Missing Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire

I sat watching Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Navy Ship Yard in New York on Tuesday night with tears streaming. As a 37 year-old woman who’s followed the career of the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State since junior high, #ImWithHer completely. I may have voted for Sanders in the primary (that makes two election cycles in a row with a plurality of quality Democratic options), but come on. To quote another of my political heroes, Vice President Joseph R. Biden III, Clinton’s status as the 2016 presumptive nominee is a “big fucking deal.” This is the first woman EVER to go atop a national ticket. I’m nowhere near as high-profile as Mrs. Clinton but as a career woman and ardent feminist, I know her journey has been filled with roadblocks. She’s not in the Oval Office yet (bring it Trump) but she’s done something historically important. It warranted an emotional release.

Toward the end of Clinton’s soaring address to supporters, I began crying a lot harder. Because I knew someone who would have hated everything about Hillary’s victory, a friend with whom I would have had a spirited debate about moving on from #FeelTheBern to unite the party. Because Trump is the alternative for crying out loud, and though Clinton is an imperfect candidate (as they all are), she’s a proven, pragmatic worker who genuinely cares about the country. He would counter with “Clinton is an evil crook” rhetoric and declare his support for Jill Stein. I would spit the names of Nixon and Dubya. “Misogyny” would be interlaced throughout as both accusation and social commentary. He’d insist anarchy is preferable to another machine leader. We’d probably go a few days without speaking before sheepishly picking up the phone or sending a text.

That’s what should have happened after Clinton’s landmark speech. But Todd died on Memorial Day, six days before I sat on my couch cheering Hillary, paradoxically wishing for the wet blanket he would have enthusiastically offered.

We met on the Union Pacific North Line Metra route in 2010, commuting to the same downtown Chicago office (although not explicit colleagues). I was barreling toward the end of a troubled marriage and near-permanently distracted. As I’ve explained to Bob in recent days, Todd did the initial work and though I’m eternally grateful, I’ll never understand why. Yes we both loved theater, considered ourselves ardent liberals (though he was bitterly disappointed in President Obama – another source of contention) and resided in the same neighborhood. But Todd had roughly a zillion friends as one of the most energetic and likable people in the free world. And me, at least at least then? Pretty much this.

As Todd and I became better acquainted, I learned he’d survived illness, relationship loss and death. Over the course of our six-year friendship, he also recovered from a very serious car accident. Todd didn’t even drive, mind you. He was struck on the sidewalk. Anyone else might have sunk into bitterness at the cruelty of fate. This man had tenacity, spirit and yet counterintuitively, was rather blasé about it. Todd casually and unaggressively knew he was awesome – beaming that certainty at everyone he loved. This made him the best kind of friend – one always there in crisis, with the authenticity to tell when it was time to stop singing the “Big Railroad Blues.”

Todd was a huge Grateful Dead fan and a socially conscious, fun-loving hippie aesthetic infused everything he did. I’ll never know for certain but I think he found my own existential struggles toward inner peace amusing. I’ve made progress but you can’t wash the Type A out of a girl entirely. When my friend felt in need of a red-faced, arm-waving, outside voice volume rant (say, when Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks), he knew where to turn. And though we were temperamentally different, we loved each other symmetrically.

My pal died just a few hours after we enjoyed soft pretzels and cider at a neighborhood German pub. He was feeling great: excited for a boatload of summer plans he’d made, philosophical about a recent breakup and ready for whatever came next (as always). We exchanged affectionate hugs and as we parted, I thought about how glad I was that I was in a place to do more of the emotional work in our friendship. Although Todd carried me over the starting line, over time we walked hand in hand. Once in a while he even did the leaning.

Todd was buried in his home state of New Jersey last weekend. On Saturday June 18, Chicago friends and family will have their chance to gather and celebrate his life. Todd was a super connector, fond of introducing people he loved to one another. As a result, perhaps one of his final gifts, I’m not alone in grief.

But we won’t argue about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Ever. And I hate it.


Even His Home State of New Jersey Believes Chris Christie Should Not Be President (April 15, 2015)


The 2016 Presidential election news cycle has been consumed this week by Democratic juggernaut Hillary Clinton’s official entry into the contest, as well as Republican junior Senator Marco Rubio’s Monday evening announcement. The narrative, such as Rubio would have it, pits tomorrow (himself) against yesterday (Clinton). Meanwhile the former Secretary of State cools her heels waiting to find out when and if any real competition is going to show up.

Whatever Rubio’s fitness level, or lack thereof, for becoming the next Leader of the Free World, it is doubtless that he can count on a goodly amount of support from his home state, should he survive the primaries. A recent report from The Hill puts Rubio’s approval rating at 40 percent in Florida, a figure that might be higher if the Senator had stuck to his immigration reform guns. The Sunshine State’s 24 percent Latino demographic would certainly have rewarded the lawmaker’s relative gumption.

But I digress. You know who from the potential Republican field can’t depend upon love from his home turf? That would be New Jersey Governor and Bridgegate star Chris Christie. According to an April 15 release from Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics:

“An increasing number of New Jersey registered voters think Christie would not make a good President, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 24 percent think Christie would be a good President, while 69 percent say he would not, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll.”

