On this Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher, documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi was once again sent out to do interviews for the show, this time in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. After watching so many of these so-called "tea partiers" who were out there waving signs saying to keep the government's hands off of their Medicare during the health care debate debacle, the responses here were not that surprising.
In the end, none of the people she talked to wanted to have Social Security, Medicare, education, unemployment insurance, hurricane relief or anything else cut to balance the budget. About the only thing they agreed on was cutting Congressional salaries and foreign aid, which as Maher rightfully noted when the segment was over, doesn't do anything to balance the federal budget.
The cognitive dissonance on display was disheartening, but sadly, not unexpected or surprising. Tragically, what was also missing was any meaningful follow up on the fact that Social Security doesn't add a dime to the deficit or about the root causes of what's driving up health care costs and what can be done to help lower the deficit without destroying our social safety nets, which even self proclaimed "tea party" members don't want to see happen when it affects their own lives.
MSNBC's Melissa-Harris Perry gave New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a well needed break from the typical fawning we've seen over him and his high approval ratings in the wake of Hurricane Sandy -- and a dose of reality of what he's in for when voters start taking a closer look at his record if he throws his hat in there for the 2016 presidential primary race.
Long after images of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation vanished from our television screens, one very visible–and very vocal–reminder has made it impossible to ignore the ongoing struggles of Sandy’s victims: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
His advocacy for New Jersey’s recovery effort has extended his 15 minutes of national fame far beyond his speech at the Republican National Convention. In fact, his popularity may even have him thinking he can stretch that 15 minutes all the way to the White House in 2016.
But let’s not get too hasty. Because in my open letter this week, I’d like to remind the governor of a few things that may make him–and American voters–want to think twice.
Dear Gov. Christie,
It’s me, Melissa. Well, there’s no denying it–you are definitely having a moment. Since last year when you put partisan politics aside to praise President Obama’s disaster response to the recent kick in the pants you gave House Speaker John Boehner, it seems you’ve become the voice of America’s frustration with Washington. And as a resident of a city that knows all too well what it means to rebuild in the wake of catastrophe, I know the people of New Jersey are grateful to have you as a champion.
You can tell by your 73% approval rating. And even more impressive, as a Republican governor of a blue state, you’ve managed to get 62% approval among Democrats, 70% among women, and 69% among people of color. That makes you almost a shoo-in for re-election this year. No doubt all that love has got you feeling like it’s all aboard the Christie train–next stop, the White House!
Your ability to lead people through the aftermath of a disaster does not qualify you to be president of the United States. Just ask Rudy Giuliani.
Oh, that Time Magazine cover line certainly had it right–you are the master of disaster. It’s just that the disaster struck long before Hurricane Sandy came ashore. Let’s hope you do a better job presiding over the state’s storm recovery than you’ve done presiding over New Jersey’s economic recovery. Because New Jersey’s economic performance ranked 47th in the nation in 2011. And right now, the [New Jersey] unemployment rate is 9.6%–surpassing the national rate by almost 2%.
It seems, governor, that residents are still waiting on that so-called “Jersey Comeback” you claimed had already begun.
And so much for your reputation for telling the hard truths–or telling the truth at all. When you ran for governor, you promised not to cut pensions, property tax rebates, or education spending. When you became governor, you promptly cut all three. Oh, and there’s also the matter of those other cuts you proposed–the tax cuts for New Jersey’s wealthiest residents. You even went so far as to veto–not once, not twice, but three times–a tax increase on millionaires.
Given your policy preferences for the wealthy, is it any wonder that it took a natural disaster and some convincing from President Obama before you could get some reciprocation in your love for Bruce Springsteen? You know his every lyric, so you also know that The Boss–I mean the real Boss–in his songs celebrates the working class. The same folks who suffer when you refuse to raise the state’s minimum wage or when you cut the earned income tax credit for low-income residents, or cut $7.4 million from reproductive health care services.
After we saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Rep. Peter King tear into House Speaker John Boehner for cancelling the vote on Hurricane Sandy relief over the holidays, Jon Stewart took his turn upon returning from vacation this Monday and he got some knocks in at the rest of the House Republicans as well.
