The real Chris Christie

He’s just as funny as you might expect. But aside from the comedy, the New Jersey governor’s conversation Thursday with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show is possibly one of the best about the role of government that’s aired on American television in quite some time:

The interview kicked off with some fellow New Jerseyan and Bruce Springsteen bonding, but quickly moved into the governor’s need for federal assistance in the wake of the hurricane and whether or not that contradicts with the overall philosophical view of conservatives. To make the point, Stewart brought up Christie’s recent rejection of the bill to set up healthcare exchanges in his state, likening an individual’s healthcare crisis to a statewide catastrophe. “If you have cancer and you don’t have insurance, that’s Hurricane Sandy,” Stewart explained.

Stewart went on to assert that Republicans seem to have empathy over only those issues that affect them directly, deferring to the “free market” on everything else, but Christie disagreed. “Republicans like to have the free market, or capitalism, run things except when they believe that government is the only way to solve the problem.”

I’m unable to embed these particular videos here, so just follow the link and watch the whole thing.


Chris Christie veers off-message

Could be just Chris Christie continuing his role as the GOP’s Bill Clinton: the hell-raisin’, charismatic star that articulates his candidate’s vision more clearly and convincingly than the guy himself can. Or maybe it’s a sign of some as-yet-unknown rift between Mitt Romney and the New Jersey governor. Either way, Christie’s effusive praise of Barack Obama for his role in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts has raised some eyebrows:

Chris Christie was supposed to be one of Mitt Romney‘s most aggressive surrogates, constantly attacking President Obama in the waning days of the presidential campaign.

Instead, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has spent the last several hours repeatedly heaping praise on Mr. Obama as effectively leading the federal government’s response to the huge storm that slammed into his state on Monday.

Eight days ago, Mr. Christie described Mr. Obama as “blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue.” On Tuesday morning, he was effusive about Mr. Obama’s administration, calling the storm response “wonderful,” “excellent” and “outstanding.”

The overnight transformation of Mr. Christie from political slasher to disaster governor is a reflection of the magnitude of the devastation in New Jersey. Asked on Fox News whether Mr. Romney might tour damage of the state, Mr. Christie was dismissive.

“I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics,” Mr. Christie said. “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”

Meanwhile, in the too-good-to-resist department, WorldNetDaily‘s Drew Zahn went there:

Journalist and White House correspondent William Koenig explained to WND that some of the United States’ most catastrophic storms and events have correlated closely with the nation’s God-defying attempts to divide the land of Israel.

“When we put pressure on Israel to divide their land, we have enormous, record-setting events, often within 24 hours,” Koenig told WND. “Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 – we have experienced over 90 record-setting, all-time events as we have acted against Israel. And the greater the pressure on Israel to ‘cooperate,’ the greater the catastrophe.”

Some of Koenig’s examples are startling.

“Hurricane Sandy is expected to come ashore in the Northeast on the 21st anniversary of the ‘Perfect Storm,’” Koenig related. “That record-setting storm devastated the New England coast as President George H.W. Bush co-sponsored the Madrid Conference from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, 1991.”

At the Conference, Bush broke from President Reagan’s more pro-Israel policies in the attempt to forge an Arab-Israeli “peace” plan that included recognizing a Palestinian “right” to biblically Jewish lands. But while Bush was in Spain advocating a division of Israel, the “Perfect Storm” – so named for the ferociously destructive way in which a cold nor’easter combined with Hurricane Grace – was lashing the U.S. seaboard at home.

“The Perfect Storm sent 30-foot ocean waves into Bush’s Kennebunkport home as he was calling on Israel to give up the West Bank (Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem),” Koenig told WND. “The Madrid ‘land for peace’ Conference began the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that Mitt Romney advocated in the debates, even as yet another ‘perfect storm’ is brewing offshore.”

The original Perfect Storm formed on Oct. 28, 1991, and dissipated on Nov. 4 – correlating almost perfectly with dates of the Madrid Conference. The storm was blamed for 13 deaths and over $200 million in damages, including those to Bush’s vacation home.

Similarly, Hurricane Katrina, the deadliest and costliest hurricane in U.S. history, hit Aug. 29, 2005; the storm began the day President George W. Bush congratulated Israel for evacuating Gaza and called on the Israelis and Palestinians to move onto his two-state plan.

So what national iniquity specifically caused Hurricane Sandy, then?

“Both political parties have now accepted, specifically, a two-state solution to peace in the Mideast, dividing Israel’s land between Israel and a Palestinian state,” Koenig told WND. “And now this hurricane story is going to disrupt political campaigning and possibly affect voter turnout for both parties.

“There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes pressure on Israel by the Obama administration, to not act on Iran prior to the election,” Koenig continued, “but the most succinct correlation is that both parties have officially endorsed the two-state solution.”

Koenig also pointed to Romney’s statements at the last presidential debate, when the Republican declared, “Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have.”

Koenig, however, warned that making “progress” on the land-for-peace talks, which would see Israel surrender land to a Palestinian state, is exactly what could be prompting these catastrophic weather “acts of God.”

Nice to see Hurricane Sandy spared the nut jobs. Carry on as usual, gentlemen.

Mitt Romney: high-school gay bully?

You’ve probably heard about this by now:

Mitt Romney Steve Pearce event 057

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

I am conflicted about this. One of my least favorite things about contemporary American politics is how irrelevant and pathetic the public discourse has become, and how thoroughly disconnected from the everyday reality of people’s lives the online and TV chatter is. (This frustration is rather nicely captured — although I don’t necessarily endorse the Chris Christie-esque tone of the example he uses — by this piece.)

On the other hand, this 47-year-old story has an odd resonance today, given the struggle for gay rights and the very prominent and ongoing issue of the bullying of gays in schools throughout the United States. It seems to show a whole new and very ugly side to Mitt Romney, taking away what was perhaps his last remaining unequivocal positive: being a “good guy.”

And yet this all seems so primitive at the same time. (The timing is suspicious as well — this appeared in the Post the day after Obama’s announcement on same-sex marriage? Seems bizarre, to say the least.) I mean, this literally happened almost a half-century ago. I constantly rail against the idiocy and irrelevance of criticizing presidential candidates for whichever drugs they did as college kids or how much they drank at social events or who they dated or what pretentious literary criticism they wrote to their female admirers as young, heady academics.

So, as horrifying as this incident assuredly must have been for John Lauber, I’m inclined to give Mitt Romney a break on this one. We’re not dealing with 1965 Romney today. Hell, as we’ve clearly seen, the Romney of today doesn’t even bear any resemblance on major issues to the Romney of just a few years ago, never mind 47 years ago.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that my views on Mitt Romney’s gay bullying are still “evolving.”

UPDATE (5/11/2012 1:48 AM Paris time):

Dish blogger (and prominent same-sex marriage activist) Andrew Sullivan comes to this somewhat similar conclusion:

Should we judge a man today by what he did all those years ago?

Not entirely. He has apologized. But there is surely something here: the notion that being privileged and conformist requires actual punishment of the marginalized and under-privileged; that you pick on younger, weaker boys, not older ones; and that you psychologically traumatize the victim by permanently marking his body.

And this matters because today these attacks on gay kids drive many to suicide, others to despair; they wreck lives and self-esteem. It matters that we know that one candidate for president was an anti-gay bully in high school, targeting a weak and defenseless kid and humiliating and traumatizing him. Today, he does the same thing in a larger, more abstract way: targeting a small minority as a way to advance his own power. It gives me the chills.

Stephen King gets feisty

Via the Daily Beast:

What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.