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You are here: Home News "Beyond Bergen" - News From Across New Jersey Mike and Julie on Murphy's first year, Mattis resignation, GOP loyalty to Trump

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Mike and Julie on Murphy's first year, Mattis resignation, GOP loyalty to Trump

By Star-Ledger Staff Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion across the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we intend to prove it. Julie Roginsky, a Democrat, and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who have worked on opposite teams for their entire careers yet have remained friends throughout. Here, they discuss the week's events, with...

By Star-Ledger Staff

Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion across the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we intend to prove it. Julie Roginsky, a Democrat, and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who have worked on opposite teams for their entire careers yet have remained friends throughout. Here, they discuss the week's events, with prompts from Tom Moran, editorial page editor of The Star-Ledger.

Q. Merry Christmas, the federal government is shut down again. Typically, the party that provokes a shutdown pays a price. How do you expect this one to play out?

 DuHaime: I generally believe the party with control of the executive branch suffers politically.   Most voters know the President, the Governor and the Mayor, but they're not as sure about who controls the legislature or care as much.  As such, the president gets credit when things are going well or blame when they are going poorly.   But at this point, I am not sure anyone cares about the shutdown too much.  Not many people have been personally impacted yet.  If they shut down TSA and the airports are a mess, then the shutdown will be solved quickly.

Roginsky: This has been the third shutdown during the Trump presidency and it will likely be forgotten by 2020. If anything, it contributes to the general sense that this administration does not have its act together but there are many data points to buttress that thesis and the shutdown is just one of them.  As for how it turns out, it will not end as the president and House Republicans insist. Trump is not getting funding for the wall -- either, as promised, from Mexico or from American taxpayers. 

 Q. The resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis struck many Senate Republicans as a dangerous turning point, a sign that national security decisions hinge more and more on President's Trump's gut feelings. Should I be as scared as I feel?

DuHaime: The presence of long-time high-ranking generals like Mattis and Kelly in positions of high authority gave many people across the political spectrum comfort that the President had professionals and patriots key positions.  Senate Republicans will watch closely to see who the permanent replacements are.

Roginsky: I keep hearing that Republican senators are hand-wringing with respect Trump's national security, but have you noticed that they are doing it on background or only if they are departing the Senate next week? The reality is that Republicans in Washington are generally too terrified of primaries and of being the subject of mean presidential tweets to stand up for what the Republican Party has traditionally stood for: a muscular foreign policy, with a healthy dose of moralpolitik. And that should frighten all of us, because they are largely abandoning our national security to a know-nothing, autocrat-obsessed man child, who has done more to destroy the Pax America that both parties worked so assiduously to establish for the last seventy years. 

Q. Stock markets in December are headed towards their worst month in a decade. What's the political threat to Trump?

DuHaime: Anyone who gets elected to any office must prove to be really good at the one thing they claim to be really good at.  Rudy Giuliani campaigned on lowering crime in New York.  He could have done everything else right, but if crime didn't go down, he would have never been re-elected.  In NJ, Jon Corzine suffered from the hemorrhaging of jobs on his watch after campaigning on his Goldman Sachs credentials.  In many ways, Donald Trump won because of the impression that he is a tough, successful businessman.  There is nothing a businessman should know better than the economy.  Any president would suffer politically if the economy faltered.  But a businessman will be blamed even more so.  

Roginsky: The main reason Trump still has the base of support he has is because the economy has been robust. If the economy tanks, so does his presidency. 

Q. In his first two years, Trump's firm hold on the Republican Party has been unchallenged. What would it take for that to change in 2019?

DuHaime: Nothing politically is going to challenge Trump's hold on the GOP.  He remains extraordinarily popular with a wide swath of the Republican Party, not just "the base" as some claim in a derogatory way.  No person could credibly challenge him for the nomination, and the Republicans in Congress have only become more in line with the President, because so many of the more moderate members lost.   The only person that could have an impact on the President's hold over the Republican Party is Robert Mueller.

Roginsky: Mike is generally right. Nothing is going to change Trump's hold on the GOP. Sadly, the party is in such thrall to him and to his media enablers/handlers that even Robert Mueller, a lifelong Republican who has served without an ethical blemish, is now considered a Democratic hack by the president's supporters. 

Q. Gov. Phil Murphy said he's considering another round of tax hikes next year, but legislative leaders say they won't consider it unless he cuts spending first. Do you see a stalemate taking shape, or the makings a grand bargain?

DuHaime: I think a stalemate over tax increases is shaping up.  The vast majority of our state budget is already dedicated to school funding, pensions, benefits and Medicaid.  I hope the leaders of the legislature stick to their word about no new taxes, but that would mean the governor agreeing to real spending cuts in discretionary spending, reforming the pension system or simply underfunding the pension by a few billion dollars.  Good luck to everyone who tries to stick to their campaign promises next year.

Roginsky: My New Year's wish is that they meet regularly and talk openly about how to move the state forward.  I suspect that a grand bargain could be struck if everyone decides to work towards a grand bargain. 

Q. Final question: Murphy is in Tanzania on safari this week. How would you grade his performance during his first year in office? What do you see as the high points and low points?

DuHaime: It's too easy for one side to blindly say F while the other says A.  I would offer constructive observations instead.  The governor needs to get into the weeds of governing.  The Katie Brennan allegation troubles me even beyond the significance of her serious allegation.  If staff kept the governor in the dark on something this serious, and no one has been fired for it or offered a real explanation as to why, what else is he unaware of?   Voters are not going to blame some unknown staff lawyer for the bungling of this, nor will they blame the DOT commissioner regarding snow removal, or the legislative leaders when key parts of his agenda fail to pass.  

The governor has every advantage one could ever want in politics.  He is the independently wealthy Democrat governor of a Democratic state with Democrats in controls of both houses of the legislature, the congressional delegation, most of the big counties and all of our biggest cities.  The governor seems to be a good man with his heart in the right place, even if we disagree on some policies.  But the people of NJ are looking for him to be a strong leader, one who takes responsibility, and takes charge on issues that matter to everyday people.  

Roginsky: I would give him an "Incomplete." He did not create the mess the state is in and he cannot solve it in one year, so it would be unfair to grade him on a job partially done. I would no sooner grade the Yankees' season in May. He has accomplished quite a great deal already: equal pay, funding for women's health, an ambitious off-shore wind plan, strengthening gun safety laws. But much more remains to be done to turn the state around, from fixing our long-term finances to New Jersey Transit. Let's check in again next December, after the fifth inning.


Read full article at NJ.com


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