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Will Contrite Christie Save Combative Christie?

January 9th, 2014 - 3:25 pm

Governor Chris Christie’s press conference was impressive. I think he’d be well advised to remember that it was also fairly un-Christie-like. He was not the usual gruff, combative Christie we’ve come to know – the guy who tries to discourage difficult questions by making the questioner feel like a idiot for asking them.

That tactic may have caught up with him in this instance.

Emails confirm that massive September traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge and in Fort Lee were orchestrated by a top Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, and a couple of Christie appointees to the Port Authority – likely in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to support Christie’s reelection bid. Christie insists these underlings were acting without his knowledge, and that he barely knows Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich. To his credit, the governor moved swiftly to fire Kelly and another aide who was implicated – the Port Authority appointees had already stepped down. Christie certainly is not acting like a boss who is worried that disgruntled scapegoats can compromise him, or that other shoes could drop that implicate him. And he managed in his presser to convey that decisiveness and air of innocence with humility and contrition. This serves him well. If there is nothing more to the story, it will help him ride out the downside he is stuck with: his failure to manage his staff competently and his creation of an office climate in which they plainly thought their political hardball was acceptable behavior.

But that is not the end of the matter, at least for now. On December 23, or a little over two weeks ago, when politely asked in a townhall-style radio forum about “Bridge-gate,” the governor was gratuitously dismissive. The Port Authority appointees complicit in the manufactured traffic jams had tried to cover their tracks by claiming the jams had been caused by a “traffic study.” So the radio host asked the obvious question: Had Christie seen the study? The governor shot back: “No. What do I care?” (This can be seen on a video the radio station has released, at about the 2 minute-mark of the 3.5 minute clip.)

He obviously should have cared about the purported cause of the problem. He should have cared even more because he also explained, during the same townhall forum (again, referring to the traffic tie-ups), “I’ve asked my staff to give me a full briefing. They’ve told me everything that we know. None of this makes sense; it’s all about politics. None of it makes sense.”

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Congratulations and thanks to my friends Rob Muise and Dave Yerushalmi at the American Freedom Law Center (on whose advisory board I am proud to sit, along with several distinguished Americans). They worked tirelessly and down to the 2013 wire to persuade the DC Circuit to issue a preliminary injunction last night that prevents the Obamacare mandate from going into effect.

The ruling holds that, at least for now, the government may not coerce religious believers, against the tenets of their faiths, to provide coverage for abortifacients and contraceptives. (The religious liberty position would not prevent those who want abortifacients and contraceptives – which are very affordable and easily accessible – from obtaining them; it would just prevent the government from forcing religious believers violate their beliefs by providing them.) Of course, as we’ve seen before, President Obama often does not deem himself bound by such trifles as judicial rulings and congressional statutes, so we’ll have to see how the administration reacts.

Here, meanwhile, is the press statement AFLC released:

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the American Freedom Law Center’s (AFLC) emergency motion for an injunction, thereby halting the enforcement of the Obamacare contraception mandate as applied against religious organizations pending appeal of a lower court ruling.

AFLC filed the emergency motion on behalf of Priests for Life, a Catholic pro-life organization; Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life; Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life; and Janet Morana, the Executive Director of Priests for Life.

Absent the injunction, the mandate would have applied in full force against Priests for Life on January 1st.

On December 19, Federal Judge Emmett G. Sullivan, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, upheld the government’s enforcement of the contraception mandate as applied against Priests for Life. AFLC filed an immediate appeal of the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and within 24 hours, filed an emergency motion with the appellate court, asking the court to enjoin the mandate while the case proceeded through the appeal process.

Robert Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, commented: “The circuit court’s order was nothing short of a Christmas blessing, coming literally at the 11th hour. Without this injunction, beginning on New Year’s Day the federal government would have forced Priests for Life to either violate its sincerely held religious beliefs or face crippling fines of $100 per employee per day that it is not in compliance with Obama’s unconstitutional and unconscionable mandate.”

David Yerushalmi, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, commented: “We won this battle for religious freedom, but the war—and it is a fiercely fought war at every step along the way between the culture of life and the culture of death—continues. No doubt that this case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

AFLC’s lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and its Secretary, Jacob Lew; and the U.S. Department of Labor and its Secretary, Thomas Perez. Each department has a role in enforcing the challenged mandate.

