Friday, May 31, 2013

Same Old, Same Old

A few weeks ago Jonathan Easleyy of The Hill reported

First lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) suffers from adulthood obesity and is an example of why her "Let’s Move" campaign is such an important initiative.

Speaking Wednesday on the "Today" show, the first lady was asked to comment on reports that Christie secretly underwent a medical operation in February to help him lose weight.

“The one thing I will say is that there are millions of people like the governor who struggle with adulthood obesity, and that’s one of the reasons why 'Let’s Move' is so important,” she said. “Because we want to start working with kids when they’re young so that they don’t have these challenges when they get older.”

The first lady initially tempered her comments by calling it a private family decision.

Of course she did- because, as Easley added, "The New Jersey governor is one of the most popular political figures in the country, and many consider him to be in the top-tier of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates."   And no one may criticize Chris Christie.

Especially, it would seem, in front of his BFF, Barack Obama.   In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, in late October the President toured Atlantic City, N.J. with Christie and appeared at a press conference in a photo-op valuable to both men.  Atlantic City mayor Lorenzo Langford, who has feuded with the NJ Governor was notably absent, presumably because he might have imperiled the comity between the two Republicans- uh, er, the Republican and the Democrat.

Several conservative opinon-makers were Incensed that one of the party's governors would be campaigning with the Democratic president a few days before a close election.  Predictably, MSNBC bloggers were contemptuous of the right, one praising Christie for allegedly "abandoning partisanship in favor of responding to a natural disaster-induced crisis," another slamming "the right-wing's growing rapid hatred of bipartisanship."

But Christie's favor to the President has been returned.   As Matt Katz (unofficial stenographer to the Governor) effused Tuesday

The boys of October are back, just in time for summer.

"Jersey, you still got a lot of road ahead, but when you look out on this beach here, it looks good!" President Obama told the Jersey Shore this afternoon.

Invoking the phrase officials have adopted as part of the Jersey Shore tourism campaign, Obama said: "You are stronger than the storm."

"After all you've dealt with and after all you've been through, the Jersey Shore is back and it's open for business."

Obama and Gov. Christie, the bipartisan duo that worked closely in the aftermath of Sandy -- and in the process triggered controversy of seismic levels in the lead-up to Election Day -- are hanging out today on the Jersey Shore. Beyond the political implications, the event is intended to let America know that the state's main tourist destination is largely up and running, ready to welcome tourists.

Ah, yes," just in time for the summer", two guys from the neighborhood just "hanging out," knocking back a couple.   In his next, the fifth, paragraph, Katz got around to telling us where on the "Jersey" ("New Jersey" is just, oh, so formal) shore the two buds were.

The President's support for Christie, campaigning for re-election to the Statehouse, is apiece with one of the President's most curious habits.    Republican SenatorLincoln Chafee, who became an Independent and was elected Governor of New Hampshire, has now switched his party identication to Democrat in his bid to be re-elected.   Chairperson Peter Shumlin of the Democratic Governor's Association says the organization will support "whomever emerges as the Democratic nominee."  Nonetheless

In an encouraging sign for Chafee, the White House publicly embraced him as a soon-to-be-minted Democrat on Wednesday, issuing a statement from Obama praising Chafee as “an independent thinker and leader” who hasn’t been constrained by party labels
“I enjoyed working with Linc when he was a Republican in the United States Senate, and I look forward to continuing that collaboration on the issues that matter not just to the Democratic Party, but to every American,” Obama said. “I’m thrilled to welcome Linc to the party of Jefferson and Jackson, Roosevelt and Kennedy – and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead.”

It’s no surprise that Chafee would win a warm reception from Obama: The ex-Republican campaigned for the president in 2008 and 2012 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last summer.

Obama has returned the favor: he declined to endorse a Democrat for governor in 2010, when Chafee was running as an independent in a three-way race. And when Chafee ran TV ads featuring archival footage of the president praising him, Obama and his aides did not object.

In fact, despite being officially neutral in 2010, Obama was perceived as so Chafee-friendly that the Democratic nominee that year, Frank Caprio, told Rhode Island radio station WPRO that the president could “take his endorsement and really shove it.”

Chafee ultimately won with 36 percent of the vote, while Caprio fell into third place.

Blogging at Hullabaloo, David Atkins notes that the state Democratic establishment is displeased that what he accurately dubs "the Neoliberal-in-Chief" has endorsed Chafee.  The Governor's whose switch of party is particularly opportunistic, his only chance to avoid what otherwise would be near-certain defeat for the unpopular governor in this reliably Democratic State.  Atkins explains

Lincoln Chafee has finally decided to switch parties and become a Democrat. The short and simple analysis is that Chafee faced an uncomfortable three-way battle in which many Democrats declined to endorse their own fellow Democrat Frank Caprio in order to assure that a Republican didn't sneak into the Rhode Island governorship. Chafee's switch to the Democratic Party means that he can potentially avoid that situation if he runs for re-election.

A lazy progressive take on Chafee's switch is that Republicans have become so extreme that they've driven the likes of Chafee out of their party, that more sensible Republicans should switch away also, that the GOP is facing death throes as the Bachmanns are laughed out of Congress while the Chafees become Democrats. Yada yada. But I'm not going to do that, because it would be whistling past the graveyard.

The reality is that while Chafee is reliably liberal on social issues, he largely remains an economic conservative. That makes him wholly inadequate as a Democrat.

Now, if Rhode Island were a tough red state in which Chafee was a reliable winner against a bevy of hyperconservatives, that would be different. Ben Nelson, for instance, will always get a pass in Nebraska because there aren't good alternatives. But Rhode Island is not that. Good progressive Democrats with real progressive economic values can and should win in Rhode Island. Lincoln Chafee is not the best of a bad bargain. He's the worst of a good bargain.

Chairperson of the Ventura County (CA.) Democratic Central Committe, Atkins concludes

As Democrats, we can do better than Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, particularly now that he's saddled with bad approval ratings. We must do better.

And it must be the state party leadership in Rhode Island that stands up to the President and makes it clear that they expect and demand a real Democrat run for and win the governorship of the Ocean State.

Congressional Democrats, liberal pundits, and others must support the President as he is saddled with the largely trumped-up Benghazi and IRS scandals. (The AP/Justice Department scrum is a different matter.)  But if (though unlikely) Obama's troubles grow and the possiblity of  impeachment looms, House Democrats might remember that a defining characteristic of Barack Obama's political career has been that, when faced with competing interests of party and self, he never has wavered.

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