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President Chris Christie?

A fatal crash on the George Washington Bridge this morning caused major backups, trapping commuters for up to three hours and stalling traffic back to the Garden State Parkway and other highways leading to the bridge. After Gov. Chris Christie spent two hours answering every question reporters asked following the revelation that an aide—whom he fired immediately—had engineered a comparable problem I had no problem believing he had nothing to do with it.

I am New Jersey born and raised, and I have lived here most of my life with time out to attend the University of Miami in Florida and Army service in Georgia. I have traveled all over the U.S., but I always was happy to come home to a little town, a suburb of Newark where I was born. These days I live one town over, having sold my home of more than 60 years because the property taxes here are for many of my generation a burden,

I tell you this because Gov, Chris Christie’s life has a number of connections to my own. He too was born in Newark and his father, like mine, was a certified public accountant. A 1984 graduate of Delaware, he earned his law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law in the community where I have lived for a decade.

Like many in the Garden State I became aware of Christopher James “Chris” Christie when he served as a United States Attorney, appointed to the position by George W. Bush in 2002 and serving until 2008. During that time, he amassed an impressive record of convictions with an emphasis on corrupt politicians along with sexual slavery, arms trafficking, racketeering by gangs, and other federal crimes.

In January 2009 he declared his candidacy for Governor and, in November, he defeated incumbent Jon Corzine who, like his predecessors, had driven up taxes while never really solving the state’s budget problems. In his first term, Gov. Christie drove a number of hard bargains with the state’s civil service unions, primarily the teachers union. When he won reelection to a second term in November 2013, he became the first Republican to earn more than fifty percent of the vote in a quarter-century.

New Jersey is a blue state, heavily Democratic politically, and his reelection quite naturally made Republicans nationwide take notice. He is also a very savvy politician and not one to make every decision along strict ideological grounds.

In his first term he achieved a remarkably good working relationship with the state’s Democratic legislature. After Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey n 2012, wreaking heavy damage to shore communities, he was quite visible in the company of President Obama when he paid a visit when he was also campaigning for reelection. That paid off in significant federal funds to help rebuild. Christie agreed to expand the state’s Medicaid problem under Obama’s health law. He vetoed a bill that would sanction gay marriage, but declined to appeal a court ruling that legalized it.

Like other Governors in states with Democratic legislatures, Christie inherited massive budget deficits. In his first term he bargained with the New Jersey Education Association and the Communications Workers of America, two of a dozen civil service unions, to increase their members’ payments toward pensions and medical benefits, but in turn they won bigger payments by the state into their troubled retirement fund.

Faced with yet another budget gap, Gov. Christie proposed taking $2.4 billion meant for the pension system in order to achieve a balanced budget because, as he said, there is nowhere else to find the money other than to raise taxes or reduce spending for schools or hospitals. He bluntly said that the state cannot afford the level of benefits it provides public workers. As this is written, fourteen unions for teachers, police officers, firefighters and state workers have filed lawsuits to stop Christie’s transfer of funds to the budget.

In January “bridgegate” erupted when it became known that one of his aides had apparently urged highway lane closures to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a Democratic mayor who did not endorse him for re-elections. In response he devoted two hours to a press conference in which he answered every question, denying any knowledge of the aide’s action and, to date, hearings by the state legislature have been unable to connect him personally to it. The Democratic Party and liberal media saw it as an opportunity to eliminate him as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

“Bridgegate” is losing traction and is not likely to play a role in any decision he makes to run for President. The cost of defending himself and members of his administration has cost New Jersey taxpayers $3 million in legal fees at this point. In a hearing, Christie’s chief of staff deemed it “a major distraction.”

Conversely, he has remained very popular within the Republican Party, despite ideological divisions. He is currently chairman of the Republican Governors Association, giving him regular access to some of the Party’s leading national donors. He is a welcome speaker at many GOP conferences.

