Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mojo Misplaced

To blogger Bluegal, it's "Let's say you find out that every word Chris Christie uttered during the Fox Business Debate was a lie that he used to defend himself against Sen. Marco Rubio's criticisms on his record, would you still vote for him? Would you trust anything he said?"  Vox's Dylan Matthews maintains "Christie is just consistently, repeatedly, brazenly lying."

Steve Benen at MaddowBlog calls Christie out for lying at the South Carolina debate about his support for the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, for contributing in the past to Planned Parenthood, and about the purported elimination of Common Core in New Jersey.  Then he linked to the fact checkers at The Washington Post, who questioned Christie's record on gun control.

The coldly objective explanation from Slate's Jim Newell included

“Common Core has been eliminated in New Jersey,” Christie retorted. Christie was a strong supporter and early adopter of Common Core standards in his first term as governor, so already Rubio is correct in noting that Christie “has endorsed” the idea. When he decided he wanted to be president, he put the program under review. As Jessica Huseman writes for Slate, “New Jersey is still using the exact same tests as before, ones that are aligned with the exact same Common Core standards for what students should master by each grade level,” but he’s just not calling it Common Core anymore.

On gun control, Christie mentioned a number of the measures he has blocked. “I have vetoed a .50-caliber rifle ban,” he said. “I have vetoed a reduction this clip size. I vetoed a statewide I.D. system for gun owners, and I pardoned six out-of-state folks who came through our state and were arrested for owning a gun legally in another state so they never have to face charges.” It wasn’t always this way. When Christie campaigned in 2009, his campaign sent out a release saying he “supports the assault weapons ban and all current gun laws.” He says now that he’s “changed his mind” on guns and “learned a great deal about guns” since it became politically necessary to do so.

He credits his “experience as a federal prosecutor” for the shift, which is interesting in two respects. He already picked up that “experience as a federal prosecutor” when he was campaigning in 2009 and supporting gun control measures such as the assault weapons ban. And in 2013, when he signed a bill barring people on the federal terrorism watch list from owning guns—something Democrats in Washington are pushing for right now on the federal level, to strenuous Republican objections—what did Christie cite as his justification? “As a former federal prosecutor,” he said in a ceremony, “I understand the obligation of government to ensure the safety and security of its people.”

“I didn’t support Sonia Sotomayor,” he said Thursday night, flat-out. When asked on a radio show in 2009 whether he personally would have selected Sotomayor, Christie said, “She wouldn’t have been my choice, no.” Well, duh. He’s a Republican. But he supported her confirmation anyway. “I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination,” then-gubernatorial candidate Christie said in a July 2009 statement.“Qualified appointees should be confirmed and deserve bi-partisan support. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito deserved that support based on their work as Circuit Court Judges. So does Judge Sotomayor. As a result, I support her confirmation.”

As for “the donation he made to Planned Parenthood,” at issue is a quote from 1994 to the Star-Ledger when Christie was running for county office and was asked about public funding for Planned Parenthood, which he opposed due to budget constraints. “I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution and that should be the goal of any such agency, to find private donations,” he said. Christie doesn’t lie about having been previously pro-choice, but he has little explanation for the “I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution” line. “I’m convinced it was a misquote,” he told the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin in an interview this week.

The (Newark, NJ) Star-Ledger- which through the Governor's re-election campaign and until Bridgegate thought Chris Christie was just fine- in October editorialized "He lies like the rest of us brush our teeth, as a matter of routine."

He is still, however, not the most loathsome Republican in the presidential race, though the most loathsome man in the presidential race. Moreover, as conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt recently pointed out about GOP debates, "fact checkers don't matter."    And rank dishonesty didn't prevent the New Jersey governor from owning Marco Rubio in South Carolina.

Oh, few if any post-debate analysts noted this. Neither did Politico's Republican "insiders," a plurality of whom, indulged in strong drink, believed Rubio won the debate  (graph below).  Of Chris Christie, the Florida senator stated

We can not afford to have a president of the United States that supports gun control. This president, this president is more interested in funding -- less interested in funding the military, than he is in funding planned -- he's more interested in funding Planned Parenthood than he is in funding the military.

Chris Christie wrote a check to Planned Parenthood. All I'm saying is our next president has to be someone that undoes the damage Barack Obama has done to this country. It can not be someone that agrees with his agenda.

Because the damage he has done to America is extraordinary. Let me tell you, if we don't get this election right, there may be no turning back for America. We're on the verge of being the first generation of Americans that leave our children worse off than ourselves....

Then Neil Cavuto asked Rubio the "L" question: "is Christie a liberal?" virtually inviting the Senator to fire the kill shot. Instead, Rubio replied

Unfortunately, Governor Christie has endorsed many of the ideas that Barack Obama supports, whether it is Common Core or gun control or the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor or the donation he made to Planned Parenthood. Our next president, and our Republican nominee can not be someone who supports those positions.

The correct answer, when running in a GOP race, obviously is an unequivocal "yes."  Christie responded to the Floridian with a three-pronged attack. First, he ridiculed young Marco:  "I stood on the stage and watched Marco in rather indignantly, look at Governor Bush and say, someone told you that because we're running for the same office, that criticizing me will get you to that office. It appears that the same someone who has been whispering in old Marco's ear too."

Then he dishonestly denied backing Sonia Sotomayor, Planned Parenthood, and the core of Common Core. He finished off with one of the oldest banal fantasies- refuted by Christie's own re-election- by claiming "When you're a governor, you're held accountable for everything you do."

Marco Rubio is good at the one-liners he has memorized. But sometimes, the best offense is a good defense (a little late, he responds, below). Rubio could have quoted Christie's old statement of support for elevating Judge Sotomayor to  Justice Sotomayor.  He could have pointed out that Christie still backs standardized testing and that he merely doesn't call it "Common Core" now that he's running for the nomination. Further, when Christie protested "I never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood," the Senator could have retorted "I'm sorry. You didn't write a check. You put it on your credit card" or "then you must have paid cash."

Marco Rubio has a lot going for him as a candidate. And if he regains his footing, we may see it. However, when he has to deviate from prepared remarks, he is not as slick- or quite as dishonest- as Chris Christie or Ted Cruz.  And in a contest in which, as Hugh Hewitt implied, facts don't matter, that one might.

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