Drive-By Politics and the Art of Snarkasm

As the Media waits on tenterhooks for Gov. Christie to make an expected announcement of his withdrawal from the Republican Primary Race, let us examine this business of the first caucus and first primary race from high above in the cheap seats of northern New Jersey, a virtual politician-free zone until there’s a flood. Then – and only then – do we see our governor.


In fact, he’s a regular visitor here because Pompton Lakes is a well-named, very watery place. The convergence of the waters.


We’ve had two primary elections so far, one in Iowa, the other last night in New Hampshire. In Iowa, Trump played the quarterback for Dr. Ben Carson, who was running fourth in the polls.  They tried to take out Ted Cruz for allowing his team to issue an e-mail warning that Carson was leaving the campaign trail (which he was) for a “change of clothes” in Florida.


Who was the author of this e-mail? Why, none other than Dr. Carson himself.  Fortunately, Iowans apparently recognize a scam when they see it.  Ted Cruz won Iowa.  Trump did not (although through some curious mathematics of his own devising, he “did win” even though the results said otherwise.


And Dr. Carson. Well, he came in just about dead last.  But going into New Hampshire, Trump was back on top, while Cruz had been diminished to fourth place in the polls.  Cruz had been taken down and now it was time to take down another Conservative target:  Marco Rubio.


We New Jerseyans just can’t figure Christie out. He’s been doing badly all along, yet he made 190 stops in New Hampshire, tying with John Kasich for the most Granite State visits.  It worked out for Kasich – he came in second in New Hampshire.  Not so much for Christie.  Kasich got 16 percent of the vote (compared to Trump’s 35 percent).  Christie got 7 percent of the vote, placing him in the middle tier.   Cruz came away with 12 percent, while Bush and Rubio were roughly tied, Bush edging Rubio by a few hundred votes.


Still, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Jim Gilmore (133 votes) are still behind Christie. Fiorina had vowed not to give up but she just announced she’s suspending her campaign.  Carson and Gilmore are wasting their time and money at this point.  Does he figure he might not ever get Fiorina’s and Carson’s votes a nice tidy 12,000 votes that would put him above Bush and Rubio.  Sixth isn’t ninth, after all.


Something was amiss in the Rubio-kicking. Christie wasn’t going to gain votes by taking Rubio down, if not out.  But someone would.  Someone who might give Christie an important appointment in their administration.  One can’t help thinking of one name first:  Trump.


Christie and Trump can hardly help being acquaintances, given that Trump’s casinos were in the governor’s resort city. Trump will probably keep whatever word he might have given.  He can afford to be magnanimous.  Rubio was right, after all:  he is the most electable candidate, the most likely candidate to beat Hillary (or is it Sanders?) in the general election.


Christie went so far as to mock Rubio’s smile. He depended on his gruff, off-the-cuff style to knock the fledgling candidate out of the nest, or at least down in the pecking order.  Rubio had no executive experience.  In response, Rubio reminded him that his own state was upset with him, but Christie just brushed him aside, claiming his own clean-up record as proof that he’s been here in the Garden State when it was important.


He didn’t mention that while he was helping to clean up the minority neighborhoods of Asbury Park that he’d also told the powerless (literally) northwest Jersey residents to suck it up and tough it out. That was easy for him to say.  He wasn’t sitting in an ice-box cold, electrically-heated condo unit, feeling one’s feet freezing off.  I was prepared for the storm and a likely power outage.  I’d made beau-coups ice cubes which kept my most perishable food in an edible state for the entire 14 days.  But for heat, I had to go to Mom’s.  My neighbors had nowhere to go, alas.


Residents with natural gas power fared much better. While they didn’t have electricity, at least they were warm.  We were luck here in that the local pizzeria opened its doors, having gas-powered ovens.  I bought a pizza for my luckless neighbors, who were starving and yet had to go to work the next day.  No one paid us any attention at all until the gas lines started forming for fuel for generators.


If you ever want to know what it’s going to be like if an EMP device is ever detonated over your area, just ask any northern New Jerseyan. It’s a misery.


Meanwhile, Christie went for the coups de gras: Rubio was a “robot.”  He could only repeat message points.  Never mind that it was an excellent point and that he needed to repeat to get through the heads of numbskulls with concrete between the ears, especially knucklehead governors who lick ice cream cones and hold hands on the beach with communist presidents.


