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Inside the Beltway: The Christie banquet for Democrats and media

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2014

The bridge scandal has exacted a mighty hefty toll on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and it has galvanized his friends, his foes and the press while melodrama and political peril hang in the balance.

"This is pretty significant. The public doesn't like it when politicians screw up traffic. But I wonder if there are any more revelations? That's the big question," Republican strategist John Feehery tells Inside the Beltway. "The Democrats have a vested interest in throwing this guy under the bus, in stretching this out as far as possible and extending it beyond 'Bridgegate.'"

Ah, but nimble Democrats are also eager to use Mr. Christie's woes for a little fundraising.

"Keep Christie away from the White House," trumpets an aggressive new email to party loyalists from Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

"This may have started as a local news story about a traffic jam, but it's so much more. It's about who Chris Christie is, and the kind of spiteful, costly, and damaging failures of leadership Americans can expect from him," he continues. "Before the next campaign starts, we need to make sure that Americans across the country know the real Chris Christie, and that Democrats have the resources to keep him out of national office."

Mr. Feehery says that the press will see to it that we have a Christie-centric world for now. "The whole controversy gives this story legs. Gov. Christie makes for good press, he's a compelling figure, and one that some would love to tear down," the strategist says.

There's some selective conclusions. "The press agonizes over 'culture' of Christie's administration after dismissing 'culture' of Obama's White House," points out Mediaite analyst Noah Rothman.

Meanwhile, the media frenzy is on. In less than 24 hours, networks devoted 44 times more coverage to Mr. Christie's traffic scandal than was given in the last six months to President Obama's IRS controversy, declares Scott Whitlock, a vigilant analyst for the Media Research Center. In its short life, "Bridgegate" warranted 88 minutes of coverage on ABC, NBC and CBS.

"Since July 1, these same networks managed a scant two minutes and eight seconds for the IRS targeting of tea party groups," Mr. Whitlock says.

And from Fark.com, the waggish news aggregator, comes this headline: "It been a full day since the scandal broke wide open, so that means it's time to talk about the Christie comeback."

A WELL-HEELED CONGRESS

Could they possibly understand, say, the everyman's coupon-clipping or two-for-one sales? For the first time in American history, most members of Congress are millionaires, says a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of their personal financial disclosures,

Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012. Last year only 257 members, or about 48 percent of lawmakers, had a median net worth of at least $1 million, the analysis found. The median net worth as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 — up from last year when it was $966,000.

"Members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, but the fact that now a majority of members — albeit just a hair over 50 percent — are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code," the study said.

"Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there's been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington," says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the center.

THE TEA PARTY'S BUSY BREW

The tea party is preparing to celebrate its 5th anniversary, eager to recall and celebrate the day when a singular rant by CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli on Feb. 19, 2009, went up from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. At the height of President Obama's mortgage bailout, he called for the formation of a new tea-party style revolution.

The Tea Party Patriots in fact, are planning a substantial gathering in the nation's capital on Feb. 27, advising that the details are to come. The nation's largest grass-roots collection of tea party groups is sure about their message, however.

"In five years, the tea party has transformed the public dialogue from a politically correct, complacent citizenry to a fierce fight for a return to limited government and our natural rights," the organizers advise.

They plan to highlight successes, "orchestrated by ordinary citizens fighting for their right to be free," and suggest that there are lawmakers waiting in the wings to make an appearance.

"We want to show our gratitude for both the grass-roots activists and strong elected representatives and let them know we have their backs," the Patriots add.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

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SNOWDEN'S NOODLES

Little stray facts continue to emerge about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, most recently from one of his key advisers. That would be Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's speech, privacy and technology project. In an interview with RT America host Larry King on Thursday night, Mr. Wizner clarified the whistle blower's cryptic, oft quoted "mission accomplished" phrase of recent days.

"What he meant by that is that his job is done. His job was to bring the public into the debate; to take these secret programs and bring them into the light of day. It's our job to decide what we do with that information," Mr. Wizner said. "He didn't have any grandiose notion that he, himself, could change our society. What he wanted to do was put us in a position where we could decide what the consequences should be of these disclosures, that's what he meant by 'mission accomplished.'"

And a personal note: "Wherever he is in the world he is a citizen of the Internet, he is someone who doesn't need much more than a laptop and some dry ramen noodles that you can buy at the store, and he'll be fine whatever country he is in," Mr. Wizner added.

POLL DU JOUR

74 percent of U.S. voters are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the nation today; 88 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats agree.

55 percent say that the Obama administration has not been competent in running the government; 86 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrat agree.

50 percent say President Obama is not paying attention to what his administration is doing; 74 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

46 percent overall would like to see the Republican Party win control of the U.S. Senate; 92 percent of Republicans and 3 percent of Democrats agree.

42 percent overall would like to see the Democrats control the Senate; 1 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats agree.

46 percent overall would like to see the Republican Party win control of the U.S. House; 92 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats agree.

44 percent overall would like to see the Democrats control the House; 4 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,487 registered U.S. voters conducted Jan 4-7.

Balderdash and ballyhoo to jharper@washingtontimes.com or @harperbulletin on Twitter.

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