Free Markets, Free People

Chris Christie

Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

What else is new, right? In the last presidential election, it was the “War on Women”, with George Snuffleupagus firing the first volley with an oddball question about contraception. This time around, it’s a report from Chis Christie’s tour of the UK:

As he toured the United Kingdom on Monday, Chris Christie seemed to leave his tough guy persona back in the United States. The potential Republican 2016 presidential contender punted on questions about whether Americans should vaccinate their kids amid a 14-state outbreak of a disease which is staging a comeback after being largely eradicated by science.

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Not exactly controversial unless you spin it the right way (which CNN does in the above article by accusing the New Jersey Governor of being uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed). And it would really help if you could get another potential candidate on the record saying something similar. Enter Rand Paul:

In a contentious interview today, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s heard of cases where vaccines lead to “mental disorders” and argued that parents should be the ones to choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government. Paul is a former ophthalmologist.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Again, not terribly controversial except for the “mental disorders” part. Which is what the media are now running with to paint all conservatives as “anti-vaxxers”:

NBC News – “Rand Paul: Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
CNN – “Paul: Vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders'”
ABC News – “Rand Paul Says Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
HuffPo – “Rand Paul: Children Got ‘Profound Mental Disorders’ After Receiving Vaccines”
Vox – “Rand Paul says he’s heard of vaccines leading to ‘profound mental disorders’ in children”
FactCheck.org – “Paul Repeats Baseless Vaccine Claims”

So on, and so on. The New York Times tackles it this way:

The politics of medicine, morality and free will have collided in an emotional debate over vaccines and the government’s place in requiring them, posing a challenge for Republicans who find themselves in the familiar but uncomfortable position of reconciling modern science with the skepticism of their core conservative voters.

[…]

The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

Suddenly, we’re all talking about vaccines and how those nasty, anti-science Republican weirdos are dangerous to society. Funny how that works. And of course, never let facts get in the way, such as Paul being correct about the mental disorders thing. Here’s his statement again:

I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

Guess what? The CDC agrees with him (my emphasis):

MMR vaccine side-effects
(Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.
The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild Problems
Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Deafness
Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
Permanent brain damage

These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

While extremely rare, do long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, or permanent brain damage count as “profound mental disorders”? I guess you make an argument that not all such cases do, but I would think permanent brain damage fits the bill.

Ironically enough, the FactCheck.org article actually highlights that Paul and the CDC are on the same page:

There have been some reports of “lowered consciousness” or permanent brain damage after a vaccine is given for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but the CDC says that these are so rare that a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be determined.

Note that the CDC does not posit a causal connection, but then again neither does Paul. Indeed, he further clarified:

“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related — I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated,” Paul said in a statement. “In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Too late, since the media has its juicy soundbites already.

None of this is to say that GOP politicians don’t do this to themselves. Paul certainly didn’t have to even raise the specter of a potential causal link between vaccines and mental disorders. He should have known that, regardless of what the CDC and science says, most everyone was going to associate his comments with the debunked autism link. Even if there was a proven causal link, it’s so incredibly rare as to not be deserving of a mention. I get his thinking from a liberty perspective, but message delivery is vital and Paul failed at that.

The Chris Christie statements, on the other hand, don’t strike me as even slightly off, but clearly there was a theme building here amongst the media hivemind. The idea that the guy who insisted on quarantining the Ebola nurse is super interested in liberty does sound a sour note, and Christie probably should have led with the idea that routine vaccinations are safe and effective which is why everyone should get them. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s been in the limelight for quite some time.

Not that it matters. The theme has been set, and the narrative will now run its course. Inconvenient facts such as who the anti-vaxxers really are, or what Democrats have had to say on the issue, will be glossed over or simply dismissed. And all vaccines will be treated the same so that if a GOP candidate balks at mandating, say, a flu vaccine, he or she will then be tarred as an anti-science, ant-vaxxer. Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates. And thus the media has neatly cleaved the country it two wholly separate and unequal parts in order to drive the political wedge deeper.

