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Will Sandusky And Corbett Defeat Romney?

The Governor’s mishandling of the Sandusky investigation may doom the GOP

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. It’s all about Ohio. Win the Buckeye state — win the White House.

Very true, especially for Mitt Romney, since no Republican has won without it.

But the monumental point is being overlooked.

Ohio is only kingmaker by default.  Its 18 electoral votes would not be needed if Romney wins Ohio’s larger neighbor — Pennsylvania and its 20 electors.

That’s not wishful thinking, but eminently achievable. Or at least it was, until two men severely diminished hope for delivering the Keystone State: Jerry Sandusky and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

*****

Make no mistake. Pennsylvania should have been a lock for the GOP.  The fact that it has not voted Republican for president since 1988 is misleading. When there is a solid candidate, Pennsylvania is always in play, where a small vote swing changes the election result (George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004).  Conversely, bad candidates lose handily (Bush I in ‘92, Dole in ’96, and McCain in 2008). And remember that Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush in ’88.

In 1994, it became the most Republican state in the country in terms of elected officials, with the GOP claiming both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, total control of the state legislature, a majority in its congressional delegation, and two of three statewide row offices.

Fast forward to 2010, when GOP Governor Tom Corbett rode to victory with a massive ten-point margin.  Conservative Pat Toomey was elected U.S. Senator, and Republicans gained control of the State House in historic fashion, smashing the Democrats and taking a ten-seat majority.  The State Senate remained solidly Republican — as it has for three decades.

So why is it likely that Romney will lose the Pennsylvania Prize?

Enter Corbett and Sandusky.

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The most worthless commodities in politics are endorsements. Party leaders endorsing their own is expected, swaying no one.  And celebrities choosing sides only makes for good cocktail talk.  Romney doesn’t benefit from Clint Eastwood, nor Obama from Bruce Springsteen.

But while endorsements don’t sell, popularity does. And they are distinctively different.

If a leader possesses a bold vision — and the ability to articulate ideas in a common sense, bipartisan way — he will have followers from the entire political spectrum. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie is the best example, having achieved monumental victories despite both legislative chambers being heavily Democratic.

While no single Republican could swing Jersey to Romney, that feat should have been in the bag in much more Republican Pennsylvania. If Christie could rack up wins in The People’s Republic of New Jersey, gaining immense popularity, how could Corbett not deliver Pennsylvania?

Because he is an MIA governor.

After the first year of his Administration, when virtually nothing was accomplished, Corbett’s own legislators nicknamed him “Christie-lite.” But after the second year, with an even more startling lack of achievements, the nicknames became unprintable.

We’re not talking about a failed extreme right-wing agenda, but common sense ideas Corbett promised but didn’t come close to delivering, despite holding all the cards.

-Was the nation’s largest state-controlled liquor system dismantled — a move overwhelmingly supported by most Pennsylvanians? Nope. Zero action.

-Was any effort made to 1) solve the state’s massive pension crisis, 2)lower the job-killing, corporate net income tax (second-highest in the nation), or 3) reform the nation’s most hostile legal climate? All drive businesses away, but no action was taken. The can was kicked down the road.

-Did state union workers receive a contract in line with private sector employees? No.  Instead, Corbett gave them guaranteed raises, no increases in health care premiums, and eliminated layoffs for economic reasons. At the same time, he raised salaries of his inner circle, aides who apparently couldn’t get by on $135,000.

While his inaction sunk the Governor’s favorable ratings, it was his handling of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky that really put him in the toilet, flushing away whatever attractiveness he had left.

Corbett’s attempt to steal the national limelight at Penn State news conferences by portraying himself as the savior who took down Sandusky rapidly backfired. Instead, his decisions in that case (he was the investigating Attorney General) grew into a firestorm that continues to explode.

No one is buying Corbett’s claims that he didn’t play politics with the Sandusky investigation. A whopping 69 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t view Corbett favorably, making him the nation’s least popular governor.  And a miniscule 17 percent think he handled the Sandusky investigation well.

Why? Maybe because:

-It took three years to get Sandusky off the street. Within the law enforcement community, it’s almost unanimous that Sandusky should have been nailed much, much earlier. Ten cases weren’t needed, as Corbett maintains, but only two or three to make an arrest while continuing to build the case.

-Corbett ordered a narcotics agent to lead a whopping team of two to investigate Sandusky, while scores of agents — including child predator units — prosecuted a political corruption case.

Because of Corbett’s colossal inconsistencies, Republican leaders were forced to abruptly end a legislative session, killing a motion requesting a federal investigation of Corbett’s handling of the case.

As a result, Corbett’s numbers have stayed in the basement. The erosion of his popularity, transcending Party lines, stems from the nagging feeling that Corbett placed politics above the protection of innocent children.

*****

The most far-reaching result of the Governor’s failures will be the political earthquake that never was. If Corbett had been just a fraction of Chris Christie, and had run the Sandusky investigation properly, Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania hands down.

Instead, because of Corbett’s toxicity, Romney was forced to focus on Ohio, which he will likely lose, and with it, the White House.

But that may be the least of Corbett’s troubles. Kathleen Kane is poised to become the first elected Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania history.  Should that occur, the political embarrassment for Corbett would be immense, since he would be seen as the main contributor to a Kane victory.

If elected, Kane promises an intense review of the Sandusky investigation, with no hesitation to charge anyone —including the Governor — should improprieties be uncovered.

And who thought politics wouldn’t be interesting after this election?

As published in Daily County Daily Times:
http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/11/05/opinion/doc50979500780a2499235935.txt

Philadelphia Magazine:
http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/11/05/sandusky-corbett-defeat-romney/

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

Gov.Corbett Could Have Stopped Sandusky — But Didn’t

An open letter to Pennsylvania’s governor, who refuses to answer disturbing questions about his role investigating the Penn State sex scandal

 

Bursting with righteous indignation, his cheeks flushed with rage, the Governor banged the podium in disgust while berating a journalist — in fact, chastising the entire media — for the audacity to ask questions on the issue.

We’re not talking about New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who gets away with such outbursts because of his stellar track record and pure gravitas.

No, this tantrum came from Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett after being queried about his incredibly long investigation of child predator Jerry Sandusky.

And it backfired in spectacular fashion. Why?

Because Tom Corbett is no Chris Christie.                      

*****

Since questions on this matter remain unanswered, it seems only fitting, on behalf of the media and public, to pen an Open Letter to Mr. Corbett.

For the record, no media commentator in Pennsylvania supported Corbett’s ideas more than Freindly Fire during the 2010 campaign, from increased Marcellus Shale drilling to school choice to liquor privatization. In fact, FF even backed Corbett’s decision to subpoena Twitter during the Bonusgate corruption probe — a highly unpopular position. Bottom line: this isn’t personal, and it’s not partisan.  It’s only about one thing: the truth.

*****

Dear Governor Corbett:

Since there are a number of questions which you have failed to answer concerning your investigation of Jerry Sandusky, on behalf of the media and the public, I respectfully ask for clarification in the following areas:

1) Based on a decade’s worth of evidence of Sandusky’s predatory activities, why did it take the Attorney General’s office three years to arrest him? I fully understand that it takes time to conduct an investigation, but as numerous prosecutors have stated, you could have arrested him quickly and continued building the case.

