Mass Dems Ready to Cause Mischief for “Marsha” Coakley.

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On June 13th the DCU Center in Worcester, MA will host what state democrats know will be an uncomfortable couple of days. Delegates will assemble from across the Commonwealth ready to nominate the parties’ choice(s) for Governor and other high- ranking ballot slots. It’s always nice to have your party’s endorsement-especially when you’re the “establishment candidate” as is Martha (aka “Marsha”) Coakley.

The two term Attorney General who ran the worst U.S. Senate campaign in Massachusetts since before prohibition against Scott Brown in 2010, faces a real challenge at this years gaggle of her parties delegate faithful.

That challenge: Steve Grossman, the State Treasurer and Receiver General and former Democratic National Committee Chairman, who lags behind Coakley in the polls, but who just might be poised to deliver her campaign a painful blow from the delegates, with a possible chance to win the Party convention.

Grossman is a liberal’s liberal. So for democrats, that box gets checked and qualifies him among party activists as more than qualified for their endorsement for Governor. By all counts Grossman has done a respectable job as State Treasurer following the disastrous mess created by his predecessor Tim Cahill, restoring order and integrity to the office.

Grossman however suffers painfully from a lack of political “presence.” In fact he could use an immediate charisma transplant as he hardly lights up a room. He is drone-like and wonky, but ploddingly hard working. In fact, reports from across the Commonwealth indicate that wherever two or more Democrats are gathered, Steve Grossman is usually there too. Grossman’s courting of the true believers may result in a victory at the convention, and while it doesn’t mean much in the long run, it’s a punch in the gut to Coakley and her team who should have been able to stop this foolishness much sooner.

Coakley is cautious, deliberate, tempered and her nasal monotone turns the conventional 30 second sound bite into a seemingly endless mini-series as she outlines her positions on issues from LGBT rights to income inequality. She is “uninspiring” to put it kindly.

The other problem for the “let’s walk not run this race,” Coakley campaign is a genuine lack of enthusiasm starting with the candidate herself and spreading outward. Coakley apparently believes the nomination and the election is hers-a foregone conclusion.

That’s the same page from the playbook she used against Brown in the 2010 special election, which handed him the election. Her “act like you’re already governor” routine is nicely evidenced by her most recent campaign flap; parking in “no parking” zones and spaces reserved for the Boston Fire Department while she attends campaign fundraisers. Apparently, she doesn’t think anyone will notice – or care, or that they should. Adding fuel to the fire, Coakley has just agreed to repay nearly $11,000 in gas and mileage expenses to the Commonwealth from her 2010 Senate race – just a few years late. That leaves many of us wondering – will there be any interest repaid to the taxpayers? In campaign finance terms, this sure smells like as an interest-free campaign loan courtesy of the taxpayers. Oh and she will also owe us for the current campaign she’s running with a state supplied security detail and yes…more mileage expanses.

The convention however, will be a nice distraction- featuring left of left party activists wearing too many campaign stickers, bumper strips slapped across their collective sweaty brows, maybe even some of those ridiculous donkey ears… all whipped up into an over-caffeinated “yes we can!” lather. These state party conventions are after all silly gatherings no matter which party provides the open bar. But if Grossman wins the conventions’ endorsement, he wins credibility and credibility combined with his already noted hard work and the ability to write his own checks with multiple commas and zeros makes him a major thorn in Coakley’s side as she aims for the general election challenge of presumptive GOP nominee Charlie Baker.

And so it will go. The campaign will move forward, Coakley, Grossman, Don Berwick and Juliette Kayyem, the two others likely to qualify for ballot access, will fight a battle to see who can run further to the left and convince enough democrats that they are deserving of the nomination. The place will go crazy! The party will roar and somewhere Martha Coakley will be double parked in a fire lane.

Either way, for Martha…it will be a long, hot summer.

10 Reasons Scott Brown Wins the New Hampshire Senate Seat in 2014

The Right Place and the Right Time for GOP to Reclaim NH Senate Seat.

With former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown now officially in the race (well at least having formed an “Exploratory Committee) against Democrat incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, you can bet the Granite State senate challenge will go the length of the bar and out into the alley.  Many Democrats and even some extreme Republicans suggest that New Hampshire is the wrong state for Brown to be running.  On the contrary, it turns out Massachusetts was the wrong state for Brown, and New Hampshire is looking like precisely the right place, especially right now. 

Yes there is a primary and yes as expected the cadre of un-electable alternatives to Brown are all clucking that the establishment is ignoring them, that Brown is a “Massachusetts liberal” and that he is a “carpet bagging” import to the Granite State… blah, blah, blah. The sad part about these folks is not one of them could get 20% in a general election against Shaheen.  They are yesterday, Brown is tomorrow, which is why in the end Scott Brown will win the GOP nomination, and ultimately help the GOP take back the US Senate by defeating Shaheen. 

Here are 10 reasons why he wins:

1. Two Words: Barack Obama: With the presidents approval ratings barley hovering in the deadly 40% range, it is quite certain that Senator Shaheen will not be inviting him to campaign with her in New Hampshire any time soon. The president has become the albatross around the necks of democrat incumbents and Shaheen, like most, will likely disappear into the witness protection program if she even senses the president might attempt a fly-over of the state between now and Election Day. 

The line the GOP will use against Shaheen is predictable, but effective.  It will go something like this: “In a state that values liberty, independence and personal freedom, how could we ever believe Jeanne Shaheen will represent us independently when she’s voted 98% of the time with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama…we can do better.” Game, set, and match.

2. Two more words: Obama-Care: The Federal Healthcare Reform Act is as unpopular now as it was in 2010 when Brown defeated “Marsha” Coakley, the heir apparent to Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in deep blue Massachusetts. In fact it’s even a bigger problem for Democrats like Shaheen who supported it not just once, but again and again during the government shutdown.  Shaheen said NO to extending individual mandates, NO to ending an exemption for herself and other members of Congress from exclusion in the program and NO to any changes, tinkering or adjustments to the bill of any kind. Obama-Care is an abysmal failure and all those who supported it now say; let’s keep it and fix all the stuff that’s wrong with it that we already foisted upon you in the original bill.  Pretty weak call to arms when the GOP has said Obama-Care was a bad idea from the start when the Democrats rammed it through Congress. It was a bad idea then, and according to most public opinion polls it’s a worse idea now.  It’s especially problematic in New Hampshire where the state exchange has only 1 participating provider with huge areas of the state without coverage. Some New Hampshire citizens have to drive more than an hour to a physician or hospital for care. What’s more, thousands of Granite Stater’s were informed they would lose their health insurance coverage even though Shaheen and Obama promised, “If you like your doctor and you like your private insurance, you can keep it.” PolitiFact called that one “The lie of the year” and Shaheen has only just begun to feel the heat from GOP leaning independent groups who have and will continue to tag her as responsible for the Obama-Care mess. Republican’s like Brown say repeal it, and/or reform it fast!  Brown actually referred to it in his speech on Friday as “A big political wave is about to break in America and the Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side of that wave.” Here’s the unavoidable and troubling fact for the state’s senior senator: Shaheen is Obama-Care and Obama-Care is Shaheen. Game, Brown.

