Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Foreign Policy Election

First it was Jeb Bush. Now it's Marco Rubio. For other Republicans, it's all about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. Meanwhile, Scott Walker has tripped over his own feet while discussing the world and Chris Christie, who has something to say about everything, has little to say yet on foreign affairs.

Why is this important? Because 2016 is shaping up to be a foreign policy election. Yes, there will be talk about taxing the wealthy, cutting taxes to the wealthy, what to do about entitlements and the middle class, abortion, immigration and health care, but right now, the world seems to be blowing up and countries are looking to the United States to help fix what ails them.

President Obama has wisely not gotten us involved in a foreign adventure despite calls by the hawkish neocon crowd over on the right to send troops to Syria. And Lebanon. And Iraq. And other places. Which sounds like the good-old-fashioned response that George W. Bush followed and that was a terrible mistake. And it all sounds heroic and noble until the body bags start coming back and the soldiers return with severe damage to their bodies and minds.

What 2016 presents for the country is an opportunity to be creative with our foreign policy. The Cold War has been over for more than 20 years, but the mentality remains, this time with China as the Soviets and North Korea as the Cubans. ISIS is a tremendous threat to Middle East stability, but they are alienating other countries in the region, who are showing more of a propensity to fight on their own. We can support our friends, but right now there is little reason for us to get more soldiers involved.

It will be interesting to see where the debate goes from here. Rand Paul has been championing a more isolationist foreign policy as a basic belief. Hillary Clinton certainly has the experience, but she hasn't enunciated a specific policy yet. Can Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders come up with credible ideas? Perhaps, but I've come to a conclusion that's even more true now than it was in 2004.

We should have elected John Kerry as president when we had the chance.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Christie: It's Not My Fault. Elect Me President

It's one thing when you have something to run on. It's quite another when you have to run away from your record. That's the position Governor Christie finds himself in on the eve of his long-awaited announcement that he will run for president. Most candidates have a signature issue or can point to improving conditions in their state. What can Christie run on?

  • There's no New Jersey economic miracle.
  • His attorneys argued in court that the one significant legislative achievement of his term, a state workers pension and benefits reform bill, was, in fact, unconstitutional, which will require another round of pension cuts and significantly higher health care premiums for state workers.
  • Property taxes continue to rise.
  • Funding for education has been cut.
  • Businesses and the very wealthy continue to enjoy the governor's protection from tax hikes while middle class workers have seen their wages stagnate ot erode further.
  • He created an atmosphere of fear and contempt in his administration and hired aides who shared his vengeful attitude, which resulted in the Bridgegate scandal that is still rocking the Statehouse.
But you know what? None of this Governor Christie's fault. How do I know? Because he said so.

On the economy, Christie is taking credit for slowly improving conditions in the state, where  unemployment still lags behind the national rate. What he isn't saying is that job growth during his tenure is 48th nationally, ahead of only Mississippi and New Mexico. His reaction?
"We inherited a wrecked ship," he said, "and we've now made it sea-worthy."
Arguable, but the bigger issue is where the Governor is steering that ship. Right now it's going in circles and is perilously close to the rocks. The truth is that after more than 5 years, Christie's economic plan is dead in the water. The state budget chief said as much in 2013 and Christie mocked him as a fiscal Dr. Kevorkian. And thankfully, the Democratic Legislature killed his proposed tax cut. That really would have sunk the ship. Christie now wants to take his fiscal genius to a national level. For anybody making under $100,000, that would be real suicide.

His proposed national economic plan, just released, calls for the highest tax rate to be cut from 39.6% to 28%. That's an enormous tax break for the wealthy that will redistribute more income to the upper class and require cuts to the programs that most Americans want and that many desperately need.

As for hiring the best and brightest for his administration, the governor is now saying that he can't be held responsible for what his aides did on his behalf. Says he:
"I obviously spent time thinking about that, because it's an obvious question," the governor said. "But no, I really don't think so. I think, unfortunately, there are going to be times when people that work for me do things that are completely out of character."

"I'm accountable for what happened because I'm the governor," he added. "But you can't be responsible for the bad acts of some people who wind up in your employ."
The buck, obviously, stops...there, but never here.

My Ouija Board just spelled out, "I am not a crook."

Governor Christie has spent a good deal of time during his term in office criticizing people who don't recognize that he's telling us the truth on taxes, on pensions, on the role of government and, mostly, on being responsible for our future. His hypocrisy knows no bounds.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dear GOP: My Apologies. I Was Wrong.

After writing about the crash of the conservative movement not once, not twice, not even three but four times, I must admit that the right wing hold on the GOP has not really lessened. In fact, if the roster of declared and rumored presidential candidates is any guide, the conservatives have outdone themselves and are going to run even farther to the right than they did in 2008 and 2012.

And Rick Perry and Chris Christie haven't even announced their bids yet.

This has given rise to a mob mentality that is difficult to track, even with a scorecard. Each of the candidates in South Carolina on Saturday bent frontwards and backwards to call President Obama a failed leader and each promised to repeal the ACA, keep taxes low and to reign in the programs that struggling Americans need and want. This does not seem like a winning formula, but there you have it.

Governor Christie didn't do himself any favors by repeating that he was grateful for the help Obama gave to New Jersey in the days after Hurricane Sandy and defended the hug that many mathematics-challenged Republicans say cost Mitt Romney the election. Earth to GOP: Romney was going to lose in 2012 no mater how many times you crunch and unskew the numbers. And it's pretty insulting to voters to imply that one hug would change their votes.

Christie even pushed back the timing of his expected announcement to run for president until late June or early July because he needs the state legislature to pass a budget that asks middle and working class state workers to pay even more for their pensions and health benefits. The Democrats in Trenton want a millionaire's tax. If Christie gives in to that, he's really toast with Republican voters. If he doesn't give in, he won't get the reform he needs to run on. I'm not sure I agree that this will derail his bid, because he wants very badly to be president. It just might mean that he'll have to wait until Hillary the next president is done with her their term.

As for the other candidates, Marco Rubio is getting some favorable press while Jeb Bush and Scott Walker raise money, which is something Rubio might not have to do quite so feverishly. Carly Fiorina can't really run on her business acumen and Ben Carson can only compare so many things to slavery. My guess is that the party honchos will try their best to winnow down the list more quickly than they did in 2012 and cut down on the number of embarrassing debates.

The big problem for the Republicans, though, is that their message is still a mess. Marriage equality will most likely be settled by the end of June and cutting taxes for the wealthy is a losing proposition. Then there's denying the science of climate change, cutting entitlement programs and allowing religion a more prominent role in politics. Many people do agree with these positions, but not enough in a general election to win the 270 needed to take the election.

Will the GOP learn the lesson? So far, they are showing that they have not.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest