Bring up the subject of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and the conventional wisdom has either New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or political scion and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the likely nominees. Oh sure, there's a few people who, with a straight face, believe Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are viable candidates, but they have as much of a chance of being nominated as I do. Which is why my money's on Mitt Romney 3.0.
A New Hampshire Granite Poll released last week showed Romney with an astonishing 39 percent lead over all other hopefuls including Christie, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Rob Portman and Ted Cruz, none of whom broke single digits. That's a pretty startling statistic. And one Romney is no doubt seriously mulling. When New Hampshire beckons, you listen.
Consider Romney the New Nixon. The dull, awkward loser who, despite all the odds, makes a stunning comeback, aided in part by timing and circumstance. Like Nixon, Romney likely won't stop running until he wins, regardless of his halfhearted statements to the contrary. Running for the most powerful and complicated job in the world requires a massive ego. Something Romney has in abundance. But he also has deep pockets and prominent pals with even deeper pockets. Lastly, he's an oasis of mainstream sanity in a sea of radical Tea Party lunacy. He's truly the GOP's Great White Hope.
There's a reason Romney's polled 31 points higher in New Hampshire than other GOP hopefuls. It's a pretty sorry pack. Christie, the former Hope, is damaged goods. He's a belligerent, bullying, scandal-plagued New Jersey back-room brawler. And he's obese. Seriously, people, let's move on. It ain't happening. Bush? He stands the best chance despite his potential deal-killing last name, family troubles, and unpopular views on taxes and immigration....but only if Romney's not in the race.
Let's face it: Romney looks pretty damn good in a suit. And he's quite accomplished politically and in business, is squeaky-clean, and heads a quintessential all-American white-bread family. And once you peel away his fringe-pandering "severely conservative" layers, he's an unapologetic moderate at heart. Would that play well with independents and conservative Democrats this time around?
If Romney wants to win he must address four critical areas: first, he must shed the flip-flopper costume and demonstrate integrity and conviction in his positions. In short, he's got to grow some mainstream balls, embrace his record (including and especially RomneyCare) and stop pandering to the party's lunatics. Trying to out-crazy Rick Perry is not a winning strategy.
Next, he needs to show voters passion and personality, two critical traits that were painfully absent in the 2012 election. He must stop appearing robotic and out of touch. He needs to be the charming, compassionate Romney that his pals supposedly know, not the stiff, tone-deaf automaton who ran against Obama.
He also needs to acknowledge his wealth and put a productive spin on it: "Hey, I'm rich, ok? But guess what...so is every other presidential candidate! My wealth, which I amassed on my own as a businessman, is precisely what affords me the time and ability to commit myself to public service. To be able to help those less fortunate."
Lastly, he needs to clean house. Assemble a whole new team and, more important, a whole new campaign strategy. Together with his advisers, he must figure out a way to bring normal Republican voters to the primaries. The campaign can't be the exclusive playground of the nutballs. He's got a huge opportunity to appeal to all those moderates who lament that "there just doesn't seem to be any place in the party for folks like me anymore." If the man who's put the "aw" in awkward can enjoin them into the campaign early, and simultaneously come across as a real human being, 3.0 might just be his time in the...
Dear Ms. Palin:
I feel sorry for you. I truly do. It must be terribly frustrating to be so irrelevant. To have your rabble-rousing, race-baiting drivel limited to Fox's Sean Hannity Show in your desperate, pathetic, never-ending quest for attention. You are, put simply, one of the most ignorant, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, hate-filled, polarizing individuals ever hit the national political stage (thank you John McCain).
Your new video, in which you call for President Obama's impeachment because of his "lawlessness," is an unconscionable, unpatriotic piece of garbage. The level of disrespect, condescension, sarcasm and reality-butchering is astounding. To say that your fake-cutesy, sing-songy, snarky delivery is vomitous would be a colossal understatement. You're also quite tone-deaf, comparing your suffering over his presidency to that of a "battered wife." There really are no groups you won't offend, are there?
Impeach Obama? For what, doing his job amid relentless Republican obstructionism and intransigence? For trying to keep government operating efficiently? For growing the economy? For creating millions of new jobs? For caring about 8-year-olds crossing the Mexican border alone? For wanting to find a practical, compassion solution to the immigration issue? For providing everyone health care? For trying to narrow the income inequality gap? For protecting women's rights? For allowing people who love each other to marry?
That you, like that other heartless conservative Dick Cheney, even have a perch from which to still spew your venomous hate-speak, is unfortunate. No one, not even the Fox faithful, should be subjected to your incendiary bile. You're a failed, disgraced politician who, despite becoming a humiliating punchline following the 2008 election, refuses to crawl back under your rock. Trust me: no one except Hannity, a few horny white Republican dudes and a smattering of their intellectually bankrupt women are interested in what you have to say.
Ssshhhh....hear that sound? It's the rock...
I own a marketing company. I'm Jewish. My partner is Italian and Christian. Of our almost fifty employees, our cultural and religious make-up is quite diverse. We are a company of people. The company itself is not a person. So what's our religion? Whose religious beliefs should trump those of...
