The current crisis between Israel and Gaza has certainly stirred up a tornado of emotion and strong opinion worldwide, and has become a polarizing force among American Jews. Caught between their cultural identity and the horrific images of dead civilians, including children, it's easy to understand how many have become sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians.
To be sure, no one wants to see dead children. It's hard to support any military action that kills kids. But I think there's a critical perspective being lost in this war. And that is that it is war. War is horrific, brutal and ugly. Soldiers die. And war kills innocent people. Even children. Which is why governments typically go to war as an absolute last resort, when all other options have failed, because very, very bad things happen during war.
War is typically fought to the death. There are no gentlemanly courtesies afforded the enemy. They try to kill you, you strike back with deadly force as well. It's kill or be killed. It's not, "Hey...you're trying to kill me, but you're a lousy fighter with crappy weaponry so I'll just slap ya down a little and let ya live so you can keep on trying to kill me." Because one day, they might succeed. And then you're dead.
Which is precisely why I'm having a very hard time understanding how some of my fellow American Jews can be so supportive of Gaza and the militant group Hamas which governs it. How they can excuse the actions and atrocities caused by this genocidal Jihadi organization, whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and it's people?
Contrary to the rhetoric and radical Islamist propaganda surrounding the current conflict, the battle is not about Israel occupying Gaza (a more fact-base case can be made that it began in response to the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers from the West Bank). Israel withdrew from its occupation of Gaza in 2005 amid intense and violent protest by, and forced removal of, the area's 8500 settlers. Every building, with the exception of synagogues and greenhouses, was demolished. This painful struggle, pitting Israeli against Israeli, civilian against soldier, including daily images of troops dragging screaming and sobbing settlers out of their homes, was played out on television screens all over the world that controversial Summer.
And what did Israel get in return for handing over the region to the Palestinian Authority? Two years later Gaza's citizens went to the polls and in a "democratic" election gave control of the territory to Hamas. And we're now witnessing its colossal failure as a governing body. Rather than build schools, hospitals and mosques, it's been using these locations as launch pads for the thousands of rockets that have been fired towards Israel since their victory.
Hamas has also diverted critical funding and resources--concrete, for example--to build terror tunnels into Israel through which its militants can abduct and murder both soldiers and civilians. And its main defensive strategy is to cowardly use its citizens as human shields, while subsequently crying foul when those citizens get killed in return fire.
Let's be clear: Hamas's rockets have a very specific purpose: to kill Israelis. Not just Israeli soldiers, but innocent men, women and yes, children. And they're being fired to also cause destruction to Israel's cities, its infrastructure and its nuclear facilities. These are not warning flares that Hamas militants are firing towards Israel. They are deadly weapons launched with an intense, venomous hatred, and with a desire to kill and maim Jews.
Israel's critics charge that its aggressive response to the rocket attacks has been "disproportionate." They cite the death toll, which has almost 2000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza being killed, while just three Israeli civilians have died. But does the fact that most of these Hamas rockets have been shot out of the sky by Israeli's incredible Iron Dome air-defense system, before they do harm, mitigate their intent to blow innocent Israeli civilians into bloody pieces? Would the "score" not be much closer if Israel was less capable of defending itself?
Perhaps Israel's American Jewish critics could answer a few key questions: Should Israel be excoriated and condemned for having more sophisticated weapons, and for minimizing its civilian casualties as a result? Should Israel, because of its successful defense against these deadly rockets, not be firing back at the terrorists launching them because they're being launched from residential areas and schools? Should Israel be treating Hamas like a bunch of petulant teenagers incapable of causing real harm, or as the murderous terrorist organization it is, hellbent on its death and destruction? Must Jewish blood and body parts fill the streets of Israel's cities before its armchair critics in the U.S. and elsewhere can justify its aggressive response? Before American Jews can support such retaliation?
The pro-Gaza, hashtag-fueled cries from American Jews is misguided and, quite frankly, shameful. Whatever happened to "Never Again," the promise by Jews to never again let themselves fall victim to genocide? It's easy to sit in a Starbuck's on Manhattan's Upper West Side and spread social media gospel about how Israelis are "overreacting." I suppose 5600 miles gives one both a safe perch to preach from as well as a false sense of security. But just imagine how these same people would be acting if a bomb exploded on the #1 subway train. And another the next day, and then others in a mall, supermarket and cafe. I wonder if there'd be the same cries for restraint and "proportionate" retaliation.
American Jews seem to be forgetting the thousands of innocent Israelis that have been blown to pieces since 1948 in synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, on buses, in schools and elsewhere by Palestinian suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism. They're forgetting the horrific images of dead Israeli children being dragged lifeless from the rubble, who died a horrible death simply because they were Jews. How can they forget? This conflict did not start last month.