To the question, will he announce his candidacy for the presidency, he remains uncommitted to the decision and, at this point, that’s a wise course of action. Christie has, in his usual blunt fashion, said of any suggestion that being from a northeastern state, “I hear people all the time saying, ‘You wouldn’t play well in the South’ or ‘You wouldn’t play well in Iowa’—It’s all garbage.”

“In the end,” says Christie, “people like people who are genuine and who are real. I think they’re willing to cut you slack even if they don’t agree with you on certain things if they think you’re being genuine and authentic”, adding “I would rather lose than try to pretend to be somebody else.”

Virtually alone among Republicans who might contend for the GOP nomination and the presidency, Gov. Christie is what you see and what you hear. If he does secure the nomination that will be a major factor in 2016 and will guarantee a tough fight for the Democratic candidate.

Would I vote for him? Sure. And I would also be happy to vote for Ted Cruz and Allen West it they were the GOP candidate.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

After CPAC: What conservatives are still missing

One of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s statements at CPAC 2014 has my complete agreement: “you have to convey the message of what you are for, not just what you are against.”

One of the lessons I learned early on in my military career that I have carried since is “anyone can tell what the issue is or state what the problem is, but a leader tells you what the solutions are.”

For conservatives it is time we turn principles into policies – not get all tied up in details that confuse, but focus on simple points that reflect the concerns of the American people.

A great example is the issue of education. Right now the progressive socialists of the Democrat party are lining up on the side of the teachers’ unions. We recently reported on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attack against the Success Academy Charter School in Harlem. Why aren’t we hearing more conservatives talk about school choice, vouchers, charter schools – in other words, better educational opportunities for America’s children, especially minority children?

No conservative should be lining up behind the insidious common core education initiative, basically an expansion of big government into the realm of education, which should be a local issue. Where are the conservative voices talking about a 21st century education policy vision that is consistent with our principles?

How do we present a roadmap that makes education relevant and develops productive members of our society, rather than test-taking drones? How do we examine the means by which we promote critical thinking skills and skill development by educational partnering with the private sector?

When I think of how conservatives can connect across every community and demographic in America on this subject… here is a clear example of policy inclusiveness, not outreach. We just need to take the message out there. I can’t imagine any mother who would reject a plan to better educate her children and prepare them to achieve greatness and success through maximizing their opportunities.

What I saw missing from CPAC was an understanding that Americans hunger for a particular image. Americans thought Obama possessed it — an image of concerned and caring leadership. It is an image that exemplifies the best of America and reflects the triumph of the indomitable American individual spirit.

It does not spring from numbers and detailed calculations. It is conveyed by someone Americans believe they can invite into their homes who cares for them and their future. The image should not be of someone who offers handouts, but if there is no compelling alternative, voters willingly lower their standards and fall for the giver of gifts.

My mom taught me that “self-esteem comes from doing estimable things.” and sitting home in Section 8 housing waiting for a “gubmint” check ain’t promoting self-esteem. Conservatives need someone who honestly relfects what America is and what she can be as we restore this Republic. Someone who can explain in simple terms a vision of growth, opportunity, and prosperity — not shared — but policies and conditions that create the pursuit of happiness — not the false promise of guaranteed happiness.

The other key aspect of leadership, woefully ignored at CPAC, is the importance of the Commander-in-Chief, a warrior-statesman who not only makes sure the American people know he or she cares — but convincingly demonstrates they will be protected.

Such a leader must be strong enough to sit down at a table with autocrats, theocrats, despots, dictators and garner their respect, if not fear. Consider when Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

That simple statement inspired a drive for liberty and freedom behind the wall which eventually resulted in its collapse. Today we are faced with a threat from Vladimir Putin who seeks to rebuild that wall.

America is looking for a leader who won’t call Putin for a 60- or 90-minute dissertation, but places a five-minute call to state the case and the consequences, and then hangs up — because the actions will speak for themselves.

We need leadership that looks square in the eyes of the mad mullahs and ayatollahs and lets them know Islamic totalitarianism and terrorism is a non-starter — and will be crushed. America is looking for a leader who lets the Chinese know our allies in Japan and the Philippines will not see their sovereign territories subsumed by aggressive actions.