Here at Ordered Liberty in late July, I opined that the national-security right was losing the debate over the National Security Agency’s controversial telephony “metadata” program. On Monday, a federal district judge in Washington ruled that the program violates the Fourth Amendment and must be dismantled. The decision, naturally, prompted standing ovations from our counter-counter-terrorism cognoscenti. The applause will fade rapidly.

Judge Richard Leon’s 68-page opinion is lawless – long on populist vent, short on jurisprudence. It is likely to have no substantive effect: Leon stayed his ruling until it can be reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court, which shouldn’t need more than a nanosecond to reverse it. That is not because the appellate judges will be unsympathetic to the concerns that animate Judge Leon. It is because lower federal courts are honor-bound to follow controlling Supreme Court precedents, a duty the D.C. Circuit is apt to take more seriously than did Judge Leon.

Still, the fact that Leon was moved to rule as he did – and, in particular, to credit the NSA program with little if any material contribution to the prevention of terrorist atrocities – powerfully affirms what we posited here months ago: national-security conservatives, who dominated counterterrorism policy in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, are now losing the policy debate in the court of public opinion. In the end, that is the court that matters.

Metadata Myths

As Judge Leon’s opinion outlines, “metadata” is information about our telephone communications but not the content of those communications. Significantly, the metadata collected and stored by the NSA does not include identifying details, such as the names and addresses of the interlocutors. Essentially, the government is collecting the phone numbers involved in, and the duration of, the communications. The purpose is to connect the phone numbers and calling patterns of suspected foreign terrorists with phone numbers and calling patterns used in this country. Had this procedure been in effect before 9/11, it might have tipped off investigators, say, that overseas phone numbers used by al Qaeda emirs like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were in contact with U.S. phone numbers that could, by further investigation, be connected to Mohamed Atta & Co.

The main point is that, contrary to all the shrieking about “domestic spying” and how the NSA is watching your every move, only your number is in the NSA’s database, not you.

Government Misrepresentations Anger the Judges

To be sure, we should assume that phone usage information of everyone in the country is being collected. On that score, Judge Leon was understandably miffed by the Obama Justice Department’s disingenuous suggestion to the contrary.

Eric Holder’s minions contended that Verizon Wireless customers lacked standing to challenge the program because the government had not previously owned up to collecting records from the company. As Judge Leon pointed out, however, the government’s justification for the NSA program is that it must gather in one government database all telephony records collected from all the different provider networks.

The idea is that if the telecoms kept their own records rather than turning them over to the NSA, the records (a) would not be searchable with the same rapid efficiency and (b) could be prematurely destroyed (since the companies do not have the same incentive as government investigators to store the records for years on end). That of course is true … but if the whole point is to collect all the metadata in one place and ensure full coverage of the potential terrorist-communication universe, it is grossly misleading to suggest, as Justice’s standing claim did, that perhaps the government had neglected to include Verizon Wireless and its tens of millions of customers. Judge Leon was not amused, exclaiming with an exasperation rarely expressed in court opinions: “Candor of this type defies common sense and does not exactly inspire confidence!”

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In connection with Obamacare’s so-called “women’s preventive services” mandate – i.e., the diktat that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes abortifacients and contraception – the Supreme Court has agreed to review two cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Woods Specialties Corp v. Sebelius, that raise religious liberty claims. Monday, the justices declined to review another Obamacare case, Liberty University v. Lew, that sought to press the same issue. The jutices’ denial of review in Liberty has caused some consternation among those of us hopeful that the Court will ultimately strike down the mandate. Don’t be alarmed.

Liberty is a case from the Fourth Circuit. (That court’s opinion is here.) In sum, the case was not argued as a challenge to the abortifacients/contraceptives mandate. Instead, the claimants focused on two other Obamacare mandates: the individual mandate, which requires Americans to purchase health insurance whether they want it or not; and the employer mandate, which requires employers to provide “minimum essential coverage” that includes numerous conditions and services regardless of whether employers wish to provide coverage for all of them (or employers wish to be covered for all of them).