Former VP Dick Cheney wrote the following in his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week:
"Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."
And if you were to guess that he was referring to his former boss, George W. Bush, you'd be wrong.
The man with whom Bush committed the worst military debacle in U.S. history and, as many believe, with whom he's guilty of war crimes, was actually talking about President Barack Obama.
In the wake of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq, neo-cons like Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Bremer and others have crawled out from under their war-mongering rocks in a pathetic attempt to vindicate themselves while dumping the blame for this disastrous mess on Obama.
The level of audacity, duplicity, shamelessness and megalomania with Cheney in particular is astounding. The war began unjustly, was misguided and mismanaged, and soon proved Cheney 100 percent dead-wrong on everything he pitched to Americans. Let's revisit for a moment his greatest hits:
-Insisted Iraq had WMD
-Predicted the invasion/war would "last weeks, not months"
-Claimed we'd be "greeted as liberators"
-Bragged that extremists would have to "rethink their strategy of Jihad"
-Boasted that the insurgency "was in its last throes" back in 2005
In fact, the war lasted eight years, cost $1-trillion and 4,500 U.S. soldiers' lives. It was a blood-thirsty conflation of Saddam Hussein with 9/11. It was battered with threats of "mushroom clouds" and domestic terrorism. It remains a vile twisting of reality, and an unconscionable exploitation of the nation's collective emotion and fear following the horrific New York City and DC attacks. And it was all perpetrated by Bush/Cheney & Co., not Obama, who merely inherited this mess.
To say that Cheney's op-ed piece is revisionist history would be a gross understatement. Rather, it's the most mind-numbing case of delusion in political history.
Like Vietnam, Iraq is falling following U.S. withdrawal... spiraling into bloody civil war because it lacks a strong enough democratic government and military to sustain itself without American help. And it's been racked by centuries of violent sectarian conflict. It's no surprise that the country now finds itself on the eve of destruction just three years after Obama brought home the troops.
To be sure, Dick Cheney is a very lucky man. That he's not spending his last days rotting in prison for the death and destruction he's caused is quite fortunate for him, as is his ability to continue spewing his unpatriotic, self-serving bile in the neo-con-friendly Wall Street Journal.
But if the unforgiving drubbing that Fox News' Megan Kelly gave Cheney on her program Wednesday night is any indication, history, even among Republicans and conservatives, is judging him quite...
Chris Christie will not be president. Nor will he win the Republican nomination. In fact, it's likely the BridgeGate and SandyGate scandals will derail his decision to even run.
Despite bragging of his vindication in the incomplete report released last week by his hand-picked 'independent investigator,' Randy Mastro, the New Jersey governor's hole just keeps getting bigger and deeper. You know you're in trouble when the surrogate you send out to do your biased bidding on the Sunday morning talk shows, Rudy Giuliani, calls the report "inconclusive" on NBC's Meet the Press.
So as Christie was jetting out to Vegas to kiss billionaire kingmaker-wannabe Sheldon Adelson's ass, thumbing his nose at the allegations against him and pretending everything's back to normal, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll was released showing his popularity's dropped to an embarrassingly low 17%. And at his press conference last week, he traded in his new softer, gentler, contrite self for the original brash, belittling, confrontational model....excoriating reporters simply for doing their jobs. Yes, Christie's back and he's pissed!
Someone needs to remind The Big Man that Americans don't elect angry, arrogant bullies as president, especially those from New Jersey who are embroiled in revenge scandals. As the polls indicate, voters aren't buying his "I didn't know anything" routine. They're instead concluding that he's either lying through his teeth or is utterly incompetent. Nobody wants a president who can't control his staff, or who might call Russian president Vladimir Putin "stupid" or an "idiot." To be sure, Christie's damaged goods, and the goods weren't that hot to begin with.
Which is why former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will most likely toss his hat into the ring and eventually become the GOP's nominee. He's got class, pedigree, political juice and a Mexican-born wife...assets the Republican Party desperately needs. He's an oasis of respectability and sanity in a sea of fringe madness. He's appealingly establishment and old-school against a backdrop of Tea Party Turks run amok. He's Steady-Eddie. Conservative enough to appeal to the masses, but not too conservative to attract independents.
Forget Christie. And forget Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Paul Ryan. They have as much chance of becoming president as I do. Bush is the only electable one in this bunch. And the only one who makes Democrats very, very nervous. Those Bush's...they have this habit of winning...
Bush v. Clinton 2.0. Get...
Seven years ago my wife, the actor and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, was brutally murdered in her office in Manhattan's West Village. She was best known for her starring roles in indie auteur Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth and...
Woody Allen is guilty. Woody Allen is innocent. Actually, I have no idea what Woody Allen is, nor does anyone else except Dylan Farrow and Allen himself, although that hasn't stopped anyone, especially in the 24/7, free-wheelin', open-mike social-media playground, from pontificating as...