Tragically, it is probable that Sandusky continued to molest victims during your epic investigation, as predators do not stop preying unless forced to do so.  Had he been arrested early, (standard procedure in many cases with a lot less evidence), Sandusky would have had to post bail, had restrictions placed upon him, and, most important, been under an ultra-intense media and community spotlight — every minute of every day until his trial.

In short, children would finally have been safe. And contrary to your assessment, this would have created a much more favorable environment for additional witnesses to come forward, knowing their bigger-than-life demon could hurt them no more. Arresting Sandusky quickly would have in no way jeopardized the strength of the case.

One of two things seems to be true, as there is no third option. Either A) you were an incompetent attorney general, which virtually no one believes, or B) the investigation was deliberately understaffed and drawn out  because you did not wish to be the gubernatorial candidate who took down fabled Penn State — with its massive and intensely loyal alumni network — and the beloved Joe Paterno. Since doing so would have presented difficult campaign challenges, many are asking if politics was placed above children’s safety.  Which leads to the next question.

2) Why was the investigation so understaffed? Yes, you just now claimed — after eight months — that media reports are wrong that only one investigator was assigned the case for the first 15 months. The real number, as you now state, was a whopping two.  We know you were busy with Bonusgate, but political corruption never threatens anyone’s physical well-being, particularly defenseless children.

And the two investigators assigned were narcotics agents. While Sandusky’s heinous crimes were many, drug offenses were not among them.

Yes, they were former police officers. But wouldn’t the reasonable course have been to assign agents with experience in child molestation cases? Did their inexperience lengthen the investigation more than normal…say, past your election in November, 2010?

Additional resources were available. Upon becoming governor, you placed state police on the case. You could have made that same request to Governor Rendell, and, given the stakes, there is virtually no possibility he would have refused. And since you are a former United States Attorney, you undoubtedly realized that federal assistance was also available.

3) Do you believe ethical and moral lines were crossed when, after investigating Penn State as Attorney General, you then participated as a member of the Board of Trustees upon becoming Governor?  

In other words, knowing full well that the investigation was still in full swing, conducted by your handpicked Attorney General successor, you nonetheless chose to sit on the very Board you had been — and still were — investigating!

Did you ever consider recusing yourself from Board activities until the investigation was concluded? Since governors rarely attend Board meetings, this would have in no way raised suspicions.


4) As governor, why did you personally approve a $3 million taxpayer-funded grant to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, given your knowledge that Sandusky was under investigation for multiple child rapes?

Your statement that blocking the grant would have tipped people off to the investigation is utterly disingenuous, particularly since the media reported on the investigation in March, and you did not approve the funds until July, 2011.  

Vetoing the charitable grant would have simply been viewed as another financial cutback in a budget full of slashed programs.

So one has to ask if the $640,000 in campaign donations from board members of the Second Mile, along with their businesses and families, had anything to do with your actions?

If not, fine.  But how did such a massively significant point slip your mind — until the media brought it up? And was that question also out of line?

Since these are matters of grave concern, I and many others look forward to your immediate response.

 

*****

 

The media talks about Penn State’s Big Four casualties: Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley. But perhaps they are missing the biggest: Tom Corbett.

He has always claimed to hold himself to a higher standard, and has roundly criticized Paterno and others for not doing more to stop Sandusky. But when it came down to it, when Corbett had the power to put a speedy end to Sandusky, he didn’t.  

If mistakes were made, fine. People can accept that.  But to stonewall reasonable questions on such an important matter, and then stalk off , is something that should not, and will not, be tolerated.

Tom Corbett has a choice, perhaps the biggest of his career.  He can either answer now — or in 2014.

 Link to column in Delaware County Daily Times:

http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/17/opinion/doc500484c4eef82305964009.txt

An accredited member of the medi\a, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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July 17, 2012 at 7:59 am Comment (1)

Did Chris Christie Lower Jersey Flags for Whitney Houston to Suck Up to Black People?

 

Chris Christie And Whitney Houston: Not Perfect Together

As published in Philadelphia Magazine…

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/02/17/chris-christie-jersey-flags-whitney-houston-suck-black-people/

With the sparse media coverage of Whitney Houston’s death and funeral, it’s not surprising that her years of military service have gone largely unnoticed, as were her activities as an undercover cop in New Jersey (was she really killed after a sting went bad?).  After all, she must have done these dangerous things to warrant all Jersey state flags being flown at half-mast in her honor, as ordered by Governor Chris Christie.

 

Because the opposite simply defies common sense.

 

If Houston was not a police officer gunned down in the line of duty, nor a military hero killed in a war zone, that means that the hugely significant act of lowering the flags in deference to her was because she was…. a singer?

 

Really, Governor?  A singer?  That’s what it’s come down to in Jersey?  Sure, Whitney Houston was a Jersey native, proud of her Garden State roots.  And undeniably, she was one of the most dynamic pop stars of all time, changing the musical landscape forever and inspiring some of the brightest performers of today.

 

But she was just a singer.  That’s not to minimize her accomplishments, as they are many, but let’s cut through the emotion and talk brass tacks.  She was a popular singer, past her prime, with a not-exactly stellar personal history. 

 

Play word association with most people about Whitney Houston, and they will tell you two things: great singer and crack addict.

 

That’s reason enough not to elevate Houston to god-like status.  While Christie can’t control the media’s nauseating coverage of all things Whitney, he certainly could have sent a message by NOT lowering the flags for her.  By doing so, Houston is now perceived, more than she ever has been, as a special role model, one for whom the Government has issued its seal of approval. 

 

And despite Christie’s protests to the contrary, that’s exactly what has happened as a result of his bad decision. Trite as it sounds that honoring Houston in such a fashion condones her behavior — both good and bad — it also happens to be true.

 

And where does it end?  What is the litmus test for getting flags lowered on your behalf? Once the hallowed territory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their countrymen, Christie has now changed the rules forever.  And is that really what we want from our governmental leaders — their interpretation of who merits the honor, and who doesn’t?

 

If Jon Bon Jovi — a Jersey Boy — happens to meet his Maker next week, will the Guv give him the same special treatment?  And what is the threshold? Record sales? Movie appearances? Rehab stints?

More ominous is to ponder Bon Jovi’s flag fate had he died before Whitney.  Would Christie have honored him the same way?  And if not, would that have been because Bon Jovi wouldn’t have provided the same perceived political benefit?

 

“Wow, what a callous, crass and out-of-line statement!” So will be the response of many Houston fans who will take such a possibility as a personal affront to Whitney and her family, but the point remains a valid one, and that bring us to two possibilities:

 

1) Is Christie’s move a political calculation, pandering to constituencies that are not in his camp? And if so, is the Governor’s attempt at making inroads with the black community and young hipsters done to seem more “moderate and compassionate,” both perceived necessities when running for President or Vice President?

 

If that is the case, it is a massive miscalculation on three counts.  First, he won’t win over those constituencies because he lowers flags.  He can only do so by sticking to his core convictions, explaining to them why his vision will benefit them more than failed Democratic policies.  Second, he has now alienated an influential part of his natural base — active and retired police and military personnel. In their eyes, his action has cheapened the sacrifices their fallen brethren have made, putting those fallen heroes on par with a drug-addicted millionaire Hollywood entertainer.  Last, such perceived political posturing doesn’t sit well with the vast majority of  regular, non-political citizens.  They may not see his motives as politically calculated, but many see his decision as a total lack of good judgment.

