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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Inauguration Day Madman

February 9, 2009


Let the Campaign Begin!
(Watch our Garden Staters)

With the announcements this week by two (at least) Republicans that they're going to challenge Governor Jon Corzine (DEMOCRAT) once they've finished challenging themselves, the New Jersey Gubernatorial season has officially begun.

What makes 2005 so interesting is that there are only two races for state mansions instead of the usual double-handful which occur in even years. With Virginia not allowing incumbents to run for re-election (although they can run for alternative terms "hop-scotching" their way across their state's political landscape), The Garden State will certainly be the state to watch this election season.

Normally in the first year after a presidential election, New York City's mayoral race is also in the news. However, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg (is he still calling himself an Independent?) being allowed to run for a third term, the tri-state metropolitan area will have but one race to focus on: New Jersey's race for Trenton.

And so might the national main stream media.

While the Virginia race is intriguing, that state has solid Republican roots. The possibility that it could turn back to a GOP executive wouldn't be Earth-shattering. New Jersey doing so would be.

Jersey has been supporting Democrats for statewide office for some time now. The last Governor, Christie Todd Whitman, upon taking the EPA Chief job in the Bush administration, had left her state (my state) with a succession of Republican Governors-for-a-day that made the last year of her un-served term, and our state, the laughing stock.

The joke, "Oh you're from Jersey? What exit?" was trumped by a new joke whose answer was "Which Governor?"

There's much to ne asked about anyone running for his or her state house and nothing is off-limits. While we all know - or think we know, depending on the news agency one listens to - Governor Corzine, the only thing we know about Chris Christie is that he considers himself to be a political crime fighter. In fact, Christie has put away a few minor politicos in the Garden State including Republican James W. Treffinger, the Executive of Essex County, and Sharpe James, the former Mayor of Newark.

But it's Christie's friends that will make New Jersians look at him through suspicious eyes. Christie is one of the Bush-appointed US attorneys who was considered to be a "friend of The President" during the Bush years. In fact, Christie was one of the original Bush-appointed US attorneys to serve nearly the entire two terms of the Bush administration. Christie submitted his resignation to Attorney General Michael Mukasey on November 17, 2008. He was appointed in December, 2001 and confirmed in January, 2002.

Christie's experience as a prosecutor was non-existent so his appointment was due more to his relationship with the incoming president than it was to his legal expertise: Chris Christie was one of the top fund-raisers for President bush in the 2000 campaign. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that his appointment was a favor for "services rendered" rather than "experience obtained".

Christie will also have to answer for his closeness to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Christie was a member of the Gonzales inner-circle and was one of seventeen US Attorneys on Gonzales' Advisory Board.

One has to wonder if that "Advisory Board" was the one "advising" AG Gonzales to torture prisoners and to fire any US Attorney who didn't "play ball" and prosecute Democrats in their jurisdiction.

The question which Christie must answer is about his relationship with Gonzales and Bush.

Christie didn't want to answer questions in the wake of his announcing for the GOP nomination. When asked about his policies, he just came out with a "no promises" statement which seemed more like a Caroline Kennedy silence than a statement trying to gain one of the strongest state houses in the nation.

"No comments" don't cut it in New Jersey, Mr. Christie.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2009 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

Barack Obama was supposed to bring many things to Washington as President. He promised a lot–too much. His supporters expected even more.

Reality has hit hard on the Beltway. The fantasy of no lobbyists and no Washington insiders was the first to evaporate. But it has been the fantasy of a post-partisan Washington that has created the most problems for the new administration, as well as for the country.

Two of Obama’s most recent nominees, Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, withdrew their names from consideration last week due to tax problems. The confirmation of Hilda Solis, Obama’s nominee for Labor Secretary, has also been put on hold due to her husband’s alleged tax problems.

Previously, Bill Richardson had also withdrawn due to an investigation involving his office in New Mexico.

President Obama is not the first to have problems with his nominees, although the media has presented it that way. Both Bill Clinton and George Bush had nominees who had to be withdrawn, also for tax-related reasons.

What is a singular problem for the Obama Administration is the length of time it has taken to confirm Obama’s nominees. All but one of Bill Clinton’s nominees were confirmed within a day of his inauguration. Despite the crisis surrounding the 2000 election, with a major vote recount, George Bush had all but one of his nominees confirmed by the end of January.

So what is holding up the Obama nominees?


On Inauguration Day, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), stopped the voice-vote confirmation of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Such votes are considered a courtesy to the incoming president when there is no actual reason to block a nominee’s confirmation. Clinton was approved in a 94-2 vote two days later. Cornyn was not one of the opposing votes.

This is the way things have been going with the Republicans since Obama took office. Obstructionist is the diplomatic term. Republicans are angry they lost and acting vengeful.

Their anger is utterly misplaced. The economy was eviscerated under a Republican presidency and a Republican-led Congress. Another 600,000 jobs were lost in January and as of Feb. 6, the unemployment rate is 7.6 percent--the highest in 16 years.