3. The “Carpetbagger Charge;” If not Shaheen, then one of the special interests supporting her will surely try the old carpetbagger charge.  Unfortunately even some of Brown’s GOP rivals have already attempted this desperate and undignified attack. I hope they keep doing it, as it is a license for disaster.  Do the Democrats and even some dim-witted Republican’s have any idea just how many Massachusetts residents have slipped across the border to live in New Hampshire to avoid the Bay State’s onerous sales and income taxes over the years?  A lot of voters can clearly relate to Brown’s move north.  In fact the only thing most Granite Stater’s might ask him? “What the Hell took you so long?”  Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton were never considered “carpetbaggers” when they moved to New York for the sole reason of running for the US Senate, why is Brown any different? This will blow-up in the collective faces of Brown’s opponents and be seen as insulting to a lot of New Hampshire residents who now thankfully call the state their adopted home.  Another note: Brown and his family have owned a second home here in New Hampshire for more than 30 years.  His mother lives here, as does his sister. Scott Brown was born at the Portsmouth Navel Shipyard and raised his family here summer after summer in Rye. Scott and Gail Brown have likely spent more time in New Hampshire over the last 5 years than Senator Shaheen has, given her near constant and meddlesome presence in Washington since being elected to the senate in 2008.

4. Retail Politics: Scott Brown’s Specialty; Brown is an incredible campaigner.  The guy’s a tri-athlete, an iron man, and in his past campaigns his energy and grit on the campaign trail was something to behold.  Here’s a guy who enjoys retail politics like few politicians I’ve ever seen. Given New Hampshire’s reasonably small geography he will likely be able to cover the entire state on many days 3 times or more!  Brown doesn’t walk through parades…he runs. New Hampshire likes it’s retail politics and Brown is a specialist in that department. Watch Senator Brown work a crowd, nobody does it better.  While Shaheen is timid, cautious and soft spoken, Brown relishes in the back and fourth of asking for and earning the vote.  Look for his green pick-up in your neighborhood…a lot! 

5. Independence/Independent: While Shaheen will be running from her dogmatic and near perfect Obama dictated voting record, Brown will be reminding Republican and Independent voters in the Granite State that he was never afraid to vote independently as the Senator from Massachusetts. It is a fact that the largest voting block in Libertarian leaning New Hampshire are Independents. (See “Live Free or Die” on every license plate in the state!) Brown will cite, and should that while he has a strong record of fiscal conservatism, he was also never afraid to stand up to his own party and vote independently when he thought it was the right thing to do.  This may hurt him a tad with some on the extreme right of the party, but at the end of the day they will not decide this election, swing voters will.  If ever there was a time for a little independence in Washington, now is that time. Advantage Brown.

6. In the Money: In 2012 Scott Brown raised and spent more than $35 million in his Massachusetts’s Senate campaign.  Not to mention all those dollars that found their way into The Bay State from outsiders who supported his candidacy.  In this department I’d call the New Hampshire Senate race in 2014 almost a draw… almost. Shaheen will have no problem raising money, and she will have no problem attracting lots of help from zaney billionaires like George Soros and other lefties from around the country. She is a prodigious fundraiser, but has she ever raised anywhere near $35 mill?  I’m thinking not.  Money, media and message are the keys to any successful campaign, but the thing that’s got Washington Dems and Team Shaheen in a tizzy right now?  They’re running against The $35 Million Dollar Man!  That keeps them up at night, and it should. Advantage Brown.

7. Shaheen’s Been Around: Multiple terms in the state senate, three terms as New Hampshire’s Governor and one term in the United States Senate.  You will not hear Jeanne Shaheen attempting to define herself as a fresh new face.  Incumbents are an endangered species in 2014, especially incumbents who can be painted as career politicians.  2014 is going to be a change election…advantage Brown!

8. The Environment: 2014 is shaping up to be a good environment for the GOP.  Obama’s stumbling and bumbling on both the domestic policy side (with a still skittish economy, burgeoning national debt and the fact that he and his cronies are spending our tax dollars faster than the boys over at Treasury can print them) and on the foreign policy side, looking weak and tepid as Vladimir Putin pushes us around is making Americans increasingly and understandably grumpy.  Fatigued by Obama and the shrill partisanship on both sides inside the beltway, Brown will have the wind at his back in a second term mid term election in which the party controlling the White House almost always loses seats. Advantage Brown!

9. The Elizabeth Warren Factor: You know what would be a great idea?  If Jeanne Shaheen understandably decides like every other democrat incumbent in America to avoid a photo-op with Obama. She might consider that bastion of common sense Lady Elizabeth Warren of Cambridge, to come stand with her in New Hampshire. Both are members of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Senate liberals. Both are women who have already broken that oft talked about “glass ceiling”. After all it was Lady Elizabeth who turned out and ultimately banished Sir Scott to the hinterlands of Granite!  That would be fun to watch.  Warren touting independence and common sense to a group of Granite State voters? It would be a lot like the Kardashian’s speaking out on the issue of “family values!”  Lady Warren may want to stay far away from the Granite Wood during this the springtime of Jeanne Shaheen’s discontent.  Maybe it would be better if Lady Elizabeth were to hold a nice Cambridge fundraiser with a respectable Brie and a good crisp California Chardonnay at her Harvard Square Manse-quietly helping Shaheen raise a few shekels from Boston, New York, and California crazies. Yes… a much better idea and far lower key approach…me thinks!
 
10. Brown’s fun:  Brown isn’t dower he’s downright indefatigable! He’ll be a hoot to cover, the press will have a blast with this campaign already making New Hampshire a national focus for the party to win back the senate.  Brown’s brand gets stronger not weaker.  If he runs like an alternative to the horrendous, partisan stamp for anything President Obama says and does and presents a powerful argument to the new kind of Republican he would be, he not only wins, Scott Brown becomes the logical and most marketable incarnation of electable Republican we’ve seen in a very long time.  That would make him the most important endorsement of the 2016 Presidential campaign on the GOP side from “First in the Nation” New Hampshire none-the-less! Even in the unlikely event that Brown falls short he’s already proven that there is still life on the other side of the US Senate.  A fact Senator Shaheen may very well soon discover for herself.
 
 
 

“Mitt”: The Movie Behind the Candidate

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Many choices in life are not easy.  Choosing sides for a pick up baseball game as a kid, choosing the perfect apple from a bowl full of brightly shined Macintosh, choosing the perfect Christmas Tree, choosing which team you wish to wager on for the Super Bowl…(well maybe not this year!) 