 

2) Of course, there may be absolutely no political calculation whatsoever, with Christie making his decision on a human level only.  This author, for one, would certainly like to think so, as no media commentator has defended Christie’s bulldog approach to tough issues more than Freindly Fire (and, to be fair, hammered him when he was wrong, such as “HelicopterGate”).

 

But that is exactly why politicians should not be lowering flags and honoring anyone they happen to like.  The nature of politicians is such that everything they do is perceived to be calculated, that their every move is an ulterior motive to curry favor with a particular constituency.

 

Why wasn’t the solemn act of lowering flags to honor real heroes left intact? Why is nothing sacred anymore? Why is common sense so incredibly uncommon these days, even by those from whom we expect more?

 

Perception is reality, and the growing perception — from both the media’s nonstop Whitney coverage and Chris Christie stamping his imprimatur on her entire life — is that she should be emulated and admired as one of the nation’s great role models.

 

To those entities, a suggestion.  If you want to honor her legacy, go buy her albums.  Otherwise, it’s time to exhale, come down from your drug-induced state, and realize that Whitney Houston is no…. Michael Jackson.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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February 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm Comment (1)

Rendell As Inquirer Owner? Might As Well Be Philly Enquirer

A Jerry Maguire-like treatise for how to resurrect the media’s credibility

 

Famed political strategist James Carville once referred to Pennsylvania as two major cities with Alabama in between.  What an insult to Alabama.

 

The folks in the nation’s fifth-largest state — all of them — are the backwards ones, the sad result of refusing to hold their leaders accountable for broken campaign promises and abject failures. All the while, their neighboring states — AKA “the competition” — continue to make gains at Pennsylvania’s expense.

 

Ohio and West Virginia are successfully courting natural gas and oil companies, which are beginning to exit Pennsylvania. Indiana is thriving after enacting comprehensive statewide school choice and becoming a Right To Work state, where compulsory unionism is no required as a condition of employment.

 

New Jersey (yes, Jersey!) can woo companies across the river because of faith that a real leader, Chris Christie, is righting the ship.  Everyone else on the planet can buy liquor easier and cheaper than Pennsylvanians.  And corruption, both criminal and institutionalized, remains rampant, killing optimism and trampling the hope that you can beat City Hall.

 

From Ed Rendell to Tom Corbett (is there a difference?), a lack of leadership has left Pennsylvania on the precipice, its citizens staring into the abyss of permanent mediocrity, paralyzed by fear to take the risks necessary to forge ahead. Such a malaise is anathema to employers looking for economic stability, a less hostile atmosphere and a better educational system.

 

While that lack of leadership is inexcusable, there is another, even more important factor as to why the state finds itself in such a precarious situation: a media that has sold its soul, forsaking its most basic mission of holding everyone accountable, with a “no sacred cows” approach. For far too long, stories that needed to be told were relegated to the dustbin. And unsavory politicians and business leaders counted on that. Without an aggressive press, it was, and remains, the Wild West where bad guys operate with impunity.

 

There is no better example of the media’s fall from grace than that of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Once a paper of national significance that took a bulldog approach to its reporting, it has since become a shell of its former self, an also-ran full of AP feeds and local fluff stories of virtually no interest.

 

The Inky really jumped the tracks was when it was “led” by Brian Tierney, who, along with investors, paid over half a billion for the paper (and the Daily News) in 2006.

Mired in debt, Tierney did the unthinkable — he approached then-Governor Rendell for a taxpayer-funded bailout to keep the papers afloat in 2009, a story that Freindly Fire broke ( http://freindlyfirezone.com/home/item/43-possible-inquirer-bailout-draws-ire ) and was picked up by the Wall Street Journal in its harshly-worded editorial “Bad News In Philadelphia — The Worst Bailout Idea So Far: Newspapers.”

 

WSJ Link

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123353263226537457.html

 

 

Predictably, Rendell was ready and willing to lend that helping hand.  But as negative fallout for the bailout plan grew, the deal fell apart and the papers filed for bankruptcy.

 

Despite what common sense unquestionably tells us — that a taxpayer-funded newspaper would in fact be an “adjunct of the state,” as the WSJ so adroitly described it — the players in that ill-fated bailout attempt saw nothing wrong with their actions.

 

Thankfully, Tierney is out of the picture, having lost the papers to an investor group who held much of the original debt.  But incomprehensibly, the situation has come full circle. Now the current owners want out, and it has been reported that none other than Ed Rendell has been approached to put together an investor group to possibly buy the papers.

 

Really?  Ed Rendell?  How is that even remotely possible?

 

Where is the journalistic integrity in working with the very man who stood cocked, ready to unleash millions in taxpayer funds to bail out an “independent” media entity?  It’s no secret that it has become increasingly difficult for papers to make a profit in the age of The New Media, but having Rendell as your “Go-To” man underscores just how desperate the situation has become.

 

Taking marching orders from elected officials destroys the very essence of being a journalist and jeopardizes the unique constitutional protections afforded to media members.  Sure, Ed Rendell is a private citizen now, but his mentality — how he sees the role of the government working hand-in-hand with the media — has undoubtedly not changed.

 

But the behavior of the Inquirer’s ownership should come as no surprise, given that it recently accepted a $2.9 million loan from the City of Philadelphia to assist the company move to a new headquarters. Yes, the same city, the same Mayor and the same City Council that the newspapers are supposed to be objectively covering.  Is nothing scared anymore?

 

The last thing the region needs is an investor group led by political insiders and ideologically-supercharged individuals with aggressive personal agendas.  As painful as it would be for the thousands of hard-working folks at the those newspapers, it would be better for the entire entity to close its doors than be associated with folks who may, at any given time, make a pitch for public financing.

 

And while past performance is not indicative of future results, it’s a damn good bet.

 

Better to have no paper at all than one that prostrates itself at the feet of the very people it purports to objectively cover.  And since the Philadelphia newspapers have been anything but a watchdog over the last six years, churning out less than a handful of quality investigations, the bad guys would see virtually no difference, since they’re not exactly sweating investigative reporters knocking on their doors.

 

 

Where The Media Went Wrong
The sad reality is that The Fourth Estate has abdicated its sacred responsibility of keeping American institutions honest and true. No longer respected as the entity which holds feet to the fire and follows investigations wherever they may lead, the American media has instead become part and parcel of the Establishment. Too many journalists play the “go-along, get-along” game — some because it’s easy, others because they want to be liked, still others who are afraid they will lose “access” if they ask the tough questions.

 

These people have forgotten that their profession does not lend itself to having “friends,” since nothing and no one should ever be off the table. The result of these close alliances is blatant conflicts of interest, both personal and professional.  Once that line is crossed, it is nearly impossible to return.

 

No medium is immune from this malady.  Those in television, radio, newspaper and internet are all complicit. As an entity, the media has fallen down on its most basic journalistic responsibilities, losing its integrity, and ultimately its credibility, along the way.

Consequently, the public’s view of the media is at an historic low.  And while complaints abound that the media is biased, which to a certain extent it is, this is but a symptom of a much greater illness.  A slant towards liberalism or conservatism is wrong, to be sure, but inherent laziness and, by extension, incompetence, are the first problems that must be rectified. Competence and vision will trump bias every time.

 

Resurrecting the media’s image is a Herculean task. And when the free press reaches the point where it is no longer believed, it stands on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant.

