Monday Evening Open Thread: May the Farce Be With You

Happy Stars Wars Day, I guess?

Besides the weird conflation of popcult and politics — just like every night, Pinky! — what’s on the agenda for the evening?

All the King’s Horses…


Endtimes for the Outlaw Jersey Whale (ht: TBOGG):

Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, consulted with advisers, adjusted his jet-black suit and gamely walked onto a stage before 300 guests eating yogurt parfait and almond croissants. He recited statistics about Social Security and Medicare costs and projected the air of a man thoroughly unbothered by the swirling legal drama back in New Jersey, which he left unmentioned.

But behind the scenes, his aides, his allies and even his wife were mobilizing, working the phones and blasting out memos to supporters, trying to hold on to whatever chance Mr. Christie had to make a run at the presidency, according to interviews.

Over the next few hours, Mary Pat Christie called donors, trying to offer reassurance that everything was still on track and encouraging them to read her husband’s speech on overhauling the federal entitlement system.

Mr. Christie himself, joined by top aides, reached out to longtime financial supporters, like the billionaires Kenneth Langone and Stanley Druckenmiller, to talk through what he saw as the limited scope of the indictment.

And Mr. Christie’s political action committee emailed talking points for loyal backers to deliver to the news media, framing the guilty plea of David Wildstein, a former Christie ally, and the indictment of the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and his appointee, Bill Baroni, as a moment of vindication.

“Key messages,” the talking points read. “Today’s announcement reinforces what the governor has said since Day 1.” Mr. Christie, they said, “had no knowledge or involvement in the planning, motivation, authorization or execution of the decision to realign lanes on the George Washington Bridge.”

In call after call, they squeezed whatever optimism they could from an ugly day, calling the legal charges the “best possible outcome in a bad situation.”

But amid the bustle, there was an absorption of a new reality for the governor and those closest to him: that his bid for the White House seems increasingly far-fetched. A political team long characterized by its self-assuredness now sounds strikingly subdued, sobered and, realistic about his odds.

In two dozen interviews over the past 24 hours, many of the most trusted allies and advisers to Mr. Christie acknowledged that winning the Republican nomination required a domino-like series of stumbles from his rivals and an unlikely breakthrough for him.

They used gentle descriptions like “in a different place” to describe how Mr. Christie had fallen from the high of his re-election in 2013: unpopular at home, limping near the bottom in national Republican polls and lacking the money and momentum of his competitors.

I was always worried about Christie, because he could pass himself off as not crazy, unlike the rest of the GOP. Fortunately, his hubris and petty bully boy act wasn’t just something he did for show, it was his defining characteristic. In 2017, Chris Christie will be known as that asshole crooked former Governor of New Jersey, not Mr. President, and that is a good thing.

Bernie Sanders Hauls in $1.5 Million in 24 Hours

Maybe there’s hope for the republic after all; via CNN:

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’ nascent presidential campaign announced Friday that it had raised more than $1.5 million in its first 24 hours, a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted on their first day… [M]ore than 100,000 people signed up for the campaign and 35,000 people donated money….

Bernie raised more than Marco Rubio, Rand Paul or Ted Cruz collected on their first day, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that the corporate media has spent the last two years acting as if that trio of lightweights and lunatics are serious presidential contenders while treating anyone to the left of Susan Collins as a commie crank. 

The mister and I played a small part in Bernie’s surprisingly successful showing: We made our first political contribution of 2016 to Sanders’ campaign yesterday in the hope that his candidacy would drag Hillary Clinton a few centimeters leftward. Little did we guess we were droplets in a socialist cash tsunami!

Bridgegate Over The River Cryin’

Chris Christie finishing his term as Governor? Fageddaboutit!

Bringing to a head a 16-month federal investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closings scandal, a judge in New Jersey was expected to unseal indictments of two people close to Gov. Chris Christie at a court hearing Friday, according to people with knowledge of the case.

Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, were expected to be indicted.

The news comes as David Wildstein, another former Port Authority official and a high-school friend of Mr. Christie, pleaded guilty at the United States District Court in Newark to conspiracy to commit fraud and “conspiracy against civil rights.”

This is gonna be fun.

Judge Susan D. Wigenton, who presided over the case, laid out the scheme by detailing Mr. Wildstein’s criminal acts. She asked a laundry list of questions, all of which he answered with a soft “yes,” while standing at the defense table.

She asked if he conspired with Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly to shut down lanes to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee for not endorsing Mr. Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign.

“Did you agree with Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly to punish Mayor Sokolich by causing significant lane access problems,” the judge asked, staring down from the bench at Mr. Wildstein.

“Yes,” Mr. Wildstein answered.

It’s not like there was anything left of Christie’s 2016 White House ambitions anyway, but now the guy has this hanging over his head. He was toast for the clown car race, now the race is to see if he can stay one step ahead of substandard federal housing.

