Archive for Politics
John Kennedy once said that military victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan.
I think much the same thing is true for monkey shines committed by a politician’s staffers.
Great ideas and policies have many fathers, but scandals are orphaned.
Take New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Please.
The Republican governor and possible presidential hopeful for 2016 has a scandal on his hands. People are getting fired.
It’s all about what I will call, TrafficGate.
Seems that members of Christie’s staff—in very high places—ordered highway lane closures back in September that severely hamstrung the residents and commuters of Fort Lee, apparently as retribution for Fort Lee’s mayor not supporting Christie’s re-election bid.
The governor has fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, for lying to Christie about her—and, by extension, the administration’s—involvement in ordering the closures, which created hellacious traffic jams, mainly because they first occurred the day kids went back to school after Labor Day.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly said in an e-mail to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Kelly initially told Christie that the administration had nothing to do with ordering the lane closures, which was falsely attributed to a fictitious traffic study.
But the the e-mails saw the light of day and the picture they painted wasn’t pretty.
Kudos to Christie for axing Kelly, but the governor played the old, “My staff did WHAT?” card, and portrayed himself as being lied to and betrayed.
Now, this may indeed be the case. Christie’s people may have acted in a sort of rogue manner, their boss unaware of their sleazy tactics.
But I find it bemusing that political leaders seem to be in the loop and on top of all the good stuff going on in their administration, but they are always so clue-free when naughty things happen.
The tact of throwing your staff under the bus when the heat gets turned up is hardly new in the world of politics. Given the choice, the leader under fire would, apparently, rather look like a misled, ill-informed dunderhead than a Richard Nixon type.
So Christie is pleading ignorance, because as bad as that is, it’s still preferable to evil mastermind—especially when you have eyes on the White House in two years’ time.
No doubt TrafficGate will be dusted off and presented to the American people ad nauseam, should Christie decide to get involved in running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. And, frankly, it should.
Because whether Christie was in on it or not, the petty, punitive lane closures not only inconvenienced gobs of folks, it even created some health and safety issues that are unconscionable.
And that stuff came from Christie’s office, whether the boss knew about it or not, and when you’re running for president, that can’t be a good thing.
Clearly, the American people don’t want someone in the White House who is capable of such pettiness and bullying, especially when that pettiness and bullying struck at the heart of innocent, tax paying Americans who were just trying to get to work and their kids to school. Apparently EMT vehicles and other emergency response vehicles were negatively affected by the man-made traffic jams as well.
But nor do voters want to elect as president someone who doesn’t have a better handle of his gubernatorial staff than this.
I’d say Governor Christie has himself in a lose/lose situation here.
Firing Kelly is a start toward political recovery, but Christie can only fire so many people before voters—and the media—will demand to know what the governor knew and, more importantly, what he didn’t know.
And why he didn’t know it.
Kevyn Orr is just like any Washington, D.C. bankruptcy attorney who is black, who has a strong resume, and who oozes confidence.
Except that he’s been plucked from the vine to save a city that some say is beyond saving.
Orr is Detroit’s new Emergency Financial Manager (EFM). He is unique in that, while he’s a bankruptcy lawyer and has been a part of many such restructurings, he actually would prefer not to lead the city into bankruptcy as a way to cure what ails it.
“Frankly, I’d like to avoid it,” Orr told the Detroit News’ Nolan Finley. “Bankruptcy can certainly have benefits to what the emergency manager would have to do, but I would like to think of that as a last resort as opposed to a first option. No, I don’t think we’re inevitably headed to bankruptcy, but people have got to be realistic, reasonable and focused on changing the architecture of the finances of the city so they can go into a sustainable model for the future.”
Orr might be the most delusional man in America. He calls the Detroit EFM job “the Olympics of restructuring,” yet he says the job could be done not within the planned 18 months, but three to six months, “if people in a collegial and good faith basis could get together.”
Ahh, more delusional thoughts. Words like “collegial” and “good faith basis” are not normally indigenous to the machinations of Detroit.
But Orr is confident, and with a connection to Michigan, professionally (“this is the state that gave me my start”), and a University of Michigan graduate, he says he felt “compelled” to take the EFM job when Governor Rick Snyder came calling.
“(This could be) something I can tell my grandkids about.”
Orr is 54. With the decisions he has to make, and the enormity of the task before him, you would think his main objective would be to make it to 55.