Choices have consequences and over the years I’ve been involved with promoting many brands and politicians, I have almost always found that American consumers are usually pretty good when it comes to the choices they endorse or the “stuff” that they choose buy.

Good products perceived to be a good value with redeeming qualities and benefits almost always succeed.  (Well there was our brief flirtation in the 70s with the Pet Rock, there’s the annoying ever-present Chia-Pet, and of course the Kardashian’s TV ratings for which we should all be held responsible as a consuming society.) But most of the time we vote with our dollars, our heads and our hearts for the products that will serve us best over time and which usually turn out to be a sound and wise consumer choice.  

Our homes, our cars, our investments, our TV viewing habits…

Every once in a while we consumers make a mistake.  The ads on TV always make things look bigger and better.  Everything on television is sexy, always working perfectly,  (even the amazing Salad Spinner from Ronco, not available in any store.)

We look at the facts as we see them, we listen to the pitches and carefully consider the products claims (does any car beside a Lamborghini really go from 0 to 60 in under 10 seconds?)  Often products on TV seem better than they are once we buy them.  Unless there is a no hassle money back guarantee, every once in awhile we get stuck with something less than we thought we were getting… like say, a president.

The other evening my wife and I watched the Netflix original documentary “Mitt” which chronicles a 6 year behind the scenes look at Governor Mitt Romney and his family as he pursued first the 2008 GOP nomination for president, and subsequently the 2012 campaign which ultimately resulted in his defeat to President Obama. 

The Mitt Romney we meet in this film is very different than the Mitt who ran for president, if for no other reason than he is seen as more dimensional, more complex and more human.  This is the Mitt Romney that everyone who knew him, knew him to be.  Incredibly dedicated to his family, his faith and doing the right thing for the country.  “Mitt” the movie provides an intimate look at what it’s like to run the marathon that is the modern day presidential campaign.  It also shows us retrospectively that Romney; the man, is a genuine, caring soul whose dedication to his wife, kids and what seem like “binders full” of adorable grandchildren, is truly an inspiring human being.

Allowing the film to be shot is one thing.  Allowing difficult moments to make the final cut and air for the entire world to see… that’s quite another. That’s exactly what the Romneys agreed to in allowing the filmmakers to release this movie.

Intimate moments with the candidate and his wife and family involved in strategy sessions that at first seem too revealing to be true, begin to make even the most cynical political type slowly realize that these people really are like this!  Mitt Romney turns out to be the husband, father and grandfather every man hopes he can be, but in comparison likely makes me us all feel just a little inadequate. “Mitt” is incredibly self deprecating, reassuring, comforting and confident, sometimes awkward, yet even at the most stressful times imaginable, (like before a nationally televised presidential debate) immensely human and incredibly likeable.

Romney himself is uncharacteristically unguarded, genuine and emotional.  He is at the same time forceful and determined when challenged by either Barack Obama or one of his five sons; all of whom can claim with proud accuracy to have one of the greatest fathers in America.

To see the Romneys kneel at Prayer in a budget hotel with the remnants of a drive thru dinner scattered around the place is quite something. For the solemn moment to be interrupted by the shrill chirping of Tagg Romney’s cell phone brings us back to the reality of the modern campaign.

To witness the grueling schedule, Mitt sleeping on the floor of the campaign plane, looking for a back stage bathroom, asking everyone and no one in the room: “This a bathroom back here?” before the first presidential debate in Denver.  Sitting quietly in that awful terrible place known in presidential campaign advance parlance as “the hold”-an unspecific purgatory of waiting for the cue to “move” allowing the candidate a precise (but seemingly spontaneous) entrance. It can be in an elevator, a car, a green room, or under the dusty bleachers of an Iowa high school gymnasium.

“Mitt” is an incredibly inspiring look at the candidate and more importantly the man who is Mitt Romney.  There’s the awkward nervous voyeurism of the candidates suite on election night in Boston when it becomes clear to Romney and his family that he has lost. The candidate anticipating the inevitable need for a concession call to Obama inquires: “Anyone got the president’s number?” “I didn’t think about that.”  “I have it,” says someone off camera.  Mitt smiles through what every viewer knows must be one of the most extraordinarily difficult and disappointing moments in his life. 

There are so many sides of Mitt Romney in this film surprisingly shared with the audience.  There’s Mitt the Compulsive with his almost Felix Unger like need for neatness and order, obsessively collecting trash from a hotel room balcony, grandkids playing at his feet.  There’s Mitt the Perfectionist, revealing how his advisors have coached him to accomplish multiple steps in answering each question during debates and lamenting about the fact that he needs to accomplish all of it in just 30 seconds.  “I’ve tried it, practiced it in my head…there’s no way to do all of that in 30 seconds!”

There’s Mitt the Dad who playfully takes a ribbing and more than his share of constructive advice from all 5 adult Romney sons… at once! He does so patiently and willingly.  (I have two sons and when they get going on me about something in unison I occasionally find myself begging for mercy!)

While Romney himself comes across as a gentle, capable, willful and all too human a guy, it is Ann Romney who steals the show.  She is clearly Mitt’s partner and biggest fan.  She is unafraid to offer her thoughts and does. She is constant witness as her husband withstands withering attacks on his character, success, record in office and positions on the issues. 

“The greatest performances,” John Barrymore once said, come from those actors who say it all without saying a word.  Ann Romney is not an actor, but she can say more with one look, the wipe of a single tear, one pained expression of exhaustion than is fathomable.

“The Flipping Mormon” is how Romney sums up what his opponents tried to define him in the 2008 primary campaign.  “If that’s who I am then I’m a flawed candidate” Romney laments.  His family and Ann say nothing… the moment is candid… once again awkward. 

Everyone should see “Mitt.”  Every candidate thinking about running for president, his or her wives and husbands, children and grandchildren.  In fact anyone considering running for just about anything in American politics today should watch this movie and learn.  Learn what to expect and learn what running and ultimately losing with grace, dignity and humility really look like. It’s enough to keep good guys, guys like Mitt Romney from running at all.

I wonder how many Americans who did not vote for Romney will see this film?  I wonder more that those who do-especially the ones who voted for Barack Obama, or didn’t vote at all, feel about the elections outcome?  Are they satisfied with their choice?  Did they get the best deal?  The right product?  Do they have buyer’s remorse?  After all, there is no money back guarantee in presidential elections.

The election of 2012 was a choice and the American people got to choose.  Good products, the ones with the best-perceived value, the ones that benefit the consumer almost always are successful.  American consumers usually get it right.   But in 2012 “Mitt” proves, that every once in a while…we get it wrong, very very wrong.

“Caveat Emptor!” as the Latin phrase goes…

“Let the buyer beware!”

