(Providence, Rhode Island) – So one year ends in chaos; and another begins as a total mess in the world politics. This stuff keeps political analysts like me in business. So, on to 2013!
Sausage, Please! – Famed German politician Otto von Bismarck is often quoted as saying, “No one should see how laws or sausages are made.” Nowhere was that more true this week than in the halls of Congress where separate bills to solve the fiscal cliff and another to address Hurricane Sandy relief became tied in knots. It was ugly, and there will be fallout for quite some time. But, both did get done despite the process looking like a train wreck when it was all over.
Circular Firing Squad – Some of the most caustic quotes of the week came from Republicans attacking fellow Republicans. When the House recessed Tuesday morning without passing the $60 billion dollar Sandy aid package, Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was furious. "There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” Christie said Wednesday. “The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.” Christie also blamed what he called, “toxic internal politics” in the House majority. He wasn’t alone. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) was furious Wednesday morning after the bill was tabled. "I'm saying that anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined," said King. "I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night." Ouch! The new Congress passed the bill on Friday, but the wounds may take a long time to heal.
Candid Camera - Governor Chris Christie’s candor is probably his biggest asset, but it could also be his biggest liability. One political writer this week called Christie the “presumptive nominee” of the GOP in 2016 (which is an erroneous overstatement). His combative charm polls well in his native New Jersey, but it will be hard to amass the kind of broad appeal nationally if he hopes to be a unifying force in his party. At some point – in what is likely to be a very competitive primary – Christie will need to find a way to effectively unload on the Democrats. He also has a 2013 reelection campaign for governor to get through first.
Presumptive Nominee? – As I mentioned, one writer called Christie the “presumptive nominee” this week, which is wrong. A presumptive nominee is a person who has amassed enough delegates to win the nomination, but has yet to be formally nominated at the party’s convention. For example, on July 1, 2012, Mitt Romney was only the presumptive GOP nominee, subject to a vote of delegates at the August convention. The distinction is important, because Christie will have a long and difficult journey in 2016. Possible challengers include Jeb Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio. Christie may be the frontrunner in some polls, but that’s a far cry from being the nominee-in-waiting. He also needs to watch what happens to fellow Republican Chuck Hagel later this week.
Haggling for Hagel – This week President Obama will nominate former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to be Secretary of Defense. There is no guarantee he will be approved by the Senate. That’s because Hagel – a decorated Vietnam War hero – was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. It’s payback time, at least among several fellow Republicans, who felt Hagel was too disloyal to his fellow Republican, Bush. People have long memories in Washington, D.C. So, we will have the odd scenario of Republicans backing Democratic Senator John Kerry to be Secretary of State, while Democrats may give former Republican Senator Hagel the votes he needs to be Secretary of Defense. Yes, they are making sausage again this month on Capitol Hill!
In or Out? In or Out! – He was retired for just one day, but now former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) wants back in Congress. Frank would like to be appointed Senator, temporarily, until a special election can be held to replace John Kerry after he becomes Secretary of State. Frank has already asked Governor Deval Patrick for the appointment, but has promised not to actually run for the office. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is likely to be the Democratic nominee, and former Senator Scott Brown will likely be the Republican nominee. Since the special election probably won’t be held until June, it’s possible we could have Senator Barney Frank (D-Mass.) for several months. You can’t make this stuff up!
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