Monday, October 31, 2011

Not Everyone in the 1% Deserves 'Occupy's' Scorn

I think its very dangerous, and quite frankly unfair, for the Occupy movement's "99%" to vilify the "1%" as if everyone who falls into that elite income group is (a) corrupt (b) greedy (c) selfish and (d) insensitive and indifferent to the needs and struggles of the poor and middles classes.

Let's get something straight: America is a capitalist nation. Our economic structure is such that there are going to be extremely wealthy people and a helluva lot more who aren't. Those who don't like this system are free to move to another country like North Korea where everyone is piss poor and living under a brutal dictatorship. America's problems aren't about rich vs. poor per se, but about those who care vs those who don't.

The Occupy protesters, in summarily indicting as evil everyone in the 1%, are doing a major disservice to the movement and their long-term cause. At the risk of sounding like a conservative, this broad stroke demonizing of everyone who's rich is class warfare and it needs to stop. There are plenty of kind, decent, generous, very wealthy people who also happen to care about the poor, the sick, the needy, the less fortunate. People who donate millions from their incomes annually to fund all sorts of social, health, education, environmental and child welfare programs, and whose money also goes to political organizations to fight for the little guy. People who've spent a lifetime in public service trying to make things better for those who need help. People who could've financially enriched themselves in the private sector but instead chose meager government salaries. George Soros is in the 1%. The Kennedys are in the 1%. Nancy Pelosi is in the 1% as is Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, George Clooney and all the notorious "Hollywood liberals" who are as bleeding-heart as you can get. Their wealth has not stopped them from giving a shit. To the contrary, it's provided valuable resources and a greater platform through which to help. These people are among the best friends and benefactors the poor and middle class will ever have. So it's terribly misguided and counter-intuitive to lump them in the same bucket as the self-serving cads who only care about lower taxes, less regulation and protecting corporate largess.

To be sure, there are many gross inequities in America's economic system which have justifiably been the focus of the Occupy protests. The income gap between the rich and poor is the highest in 80 years. The wealthiest 1% have seen their incomes increase 281% since 1979 while the poor and middle class have earned just 16-25% more. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio is around 350-1. Corporate America has been rewarded with astounding tax breaks while shipping millions of jobs overseas. And no one on Wall Street has yet to be penalized for creating the worst financial crisis in 85 years.

But that does not justify an across-the-board vilification of everyone in the 1%. There's nothing inherently wrong with being rich in America. What's wrong is when you use this wealth to disenfranchise and subjugate those who aren't. There are certainly plenty of legitimate gripes the Occupy protesters can and should be angry about. But it would be very wise not to alienate the very rich, connected and influential people who are among its biggest supporters and who it will need in the weeks and months to come.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Jobs Bill Killers!!"

It's time President Obama and Democrats brand Republicans as "Jobs Bill Killers." They need to frame the debate by effectively accusing the GOP as simply refusing to pass any bill, even ones that include tax cuts, that will put struggling Americans back to work. They should repeat the term Jobs Bill Killers like a mantra and utter it in every sentence. Like propaganda. Just like Republicans do. Think "Job killers. Death Panels. Baby killers." It's time Democrats start speaking in soundbites and bumper-stickers. That's what voters understand.

Thursday night Republicans again voted in lockstep to defeat yet another jobs bill put forth by Democrats. In a 50-50 vote, GOP senators defeated a part of Obama's bill that would allocate $35 billion for states and localities to hire additional teachers, police, firefighters and other first responders while protecting existing workers.

"For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again," Obama said. "That's unacceptable. We must do what's right for the country and pass the common-sense proposals in the American Jobs Act."

And what got the Republicans' panties in a snit? Funding for the measure would have come from a 0.5% tax increase on people earning more than $1 million a year. That's a half a percentage point on millionaires. You'd think this would be small enough to get Repubs on board, right? As John Belushi would say in his famous Saturday Night Live rants, "But Nooooooooooooo!"

