minimizing black turnout (not through underhanded Ed Rollins or Allen Raymond sort of way, but by dampening the enthusiasm of black community leaders who are often critical to urban voter-mobilization efforts).
Indirect short-term electoral benefits: By wrapping themselves in black political clothing, these white Republican governors are pulling a sort of reverse Sister Souljah: They are using black mayors as a vehicle to show white suburban women that they are not the scary, borderline-racist kind of Republican who howls about birth certificates, Kenya, and food-stamp presidents.
Long-term electoral benefits: For more a decade—and with special urgency since Election Day 2012—we’ve heard about the Republican Party’s acute need to diversify its electoral base. The instant elevation of Marco Rubio into a likely presidential candidate —before he was even sworn in!—and a similar phenomenon with Dr. Ben Carson are proof of the party’s desperate quest for a candidate with appeal to minorities in a rapidly evolving nation. Of course, white Republican presidential aspirants won’t cede this niche to minority candidates; indeed, one of George W. Bush’s key selling points as he positioned himself for the 2000 Republican nomination was that he had received 49 percent of the Latino vote in his 1998 re-election. (It later emerged that this figure was inflated and the actual number was 40 percent).
Chris Christie’s concerted efforts to win Latino and black votes (of which he won 51 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared to Romney’s 27 percent and 6 percent) in 2013 suggest a similar thrust, albeit one that is likely obsolete now. Clearly, ambitious governors like Christie and Kasich use Democratic mayoral support—generally, the kind of tacit, “sitting-on-their-hands” support that accompanies tepid endorsements that mayors like Booker, Coleman, and Reed offer Democratic gubernatorial candidates—to burnish their electoral resumes for future national candidacies.
Possible entrée into the Obama White House: Republican governors who may face future primaries aren’t always keen to be too closely associated with President Obama (Christie’s infamous post-Hurricane Sandy embrace notwithstanding). Forging close ties with mayors who acted as top Obama surrogates and can get calls to the White House quickly returned can come in handy for those whose public rhetoric may preclude close relationships with the Obama Administration.
Of course, benefits also accrue to the black mayor in these détentes. Here are a few:
Direct economic benefits: This might include support for major projects (both public subsidies and assistance in lining up private-development financing), as well as political backing for initiatives that require state support. These create jobs and bolster the tax base in cities like Newark and Cleveland that have suffered steep declines. More broadly, Republican governors give mayors someone who can lean on legislative leaders on matters that aren’t too ideologically charged but can help the mayor’s city—often a leading state economic engine.
Support for urban school-reform efforts: This may come in the form of political support (urging legislators or executive branch appointees), economic backing (money for performance pay bonuses or charter-school start-up, for instance), or a hybrid of both (Christie’s alliance with Booker to attract—and spend—Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the state-controlled Newark public schools).
Long-term political benefits: Ambitious black mayors hoping to be the next Obama—or at least the next Deval Patrick—can take advantage of their relationships with Republican governors to provide a veneer of moderation. The goal is to avoid the fate of candidates like former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who are seen as being too liberal for a statewide race (an impression driven in part by their color, political-science research has suggested), even if they’re not particularly liberal.
Fundraising: Governors can quietly introduce the mayors to their donors, and/or provide a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” with traditional Republican business donors, giving big-city mayors access to contributors who would not otherwise be inclined to support them.
But what are the costs for each side? The answer is, not many. Republican governors have little to lose by propping up big-city Democratic mayors; Republicans have almost no chance of ever competing for office in these areas. Though extra attention to urban areas could potentially have a slight demobilizing effect on rural conservatives, the effect is probably negligible.
Black mayors also have little to lose. Though their constituents have been pressed into action around election time, local black political elites have historically been excluded from state and national party strategy, instead being belatedly pressed into action around time. And of course, white statewide aspirants have been engaged in mini-Sister Souljah acts around the country for years, distancing themselves from the party’s urban base and focusing electoral appeals on white suburban and exurban swing voters. Consequently, some black Democrats feel scant party allegiance, making it easier to cozy up to Republican governors.