It is true that the Liberty plaintiffs asserted that their religious beliefs barred them from “play[ing] [any] part in abortions, including [any] part in facilitating, subsidizing, easing, funding, or supporting abortions since to do so is evil and morally repugnant complicity.” But this argument was made in the context of the individual and employer mandates, not the abortifacient/contraceptive mandate, which, Jonathan Adler observes, “is a distinct legal obligation.”

Meanwhile, on June 27, 2013, the Tenth Circuit decided Hobby Lobby, one of the aforementioned cases the Supreme Court agreed to review. After hearing the case en banc, a divided court held that the claimants were likely to succeed on their motion for an injunction against enforcement of the abortifacient/contraceptive mandate. The claimants sought the injunction based on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Subsequently, in their petition to the Supreme Court, the Liberty claimants argued that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling against them conflicted with the Tenth Circuit’s ruling in Hobby Lobby. But, in truth, it did not: the Fourth Circuit in Liberty did not address the abortifacient/contraceptive mandate that is central to Hobby Lobby. In light of that, it is unsurprising that the Supreme Court did not regard Liberty as an appropriate vehicle for considering religious freedom claims against Obamacare.

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kerry_of_arabia_big_11-20-13-2

Kerry of Arabia.

Secretary of State John “I don’t think we’re stupid” Kerry should think again.

On Tuesday, a branch of al Qaeda executed atrocious twin suicide bombings against Iran’s embassy in Beirut, killing at least 23 people, with more than 140 wounded. Those of us who have urged that the United States should stay out of the Syrian civil war have contended that, deprived of our lightning rod effect, America’s mortal enemies on both sides of the conflict would turn on and thus degrade each other. That is precisely what has happened: al Qaeda, the terror network that is aligned with its fellow America-hating Sunni supremacists, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the effort to oust the Assad regime, has now effectively declared war on Assad’s main Shiite backers, Iran – the world’s chief state sponsor of terrorism – and its Lebanese jihadist militia, Hezbollah.

So what is our secretary of State’s response to this unintended foreign policy coup? (For all policy coups during the Obama administration are unintended.) Kerry actually proclaimed that the attack proves there is common ground between the United States and Iran, with whose jihadist rulers he and President Obama are desperate to make a deal, any deal – as John Bolton explains here, with our Michael Ledeen adding context here. Just like mullahs, Kerry twaddled, “the United States knows too well the cost of terrorism directed at our own diplomats around the world.”

Well, yes, we do. But that’s because, for over 30 years, Iran has aided and abetted terrorists in strikes against American diplomats and other American personnel serving overseas – in addition, perhaps, to attacks on Americans here at home.

As I’ve recounted before, the modern Iranian regime was in fact spawned by Iran’s siege against the U.S. embassy, which began on November 4, 1979. Ultimately, the new jihadist regime held 52 American hostage for well over a year – 444 days, to be exact. Eight U.S. servicemen were also killed during the Carter administration’s botched rescue attempt, undertaken after American diplomats, who sounded very much like John Kerry, were mocked by Ayatollah Ruhollah Kohmeini when they tried to flatter the Iranians and negotiate an end to the crisis.

In early 1982, Iran sponsored the creation of Hezbollah. The dividends were immediate: On April 18, 1983, Hezbollah car-bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people (17 of them Americans). Six months later, on October 23, 1983, it attacked the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon with a truck bomb, killing 241 of our military personnel (218 Marines, 20 sailors and three soldiers) – also killing 58 French soldiers in a separate attack the same day.

Less than two months later, on December 12, 1983, the U.S. embassy in Kuwait was bombed, killing six and wounding scores of others. The bombers were tied to al-Dawa, a terror organization backed by Iran that was then leading the Shiite resistance against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime (with which Iran was at war). Incidentally, the leader of Dawa’s “jihad office” in Syria at the time was none other than Nouri al-Maliki — now the prime minister of Iraq (you know, the “democrat” who will not relinquish power, supports Iran and Hezbollah, despises Israel, and is now helping re-plunge his country into civil war). Dawa was closely aligned with Hezbollah – indeed, the Kuwait operation was led by Youssef Badreddin, the cousin and brother-in-law of the late Hezbollah chief, Imad Mugniyah.

