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Dumb and Dumber

Why Chris Christie Is Edging Past Hillary Clinton for President

by ERIC ZUESSE

On November 13th, the Quinnipiac Poll bannered “Christie, Clinton Tied in 2016 White House Race. … Dems Lose 9-Point Edge to Tie GOP in 2014 House Races.” The damage from Obama’s failures and lies was extending now throughout the Democratic brand. And, whereas back in March of 2013, Quinnipiac had found Hillary Clinton to be leading Chris Christie by 45%/37%, Christie was now leading her by one point, 43%/42%. Hillary Clinton, politically bound to the sinking Obama, is thus no longer the clear top performer in the contest for the Presidency in 2016; she might already be below Christie in public support.

However, there is also another reason, besides Hillary’s ties to Obama (and also to her husband, who was the Wall-Street-deregulator-in-chief and thus a major cause behind the unpopular TARP bailouts), to explain why Christie is edging past Clinton in the 2016 sweepstakes, and it’s well exemplified in a speech that Christie gave on November 18th to the CEO summit that Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal holds each year, called now the “Wall Street Journal CEO Council.” That’s a forum where Murdoch’s favorites to win the Republican Presidential nomination are provided an opportunity to address Wall Street and its associated mega-corporate CEOs, the very same people who will determine which Republican Presidential candidate will receive the bulk of their funding to buy and to occupy the White House as their anointed agent to control the Executive Branch in this country for those people’s interests for the next few years. Though the 2016 Election is still three years away, contention to win that coveted prize is already well under way.

As the program from last year’s CEO Council shows, top conservative Democrats, such as Timothy Geithner (who is now the President of the Warburg Pincus private equity firm) also make presentations there; but the audience at these events consists overwhelmingly of top Republican donors, people such as Douglas DeVos, the President and inheritor of Amway Corporation, whose family has long been one of the Republican Party’s top behind-the-scenes organizers and donors. At this forum, no Democratic Presidential aspirant raises funds for his coming Presidential campaign, because giving a speech there would turn off too many liberal Democratic voters. However, when a prominent Republican aspirant addresses this crowd, it signals to Republican voters that rich people, or in their eyes admirable people, respect him. It’s thus a plus for him, even above and beyond any campaign donations that might flow from it.

Murdoch’s Dow Jones headlined this event’s public announcement descriptively on 24 October 2013, “100 Top Global Chief Executives to Convene at 2013 Wall Street Journal CEO Council Annual Meeting.”

So: when Rupert Murdoch himself introduced Chris Christie on the event’s opening night of Monday November 18th, to give the lead-off address of this 3-day event, it reflected Wall Street’s rallying around Christie to become the Republican Party’s top pick for Presidential nominee in 2016. Although the “Democratic” President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and his former top economist (and preferred Fed Chief) Lawrence Summers, as well as other proven Wall Street stooges (including even President Barack Obama himself), also gave addresses during this same 3-day event, none of those people were contenders for the 2016 U.S. Presidential nomination. Chris Christie is, and he was provided their top billing. Significantly, only one other Republican Presidential contender was even invited, Paul Ryan, the Koch agent who did not lead in the government’s shut-down; so, Christie is already Wall Street’s top choice, but Ryan is their back-up, in case he falters during the primaries. (Ted Cruz won’t be getting much of these people’s money, but he might get lots of the “libertarian” Koch-group’s cash, which created the “Tea Party.”)

On Tuesday, Murdoch’s newspaper headlined about Christie’s speech, “Christie Says GOP Must Reach Out: Party Must Attract More Minorities, Republican Governor Says,” and reported: “During a question-and-answer session, the New Jersey governor cast himself as a bipartisan problem-solver, employing his characteristic bravado to lash out at Democrats and Republicans alike for the dysfunction in Washington that resulted in a partial government shutdown last month and brought the country to the brink of default. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spared little in attacking Obamacare calling it ‘failure’ but refused to offer a replacement.” So: the coming Presidential campaign will likely feature, as the two Republican themes: (1) bipartisanship, and (2) condemnation of “Democratic” policies, but no unambiguous proposals for replacements of them. In other words: Christie will use the very same strategy against Clinton that Obama had used so successfully against John McCain in 2008. That’s the Wall Street game-plan for 2016.

Christie showed these CEOs that whomever the Democratic nominee turns out to be, Christie will display an iron discipline in deflecting his ultimate opponent’s inevitable attempts to pigeonhole him on his own policy-proposals: “He sidestepped a question about how he would solve the country’s health-care problems, pointing to a clock on the stage to say there wasn’t enough time left in his appearance to scratch the surface of that discussion.” Such discipline will favorably impress CEOs. It’ll be essential in order to keep the blindfolds over the voters’ eyes when they’re watching the 2016 Presidential debates between the Republican and the Democratic Presidential nominees.