 

Whether it is nauseating nonstop coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral procession or feel-good fluff stories in our nation’s pre-eminent newspapers, the lack of hard-hitting investigative reporting and aggressive interviews with top national and international leaders is appalling. Producers and editors are constantly looking over their shoulders at the competition, choosing to push out content to be like “every other station,” passing on golden opportunities to be different, to be journalists to be leaders.

 

These people spend more time trying to keep their jobs than actually doing them.

 

There is a certain irony here. If media executives produced the quality work that the American people expect, their ratings would skyrocket, and advertisers would pay a premium.  The biggest myth being propagated about the bankruptcy of media companies is that they are victims of the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

They are victims of their own ineptitude.

 

Americans still have an unquenchable thirst for the news, but they are increasingly tuning out the mainstream media because the content is utterly lacking of substance.

 

The solution is simple — it’s just not easy. Nothing and no one should be off the table.  Not politicians, government officials, businessmen, media personalities, sports stars, nor celebrities. With no agenda except the truth, the media should pursue stories with no boundaries and no restrictions.

 

*****

Americans don’t gravitate to question marks, but exclamation points.  It’s time to put the exclamation point back in the American press, not through new technologies and gimmicks, but by pursuing the only thing that matters: the truth.

 

As the voice in the classic baseball movie Field Of Dreams commanded, “Build it and they will come.” In the same way, if the media gets off its duff and starts producing content worthy of the world’s best press, readers and viewers will come — in unprecedented numbers.

 

Unfortunately, if Ed Rendell takes over Philadelphia’s newspapers, the ballpark will be empty before the new game even begins.

 

 

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

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February 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm Comments (2)

Hey Chris Christie, Get On The Treadmill — You May Be President

Don’t Be Surprised If Romney and Gingrich Bow Out At The End

 

About the only job better than weatherman — where you can get it wrong half the time and still remain employed — is political pundit.  These guys make an art out of looking dumb, and doing so with authority.

 

In the last few years alone, we have been told that Obama had zero chance of beating Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney was sure to be the GOP nominee in 2008, and now, the President can’t win re-election because Romney will beat him.  That last prediction, of course, is predicated upon Romney winning the Republican nomination, which the pundit brain trust is now telling us is a done deal after Mitt’s victory in Florida.

 

But just as it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, as Blutarsky taught us in Animal House, this race is far from over.

 

And the most comedic part is that the “experts” don’t even know it.  If they just took a walk outside their ivory towers, they would discover that there are still many elections — not coronations — yet to come, and that Newt Gingrich hasn’t been vanquished.

 

This is not to say that Romney won’t end up the winner.  In fact, that’s a good bet since he has money and organization advantages over Gingrich. But to say it’s all but over is simply foolish.

 

Cutting through the pundits’ white noise, it is worth looking at where the race really stands. Never before have there been three different winners in the first three contests, so that alone should be a caution sign for traditional predictions. Mitt Romney has won two of the four contests, including the winner-take-all state of Florida, and yet the total number of delegates awarded so far amounts to just five percent.

 

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, for various reasons, cannot win the nomination, but they can and will garner delegates, as many states award delegates on a proportional basis based on popular vote.

 

Without question, Gingrich will be in the hunt for the long haul. Following a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, after which the “experts” wrote him off for good, he roared back to a thundering victory in South Carolina. In all likelihood, he will win a number of states on Super Tuesday, and in the contests that he doesn’t, will post strong second place finishes.

 

(There is another reason for Gingrich to stay in the race: the possibility that Romney will say or do something that would catastrophically implode his candidacy.  Mitt came close this week when he said “I’m not concerned about the very poor…You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus.” Such blunders run in the family, as his father, former Michigan Governor George, crushed his quite viable presidential aspirations by stating he was “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam War.  The game was over the very instant he uttered that word.)

 

Short of a Romney implosion, Gingrich won’t win the nomination outright, but the impact of his candidacy could be substantially greater: he may deny Romney the prize.  If the three “challengers” to Romney can keep Mitt from attaining that “fifty percent plus one” number, it’s a whole new ballgame.

 

And while such a scenario was unthinkable to many pundits just a few weeks ago, it is becoming increasingly plausible.

 

An often overlooked but extremely important factor in determining the nominee is that many of the states have different legal rules concerning their delegates.  A handful of states, including delegate-rich Pennsylvania, do NOT require their delegates to commit for the candidate who won the state.  Put in layman’s terms, come convention time, delegates from the Keystone State can cast votes for any person they wish, whether or not the candidate won the state or even participated in the primary process.

 

Obviously, in normal election years, Party unity is assured because the nominee is determined early in the process.  But this year is anything but normal.  And there is precedent for delegates breaking ranks.

 

In 1980, George H.W. Bush handily won the primary election in Pennsylvania over Ronald Reagan.  The Reagan folks knew they weren’t going to win, so they pulled a coup by ensuring that the delegates elected were loyal to The Gipper. So despite Bush winning by 100,000 votes, Reagan emerged with roughly 70 percent of the state’s delegates morally committed to him.

 

Given that situation, a major concern for Romney is getting the right delegates to achieve the right majority.  But since Mitt has been running for President for five years, spent hundreds of millions in that endeavor, and still can’t come close to getting 50 percent of GOP primary voters, that might be a daunting task.

 

While still a “long shot” scenario, don’t be surprised that, after all the states have voted, no one emerges a winner.  If neither Romney nor Gingrich can successfully make a deal with Paul or Santorum to acquire their delegates, the country may see two men who despise each other hold a joint press conference announcing that, for the good of the Party, they are withdrawing from the campaign and releasing their delegates.

 

And then it would become the Wild West. Backroom conventioneering would take on a life of its own, with countless deals being struck to choose the most unifying Republican ticket to take on Obama.

 

And who might top that list?  Well, put it this way. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would do well to start using a treadmill. More than anyone else, Christie’s ability to tell it like it is, take no prisoners, and bulldog his way to success — despite major Democratic majorities in the state assembly — make him a Party favorite.  He is one of a very few who commands respect by the Establishment, rank-and-file grassroots activists, and Tea Parties alike.

 

Republicans, Democrats and Independents may not always agree with Christie, but they always know where he stands, and his speak-from-the-heart style is a breath of fresh air in a world of sound bites, talking points and focus groups.

 

Christie may have foreseen this scenario, possibly explaining why he declined to run in the brutal primaries. And for those who predict Christie as a Romney VP, forget it.  He is nobody’s Number Two, and almost certainly would not sign on to a meaningless ceremonial post when he could have, quite possibly, captured the top prize for himself had he wanted to do so.

 

Should Christie decline an offer made at a brokered convention, the list of frontline candidates grows relatively thin, but undoubtedly Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and, dare we say it — Jeb Bush! — would certainly be in play.

 

This scarcity of good candidates is testament to what happens when a political party refuses to build its bench with folks who actually believe in things, instead promoting those whose “turn it is.” Look no further than Bob Dole and John McCain. It’s pretty sad that in the election many Republicans are calling the most important in American history, the GOP can muster so few viable contenders.

 

No matter how it eventually plays out, the battle for the Republican nomination will go on for at least the next four months, and that’s a good thing. Despite the conventional wisdom as postulated by pundits that divisive primaries only serve to weaken the Party’s candidates and needlessly give an advantage to the opponent, the opposite is true. Combative and lengthy primaries make candidates stronger, sharper and better prepared for the rigors of a general election presidential campaign. Barack Obama proved that in his protracted battle with Hillary.