A Memorandum to Annie Kuster…

Memo To: US Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH)

 

From: “The Middle East”

 

Subject: Directions, Clarification

 

We understand that you recently ran into a bit of a snafu regarding the region of the world collectively known as the “Middle East”.  We understand that it can be a little hard to keep track of us these days as you are no doubt a very busy member of Congress and frankly we have a lot going on here.

We also understand that, like a number of Democrats, foreign policy might not be your thing.  While we all have some significant differences over ere, we agree on the fact that President Obama seems a tad confused regarding our challenges as well. So it’s completely understandable that you might lose track of a small and relatively insignificant country like Libya, much less a small specific location within that country known as Benghazi.

For your future edification, as far as we know Libya has paid this year’s dues and they are still members in good standing of the Middle East fraternity over here. They are loud, angry and a bit of “hot spot”  as we assume most Americans would remember. Again, no problem forgetting that they are in fact a part of the Middle East-all of this is so complicated.

In any event we just wanted to clear this up. You may want to look a little further into Libya-especially Benghazi, because as you may not be aware there was a terrible tragedy there not long ago in which Al-Qaeda affiliated extremists (who hate America) murdered four Americans in an attack on your embassy. One of those murdered was a United States Ambassador – maybe you haven’t heard.

It’s very strange, but there’s a lot of talk about us over there in your country, especially given the fact that the US has been involved in several wars around here of late and that a number of crazy people here don’t really like the US, have attacked or attempted to attack your country and US interests abroad repeatedly and some have even called for the annihilation of your closest ally, Israel (which, for the record is also considered part of the Middle East).

This whole Benghazi thing could be a real problem for you, Congresswoman, and for your party.  You may want to encourage President Obama and your good friend Hillary Clinton to look a little more deeply at this particular "Middle East" problem as elections are just around the corner.. Just a suggestion, as we realize you have a lot to keep track of and it’s easy for important things like Benghazi and the exact location of the Middle East to slip your mind. No worries.

We know you’ve visited the region before, and we hope you will have a chance to visit us again. Tourism here is not what it once was, so anything you can do to help us boost the number of non-military visitors would be most appreciated.  We hope this advisory is helpful and wish you a happy holiday season and a special note of thanks for keeping us front and center on the world stage-especially now that you have a clearer sense of who we are and more importantly where we are.  Hope Santa brings you Geo-Safari for Christmas.

 

Respectfully, 

The Middle East

 

P.S. Speaking of things that could slip your mind, as a courtesy we wanted to remind you that property taxes in your state are due early next year. I know paying taxes has slipped your mind in the past-just hoping you can put a yellow sticky note on your “Ready for Hillary” poster so you don’t forget…again.

Bob Smith: Genuine, Principled, Decent … and exactly the wrong guy to be challenging Jeanne Shaheen!

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Former US Senator Bob Smith is one of the nicest, most honest and decent guys I’ve ever worked for in politics.  He’s about as unpretentious as anyone with his resume could be (3 terms in the US House and 2 terms in the US Senate). No matter what anyone thinks of Bob Smith’s politics he has always said what he means, said it from the heart and worked hard to serve his constituents here in NH.  A former Wolfeboro school teacher and small business owner, Smith was that very rare and quintessential everyman who went to Washington, much like the other Mr. Smith (Jimmy Stewart) portrayed so well on the big screen.

Of course, like the rest of us, I know Senator Smith could certainly recite his own career missteps chapter and verse: his brief Presidential run, his very public switch from Republican to Independent, and then back again. He has a history of very strong opposition to abortion rights, gay rights (certainly gay marriage) and of course some famous concerns about NASA’s use of monkeys in space and the treatment of circus elephants and his attempts to protect the young Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez, who by this time might be a card-carrying member of  AARP. And then there was that questionable endorsement of John Kerry (which Smith has in fact admitted was a mistake). Nobody’s perfect.

But Bob Smith was also a fierce advocate for our veterans, having himself served in Vietnam.  He was a consistent supporter of lowering taxes, and cutting the size of the ever-growing federal bureaucracy. He took plenty of flak for some of his positions, and that was fine with him. It’s a shame he could not simply let his record and his history of service to New Hampshire serve as his legacy.

 

Unfortunately Senator Smith has chosen not to leave well enough alone, as he announced this week that he will be a candidate for US Senate challenging Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and joining a small and so-far unimpressive cadre of GOP candidates, each of whom has not a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting to Washington.  The current field of Smith, radio talk show host Karen Testerman and former State Senator Jim Rubens represent the most pathetic attempt to unseat the well-established Shaheen that the GOP could have possibly conjured up!  Unlike Smith, these other would-be “challengers” have little or nothing to lose.  Smith on the other hand is inviting nothing but trouble.  

At 72 he may still have the stamina to run a statewide race, but does Bob Smith have any idea of how a contemporary campaign works?  His biggest problem…money.  He will need to raise around 10 million to even begin to compete against Shaheen’s war chest, which is growing by the day. Smith announced this week that he already has $50k in pledges, which puts him only $9,950,000 off the pace! No doubt Senator Smith will be a hit with neo-cons and Tea Party types who will be attracted to his smaller government, anti-tax, pro-second amendment positions, but what the Senator may fail to understand is that running in today’s New Hampshire is very different from running in the state in 1996, when he narrowly beat former Democratic congressman Dick Swett by just 3%.  The race was so close that a number of networks called the race for Swett early, only to retract their proclamations moments later due to what they later cited as faulty exit polling.  On air ABC’s venerable Sam Donaldson said that “he would have to eat some crow” in his prediction that Smith was clearly doomed during the network’s election night coverage.  (Kudos to Donaldson for showing up in Washington following Smith’s swearing-in with a toy stuffed crow, which he good-naturedly presented to the senator).

The other problem for Senator Smith this time around is that building a coalition to win a general election here in New Hampshire is no small task for any Republican.  Our goal as a party must be to expand our appeal and to invite new voters into our party – not drive them away.  Ronald Reagan’s great line that: “The fellow who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy” is a cardinal rule the GOP must adopt yesterday if we ever expect to win in elective politics again.  But when politicians begin to attempt to legislate morality, limit personal freedoms, and alienate those who might disagree on some things, they run the risk of never being able to win the right to govern.

Bob Smith’s positions are well-known and long-held. His voting record in the Senate along with his personal proclamations over the years have cemented his credentials as a far right of center conservative, notably on the issue of abortion. But Roe v Wade was decided long ago.  As Republicans, we should be for fewer abortions, but at the end of the day if we fight to keep the government out of our wallets and businesses, how can we also argue that the government is welcome in the most personal and intimate decisions people could make?   This is the worst kind of hypocrisy and it is anything but conservative.  Most people have made up their minds regarding issues of social, moral and personal freedom.  America has moved on. So too by the way has Pope Francis who has very publicly questioned even the church’s fixation on the judgment of our fellow men and women based on the issues of abortion and gay rights.

