Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Gov. Chris Christie

When I witnessed how you handled the post-Hurricane Sandy devastation in your state, and in particular how closely you worked with President Obama on disaster recovery and relief, several thoughts came to mind: (1) here's a truly effective governor reacting to a crisis; (2) here's a prominent Republican putting aside party politics for the good of his state's residents; (3) here's a guy who's his own man and doesn't care what the GOP elite thinks; and (4) all of which is exactly why so many people like and respect you.

Then came Rupert Murdoch's November 3 Tweet: "...Now Christie, while thanking O, must re- declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years."  And as the New York Times reported Tuesday, you've been taking it on the chin ever since from party leaders, fellow governors and large donors who, like Murdoch, hold you partly responsible for Obama's victory over Mitt Romney.

At a time when the nation is recovering from the most brutal presidential election in history and years of unprecedented partisan vitriol, and while your state, as well as several parts of New York, are still suffering the horrific impact of the storm, it's an utter shame that you have to expend any time whatsoever on further explaining your motivations and behavior during a time of catastrophic destruction.

Furthermore, given the results of the election and in particular your party's humiliating defeat in all of the critical swing states, it seems terribly counter-intuitive for Republicans to be pounding the partisan drum in your ear. What the election clearly demonstrated is that Americans are fed up with the bickering in Washington and the virtual deadlock it's created. Voters affirmed their desire to elect leaders who've demonstrated that they can reach across the proverbial aisle and get the job done. They want politicians who can enact meaningful legislation to grow the economy and provide funding for healthcare, education and clean energy while addressing immigration and protecting and preserving Social Security and Medicare. They also made it clear that they want politicians out of their personal lives...especially where it involves marriage, contraception and religion.

To be sure, the Republican Party, with its radical, intolerant, unyielding, stubborn base, is headed off a cliff unless it heeds the loud warning voters sent it on November 6th. Regardless, and more important, it is politicians like yourself who are your party's future. Men and women who can return Washington to the days when Democrats and Republicans disagreed, discussed, compromised, legislated, shook hands, had a drink together and then came back to the Hill the next day to do it all over again.

What you did during and after the storm was demonstrate true leadership, class and rarely seen political gravitas. Voters will remember that showing of solidarity with your fellow New Jerseyans and your president, whose response to the storm you hailed as "outstanding," "incredibly supportive" and deserving "great credit." In 2016 should you decide to run for president, you'll surely be able to tap that well of goodwill and capital. As for now, let the sore-losing, tone-deaf party crazies whine all they want about how you "sold them out" or became an "Obama surrogate."   They're dinosaurs headed for extinction.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Romney's Binders Full of Gifts

Two things were confirmed this past week: that Mitt Romney truly despises the poor and middle class, and that most Republican leaders despise Mitt Romney.

Now that the election is over, some of the long-lost truth is returning to politics. In a conference call Wednesday with campaign donors, Romney blamed his humiliating loss on what he implied were the bribes President Obama used to buy 51% of the electorate “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people....In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups...What the president's campaign did was focus on certain  members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the  government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that  strategy worked."

He continued: "With regards to the young people, for instance," Romney told his big fund-raisers, "a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift. Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people."

This latest embarrassing diatribe from the nation's whiniest sore-loser unequivocally proves what we knew all along: that when he delivered his now-infamous, campaign-sinking "47%" comments at a closed-door fundraiser in May he was speaking from his core. That despite spending the next six months desperately trying to convince voters that he didn’t mean to disparage almost half the population and that he represents "100%" of them, he last week demonstrated once again his utter disdain for the working class, veterans, the sick, the elderly, minorities, immigrants, women and college students. 51% is the new 47%. 

Romney's reprehensible outburst was swiftly denounced by many top  Republicans including Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Gov.  Bobby Jindal (LA), Gov. Scott Walker (WI), Gov. Susana Martinez (NM), strategist Ana Navarro, Newt Gingrich and New  Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. All of whom regrettably lined up to endorse him before the election. But his latest outrageously offensive statements gave these reluctant supporters the opportunity to finally and publicly demonstrate what they couldn't throughout the campaign: how much they dislike him.

The truth is, Romney will go down as perhaps the worst Republican candidate in history, which is why so many of the party's prescient voices behind closed doors clamored for anyone but Mitt, but it was Mitt with whom they got stuck after the rest of the primary crazies imploded (’ceptin’ Jon Huntsman who, if the GOP base wasn’t so radical, might’ve actually become president). Now they get to distance themselves from him like a dreaded plague.

