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CHRIS CHRISTIE


I’m from New Jersey.

So Chris Christie is a fascinating person for me.

My mother and lots of old friends keep asking me whether Governor Christie knew of the dirty tricks being played by his staff and what I think the ramifications would be.

Yes, New Jersey is different. Not because of what you see on TV. “Jersey Shore, Sopranos etc.”

It is different because it grows people like Chris Christie. Watch the stunning almost two-hour long press conference the governor gave this week.

He is at his egotistical, skilled, human, flawed best. He is exactly who he is.

He fired the bad guys, took the blame, apologized. But at the same time, looking to the future, he was combative, smart and setting the board for his presidential run. It is a rare governor who talks about phone calls with his wife and home workouts. What you see with Christie is the real thing, not gussied up by consultants.

Did he order the acts. No. That’s not how things work at the highest levels of politics. I believe we will discover that this happened because of hubris.

Hubris sneaks into any political operation, any organization in fact. Success breeds it. Christie has been flying high recently. The media wants him to run for president against Hillary Clinton so they can have an exciting race to cover.

Republicans who want to win the White House- as opposed to the Tea Party that doesn’t care - also want him to run.

So the adoring press Christie has been getting leads to a cockiness and arrogance among the staff that they can do anything. It happened with Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, the Clinton era and many others.

In Vermont, where I spend most of my time, a scandal like this would never happen. You would never see emails like this from public servants in Vermont. That kind of hubris does not happen. And that’s why Vermont’s state government continues to be the honest, corruption free organism that it is.

Indeed, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin shares some traits with Christie – blunt, intuitive, willing to tangle over controversial issues, REALLY smart.

But this would never happen under Shumlin. The people who work for him could not conceive of doing these things or writing those emails. It would never occur to them.

Christie didn’t order these acts. But he got carried away with the limelight in ways that allowed his staff to think they were immune to the limits of the political system and human decency.

Now voters – knowing that Christie allowed this environment to happen – can factor this into their future decisions.

THE MYSTERY OF OBAMA HATING

My uncle in New Jersey is a really smart guy. Retired partner of a major law firm, Yale Law School – the product of the American liberal arts educational model.

He has always been somewhat conservative in that Ivy League kind of way. Hard work, responsibility, critical of the poor as takers and shirkers. He probably liked Mitt Romney’s talk about the 47 percent of Americans who will always be takers from the system.

But nothing prepared me over the last few years for his views on President Obama. He has wholesale adopted the Rush Limbaugh view of the president. You know the list. A closet Muslim terrorist bent on destroying America to assuage his anger at his Kenyan father and destroying the economy by expanding government to take care of other lazy takers and apologizing for American strength abroad.

Now, I get the paralysis in Washington that is by now a given. We are now so partisan that even when Obama proposes something to the right of Ronald Reagan, which he does quite often, Mitch McConnell blocks it. I’m OK with that. That is what elections are for and the president is a big boy who can handle Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

But it is the real hatred that I still don’t get. My uncle just hates Obama. And so do a lot of people I know – people who 10 years ago I would have categorized as moderate Republicans. Sure they disagree with Obama on education reform, the stimulus, the Iraq Surge and other issues. But such disagreement was the way I used to feel about George H.W. Bush – a decent man, loved his country and ran it with dedication and care.  Passed the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act laws of 1990! Disagree with him on policy? Sure. Never forgive him for the Willie Horton ad? Check. But one rarely questioned his desire to do the right thing.

With Obama, that is all gone. People HATE this guy. And when presented with the list of Obama accomplishments – getting bin Laden, getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Race to the Top, saved the U.S. Auto industry, recapitalized the banks, toppled Gadaffi and many others, his haters scoff and return to the secret Muslim who is destroying America.