Bob Smith is no doubt a decent and honorable man.  Truth be told, after working on several of his races as a media consultant, I chose to leave his employ to assist my friend and next door neighbor (at the time) John E. Sununu in his Senatorial campaign which effectively denied Smith a primary victory, and ended Smith’s political career (or so we thought).

Although I still like Bob Smith personally, he is not the candidate of today’s GOP.  He is not the candidate who can unite Tea Party conservatives, social moderates, libertarians, women, young voters or even seniors.  Bob Smith was the right conservative candidate when he was in the Senate, but his relevance and his ability to take it to Shaheen in a general election is not going to be even a close fight.  For the good of the party, let us hope that the field is not yet final.  Let us also hope that Senator Bob Smith will begin this campaign in earnest and realize quickly that the world has changed since he left politics, and so too has NH. And maybe the Senator will come to his senses and abandon this folly before the snow melts

Will Hillary Clinton be facing an “entitlement reform” challenge from Elizabeth Warren in 2016?

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The party of Jefferson traditionally turns its collective nose up at the idea that any candidate is entitled to their party’s nomination. Find them a young, brash first-term senator, an obscure governor or a cultural phenom whose sudden rise from obscurity to rock-stardom moves at the speed of light, and they will take that candidate any day.  Democrats like new and fresh.  They are attracted to bright, shiny objects, and don’t mind casting relative unknowns into the “role of a lifetime” – to be turned almost overnight into the potential leader of the free world.  That’s just the way the party does it - the newer, the better. New faces which aren’t fully defined draw the big Democratic money, attention and eventual delegates.

 

Enter Hillary Rodham Clinton, with all the history, prestige and closeted skeletons that name carries.  She is like the Hostess Twinkies of today’s Democratic Party.  One minute old, stale, and nearly bankrupt – the next, on top of the world.  Her brand is so packed with preservatives it seems to be able to survive any scandal, even the threat of nuclear war. The name Clinton has been uniquely defined by drama, dysfunction and chaos but has always somehow managed to retain its credibility and brand appeal.  And like the snack cake recently pulled from supermarket shelves, the Hillary brand itself was temporarily shut down, only to come back with fresh capital, slightly new packaging and a new generation of ready consumers.

 

Hillary has been re-packaged, her narrative re-worked and her brand re-polished.  The supposedly predetermined heir apparent to the Democratic Party’s 2008 nomination fell from grace at the hands of Barack Obama and was put on an abandoned shelf like those Twinkies, well past their sell-by date.  Cast aside, shamed and forgotten after she finally conceded the nomination (HER nomination) to Obama. She became a good soldier, endorsing the nominee and ultimately serving in his administration as Secretary of State.  

 

This is not a new role for Hillary Clinton.  Her brand has been banged up again and again.  After Monica Lewinsky she became the scorned but good wife, who quietly stood by and supported her husband.  She carried on after Jennifer Flowers, Whitewater and Trooper-Gate.  She continued to look forward throughout all the trials of her personal and professional life, through the commodities scandal, the Rose Law firm ordeal and even the tragic suicide of her friend and longtime Clinton adviser Vince Foster.  Stiff upper lip, eyes always on the prize, Hillary would not be minimized, or made irrelevant by anyone or anything.  Hillary has picked herself up after each personal or political blow like few politicians ever could.  When they trashed and rejected “Hillary-Care,” she moved on; when her husband appeared to be badly politically damaged after the 1994 mid-term elections, in which the GOP took back the House and Senate, she simply redoubled her efforts.  Steely, strong and remembering - the Clintons always remember.

 

Even the events in Benghazi were just a brief distraction to Hillary’s rebranding effort.  ”What difference does it really make?” Hillary asked a joint oversight committee investigating the tragedy. This was Obama’s problem, not Hillary’s.

Now she is back.  

 

With 2016 in her sights, the gateway and beta test site for her eventual campaign will come in the 2014 mid-term contests, especially in the many early primary states where she is again ready for her close-up. A political comeback in the making few could have predicted just a few years ago, a second chance at the prize once denied her by Obama, the first African American in history to become president.  Hillary was now prepared to break the tallest of glass ceilings.  It surely must now be time for the Democrats to make her the first woman president.  The stars are aligned – and who else but Hillary?

 

Not so fast.

 

Let’s be clear - Hillary Clinton, mega-brand that she is, is not from the progressive Obama wing of the Democratic Party. Much like her husband, she is perceived within the party structure to be more of an old Dem, a moderate, a little too business friendly, not quite as “progressive” as her former boss.  And the energy of the Democratic Party is firmly in the progressive camp.

 

Joe Biden may have been simply been passed over, perceived as too looney to be taken seriously as a man to succeed Obama.

 

There is talk of Martin O’Malley the young, popular governor of Maryland (“a lightweight,” an “unknown” say the Hillarybots). Andrew Cuomo, the headline grabbing governor of New York, comes from a famous family and a state where Dems mint big money (“skeletons, Mario?” say the Clintonistas). But these are not really threats, not even distractions, just young opportunists and old hangers-on, political ladder climbers wanting to keep themselves in the limelight.  

 

However there could be one credible threat to Hillary Clinton coming from a new place, from someone who unlike Hillary is relatively new to elected politics.  And wouldn’t you know it, it’s another woman!  For Hillary there has always been “another woman!”

 

In this case the woman is Elizabeth Warren, the newly minted US Senator from Massachusetts who unceremoniously defeated Republican Scott Brown in the bluest of blue states to take back Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and return it to the left where she believes it belongs.  Warren is a Harvard Professor who ideologically makes Hillary Clinton look like Barry Goldwater in drag.  She is farther to the left of even Obama on most issues and her narrative makes a big deal out of her time as a consumer advocate who spent much of her time dueling with evil bankers and venture capitalists.

 

Warren is not like those old, expired Twinkies.  She is shiny and interesting.  She is loved by the lefty intellectuals who swoon at her “protect the little guy” mantra.  And Warren’s baggage is light as a feather compared to all the drama surrounding Hillary Clinton.  Warren is tomorrow, Hillary is yesterday.  Warren is on the side of the little guy, Hillary is the ultimate insider, the consummate pol, the tired drama queen whose list of scandals is long and whose enemies list is even longer.

 

The Clinton machine and its “Ready for Hillary” t-shirts are stocked and ready to ship.  Like those Twinkies once again hitting store shelves, Hillary is stepping out, carefully reintroducing herself.  But the potential challenge from the other woman, one who runs from the left and whose sell-by date is far fresher than Hillary’s, could cause real problems for the Democratic frontrunner.  Keep your eyes on Senator Warren as the one obstacle that very well could stand between Hillary Clinton and her ongoing quest for the nomination. The Democratic Party doesn’t usually like to talk about entitlements, but in the race for 2016 Hillary Clinton may run into a different kind of “entitlement reform” – a party that has always believed no one is ever “entitled” to their nomination.