We must remind ourselves that without Jewish arrogance, naivete and complacency, the Nazis may not have been able to murder 6-million of our people seventy years ago. A failure to recognize the enemy's goal of ultimately exterminating their entire population helped lead Europe's Jews onto the trains and to the concentration camps without a fight. And, while the rest of the world did little to stop it either.
So against that historical backdrop of genocide, and with chilling acts of anti-Semitic vandalism and violence spreading across Europe once again, the message from Israel is clear: American Jews can think and say what they want, and be naive, complacent or pretend the enemy's sole reason for existence is not to brutally destroy theirs. But Israel vows...never again....
Thank you John Boehner. The nation truly appreciates you and your fellow House Republicans altruistically devoting your last moments in Congress, before a much-deserved 5 1/2 week vacation (hey, you try doing nothing for a whole year...it's exhausting!) to protecting healthcare. Despite obsessively voting fifty times and spending $70+ million of taxpayer money to repeal the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, you're on a mission to ensure that Americans receive every single benefit the insurance law intended. Bravo!
That's right. Republicans have sued the President of the United States. That's a pretty serious action. Must've been over something so egregious... something so detrimental to America's health and welfare... something that, if unchecked, could literally bring down our great nation. Guess again.
The lawsuit is over Obama's use of an executive order to delay for one-year the employer mandate provision of ACA, which requires business owners to provide health care for its employees. Forget Immigration, minimum wage or extended unemployment insurance. There's no time to waste on these pesky little issues when one aspect of Obamacare is at risk! Because no one wants to force businesses to provide health insurance to employees more than House Republicans, right?
Oh, those executive orders! Republicans hate them, especially when it's a Democrat who signs them. But for anyone keeping score, Obama's signed 183, far less than any president in modern history, especially Republicans. George W. Bush signed 291 of them. Bill Clinton 364. Ronald Reagan 381. And George H. W. Bush 166 (in four years). So why all the Republican concern about the Constitution all of a sudden? It's because the only one thing Republicans hate more than a Democratic president's use of executive orders is this president himself. No president has been more disrespected, or been the object of more vengeful scheming, than Obama.
To be sure, for Republicans, the lawsuit is not only baseless but meaningless. It will have no material impact on Obama's presidency, and its cost to taxpayers will ultimately seem small compared to the cost to the party come election day. But the real gain is to be had by Democrats, whose base is more energized than ever heading into November's critical midterms, while being handed on a silver platter a delicious boon to fundraising. They've raised millions since the suit's been filed... at a rate of about $1-million per...
Dear Mr. Speaker...
On behalf of Democrats everywhere, I would like to ask you to impeach President Obama. Please. I implore you. Nothing would make us happier. You know you want to. You know that merely suing him is not going to satisfy you and your rabid brethren. Impeachment is the only solution. So just go ahead and do it. You have our full and unyielding support!
And why are we so supportive? Because it'll be the nail in your political coffin. It will finally convince moderate Republican and independent voters that you're nothing but a worthless cabal of self-serving, tone-deaf, obsessed, manic, hateful, polarizing obstructionists. With your approval ratings swirling in the toilet, and your intransigence paralyzing Washington, impeachment would obliterate any shred of doubt that America's best interests are the last of your priorities. Not the economy, not jobs, minimum wage, immigration, education or the environment. Screw America. If only you guys worked half as hard at doing your job as you do at tearing down Obama...
He's Kenyan! He's an illegal alien! He's a socialist! He's a constitutional criminal! He must be stopped! You do realize how crazy you sound, right? And we love every convoluted, insane word of it.
We also support you in this mad quest because we know it will ultimately have no impact on Obama's presidency or the liberal agenda. To the contrary, it will empower him. Think of all the executive orders he'll use to push through his policies after he's impeached. He'll make you the laughingstock of Washington.
You might want to pay attention to history. What happened to the post-impeachment Bill Clinton? How did former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his merry band of revolutionaries, of which you were one, materially affect his presidency with their venomous lynching? Clinton emerged the victor from that shameful partisan witch hunt. He was acquitted by the Senate, became the most popular politician on the planet, and is still the guy who can charm the pants off folks on both sides of the aisle. And Newt? He was forced to step down as Speaker, left Congress shortly thereafter, and cost his party appreciable seats. And you lost your leadership post for the next decade.
Mr. Speaker, if you relish being this decade's Gingrich, and want to feel what it's like to suffer humiliating defeat again over an out-of-control obsession with destroying a Democratic president, we will gleefully watch as you drive the GOP crazy-car straight off the cliff and into utter irrelevance and...
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...