But at least the City Council dropped plans for a lawsuit to stop the EFM, albeit temporarily, from taking over. Orr officially starts his new job on March 28. Be thankful for small favors.
The good news, I suppose, is that Orr doesn’t seem to think that the turnaround of Detroit is an impossible task. Difficult? Yes. History making, potentially? Double yes. But not impossible.
But Kevyn Orr might not be so delusional after all.
“I’m prepared to be the most hated man for a period of time,” Orr told Finley.
That may be the most intuitive thing anyone in a leadership role in the city of Detroit has ever said.
Carl Levin never shortchanged Michigan.
In an ever-growing world of political cynicism—both from the constituents and from the lawmakers themselves—it was good for Michiganders to know that Levin, the six-term U.S. Senator who won’t seek a seventh, was on the job.
He may go down as one of the best, most effective senators ever to represent the great state of Michigan. Hell, he may be the best.
I used to think that no one would eclipse Phil Hart in that category, but Levin has changed my mind after well over 30 years on the job.
Levin won election in 1978. It was the Republican Bob Griffin whose seat Levin won. Griffin initially didn’t seek re-election but then changed his mind. But it was too late; Levin wasn’t to be denied.
It was Levin and Don Riegle in those days—two Democrats who were progressive, young and determined to make their mark in Washington. Riegle had won Hart’s old seat, in 1976.
Riegle was Michigan’s senior senator by just two years, but Levin has held that distinction since 1988. With the exception of Spencer Abraham’s one term (1994-2000), Levin has worked lockstep with another Democrat as his junior senator.
The news that Levin won’t seek a seventh term in 2014 is bittersweet.
On the one hand, the 79-year-old will enjoy much-deserved retirement. He’ll be able to watch his beloved Tigers play more often.
On the other, Levin’s absence leaves the senate seat wide open, obviously. And there’s no guarantee that another Democrat will just automatically capture the seat.
Already, though, Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) says he’s mulling over a run at the seat in 2014.
“I’m going to seriously consider it,” he told the Free Press. “We need to hold on to that seat.”
That’s an understatement, but with Abraham’s exception, Michigan voters haven’t sent a Republican to the Senate since Griffin in 1972. They tend to do so with governors, but not with senators.
Still, the idea of no longer having Levin—longtime Chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee—working for Michigan, isn’t a warm and fuzzy one for Democrats.
But Levin was no partisan fool. He wasn’t so liberal that he couldn’t see the forest for the trees. But he didn’t suffer the fools on the other side easily, either.
The significance of Levin’s service wasn’t lost on President Barack Obama, a former colleague in the chamber.
“If you’ve ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an assembly line or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you’ve had a voice and a vote in Sen. Carl Levin,” the president said in a statement.
Well, that didn’t take long.
The year 2013, the year of the next Detroit mayoral election, was hours old when the first salvo was fired by a candidate at another, and—surprise—it had the tinges of race baiting to it.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, by all indications a pretty smart guy, said something un-smart that was clearly aimed at presumed candidate Mike Duggan.
Napoleon told a reporter that Palmer Woods, one of the city’s jewels when it comes to neighborhoods, wasn’t really a part of Detroit.
Palmer Woods is where Duggan has recently taken up residence as he presumably prepares for a run at Dave Bing’s job—whether Bing runs for re-election or not. Duggan, as we all know, is white.
The day after saying flat out that Palmer Woods is not Detroit, Napoleon backpedaled.
“Palmer Woods is not Detroit? Nothing is further from the truth,” Napoleon wrote on Facebook. “It is one of our prized neighborhoods. However, the Palmer Woods experience is far different from that of the average Detroiter’s neighborhood experience. Most Detroiters, including those in Palmer Woods, understand that without clarification. But to set the record straight, I believe Palmer Woods is not only Detroit, it is what we want Detroit neighborhoods to aspire to be. And our city won’t be transformed until the Palmer Woods experience is one that is shared by all Detroiters.”
Nicely played. For now.
It didn’t figure to take long before Duggan, aiming to become Detroit’s first white mayor since Roman Gribbs left office on December 31, 1973, was taken a shot at by the (so far) rather small field of fellow candidates. And it wasn’t surprising that the shot taken focused on Duggan’s choice of residence.