So, too, will Christie’s broader cunning be essential, and here is how Christie displayed that: It’s too early for any Presidential candidate to come out publicly as seeking the 2016 Presidency, and so “He added that the speculation undercuts Mr. Obama. ‘We’re three years away from the presidential election. In this sense, I feel bad for President Obama,’ he said. ‘He just won a year ago, and everybody’s like, “Who’s next?” There is work to be done in this country. As we shove him out the door, we minimize his ability to be an effective executive. We shouldn’t do that.’” In other words, with these seemingly compassionate words, he will be trying to impress any unintelligent voters to believe that he is so non-partisan as to place the nation’s interests above his own, personal, political interests — as if any Republican politician actually behaves that way, and as if serving the aristocracy, who finance their campaigns, isn’t what today’s Republican Party (and any conservative Democratic politicians) are really all (and only) about. But that’s Christie’s pitch: to become the Obama of 2016, even while he will vaguely and dishonestly be condemning Obama’s policies, pretending that they hadn’t been sufficiently bipartisan (sufficiently conservative). This “bipartisan” politician will be condemning the Democratic nominee as being “too liberal.” That’s his game-plan.

If the Democratic nominee turns out to be Hillary Clinton, then what will her response to this be? If she has been making any appeal at all to the “left” in her Party, then the attacks from the “bipartisan” Christie will win, by virtue of her having verbalized those “leftist” commitments, however insincere. However, if she has not been making any appeal to progressive Democrats, then her corruption, her sell-outs to Wall Street etc., will make her extremely vulnerable. Republicans would just love to be able to repeat such headlines as “Hillary Clinton’s Lucrative Goldman Sachs Speaking Gigs,” which summarized major-media reports of her two closed-to-the-press speaking-engagements that week at Goldman Sachs (which paid her $400,000 for it), where her speeches were followed by Q&As that presumably provided attendees private insight on the ways she’d throw more trillions of taxpayer dollars at them if she were to lead the U.S.A. As I have documented, virtually all of her campaign funds while she was running for Senate and then the Presidency came from Wall Street. And I documented there that none of Elizabeth Warren’s backers include Wall Street: a candidate who has a clearly non-corrupt record can raise lots of money from other sources (and you can see hers here). Also, Senators Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown, are clean, as is Congressman Alan Grayson — just to mention the other leading progressive contenders.

A Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would be able to compete head-to-head against a corrupt Republican such as Romney, who was equally owned by Wall Street, but making the case against Chris Christie would be dicey, to say the least. As the only website dedicated to state political funding followthemoney.org reports, 63.97% of the then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s campaign funds for his gubernatorial campaign against the Democratic incumbent, former Goldman Sachs chief Jon Corzine, came from the state’s unique “Public Fund,” in which their “Gubernatorial Public Financing Program: Review of Gubernatorial Expenses” makes clear: “The 2009 gubernatorial election was historically important in at least one respect: it was the first time a publicly-financed candidate in New Jersey has ever defeated a self-financed candidate in a general election. … Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who spent $11.9 million [of public financing] during the general election as a publicly-financed candidate, ousted former Democratic Governor Jon Corzine,” who “spent $27.4 million, most of it from his personal wealth.” Christie became Governor on the public’s dime, by beating the former chief of Goldman Sachs, the very same company that’s now quite possibly Hillary Clinton’s chief source of personal income, and which was (after only Citigroup) the second-biggest source of money for her 2000 and 2004 Senate campaign and for her 2008 Presidential campaign.

Corruption is just about the only issue on which the U.S. public agree at a 73% rate, as being an infestation throughout our Government. How effectively could Christie paint Hillary into a corner so as to come out the victor on that issue? Either it will be off the table for discussion, or else he will beat her handily on it.