As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor like to say, "Now is not the time to raise taxes on anybody." But I ask, is there ever gonna be a time when Republicans accept a tax increase? The "not now" excuse is just a lame tactic to protect their personal financial interests. It's the same old same old with these guys. Feed the rich, screw the poor and middle class.

The truth is, the Republican Party stands for nothing except low taxes and less regulation. This is the way it's always been and always will be. As evidenced by audience reaction in recent GOP debates, there seems to be zero compassion and empathy for the less fortunate. Republicans in the audiences have cheered and advocated people being left to die without medical coverage. They've cheered executions. They've cheered gays being discriminated against in the military. And they went wild when Herman Cain blamed people for their own state of unemployment. Welcome to compassionate conservatism, 2011 style.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Romney and Perry and Cain, Oh My!

If Sylvester Stallone ever decides to make Rocky VII perhaps he should cast Mitt Romney in the lead. The former governor of Massachusetts and sometimes Republican front runner came out swinging in Tuesday night's GOP debate in Las Vegas, deftly schooling Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum on how to dominate and control your opponents while still keeping your cool and looking presidential.

The evening began with Cain having to vigorously defend his controversial 9-9-9 plan which, according to the Tax Policy Center, would raise taxes on 84% of taxpayers, hit the poor and middle classes the hardest, and benefit the rich. When challenged by his opponents, Cain kept dismissing as incorrect such independent research and instead urged voters to look at "our analysis" on his website. Sure, why trust all those crafty outside wonks when you get all the truth you need right from the Cain camp!

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO also tried to justify his tax plan with a convoluted analogy about "apples and oranges" that I'm still trying to figure out. I'm not sure how he ran Godfather financials, but Cain clearly needs a math lesson in adding up his apples and oranges. As Romney quipped, "I’m going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I’ve got to pay both taxes..."

Throughout the debate Romney was attacked from all sides and at several points Santorum and Perry simply talked over him during his allotted time, which clearly angered him. The most heated exchange occurred when Perry accused him, to boos and hisses from the audience, of hiring illegal aliens.

"You lose all of your standing from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home, and you knew about it for a year," Perry barked, calling Romney's anti-illegal immigration stand the "height of hypocrisy." He then interrupted Romney's reply, prompting an aggressive push back: "I’m speaking, I’m speaking," Romney asserted. "This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and so I understand that you’re going to get testy." He lectured Perry on debate etiquette a few moments later after another intense exchange: "You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking....And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you have got to let both people speak."

The night was owned by Romney. He exposed Cain's 9-9-9 for the sham it is; won the alpha male contest with Perry; shut down Santorum; smartly ignored Michele Bachmann; and got uber-arrogant Newt Gingrich to sheepishly admit that he was for an individual mandate before he was against it. I can't imagine his poll numbers not rising while Perry's sink deeper into single-digit Bachmann country.

As for Cain, he simply appears like the clumsy two-left-footed Little Leaguer who no one wants to criticize and who gets condescending props just for lumbering out into the field. Clearly, despite his current faux-front runner status, no one, especially Romney, seems to take him as a serious threat. Unless there's some giant skeleton suiting up in Romney's closet, he'll coast to the nomination.

The low point of the debate? Perry repeatedly referring to Cain as "brother" in what sure as hell seems like way too familiar a term for a white politician with a Texas drawl to be calling a black man.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Herman Cain's Fuzzy Math

"Do the math!," Herman Cain incredulously replies when challenged by skeptical critics to explain how his mantra-like "9-9-9" tax overhaul plan doesn't lower taxes for the rich while increasing taxes on the poor and middle class.