 

And given that Obama is in the driver’s seat to emerge victorious in November, a long primary season — and even a brokered convention — could be just what the doctor ordered to energize the Republican Party and unify what is now a very discontented base.

 

President Christie, anyone?

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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February 4, 2012 at 11:18 am Comment (1)

Hey Chris Christie: Time To Get Off The Pot!

Here’s a message to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: take care of business or get off the pot.  This “will you or will you not run for President” story has to end — now. Your indecision is hurting the Republican Party, and, ironically, giving Barack Obama a much needed reprieve. The time for games is over…it’s In or Out.

*****

Republican Christie is a firebrand, an extremely effective governor who has done what few thought possible in Jersey: reform bloated pensions, institute public-sector union reforms, and balance the budget without raising taxes. And all that was accomplished while dealing with solid Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers — and a Senate President who is a card-carrying union member. It doesn’t get any more bipartisan, and miraculous, than that.

But more than anything, Christie’s hallmark is his brusque, straightforward style. He truly tells it like it is, from state finances (“the state is going to go broke” without reform) to yelling at people to “get the hell off the beach” before an impending hurricane.

Sure, his style is interpreted by some as in-your-face bullying, but the reality is that Christie is far from a rude person.  He is simply expressing himself and his beliefs in a concise, matter-of-fact way.  And in politics, that is extremely rare.

Most endearing to folks is that Christie speaks from the heart — no teleprompters or note cards. Because of that passion, his sometimes aggressive style belies an extremely articulate leader, one whose charisma has won over more than a few adversaries.  People may not always agree with Chris Christie, but they always know where he stands. As a result, he has become a national figure precisely because he embodies what the American people crave: a leader refusing to dance the Political Two-Step and avoid tough issues.

Until now.

The Governor made a keynote speech this week at the Ronald Reagan Library in California — an event that was covered extensively by the national media.  It provided the golden opportunity to end speculation, once and for all, about presidential ambitions for 2012. In one fell swoop, Christie could have told the country of his intentions, and, in that unmistakable Christie way, put an exclamation point on his decision so that no one would question him again.

But he didn’t.  Instead, he left the door wide open.

In doing so, for the first time, he looked…political. Dare we say it, but it almost seemed like he was doing the Trenton Shuffle.

And that’s not the Chris Christie we know.

His past statements that he is not running for president are meaningless.  All politicians say such things, and it was too early in the process for even Chris Christie to be wholly believed. But it’s a totally different ballgame now. The primary elections begin in just four months, which is barely enough time to raise money, organize a campaign team and execute a ground game. 

Could Christie overcome such obstacles this late in the game? Absolutely — but only if he announces within the next few days. Should he ultimately not run, however, the problem with his non-decision is that it’s hurting the only two Republicans with a shot at the nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney (as no other Republican could realistically enter, and win, the race).

Because of the Christie-factor, significant uncertainty remains among Republican powerbrokers, donors, elected officials, GOP-leaning organizations and grassroots Party faithful. Instead of a clear-cut race, the battle lines remain blurred, so many of these folks are waiting it out on the sidelines, withholding money, effort and endorsements until Christie makes a decision.

As a result, the frontrunners have lost momentum as donations and support are stagnating, and they have been taken “off-message.”  Because of the Christie buzz, anything Perry and Romney say and do is simply white noise.

Most damaging to the GOP, however, is that Barack Obama has been given a reprieve. As President, he is driving the ship, which, given never-ending stream of bad economic news, is listing badly.  So any opportunity that takes the political focus off of himself and the economy is greatly welcomed.  Until the Christie rumor mill is emphatically shut down, the President will be able to regroup and attempt to stabilize his situation. It’s not a panacea, but it certainly helps him.

While that was definitely not the intention of Christie, it is in fact reality.

So one of several things is true:

1) Christie has no intention of running, but is badly underestimating how closely people are hanging on his every word,

2) Christie is definitely running, taking advantage of millions in free media coverage while quietly putting together an organization. While a brilliant strategy, its shelf life is measured in days, and will backfire if played too long. One cannot run a stealth campaign for president.

3) He really hasn’t made up his mind yet.

The last scenario is most troubling, because if a candidate’s heart is not in a race, but chooses to run anyway, he will be a total failure.  The American people can sense that type of insincerity immediately.  Need proof? Ask Fred Thompson. (And conversely, a tip of the hat to Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels, who both admitted that they were lacking the fire in the belly in deciding not to run).

I have been fortunate to have had a front row seat covering some of Governor Christie’s triumphs, seeing firsthand the progress one man can make. It would be a shame to see that legacy tarnished by indecision.

So with all due respect, Mr. Christie, given the impending political hurricane, let me paraphrase a popular Governor by saying, “Get the hell in or out of the race!”

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

 

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September 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm Comment (1)

Gov. Onorato — Err…Corbett — Gives Unions A Sweetheart Deal

 How this affects you: the new contracts for unionized state employees will cost $164 million as workers get an 11 percent raise, with no pension reform, while the private sector continues to get rocked.

In case you have been living under a rock, here’s a newsflash: we are experiencing one of the most severe recessions in our history, and there are no greener pastures in the immediate future.

So common sense dictates that with high unemployment, decreased tax revenues, large deficits, and, most significantly, massive pension obligations, governors would take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that their states, and its citizens, remain solvent, especially when it comes to negotiating public-sector union contracts.

That happened in places like Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, where true Republicans are in charge. Governors Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels and John Kasich took the heat and did what they had to do, reeling in the out-of-control taxpayer largess afforded to these unions.

But most amazing of all is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s remarkable success. Just last week, he pushed through a monumental union pension and benefit reform package that will save taxpayers over $120 billion — and did so with heavily Democratic, pro-union legislative majorities.  So effective was Christie that alongside him at the bill-signing was the Senate President — a longtime union member.

Contrast that to the deal just reached by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett with the largest state unions. Instead of acting in the best interests of the taxpayers footing the bill, he simply continued the Rendell legacy of keeping the cash register door wide open.

It’s bad enough the Governor rolled over on all the sweeping concessions he was seeking, but he ended up giving the unions a sweetheart deal.

Over the next four years, unionized state employees will receive an almost 11 percent raise and a guarantee of no furloughs.  And remember, this significant bump is in addition to their three percent raise two years ago, four percent raise last year — and three annual step increases which averaged 2.25 percent during that time. Cha-ching!

Must be nice to have such staunch advocates like Governors Rendell and Onorato — sorry, I meant Corbett — fighting for you.

And how do these pay raises compare to those in the private sector?  With such high unemployment and underemployment rates, do you really have to ask?  Most are receiving no raises at all, not even cost of living adjustments.  And those fortunate enough to still have a job have no choice but to hang on for dear life, praying they survive the next round of layoffs.  Making matters worse, many have to also shoulder ever increasing healthcare costs, if they have coverage at all.

In addition to substantial retirement benefits, state workers have guaranteed healthcare, too.  And while they will pay a bit more with this new contract, it’s still at a level way below many in the private sector.

It used to be that working in the public sector was a trade-off.  You wouldn’t make as much money as in the business world, but the benefits were good and contracts were guaranteed.  But all that changed as union contracts exploded upward — at the expense of taxpayers.

