Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why the Kochs Want to Make Chris Christie President

Why the Kochs Want to Make Chris Christie President


By Adele M. Stan


September 27, 2011


When Texas Gov. Rick Perry, currently the frontrunner

in the Republican presidential nomination contest, and

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a pilgrimage in

June to a Colorado gathering of wealthy right-wing

donors convened by billionaires Charles and David Koch,

one man clearly impressed the brothers much more than

the other.


Introducing Christie, who delivered the keynote address

to the Koch Industries gathering, David Koch gushed.

"With his enormous success in reforming New Jersey,

some day we might see him on a larger stage where, God

knows, he is desperately needed," said Koch, according

to secretly recorded audio files of the event obtained

by Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog.


Yet Christie, foe of teachers and their unions, had

made it plain months before in no uncertain terms: he

was not running for president. "[S]hort of suicide, I

don't really know what I'd have to do to convince you

people that I'm not running," Christie told a group of

reporters in February. "I'm not running."


His protestations aside, a new push for a Christie

candidacy by a handful of high-flying Republican

political donors -- including Koch, the moneybags

behind the Tea Party aligned group, Americans for

Prosperity, and countless other right-wing

organizations and efforts -- has the political world

aflutter at the prospect of the pugilistic former

prosecutor on the debate stand. Republican luminaries

including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Weekly

Standard editor Bill Kristol have suggested Christie

enter the presidential contest, and even Karl Rove has

publicly mused on that possibility. Further stoking the

speculation, Christie last night delivered at the

Reagan Library a speech that sounded for all of the

world like the rationale for a Christie presidential



Recent stumbles by Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the

presidential campaign trail have widened the opening

for a late entrant into the race for the GOP

presidential nomination, a course that former vice

presidential candidate and former Alaska governor,

Sarah Palin, is said to be considering. But the money

and momentum for an October surprise candidacy these

days is on Christie.


Uniting a small group of big-money donors, dubbed the

"Draft Christie Committee" by New York Times reporter

Nicholas Confessore, are two things: a hatred for labor

unions and a desire for a Republican win in November

2012, something they seem unconvinced that either Perry

or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney can deliver.


Thank You For Asking; Please Ask Some More


There's little doubt that Christie is reconsidering his

earlier decision to stay out of the presidential race.

"It's real," former N.J. Gov. Thomas Kean told Robert

Costa of the National Review Online. "He's giving it a

lot of thought. I think the odds are a lot better now

than they were a couple weeks ago." Kean, says Costa,

is an "informal adviser" of Christie's. Yesterday,

Christie hit the stump on behalf of Republican

candidates -- something he does a lot -- in addition to

traveling to California to deliver what was billed as

major speech in Simi Valley last night.


When, during the question-and-answer session that

followed the speech, an audience member asked Christie

if he was running for the Republican presidential

nomination, the governor first chided the audience for

not getting to the subject until the second question,

but refused to say he wasn't running. Instead, he

referred his audience to the Politico Web site, where

the front page featured a video that strings together

clips of his many past denials. (The text under the

video reads: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has

made it clear he won't run in 2012 - a decision he

might be reconsidering.")


After two other audience members used their question

time to implore him to run, Christie replied he was

certain that when Ronald Reagan embarked on the road to

the presidency, the man who would become the 40th

president "knew in his heart that he was called" to the

position. "This is all I'll say about that tonight --

is that I hear exactly what you're saying, and I feel

the passion with which you say it, and it touches me,"

Christie said. He then went on to say that he doesn't

at all consider it a burden to be constantly asked if

he will run for president. Christie said, "Anybody that

has an ego large enough to say, 'Oh, please -- please,

please stop asking me to be leader of the free world --

it's such a burden...what kind of crazy egomaniac would

you have to be to say, 'Stop, stop'?"


Why Christie?


In hypothetical polling face-offs against Barack Obama,

Perry and Romney each run about even with the

president, despite the latter's lagging approval



Between Romney and Perry, Romney is seen as the guy

with the better chance to win in a general election,

simply because of his demeanor and business background.

Yet Romney's chances of winning the nomination are not

great among a heavily evangelical primary electorate

that rejects both the health-care reform program (which

he's since claimed as "a mulligan") that Romney signed

into law in Massachusetts, and his Mormon faith.


As a Southern Baptist who has publicly ruminated over

the possibility of his state seceding from the union

because of "Obamacare," Perry is better poised to win

the primary, but less likely to win the swing voters

that will be needed to take the White House in 2012.

And even among those primary voters, Perry has some

ideological problems because of his provision of state-

subsidized higher education to undocumented immigrants

who were brought to the U.S. as children, and his

implementation of a mandatory vaccination program

(since halted) for school age girls to prevent

infection by a sexually-transmitted disease.


Romney's creation of Massachusetts' health-care reform

program, with its mandated coverage, likely rankles the

big-money types far more than Perry's provision of in-

state tuition to the children of undocumented

immigrants. To big-money players such as the Kochs,

Home Depot founder Steve Lagone, and the roster of

hedge-fund honchos and financiers chomping at the

prospect of a Christie run, antipathy to immigrants is

not a primary issue. (It's simply useful as a means for

rallying angry white people to the polls to vote for an

anti-labor and anti-regulatory agenda.)


But neither man has done the one thing that truly

excites David Koch and his fellow deep-pocketed

Christie fans: take on the public sector unions in a

big way.