Meanwhile, back in Lebanon on March 16, 1984, Hezbollah kidnapped the CIA’s Beirut station chief, William Francis Buckley. He was whisked to Damascus and then to Tehran, where he became one of the hostages whose detention led to the Iran/Contra affair. Under Mugniyah’s direction, Buckley was tortured for 15 months, dying of a heart attack under that duress. In the interim, on April 12, 1984, Hezbollah attacked a restaurant frequented by U.S. Air Force personnel near their base in Torrejon, Spain. Among the scores of casualties were 18 murdered U.S. servicemen. Then, on September 20, 1984, Hezbollah car-bombed a U.S. embassy annex in Beirut, killing 24 people (two were Americans).

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Amir Taheri Still Flush with Spring Fever

November 7th, 2013 - 7:42 am

My great respect for Amir Taheri notwithstanding, his hopes for democratic transformation of the Middle East cause him, yet again, to misinterpret the most recent developments in Egypt.

There, the initial draft of a new constitution is about to be published, the product of a committee overseen by the military, which has run Egypt’s government since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. The new constitution will reportedly preserve sharia (Islam’s societal framework) as the country’s main source of law. It will also codify the “special status” of the armed forces as protectors of the state vested with supreme power in matters of national defense, foreign relations, and economic affairs — possibly including, the Washington Post reports, the discretion to try civilians (such as Muslim Brotherhood operatives) in military courts.

In a recent New York Post column, Taheri argues that the new constitution will thus be an insidious pact between the generals and the “Salafists” — Muslim supremacists who, like their Brotherhood political rivals, are determined to create a caliphate beholden to Islam’s repressive principles. It will betray hopes for real democracy that are shared, Taheri insists, by the vast majority of Egyptians.

Adopting the conveniently pliable passive voice, Taheri writes (the italics are mine):

The coup that returned the military to power after a year-long interval was presented as an attempt to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from imposing an Islamist dictatorship with a constitutional facade. Highlighted were two articles in the Morsi constitution that identified the Islamic sharia as the source of legislation in Egypt and gave Al-Azhar, the official seminary, a virtual veto on certain issues.

The crowds that for weeks filled Tahrir Square called on the army to intervene to save the nation from a burgeoning sharia-based dictatorship. Well, when the new draft constitution — written by a 50-man committee appointed by the military — is published, the Tahrir Square crowds are likely to be disappointed. The two controversial articles will still be there, albeit under different numbers and with slight changes in terminology.

This is rose-tinted revisionism. Yes, the coup “was presented” by democracy romantics as a rejection of Islamic totalitarianism. But that did not make it one. Egypt is a big, complex country, and there was no single rationale for Morsi’s ouster, which was supported by some important Salafist factions — groups that could not be more opposed to Western liberalism. The impetus for removing Morsi that came closest to a societal consensus was not the desire for real democracy; it was — as our colleague David Goldman has observed — that Egypt is an economic basket-case that Morsi and the Brothers were steering toward failed-state status.

And yes, Taheri and other democracy enthusiasts did “highlight” sharia elements in the constitution adopted during Morsi’s tenure as the purported spark for purported massive public opposition. But that was just spin — an effort to depict the democrats’ decidedly minority views as a groundswell, to portray as a pro-democracy movement what was actually an anti-Morsi, anti-Brotherhood rebellion.

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As Ordered Liberty and other PJMedia readers may be aware, I gave an initial response yesterday to Ron Radosh’s post from Monday, which took issue with my NRO column from last weekend. Yesterday’s post addressed Ron’s objections to my critique of a dialogue between Charles Krauthammer and Jon Stewart about the New Deal. That response is here.

In my NRO this weekend, “The Social Security Fable,” I respond to Ron’s argument the Social Security was really intended to be insurance, not “welfare.” As I note in the column, this “parrots a Roosevelt-administration fairy tale that even its authors abandoned three-quarters of a century ago when forced to justify the program in Supreme Court litigation.”

My weekend NRO column is here.

stewart

Life may be too short to unwind everything Ron Radosh distorts in his PJ Media blog post on Monday. In it, he purported to recap both Charles Krauthammer’s recent appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and my NRO column from last weekend, which examined that appearance in the context of mainstream Republican enthusiasm for the federal welfare state.

I need to say that again: mainstream Republican enthusiasm for the welfare state.