And, amazingly, Christie scored. Even though he lost the primary.  The crowds at the debate cheered Christie for roboting Rubio and booed Rubio when he pointed out some rather truthful statements about how New Jerseyans feel about Christie’s absence from the state this winter.  That’s when he lectured Rubio angrily about his performance during Hurricane Sandy.


If we’d known Rubio was going to bring it up, we’d have sent Rubio a photo or two of Christie catering to Obama. He could still do it, but if the show-business minded Christie knows anything, he knows how to make an exit while the exiting is good.  Sooner or later, Christie’s New Jersey detractors would have armed Rubio with so much information that Christie would be lucky to be appointed Federal Dog-Catcher.


But Rubio’s numbers had slipped sufficiently, and that’s all Christie wanted to do. That was his “job” in this presidential primary race; to take out the top runner’s competition.  Given that the Democrat choices going into New Hampshire, it wasn’t hard for Granite Staters to choose a moderate or even liberal Republican, like Kasich, over future Convict Clinton or Socialist Sanders.


Kicking the mild-mannered Rubio was a piece of cake for Christie. Any Moderates who might have been considering the pro-Amnesty Rubio were immediately put off.  Even the Conservative Media went all-snarky on Rubio.  They clucked Rubio had let Christie get the best of him, that he should have been prepared with better come-backs.  The truth is useless in Late Night Comedy Debates.  It’s all about the snark.


Poor Rubio. Cruz is still my guy, but I couldn’t help pitying Rubio and commending his courage in calling Obama by his right name.  Despite the amnesty problem – and some say he’s beginning to reverse course – he went up in the Belle Blog ratings.


He shouldn’t blame himself; having watched – and laughed at – Christie in numerous town hall meetings, Christie is just the Master of Snark. Nobody does it better.  Certainly not the vocabulary-challenged Trump, who has a bulldozer approach of insults and duplicity.  Cruz makes an effort at it and polls the better for it.  He’s still got to get the kinks out but he’s getting better.


Snarkasm is a fine art. You have to be quick.  You have to already know your opponent’s weaknesses.  You have to know the difference between a double entendre and an outright insult.  You have to read to deliver the bounceback (The “Oh Yeah?” moment, which Christie pulled; there are a couple of strategies – throwing their record back at them or standing on your own.  The proper response to Christie’s “Oh yeah?!”  was “Yeah!” and specify – you only went back to Jersey when the forecast changed. Or:  “Yeah, you were there after the storm – walking hand in hand with Obama.  The Communist.  And you’re about to take over Atlantic City!”


Speaking of Atlantic City and eminent domain:


A major controversy involving expansion of the resort occurred in 1995 [under then-Gov.Christine Todd Whitman – a Republican] when the Tropicana (then known as TropWorld), the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and the city attempted to acquire adjacent land owned by Joseph Milano at 1 South Brighton Avenue for a surface parking lot using eminent domain.


A lawsuit was filed by Milano and his family in New Jersey Appeals Court (Milano v. Adamar of New Jersey d/b/a TropWorld Casino and Entertainment Resort, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, City of Atlantic City, et al.) to stop the use of eminent domain, a New Jersey appeals court agreed with the Milano family and issued a restraining order preventing TropWorld and the CRDA from proceeding. As of 2014, Joseph Milano and members of his family still live in the building, which was built in 1897 and purchased by his father in 1935. – Wikipedia


Christie has to return to the Garden State because an economic storm is brewing that is simply not going to bypass the state: Atlantic City.


According to an article in the New York Times:

The elected officials of this struggling seaside gambling resort will yield control of the city’s finances to the state government in a deal announced on Tuesday by Gov. Chris Christie that is intended to stave off bankruptcy.


Mayor Don Guardian had threatened to seek protection from the city’s creditors in bankruptcy court, a prospect that could have embarrassed Mr. Christie, who is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination as a prudent financial steward. The governor detoured from stumping in New Hampshire to stand with Mr. Guardian, a fellow Republican, in Trenton and reveal their plans.

The agreement falls short of an outright takeover by the state of the city’s government, but it would leave state officials to make all of the important decisions about how to reduce its crushing debt of $240 million and slash the size and cost of its civil services. A report this month from an emergency manager Mr. Christie appointed concluded that the city could run out of money by the spring

“The urgency of the city’s current financial predicament cannot be understated,” Mr. Christie said, adding that he hoped the intervention would stave off the “last resort” of a bankruptcy filing.