With a talent for bluster, Christie blew into office in

2009 on a narrow victory, and set about to right New

Jersey's budget woes on the backs of public employees

-- cutting the state's funding for municipal public

safety costs and its contribution to local education

budgets, while instituting a cap on the property taxes

imposed by municipalities. He suggested that

municipalities opt out of the civil service system

altogether. And he demanded a rollback of an unfunded

increase in the pension payouts to retired state

employees, as well as a raise in the retirement age.


He's best known, however, for his battle with the

teachers' unions, and the hand badly played by local

labor leaders who never expected the governor to take

the battle to YouTube, in videos of combative town hall

meetings, in suburbs that lay beyond the state capital

of Trenton, in which teachers were made to look

unreasonably demanding in an economy that was spiraling

downward. Christie's cuts ultimately resulted in the

layoffs of some 10,000 teachers in the nation's most

densely populated state. But Christie's bullying manner

against the teachers and their unions played

brilliantly to the rage felt by middle-class whites who

felt they were getting a raw deal in a bad economy,

when compared with public-sector workers.


As the New York Times' Peter Applebome described it:


    [W]hat's most telling about the jousting between

    the powerful teachers' union with 200,000 members

    and the Colossus of Trenton is how much it is

    emblematic of this moment in state and local

    governance, like the figurehead on a giant sailing



In short, Chris Christie set the stage for Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker's assault on public-sector unions, as

well as those launched by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder -- all efforts backed by

Americans for Prosperity.


And that's really where the draft-Christie strategy

comes together: marshaling middle-class rage in the

service of David Koch's anti-labor, anti-regulatory



Christie kicked off his speech with his favorite Ronald

Reagan story, as he called it: the story of the 1981 of

the firing of the air traffic controllers who went on

strike, despite a prohibition against strikes by

federal workers -- a rule that had never been fully

enforced. "President Reagan ordered them back to work,"

Christie said, "making it clear that those who refused

would be fired. Thousands refused, and thousands were

fired." The audience applauded. Reagan's handling of

the air traffic controllers' strike led to the

decertification of the the Professional Air Traffic

Controllers Organization, and changed the power dynamic

between labor and management across all sectors of the



In his telling of the story of the PATCO strike,

Christie seemed to be trying to inoculate himself

against the criticism he would likely encounter on the

presidential campaign trail, should he choose to travel

it, for his lack of foreign policy experience. Reagan's

firing of the air traffic controllers sent a message to

world leaders, Christie said, that Reagan couldn't be

messed with. "The Reagan who challenged Soviet

aggression, who attacked a Libya that supported terror,

was the same Reagan who stood up years before to PATCO

at home for what he believed was right," Christie said.

"All this does and should have meaning for us today."


In one fell swoop, Christie compared a labor union

representing federal workers to the Evil Empire and a

terrorist state. And in citing Reagan's firing of the

air traffic controllers, Christie surely meant an

implicit comparison to the layoffs of thousands of New

Jersey teachers whose school districts failed to

implement the contract changes demanded by Christie.


Not a Perfect Tea Party Candidate


While his anti-labor bona fides may impress the average

right-winger in search of red meat, glance at

Christie's record for more than a few minutes, and

you'll find a less-than-perfect candidate for the Tea

Party crowd, which nonetheless seems to like him.


On immigration, he's been, in the past, to the left of

Rick Perry, and has said that being in the United

States illegally is not a crime, but an administrative

matter. Christie has also endorsed "a path to

citizenship" for those who are here without documents.

At last night's Reagan Library speech, however,

Christie staked out a position on education of

undocumented immigrants that was in direct response to

one that has Perry in trouble with his right-wing base:

access to the state university system at in-state

tuition rates to the children of undocumented

immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were

children. To do anything less, Perry said in a recent

debate, would be "heartless."


"I want every child who comes to New Jersey to be

educated," Christie told his California audience. "But

I do not believe that for those people who came here

illegally, that we should be subsidizing, with taxpayer

money through in-state tuition, their education. And

let me be very clear, from my perspective, that is not

a heartless position; that is a common-sense position."

The crowd offered a sustained round of applause.


Unlike Perry, Christie accepts the scientific consensus

on climate change: that it is greatly exacerbated by

human activity, such as the use of fossil fuels. This

is heresy to Tea Partiers; indeed Charles and David

Koch are major funders of a veritable climate-change-

denial industry. Still, Christie's acceptance of

science didn't stop him from pulling New Jersey out of

a regional carbon-trading agreement known as the

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, four

months after meeting with David Koch in New York.


"[W]e 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," Koch told

those attending his Colorado seminar in his

introduction of Christie. "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.'"


In his remarks about Christie at the Koch Industries

Colorado gathering, Koch lauded the New Jersey governor

for his decision to abandon RGGI.


Addressing the millionaires and billionaires assembled

by the Koch brothers in Colorado to solicit their

pledge to their economic neo-libertarian cause, Chris

Christie sounded like a man converted. "Free market"

ideas had never before been his stock and trade, but he

added them to his lexicon for the benefit of his

potential benefactors.


"If you want the free enterprise system to thrive and

grow and be available to everybody, then the first

thing you have to do is clean out the dysfunctional

governments around America," Christie said. "That's the

first thing you need to do. Because dysfunctional

governments are like the wet blanket on top of free

enterprise and opportunity. Because all they do is

layer regulation and taxes and burdens on all those

people who just wanted opportunities to use their God-

given gifts and their ambition and their vision to try

to improve their lives and through that, improve the

lives of other people."


People, one assumes, like David Koch.





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