But that's just the problem. Cain's math is so fuzzy it would make George W. Bush proud. As Cain explains it, he'd do away with the current tax code and replace it with a 9% personal tax, a 9% corporate tax and a 9% national sales tax. Through this overhaul, he says, most people will pay less taxes than they currently do. But his calculations simply make no sense to many experts including economists, the Wall Street Journal and even Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

For example, there are 30-million Americans whose incomes are low enough that they don't pay any income or payroll taxes. So for them 9% is 100% more than they currently pay. Add a 9% national sales tax on top of the average 8% state sales tax they pay now and that's another 100%+ increase. So an individual earning and taking home $26,000 who pays about $2100 in state sales tax will, under 9-9-9, end up paying about $2400 in new income tax and a total of approximately $4800 in total sales taxes. That's a total tax bite of more than $7000 vs $2400. How can Cain with any degree of credibility claim that his plan won't increase taxes for the poor and middle classes?

Now take the rich, who currently pay the maximum 36% personal tax rate and 15% in capital gains taxes. In eliminating the cap gains tax and lowering the personal rate to 9% you don't need an economics degree from Wharton to recognize the enormous windfall 9-9-9 lavishes on the wealthy.

So one of two things is happening here: either Cain is stupid or he thinks we are. Let me assure you, Herman Cain is not a stupid man. 9-9-9 is nothing more than a plan in search of logic.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Conversation with One of Occupy Wall Street's Organizers On the Eve of a Possible Showdown

I spent some time Thursday night at Zuccatti Park in Lower Manhattan, site of the Occupy Wall Street uprising. I went there to observe and to get a better understanding of this nascent movement firsthand and to speak with one of the original organizers. I also wanted to gauge the mood and pulse of the place on the eve of what could be a very significant turning point in the movement.

Backpedaling from his promise last week that protesters can stay in the park indefinitely, Mayor Bloomberg, at the request of the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, has ordered demonstrators to evacuate by 7am Friday to allow for cleaning. Afterwards, people would be allowed back in, but would no longer be able to camp out. From those I spoke with and from what I could hear from others, the protesters were preparing for an intense resistance to the evacuation, a showdown with police that surely would've turned very ugly. But again Bloomberg has reversed position and cancelled plans for the clean-up and evacuation. This is a major victory for the movement.

While I was there I saw many people with brooms and mops, sweeping and bleaching the pavement in a self-motivated initiative designed to show the Mayor, Brookfield, the police and the nation that non-violent protest and respect for the park are not mutually exclusive things. "We can do this ourselves," one young demonstrator told me. "We don't need to be kicked out to keep the place clean."

Friday's victory will surely fuel the movement and empower it to build. I was told that a major announcement is to be made imminently, perhaps Friday, which will point to future direction. Right now OWS is at a critical crossroads. It is intentionally not a policy-incubating/advocating organization. It has no leaders, no demands, and is beyond fractured. It has gained national attention because it has been an encampment: a communal mini-society of disillusioned, disenfranchised, disparate, mostly young people sharing frustrations, anger, opinions, ideals, food and living quarters. They have their own news channel (at ) as well as a newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal. Each night its General Assembly convenes at the park's Eastern end where anyone can address the crowd while everyone else in and around the ringlet repeats what is being said so those further from the speaker can hear.

But in the absence of a clear, coherent, consistent message, and spokespeople who can articulate that message in the media and to Americans all across the nation, it's largely been the novelty of the tent city phenomenon that's garnered much of the attention and propelled protesters into television sets across the country. It will need more organization and a shifting towards more traditional protest movements rather than serve as an emotional outcry. It's currently a highly fragmented kaleidoscope of ideas, passions and agendas--everything from unemployment, corporate greed, prison reform and fracking to anarchy and Marxism.

The aptly named Jeremy Bold is an extremely serious, committed and very likable, 26-year old librarian from Brooklyn who's been a prominent voice and presence since the movement's beginnings early last month (He's in the blue shirt seated at the table at the start of the above video, and is later shown being arrested). When we spoke across from the park he had one eye on me, and another frequently on his cell phone looking for texts alerting him to what was happening back at the protest. He seemed nervous and concerned about a possible confrontation with police in the morning, yet seemed fully prepared for that. Bold clearly shies away from being labeled an organizer or leader, instead classifying himself as one of "hundreds of people" of who helped get OWS off the ground. He's quite idealistic, yet is savvy enough to sense that the movement may need at some point soon to shift its focus, strategies and free form philosophies in order to evolve to the next level.