The summation is damning enough, but a further drill down of the report gleaned from interviewing 860 registered adults puts the situation more starkly. David Redlawsk, Director of Public Interest Polling at the Eagleton Center observes:

“Voters who know Governor Christie best simply do not see him as President… New Jerseyans have watched him in good times and bad. While his strengths were on display after the Sandy disaster, he was seen as just another politician after the Bridgegate scandal and the investigations it spawned, and he has never recovered.”

What is an overbearing, bullying, misogynist State chief to do? Although Capitol Hill talking heads are prone to over speculation, it seems conventional wisdom may have gotten it right in early 2014 in declaring Christie’s White House run over before it started. Last month Washington Examiner reporter T. Becket Adams wrote that the Governor “has seen his Presidential ambitions shrink to little more than a pipe dream.” Ouch.

Chris Christie is learning a humble, overdue lesson: do not mess with the people, especially the rush hour commute to their livelihoods, over petty personal politics. That said, it seems New Jersey voters are accustomed to Christie’s unique variety of hubris and fully expect him to run away – tarnished brand and lack of local support notwithstanding. The Eagleton report notes:

“Despite declining job ratings at home and his apparent status as an also-ran in national Republican polls, a majority of respondents – 58 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and

63 percent of Republicans – still expect Christie to run for President.”

Sometimes a good case can be made for predictability. But when it comes to the 1-2 combo of Governor’s Christie’s abrasive corruption mixed with delusions of grandeur, New Jersey voters encourage the nation to look elsewhere for our next POTUS.


In Run-up to 2016, Chris Christie Finds Himself Alone in the Center Right (October 22, 2013)


In evaluating Chris Christie’s leadership record as the Republican Governor of New Jersey, there are plenty of reasons for the moderate or liberal voter to be concerned. Christie took the oath of office on January 19, 2010 and initially offered a rather tired retread of the same G.O.P policies that have been called into question for decades: an across the board 10 percent state income tax cut, opposition to same sex marriage and the defeat of the Hudson River Tunnel Project.  The infrastructure initiative would have doubled the rail capacity for Jersey commuters traveling to New York City, and Christie killed the project according to NJ.com “even as Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was urging him from behind the scenes not to pull the plug before the two had a chance to discuss the matter, according to officials in the office of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).”

All that said, there is good cause to believe that Christie feels no need to submit to the “true conservative” litmus tests which pandering former moderates such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell routinely and disingenuously undergo. By the “white, straight male is right” standards of his party mates, Christie’s appointments of the openly gay Bruce Harris, and several Asian Americans, to the New Jersey Supreme Court were a breath of fresh, modern air.

On January 2 of this year, Christie openly and savagely criticized Congress’s postponement of a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill as “selfishness and duplicity” that was “disgusting to watch.” Most pointedly and grievously in terms of his party standing, the Governor claimed there was “only one group to blame, the Republican Party and Speaker Boehner.” Insult to injury as far as the G.O.P. was concerned after this photo of “The Hug,” a rare moment of emotional bipartisanship between a Republican leader and President Obama.

Two months ago, Christie signed a bill outlawing gay conversion therapy in children, making New Jersey the second state to implement such a law. While this may sound like average, tolerant and compassionate good sense, bear in mind that the party lags far behind the American people when it comes to the recognition of equality for all. Consider the loathsome “pray away the gay” clinics once operated by Marcus Bachmann, husband of Tea Party standard bearer, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Christie is far from perfect. His temper is legendary, and in 1996, the Governor switched from a pro-choice to a pro-life viewpoint, a move widely seen as base pandering rather than authentic change of heart. However, Christie is not the first politician from either party to adapt his platform to his public (see Obama’s often frustrating “evolution” on LGBT equality questions). By and large, the burly boss appears real and unscripted in an age of kowtowing and carefully scripted sound bites.

Early into the week, Christie once again finds himself on the wrong side of Republican party doctrine. The New York Timespublished a story on Monday by writer Marc Santora with the title, Christie Withdraws Appeal of Same-Sex Marriage Ruling in New Jersey. Although the Governor’s team was clear that the withdrawal should not be taken as support of the state’s Supreme Court ruling that hurdles to equality must be immediately and finitely removed, Christie breeches again with the right wing by embracing common sense. He will not continue to waste time and taxpayer money on a battle he can’t win. “‘Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,’ Mr. Christie’s administration said in a statement. ‘The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.’”

At the risk of giving the Governor too much credit for simply refusing to take up residence in despotic Fantasyland, I find myself relishing a good 2016 Presidential contest in the event that Christie is able to overcome his party’s primary season extremism. One can always hope that conservative voters will come to see the merits of nominating someone who might actually, you know, win a general election. I’m unlikely to cast a ballot for Christie myself, especially if Hillary Clinton makes a formal decision to run, but it would be awfully nice to be able to summon some respect for the opposition. It’s been too long.