“This is just a simple down the middle, black and white, cut and dry, warm cup of what would Jesus or any other human being that is not an asshole do, and you blew it,” Stewart remarked.
Ryan said he opposed the disaster relief funds because the legislation contained “pork-barrel spending.”
“It’s one f**king page,” Stewart said, aghast. “It’s two paragraphs that add 9.7 billion to the national flood insurance program and nothing else. There is as much pork in here as in the mini-fridge in the break-room at PETA. There is no pork in this thing!”
Sadly, as Media Matters noted, he wasn't alone. And his fellow guest on Bret Baier's Special Report, Charles Krauthammer was right there with him as well. The excuse given by Kristol and Krauthammer here was primarily based on concerns that the bill was larded up with some pork that the House didn't have sufficient time to look at, even though the Senate had passed their bill a week before they were asking for this vote to be taken in the House. If that was a real concern, apparently it doesn't matter much now, since Boehner caved to the political pressure and is going to have the House vote "to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program on Friday and will vote on another $51 billion Sandy spending package on Jan. 15."
Whatever the excuses, it seems they were more than happy to give cover to Boehner and the House Republicans for being incapable of being responsible and caring about doing the job of actually governing this country, rather than continued political brinksmanship we've seen from the House and John Boehner and his cohorts taking their vacation time around the holidays, instead of tending to the needs of those suffering in the aftermath of that storm.
Here's more from the Media Matters post on Kristol:
Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol: "I Think The Speaker Was Entirely Right To Pull The Bill." During an appearance on Fox News' Special Report, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said, "I think the Speaker was entirely right to pull the bill." He added: "$60 billion is about one-tenth of this year's federal domestic discretionary nondefense spending. This is not like, gee, a couple hundred million dollars for some really important, urgent thing." [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 1/2/13]
Kristol never seems to have those same concerns about our military industrial complex. That's the only jobs program that Republicans seem to support and I've never heard Kristol express any concern over what the waste there is contributing to our budget deficit. Unlimited funds for the Pentagon. Hurricane victims, well you can wait. And don't dare include any pork in that spending because lord knows we can't have that as long as it's going for people who just had their homes destroyed in a storm and to help their state's infrastructure recover.
Republican New York Congressman Peter King was near tears on Wednesday as he threatened to leave the Republican Party, while excoriating the leadership and other members after they reversed course and refused to pass a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
In an emotional interview with CNN, King pointed a finger directly at House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for the failure to bring Sandy aid up for a vote after passing a bill to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.
"Boehner is the one," the New York Republican explained. "He walked off the floor. He refused to tell us why. He refused to give us any indication or warning whatsoever... I'm just saying, these people have no problem finding New York -- these Republicans -- when they're trying to raise money. They raise millions of dollars in New York City and New Jersey, they sent Gov. [Chris] Christie around the country raising millions of dollars for them. I'm saying, anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined. I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night."
CNN host Victor Blackwell wondered if King's disgust over scuttling the hurricane relief was enough to make him leave the Republican Party.
"I'm going to do what I have to do," King insisted. "I'm going to be independent minded. Sometimes, as John Kennedy said, party loyalty demands too much. And I would -- as all of us do -- often, you give the benefit of the doubt to your party. We are a two-party system. But I'm over that because as the very least, you're expected to be treated fairly... When your people are literally freezing in the winter and they're without food and they're without shelter and they're without clothing and my own party refuses to help them, then why should I help the Republican Party?"
King recalled that Boehner refused to even speak to the Republican lawmakers from hurricane-stricken areas, at one point yelling, "I'm not going to meet with you people!"
"I was chasing the Speaker all over the House floor last night," he said. "So he wouldn't tell us why, he just decided to sneak off in the dark of night."
"I would say that the Republican Party says that it's the party of family values," King continued. "Last night, it decided to turn its back on the most essential value of all. And that's to provide food, shelter, clothing and relief for people who have been hit by a natural disaster. And I would say that the Republican Party has turned its back on those people. And it's going to be very hard for me to ask any of those people to vote for the national Republican Party."