"I think there's a important change coming, and I wouldn't even call it a transition, but building a bridge basically. What we're doing now is focusing on dialogue amongst ourselves and amongst the sympathizers, and that's a really important stage. We have to build solidarity with each other. We have to recognize our common struggles and learn to trust each other. But in order to enact real change in a broader world, in a world that isn't just Occupy Wall Street, there's a bridge that has to be crossed. We have to build a bridge to figure out how the kinds of discussions that could be policy related, that could be conceptual, that could be cultural...those things have to translate into something broader and into the wider world. And the bridge has to be built to do that. What that is is like figuring out what the power is, how we can represent the power within Occupy Wall Street in the world that is not Occupy Wall Street. And I can't say very much specifically about it. I totally recognize it, and there's a lot of people that recognize it, but what we're doing right now, for one, is not making any demands for a very good reason because we are still learning to appreciate each other and appreciate what this movement can be."

Whether Occupy Wall Street can, or will, move beyond its current configuration and scale depends upon its desire and ability to transcend the Utopian communal spirit that currently dominates its thinking in order to grow into the kind of potent national force, like the Tea Party, that can infiltrate the political system and achieve legislative success.

This is the kind of Ad the Democratic Party Needs to Get Behind

With a critical election coming up next year, it would seem no longer feasible that the Republican attack machine could mount a successful campaign to brand President Obama and Democrats as being weak on national security. The killing of Osama bin Laden, in a major symbolic way, was the first step in eradicating that age-old myth. But Obama didn't stop there.

Earlier this month, the administration tracked down and killed two American-born Muslim terrorists, Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, by Drone attack over northern Yemen. And just last week, thе U.S. Justice Department announced it had thwarted a terrorist рlοt involving аn elite Iranian military unit tο assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador tο Washington. An Iranian-born U.S. citizen, Manssor Arbabsiar, іѕ іn custody.

There have been other instances where the administration's broken up various plots to kill Americans, and I'm sure there'll be others before next November. But in order to command this issue and rid themselves of a patently false label they've be historically slapped with, Obama and Democrats must effectively craft the right message and define the debate, and then use every media resource in its foreign policy arsenal to effectively spread this message to voters. Nothing's automatic in politics, and just because something is factual doesn't mean the voting public will view it that way.

Between now and the election I will be creating a series of 30-second campaign ads that will not only focus on national security, but domestic issues such as the economy and health care. The above video is our first, (which I wrote, directed and produced and is edited by Ben Guzman.) The message is simple: "Re-elect President Obama...and Keep America Safe." Our ads will not only carry a simple, strong message, but they will be delivered with the same type of bumper-sticker/soundbite effectiveness through which Republicans have been defining the debate for over a decade now. It's how Democrats need to be speaking.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why this Democrat is Rooting for Jon Huntsman Jr.

Let me first be very clear about one thing: I am a life-long Democrat and I will be voting to re-elect President Obama next year. But I am also rooting for the smartest, sanest Republican in the race, Jon Huntsman Jr. Not to win the general election, but the GOP nomination.

So why am I supporting Huntsman? The state of politics today is the ugliest it's been in decades, if ever. The partisan divide has never been greater and is plagued by rabid, vitriolic hatred. We're no longer a society of Americans but instead one of two angry armies of blue and red. Our political system is broken, brought to a virtual legislative standstill by one party whose leaders are more obsessed with defeating Obama than they are with actually doing something to fix the economy, put people back to work and have government run as the Founding Fathers envisioned.