Duggan lived for years in Livonia, which is as white as salt, for the most part. He moved to Palmer Woods last year.
Wayne County Sheriff and Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon
Napoleon recovered nicely, for the most part, from his gaffe. But it still displayed, within him, the old refrain.
You’re not a Detroiter unless your trash doesn’t get picked up. You’re not a Detroiter unless your street lights are out for months. You’re not a Detroiter unless you live among abandoned homes and crack houses. You’re not a Detroiter unless you are out of work and are bereft of hope.
Is that how we want the next mayor to look at things?
We’d rather have him (or her) look at the city the way Napoleon did in his backpedaling statement on Facebook.
To wit: “But to set the record straight, I believe Palmer Woods is not only Detroit, it is what we want Detroit neighborhoods to aspire to be. And our city won’t be transformed until the Palmer Woods experience is one that is shared by all Detroiters.”
Too bad that’s not what Benny Napoleon said the first time around. Then again, political candidates often need two tries to get it right. At least.
Susan Rice tried to take one for the team, but she put it behind the eight-ball instead.
Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, today yanked herself out of the running (that she presumably was in) to be the replacement for the retiring Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s next Secretary of State.
In a letter to the president, Rice wrote, in part, “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country.”
The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. And Rice just paved another one with her premature bailing on the president.
If you believe the conspiracy theories—and this one seems to have some merit—the GOP assault on Rice’s competence to be SOS, which was odd in of itself for its “jumping the gun” nature, is part of a scheme to bring Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to the fore as Clinton’s successor. Why? So Kerry’s ultimately vacated seat could be filled by, say, recently defeated Republican Scott Brown.
Far fetched? Hardly.
Phase One of that plan is complete, with Rice’s too-soon withdrawal from contention.
I must say, I’m disappointed in Rice, a woman in whom I thought was more fight.
She thinks she’s doing right by her president and her country, when she is, in fact, putting Obama in a box and feeding into a negative stereotype.
The stereotype is that women are weaker than men, emotionally, and when the heat gets turned up, they do things like Rice did.
It also shows that bullying works, another bad message to send to our young men and, especially, women.
Rice should have hung in there. She should have stood with the president, if it came to his nominating her. Obama is already taking some heat for not supporting her strongly enough, which supposedly led Rice to the decision that she made.
But what was Obama to do? Once Rice tendered the letter, it pretty much forced his hand.
Rice should have floated the notion of withdrawing past the president, first, to test the waters. I’m confident that Obama would have encouraged her to not withdraw, even if he ended up choosing Kerry (the only other likely candidate) instead.
Rice bailed far too early. Frankly, she had an obligation to stick it out. She let down her president, her country and her gender. I imagine there are “binders full” of strong, independent women out there (NOT necessarily feminists, either) who aren’t too pleased with this decision.
Perception is reality. And from where I sit, I see a bunch of angry white men who bullied a black woman out of contention for SOS. And she let them get away with it, without much of a fight.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, is how the saying goes. Only, Susan Rice didn’t get anywhere near the kitchen, yet she still failed her gender. How ironic, huh?
One of the greatest ironies these days is that if you’re off to Lansing via car, chances are you just might have to travel on the Reuther Freeway, aka I-696, for a portion of that trip.
That would be the Reuther, as named after Michigan labor pioneer Walter P. Reuther. The same Reuther who is spinning in his grave right about now with great centrifugal force.
If only Ford Motor Company had acquiesced to organized labor back in the late-1930s as quickly as the Michigan Legislature ramrodded the first stage of the so-called “right to work” bill through session yesterday.
Reuther, eventual head of the UAW, paid for his union organizing efforts physically, at the famous Battle of the Overpass at the River Rouge plant, in 1937, when he and Richard Frankensteen were beaten severely by henchmen hired by Ford. The auto company was unhappy about Reuther and his fellow organizers handing out pro-union leaflets along the overpass.
So what would Reuther, and other labor organizers and champions of the early movement, think of the “right to work” bill, and its potential to take down labor unions?
This isn’t exactly what Reuther had in mind when he worked tirelessly to ensure union representation for autoworkers some 75 years ago.
I wonder how many of today’s young state lawmakers even know who Walter Reuther was. I wonder if they know why the Department of Transportation named I-696 after him?
I wonder if they know the sacrifices that Reuther and others made so that the middle class could be fortified and have peace of mind?