Some sage advice for Romney: don’t go away mad, just go away...  

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Rockaways in Ruins

I spent Friday afternoon in Far Rockaway, a little burg along the coast in Queens, NY where I grew up in the beachfront Wavecrest Gardens apartments. It was an idyllic place in the 1960's and '70's. The sea air. The sound of crashing waves. The boardwalk. The arcades. The Good Humor ice cream truck stationed all Summer in the circle. 9pm fireworks. Riding my bike all over town like Fred Savage in The Wonder Years. That was a long, long time ago. And now, because of Hurricane Sandy, my beloved Rockaways is in a state of disaster.

The extent of the crisis can be felt soon after crossing the Gil Hodges Bridge, traveling along Beach Channel Drive through Belle Harbor, a seaside community that’s been ravaged by the storm. There’s a palpable sense of the devastation as piles upon piles of housing debris become visible along the road, as bulldozers clear the washed out, burned out neighborhood. Further down the peninsula, in Arverne, there’s a convoy of National Guard armored vehicles that pass.

There's abandoned cars, damaged homes and cops at every corner. Even in the daylight the loss of power is stark, as all the stores, except for the rare bodega with a generator, are shut and the people's faces, as they mill about trying desperately to figure out when and where their next meal will come from, are full of anger, frustration and fear. In many ways the place more resembles war-torn Afghanistan than a borough of New York.

At the East end, in Far Rockaway, we dropped off food at several makeshift relief centers. At our first stop, God’s Pentecostal Church on Cornaga Avenue, we were greeted like family. Tables were set up for both clothing and food distribution. Within seconds of placing a dozen trays of hot food in front of the volunteers, a line of thirty people formed.

“Where you from?” one organizer asked me, smiling at me, my girlfriend Phoebe and my daughter’s Emily and Kim.


“Who are you with?

“We’re here on our own” I said.

“Thank you, man. We really appreciate you helping us.”

“I grew up here,” I told him, pointing to the recreation center next door. “I used to play basketball there.” His eyes lit up and he high-fived me.

“Alright man, so you know what we’re going through here. Welcome home bro.”

“You’re not alone,” I assured him.

We asked where another center might be, and he told us to head to St. Mary’s Church on Central Avenue. We arrived there in 3 minutes, but they weren’t as organized as the last site and, surprisingly, passed on our offer for hot food. I stood for a second staring across the property at the lawn where, over forty years ago, I used to play tackle football.

Back in our two-car caravan we headed out in search of another center, winging it this time. We stumbled upon a little outpost off Beach Channel Drive on Nameoke Avenue. It was starting to get dark, and the folks there were hurrying to shut the small operation. It, like many others, sits behind tall metal gates that are quickly shut once the sun sets. No one wants to be on the streets after dark, and I can understand why. There’s been looting, mugging and robberies, and people are afraid. It’s a scary place and getting scarier by the minute.  

A few people there said they needed food, so we dropped of some baked ziti and soup. Phoebe had been out in the Rockaways earlier in the week, and as she passed out food a sad little boy of about seven looked up and asked her, “Do you have any cupcakes?” Within two days she and our friend Daniela had gotten several Manhattan cupcake establishments-- Billy's Bakery, Molly's Cupcakes, Butter Lane Cupcakes, Buttercup Bake Shop and Georgetown Cupcake NYC—to donate dozens of boxes.  There were several small children hovering as the adults hurriedly packed up before complete darkness fell. We put the cupcakes down and the kids grabbed them with a fury.

A few blocks up Nameoke we came across what would be the most organized of the centers we visited, The Church of the Nazarene on the corner of Central. It occupies what used to be the Mel Chevrolet dealership where my parents bought their new yellow 1969 Impala station wagon for a mere $3500. There’s a FEMA presence there but the effort’s been organized and is run by the church's Orlando, Fl-based disaster relief team...a small army of committed folks who piled into a command trailer and mobile kitchen and drove 1000 miles to help. It’s run with the efficiency of the U.S. Army. They were thrilled to receive the grub and cupcakes. The hot stuff went right into the food line and the sugary treats were gone in a matter of minutes.

“Do you mind if I grab one of these for our volunteers?” the food director asked, holding a cupcake box. These volunteers deserve a helluva lot more than cupcakes for the incredibly selfless work they're doing.

There's talk that power and water may be out until Christmas. That's six weeks away. I can't fathom how the people of the Rockaways can handle that. They’re already terribly hungry, cold and unbathed. They’re afraid for their children, and at night, for their own lives. The elderly, many of whom are sick and needing medical care, risk dying if conditions don't improve fast.