One thing's certain in the latest allegation against New Jersey Gov. Christie Christie: either Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is blatantly lying through her partisan teeth or the Trenton Bully Brigade has struck again.
According to Zimmer, and coming on the heels of the BridgeGate access-lane revenge-closings scandal, she had met last May in a Hoboken parking lot with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief funds if she did not support a real estate development deal that was a pet project of Christie's and the Rockefeller Group, a company with whom he has close ties.
Speaking at an event in Union Beach Monday where she addressed reporters but refused to take questions, a stoic, seemingly lawyered-up Guadagno unequivocally denied Zimmer's charges:
"Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in may of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined. Any suggestion, any suggestion, that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false."
Citing the devastation caused by the storm and saying she was a Sandy victim herself, an incredulous, animated Guadagno called Zimmer's allegations "particularly offensive to me" and denied them as "wholly and completely false."
Yet as each day passes and another new plot twist surfaces, it becomes more and more implausible that Christie, Guadagno and the administration are being truthful. As the saying goes, where there's smoke there's fire. Christie's reputation, like that of his corruption-plagued state, precedes him. He's publicly ridiculed those who've disagreed with him as idiots, jerks and stupid. This derisive behavior points to a culture of intimidation and abuse created and maintained by the governor himself. With that evidence as a backdrop, is it really hard then to imagine Guadagno's "You better pony up, or else" threat?
Another big question is, why would Zimmer lie? What does she have to gain by totally fabricating a story and thus tossing herself squarely into the center of one of the most complicated, far-reaching and consequential political scandals in recent memory?
Zimmer met Sunday with the United States Attorney's office to provide details and documents to substantiate her story. She's also offered to take a lie-detector test and testify under oath. Guadagno herself admits she met in that parking lot last May with Zimmer and that they did discuss Sandy relief money. She just disagrees with Zimmer's "version" of that encounter. As the popular SNL skit goes, "Really? Really?"
Zimmer's timing may be suspect to some on the right, but her situation is akin to that of countless crime victims who are bullied into submission and silence, fearful of retribution. But all it takes is someone else to come forward first and the floodgates open. For both Zimmer and Christie, BridgeGate is merely the House of Cards. It's naive to think that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, BridgeGate's intended victim, and Zimmer are the only local pols touched by the Christie Mob. There's likely other mayors, assemblymen, senators and/or bureaucrats preparing to come forward with their own allegations as well.
Furthermore, we haven't even witnessed the full bore of the state and Federal investigations yet and what the subpoenas of former top Christie aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien and the Port Authority's David Wildstein will reveal. If given immunity, these former loyalists could end up singing like canaries, costing the Big Guy the White House and perhaps even the Governor's mansion.
And as an aside, it doesn't help Christie's "I am not a bully" narrative to have surrogates like Rudy Giuliani, who's called BridgeGate a "political prank," and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who on CNN Monday referred to Zimmer as "a lady Mayor," defending...
One thing about the BridgeGate scandal we can be sure of: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in a huge heap of trouble. It really doesn't matter whether or not he ordered or had prior knowledge of the George Washington Bridge access lane revenge-closings last September to punish Fort Lee's Mayor Mark Sokolich for his failure to endorse Christie in his re-election bid. Either way, the Big Guy's screwed.
The facts are clear, and by his own admission: either he's a lying, potentially criminal bully, or he's an utterly incompetent chief executive unable to control a rogue senior staff. So whether he's broken the law, committed severe ethics violations or simply had his head up his ass matters little in his quest to be President of the United States come January 2017. This scandal all but kills that hope and, pending the outcome of myriad state and federal investigations now underway, might also cost him the governorship.
"I am not a bully," Christie pleaded from the podium during his nearly two-hour woe-is-me mea-culpa before reporters Thursday in an unprecedented demonstration of narcissism. That bold denial reminds us of Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman." History has demonstrated that when one utters the words "I am not," he typically is.
What else is certain here is that the facts and timeline of Christie's story simply don't add up. It's unfathomable that a widely-known, self-admitted micro-manager, feared by many for his brute tactics towards those who cross him, had neither created a culture of retribution which guided his senior team, or one in which he wielded the heavy-hand himself. Whining for 108 minutes about how "blindsided...sad...embarrassed...and humiliated" he is that those in his intimate "circle of trust" have betrayed him doesn't change that suspicion.
Serious questions remain:
-- Could Christie really have only found out about the BridgeGate mess for the first time
this Wednesday morning after the news officially broke... and by seeing it online on his iPad after a workout at home with his trainer?
-- Is it in any way plausible that he did not have have any idea that there were abuses of power both in his top ranks and at the Port Authority, even though his PA appointees David Wildstein and Bill Baroni resigned in December over this very same mess?
-- Are we to believe that no one from his senior team bothered to tell him about the Bergen Record story that was about to be published this week? There's no way the newspaper didn't call senior administration officials to discuss the story, or at least tip them off to it, before it went public.