Which is why America needs an Obama/Huntsman election in 2012. The former Governor of Utah is a decent man. An honorable human being. A patriotic American who's served four presidential administrations on both sides of the aisle. He's exactly the sort of candidate conservatives should be nominating but likely won't because his party has been hijacked by it's radical fringe element which advocates everything from eliminating taxes and entitlement programs to eviscerating the EPA and Department of Education all the while seeking to turn America into an evangelical empire.

Huntsman, on the other hand, is a moderate who respects education and human/civil rights; understands climate change; appreciates diplomacy; is experienced with global economies; and has intelligent, rational positions on Social Security, Medicare, health care, immigration and Afghanistan.

Huntsman should be the Republican nominee not simply because he deserves to be, but because his candidacy would restore civility, integrity and sanity to a political process that has driven off a cliff in recent years. Americans deserve a presidential election with two candidates of substance and intellectual curiosity who would shift the critical issues of the day, and fixing America's problems, to the forefront of the debate rather than having them co-opted by the politics of personal destruction and distraction.

I may disagree with several of Huntsman's positions, but I wouldn't lose any sleep were he to become president. I know he would do right by America, as Obama's attempting to do. It's time the nation's presidential candidates star acting, well, presidential.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The "Occupy" Movement Should Follow the Tea Party Playbook

I was in Boston over the weekend and spent some time in "Occupy Boston" on
Rose Kennedy Greenway along Atlantic Avenue. What I saw there left me wondering just where this 'movement' was headed.

Set in Dewey Square in the Financial District near the touristy North End, about 99% of the occupiers are a hodgepodge of newly minted and aging hippies; fringe counter-culturalists advocating everything from class warfare to anarchy and Marxism (several were selling books on the latter two subjects).

There wasn't much protesting taking place either. Just a lot of people sitting around in tents, eating, relaxing and looking more like they were having fun than anything else. The scene looked like Woodstock without the music. You would think on a gorgeous Indian Summer day in a major city that this group would've capitalized on the opportunity to loudly voice its message to the throngs of people walking by. There was no visible anger, no visible frustration. No shouting, chanting or cries of "What do we want/when do we want it?" This was a demonstration in desperate need of populist Viagra.

Most of the signs were posted, not held. Virtually all of them were extremely radical, abstract statements such as:

"Eat the elite"

"The American dream is a pyramid scheme"

"Break up big banks"

"End the fed"

"I make your latte every morning and am in the other 99%"

That last one seemed to sum up their misplaced anger and confusion: the notion that everyone who goes to Starbucks is in the wealthiest 1%, or that no one who gets a latte before toiling at work all day can possibly be in the 99%. That's a terribly unfair and, quite frankly, disingenuous generalization.

The consensus seems to be that rich is bad, poor and middle class good. The message I heard most was 'We don't like rich people.' And if that becomes their overriding theme, they are doomed as a movement.

Which brings me to the broader protest movement. I haven't been down to Occupy Wall Street but it seems to be attracting supporters across all age, income, vocational, religious and ethnic groups. It appears sufficiently focused on key economic issues rather than waging a counter-culture revolution. I have great respect and admiration for this grassroots group, which is why I have such strong feelings about how they can become an even greater force that can actually achieve change in Washington.

Occupy Wall Street needs to tear a page out of the Tea Party handbook and start letting Washington and the media know exactly what it wants, which as of now is unclear. It should be demanding an immediate jobs bill. A bill to end corporate loopholes. A restructuring of the tax code. No repealing of Dodd-Frank. That is if it actually wants to have an impact on legislation instead of being just an emotional outcry.

The Tea Party message remains crystal clear: low taxes, less regulation and an end to entitlement programs. For the most part, the talking points and demands are consistent from Seattle to Sarasota and everywhere in between. And this is a movement that mobilized quickly, sending 63 Congressmen to Washington to legislate its hardcore agenda. No one needs to ask, "What do they want?" They've successfully transformed how government is working right now and they influence every politician from Eric Cantor to President Obama. Occupy Wall Street's leaders would be wise to follow a similar path to relevancy.