It’s an absolute disgrace. The federal government isn’t doing enough. The City of New York isn’t doing enough. Relief organizations, like the Red Cross, aren’t doing enough. LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority, isn’t doing enough. Thankfully, there’s been an army of volunteers who’ve been filling the void as best they can. But it could be a very long, hard, cold and perhaps violent Winter if people’s lives aren’t restored, along with their electricity and water, back to normal soon.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Real Takeaway From the Election

By now everyone in the world knows that President Barack Obama handily beat Mitt Romney to win re-election. The final electoral tally: 303-206. Obama took all the swing states. Independents apparently flocked to the Democratic incumbent. As they say, the fat lady has sung.

So what is the real takeaway of the most expensive, vitriolic, polarizing election in political history? Last night wasn't just a victory for Obama and Joe Biden. It was a victory for all of America and the world. It was a huge win for the poor, the sick, the needy, the middle class, and yes, the rich, even if they don't see it this way. It was a victory for education, for the environment and for decency. But most important, it was a victory against ignorance, intolerance, racism, misogyny, reproductive extremism, religious fanaticism, birtherism, homophobia, xenophobia, war-mongering and partisan obstructionism. A victory against the kind of ugliness that defies logic, reason and everything that our great nation truly stands for.    

As the above video so painfully illustrates, the biggest loser Tuesday was stupidity and fear. Let's hope the next four years shines a brighter light on America. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Will We Hear THIS Speech From Moderate Mitt Before Tuesday?

The presidential election is Tuesday, giving Mitt Romney just four more days to convince voters that he actually has a core. That's no easy task given that he's been changing his positions as often as I change my socks.  Case in point: in the past week the formerly "severely conservative" Romney, in an effort to appear much less so, has unleashed Uber-Moderate Mitt, who’s shifted so far to the left he makes Barney Frank appear like a Tea Partier. 

For example, by embracing FEMA, teachers, single-mothers and bi-partisanship ("Democrats love America too!"), it's impossible to predict what could come out of his fork-tongued, co-opting mouth next. Perhaps, in the final hours of the campaign, as he gets even more desperate, we'll hear the following stump speech:

“Hello Florida! I love Jews! No, I mean that, seriously! I really love you guys! So much so that just this week I got a circumcision. That’s right, I lopped off a sizable chuck of my adult penis for you…and I’ll tell ya, I didn’t have much to start with! That’s the kind of president I’ll be….one who sacrifices his foreskin for Israel!

“And I love Rosie O’Donnell! She’s my favorite lesbian! And I love Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin too. Why, just yesterday Ann and I were singing Kumbaya on the bus and we were saying how much we’d love to have those groovy liberals over to one of our homes for dinner sometime. But this election isn’t about hot lesbians…it’s about hot single mothers! (insert awkward Romney laugh). Hey, I’m kidding! It’s about the economy, and jobs and getting America back on track.

We’ve got to help the crack ho’s, the gang-bangers, the unemployed and those who don’t pay any taxes yet deserve the widest government safety net we can provide.  And it’s time our government starts paying for abortions! That’s right…I love abortion so much I’ve basically aborted every single position I’ve ever had. I want to merge Planned Parenthood with FEMA and the EPA and double its budget.

“And let’s get something straight: I love homos too! I love show tunes, flashy clothes and Tim Gunn. And I promise you this: if Ann and I ever divorce I’m goin ‘ gay! Me and my new little streamlined penis will tear up West Hollywood like Liberace on a drunken binge!

“Now let me talk foreign policy for a second. I’m not sure who this Ben Ghazi guy is, but we need to stop talking about him and start strengthening our armed forces. We need more cannons! In 1917 we had 2000 cannons and now we have none. And we need more horses. Have you seen ”War Horse?” Love that show. And we need to start talking with Iran. Maybe have Ahmadinejad over with Baldwin and those guys and smoke some weed. Loosen him up a bit.

“Lastly, I want to talk to you old folks about Medicare. You’ve got nothing to worry about. If my running mate Paul Ryan mentions his voucher program again I’ll smack him upside his head. That’s a black expression! (insert awkward Romney laugh). I love black people! Repeal Obamacare? Gosh, heck no!  I’m gonna expand that sucker! Lower the eligibility age. Increase the benefits. Think of me as Mitt Medicare!

“So please go out and vote…and vote for me! Because I’ll give you everything you ever wanted and make all your dreams come true. Just don’t hold me to it because I may need to change positions again…”