Happy Independence Day–apparently it’s punch a Republican day too

I’m always amused when the left gets a little frustrated.  Somewhere in the “dance” that takes place with the give and take they often let their mask slip and let the inner beast out.

Many times its just a result of not getting their way.  For instance, New Jersey.  Known for its hardball politics, when the Democratic President of the Senate didn’t get consulted by the governor concerning the budget after claiming to have worked with Governor Christie on the parts of the budget together (obviously expecting political payback for doing so) the Governor apparently held to principle and using the power vested in him by the NJ Constitution used the line item veto to further “prune” the state budget.  Obviously his pruning took out some of the funding for programs that Sen. Sweeney felt he’d saved by cooperating previously.  Since that wasn’t the case, Sweeney lost his cool, went personal and launched a full ad hominem attack.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget.

He woke up Friday morning even angrier.

"This is all about him being a bully and a punk," he said in an interview Friday.

"I wanted to punch him in his head."

I’ve always been of the opinion that the punk is the one who ends up attacking like that, suggesting violence, etc.  Now obviously you can argue that the politics of the past gave Sweeney the impression that cooperation would yield compromise.  Give a little on his side, get a little for his side.  But the belief that he’d get that was just that – a belief.  Obviously Christie felt he’d been clear about what his goals were and how he planned on accomplishing them.  Sweeney just as obviously thought he’d gotten around that by early cooperation. 

We often hear it said of Barack Obama that he is doing exactly what he said he’d do and we shouldn’t be surprised.  Apparently that argument is void in New Jersey.  Senate President Sweeney expects the old way of doing things – you know the way that has them in deep financial trouble – to prevail over the new way, i.e. a principled approach to running government and paying off the debt.  Obviously the guy who is doing what he said he’d do doesn’t agree with Sweeney. 

What a punch in the head, huh?

The other example is sort of just the mask slipping all by itself.  A self-inflicted wound so to speak  -and many times it’s on Twitter *cough*Wienergate*cough*.  For instance the Communications Director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party supposedly celebrating, one assumes, the “birthday” of Medicare.

Now there are a number of ways one could do that in 142 characters.   And an abundance of them would be perfectly acceptable, show one’s support for the program (if one supports it) and relay why the person writing the Tweet supports said program.  That’s if you’re not an idiot.   And that’s exactly what Graeme Zielinski comes across as in his Tweet:

 

a-july-4-message-from-dems

 

Nice to see Democrats in such fine form in the “civility” department.  Perhaps now we can see a cessation of all the hypocritical and condescending lectures from them about the need for civility in politics, huh?

Nah.

Happy 4th.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Where are the "adults" in government?

That’s the question Rich Lowery asks and answers in a piece today at NRO. By "adult" in government he means, "political leaders who make tough choices, take on problems directly, and combine principle with pragmatism in a manner consistent with true statesmanship."

What he doesn’t mean is political leaders who push an extremist agenda regardless of the reality of the situation that surrounds them – such as what we have today.

Unsurprisingly, he finds his adults in government not at a federal level, but at the state level.  Two in particular are making both waves and progress against daunting problems.  And they should be the new proto-type GOP candidate for federal executive office:

Look in particular to New Jersey and Indiana, where Govs. Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels are forging a limited-government Republicanism that connects with people and solves problems. They are models of how to take inchoate dissatisfaction with the status quo, launder it through political talent, and apply it in a practical way to governance.

Christie has just concluded a six-month whirlwind through Trenton that should be studied by political scientists for years to come. In tackling a fiscal crisis in a state groaning under an $11 billion deficit, he did his fellow New Jerseyans the favor of being as forthright as a punch in the mouth. And it worked.

Christie traveled the state making the case for budgetary retrenchment, and he frontally took on the state’s most powerful interest, the teachers’ union. He rallied the public and split the Democrats, in a bravura performance in the lost art of persuasion. At the national level, George W. Bush thought repeating the same stalwart lines over and over again counted as making an argument, and Barack Obama has simply muscled through his agenda on inflated Democratic majorities. Christie actually connected.