-- Is it possible that Christie's #2 official, Bridget Anne Kelly, working for such a tight-fisted, control-freak of a boss, would venture on her own to execute such a bone-headed, Tony Soprano-like act of retribution without any discussion with him, or at least without the belief that she had his tacit approval?
The worst thing that can happen to a politician is that a scandal breaks that reinforces the existing narrative. In this case, it's really not a surprise that Christie's now battling accusations of bullying. To be sure, his reputation as an enforcer pre-dates BridgeGate. The events of this week serve to feed the concerns of nationwide Republicans about the back-room chicanery and corruption in Garden State politics, casting even greater doubt on his presidential electability in 2016. Perhaps you can take the boy out of New Jersey, but you can't take New Jersey out of the...
To some, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a ballsy, straight-shootin', independent man-of-the-people. To others, he's an arrogant, bullying, typically self-serving politician. And now he's embroiled in a scandal which seems to be proving the latter group right. Welcome to BridgeGate.
While running for re-election this past fall Christie sought the endorsement of Fort Lee's Democratic Mayor Mark Sokoloch, a public thumbs up he eventually did not receive. In retaliation, it's alleged that top officials in the Republican governor's administration flexed its muscle last September in getting lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge to make Sokoloch's political life miserable.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," wrote Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, in an email to David Wildstein of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge. Wildstein also happens to be an old high school chum of Christie's.
It didn't matter that people might be sick and/or dying in ambulances stuck in that gridlock. Or that school buses full of kids might be getting to school late. "They are the children of Buono voters," Mr. Wildstein wrote, referring to Christie's Democratic opponent Barbara Buono.
This is the kind of brutal payback crap that's straight out of The Sopranos. And to many, it's no surprise. Many astute analysts have just been waiting for the Christie shoe to drop. For the myth to be shattered. For the skeletons to come crashing out of the closet. Welcome to BridgeGate.
Back in November, in his very blue state of New Jersey, Christie won a resounding victory, bringing into his big tent not just conservatives but many Democrats, independents, women, Hispanics, blacks and just about everyone else. He was immediately anointed The Great Republican Hope. The sane candidate in a sea of Tea Party crackpots. It was as if the 2016 primaries were already over and Christie was the GOP's man to challenge the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
But the notion that he was a virtual shoe-in for the Republican presidential nomination was largely based on the belief that the GOP, hijacked by the Tea Party, has swung so dangerously to the right, resulting in humiliating defeat in election after election, that the party and it's voters have finally learned their lesson. The problem with that contention is that ideology and wishful thinking always trumps logic, rational thinking and pragmatism.
What got lost in all the euphoria were three critical factors. First, New Jersey is not Kansas. Or Ohio. Or Iowa. Or the Bible Belt or Rust Belt or the Plains. Like Vegas, what happens in Jersey often stays in Jersey. The big question was how this brash, outspoken, obese, larger-than-life Northeastern politician would play in middle-America.
Next, Christie's no angel. There's been much speculation over the years of impropriety on many levels, from budget chicanery to abuses of power. There's no vetting process more intense and invasive than that of a presidential candidate. Could he survive this level of scrutiny?
Lastly, Christie's big win in November meant little in terms of proving his inevitability. Two years in politics is an eternity, and an awful lot of really bad stuff can surface in that period, especially when every aspect of one's personal and public life is put under a microscope. Welcome to BridgeGate.
Was Christie ever truly a viable GOP presidential candidate? Would he be able to overcome the weight issue? The last obese U.S. president was William Howard Taft over 100 years ago... before television and YouTube.
Would Christie be able to withstand a virtually non-stop deep-dive into his closet? Would Christie's record and reputation eventually catch up with him and burst his mythical bubble?
Welcome to Bridgegate. I think we might have our...
The fallout continues over Megyn Kelly's controversial "Santa and Jesus are white" declaration last week on her Fox News program "The Kelly File." Yet there's been no apology, only a terse defense of her statements as "tongue-in-cheek" while accusing her critics of having "knee-jerk" reactions and of "race-baiting."
Ya gotta love some conservatives. They make outrageous, offensive remarks and then when criticized for it they turn the tables and play the victim. Their logic is pretty convoluted: it's not the folks who actually make the racially insensitive comments who are the race-baiters, it's those who condemn them for it who are race-baiting:
"The fact that an offhand jest that I made during a segment about whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national firestorm says two things: race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country and Fox News and yours truly are big targets for many people."
She was referring to the Aisha Harris's piece in Slate last week suggesting that Santa Claus is not white and that he should actually be a penguin.
Kelly lashed out at her detractors, as have many readers of my blog last week on this subject, accusing liberals of having no sense of humor:
"Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this show but sometimes that is lost on the humorless."
Well Megyn, clearly we liberals have a different sense of humor than you conservatives. We find nothing funny about a white, blond Fox News anchor staring into a camera and unequivocally asserting to black children that Jesus and Santa Claus are white. The "humor" is lost on us. In fact, your comments were quite striking and absent the "jest" you cite. They were quite calculated and mean-spirited.