Now, in many cases, unionized public employees make more than their peers in the private sector, and retire on pensions and benefit packages that would make Wall Street financiers blush with envy.  Of course, that has come with a price, especially in Pennsylvania, and now it’s time to pay the piper.  State pension obligations go through the roof over the next several years, as annual taxpayer-funded contributions to the two state pension funds increase exponentially, ballooning from $800 million now — to billions per year.

The last Governor and legislature kicked the can down the road last year, but that only gets you so far, and, in the process, devastates the future of our children and grandchildren.

By caving in to the unions, giving them a contact that would be way too generous even in a strong economy, this Governor has chosen not to address the reforms necessary to keep Pennsylvania on solid ground, which will eventually lead to higher state borrowing costs and push the state closer to the abyss.

And while we’re on the subject of the state’s finances, let’s set the facts straight about the current budget. Reducing the budget by four percent is a good thing, but was inevitable after the loss of federal stimulus dollars.  Had he won the governorship, Dan Onorato would have signed a budget almost exactly the same as the one Corbett did.  For that matter, even Governor Spendell, who never saw a spending increase he didn’t like, would have been forced to reduce the budget to close the $4.2 billion budget deficit.

Which, in reality, is closer to $7 billion because no one in Harrisburg wants to address the real fiscal situation.  The budget, which is constitutionally required to be balanced, was passed last year on ghost revenue: $400 million from the tolling of Interstate 80 (which never got tolled);  $800 million raided from the MCARE fund (used to offset high medical malpractice rates) which, in all likelihood, will be ordered repaid by the state Supreme Court; federal Medicaid dollars that were budgeted to be $800 million but in actuality amounted to $595 million; and a $1.1 billion revenue shortfall after ten months of last year’s fiscal year. 

This shortfall seems to have simply vanished off the books.  Of course, do that with your own business — and you go to jail.  So with the looming pension bomb and the real state deficit, it’s not a pretty picture for Pennsylvania’s future.

There was a way to address these issues and begin to reverse the state’s decline.  Governor Corbett could have mandated a situation whereby union members would negotiate with their prospective employer individually, and free market-type incentives would allow for a fair offer — fair for the employee, and fair for the “employer” (the taxpayer).

So an offer would be made — salary, healthcare, benefits — and the individual could choose to accept or decline it.  Which is exactly how it’s done in the free market.  And for those who would claim it wouldn’t be “fair” to the state worker, you know what?  There would be a line a mile long of qualified individuals ready and willing to accept such an offer. Accountability and efficiencies would increase, and unmotivated, bureaucratic sloths would be eliminated in favor of those willing to be good stewards of taxpayer money.

Sound simple and fair enough?  It is, and it’s called the elimination of collective bargaining.  It’s something successfully implemented in other states, but was incomprehensibly taken off the table by Corbett three months ago — while getting absolutely nothing in return. 

The result?  No pension reform, and a lucrative union contract that the Governor says will be a net cost to the taxpayers of $164 million (which means that figure can be safely doubled).

The Wall Street Journal just labeled Corbett as leader of Keystone Cops.  After this latest debacle, it’s hard to disagree.

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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June 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm Comments (0)

“Dean Wormer’s” Spirit and Freind: Corbett Has A 0.0 GPA

Who can forget the classic scene in Animal House when the boys from Delta fraternity were summoned by Dean Wormer?  As he looked over their grade point averages, he menacingly barked the hard truth:

Wormer (to a drunk Flounder): “0.2… Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

“Daniel Simpson Day… HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete…”

And of course:

MR. BLUTARSKY… ZERO POINT ZERO.”

In the spirit of the legendary Dean, it’s now time to rate Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania House and Senate.  Since all are Republican (with large GOP majorities in the legislature and the Governor a ten-point winner in November), it’s a no-brainer that Pennsylvania should be back on track, given the people’s mandate last year.

But as Blutarsky could tell you, being responsible and fulfilling your requirements feels so much like… work! And where’s the fun in that? 

While politics has always been more style over substance, this time it seemed different.  This time people had the legitimate sense that things would turn around, and life would get better in Pennsylvania….that they could actually trust their leaders to practice what they preached.

But opportunity after opportunity has been needlessly squandered, and those hopes are being dashed.  Not because fighting the good fight has left our politicians spent and exhausted, but because these “leaders” have run state government, as Dean Wormer so eloquently said, in a fat, drunk and stupid way.

                                                                              *****

As a state agency, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) is funded by taxpayer dollars. While programs for the arts are certainly important, they are normally first on the budgetary chopping block, and for good reason.  Political leaders realize that when dollars are scarce, the funding of other initiatives with greater overall value is a better investment.

Even former Governor Ed Rendell understood this, as the budget for the PCA decreased 45 percent over the last several years, with additional money being allocated for education and infrastructure.

So it was quite a shock to many Republicans in the House last week when the Chair of the PCA, siding with Senate Democrats, criticized the GOP for its proposed cuts to the agency. “The arts budget is so small in comparison with the rest of the budget… I was disappointed to see House Republicans slash it by 70 percent,” she publicly said.

But it’s not the criticism of the cuts that has many in the GOP fuming.  It’s the fact that Governor Corbett has passed the buck, making them do the heavy lifting that he consistently promised to do, but on which he has failed to deliver.

How so?  In Corbett’s budget proposal, the PCA’s budget remains virtually unchanged, yet he wants to slash higher-ed spending by 52 percent. How is that remotely close to “everybody feels the pain?”  It’s not, which is why it’s an impossible sell.

Here’s the killer.  Not only does the Governor lose credibility for himself and his Party by not following through on his shared sacrifice mantra, but, specifically, guess why the PCA’s budget didn’t get cut?

Could it be that its Chair is none other than Sue Corbett, First Lady of Pennsylvania?  

So let’s get this straight. The Governor chose not to cut the budget of the agency his wife chairs — forcing the House GOP to do it.  And now, because the First Lady doesn’t like that, she chastises the Republicans who are actually exercising the fiscal restraint championed by the Governor (but seemingly only during the campaign), making the House R’s out to be the bad guys.

Not exactly a smart way to endear yourself to the very people who have to pass your budget.

This momentum-killing message is echoing across Pennsylvania: the Governor only wants shared sacrifice so long as his family, friends and pet projects are exempt.

Maybe that’s why he has signed no significant legislation (unlike his counterparts in Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey) and remains rudderless, weighted down by a 30 percent approval rating and unable to extricate himself from a political quagmire of his own making.

Freindly Fire rarely makes political predictions three years out, given that in politics, three months can be a lifetime.  But Tom Corbett has thus far blazed a course for the history books, possibly destined to do what no Pennsylvania governor has ever done: lose after just one term.  And don’t think for a second that State Treasurer Rob McCord — the Dem’s best shot — isn’t reading the tea leaves.

Oh, we’ve heard all the rationales:

“He’s a prosecutor.” Hey, that’s great — if you’re Attorney General.  But you are Governor, and timelines are not dictated by depositions and court dates.  They are initiated by the immediate need to correct the massive problems facing your constituents — problems that, if not soon fixed, will send the state over the cliff.

 “He’s just trying to get the budget done, and after that’s done, things will roll.” Wrong.  One doesn’t just flip a switch and begin governing.  Ask any insider on either side of the aisle and he will tell you that the Administration is marked by two things: there are no adults running the show, and no one knows who’s in charge.