He matched unyielding principle (determined to balance the budget without raising taxes, he vetoed a millionaires’ tax within minutes of its passage) with a willingness to take half a loaf (he wanted a constitutional amendment to limit property taxes to 2.5 percent, but settled with Democrats for an imperfect statutory limit). He’ll need an Act II to get deeper, institutional reforms, but New Jersey is now separating itself from those other notorious wastrels, California and Illinois.

What Chris Christie has done, if nothing else, is prove the point that a) voters want to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, unvarnished and without the usual nebulous rhetoric. And b) tell them what is necessary to fix the problem in the same manner.

Voters, given the problem and his plan, have backed him as he’s tackled what was considered previously untouchable and insolvable.  And he’s made progress – much more progress than anyone previously and against two powerful entities, the teacher’s union and the Democratic legislature.

It is my opinion, given the present situation in the White House, that voters are going to insist on two things.  One is they’re going to want executive experience as a “must have or no deal” criteria for the next president.   And two, they’re going to insist the media actually spend the time doing their job vetting the candidates vs. taking on a cheerleading role as they did in the last election.

Speaking to the first point, this new breed of tough, small-government conservative politician emerging in some of the states may be the prototype for the GOP’s next successful challenge.  Mitch Daniels of Indiana may be another one to look at:

He inherited a $200 million deficit in 2004, which he turned into a $1.3 billion surplus — just in time for it to act as a cushion during the recession. He has reformed government services and rallied his administration around one simple, common-sense goal: “We will do everything we can to raise the net disposable income of individual Hoosiers.”

What most voters don’t want is the current crop of GOP front runners.  Whether anyone viable (I’m even upbeat about Bobby Jindal again) will actually show up in 2012 remains to be seen, but the Romney (damaged goods), Palin (too partisan and not enough exec experience), Gingrich (too much baggage), Huckabee (scares the hell out of me) cabal is not what will win, or if one of them does, won’t keep it long.

Guys (and gals) like Christie and Daniels should be groomed carefully by the GOP and convinced to consider a run on a national level.  And others who fit their profile should be identified as soon as possible and supported at the state level to get the experience, exposure and the resume together that will put them in a position to go national as well.

Thanks to Obama and friends, this is a real opportunity for the limited government, fiscally conservative majority in this country.  And that’s plenty to run on, given this mess we’re in.  What the GOP has got to do is stay away from the social con nonsense that always polarizes the electorate and drives independents to distraction and into staying at home (or voting for the other team) on election day.

~McQ

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Speaking truth to power – NJ version

If anyone doubts that teacher’s unions are the power within the education establishment, they simply haven’t been paying attention. And if that same person is satisfied with the results of that education establishment over the years, they’re simply asleep at the switch.

In at least one state, a governor – Chris Christie of NJ – is attempting open warfare with his state’s teacher’s union in an effort to actually improve education, and you can imagine the result. That hasn’t stopped him from doing something the liberals always like to claim as their prevue – speaking truth to power:

“Parents and children who are being failed by a public school system whose costs are exorbitant and whose results are insulting deserve a choice. We don’t have to look far around the country to know that vouchers and experiments in school choice are working, that they’re producing results.

In D.C., those in that program are now reading 19 months ahead of their peers outside of the program. This isn’t a coincidence, we know it’s not a coincidence. We know that there’s over five-million children trapped in over ten-thousand failing public schools around America.

And I use the word ‘trapped’ and I use it directly. They are trapped by an educational bureaucracy, they are trapped by a selfish, self-interested, greedy school union that cares more about putting money in their own pocket, and the pockets of members, than they care about educating our most vulnerable and needy children.”

The rhetoric is interesting to me. Using the style of most union attacks Christie cites “greedy”, “selfish” and “self-interested” school unions as the problem. He’s using “for the children” against the liberal establishment to move his agenda – one which will actually provide children in NJ with a choice. Imagine that. And since it advances liberty, it puts me squarely in his camp applauding his effort.