Kelly needs to apologize, just as she and other conservatives have demanded from countless liberals (Martin Bashir anyone??) who've made remarks they deem offensive.
To be sure, the Megyn Kelly Santa saga reminds us of something ugly and pervasive in our society today: that there's still a lot of white people around who vociferously defend other white people who believe everything white is right.
So yes Megyn, you're absolutely right about one thing: race is still an incredibly volatile issue in America. Aided in no small part by you and Fox...
The insanity on Fox News reached new heights this week during a three-minute debate on "The Kelly File" over a controversial piece in Slate by Aisha Harris, "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore," which also suggested that Kris Kringle become a penguin instead.
Host Megyn Kelly, visibly perturbed, stared into the camera and delivered a stinging declaration:
"For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids."
But wait, there's more. Cupping her hands to her mouth as if she was telling us a secret she semi-whispered: "Jesus was a white man too...I mean, he was an historical figure, that was a verifiable fact, as is Santa...I just want the kids watching to know that."
To this I say...thank you Megyn Kelly, for not just bringing this supremely important issue to the forefront of America's fair and balanced news network, but for establishing the facts, something for which you, your colleagues and your boss Roger Ailes pride yourselves on with great masturbatory fanfare. And as we all know, nothing says "verifiable facts" like "Fox News."
But then it gets even nuttier. Contemplating the penguin suggestion, an incredulous Kelly barked, "Ok, that's where she goes off the rails!"
Lending some scientific back-up was fellow Fox commentator Monica Crowley: "First of all, the penguin would never work, Megyn, because a penguin cannot lug all of those gifts around the world!"
That's right, Monica, only Santa can! But wait...we're talking about the same guy, right? The big old fat dude who toils for a year with a bunch of elves and then streaks through the sky in a reindeer-led sleigh while sliding down and back up chimneys to deliver presents to every Christian home in the world? That guy?
I hate to break this to ya Megyn, because clearly your love of the Kringlemeister runs deep, but Santa Claus is not real. He's a figment of our imagination and fantasy. Therefore, he can be whatever the heck we want him to be. Even a penguin.
But Kelly, so quick on her Caucasian feet, defended the status quo: "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change."
Yes it does, Megyn. Just because white people have concluded that Santa is white doesn't make it right, a fact or a status that's immune from change. It doesn't matter what he's 'always been.' I'm sure prior to 1865 there were a lot of white folks who said about slaves, "but they've always been slaves!"
To be sure, Kelly's Santa segment was great entertainment...even providing my all-time favorite Fox moment, which came at the end from Crowley: "You can't take facts and then change them to fit some sort of a political agenda." Talk about 'going off the...
There's a "War on Christmas" being waged. At least that's what Republicans would like us to believe. There's even a new book about it, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, written by that great arbiter of social injustice, Sarah Palin.
Palin writes: "Amidst the fragility of this politically correct era it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored."
She continues: "The war on Christmas is the tip of the spear in a larger battle to secularize our culture, and make true religious freedom a thing of America's past. The logical result of atheism, a result we have seen right in front of our eyes in one of the world's oldest and proudest nations, is severe moral decay."
Of course, Palin is widely known for her intellectual curiosity, her objectivity, her distaste for inflammatory rhetoric and her adherence to facts. So we must ask, is The Wasilla Wonder onto something here?
On this eve of 'Thanksgivukkah,' a rare Hallmark phenomenon that won't occur again for another 70,000 years, I thought I'd give my personal perspective of what it's like being a Jew, surrounded by millions of allegedly battle-scarred Christians, during the mythical war-torn month of December.
If there's a war on Christmas it's certainly news to me. I live in New York, a city with more Jews per square inch than anywhere in the world except Israel. Yet this time of year it might as well be Vatican City given the sheer volume of Christmas zeal and excess. There are Christmas tree stands everywhere. Wreaths. Tinsel. Bells. Christmas music. We're inundated with red and green. With people beaming "Merry Christmas!" Asking "what are you doing for Christmas?" And, "what did you get your kids for Christmas?"
It's rare to find blue and white, the colors of Hanukkah. Strain the eyes and you might find a small menorah somewhere. No one wanders the streets, the office, retail shops wishing strangers a "Happy Hanukkah!" Strangers don't ask me what I'm doing for Hanukkah, or what I'm getting the kids for Hanukkah. What's even worse than the relative obscurity of Hanukkah is the almost non-existence of Kwanzaa-related paraphernalia. It's all Christmas, all the time. If there's a "war on Christmas" taking place, it's the most lame war in the history of wars.
I dread this time of year. I dread it because I'm a Jew floating in a sea of religious insensitivity. I live in a country where many fight for school prayer, provided it's their religion's scripture. Where people fight to allow religious symbols in public spaces, provided the symbols belong to their chosen faith. Where people ask "what's wrong with retailers posting 'Merry Christmas' signs in their windows?" But can they imagine how Jews feel then? If Christians are uncomfortable with the generic "Happy Holidays," guess how Jews feel seeing the very non-secular "Merry Christmas" everywhere we turn. And this is New York I'm referring to. Imagine how Jews feel this time of year in remote places like Laurel, Mississippi. Or Bute, Montana. Or Amarillo, Texas.