I wonder if they care.
For now, it’s all about not only union busting, but Democrat busting. It’s no secret that labor unions, while not as strong as they were 10-15 years ago, still form a good portion of the base of the Democratic party. And wouldn’t the state GOP just love to hack away at that base, which they are now beginning to do by shoving the “right to work” bill onto Governor Rick Snyder’s desk at warp speed.
Weaker labor unions—the bill would prohibit unions from requiring membership as a condition of employment—would be a boon to the Republicans.
But of course, the bill is being propped up as something that will ensure fairness and keep Michigan competitive in terms of salary and benefits, when statistics from other “right to work” states suggest mostly the opposite.
More likely is that the bill would become a slippery slope down which salaries, benefits and the middle class itself would all slide.
The manner in which the bill made its way through the Legislature, complete with protests and pepper spray, is, for now, worse than any of its residual effects. The Republicans’ zeal for this bill is so blatantly partisan and filled with not-so-hidden agendas that it’s either something to laugh or cry at. Nothing in between.
I know which one Walter Reuther would pick.
I have this crazy, mixed up thought that the politicians we elect are supposed to represent those of us who elected them.
Yet there is one man who has a Svengali-like hold on the Republican wing of Congress, a hold that I’m not sure is disturbing, annoying, reprehensible or all of the above.
His name is Grover Norquist, and apparently Grover’s interests and marching orders trump those of the electorate when it comes to the GOP members of Congress.
Norquist, back in 1985, started Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), apparently at the behest of President Ronald Reagan. Norquist has never held political office, nor has ever run for so much as city councilman. Yet he has somehow managed to convince dozens of Congressmen (and women) to be his lapdogs.
Norquist is the originator of The Pledge, which holds to the fire the feet of every member of Congress (and Senate) who has taken it. It’s a pledge to never raise taxes, under any circumstances.
From Norquist’s Wiki page: Prior to the November 2012 election, 238 of 242 House Republicans and 41 out of 47 Senate Republicans had signed ATR’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”, in which the pledger promises to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
“I’ll have to check with Grover,” one of the new U.S. Reps from Michigan actually said when the Detroit Free Press recently asked if that rep would support modest tax increases on the wealthy.
I’ll have to check with Grover?
The GOP is no longer a party; it’s a political cult. And Norquist is their Jim Jones.
Norquist has steadfastly refused to reveal the identity of those who fund his ATR, but it’s widely speculated that the contributors are wealthy individuals, foundations and corporate interests. Big surprise, I know.
I have a fundamental problem with a non-elected person—Norquist himself; he IS the ATR—wielding so much power and influence over those elected and who are sworn to represent their constituents.
As the nation teeters on the brink of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Norquist has become front and center in the debate, as one-time sensible, independent thinking politicians have been revealed instead to be members of Norquist’s cult.
There isn’t any wiggle room for common sense, reasoning or debate in ATR’s pledge. Only now are some pledge takers beginning to see the light of the oncoming freight train and backing away from Norquist’s outdated, outrageous pledge.
Norquist appears to be a one-man lobby and special interest, all by himself. He wields power a lot of elected officials could only dream of having.
As long as actual members of Congress are saying things like “I’ll have to check with Grover” when confronted with issues affecting our national economy and children’s future, something is seriously wrong.
You want to talk about pledges?
How about the one to the American people.
OK, so you’re Barack Obama. You woke up Wednesday morning having been re-elected as President of the United States.
But over 57 million people voted for the other guy—almost half the electorate.
It’s a sobering thought, or should be, as Mr. Obama starts Term II.
This was among the most bitter, divisive and nasty presidential campaigns in recent memory. Maybe ever.
You can blame Social Media for that. But more about that in a second.
Obama is president of everyone, of course (not just 47 percent), but knowing that about half the people don’t want you in the Oval Office certainly should have a bearing on how you govern, no matter if you feel that your agenda and ideology are right, and theirs isn’t.
But it’s also a great time for compromise and reaching across the aisle, because no longer can Obama’s detractors in Washington rally around their flag of making him a one term president. That ship has sailed, though not necessarily with breakneck speed, given how close the popular vote was.
But it has sailed, so let’s get to work and get some stuff done. Speaker of the House John Boehner has offered an olive branch and a conciliatory tone, which is more than you can say for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It should also be noted that McConnell is up for re-election in 2014.