                                                                                      *****

Rating the House is easy, as it has done the job it promised to do.  It passed the home defense Castle Doctrine; the EITC educational tax credit (giving more parents school choice); restrictions on abortion clinics (in the wake of the horrendous Dr. Kermit Gosnell story); the Fair Share Act (limiting a defendant’s liability in a lawsuit to only his share of blame), welfare reform bills, and a gaming bill that would transform the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement into its own police agency, free from the political influence by the Gaming Control Board.  And two bona fide school choice bills are being introduced by Rep. Curt Schroder. 

Not bad….even Dean Wormer would be impressed.  GRADE: B+

The Senate is just as easy to rate — with opposite results.  Their sole achievement has been sitting on House-passed legislation.  In fact, it has become known as the DOA chamber since its members have repeatedly stated that House bills are “dead on arrival.”  The EITC (sponsored by Rep. Tom Quigley), Fair Share Act (Rep. Schroder) and gaming bill (Rep. Mike Vereb) are just a few of the victims. Of the bills the House has passed, NOT ONE has seen the light of day in the Senate. 

One sad result? It was just announced that a Catholic school is closing in Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s Delaware County district. One has to wonder that if the Senate hadn’t played games with the EITC expansion bill — which passed the House 191-7, and would have enabled parents to receive privately-funded scholarships via participating businesses — maybe the school would still be open, and the taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for educating 100 more students in public schools.

And why was it held up?  So that Senate Bill 1, a low-income school choice bill with absolutely no chance of passing, could be kept alive in the Senate.  How Pileggi sells that to his constituents is anyone’s guess.

GRADE: F — kind of like Flounder’s 0.2 GPA.

                                                                            *****

But now we get to Tom Corbett — the Blutarsky of Pennsylvania.  Thus far, he receives a 0.0 GPA because it’s been one failure of leadership after another. 

Consider:

-          Like Rendell, he used The People’s Money to bail out the private Philadelphia Shipyard so that it could build ships — with no buyers!

-          Like Rendell, he decided to use $20 million of taxpayer money to renovate the Yankees’ minor league ballpark in Scranton — yes, the same Yanks organization that is the wealthiest franchise in America

-          Told the media, “I’ve been down in Philadelphia a lot – you just don’t know about it,” begging the question of whether he is, in fact, the nation’s first Spy-Governor

NOTE: the last time a governor held secret meetings regarding Philadelphia, it was Rendell’s effort to bail out the Inquirer and Daily News.  Coverts ops are better left to the CIA

-          Raised the salaries of his staff, who now average $13,000/year more than counterparts under Rendell

-          Wants to raise the Lt. Governor’s budget by nearly 50 percent

-          Put forth no solution on his mega-campaign promise to privatize the state liquor stores— providing huge momentum to the clerks’ union

-          Was perceived as untruthful concerning his state car. In responding to a media question, he  said he was still using Rendell’s former car, but failed to mention that he was taking delivery of four new SUV’s that same day— at a cost of $187,000

-          Took elimination of collective bargaining off the table — before negotiating with the state employee unions — without getting anything in return

-          Has not addressed the ballooning pension bomb threatening Pennsylvania’s solvency

-          Made no attempt to stop the 25 percent toll increase at the Delaware River Port Authority

-          Stacked the DRPA and PRPA with contributors, lawyers, lobbyists and political insiders

-          Was silent on the controversy involving his Secretary of Health— who didn’t like the eggs he was served at a longtime Harrisburg eatery — and never responded to the owner’s request for justice after the Secretary abused his power

-           Did not fill his cabinet for months, despite the 11 weeks of transition time after the election, putting a hard stop to policy initiatives

-          Did not hold a press conference for a similar amount of time, becoming known as “Governor MIA”

-          Killed Right to Work legislation when a top aide stated that it could never pass in Pennsylvania — infuriating GOP legislators who were circulating such legislation

-          Was absent on the school choice front, helping to throw that issue into complete disarray — to the delight of the teachers’ unions, who didn’t have to lift a finger in opposition

-          Made no attempt to bring business and labor together in calling for a reduction in the nation’s second-highest corporate income tax — a quantifiable job killer

-          Infuriated the press by locking them out of an event to which they were invited

-          Has made no attempt to increase demand for clean, low-cost natural gas to power state building and cars, instead establishing a “Blue Ribbon” commission to study the obvious.

In short, Tom Corbett has made former Governor Tom Ridge look like Chris Christie.  In refusing to use his office as a bully pulpit and barnstorm the state to sell his ideas, Corbett has allowed himself to be perceived as weak and disorganized.  And weakness invites aggression, nowhere more so than politics. So now he finds his agenda under attack not just by the Democrats, but his own Party.

As bleak as it is for the Governor, it’s not over yet. As Blutarsky said, “Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

It’s not too late for Tom Corbett to right his ship, though it will take massive political will from him to do so. But with every day that goes by without that leadership, his journey becomes that much more difficult. 

The fall usually sees a relatively light legislative calendar, so the window to push his vision will be narrow.  And forget 2012, as legislators are loathe to take up any controversial issue in an election year — especially one that will see the Democrats, in all likelihood, take back five or more seats, even with the GOP’s redistricting advantages.  

A wise man once said: If you’re afraid of getting a rotten apple, don’t go to the barrel. Get it off the tree. The voters thought they did just that. 

The open question is what kind of apple they really picked.

 Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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June 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm Comments (0)

Trump’s “Trump” Card: Being Donald

He can’t win.  He’s not serious.  He’s only talking about running for President to satisfy his never-satiated ego. And of course, he’s doing it to boost ratings for his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice.

So say the political pundits who, as we all know, are wrong more than the weatherman.

So let’s take a look at a Trump candidacy.

First things first.  The entire endeavor is irrelevant if the last aforementioned point is true.  Obviously, if his TV show returns for another season, it’s an instant show-stopper for Trump’s political quest.

If, however, he shocks the political world by genuinely committing himself to the Republican primary, the GOP field will go on life-support as it collectively suffers a massive heart attack.  More than any other individual, with the exception of New Jersey’s firebrand Governor Chris Christie (who states he is not running), Donald Trump has the ability to instantly alter the dynamics of the race. His candidacy would dominate national headlines to such a degree that his rivals could find the cure for cancer and establish world peace — and no one would notice.

And anyone who believes that scenario is overstated hype needs only phone Barack Obama, who would begrudgingly concur. After all, it was Trump — and Trump only — who forced Obama to address the birth certificate issue.  Irrelevant is whether the “birther” issue has legitimate merit or is a ludicrous political argument.  The fact is that Trump utilized his star power to make the President of the United States respond directly to him, despite not even being a candidate. That display of raw power can only be dreamed of by every other GOP hopeful.

But Obama had his “payback,” making Trump the butt of his jokes at the annual correspondents’ dinner (as did comedian Seth Meyers).  Clearly, that was the biggest compliment the billionaire could receive, since being the focal point of such a prestigious event (where Trump was in attendance) simply would not have happened if Trump wasn’t a real threat.

Not surprisingly, the “joke candidate” — as Karl Rove labeled Trump — has also come under withering attacks from Republican rivals.

Translation: to the people who matter, Donald Trump is being taken very seriously.