What he is doing is what government should be doing – freeing the citizenry to decide for themselves and forcing marginal or poor schools to heed their customer base or “go out of business”. The message is “the free ride is over” as it is certainly not a free ride for taxpayers.

Christie points out that in Newark, NJ, taxpayers pay $24,000 per pupil per year. So in a class of 20 you have almost a half a million dollars spent. I’d like to say “invested” but its hard to do with a system Christie characterized as an “absolutely disgraceful public education system.”

So cheers to Christie. I continue to follow his battles in NJ with interest and, yes, hope. If he can be successful in triming back government and making it more effective while saving taxpayers money and breaking the power of government unions, he’ll be someone many politicans should, and I hope would, emulate. He is indeed one of the few governors using his state as a “laboratory of freedom”. I wish him good luck.

~McQ

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New Jersey, Tea Parties and real “change”

I mentioned a few days ago that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey correctly identified the source of the voter’s anger in that state, ran on it, managed to get elected and now is in the middle of a very interesting and effective campaign to reign in government and government spending.  I also mentioned that he’d probably get only as far as the public was willing to tolerate cuts to services. 

Well, so far, it seems the public is still engaged and supporting him.  Take yesterday’s elections addressing school district budgets:

Thirty-four of 39 school budgets in the county were defeated.

School districts spending plans were massacred at the polls during the annual school elections Tuesday as voters used the ballot box to vent their frustrations about higher taxes.

According to unofficial results at press time, only five of 39 school district budgets were passed, a 12 percent approval rate, the lowest this decade and possibly longer.

The only other time this decade that fewer than half the budgets failed was in 2006 when only 17 of 39 budgets won approval.

As the article notes, it was a “massacre”.

The Governor has pitted himself against a very powerful (and arrogant) teacher’s union which has, in the past and with Democrats in power, pretty much gotten its way.   But because Christie has laid out the options and the reality of the situation faced by the taxpayers of the state (NJ has the highest taxes in the nation), the union isn’t in quite the powerful position it once enjoyed.  Voters are letting it be known that, even if they don’t entirely support the Governor’s plan, they at least give it more support than that of the teacher’s union.

Interestingly, the turnout was not typical for these types of elections:

Unlike most elections, this year’s featured heavy turnout as voters appeared to come out in droves to weigh in on spending plans.

That’s an engaged and active electorate taking the opportunity, as the article notes, to “weigh in” on how their tax dollars are spent.  And, for the majority of the budgets, they did not like what they saw (there’s a whole process that follows this that may see those budgets passed anyway, but if that happens it will only further inflame the situation).

Now I keep turning to New Jersey, a deeply blue state in most elections, to point to it  as an indicator.  Like the Tea Parties, what is going on in NJ is an indicator of the level of anger and frustration the electorate (to include Democrats) has with government at all levels today.  The election of Scott Brown in deeply blue MA was another indicator.  The Tea Parties a third indicator.

All of them are fair warning to politicians of all parties that this mid-term coming up isn’t going to be your normal election.  I’m beginning to think sea-change.  And I’m also beginning to think that if the newly elected group doesn’t work out, sea-change number 2 will follow in two years.  I think the people are serious about changing the culture of government at every level, I think they’re more engaged than they’ve been in decades, and I think they’re going to stay engaged.

Pundits and politicians continue to whistle past this political graveyard saying that the American people will forget all of this by November, espeically if we see some light at the end of the  “economic improvement” tunnel.  That the public can’t sustain this anger for that long and it will wither away.  While I admit that’s certainly been the case at times in the past, I think they’re fooling themselves if they think that’s going to happen this time.

So watch New Jersey during the run up to November.  Watch what happens there.  See if the people of NJ begin to turn on Christie and his program.  See if his support begins to wane.  I’m guessing it won’t – at least not before November.  And if it doesn’t, I think the word “bloodbath” to describe the results of the midterms may end up being considered an understatement.

~McQ

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