Just keep in mind all the Village Idiots who thought Mr. Tough Love here was the savior of the GOP, and why they need to be sharing a cell with him.

[UPDATE] Life comes at you fast.

[UPDATE THE SECOND] Oh well this is getting good.

Alan Zegas, David Wildstein’s lawyer, said outside the courtroom that his client was still being questioned by government investigators and was “prepared to testify.”

“There is a lot more that will come out,” he said. “Unfortunately, I am not in a position to talk about the matter in detail.”

He repeated that Gov. Chris Christie “knew of the lane closures as they occurred” and that “evidence exists” that proves it.

Current mood:



Open Thread: Happy May Day, Here’s Your (Democratic) Socialist Candidate!

The man’s playing it really close to his vest — I haven’t even gotten one of his “Bernie Buzz” email newsletters yet. But just in time for International Workers’ Day, Senator Sanders (self-labeled Democratic Socialist, listed as Independent) is officially campaigning in the Democratic primary. From the Washington Post, industry paper for the town whose monopoly industry is national poltics:

Sanders lifted off his long-shot bid with a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday by declaring war on corporate America and billionaire campaign donors. He also landed subtle jabs at Clinton, whose political ties to Wall Street and hawkish worldview have left some liberals yearning for an alternative.

“The major issue is: How do we create an economy that works for all of our people, rather than a small number of billionaires?” Sanders said. Disavowing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that disrupted the campaign finance system, he added: “We now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates. Let’s not kid ourselves: That is the reality right now.”…

Clinton took to Twitter to write: “I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Clinton supporter, told reporters that she is pleased Sanders is running because “it’s healthy for a party to have an exchange of ideas.” She said more candidates would “enliven the debate, and that will be wholesome.”…

The NYTimes has, among other stories, a list of Sanders’ stand on “the issues” and a forwarding-friendly short outline of “What Bernie Sanders Must Do to Win“. Sen. Sanders will not switch his official affiliation, which Bloomberg Politics reports is unlikely to be a problem in Iowa, but New Hampshire is being sniffy: “We have only two legal parties in New Hampshire,” CNN quoted [NH Secretary of State William] Gardner as saying. “The primary is reserved for those legal parties.” (Oh, and the nutballs enthusiasts behind Ready for Warren are not quite ready to give up on recruiting her just yet.)

Nate Cohn is wonkishly unenthusiastic, and Slate‘s John Dickerson is grumpy that Sanders is attacking the Republicans instead of Hillary Clinton. (“He does for Clinton what Howard Dean did for John Kerry in 2004.”) But Jim Newell, at Salon, is vehemently pro-Bernie:

… Bernie Sanders is an old leftist crank — we mean that in the best possible way — from Brooklyn. You can tell that he is from Brooklyn if you listen to any word that he says. We will be hearing a lot more about the MILLIONAYUHS AND BILLIONAYUHS over the next year or so, and we’ll be hearing it from someone who didn’t just arrive at his opinions yesterday after commissioning a few focus groups.

Among this field, the 73-year-old Vermont senator is the natural recipient for anti-Clinton votes. Yes, there will be a lot of theater criticism surrounding Sanders’ announcement: He’s too old, he’s too left, he’s too regional. He doesn’t properly comb his hair; he hunches over. But what if Democratic voters like him anyway because they agree with his policies — like single-payer healthcare, financial reform, massive infrastructure investments, and campaign finance reform? A revolutionary notion, sure…

… and the only person happier about Sanders’ candidacy than Christopher Pearson, founder of the Draft Bernie SuperPAC, may be Matt Taibbi:

Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

This is why his entrance into the 2016 presidential race is a great thing and not a mere footnote to the inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

Here’s the thing: Sanders is a politician whose power base is derived almost entirely from the people of the state of Vermont, where he is personally known to a surprisingly enormous percentage of voters. His chief opponents in the race to the White House, meanwhile, derive their power primarily from corporate and financial interests. That doesn’t make them bad people or even bad candidates necessarily, but it’s a fact that the Beltway-media cognoscenti who decide these things make access to money the primary factor in determining whether or not a presidential aspirant is “viable” or “credible.”…

It’s a little-known fact, but we reporters could successfully sell Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or any other populist candidate as a serious contender for the White House if we wanted to. Hell, we told Americans it was okay to vote for George Bush, a man who moves his lips when he reads. But the lapdog mentality is deeply ingrained and most Beltway scribes prefer to wait for a signal from above before they agree to take anyone not sitting atop a mountain of cash seriously.

Thus this whole question of “seriousness” – which will dominate coverage of the Sanders campaign – should really be read as a profound indictment of our political system, which is now so openly an oligarchy that any politician who doesn’t have the blessing of the bosses is marginalized before he or she steps into the ring…

Apart from politics, what’s on the agenda for the day? To celebrate the ancient holiday, I think I’ll take my little statue of Pan the Goat-God out to a place of honor in the garden…

Some Nuance on “Baltimore’s Prodigal Mayor”

Dave Weigel and Arit John, at Bloomberg Politics:

The former mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland, and likely candidate for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination, was standing at the end of a food giveaway at the St. Peter Claver parish hall in northwest Baltimore’s Sandtown neighborhood on Wednesday. He had arrived around 1 p.m., clad in white shirt, suit pants, and tucked-in tie.