"We were told everything was on board, everything was ready, we had all the papers ready to go, we had lined up the votes, we had the committed votes where this bill would have passed on the House floor with no problem at all, we had gone around and spoken to people, we had done everything we were asked to do. And, again, the knife in the back. And that's all it is."
UPDATE: A few hours later everything was hunky-dory between King and Boehner with the promise of $9 billion and a vote in a couple of weeks. Is there a more useless politician in America than Peter King?
(CNN) – Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said Wednesday that House Speaker John Boehner has promised a vote Friday on $9 billion in disaster aid for Superstorm Sandy and then another vote on $51 billion in aid on January 15.
You've gotta' just love it. From the network that did nothing but hammer on the drummed up fake Benghazi debacle and that has done nothing but attack President Obama ever since he became the Democratic nominee years ago, comes complaints about supposed "media bias" and favorable coverage received by President Obama during the last week prior to the election.
Host Jon Scott asked his panel on Fox News Watch (their so-called media watchdog show which almost makes Howard Kurtz's Sunday show look respectable... almost) what they thought about the poll by Pew Research, which showed President Obama receiving 29 percent positive coverage, and 19 percent negative, compared to Mitt Romney getting 16 percent positive and 33 percent negative.
What they failed to discuss was the fact that the study from Pew also stated that "The final week of the campaign marked only the second time in which positive stories about Obama outnumbered negative dating back to late August," or the fact that most of that positive coverage was due to his handling of the response to Hurricane Sandy. Mitt Romney was running around still campaigning and pretending to hold a "storm relief event," while President Obama was just doing his job. So heaven forbid that Mitt Romney might have actually deserved that negative coverage.
But the hacks at Fox can't believe everyone else didn't follow their lead with being the one organization that the study looked at, which still had much higher negative coverage for President Obama and positive for Romney during that final week. It's always rich watching the pundits over at GOPTV complaining about "media bias" from the other networks and media outlets and pretending that the rest of them are all liberal.
I'm sure we're going to see more of this over at Fox as the evening goes on this election night. Bill O'Reilly was already getting the excuses ready if Romney loses the election -- O'Reilly already blaming a potential Romney loss on Hurricane Sandy:
With results still rolling in, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is already prepping to blame a Mitt Romney loss on Hurricane Sandy, Obama’s visibility in the wake of the storm, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s (R) praise of the President:
O’REILLY: I did pick up two things. On the exit polling, Hurricane Sandy was prominent in the exit polling. And that is really interesting. Because it just impacted a bunch of Northeast states who would vote for Barack Obama but the country was so locked in on this fierce storm. Americans like storms. And they were — and there was Chris Christie and president Obama walking down the beach, you know, with a little ‘Seth in the Moon Glow’ music behind him and it just wiped the Governor’s campaign off the map. For five days. Five days Mitt Romney disappeared from the national debate and from the media headline.
O’Reilly went on to predict that Romney would lose the election if he lost Ohio.
“How do you think we got to that point?” host Megyn Kelly wondered.
“Because it’s a changing country,” O’Reilly insisted. “The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff, they want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”
“The white establishment is now the minority,” he added. “And the voters — many of them — feel that this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming black vote for President Obama and women will probably break President Obama’s way.”
“People feel that they are entitled to things. And which candidate between the two is going to give them things?”
Rand Paul must feel like a broken record right now, because he pretty much repeated verbatim during his interview with Neil Cavuto this Monday what he said on CNN last week -- don't borrow money to pay for FEMA and let local organizations and churches handle disasters like hurricane response. Because we all know the people who just had their homes destroyed with no electricity are the best prepared to respond to huge natural disasters.
As we all know well around here, the apple didn't fall too far from the tree with this one -- Ron Paul to Tornado Victims: You're on Your Own. It's like father, like son when it comes to telling Americans to go pick themselves up by their own bootstraps. I wonder if Paul thinks the local churches had the equipment available to go pump water out of the subways and tunnels in New York?