We need a leader who tells Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah and Hamas that Israel is our ally and no solutions are viable as long as terrorists abide under their umbrella of protection.

The world knows President Obama is a liar and his progressive socialist agenda is failing. America needs to know what conservatives – constitutionalists — will do to restore the exceptionalism of America, and the dream that says regardless of where you were born or where you come from, your greatness can be achieved here in this place: the land of the free, because we are the home of the brave.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

A Cereal Tweet Exposes Serial Unfairness

MSNBC’s President Phil Griffin was forced to apologize last week for an incendiary and grossly unfair tweet about conservatives. This all got started with a simple TV commercial for Cheerios breakfast cereal.

The only thing that was noteworthy about the commercial, which ran during the Super Bowl on Sunday, was that it featured an interracial married couple (one man and one woman), with a beautiful bi-racial 6-year-old daughter. Some anonymous employee (MSNBC refuses to name the person) felt comfortable tweeting the following from MSNBC’s official twitter account:

“Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/biracial family.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus demanded an apology from Griffin and barred all RNC employees and surrogates from appearing on MSNBC. Priebus’ move forced Griffin to issue this apology: “The tweet last night (last Wednesday) was outrageous and unacceptable.

We immediately acknowledged that it was offensive and wrong, apologized, and deleted it. We have dismissed the person responsible for the tweet. I personally apologize to Mr. Priebus and to everyone offended. At [MSNBC] we believe in passionate, strong debate about the issues and we invite voices from all sides to participate. That will never change.”

Strangely, Griffin then sent one of his on air personalities to read the apology on the air on his behalf. Why didn’t he do it himself? Now juxtapose MSNBC’s response with that of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who happens to be a Republican.

Reporters in the media clamored for Christie to hold a press conference and answer all of their questions, which he did for almost two hours.

Consequently, we now know who Christie fired and why he fired them. Whether you liked his answers or not during his press conference, at least people were held accountable. Where is this same accountability demand for Griffin to stand before the public and do the same?

He claims to have fired the employee who wrote the tweet.

How do we know that since no name has been released from MSNBC?

How can we be sure that the tweet didn’t come from Griffin himself? We can’t be sure until Griffin stands before the news media, and answer every single question asked of him.

The first question should be whether Griffin sent the tweet. If not, he should name the person who did. Even more troubling is what practices or policies did Griffin have in place that would make an employee comfortable enough to send that type of tweet? I think MSNBC should have an outside panel investigate the work environment it has created for its employees.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “trust, but verify.”

Will MSNBC force all employees to undergo sensitivity training so this will not happen again (as conservatives are always implored to do)? Where is the righteous indignation from the sensitivity police – groups such as GLAAD (founded as Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the Human Right Campaign, NAACP, the National Urban League, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network?

On his TV show last week, Sharpton read some meandering statement about Coretta King that had absolutely nothing to do with the tweet in question. He didn’t have the guts to stand on principle and demand more accountability from Griffin, probably because Griffin personally hired him even over the objection of Black journalists who wanted a trained journalist in that seat. Had a White Tea Party member or Republican done the same thing, MSNBC would have wall-to-wall coverage of the issue.

That’s why it is critically important for the groups listed above, who claim they stand for equality for all, stand up for all. What these groups should finally state is that they only believe in equality if you agree with their point of view. It is embarrassing to see MSNBC’s Black hosts remain silent on this issue, but never miss an opportunity to criticize Republicans when they play the race card. How can anyone have respect for people such as Sharpton, Melissa Perry, Karen Finney, Tamron Hall, Joy Reid, etc.

I know you may enjoy the money, but at what price? Is it really too much to ask Black and White employees of MSNBC to be subjected to the Christie standard – full information, full accountability?

Ronald Reagan was the TEA Party!

Newly re-elected Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) on CNN’s Jake Tapper show stated, “I’m a conservative. I’ve governed as a conservative in this state, and I think that’s led to some people disagreeing with me in our state, because it’s generally a left-of-center, blue state.”