And, yes, he’d been lifting pallets of food and water, and pulling the official leafy green of yuppiedom into plastic bags. That way, they could be collected by people whose local Save-A-Lot and CVS has been looted in the riots that followed the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray in police custody. He’d dug into the job, pausing occasionally to note the Irish-American history of the city, or the fact that as governor he’d plussed up the funding of the Maryland Food Bank, or that he knew a great recipe for vegetables…

The last few days had been difficult for Baltimore, and difficult in another way for O’Malley. He lived in Baltimore. He started his political career in 1991, at age 28, on Baltimore’s city council. Twenty-two years later, when he relaunched his political PAC for, probably, a White House bid, it was with a short documentary about how he turned Baltimore around. It was an uncontested, uncontroversial résumé highlight, something that allowed O’Malley to move on to current topics and challenge Hillary Clinton from the economic left.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, he looked like a mayor again, albeit one whose entourage had been reduced to fit one SUV. That was a necessity. The mayor who had brought New York-style “zero tolerance” policing to Baltimore had to confront critics, long after he was in a position to change. On both days, during a walk through the Freddie Gray protests and during his visit to the food giveaway, O’Malley said he had been “promoted to citizen.”

He usually did so when people shared a specific worry about a missing city service, and he assured them that he would talk to the current governor and mayor—that he had already, in fact. “I live in the city. I’m a resident of the city. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make the city a more safe and a more just place.”…

Not every fellow Baltimore’citizen’ hates O’Malley. From that NYTimes article about O’Malley at the Sandtown protests Tuesday:

… A few seconds later and a couple yards closer to the intersection, a young man named Chris Dickens read to Mr. O’Malley a list of young black men who he said had been victims of police brutality.

“I’ve heard of them all,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I think it’s tragic and I think we all need to search for a deeper and better understanding… When you worked for me, were you over there at some of those police funerals we had too? I buried 10 police officers too, half of them were black and half of them were white.”

Mr. O’Malley said he had to keep moving, and Mr. Dickens happily signed off with “take it easy.”

Next came Ernest Taylor, who thanked Mr. O’Malley for getting him off drugs through a government prison program. “Ah, good man,” Mr. O’Malley said. “Say that again. Give me a big hug.”

As Mr. O’Malley moved closer to the intersection, he defended Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake against charges of not caring (“She does, I talked to her today”) and trumpeted his own administration’s “zero tolerance for police misconduct.” …

Ed Kilgore, at Washington Monthly, discussed the political wonkery related to the David Simon interview yesterday:

[T]he basic idea is that in the pursuit of really impressive crime-fighting statistics (and O’Malley was and remains perhaps the country’s foremost advocate of data-driven police work), not to mention higher office, O’Malley radically pushed up arrest rates via mass arrests and “humblings” (minor status offense arrests) in high-crime areas even as the books were cooked to reduce the severity of reported crimes. The charge is sort of the equivalent of “teaching to the test;” I guess you could call it “arresting to the stats.”…

It’s a pretty deadly charge, one that suggests O’Malley’s successors have been making progress but still cannot overcome the poisons he introduced into the system. We haven’t heard O’Malley’s side of the argument, and there’s a history of bad blood between the two men (though they reportedly made up last year during an encounter in the bar car of the Acela). Read more

Freudian Twit (Updated)

Front page news in our local rag: an idiot in Tampa set up a website that urges people to purchase cigars that the site will then forward to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters. Why cigars? Because Bill Clinton famously cheated on the cackling shrew in 1998 (who could blame him, amirite?), and there was a cigar involved (hur-hur, geddit?), and this is SEE-gar City.


While the site contains some information about the supposed sins of Hillary Clinton herself (in the form of regurgitated Fox News talking points), the copy and graphics focus mostly on Lewinsky and blow jobs, giving the impression that Hillary Clinton’s primary transgression was marrying a horn-dog.

The site owner-moran claims his scheme is about more than putting an uppity bitch in her place — it’s to raise money for a “military-related charity.” Alas, an excerpt from the site:

Our originally intended charity has asked that we do not donate our proceeds to them; as such we are actively seeking new charities benefiting Veterans.

It was the Wounded Warrior Project that declined the donation, and good for them. The site owner claims to be a libertarian, so he’ll probably just form his own charity and pocket the funds as Baby Jeebus prophesied in the Book of Rand.

ETA: And now the cigar company, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. of Ybor City, has declined to participate as well, and good for them. Looks like “no cigar” for the No Cigar circle o’jerks.