To be perfectly honest, I love Christmas. Always have. Ever since I was a 10-year-old racing to my pal Phil's building to open his presents with him and his family. I do not hate or resent this beautiful holiday. What I resent is being told that, unless I want it incessantly crammed down my Jewish throat for 30+ days each year, that I'm waging a war against it. That because I want Christians to respect me and my beliefs it is somehow disrespectful, confrontational and offensive to pious folks like Palin.
To be sure, there are millions of Jews who secretly wish they could celebrate Christmas, and perhaps millions more who've actually crossed the line of assimilation to buy trees, "do their Christmas shopping" for their Jewish friends and family, and pretend for a few days that they're no different than the 99% of the rest of the world. They want to "belong."
And the truth is, Christmas is a much sexier holiday than Hanukkah. Gentiles have Santa Claus, Rudolph, trimmed trees and apple pie. We have a menorah, a dreidel and latkes. They have White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas. We have Shalom Sesame: Chanukah Special, Chanukah on Planet Matzoh Ball and Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights. They have the most celebrated holiday in the world, where an estimated $3-trillion is spent on shopping, and we have, well, our little Hanukkah.
So to my Christian friends, and especially to the war-weary Mama Grizzly up in Alaska, I assure you that no one wants to take away Christmas. And no one certainly is waging a war against it. Those of us who happen to be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist simply want you to enjoy your holiday merriment while accepting and respecting our chosen faith (or lack thereof) and realize that celebration this time of year comes in many colors, or perhaps no color at...
The notion that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a virtual shoe-in for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 is largely based on the belief that the GOP, heretofore hijacked by the radical Tea Party fringe, has swung so dangerously to the right,...
A public feud between sisters Liz and Mary Cheney which began last summer took a new confrontational turn over the weekend as Liz appeared on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace and restated her opposition to same-sex marriage.
Liz, who's moved from Virginia to Wyoming to run for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Michael B. Enzi, 69, in a campaign marred by controversy, divisiveness and accusations of carpet-bagging, while costing the Cheneys old-time friendships like that of former Sen. Alan Simpson, has not spoken with her sister, an avowed lesbian, in several months.
After viewing the Fox interview, both Mary and wife Heather Poe responded through social media to Liz's statement that same-sex marriage is "just an area where we disagree."
On Facebook Mary wrote: "Liz, this isn't just an issue on which we disagree... you're just wrong... and on the wrong side of history."
And then Poe posted: "I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protecting one but not the other. Yes Liz, in 15 states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law."
Liz responded in an email to reporters: "I love my sister and her family and always try to be compassionate towards that. I believe that is the Christian way to behave."
That is of course if by "Christian way" she's referring to denying someone the freedom of choice and the right to love and marry whomever they wish.
Liz is reportedly angry that Mary's publicly aired their dirty laundry, charging her with hypocrisy because she had supported the reelection campaign of George W. Bush, who opposed gay marriage and supported a constitutional amendment banning it.
But Mary Cheney is smart. She's taking a heated, emotional family rift which her sister wishes would remain private and thrusting it squarely into the nation's consciousness. She's casting a critical light on the narrow-mindedness, ignorance and intolerance that fuels that fight against same-sex marriage, forcing Liz to slam her homophobic stake into the ground, telling her 'You've made your bed now sleep in it.' And at the risk of derailing Liz's already-contentious Senate campaign, she's forcing her sister to woman-up to her public Tea Party pandering while suggesting her private views are much more liberal.
One can't help feel some measure of satisfaction in watching the Cheneys eat their own. To paraphrase Mary, this is a staunchly conservative family that many believe has been on the "wrong side of history" more than once. It is a family whose positions, for the most part, at their core deny Americans the kind of personal freedoms that Mary now fights for.
But Mary is in some way complicit in this war against gay rights and must take some responsibility for the homophobia that persists among conservatives. Mary's past support of people like Bush, who seek to legislate against her personal and sexual freedom, is indeed hypocritical. She did not have to help the anti-gay crowd gain even more power and influence. Other political scions like Ron Reagan Jr. have broken ranks with their conservative families rather than engage in such moral dishonesty.
To be sure, the Cheneys are now experiencing what millions of average American families continue to experience in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Maybe "The Real Cheneys of Wyoming" family drama is a lesson to be learned not just for them, but for the millions of Republicans who wish to keep America stuck in the 1950's. What goes around comes...
Imagine you're sitting at New York's JFK airport waiting for a flight. An announcement comes over the PA system that the local air-traffic control system is down and will be shut for days. Your flight has been canceled, as have thousands of flights in and out of New York. This system failure causes tremendous anger, frustration and inconvenience. As such, there's an immediate campaign by special interest groups (Amtrak, for example) to indefinitely delay U.S. air travel or even stop flying altogether. They claim that flying is no longer safe. That it's destroying America's transportation system, and perhaps even America itself. Well, this irrational scenario is exactly what's playing out with President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
A colossal glitch in the Healthcare.gov website has undermined the the October 1 roll-out, causing major embarrassment for the president over his signature health care law. Couple that with a provision in the law itself that's likely to result in millions of individually insured Americans (approximately 5% of total insureds) receiving cancellation notices from their providers--despite Obama's repeated, unequivocal promise that "if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance, period, no matter what,"--along with microscopic enrollment to-date, and you have the humiliating debacle of the past six weeks.
To be sure, the launch of ACA has been an utter public relations nightmare for Obama, who valiantly fought for years for its passage through Congress, its Supreme Court ratification, and its re-affirmation in the 2012 election. But make no mistake, there's no one to blame for ACA's current problems but Obama. From the start he failed miserably to successfully sell it to the American public, which is why a majority say they disapprove of it despite the overwhelming benefits they'll receive. He's allowed Republicans to frame the debate, portraying the law in the most negative light imaginable with incendiary partisan rhetoric. While Americans, the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle acknowledged the problems, it took weeks for Obama to issue an apology, but it was too little too late. The genie was already out of the bottle and it's hard to imagine how he can get it back in given that a majority of Americans now question his honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. A new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama's disapproval rating at 54%, matching the highs of former President George Bush.
And now six weeks after the roll-out several leading Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Bill Clinton, are calling for a fix. Clinton this week urged Obama to "honor his commitment" by amending ACA to allow people to keep their health plans. The chorus of disenchantment is growing bigger and louder with each passing day.
But before we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water we must keep perspective and not let these relatively minor, fixable flaws overshadow the overall value of ACA, a law that's designed to benefit and protect 95% of Americans. In no way should we mitigate or lessen the short-term challenges and hardships faced by millions of Americans who have received insurance cancellations. But understanding ACA in its greater context is critical in the long-term. Like Social Security, Medicare and Bush's prescription drug plan, ACA will surely experience some birthing problems and growing pains, but over time Republicans will be proven dead wrong about its ability to provide expanded, improved and affordable health care for tens of millions of people currently without coverage, as well as enhance the coverage of those presently insured. It's just a shame that Obama has allowed and enabled right-wing obstructionists, whose only goal is to kill their hated "Obamacare" and replace it with nothing, to create the narrative of total...
The Affordable Care Act: it's been legislated into law by both houses of Congress, adjudicated by the Supreme Court, reaffirmed in the 2012 presidential election, and once again in Tuesday's election results. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who's taken federal Medicaid expansion money, won big. Terry McAuliffe, an ACA supporter, won in mostly red Virginia over Tea Party extremist Ken Cuccinelli. Down in Alabama, mainstream conservative Bradley Byrne defeated the Tea Party's Dean Young.
So what do these results say to the "repeal" crowd of right-wing loons who claimed, as Cuccinelli had boldly declared, that Tuesday's contests would be a referendum on the health care law they derisively refer to as Obamacare? The message is clear: they are without question not only out of step with a majority of Americans but, to more critical consequence, losing the battle within the Republican Party itself. Conservatives are committing political suicide, and these these narrow-minded, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-science, anti-education, anti-health care, anti-women, race-baiting, religious zealots are the Kevorkians, injecting a lethal dose of insanity into the establishment.
To be sure, the Republican brand has taken a beating these past few years, and risks dying altogether if the party's leaders cannot wrest back the reins from the irrational, out-of-control extremists within its ranks who've hijacked the GOP bus and recklessly driven it off a cliff. If not, Irrelevance and Obsolescence will become the party's new bumper-sticker.
As for the Obama-hugging Christie, who continues to thumb his nose at the crazies in his purview, I can hardly wait to see him at the 2016 debates squaring off against what is sure to be a crop of deranged...
No one's ever accused me of being a patsy for the Republican Party. To the contrary, I've been a staunch supporter of President Obama, Democrats and the liberal agenda. I've also loudly, vociferously and consistently criticized the GOP for driving a wedge into our political system with its self-serving, obstructionist tactics. But what I've been witnessing and personally experiencing this week regarding the Affordable Care Act controversy has me wondering if, in the end, liberals are no better than their conservative counterparts.
Talk to a passionate Democrat and they'll more than likely offer you this lofty opinion of themselves: "We're the smart ones. The rational and logical ones. The ones who care about others. We're better than they are." But are they? Perhaps Washington is broken not just because of Republicans, but because of Democrats as well. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango... and liberals have been dancin' up a storm this week.
The liberal spin on the ACA mess is astounding, and mirrors the typical partisan tactics of the GOP. Let's start with how Democrats are giving Obama an inexplicable total pass on the bold, unequivocal promises he's made repeatedly about ACA:
"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
"And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn't happened yet. It won't happen in the future."