Stephen M. Sweeney, the president of the State Senate, had pressed for a full state takeover, and he said bills would be drafted to allow for the handover of financial controls.

“We have to fix this government,” Senator Sweeney, a South Jersey Democrat, said at a news conference, flanked by the governor and the mayor. “It’s not Atlantic City’s fault, but they’re spending three dollars and taking one in.”

Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Christie balked at offering details of how the state would bring the city’s spending in line with its shrunken revenue. But the senator said, “We have to do some things that are very, very dramatic.”

Mr. Guardian said that city officials “were certainly against a takeover” but that they “need the force that the state brings with it” to redo contracts with Civil Service unions and to renegotiate debts.


Continue reading the main story

Having to capitulate to the state government was the latest in a series of indignities suffered by Atlantic City, once seen as the glittering jewel of the Jersey Shore. Four of the resort’s 12 casinos shut down in 2014, throwing thousands of employees out of work and shrinking the city’s tax base. On Friday, Standard & Poor’s Rating Service cut the city’s debt four levels to CCC-, a rating it reserves for borrowers that are “currently vulnerable to nonpayment.”

The decline was evident on Tuesday along the city’s boardwalk. The sun shone as waves crashed on the beach, but stores and restaurants were either closed or largely empty at midday.

Mr. Christie and state lawmakers have tried various methods to turn around the city’s fortunes, including allowing online gambling and developing new attractions. Still, the expansion of casino gambling in neighboring states has continued to draw people from Atlantic City.

Casino revenue has been cut in half in a decade, to $2.56 billion last year from $5.2 billion in 2006. And now lawmakers are contemplating ending the city’s monopoly on gambling by opening the door to casinos in North Jersey, close to New York City.

For Mr. Christie, saving Atlantic City is a delicate issue, both because of the negotiations yet to come with local leaders and the broader political context.

He has campaigned on limiting the power of government, and his move expands the power of the state in critical areas. At the same time, it highlights the governor’s ability to work across party lines to find a solution to a problem that until now has seemed intractable.

The announcement also comes at a crucial moment in Mr. Christie’s presidential campaign, just days before the Iowa caucuses. Mr. Christie has sought to present himself in the race as a responsible executive, tested by crisis and capable of extracting major compromises from his Democratic adversaries.

But he has faced criticism for his management in the wake of a blizzard that swept through the state over the weekend. Mr. Christie first resisted leaving the campaign trail to handle the fallout from the storm, before briefly returning to New Jersey only to head right back out of state to campaign.

His high-spirited appearance in Trenton, when he was joined by supportive lawmakers from both parties, could help blunt criticism that he has allowed the needs of his political ambition to outweigh the needs of his state.

The agreement will probably prove more of a challenge for Mayor Guardian, who faces restive city and county officials adamantly opposed to giving up control to Trenton.

Ernest D. Coursey an Atlantic County freeholder who is a Democrat, said the mayor should say no to a takeover, especially if it would lead to the sale of the Municipal Utilities Authority, which provides water to residents. But he said he thought the threat of a bankruptcy filing had spurred a worthwhile discussion about how best to solve the city’s financial problems.

“That was just a bargaining tool,” Mr. Coursey said of the talk of bankruptcy. “Bankruptcy doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t help the city, doesn’t help the county, and certainly doesn’t help the state.”

He said that after years of sending taxes collected from casinos to the rest of the state, the time had come for the state to repay Atlantic City with financial aid.

Mr. Guardian alluded to the city’s longtime role as a giver rather than a taker. “We like being a cash cow,” he said. “We like being an A.T.M. for the rest of the state.”

Signaling his hope for an eventual revival, Mr. Guardian said, “We’re not dead, we’re just wounded.”

Rubio gallantly took the fault for the supposed flub at the last primary debate. While some of us might think that’s nonsense, at least Christie won’t be around to kick him in the funnybone anymore.  Rubio will have to work hard to regain his numbers.  Fortunately, New Hampshire is no real bellwether for an election; it’s a decidedly liberal state that, regardless, is concerned about illegal immigration.  While it’s the first primary in the nation, it’s certainly not the last.


For those who were laughing with Christie and booing at Rubio, the joke will be on them if the votes go to Trump. Somehow, he’s managed to take down one of two of his rivals.  If they’re smart, as Rubio said, it won’t happen again.


Still, if Rubio – or Cruz – need any tips on snarkasm, help is always available.



Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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