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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,309

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"Make me do it" is the most honest and important statement Obama ever made

Have a progressive agenda we want implemented? "Make me do it" is the presidential reply. That clearly applies to Obama, since he literally said it, but it also applies to every President we are likely to ever see elected in our lifetimes. It is a very long hard climb to reach the presidency and whoever gets there arrives accompanied by a truck load of I.O.U.s. We have a political system that is obscenely skewed by money, but even if money wasn't as disproportionately transcendent in American politics as it is, the presidency is an inherently conservative institution. The federal government, and the cumulative interests that it has served for generations, has tremendous inertia behind it to remain on track in whatever track it now is running on. And that by definition is the status quo, which always means that the people who are getting what they want from the current societal order always start out holding most of the strings.

The only time I half expected anything remotely resembling revolutionary changes flowing top down from the President to the people was during that brief shining moment when it looked like RFK would become the next President of the United States But those were extraordinary times and Bobby was an extraordinary person whose character was forged in fires during those extraordinary times. We don't know how much he could have accomplished, but even he would have needed to lean heavily on the support he knew he could summon from a breathtaking broad spectrum of socially engaged grass roots backers.

For every degree left of center that Barack Obama navigates he does so by breaking through thick political pack ice, and it always takes its toll, even when it ultimately shatters. It is true that some women, and some men, are made of steel more hardened than the norm, and they will confront some storms that others would shy away from, but they too ultimately have to pick their fights in order to be viable. Which is ultimately why I am not overly disheartened by the likelihood of a Hillary Clinton Democratic candidacy for President. In the end it is less about the candidate and more about us.

In the binary political world of American politics, where the cumulative forces of every national special interest conceivable places its chips on either black or red in each national election, the field of political combat starts off tightly confined. The lines are drawn just short of the extreme right on one side of the field, and narrowly left of center at the other. In that binary world, at the national level, our team is the one that will at least occasionally acknowledge the legitimacy of occupying any ground laying left of center. How hard they will fight for that ground is a different story. Pragmatic considerations usually pull toward the center of the well worn playing field with its inherent conservative bias, not to the center of an abstract political spectrum where actual socialism remains a theoretically valid option

The President we elect can venture outside traditionally defined boundaries, but only on rare occasions, and only when there is a strong groundswell of popular support pushing hard for that line to be crossed. The lines themselves are theoretically subject to change, but bringing about that type of change is much more formidable to accomplish than are isolated single transgressions across those boundaries. It is our continuing struggle and responsibility to move the lines, of what it is possible to achieve in the way of social justice in America. That initiative won't come from the man or woman we manage to elect as President in any given four year cycle. We will have to make him or her move toward us. We can't place all of our eggs in any presidential basket, no matter how inspirational on one hand, or disillusioning on the other, he or she may ultimately turn out to be.

Bridget Kelly woke up one day and realized "Hey, my life is too dull".

It's the only plausible explanation left for what happened with the George Washington Bridge access lane closures if you accept Chris Christie at his word. Sure Bridget had a secure six figure job with a promising path forward for career advancement. Her immediate supervisor was slated for promotion to become New Jersey's Attorney General, opening up his slot as Chief of Staff to the Governor. Her ultimate boss, New Jersey Governor Christie, was being talked about widely as in line to become President of the United State; lots of potentially great new job possibilities lay waiting over that horizon. Life was running smoothly. There was no suspense left in Christie's campaign for reelection to a second term as Governor, everyone knew that he was cruising toward a rout of his Democratic opponent in November. What could go wrong? The future looked bright, and apparently it's a very fine line that separates bright from boring.