Pretty clear, right? "Period...period...no matter what." Yet the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 10-million Americans will be forced into policy cancellations by their current providers (because their current coverage doesn't meet the new ACA standards) and have to buy new, possibly more expensive policies from these same insurers or from the ACA exchanges. So are liberals--who'd typically be outraged by this kind of blatant lie, misrepresentation or incompetence from a Republican--demonstrating outrage and demanding accountability? No. Instead, they're spinning like mad. Like Republicans. They claim that the new insurance will be better. Maybe so. But that still doesn't mitigate or excuse "Period...period...no matter what."
Then there's the condescending spin that these existing policies are nothing more than "substandard, worthless plans." Again, maybe so. But Obama never said "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan -- if we deem it to be adequate."
Perhaps the most egregious spin of all is this one: "Obama said if you like the plan you have you can keep it. He did not say if you like the plan you have they will keep you!" Really? This is the most fascinating parsing of words since the Bill Clinton days of "depends on what the definition of "is" is."
Self-righteous liberals now find themselves condescendingly lecturing people that they're too stupid to know that their current policies are dreadful and worthy of termination, and that they should in effect be thankful that these smarter liberals are forcing new, more expensive policies on them. To see liberals stoop to the same shameful, disingenuous spin levels of Republicans is quite disheartening.
It's been a rough week for ACA, Obama, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and with good reason. Within the administration's ranks, the media, at Congressional hearings and on Main Street they've been skewering on the hot seat and have been forced to profusely apologize for the health care law's botched roll-out. Yet so many liberals are holding firm in their belief that ACA is perfect and wildly beneficial while summarily dismissing the opinions and experiences of others who may be negatively impacted by it. That makes them no better than the myopic, fanatical Tea Party "patriots" whom they loathe.
Yes, Washington is indeed broken, as so is the American electorate. People have become so angry, polarized and drunk on the party Kool-Aid that objectivity has all but disappeared. There's no middle ground anymore. No ability to appear or sound rational or logical. No right and wrong. Just red and blue.
To be sure, Obama could find the cure for cancer and most Republicans will criticize him for it while defending the overall merits of this dreaded disease. Similarly, Republicans could be 100% spot-on about something and most liberals will swiftly and summarily dismiss it simply because it comes from the right. It's become almost impossible to have an intelligent political conversation because most people can't objectively discuss a policy subject without injecting convoluted, hyperbolic partisan rhetoric.
These Republibs, as I call them, will practically call you a traitor if you don't toe the party line 100%. I had one old friend tell me yesterday that I "should vote Republican then" simply because I acknowledged ACA's flaws (despite being an ardent supporter of it) and suggested that Obama re-attempt a bi-partisan dialogue for the fix. Sadly, we live in a culture now where "compromise" and "objectivity" have become bad...
The Affordable Care Act was ushered in with hyperbolic partisan fanfare, along with a bold promise from President Obama than anyone currently holding insurance would be able to keep their coverage and doctors, and that health care premiums would decrease not increase. But as we now know from the past several weeks, the rollout of ACA has been nothing short of a disaster. This includes the botched launch of the HealthCare.gov website; the fact that millions of people are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies; that premiums are, in many cases, increasing appreciably; that hardly anyone has been able to sign up for coverage, including, and especially, the 7 million young people needed to make guaranteed coverage work; to the likelihood that the deadlines for the individual mandate will probably need to be extended.
To say ACA's problems have been an embarrassment for Obama is a colossal understatement. This is his signature law. He fought like an animal to have it legislated, adjudicated by the Supreme Court and affirmed in the 2012 presidential election against his opponent, Mitt Romney, who vociferously ran on its repeal. He then stood firm in the government shutdown showdown, sending House Republicans crawling back to their caucus room with their tails between their legs, their spirits broken and capitulating like the French army in WWII.
Obama now finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to deftly balance an appreciation for, and an acceptance of, his health care reform's flaws while maintaining an upbeat, optimistic and steadfast defense of its ultimate merits and value. The president now promises a full website fix by November 30, a deadline which, even if met, would still present serious challenges in meeting enrollment deadlines.
Republicans have been demanding that heads roll, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius' most notably on the chopping block. Putting aside partisan loyalties and/or bitterness, do they actually have a point here? Are they right about ACA after all? With new reports this week claiming that the administration knew years in advance that millions would be losing their coverage, is it time for Sebelius, and perhaps others, to finally go? And are we headed for another bloody Benghazi-like "What-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it" witch hunt? Is the GOP justified in pursuing an intensified investigation into the program's and the administration's failures?
Perhaps it's time for Obama to put his tail between his legs, admit monumental tactical and process failure, and attempt to start over with the full cooperation of both House and Senate Republicans. To be sure, ACA is not going away. It will become as bedrock an entitlement program as Social Security, Medicare and the Prescription Drug Plan. But at this point, and with each passing day, it's becoming abundantly clear that it needs an overhaul, and a bi-partisan one at that, if it's ever going to work...