 

The expectations are high, way too high and tamping them down is a full time job for Team Hillary.  She is the frontrunner in the early primary state polling, but it is way too early to matter, nearly 3 years before the actual primary.  Sustaining her front-runner status will be like defying gravity.  The question of her candidacy has already taken much of the attention away from President Obama’s second term, with so many eyes in Washington looking past the President’s uphill legislative battles and more toward his likely successor.

 

 

Will Democrats fall into line for Hillary, as she waltzes back into the national spotlight like she owns the place? Will the party’s new faces provide enough energy to mount any real challenge? Only time will tell, but for Hillary Clinton the 2016 race to the nomination ain’t over till it’s over, and this one hasn’t even begun.

And so begins the long road to 2016…

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On Sunday the GOP faithful flocked to the campus of Iowa State University in Ames. The Family Leadership  Summit (organized by the same people who not too long ago encouraged candidates to sign a pledge with a line suggesting that black children were better off during slavery) paid homage to the GOP’s conservative base with a series of “speech-a-fying” and testimony from the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, sweater vest pioneer and former Senator/presidential candidate Rick Santorum - even Donald Trump, who reminds me of that famous country song “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away.” If anyone thinks “The Donald” is seriously thinking about running for President again this time, they need only read his quote calling the US a “laughingstock” and sooner or later they will realize he’s just trying to squeeze one more season of “Celebrity Apprentice” out of NBC or possibly pushing for a contract endorsement from The Hair Club for Men.

 

Cruz railed against the very Washington he is currently a part of.  Santorum suggested that he trusted the people of Iowa to do the right thing in 2016, saying they would have the chance to do “do what no other state has the opportunity to do, which is to know the candidates.”  My assumption is the Senator was referring to the 2016 Iowa caucuses in which he is planning on taking part.  He conveniently must have forgotten about compressed primary and caucus schedules in a number of other states including New Hampshire. I’m sure he’ll remember us once he comes a callin’!

 

Santorum made the case that the party should be more aware not just of the people who create jobs (see Mitt Romney 2012), but also of the people who hold the jobs. My assumption would be that he was referring to the middle class, if he hadn’t so often asserted that the middle class does not in fact exist.

 

Cruz railed against immigration as did Trump, who suggested that we can’t have illegals “flowing in like candy”…candy?  Am I the only one that finds this an awkward metaphor?

 

The first look at these early Iowa visitors as well the likes of Rand “Drones Overhead” Paul, Steve “Cantaloupes” King and others who have found their way to the Granite State for some early exploration gives me a bit of a chill.  

 

Everyone knows that Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee for 2016. And the GOP better find a dog that can hunt in states with a whole lot more delegates than Iowa.  Robert Frost once said: “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”  In other words those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.  Looks to me like no one in the GOP is listening-at least so far.

One of the guys who recently returned from that long tough road was the last cycle’s GOP nominee, Mitt Romney.  The vanquished party standard-bearer who was defeated by President Obama in 2012 appeared last week at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire GOP at a supporter’s Wolfeboro home, just a nine iron from his own family’s summer retreat on New Hampshire’s Big Lake.

 

Romney was greeted by a significant crowd of supporters, friends and Republican stalwarts. The event was closed to the media, but Romney’s staff cleverly released the governor’s prepared remarks to members of the press in order that they might convey his thinking beyond the crowd that gathered that summer evening.

 

Romney suggested that the GOP get its collective act together as we move toward what may just be the coronation of “Hillary the Great” (my words, not his.)  The advice was based on the fact that crowded primaries full of lunatics throwing bombs at their own is not good box office and - as witnessed by his own defeat - not good for winning back the White House.  Mitt suggested that the party “get behind 1 or 2 candidates” who can win the nomination and stand up to the Democratic nominee in a general election contest.  He suggested that inter-party warfare was divisive, expensive and turns off voters.  He also suggested in his own way that the GOP needs to figure out what it wants to be when and if it grows up (again, my words not his.)

 

Romney’s been down the long road that leads to the GOP nomination.  Battered and bruised, inventing and re-inventing himself along the way.  The Mitt Romney who made it to Election Day must not have recognized his own face in the mirror when he shaved each morning. Over the long course of the campaign Romney had shifted positions and been pushed so far to the right I feared he might turn up on the left. He found himself caught on video tape talking about 47% of Americans who would never vote for him because they depended too much on government and that he couldn’t worry about them.  Mitt Romney is by any standard, a loving husband, father, grandfather, and American success story but at the end of the race he looked like a completely different guy.

 

Barack Obama and his team of political advisors had turned Mitt Romney into a selfish out of touch billionaire who hated women, kids and welfare recipients and cared little about humanity in general.  Romney was made to look like the Darth Vader of American Politics, in spite of the fact that he is in reality much more Luke Skywalker.

 

America bought the tale and Romney came limping back down that long road Frost wrote about, now ready to share the story he somehow lived to tell.  Romney’s a smart guy and I certainly believe America would have been served better and slept sounder each and every night if he had become president.

 

But based on the kabuki dance this past weekend in Iowa, it looks like none of the likely GOP contenders in 2016 are listening to Romney’s advice, or anyone else’s for that matter.

 

Winning elections is about broadening the GOP’s appeal-not trying to convince the right wing of the party that moderates who disagree with them are “squishes” and should have their party credentials revoked. To suggest that Romney lost because he was too moderate is (as Joe Biden would say) the highest form of “malarkey!”

 

The GOP needs to hold the base and adopt an economic agenda that will recharge the American economy and put people back to work in the private sector.  The GOP of smaller, local government, less interference from Washington, less debt and more opportunity for the next generation sells.  What does not sell is applying a different standard to the idea that a political party - especially one that celebrates both freedom of religion and personal responsibility - can universally legislate morality.  It’s a loser… it pushes Americans away from the GOP, it allows our party to be defined by the liars on the other side as hateful, exclusive, intolerant and out of touch.  On the issues of immigration, abortion, gay rights, education and the rights of women and ethnic minorities, the GOP is shaping up for 2016 like the same crowd that bashed Romney’s brains in in 2012.  That is unfortunate and it is sadly a guaranteed formula to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States.

 

The GOP should listen to Mitt Romney, he’s been in the arena and back.  And while Romney didn’t run a perfect campaign, the bruising, bitter primary fight between groups of angry white conservative men did little to ingratiate Republicans to the base, never mind to independents and a new generation of younger voters.

 

So the next time one of your GOP friends go on a rant about Barack Obama, Obama-Care, or the mess America finds itself in the world today due to his liberal agenda…tell them to take a deep breath and ask themselves to repeat the words “President Hillary Clinton” 3 times slowly.  Maybe, just maybe they’ll wake up from the stupor of incessant Republican warfare and realize that the party needs to actually connect to the real American electorate in order to win. And it’s a whole lot easier to govern when you win.

Ready For Hillary (..or not)


Hillary Rodham Clinton - the former first lady of both Arkansas and the United States, accomplished lawyer, Yale-educated liberal activist, former United States Senator, candidate for president and most recently President Obama’s Secretary of State - finds herself in a very odd place these days.  She is in the position of being the Democratic franchise candidate for 2016 in a party that regularly thumbs its nose at frontrunners and the idea of an “establishment.”  

 

She’s been here before.  In 2008 Hillary was viewed as the frontrunner heading into a primary in which a relatively unknown young Senator named Barack Obama challenged and beat her in a bitter and divisive inter-party scrum.

Clinton and Obama went on famously to bury the proverbial hatchet and Hillary found herself in the powerful and important cabinet position that had her traveling a complex world on behalf of Obama, logging more air miles and time out of the country than any previous Secretary of State.

 

But Hillary is finally in her proper (if slightly uncomfortable) place.  Once again, the undisputed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, with precisely zero competition.  Joe Biden’s making some noise, but that’s likely just the result of a medication adjustment or gas.  Younger guns like Gov. Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, or even Saint Elizabeth of Cambridge might have an interest in a shot at the title, but this clearly seems to be Hillary’s time.

 

She has made all the right moves. The “Ready for Hillary” PAC formed earlier this year is already gaining steam through fundraising and endorsements. They have been hard at work, hiring the smartest Obama and former Clinton whiz kids ready to amass every bit of data they can to bring grassroots campaigning, driven by the boldest technical and digital tools, to even greater heights than Obama’s impressive 2012 effort. One thing the Obama guys really know how to do is gather data, largely with the help of the IRS and the NSA, so be ready for an all-out assault on Hillary’s behalf. 

 

Being the preordained nominee is an enviable position, but it can also be a bit frightening.  Consider that in the Democratic Party, primary frontrunners and presumptive favorites have lost again and again (see Truman, Johnson, Muskie, etc.) and the party has promoted relatively unknown commodities (like Carter,  Clinton, and our current President).

 

This phenomenon is precisely the opposite for the GOP, who rarely buck conventional wisdom, almost always nominating the franchise candidate or presumptive political figure “whose turn it is.”  In 2016 there is NO GOP presumptive nominee.  Yes, Jeb Bush could be in the mix and the political narrative of another Bush vs. Clinton battle is almost too tantalizing to resist in a general election.  But for the most part, no smart money is parked on any one candidate on the GOP side of the aisle for 2016 - at least not yet.

 

Meanwhile Clinton has had the chance to travel, pen another book and raise money for the party.  Expect Hillary and Bill Clinton to use the 2014 congressional elections as a test for her 2016 effort with plenty of time, money, organization and effort to be spent in early primary states and delegate-rich strongholds where her assistance will be welcomed, appreciated and repaid in full by candidates who benefit from the Clinton largesse.

 

The Clinton’s are one of those political dynasties that just cannot be out of the limelight.  They remind us of that old country western tune, “How Can I Miss You When You Just Won’t Go Away’?  Bill Clinton, “The Big Dog,” made himself a fixture in Obama’s re-election effort, giving perhaps the best speech of his life at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. The Clintons are like barnacles, affixed to the American political psyche and unwilling or unable to let go of power.  

 

No doubt Bill Clinton will be an enormous asset to Hillary’s 2016 campaign.  He believes she was cheated out of the job last time and he wants to right that disappointment once and for all.  I’m also guessing Bill’s looking forward to keeping his wife in Washington and distracted with world affairs while he stays back in New York, left to his own devices.

 

Hillary pretty clearly wants to be President, but there is still a question of whether at age 65 she really wants to start the 3 year process of endless campaigning.   Does she still have the fire in the belly?  Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was first elected.  Hillary would be 68 on inauguration day. Ronald Reagan, the oldest President to assume office, was 69.

 

Will anyone challenge her within the party?  Is Joe Biden even that crazy?  

 

All of this remains to be seen.   America may be ready for Hillary…But is Hillary up to the task of campaigning for America?  Is she running because she has to?  Because that’s what’s expected?  Is she real?  Can she sustain the adoring poll numbers? Will Obama weigh her down?  Is America ready for another dose of Clinton? Might the gravitational pull of fronterunnership be more than she can (or wants to) handle? For that reason alone, maybe Joe Biden should stand by.

The Biggest Brand in the GOP…Literally

 

"I’m not going to play politics" was the stated reason New Jersey governor Chris Christie gave for his decision to call for a special election to be held this fall to replace the late Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg.  Christie managed to anger both Republicans who wanted him to do the partisan thing and appoint one of their own for the balance of the term and Democrats who believe that a "special election" would be a waste of money and confuse the public as it would occur 3 weeks before Christie’s own regularly scheduled reelection contest.  Christie wants to run up his presumed victory by keeping Newark Mayor Cory Booker (already a contender for Lautenberg’s seat) off the top of the ticket which could have potentially depressed Christie’s ability to clobber some unknown Passaic Housewife who will be his Democrat opponent.

 

So Christie, the larger than life GOP personality who will likely win a landslide re-election in deep blue New Jersey, takes the arrows from both sides of the political spectrum for now, but by the time the voters go to the polls he could win 65% or more of the popular vote.

 

That is a critical part of the Christie narrative for a possible 2016 presidential run. He can win reelection by the largest margin of any governor in the country.  Already Christie has positioned himself as the quintessential proper noun for the generically unbeatable chief executive in re-election spots and online videos with the tag: “Christie…The Governor.”   This is a national campaign with the goal of running up the score so that Christie becomes the 400 pound gorilla in the 2016 GOP presidential pack. The Secret Service is already taking a Christie run seriously enough to have assigned him the secret service code name: “Triglyceride.” Like the post 9-11 Rudy Giuliani who became “America’s Mayor,” Team Christie is making a political statement that is aimed far beyond Newark, Bergen County and the Jersey Shore. 

 

This is the same strategy George W. Bush employed in his 1998 reelection campaign for Governor of Texas, demurring on the possibility of a presidential run, even while importing contributors and sneaking potential political consultants for a 2000 presidential run into the State House in Austin under assumed names and wearing the requisite nose and glasses disguise.  Bush trounced his Democrat challenger by taking nearly 69 percent of the vote.  It was during his reelection campaign that then Governor George W. Bush began testing themes like “Compassionate Conservatism” and the ability to “reach across the aisle to lead.”  The clear message to all potential inter-party rivals was that challenging the Bush brand, freshly reelected in a Texas landslide, would be a fool’s errand.  Clearly John McCain did not get the memo, but he couldn’t stop the inevitability of Bush as the GOP nominee.