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky held firm on his stance Thursday that local government provides better service when disaster strikes than the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
This summer, the Republican senator made headlines when he held up a bill re-authorizing the National Flood Insurance Program by attaching a non-related "personhood" amendment that called for defining life as beginning at conception.
Asked why he worked to stall the flood bill, Paul said the government was spending too much money it didn't have.
"I have always maintained that FEMA should exist on money that comes in as revenue, but not on borrowed money," the fiscal conservative said Thursday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
Paul, a longtime critic of the agency, argued the U.S. should instead fund FEMA with the money it sends overseas in foreign aid. He also argued that local communities - as well as private groups such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross - do a better job than federal agencies in the immediate aftermath of large-scale emergencies.
The Republican senator shared a story about the local response in cities devastated by tornadoes earlier this year in Kentucky, saying "the churches stepped up."
"Two thousand responders a day were being fed by churches, and the people were being put up in houses," he said. "So I don't think this is entirely a government response. I think it's important to really laud the private folks, as well as the churches who step up."
While he maintained "government is inefficient" in major disasters, he added, "I'm not saying government doesn't have a role."
Debra Saunders, a conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, on Sunday said Mitt Romney's decision to flip flop on his call to "absolutely" abolish federal disaster aid after Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast was an example of the "the Etch-A-Sketch Romney."
Speaking to CNN's Howard Kurtz on Sunday, Saunders pointed out that Romney's flip flop was what senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was talking about when he said that Romney could shake up his campaign “like an Etch A Sketch” and “start over again” after spending the primary season pandering to conservative voters.
"It is fair game for the press," Saunders admitted. "He did say that he wanted to move this federal agency -- for states to run things. And I'm sure a lot of people don't think that's a good idea. You don't see him talking about that a lot this week, do you?"
During a Republican primary debate earlier this year, the former Massachusetts governor had said that abolishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was “the right direction” and eliminating all federal disaster relief was important because “we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.”
“It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” the candidate said. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”
"I think we've seen the Etch-A-Sketch Romney," Saunders told Kurtz on Sunday. "He moved to the right in order to win the primary and now he's moving toward the center. And we're seeing, I think, the real Romney, they guy who's a technocrat, the guy who would come in with his pencil and move money around for FEMA to try to make FEMA be more effective and more cost effective."
"So, I think it's fair for people to point it out and ask which one is the real one."
It seems Obama advisor David Plouffe is about as tired of hearing the type of hyperbolic, over the top attacks from Romney attack dog Rudy Giuliani as I am. Giuliani was out there over the weekend, calling for President Obama to resign, continuing to politicize the embassy attack in Libya and politicizing the response to Hurricane Sandy, because we all know how competent Republicans are when it comes to responding to terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So much of this last week defined by Hurricane Sandy. The president's gotten a lot of praise from people like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Mayor Bloomberg of New York, but it's not unanimous. Some pretty harsh criticism from the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, on CNN. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I don't know what the heck he was doing in Nevada while people are still being discovered dead in New York. I mean, if I were the president of the United States, I sure wouldn't be flitting around the Midwest and the West. I feel pretty darn offended seeing my president floating around, campaigning while people are suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?
PLOUFFE: Well, Mayor Giuliani is running around the country campaigning for Mitt Romney and popping off. The people in New York and New Jersey -- Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo, Governor Malloy in Connecticut, Governor Tomblin of West Virginia -- they're working with this president and this administration and FEMA every day. And our focus needs to be -- and really the country has been united -- Mayor Giuliani may be an exception to this -- in focus on recovery, making sure we stand by those who've lost so much and need to recover, and this is going to take a long time.
But, you know, the federal government is doing all they can to partner with state and local officials. You know, we flew, you know, equipment, power equipment in C-17s from California to help restore power, getting fuel into the area, direct assistance to help people with lodging and food. So we're doing everything we can to make sure -- and this is going to take a while -- but that we stand by the people on the Eastern Seaboard who've been so affected.