The emphasis is warranted because Ron provides readers with the following synopsis of my position: “McCarthy says no mainstream Republican accepts” the “centralized welfare state” that began with “the Progressive Era of Woodrow Wilson followed by FDR’s New Deal” (emphasis added). Of course, that is exactly the opposite of what I said. Ron evidently missed not only the column’s main point – viz., that the mainstream of the Republican Party fully accepts the centralized welfare state – but also its headline, which announces in bold black letters, “The Republican Embrace of the Welfare State,” followed by the sub-heading, “The establishment GOP has accepted progressivism’s central premise.”

There is a salient distinction between Republicans and conservatives. That was the upshot of my argument, which follows up on the theme from the previous weekend’s column: Mainstream Republicans are sympathetic to President Obama’s case for a massive, centralized welfare state; mainstream conservatives favor the Tea Party’s emphasis on individual liberty and limited government – which, contrary to Ron’s apparent misconception, is hostile not to humane, transparent welfare programs but to the insatiable, Washington-centered imposture that is devouring the prosperity of present and future generations of Americans. That is the rift on the Right.

Ron is similarly sloppy throughout. In this post, I address the hash he makes of my Krauthammer-Stewart critique. This weekend, I will have more to say about Ron’s fanciful depiction of Social Security as a bona fide retirement insurance program – which parrots a Roosevelt administration fairy tale that even its authors abandoned three-quarters of a century ago when forced to justify the program in Supreme Court litigation. I’ll also discuss Ron’s misstatement of my position on welfare.

Like Ron, I value “serious and respectful” debate, and have generally managed to keep things civil through 30 years of mixing it up with some fairly strident characters: aggressive lawyers, government officials, journalists, talk-show hosts, academics, Islamic-supremacists, etc. I might nevertheless be more receptive to Ron’s Dale Carnegie lecture if he were a better practitioner of what he preaches. I have not commented on this but, since he brings up the subject of civility, I am still taken aback by the tone of his review of Diana West’s American Betrayal … and I cringed upon learning that, in the midst of the nasty cross-fire that it ignited, he sent Diana a giddy email taunt when another commentator, Conrad Black, published a similarly intemperate review. To be clear, I am not talking about substantive merit here – I happen to disagree with Ron and Conrad about Diana’s book, but that is neither here nor there (I’ll have more to say about it soon). I am talking about peer-to-peer civility. Even in the context of Ron’s post about my column, the “serious and respectful” twaddle is just a set-up for branding my argument as “a child’s temper tantrum.” “Serious and respectful” starts to seem a lot like “agrees with Ron.”

That said, we can certainly stipulate that Charles Krauthammer is a charming, consummate gentleman, and that his discourse with the reciprocally gracious Jon Stewart was a model of civility. I fail to see the relevance, however, since my quarrel had nothing to do with the tenor of the Krauthammer-Stewart dialogue. Nor with the forum in which it took place. Ron claims I “chastise[d]” Dr. K for appearing on The Daily Show. I did no such thing. While I’ve not been on that program, I’ve appeared on more left-leaning media broadcasts and in more debates at left-leaning universities than I can count. It is a good thing for conservatives, especially compelling conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, to engage progressives in settings where they meet good faith interlocutors (as Stewart, whom I don’t know, seems to be), or where there is an open-minded (even if left-leaning) audience that might be moved by conservative arguments.

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Fresh from presenting a “liberty medal” to Hillary Clinton on the anniversary of the Benghazi massacre, GOP establishment pillar Jeb Bush dropped in on ABC News over the weekend to bash Ted Cruz and the conservative campaign to stop Obamacare. (Memo to self: Maybe if conservatives called it the campaign to “abort” Obamacare, Beltway Republicans would be less confrontational.)

As if the last 40 years of American history, including the presidential administrations of his father and brother, had never happened, Bush urged that Republicans must:

[W]ith civility, have a dialogue about the bigger, more pressing issues, and try to find common ground. Rather than use each instance of a possible crisis to win a political point. We need to start solving problems….

Does it get any more vapid? Were there two more civil gentlemen on the planet than Presidents Bush 41 and 43? They were none the less savaged by the Left and its media. In opposing socialized medicine (as in other things) Ronald Reagan, too, was a model of civility, as is Sen. Cruz; yet for both rabid attacks were, and have been, the order of the day – coming from both the Left and the Republican establishment.