But is Christie truly a conservative?

Republicans, like Christie, often quote Ronald Reagan when speaking about conservatism. In September 2011 Christie spoke at the Reagan Library, his topic was “Real American Exceptionalism“. Christie focused on Ronald Reagan’s stand against striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Christie said, “The air traffic controllers, in violation of their contracts, went on strike.  President Reagan ordered them back to work, making clear that those who refused would be fired. In the end, thousands refused, and thousands were fired. I cite this incident not as a parable of labor relations but as a parable of principle. Ronald Reagan was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said. Those who thought he was bluffing were sadly mistaken.  Reagan’s demand was not an empty political play; it was leadership, pure and simple.”

“We tend to still understand foreign policy as something designed by officials in the State Department and carried out by ambassadors and others overseas. And to some extent it is. But one of the most powerful forms of foreign policy is the example we set. This is where it is instructive to harken back to Ronald Reagan and the PATCO affair. President Reagan’s willingness to articulate a determined stand and then carry it out at home sent the signal that the occupant of the Oval Office was someone who could be predicted to stand by his friends and stand up to his adversaries. If President Reagan would do that at home, leaders around the world realized that he would do it abroad as well.  Principle would not stop at the water’s edge,” noted Christie.

Reagan’s policies were based upon in what has become known as his “three legged stool”. Some call them the “Three Pillars of Conservatism”.

Kevin Price from Renew America writes, “If you know of Ronald Reagan, you are likely to be aware of his ‘three legged stool.’ Reagan developed a success formula to build winning coalitions that was as simple as it was brilliant. A sample of that simplicity and one of the hallmarks of Reagan’s policies was his ‘three legged stool.’ Reagan’s policies were built on three ideas; free enterprise, strong defense, and pro-family social policies. He chose these three because they, of course, reflected his own values, but he also realized that each of these ideas have enormous appeal on their own.”

Reagan was a man of principle, true conservatives are as well. Compromise on matters of principle is foreign to conservatives. Conservatives intuitively know that compromise on principles is the art of losing slowly.

J. Matt Barber from Christian News Today in his column “The Complete Conservative” writes, “I recently attended the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration hosted by the Republican Party of Virginia. It was co-sponsored by, among others, the Ronald Reagan Institute for Conservative Leadership. Michael Reagan, the oldest child of the man widely considered our greatest modern president, was the keynote speaker. Mr. Reagan said something that I think concisely sums up the core values shared by the ragtag millions who comprise the Tea Party movement. ‘People often ask me if Ronald Reagan would have supported the Tea Party,” he said. ‘Ronald Reagan was the Tea Party’.”

Speculation about who is the frontrunner for in the 2016 presidential Republican primaries has begun. The media always frames the Republican selection process as a need to run as a conservative in order to win the primary but run as a moderate in order to win the White House. That strategy was unsuccessful for both John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Price wrote, “Today, the common cry from economic conservatives is that they are the only ones with a message that matters to the voting public. After 40 years of Roe vs. Wade, we have two generations who only know a country with abortion on demand, they argue. Secondly, many conservatives have grown suspicious of ‘the military’ leg. They believe that just as the government has gotten suspicious in its domestic spending, it has also lost its bearings when it comes to defense and has found itself being internationalists with muscle. Essentially, ‘the three legged stool’ is being replaced by a pogo stick. A single area of interest and concern — the economy, being the springboard for political success.”

Price concludes, “The reality is the ‘three legged stool’ tripled the reasons why one would vote Republican. If the GOP provides the only means to protect traditional families, Christian conservatives will support it, regardless of the other legs of the stool. I think the same can be [said] of the other parts of a coalition that made the Republican Party very successful. If the stool is dead, the fortunes of the party may be also.”

Has the GOP adopted a “pogo stick” as the only path for political success? If so, losses as far as the eye can see may occur, as they did in Virginia, a state that could have elected the conservative Ken Cuccinelli.

Barry Goldwater wrote, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

It not the economy stupid, its the three legged stool!

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