It’s time now for Obama to gather the haters in Congress around him and say, “You guys wanted me gone. Well, I’m back. Deal with it, and let’s end gridlock.”
So we have a dichotomy of sorts here. There’s the fact that nearly half of over 117 million voters wanted Mitt Romney as president. Yet there’s also a magnificent chance to work on the soft underbelly of a GOP that got slapped in its behind on Tuesday, losing some key Senate races, most notably Elizabeth Warren beating Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
Obama Term II should be more interesting and even more productive than Term I. It could also lay the groundwork for continued Democratic presence in the White House come 2016. Someone might have some long coattails on which to ride into the Oval Office.
Obama had over 59 million votes, but 57 million voted for the other guy
Back to Social Media.
Facebook and Twitter weren’t nearly as widespread in their use during the 2008 campaign. But in 2012, the vitriol and political posts and ensuing mean-spirited, nasty threads that resulted truly ended Facebook friendships or at the very least caused animosity that will take a while to dissolve. Sounds silly, I know, but it’s true. I was among those who got involved in some pretty nasty back-and-forths.
With FB and Twitter, it’s just so easy (too easy) to log on, rap out something in anger or passion, and then maybe you’d wished you hadn’t. Maybe what you threw out there you should have kept to yourself. But the flip is that sometimes you stay on the sidelines too long, holding too much in, and you have no choice but to put in your two cents.
Trouble is, those two cents can rapidly turn into a buck and a half once the dissenters start responding.
I’m sure we’ll all heal from this angry campaign. We always do. But the tone is set in Washington. If we see our leaders coming together, reaching across and banging out some bi-partisan legislation, maybe that will accelerate the healing.
But I think we can agree on one thing.
Thank goodness this campaign is over with!
Was George McGovern the worst presidential candidate to come from the two major parties, in history?
Leave it to an old Wayne State guy to cut to the chase.
James Lipton, who’s so much more than just the host of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” was on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC show last night. And the former Wayne State attendee (he received an honorary doctorate from WSU in 2002) boiled the presidential election down to this.
“The choice is clear,” Lipton said. “Do you want a president, or a boss?”
Lipton was asked to give his impressions of the performances of Mitt Romney and President Obama at Tuesday’s debate, from the perspective of someone who is very used to critiquing on-screen, on-stage bits.
Lipton felt that Romney was every bit the CEO and Obama every bit the statesman.
“Romney is that boss who tells bad jokes to his employees and waits for everyone to laugh,” Lipton said. And, “He’s very used to getting his way.”
Lipton thought that Romney was less-than-deferential to the president, particularly when Romney told Obama, “You’ll get your turn,” as he motioned for the president to sit down in the middle of a diatribe.
“This is the President of the United States, being told this by a…civilian,” Lipton said, incredulously.
Lipton’s bottom line is spot on. Romney does indeed come off as the CEO, talking down to his subjects in a board room. Obama looked like, well, the president—and how a president should look.
Matthews chimed in at one point and said Romney is “like that guy on the plane who won’t turn his cell phone off after the stewardess tells him to.”
Again, spot on.
Lipton said it again. “Do you want to be governed by a statesman, or supervised by a boss?”
Wayne State University’s own James Lipton
Romney’s lack of statesmanship was supremely evident in the exchange during Tuesday’s debate about the tragic loss of diplomats in Libya on September 11. The former Massachusetts governor drew Obama’s ire, as the president both scolded Romney and took offense to the suggestion that the administration’s response to the attacks in Libya was political in nature.
“That’s not what we do,” Obama said, glaring at Romney in the eyes. “It’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.”
It was Obama’s “I’m the president and you’re not” moment.
It got worse, as Romney pressed the issue, claiming that Obama didn’t call the attacks a terrorist act until two weeks later. That blew up in his face when moderator Candy Crowley noted that the president did, indeed, call the attacks an act of terror the day after they occurred.
Romney tried to bully the president and Crowley, and just as he’s done in previous debates, the governor barked out his own interpretation of the rules.
“He got the last word on that one so I get the last word on this one,” Romney said early on as he apparently was not only debate participant but also the rules sheriff.
“It doesn’t quite work that way,” Crowley said.
Not that it matters.
Debate score: 1-1, with one more remaining next Monday.
But Lipton was dead on accurate in his assessment.
President, or Boss?