The press fawns over Democrats who demagogue conservatives as “terrorists” and “hostage-takers,” and over Beltway Republicans who deride conservatives as “wacko-birds” and “tea party hobbits.” Obviously, political strife in modern America has nothing to do with a lack of civility. It owes, instead, to the lack of common ground – not the inability to explore common ground but the non-existence of common ground.

We are not arguing here about the speed-limit on interstate highways or whether the ashy storm-petrel bird rates Endangered Species Act protection. With Obamacare, statists are trying, as President Obama has put it, to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Conservatives, by contrast, want to conserve the United States as constitutionally founded, which means preserving the individual and economic liberties that statists are effacing. There is no meaningful common ground between these polar opposites.

The statist side is enthusiastically championed by Democrats, and the conservative side by Republicans, albeit more reluctantly. Like the Democratic party, the GOP is run by Washington-oriented politicians and, thus, is more enamored of Washington-centered fiats than is the conservative base whose support Republicans need in order to be politically viable. In the vogue of establishment Republicans, Jeb Bush ostensibly directs his “Can’t we all just get along?” preachments at the Republican-Democrat divide. Clearly, though, as an all-but-formally-announced contender for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nod, he is more vexed by the widening disconnect between Republicans and conservatives.

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The Republican Party is fielding a phenomenal candidate in New Jersey … no thanks to the Republican Party.

I’m among the Garden State denizens who started his day by proudly casting a vote for Steve Lonegan in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg. Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N.J., is a principled conservative who – mirabile dictu! – is running as a principled conservative in the contest against Obama clone Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. The clear-cut, bold colors campaign he’s waged has Lonegan within striking distance despite huge odds and virtually no help from the GOP establishment.

The fact that we’re having a costly special election on a Wednesday in the middle of October is a good indicator of official Republican apathy – to put it mildly – for a Reaganesque champion of limited government who harbors the crazy notion that the idea is to defeat the Left, not partner with it. There is, quite obviously, no valid economic or good-government reason to hold the special election today rather than on Election Day, which is just three weeks from now.

So why are we doing it? Because New Jersey is home to GOP establishment hero Chris Christie – although, to judge by his own campaign ads, Gov. Christie’s affiliation seems to be “bipartisan,” with the R-word nowhere in evidence. Up for reelection in November, Christie’s eye is squarely fixed on the next prize, the GOP presidential sweepstakes. It is not enough, he calculates, merely to beat his non-competitive Democratic challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono. He needs to annihilate her. Buono had no chance: The polls, which have never tightened, typically show Christie 24 points ahead. But Christie fretted that this blue state’s union-driven machine would churn in overdrive if Booker, a well-known progressive darling, was on the ballot the same day as he. Scheduling the special election was Christie’s call, so – surprise! – he exercised his discretion to serve himself, needlessly causing the state to hold two elections so his expected blowout victory margin would not be trimmed by Booker’s turn-out.

Christie may mention the R-word much but GOP strategists insist that he is, nonetheless, the most popular, most electable Republican in the country. Thus the selfish scheduling decision also denied Lonegan any coattails Christie may have. No surprise that the governor would tee things up for Booker this way: The same remorseless bipartisan branding that fueled Christie’s Super-Storm Sandy love-in with President Obama days before the 2012 election has also inspired him to be very public about his snuggly relationship with Booker. More to the point, there is no love lost between Christie and Lonegan, who not only is an unapologetic conservative but also ran as one in unsuccessfully challenging the GOP’s preferred Mr. Bipartisan for the gubernatorial nomination four years ago.

Fearful of antagonizing – I should say, further antagonizing – the conservative base that promises to be very active in the GOP presidential primaries, Christie recently swallowed hard and endorsed Lonegan. Since then, though, he’s gone back to his default position of ignoring his former nemesis – which is admittedly better than when he actively helps Democrats slam Lonegan for “inflammatory and inappropriate” campaigning. (That was Christie’s pile-on description of a Lonegan staffer’s tweet – a stupid attempt to poke fun at Booker’s description of Newark as “like the Middle East.” Though Lonegan ordered the tweet deleted as soon as he learned of it, Democrats have used it to smear him as – all together now – a racist).

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