Pre-empting Christie

A scandal is getting major media attention and the media is digging deep to find the guilty party [they already know who is guilty] and asking the all important questions. What do the people in charge know? When did they know it? Who is responsible?

Without any other information one would wonder what great offense had taken place. Did negligence on the part of government lead to the deaths of Americans in a foreign land? No, that’s a distraction. Did a high ranking government official use the government’s power to attack a rival political movement? No, that is not important and that person retired already so move on. How about an operation that funneled weapons to dangerous criminal gangs that led to the deaths a Border Patrol agent and hundreds of Mexicans? Well that program started in the previous administration and never mind that there was discussion about using the resulting chaos in part to promote additional gun control laws. Were economic statistics manipulated to help a president win re-election? No?

So the scandal that caused all this media attention was about… traffic?

The story – bridgegate – has New Jersey governor Chris Christie, or others in his administration, conspiring to close lanes on the George Washington bridge that caused days long gridlock in the town of Fort Lee. This was apparently in retaliation against the Democrat mayor who did not endorse the governor when he ran for re-election last year.

In the time since the scandal made headlines governor Christie has dismissed some of the people responsible and held a press conference which included an apology to the people of New Jersey. Christie’s critics were not satisfied and have since attempted to add misuse of Sandy relief aid to the list of the governor’s infractions. From USA Today:

Federal auditors are investigating whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie improperly used $25 million in Superstorm Sandy relief funds for a tourism ad starring the governor and his family, according to U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

Aside from Kentucky senator Rand Paul few objected to spending disaster relief funds on advertising but took issue with advertising featuring the governor.

The two developing stories, and other accusations, are not related but the goal is to keep up the heat on governor Christie. Two reasons come to mind to explain the obsession with all things negative about Christie: changing the subject and launching a preemptive strike.

The media is desperate to change the subject from the ongoing failure of Obamacare. The law responsible for thousands of insurance policy cancellations and increasing costs is now available in Spanish… sort of. Rather than hire knowledgeable translators with experience in the areas of insurance, business, and health care to build site content, direct or literal translations were used., no doubt a near direct translation of, reads more like “careful with health” to its target audience. Language difficulties with a clunky name are just the beginning. From National Review:

That the website appears incapable of deciding whether it speaks Spanish or English is, in fact, rather appropriate, for, amusingly, the text appears to be written in a kind of “Spanglish” — a novel hybrid-tongue that has been so literally contrived that its form can only have come from Google Translate.

As bad as it is to have a poor translation the site outdoes itself by having an incomplete translation. Some links redirect the visitor to pages in English. Whatever level of savvy possessed by a given administration one would think that an internet services company that is eligible to bid for a government contract of this size would understand that the importance of consistency in web design.

Language problems are the least of the worries for Obamacare supporters and Democrats facing an election in November. The coming employer mandate  means that many more Americans will receive cancellation notices from their insurance companies as the year progresses.

But why talk about an issue that deeply affects most if not all Americans when we can talk about traffic.

When that issue gets stale the media will move on to its next angle. It will do what it takes to maintain an air of scandal around a Republican with a promising future. The change in tactics to favor pre-emptive strikes is borne of hard experience.

Just before the 2000 election a Hail Mary pass failed to turn an election but brought it within a razor thin margin. With only days left in a race where both candidates were running about even, a report leaks about a decades old DUI charge against George W. Bush. The Bush campaign had no time to address the charge and estimated that it had possibly lost five states they otherwise would have won.

Another effort to damage then president Bush appeared shortly before his re-election. The Bush National Guard story presented by Dan Rather of CBS suggested that George W. Bush used his political connections to get into the Texas Air National Guard and avoid service in Vietnam. Producers at CBS ignored contrary claims that Bush actually had volunteered to go to Vietnam and ended up with egg on their face when it was revealed that their “documentary evidence” from 1973 had actually been written with a recent version of Microsoft Word. A factor that made this effort a failure was the appearance of conservative online media which took the lead in exposing the fabrication. National media that would have been able to get away with a fabrication by one of their own now had to abandon the effort and leave its few defenders bleating about how their evidence was “fake but accurate.”

The game began again in 2008 after John McCain named Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Portrayals of Palin as dim and uninformed were unfortunately aided by the McCain campaign’s poor preparation of their candidate but other charges began to fly. Almost immediately an ethics charge came up suggesting that Palin had used her power as governor to fire her brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper. Palin managed to leap that hurdle but others kept coming even after McCain had lost his bid for the presidency. The allegations eventually took their tool and Palin decided not to finish out her first term as governor. While McCain’s campaign had other problems that led to its loss a new national figure was not going to be allowed on the stage before the media did its best to tarnish her.

Paul Ryan got his turn in 2012 when a second ad by a liberal group portrayed a Ryan lookalike pushing a wheelchair bound woman over a cliff:

Like its predecessor, the new commercial also features a man in a suit, understood to represent Ryan, pushing a wheelchair-ridden elderly woman to the edge of a cliff and then flinging her from it. “Mitt Romney made his choice,” the ad says. “Now you have to make yours.”

The first version of the ad had been made in protest of Ryan’s proposal to overhaul Medicare.

These are just three examples of prominent, electable Republicans that the press mobilized against. In the case of these three there was little time to do the work and the efforts were only 50% successful. That is why Chris Christie is getting special treatment so early. More allegations, true or fabricated, will keep bubbling to the surface over the next two years until Christie is sunk. If he is the Republican nominee and can be denied victory then great. If Christie is rendered unelectable early enough then another Republican will be in for the same treatment.

Who will it be… who will it be?

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