It's true that Bridget was a single mom with four kids, and most people would think that by itself provided excitement enough, but apparently not for a thrill seeker like Bridget Kelly. Her life was mired in a secure and predictably successful rut. So one morning it seems she work up and thought "Now is the time to go rogue!" Why, who really knows? Not all mortals are created equal. Some choose to climb Mount Everest, simply because it's there. No one had ever ordered the closure of two Fort Lee access lanes onto the George Washington Bridge for four days for no apparent reason before, but Bridget Kelly was in uncharted territory, boldly going where no politico had gone before. Isn't that reason enough? If something had gone wrong during Sir Edmund Hilary's ascent of Everest, it could have cost him his life. If something had gone wrong during the gridlock in Fort Lee it could have cost Bridget Kelly her career and freedom. Some would say that's a small price to pay for the rush of screwing with other people's lives. Apparently Bridget Kelly is one of those people.

People like that have charisma. People like that are born leaders. And so when Bridget Kelly told David Wildstein “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” he was compelled to obey her. Not because the man who appointed David to that newly minted, no resume needed to apply, plush position at the Port Authority would have wanted him to. In his heart of heart Wildstein knew that Chris Chrisite was no bully. It simply wasn't the Governors style to throw his weight around. The Governor cultivated a culture of deference to the needs of others within his office, even when that undermined his own political ambitions. David Wildstein knew all that about Chris Chrisite, but still he obeyed Bridget Kelly; “Got it” he unhesitatingly replied when her potent gaze fell upon him. Bridget ordered Wildstein to go rogue and he, now under her considerable spell, complied.

Chris Christie was wise not to question Bridget Kelly about her motives before he fired her on that fateful and resolute morning. New Jersey could have ill afforded having the Governor himself tempted by her siren ways. But somewhere in Hoboken a Mayor was watching closely. “Being at the center of a political fireball looks like fun” Dawn Zimmer said to no one in particular. “Maybe I should offer some false testimony to a federal prosecutor.”

Steve Kornacki, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow: Promise Kept

I, like millions of other Americas, have watched the emergence of this new generation of television journalists with delight. Like the whole political world, it seems, I am glued to their collective coverage of the assorted scandals that the Chris Christie administration (and the Port Authority) are now embroiled in. But the sentiment I want to express here is only tangentially connected with that, or more accurately, their Christie coverage is an illuminating example of a promise finally kept which suddenly dawned on me this morning while watching Up with Steve Konaccki.

Their kind of in depth reporting is what I long ago expected would become much more commonplace after the explosion of new TV channels that cable TV opened up, after decades of Americans being limited to television programming provided by three major networks and a handful of independent stations. This is what I once thought CNN would evolve into, and if not them than someone else after hundreds of new channels became available to viewers to choose between.

Yeah I know that for the most part we live in a vast corporate media wasteland but even so there was always daily in depth investigative journalism provided by many newspapers throughout the United States. True it didn't always make above the fold front page coverage, but in depth reporting did make its way into print and could be found by those diligently inclined to look for it. I once naively believed the same would be true with cable news. I didn't expect an ABC, CBS, or NBC news anchor to walk viewers through nuanced webs of circumstantial evidence in a search for smoking guns. I didn't expect the major networks to devote their precious few minutes of prime time national news on connect the dots exercises through the murky backwaters of government agency filings. But I thought someone would, probably someone found on a station with not one, but two or even three digits attached to it. Cable TV could make that happen, I thought to myself back then. But it didn't, not with any dependable regularity anyway.

But this morning I remembered those long ago expectations about the type of TV news coverage I expected would soon be reliably available to those who chose to seek it out. All those hours in a 24 hour news cycle, all those hundreds of channels, it should be possible to find it. Today it suddenly struck me that I was watching exactly that, not hours of video of a smoking airplane crash with recaps every ten minute of what was currently known, or an incessant parade of talking heads speculating on just how juror X would relate to the latest revelation in a newly minted celebrity murder trial.

These three fine television journalists in particular ; Steve, Chris, and Rachel, are fulfilling the promise that I long ago had forgotten once seemed so promising. Painstaking details, a dedication to fully inform the public of whatever relevant back stories were in play. What a joy to see that live and kicking on my TV screen in America.
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