Similarly, Christie is already an established brand as the fiery New Jersey Bull Dog, who has become synonymous with telling it like it is in an often amusing and unapologetic way. The “Tough Love Gov” may be the national brand the GOP is desperately seeking.  Christie’s ideology both attracts and offends equally.  He has challenged unions, cut taxes and reduced government spending and reformed welfare programs so significantly that even Snooki has been forced to get a real job when she’s not binge drinking at the shore.

 

Christie clearly cuts both ways.  There’s enough for most voters to love and hate that his political persona is hard to categorize in easy terms, although many in the GOP will try. But I’m betting that the GOP might begin to realize that a proven fiscal conservative, who has demonstrated an ability to be bi-partisan, might be just the ticket in 2016.

 

That does not mean that Christie won’t be ravaged from all sides.  You can be sure that his famous post Hurricane Sandy embrace and on-going bromance with President Obama will be prominently replayed to remind the party faithful of his “Dalliance with the Devil” at what many perceive was a pivotal time for Mitt Romney in 2012.  Democrats will rally labor, the pro-choice crowd and any female voter they can find that Christie is simply a warmed-over version of Mitt Romney in a fat suit.

 

That’s all fine, but it’s just political process.  Primaries are inconvenient things in our democracy, but they have an interesting and largely predictable outcomes-especially in the GOP.  Big names, big brands, larger than life personalities and known commodities tend to win.  Is Christie conservative enough to win early primaries and caucuses?  Yes.  Is he moderate enough to move to the middle in a general election? Yes again.

 

Christie is unconventional.  He defies easy labels.  He is his own guy. Capisce?  That may not go over big with the far right of the GOP but in New Hampshire, where purple and blue have been the state’s preference of late, he could do very well. Remember, independents vote in New Hampshire, and they don’t vote for extremists in either party.

 

If the general election choice is the brash, bi-partisan governor of New Jersey versus the well worn and equally pilloried Hillary Clinton, would the race be a contest or Romney redux?  The answer is that Christie’s star power, his stand-up act and ability to confront, challenge, and engage voters will be a refreshing and bold change from the genial GOP contenders of the past.  This brand will “hunt” in a national race. 

 

Christie is setting the stage, teeing up the ball precisely for 2016.  That is exactly why he is one of the smartest guys in America.  I’m betting that makes him a larger than life early contender for the nomination.  As they would say in New Jersey:

"You got a problem with that?"   

He’s Not Nixon…He’s Incompetent


In the last couple of weeks, the folks in the Obama White House have been howling about the unfair treatment they have received from the media on the IRS, Benghazi and the AP scandals.  Yes, the fourth estate has turned on the president. The fawning and Messiah-like coverage he has enjoyed for the last 5 years appears to be over, at least for now.  That’s what happens when you turn on one of your own, which is apparently what the Holder Justice Department did to the venerable Associated Press, by collecting phone numbers, and secretly investigating who might have leaked what to whom.

 

An understandable comparison which has sprung up is to Richard Nixon and his delusional paranoia about leaks, conspiracies and enemies which fueled the disgraced former president into a paralyzing fear of losing power to his enemies.  Nixon’s biggest problem was that he was a megalomaniac who believed he needed to destroy his political enemies before they destroyed him.  Unfortunately President Obama appears to suffer from the same affliction. Or does he?

 

In Obama-World every problem, every question or challenge made about the president’s policies, remarks or policy decisions - especially those that might come from  Republicans – have been viewed as an affront, a personal assault to the Office of the Presidency.  Even when members of the media would question the president’s policies before the recent “scandals,” Obama and his aides greeted such plebeian inquiry as insulting, uninformed and unjustified attacks on a chief executive with a God complex who views himself as infallible.

 

Obama is about as cold and aloof as any president in history.  He makes Lyndon Johnson look warm and fuzzy.  He makes Dwight Eisenhower look like Mr. Rogers. He makes George W. Bush appear to have been an unscripted, unguarded guy who shot from the hip saying whatever he wanted, whenever he felt like it.  Obama is brooding and cool. Removed and distant.  Obama is uninterested and unwilling to reach out even to leaders in his own party to make deals, to introduce any human connection, friendship or collaboration into the process of governing and legislating.

 

The closest he comes to being Nixonian is his clear discomfort with forging relationships with either party on the Hill or even within his own administration.  The Pope likely has a less formal opinion of himself when he’s hanging out at the Vatican water cooler.

 

And so the long knives of President Obama’s many enemies are now out and they are honed upon Caesar himself. The president has no real friends or allies in Washington.  Let’s hope Bo the White House Dog doesn’t turn on him next.

 

All of this “scandal” may be less than it’s cracked up to be.  The comparisons to Nixon’s “high crimes and misdemeanors,” “abuses of power” and possible “impeachable offenses” continue as more layers of the onion are peeled away.  However I’m not sure this is quite as malignant as the political skullduggery wrought by Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Mitchell and Hunt.  As they say, never assume malice when incompetence is far more likely.

 

The president’s responses to all of this are pretty pathetic: “We never knew about it,” “We were unaware,” “I had no knowledge,” “We first learned about this when we read it in the newspapers.”  These are rope-a-dope answers designed to suggest that this president, his staff and indeed the bloated government he has built are too big, too complicated and too disconnected for anyone to manage - even the Messiah himself!  The excuse is we can’t know what everyone is doing every minute of every day.  You didn’t communicate with your Secretary of State?  What about your Attorney General (speaking of arrogant and aloof!)? How about your Secretary of the Treasury who has reporting oversight of the IRS? 

 

These excuses are ridiculous at best. For the chief executive of any company, the governor of any state, or the cabinet secretary of any agency who presides over a scandal like the ones we are seeing today, the correct behavior is to stand up and say: “It happened on my watch and it’s my responsibility to find out what the hell went on, identify the parties responsible and remove them from positions of responsibility so that this kind of foolishness never happens again.”  We call it personal responsibility, but the concept is an anathema to this administration for which the buck stops anywhere except with them. The Obama administration’s collective reaction points to one other thing besides a sense of infallibility and misplaced self-importance.  It points to pure, undeniable incompetence.

 

This president wants government to do all, provide for all, know all and fix all, and he is now forced to admit that the very same concept of government, without adult supervision, can tread on constitutional rights, violate personal freedoms and misuse the very power it has amassed.  Corruption, scandal, conspiracy and cover-up are much sexier, but the reality that is due to incompetence and an inability to take responsibility is far more troubling to me.

 

History will ultimately judge this president by his actions and his accomplishments.  

 

But for a guy who wants the government to run everything and now wants to turn healthcare over to the same bureaucracy whose Justice Department decided to snoop into the phone records of a supposedly free press is … troubling, to say the least. Who knows, one day Eric Holder or his successor may want to know a little more about your personal health history.  But that could never happen…right?