However, Chris Christie is also corrupt; and maybe Hillary could fight back by pointing this out. On 25 June 2009, blog.nj.com/politics headlined “List of Chris Christie’s Deferred Prosecution Agreements,” and the AP there summarized each of these seven cases, all of which were clearly favors paid to friends and backers of Chris Christie, and all of which deferred the federal prosecution of various medical device manufacturers that had defrauded Medicare. Marcy Wheeler, at emptywheel.firedoglake.com, bannered on 13 September 2009, “Michelle Brown Gets the Payoff for Her Role in Deferred Prosecution Agreements,” and linked to the e-mail evidence in one of these cases, in which Christi’s former boss John Ashcroft’s law firm had been selected by Christie to serve as “Monitor” for the Government, monitoring Zimmer Holdings, a medical device manufacturer that had given kickbacks to surgeons who had inserted into patients their hip- and knee-replacement devices. The lawyer for Zimmer, Rick Robinson, objected to Christie, “Zimmer would be expected to pay the bill” to “Ashcroft and his two top aides, … with no questions asked.” Moreover, “What we have here is a demand by the Monitor that Zimmer (1) automatically transfer to it $13.5 million dollars just for having General Ashcroft and his two top aides available to work on this matter, no matter how much or how little work they actually do; (2) be prepared to pay up to an additional $38.7 million to the Ashcroft Group without any serious documentation; and (3) agree that an expense burn rate of $150,000 to $250,000 per month is reasonable. Zimmer is not prepared to agree to that. I cannot believe that your office would expect them to.” In addition, Ashcroft and his aides were each to be paid at a $1,000/hour rate, and, “Even if one assumed that these gentlemen, due to their vast experience, could command hourly rates of $1,000 …, that would translate into an aggregate effort level of 750 hours per month for 18 months. I seriously doubt that such a level of effort will ever be required in this matter.” Chris Christie was offering Zimmer a deal in which Zimmer would pay the Federal Government about $85 million, in return for which “the OIG-HHS [Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services] agrees to release and refrain from instituting, directing, or maintaining any administrative claim or action seeking exclusion from Medicare” (which exclusion would put Zimmer out of business). Christie, essentially, was requiring Zimmer to pay outrageous high fees to the Federal Monitor (Aschcroft and his buddies), or else to be put out of business (such as an honest U.S. Attorney might have done). Ashcroft’s inflated rates and fees were, in effect, protection money, which Zimmer was being demanded to pay in order to stay in business. Whereas the $85 million from Zimmer would be paid to the Government, the additional tens of millions that were being demanded by Ashcroft would be paid by Zimmer to the Republican gang, for keeping Zimmer in business. This is the most corrupt way for politicians to pad their wealth – extorting protection money from white-collar crooks, in order to allow those crooks to stay in business ripping off the public and also perhaps continuing to rip off the government via overcharging Medicare.

However, that’s a more difficult type of corruption-case to make; Hillary couldn’t do it if Hillary’s career is funded by Wall Street and his is not. But by the time Christie’s funders for his Presidential race become public, Hillary will already be yesterday’s bad news.

But what about this?: On 6 September 2011, Brad Friedman headlined at Mother Jones“Audio: Chris Christie Lets Loose at Secret Koch Brothers Confab,” and he presented the speech that Christie had given to the Kochs’ adulatory crowd of billionaires and centi-millionaires on 26 June 2011, a speech that had, until now, been entirely secret. “Christie managed to fly to Colorado and back undetected. … After we told his deputy press secretary that we wanted to talk about Christie’s Colorado trip that day, nobody from his office would return our calls, despite multiple attempts.” This was the new American “democracy.” The speeches that had been delivered at this meeting by Florida’s Governor (and former convicted HCA Medicare fraudster) Rick Scott, and by Texas Governor Rick Perry, were apparently not captured on these recordings.

“In his introduction, David Koch lauded Christie as a ‘true political hero.’” Koch said in his introductory speech, “Five months ago we met in my New York City office and spoke, just the two of us, for about two hours on his objectives and successes in correcting many of the most serious problems of the New Jersey state government. … At the end of our conversation, I said to myself, ‘I’m really impressed and inspired by this man. He is my kind of guy.’” Christie’s speech said that the time had now come to tackle “Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security systems, because they are bankrupting America.” He bragged that he had ended collective bargaining for employees of the state’s government. He bragged that he had impounded money for local school districts, hospitals, state and community colleges, and the commuter-rail system, and had added $150 million in aid for the wealthiest towns in the state. “[The Democrats] were gonna raise what, in New Jersey, we call ‘the Millionaires’ Tax. … But the New Jersey ‘Millionaires’ Tax’ applies to anyone, individual or business, who makes over $400,000 a year. That’s called New Jersey math [laughter]. And what’s great, I say to people all over the country: ‘If you’re not a millionaire but want to feel like one [more laughter], come to New Jersey! We’ll tax you like a millionaire even if you’re not one!” Though a person who makes $400,000 per year can safely be assumed to be a multi-millionaire, Christie’s audience were apparently delighted to deceive themselves to believe that blocking a tax on such people and cutting government services to the public were patriotic and public-spirited; so, Christie received a standing ovation from these monsters.

Christie, in other words, extorts from a Medicare fraudster an extra $13.5 million and $38.7 million paid to the Ashcroft Group of Christie’s own former boss, but now that he is Governor, he told Kochs and friends “that the time had now come to tackle ‘Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security systems, because they are bankrupting America.’”

As I have previously shown, Hillary Clinton, while she was Secretary of State, fought to enrich the Koch brothers by her having helped them to get from the U.S. State Department a fraudulent environmental impact analysis approving construction of their proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

By contrast, Elizabeth Warren (and here are the top financial backers of her political career) is fighting against the rightwing extremism that Christie is fighting to entrench even further. Of course, there is no “Public Fund” for political campaigns outside of New Jersey; but Warren’s list of financial backers is so clean that her political career might as well have been publicly funded. Furthermore, unlike Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren wasn’t part of the Obama Administration, and Obama has always been cold toward her; she’s not politically bound by any of his failures or sell-outs.

Eric Zuesse is an investigative historian and author, most recently of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.