Lastly, a word of advice to OWS supporters: stop telling those who disagree with you, or who question some of the movement's strategies and overall effectiveness, that they "don't get it." It's rude, condescending and utterly obnoxious. You're no smarter or more "in touch" than anyone else. At its core, the movement itself is about the right of dissent and fighting oppression, so this sort of sanctimonious lecturing is rather ironic. Please respect that there are opinions that differ from yours. It doesn't mean that those who have them don't fully support the movement just like you.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement Needs a Clear Set of Demands

I have been awed and inspired by the raw energy, passion and commitment on the streets of lower Manhattan these past several weeks by the Occupy Wall Street movement. These are folks of all shapes, sizes, ages, races, religions, social classes, education levels, the employed and the unemployed, union workers and workers of all types, both blue and white collar.

These protesters are not a bunch of ragtag hippie freaks who have nothing better to do. These are people just like you and me. People who are fed up with the state of the economy, with high unemployment, slow growth and corporate greed. People who are either out of work or fear they may be soon if things don't change. And it's change that they want. Finally, people in this country are taking to the streets, and it's not just in New York but in cities all around the country. I suspect the movement will grow and tens of thousands will soon become hundreds of thousands, and maybe even millions. They should be a great source of pride to us all.

What concerns me is the messaging, or perhaps the lack thereof. What I hope to see come out of this movement, and soon, is a very clear set of goals. Demands which can be both easily heard and understood in Washington. It's not enough to simply march in the streets. You have to know what you want. And you need to let your opponents know that in precise terms. President Obama, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have to clearly understand what it is that the movement is fighting for.

Imagine these politicians in a room together, watching the protests on TV and asking each other, "What do these people want? What do they want us to do?" Well, they wouldn't be asking those questions if every time they turned on their TV's they saw hundreds of thousands of marchers chanting "Jobs Bill! Jobs Bill! Jobs Bill!" If they heard "Jobs Bill NOW! Jobs Bill NOW!" Or, Bill to End Corporate Loopholes!" Or, "No Repeal of Dodd-Frank!" But I'm afraid this type of goal is not being demanded.

Instead, the messaging is currently a hodgepodge of fanciful pipe dreams akin to Miss America's "I'd like to create peace on Earth." Here's some quotes that MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan got from protesters:

"I am choosing to no longer participate in what I perceive to be an abusive relationship," said Occupier Lopi.

"Our goal to create a massive independent weapon of mass help! We are not intent on destruction. We are intent on confronting and fixing what we all know is a bought government." another occupier told him. "This is our shared moment to seize prosperity."

"Our nation is too busy growing debt, poverty, homelessness, wars, oil spills, global temperatures and inflation on everything we need ­-- like food, education and healthcare -- to slow down, stop and fix the problem," another named Goldi said.

"I'm here because I love my family, and want to protect them from the thief with the gun on the street to the thief with the pen behind the desk!" said Calvin Roy.

It's this sort of broad, idealistic and unrealistic mission that could soon turn Occupy Wall Street into a failure if it cannot get a clear, specific agenda out. It must tell Washington in no uncertain terms, clear terms, what it wants. Because it is action, and effecting real change, that is ultimately at the core of any successful protest movement. And that would be an incredible legacy for this amazing group of people.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Legacy of Steve Jobs

I shed a tear this morning. It was for a man whose grieving family just lost a loving husband, father, son and brother. His name is Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple. He was just 56. Why is that so many of the truly good die so young?

Jobs' death for me is no different than the raw emotion I feel when anyone else leaves behind an adoring spouse and young children who will grow up missing their father's love and presence. That's the real tragedy.

But through Jobs' death the world has been unjustly robbed of the kind of visionary of which there's unfortunately an abundant shortage. A man whose contribution to society ranks among those of the great innovators like Einstein, Edison and Ford. Someone who broke all the rules, and when he re-wrote them, broke them all over again...again and again.

