The Christie scandal

If you haven’t been following this, you should, it’s good stuff.  Nice summary from Drum.  (Very short version– really, really, stupid abuse of power by very high level staffers, if not Christie himself).  Anyway, I really liked John Dickerson’s take on this (if Christie handles this wrong, his presidential ambitions are done), and especially his conclusion:

As a political matter, if Christie handles the fallout with skill, you could see voters finding their way to a rationalization. Sure, he is a little messy, but that’s why he gets results! The truth of leadership is that you want a president who can be a bit of a bully. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says in his new memoir, President Obama and President Bush both had problems with Congress because neither was liked or feared. But that obviously only goes so far. We also don’t want presidents who abuse their power. The Fort Lee emails are a classic case of that. Christie was already a lock to win his 2013 re-election race and therefore didn’t really need the mayoral endorsement. If a top aide to the governor can waste public money in an act of petty vindictiveness, imagine what might happen with real power—power of the kind we have all been debating in the wake of disclosures about the NSA’s ability to monitor American citizens. On the other hand, if Christie hires staffers who were dumb enough to say this kind of thing on email, perhaps general competence is the bigger worry.  [emphasis mine]

Yep.  Pretty much anyway you look at it this reflects very poorly on Christie.  Can he recover?  Sure.  But honestly, it does give me serious pause about the idea of giving this guy the virtual unchecked foreign policy and national security power that comes with being president.

Photo of the day

This is pretty cool, a Wired photo gallery of photos taken on freezing (we’re talking -10 to -15 C) Latvian winter nights.  These are actually taken in the dead of night, but with 2-5 minute long exposures.  Very cool.

Alnis Stakle 

A libertarian evolves

Enjoyed this first-person account in Salon of a libertarian who became liberal.  Yeah, it’s basically just a liberal feel-good piece, but it’s good stuff:

I came by my own libertarian sensibilities honestly. I grew up in a mining town that produced gold, silver and copper; but above all, Battle Mountain, Nev. made libertarians. Raised on 40-acre square of brown sage brush and dead earth, we burned our own garbage and fired guns in the back yard.

After leaving my small town upbringing, I learned that libertarians are made for lots of reasons, like reading the bad fiction of Ayn Rand or perhaps the passable writing of Robert Heinlein. In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated. They were contortionists, justifying the excesses of the capitalist elite, despite being victims if libertarian politics succeed.

If you think that selfishness and cruelty are fantastic personal traits, you might be a libertarian. In the movement no one will ever call you an asshole, but rather, say you believe in radical individualism…

I began to think about real people, like my neighbors and people less lucky than me. Did I want those people to starve to death? I care about children, even poor ones. I love the National Park system. The best parts of the America I love are our communities. My libertarian friends might call me a fucking commie (they have) or a pussy, but extreme selfishness is just so isolating and cruel. Libertarianism is unnatural, and the size of the federal government is almost irrelevant. The real question is: what does society need and how do we pay for it?  [emphasis mine]

A month before the 2012 election, I changed my party affiliation to Democrat. I am a very late bloomer, that it took me so many decades to develop my own values. I was thirty-nine.

I don’t think regular Americans have any idea just how crazy libertarians can be. The only human corollary I can offer is unquestioning religious fervor, and hell yeah, I used to be a true believer. Libertarians think they own the word “freedom,” but it’s a word that often obfuscates more than enlightens. If you believe the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quote “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free,”  then libertarians live in a prison of their own ideology.

It’s John Edwards’ party

Nice piece by Peter Beinart tracing the current Democratic campaign themes to John Edwards 2004 presidential “Two Americas” campaign theme.  At this point, it’s easy to think of John Edwards as a sad and funny historical footnote, but interesting to see Beinart suggest he’s left a lasting impact and how Democrats think about and frame political issues:

Edwards, of course, was not the first national politician to decry the gap between rich and poor. As Garance Franke-Ruta noted last September, de Blasio’s “two cities” theme echoes Mario Cuomo’s 1984 Democratic convention keynote and, almost a century before that, William Jennings Bryan’s legendary “Cross of Gold” speech. But after Cuomo, the balance of power inside the Democratic Partyshifted toward New Democratic politicians like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Evan Bayh, and Chuck Robb and centrist strategists like Mark Penn and Bruce Reed, who generally avoided the language of class and instead focused on proving that Democrats could foster economic growth.

It was Edwards, during his 2004 presidential run, who returned the focus to inequality by flipping Clintonism on its head. In his 1992 campaign, Clinton had talked a lot about “rewarding work.” Democrats, he insisted, would help people who “played by the rules”—for instance, via an expanded earned income tax credit for the working poor—but they would stop coddling welfare recipients. In 2004, Edwards took that judgmental tone but redirected it. In his narrative, the people disrespecting work were not welfare mothers but trust funders, people who lived off their investments rather than the sweat of their brow…

From this new moralism—directed not against the undeserving poor but the undeserving rich—Edwards built the “Two Americas” theme that dominated his campaign…

Under pressure from Edwards, Obama in 2007 went to Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood to unveil a series of anti-poverty proposals and, in an anti-Edwards jab, declared that, “This kind of poverty is not an issue I just discovered for the purposes of a campaign. It is the cause that led me to a life of public service almost 25 years ago.” But neither poverty nor class unfairness enjoyed the prominence in Obama’s campaign that it did in Edwards’. Indeed, Obama never uttered the words “inequality” or “unequal” in his 2008 convention speech. And while Obama used Mitt Romney’s wealth against him in 2012, herarely discussed poverty on the stump.

Now, of course, in the wake of Occupy Wall Street, Elizabeth Warren, and Pope Francis, economic inequality has become motherhood and apple pie for Democrats.

Obviously, we cannot contribute this all to John Edwards, but I do think it is fair to say he got the ball rolling in a major way, and more importantly, substantially helped to re-cast the issue of inequality and class in ways that will continue to redound to the benefit of the Democratic party.

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