The biggest risk is that their Republican allies might lose. As mayors, they’ll be forced to travel to the state capital and supplicate to Democratic governors who can likely glean from a precinct analysis of urban election returns whether a mayor really worked to turn out voters in his home wards—and could probably ascertain a decided lack of enthusiasm from any number of actions or non-actions during election season.
Of course, these mayors wouldn’t be cozying up to the governors if they thought the Democratic candidate was likely to win. Politicians’ self-preservation instincts are as powerful as those of coyotes, who will without hesitation chew off a trapped limb in order to escape a bear trap.
Given the federal investigation swirling around Chris Christie, Cory Booker may already be detaching himself from his old ally. Likewise, given how widely panned Deal’s storm management performance was as we head into election season, Kasim Reed might want to consider gnawing off his own leg caught in the trap named Nathan Deal.
By Jonathan Miller, on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 12:15 PM ET
One of my greatest strengths is that I understand my weaknesses.
And if there is anything that I do more poorly than dance, I have yet to experience it.
That’s why I am thrilled — and scared to death — to be a “celebrity” contestant in this season’s “Dancing with the Stars”
OK, to be clear this is not the ABC national version. I am not a washed up football player, little-known Disney Channel actor, or a Kardashian, Rather, this is the Rotary Club of Lexington’s “Dancing with the Lexington Stars” — a fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Lexington’s Rotary Endowment Fund, which supports “Surgery on Sunday” for needy Lexington families; Cardinal Hill Hospital, a nationally acclaimed rehabilitation center; and other worthy organizations.
I hope you will be able to join me at this important event, if only to laugh at me as I trip over my poor wife, Lisa.
For now, please save the date — Saturday, May 10, 2014, from 6:30 PM- Midnight. I guarantee a lot of fun, a good cause, and plenty of opportunities to laugh at my expense.
By Artur Davis, on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM ET
A second week into Chris Christie’s soap opera, one sign of trouble is pretty hard to dispute: subpoenas and inquiries from federal prosecutors almost never end well for politicians, and the newest allegation, of conditioning access to federal grant money on a political favor, fits the four corners of federal criminal statutes much more neatly than the traffic tie-up element of the affair. And of course, if the legal side of the equation unravels, the political side collapses with it.
Assuming that the worst case doesn’t transpire, the Christie camp ought to still fear something else, and it goes beyond the conventional wisdom that Christie looks petty, vindictive, and guilty of fostering a culture of retaliation. That risk is obviously real enough, but probably more likely to rub off on insiders than Republican caucus and primary voters, and may not ultimately prove more damaging to voters than Ted Cruz’s embrace of obstructionism or the more exotic pieces of Rand Paul’s profile.
In fact, there are already early signs that Christie is being insulated with Republicans for the simple reason that his sharpest inquisitors are a left-wing cable network and the ever disreputable beast in Republican circles, the mainstream media.
And therein lies the more subtle danger to Christie—the possibility that his effort to armor himself by donning the hardware of conservative resentment remakes the governor into the partisan warrior he has so assiduously avoided becoming. To put this in perspective, consider that the general election promise of a Christie candidacy has always had two related components: (1) that he is not the kind of Republican who revels in pseudo theories about socialist conspiracies being cooked up in Washington and (2) that his best (and shrewdest) critique of Barack Obama has arisen from a high ground that is not terribly partisan, namely that five years of liberal ascension have contributed to rather than softened the country’s divisions.
That profile explains how Christie has so effectively assailed liberal interest group politics in New Jersey as a threat to the common good without seeming overly ideological. It is also what enabled Christie to practice a genuinely coalitional reelection strategy last year, which was stunningly effective in splintering the Democratic voting base, from Latinos to blacks to suburban female professionals.
It is hardly that Christie is some anodyne, passionless figure who keeps votes in play by saying little and offending no sacred cows. Instead, the Christie persona has been that he is the rare Republican whose anger seems less directed at lost cultural ground, or Obama’s presumptions, or dark fantasies about diminished liberty, and more at the dysfunction and smallness of the current political landscape.