Under the same Republican leadership that decimated the economy, the nation was led–through lies–into a war on Iraq that has cost the country close to a trillion dollars, killed more than 4,200 Americans and injured more than 150,000, many of them so severely that they are permanently disabled.

The legacy of the past eight years has put the U.S. in peril, at home and abroad. By every measurable standard, including the outgoing Bush Administration’s own statistics, there is exponentially more terrorism; fewer jobs and less income than there were prior to George Bush taking office.

If shame were a notion the Republicans were at all familiar with, they would be hiding out and taking stock of what they’ve done over the past eight years and considering what they might do to help ameliorate the grim state of affairs.

Instead, they are making every effort to derail any changes President Obama wants made that require their help. In recent weeks Rush Limbaugh has made “I want Obama to fail” a mantra for the right.

Those Americans with more than a five minute memory will recall that after George Bush took office he purposefully shut out the Democratic leadership in Congress, setting the tone for contentiousness and political grid-lock.

Obama has done the exact opposite. He has held dinners for the Republican hierarchy. He has spoken directly with all the Republican members of Congress. He invokes the word “bipartisan” and means it.

But Obama’s olive branch and outstretched hand have been met with a dismissive and repudiating slap.

Obama slogged up to the Capitol to speak with House Republicans, treating them to a measure of respect the previous administration never even considered, let alone proffered. His mission was to get his first and singularly important piece of legislation passed–the economic stimulus package.

The House voted on and passed the stimulus package that the President has insisted is essential to begin any kind of economic recovery soon after Obama’s visit. Not a single Republican voted for the bill.

That’s obstruction.

The media has aided and abetted the Republicans. Rather than focusing on specifics of the stimulus package and how it will help heal the ailing economy, they have focused on complaints of the Republicans. While the stimulus bill was being argued, major network and cable news stations featured Republicans over Democrats at a ratio of 2 to 1.

Republican votes are more vital to passage of the bill in the Senate. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made every effort to derail Obama’s bill. On Feb. 6, a tentative agreement on the bill was reached, but now Democrats argue Republicans are making far too many demands that items be withdrawn.

The fate of the nation, then, lies in the hands not of the newly elected Democratic president nor the Democratic majority in Congress, but with the disgraced Republican minority responsible for the mess in the first place.

It is not political simplism to suggest that Democrats are being, as they have been since the Clinton Administration, too accommodating. It’s fact. Throughout the Clinton Administration, President Clinton and Democrats in Congress made bipartisanship their motto–to no avail.

Obama simply cannot make the same mistake. Republican obfuscation has turned President Obama into a national scold. Every day he has been forced to publicly demand that Congress act. It makes Obama look weak and at the mercy of the Republican minority to have to plead at a time when he most needs to appear strong and act decisively.

The bottom line for President Obama is this. He won the election. The Republicans lost. Bipartisanship is a noble concept, but it only works if both parties play. The Republicans aren’t playing. Thus the President must stop making endless concessions to them. They didn’t elect him and are doing everything possible to undermine both his popularity and strength.

Republicans stole eight years from Americans–in jobs and economic security, among other things. Now they are trying to hijack an election they lost. They have no workable ideas, they have offered no solutions. All they have is obstruction.

Democrats have given ground for too long. That must stop. Republicans ceded no ground to Democrats for years and did what they wanted with impunity. Now Democrats must do the same. Not as payback, but for the good of the new president and the nation.

In response to a bunch of stuff, Victoria Brownworth responds:

First, thanks to Pat Thompson for reminding folks that Daschle and Obama were never in the Senate together. Every time I have heard some newscaster say this I have yelled at the TV, no!

Second, the graphic is perfect and just so captures the reality of how the Bushes did so much damage. And that Bush 2 made a total mess of the cleanup Bill Clinton did of Bush 1.(see Note from a Madman, February 5, 2009)

Third, I am so over the bashing of FDR. Anyone who can read knows that FDR literally saved the nation during the Great Depression. This latest GOP revisionism is just one more example of their inability to address reality, whether it is current or historical.

Finally, the Senate Republicans' evisceration of the stimulus package is just one more example of why they need to be ignored. We spent eight very long and arduous years watching them control everything. THEY LOST IN NOVEMBER. So it's time to stop acting as if they are still in power. Enough is enough.

In response to, The news that the unemployment rate has risen to 7.6 percent is even worse news because it's a number that all Americans can understand," Pat Thompson writes:

Big business, their servants the Republican Party, the Chamber of Commerce -- every entity that depends on a workforce willing to work for a minimum wage, or not much more, needs an unemployment rate that is rising, or remains above a base rate. If there was full employment, who would hold the upper hand? Labor. They can't allow that. Things may be getting far worse than that, but "they" never want the unemployment rate to ever sink too low. Greed at the top has toppled this economy.

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-Noah Greenberg