But questions remain:

Is that momentum sustainable?  Can Trump exercise the necessary discipline to remain viable under the world’s brightest spotlight? Will he adapt to politics, infinitely more brutal than business?  And perhaps most important, will he instinctively know when to take a backseat to the counsel of experienced political consultants — and when to overrule them when he thinks they are wrong? 

Hard to tell.

But if any political “novice” can overcome those challenges, it is Trump.

He is not only used to the media spotlight, but has actively courted it for decades. As a result, he is at home in front of the cameras, having honed his skills to discuss issues off-the-cuff.  Of course, up until now, the subject matter has always been that with which he is most familiar: business, real estate, casinos and entertainment.

It is a different ballgame entirely for presidential candidates, who are expected to speak intelligently on…everything. How a candidate handles questions on issues with which he is unfamiliar can make or break him in an instant.  And without a doubt, Trump’s rivals would love nothing better than to set him up in this regard, relishing the opportunity to send the flamboyant new kid on the block to the political graveyard for having the audacity to enter “their” world.

That’s a strategy with merit, since Trump’s publicity is a double-edged sword.  Just as his stock soars when making positive headlines, any major misstep will be seized upon, with a cacophony of calls discrediting Trump as nothing more than a publicity hound without the experience necessary to be President.

But the single biggest threat to Trump’s viability is being overly “handled” by advisors. Sarah Palin fell from grace during the 2008 campaign because she wasn’t allowed to be herself, instead being remodeled as someone else.  She was only able to recover that lost image after the election.

Trump’s biggest “trump” card is that he is Donald Trump.  No rival comes close to matching his charisma and his ability to articulate issues.  Whether taking on Congress, the Chinese or the Middle Eastern oil nations — without the need for a script or teleprompter — Trump is increasingly perceived as a man who will back up words with action, based on his track record in business and the fact that he isn’t financially beholden to anyone.

That type of bold, take-no-prisoners vision is exactly what Americans are seeking.  While they will not always agree with him, knowing where a leader stands and having confidence that he will keep his word are the hallmark issues that trump all others in a presidential race.

So it’s only fitting that in a decade of unprecedented electoral surprises, Round One in the Republican primary goes to Donald Trump.

 Chris Freind is an independent columnist and television commentator who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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May 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm Comments (0)

Why Is Corbett Punting On Privatizing Booze?

Last November, Pennsylvanians elected Tom Corbett to solve the state’s problems. But instead of leadership, they’ve received task forces and blue ribbon panels.  In just three months, commissions have been formed to deal with Marcellus Shale natural gas (with a whopping 31 members), explore the core functions of government, and figure out how to privatize liquor.

Sorry, but isn’t that why people elect politicians?  Isn’t it their job to solve these problems? 

Commissions and task forces are simply code-speak for passing the buck and kicking the can down the road.  We might as well just hang a sign that reads, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, Blue Ribbon State.”  And if GOP leaders don’t start following through on campaign promises, the only “Red” they’ll see is voter anger when the state turns Democratic Blue.

*****

Since privatizing liquor is one of the only issues which enjoys a large consensus, and would provide billions to balance the ballooning budget deficit, it’s baffling why Corbett would punt away such political capital when he needs it most. Delaying the privatization initiative by instituting yet another study commission was a move that left many observers scratching their heads — and state store union employees punch-drunk with elation.

Even more perplexing is that Corbett has a solid ally in House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who had been spearheading privatization legislation for years. Turzai had a right to expect that, with strong GOP majorities in both Houses, the Governor would come charging out of the gate on an issue that was a cornerstone of his campaign. Instead, Corbett felt compelled to reach into the “Business As Usual” drawer and pull out another meaningless commission, which looks increasingly like a bad political calculation.

*****

Sometimes you have to walk out your door to realize that the grass really is greener somewhere else. For Pennsylvanians, that “green” is all the money saved by consumers in other states because they aren’t gouged when purchasing alcohol. 

For the uninitiated, following is a primer for how the Pennsylvania alcohol monopoly works:

Pennsylvania is the largest purchaser of booze in the world.  The state government, through the Liquor Control Board (LCB), controls the purchase, distribution and sale of all wine and liquor.  You might think that with such immense purchasing clout, its citizens would have outstanding selection and competitive pricing.  But as any Pennsylvanian knows, that’s clearly not the case.

Interestingly, the LCB is charged with two distinct, and inherently contradictory, roles.  While it is responsible for raising revenue through the sale of wine and liquor, it is also charged with controlling the sale of booze throughout the state.  By definition, if the LCB is succeeding at one, it must be failing at the other.

Every bottle of liquor bought in the state comes with an added bonus: an 18% “temporary” tax, which is in addition to the 6% sales tax.  So a $10 bottle jumps to $11.80 before the sales tax is calculated, culminating in a whopping $12.50.  In all fairness, the 18% tax was well intentioned — it was passed by the legislature to rebuild Johnstown after a devastating flood that destroyed the town.

 In 1936.  So much for “temporary” taxes.  

Anyone who has traveled outside Pennsylvania knows how refreshing it is to enter a grocery store, and, remembering that you need a bottle of wine for dinner, walk two aisles over to the plethora of vino at your fingertips. Since others accomplish this with little difficulty, it’s incomprehensible that the nation’s sixth largest state can’t — or, more correctly, won’t — do the same.

It is infinitely more efficient when a private company, responsive to the needs of the free market (instead of bureaucrats), stocks its shelves with items that consumers want, at a fair market price.  It is the core principle on which America was founded.

But Pennsylvania remains stuck in the Dark Ages, and what makes the sin mortal is that it chooses to remain there. It hasn’t dawned on the politicos in Harrisburg that they are losing untold revenue because of their Draconian system, with millions of residents crossing state lines to fill their liquor cabinets.  (No offense to Governor Christie, but anytime New Jersey offers a better alternative, you know you have major problems). 

And despite the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, if you are caught bringing alcohol into Pennsylvania, it’s a criminal offense.  In fact, such “criminals” used to have their cars confiscated for doing so.

To be fair, today’s LCB has made substantial progress in its operations and “customer service.” Not too long ago, all of its locations were “counter” stores, meaning that customers had to know exactly what they wanted before placing their order, since browsing was not permitted.  The clerk would then disappear into the bowels of the store, only to return five or ten minutes later, more often than not stating that they were “out of stock” and asking for a second choice.  Now imagine this scene playing out at Christmas time, with twenty five people in line.

But that’s not all.

Nothing in the store was chilled. No ancillary items such as tonic water were sold. No employees were permitted to offer advice.  And no LCB stores accepted credit cards.  

And all this because former Governor Gifford Pinchot, who as a young man became violently sick while imbibing in Germany, became bound and determined to make alcohol as difficult as possible to obtain. 

But the LCB’s improvements amount to being valedictorian of summer school.  The whole system has to be scrapped.

The ultimate irony is that the Keystone State, birthplace of American democracy and cradle of liberty, continues down the path of state control and government regulation, to the detriment of its twelve million citizens. 

And what are liquor privatization’s chances?  Dead for the spring session, possible in the fall, and virtually nonexistent for 2012. With the make-up of the legislature sure to change next year, the time to take a “shot” is undoubtedly now.

The people have awakened from their stupor, demanding change.  Instead, all they get is a (Pabst) “Blue Ribbon” commission.

Time for another drink.

 

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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April 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm Comment (1)

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