Can that image survive if Christie’s mainline of defense is that he is just another Republican under siege by the left? How much is left of Christie’s national appeal if he is about to morph into another Fox Republican? And even in the context of the Republican nomination, just how sustainable is the path of conservative warrior for a politician who has been known to bristle at right-wing orthodoxy on guns, the environment, and healthcare?
Assuming that Christie’s fingerprints aren’t found any places that they shouldn’t be, I would still bet that the verdict on the governor’s character and political style will end up being rendered by the primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, not the thirty-somethings at MSNBC and Politico, much less a handful of government lawyers. But Christie’s center-right admirers ought to worry that the tactics of survival don’t end up erasing what made Christie worth admiring in the first place.
Wesley Bolin, a 25-year-old college student from Murray, knows it usually takes a ton of money, name recognition and some political experience to win a seat in Congress.
The candidate confesses he lacks all three.
Plus, Bolin is running as an unabashed liberal in the First Congressional District, where more than a few voters cast ballots based on what some wags call the “Four Gs – God, guns, gays and government.”
“People say we need a fresh face in Washington,” said Bolin, a Democrat who wants to unseat 10-term incumbent Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield in November. “Well, nobody’s face is fresher than mine.”
Bolin’s mug is also bearded. He considered shaving his whiskers for the campaign but decided against it “because it is better to look 25 than twelve. My beard isn’t presidential like Lincoln’s, but I think it looks congressional.”
Bolin is a senior history major at hometown Murray State University. His dad, Dr. Duane Bolin, is a history professor, author and well-known Kentucky historian.
Both Bolins are partial to hand-tied bow ties. Neither Bolin minds being compared to the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.
The Bolins, Wesley, his dad, mom Evelyn, and sister, Cammie Jo, are devout Southern Baptists and active in the Murray Baptist Church.
The candidate believes in strict separation of church and state and promises not to pander on the social issues. “I believe in equality for all Kentuckians,” he declared.
Bolin leans decidedly leftward on economic issues. He is for upping the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits to the approximately 1.4 million jobless Americans whose eligibility ended Dec. 28. Bolin is also pro-Affordable Care Act.
Bolin, like his dad, is a fan of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The candidate favors New Deal-style public works programs.
He is staunchly pro-labor, declaring “I learned a lot about unions listening to Pete Seeger songs.”
Bolin opposes right to work laws. He supports prevailing wage laws and the Employee Free Choice Act. He believes public employees should have the right to unionize.
He opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar trade deals including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, “NAFTA on steroids” to its opponents.
He said he isn’t fazed by the fact that the district delivered more than 66 percent of its vote to Republican Mitt Romney over President Obama in 2012. Nor is he daunted because Whitfield piled up nearly 70 percent of district ballots against Charles Hatchett, another little known and underfunded Democrat, and a conservative, to boot . Hatchett has also filed in the Democratic primary.
Bolin knows his path to Washington is a steep climb. “I’ve only been to Washington twice,” he confessed, “once on a band trip.”
He says a big reason he decided to run for congress “is because I’m tired of having to choose between the lesser of two ‘who cares’ on election day.”
Bolin plans to shake a lot of hands across the district, which meanders from the Mississippi River through western Kentucky and rolls eastward to Casey County in south central Kentucky. “But I’m not kissing any babies until after flu season.”
He added, “In 20 years, I’ve learned to read and write, tie my shoes, ride a bicycle and play two instruments – banjo poorly, and saxophone well . A lot has changed for the better in my life, but the district hasn’t changed for the better since Newt Gingrich helped elect Ed Whitfield in 1994.”
Bolin says he has no choice but to run a campaign on a shoestring. Between classes, he works as a library assistant and makes $8.92 an hour. He will take a leave of absence to hit the campaign trail.
Bolin said he understands all too well that Whitfield enjoys an almost bottomless campaign war chest, much of it filled by well-heeled contributors, the candidate added. The Democrat doubts any corporate cash will come his way.