Full list of accomplishments is here:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/march_april_2012/features/obamas_top_50_accomplishments035755.php?page=all

The easy answer is race. Our issues with race in this country are so deep and complicated that it requires a longer space than here. But it’s deeper.  The Obama haters long for an America that they helped build after World War II, an America of the movies, an America of myth, an America respected abroad, that is church going, hard-working.

The problem with this view may just be this. That America was largely white and privileged and was strong and respected not just because of its NYC law firms and Wall Street wealth. But because of the working class guys (The Greatest Generation) who did the fighting and the working so that we liberal arts grads could sit around the country club after a full week at the office talking about how hard we work.

That power structure is changing – and fast. Just like the immigration of the Irish changed this country forever (for the better). The changing demographics of America are changing it again. My uncle hates this change and Obama seems to symbolize it for him and the other haters. Pretty soon, the Latinos and the Asians are going to want theirs. And my uncle and the other haters don’t want to give it up. And they blame the president for this change because he reflects it in his skin color and in views.

It is a complicated thing this hatred of Obama. But it has something to do with him coming to power at a time when the America of post-World War II greatness and superiority is being shown for what is was – a myth built on lots of other myths.  And it sure has very little to do with Obama.

NEW JOURNALISM

In the world of politics and media, we are falling over ourselves decrying the Internet's destruction of newspapers (and most everything else). Nobody really knows how to save newspapers and nobody really knows the future of journalism. There are those who think newspapers – in their physical form – can be saved via paywalls, better, different journalism or Hope. Others say paper is done and it's just a matter of time.

I fall for the most part into the second group.

But two major developments emerged this year that begin to show the way forward to a new and I think better journalism. While it may not be my Dad's NY Times and Wall Street Journal while watching the evening network news (also dying), the emerging roadmap offers us media junkies something to cheer for.

First, eBay founder Peirre Omidar announces he is founding a journalism site with crusading reporter/activist Glen Greenwald. Initial reported investment? $250 million.

Second, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry writes a magnum opus in the Boston Globe, explaining his reason for buying the storied newspaper at a fire sale price from the New York Times. Henry says it's about community – that any healthy community needs a good newspaper doing quality journalism every day.

Add to that the $250 million Amazon founder Jeff Bezos spent on the Washington Post (also a fire sale) and we have a trend.

Wealthy, innovative business people looking to be part of communities. And they are willing to put their money and reputations on the line. Their roadmap? Basically, invest lots of money in talent to do great journalism. Do that and the subscribers and ad revenue will follow. It is clear that Omidar, Henry and Bezos are not hung up on the whether the actual newsPAPER survives. They are about quality journalism.

Omidar, Henry and Bezos are not too different from the media titans of the past – Sulzburger, Chandler et al. Do they have warts? Sure. But these guys are mapping the future survival of great journalism. They are seeing it happen at Pro Publica on a national scale. And they are seeing it locally. Check out VtDigger.org for a great example. (My regular pitch for the great Anne Galloway and her courageous new journalism).

Watch these folks closely. They are forging the new journalism for the Internet. And it is exciting.

SELLING VT HEALTH CARE REFORM

MONTPELIER — As the lead health care reporter for Vermont Public Radio’s capital bureau in Montpelier, veteran newsman Bob Kinzel had plenty to cover earlier this year as lawmakers discussed the intricacies of the new “exchange.”

From higher out-of-pocket costs facing low-income Vermonters being forced into the Web-based insurance market, to penalties on small businesses that stop providing employee health plans, Kinzel sought to distill for his listeners the relevant bits of a debate over one of the most significant, and costly, health care reforms in state history. . .

MAYNARD TOWN MEETING REJECTS PARKER STREET PROPOSAL

Capital Group Properties appeared to be doing everything right for their proposed mixed use project in Maynard, MA.  Their website was great (http://www.capitalgroupproperties.com/portfolio-view/129-parker-street-maynard-ma/) and the project looked fantastic.  Then why did they lose badly at town meeting, trying to get the zone change they needed?  They only sent out information, they did not identify and turnout their voters.  (pdf attached)

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