This morning I watched his moving commencement speech delivered to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. To call it inspiring would be like saying Martin Luther King Jr. was a non-violent protester. Mere words do neither man the appropriate historical significance they rightfully and uniquely deserve. I urge everyone to watch this speech as well. His message about life, death and everything in-between is timeless.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit I am anything but a technophile, and I have no great love for computers and computer geeks. Truth is, it took me five years to put down the vinyl and buy a CD, and I was probably the last guy to get a BlackBerry. If you look up "Man Least Likely to Embrace Technology" in the dictionary you'll see a picture of me.

But I now own an iPod, an iPad and a Mac. And I've become a full-fledged iTard, the very denigrating name I heaped on those who've been drinking the Jobs/Apple Kool-Aid for years. I am now drunk and happy just like them. And that's the true genius of Jobs' vision. He didn't just grab the geeks. He managed to win over the old school schmucks like me as well. Technology for the masses. That's his true legacy. It's mind-numbing to think how much he's changed how we live, work, think, create, read, write, communicate, relax.

Today we mourn the man, the mind and the memory. Let's hope somewhere out there there's the next young man or woman who will soon break all the rules, and change the world, only to break those rules over and over again.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

ChristieWatch: Is NJ's Big Man Getting Ready to Say 'Yes?' Why 2012 Makes More Sense than '16

It's another day of ChristieWatch, and another day of "will he or won't he?" New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the larger-than-life Republican who's literally being begged by GOP leaders to enter the 2012 presidential election and save the party from Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, told a local crowd Friday that while his state may have problems, the country has even bigger issues to contend with, hinting that America might benefit from his services more than his home state. And several people close to Christie confirm that he's reversed his position and is now seriously considering running.

I've been saying for months now and I will keep insisting that Christie will toss his hat into the ring, and maybe even early this week. And given the weak economy; high unemployment; Obama's plummeting popularity among blue color whites, Hispanics and seniors; Rick Perry's implosion; and a general disdain for Mitt Romney; the timing could never be better for him.

The conventional wisdom is that Christie's sitting this one out and is instead waiting for 2016. But that election could be a lot more difficult for Christie, with the challenge summed up in two words: Jeb Bush. The popular former Florida governor and a member of the Bush dynasty, which gave us two presidents named George, is the party favorite and has patiently waited his turn, focusing on 2016 in an open battle for the Oval Office.

There are other factors that could make '16 much more difficult for Christie.
For one, the national economy could be in a significantly better place by then. Economies are cyclical, and it's more likely than not that we'll be in a solid recovery with 3-5% annual GDP growth, unemployment around 6%, a strong housing market and consumer confidence in the 80's, almost double what it is today.

Additionally, Christie won't be the star-dusted new kid on the block anymore. By then he'll be into his second term as governor with a meaningful track record to scrutinize, and it may not be pretty. Remember, Jersey's economy remains weak and suffers from higher unemployment than the national average at 9.5%. And Christie's got a very big, abrasive mouth that's gotten him into trouble. The next four years could be a public relations nightmare for him if he's not verbally disciplined.

If Christie's smart, he'll realize his time is now. He'll strike when the iron is hot, not when he prefers there be an iron. And, I'd bet dollars to donuts that his running mate will ultimately be Florida's junior Sen. Marco Rubio, a Tea Party rock star, highly popular among his fellow Hispanics and who hails from a critical swing state. In appealing to blue collar whites, seniors, Hispanics and independents, a Christie/Rubio ticket would be very formidable opposition to President Obama. And if things don't markedly improve in the economy, it very well could be a winning ticket.

So keep on eye on The Big Man. The political landscape will never be more fertile for him than it is now. And if he does run, Sarah Palin won't. She knows he'd eat her alive, and I suspect she's waiting for him to make his decision before she announces hers. If he doesn't run, I still think she will, taking on a weakened Perry and Michele Bachmann for the Tea Party vote.