Wednesday, October 25, 2017

National Punch-Line Chris Christie Is Unlikely To Solve The Opioid Crisis Sweeping America


Last week was the final gubernatorial debate between the Wall Street Democrat Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Her main message is always the same: "I'm not Chris Christie." A few days earlier, one of the tightest state Senate races in the state, pitting incumbent Linda Greentein against Republican Ileana Schimer, seems like a match between two candidates wanting to be seen as the most virulently anti-Christie. In fact, Schirmer has been attacking Greenstein for voting 98% of the time with the Republican governor! She says she's "embarrassed and disappointed to have a governor who has thrown New Jersey under the bus because he didn’t get what he wanted, which is to be president."
It’s probably not the way Christie envisioned leaving office. Once a rising Republican star being urged nationwide to run for president, Christie has fallen to historic lows in the polls after a series of credit-rating downgrades, Bridgegate, and his long absences from the state as he pursued the White House in 2015. He’s also become a boogeyman in this year’s gubernatorial race between Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy. Pollsters say the biggest piece of baggage for Guadagno, Christie’s lieutant governor, is her unpopular boss, and she has been distancing herself from his record all year. Murphy’s campaign in many ways is a long-form repudiation of the Christie years.
Greenstein is a worthless machine hack controlled by Steve Sweeney and the most hilarious thing is when she shows people an old 2013 TV ad for her last GOP opponent, Peter Inverso where Christie says "Despite what Linda Greenstein says, she is a partisan politician who has opposed my efforts at every turn."

Schirmer pitch included "an admission" that she once supported Christe but no longer does. Christie is the least popular governor among voters in his own state of any governor in the country, even worse than Sam Brownback, who bankrupted Kansas. And Christie's approval rating keeps sinking.

Yesterday, Christie unconvincingly denied he had told former congressmen Patrick Kennedy, a member of Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, that a failure to deliver on remedying the opioid crisis would deal a "debilitating blow" to the Trumpanzee presidency. Christie is petrified of Trump-- who he still hopes will give him some kind of a job-- and he admitted that Trump screams at him all the time. The Washington Post reported that Christie told Kennedy that the Trumpanzee presidency would be "over" if "he doesn't recognize this as the issue of our time." Unrelated, GQ published a feature on Christie yesterday by Jason Zengerle, Chris Christie's Last Fight, which starts with this tantalizing intro: "This wasn’t how he figured it would end. A year after being steamrolled by Donald Trump, Chris Christie is hobbling out of office as the most unpopular governor in the history of New Jersey-- a casualty of scandal and hubris, and a guy freed up to quietly pursue the toughest job of his life." He's coming a long way though-- in the wrong direction-- since, at least "on magazine covers and in smoke-filled back rooms, it was a foregone conclusion that he'd be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016."
For much of his governorship, Christie had been admirably proactive in (and progressive about) addressing the drug scourge—bucking his fellow Republicans to expand Medicaid, which made drug treatment more available to poor people in New Jersey; pushing for more drug courts, which steer nonviolent offenders toward treatment instead of prison; even signing a “Good Samaritan” law that provides immunity from arrest for people who call 911 if they’re with someone who overdoses. But now, in his final year in office, Christie had made the opioid problem an even greater priority-- his top one, in fact.

The centerpiece of the effort was to be $300 million in new funding for addiction treatment, the financing of which led to a showdown with state legislators and the resulting mid-summer shutdown. In classic bare-knuckled Christie fashion, he had hoped to use the shutdown to embarrass his rival, Vinnie Prieto, the Democratic Speaker of the General Assembly, by hanging 500 posters on shuttered government offices across the state that featured Prieto’s picture and read: “This facility is closed because of this man.” But whatever leverage Christie thought he had went out the window when his own photos, those of his beach vacation, emerged. Three days into the shutdown, Christie agreed to a budget deal that, crucially, did not include his $300 million for opioids.

...In the issue of opioids, he seemed to have found a new, and most likely final, purpose as a public official—his last, best shot to do something big and good, something that could fulfill the outsize ambitions that so many people, not least among them Chris Christie, had placed in him. Not only was he working on fighting opioids in New Jersey; he was also chairing a presidential commission for Donald Trump to develop a national strategy on the issue. “This opioid issue, to me, is the single most important issue that I have left to deal with,” Christie told me.

I asked him how he planned to get the $300 million for his New Jersey efforts. “Stay tuned,” Christie said. “I'm not gonna tell you now. Stay tuned.” He sat up straighter in his chair and, summoning his old swagger, went on. “We will spend and invest a significant amount of money, very close to what I was asking for, if not exactly what I was asking for, on this issue, because it is non-negotiable to me,” Christie said. “If I don't get it from Horizon, I'll get it from someplace else, and when you're governor, in this state, you have the ability to get that done.” It wasn't clear if he was trying to convince himself or me.

A few weeks later, it didn't matter. He announced that he was going to spend $200 million on opioid treatment-- a significant sum, no doubt, but still only two-thirds of what he'd originally wanted.

...Christie was hardly alone in getting steamrolled by Trump, who bested 15 other Republicans, not to mention Hillary Clinton, on his way to the White House. But Christie's defeat was particularly humbling, since it involved Trump doing to him what Christie was accustomed to doing to others. Christie's rise, after all, had been fueled by his bullying and belittling of friends and foes alike-- telling a protester at a press conference to “sit down and shut up” or his constituents to “get the hell off the beach” during a hurricane. In many ways, Christie seemed perfectly matched to the political moment of 2016: a no-holds-barred truth-teller who wasn't afraid to offend people's delicate sensibilities.

It's just that Trump did him one better. Christie might have scored points against Marco Rubio during a debate by ridiculing him for his “memorized 30-second speech,” but it was Trump who indelibly-- and offensively-- branded the Florida senator as Liddle Marco…and Jeb Bush as Low-Energy Jeb…and Ted Cruz as Lyin' Ted. Christie was like a drive-time deejay trying to compete with Howard Stern.

“He was a force of nature at a political time when people wanted to hear the way he was saying things,” Christie now says of Trump. “There's a marked difference between the way we approach these things, no doubt. But I think it made me look less candid.” He adds, almost plaintively: “Donald Trump ran the race in terms of the outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is guy. That was my lane.”

Even worse for Christie, once he ended his presidential campaign, his humiliations at Trump's hands continued. Unlike most of the candidates whom Trump had vanquished, Christie, upon exiting the race, almost immediately endorsed him. It seemed an odd move. Not only had Trump once alleged that Christie “totally knew about” Bridgegate-- a charge that Christie particularly resents; Christie had attacked Trump as “an entertainer” and unserious. What's more, Christie had fashioned himself as a different kind of Republican, one who could appeal to non-white voters. (In his 2013 re-election, Christie won 51 percent of Latino voters and 21 percent of African-Americans.) It was hard to see how he could support someone who'd accused Mexico of sending “rapists” to the U.S. and only reluctantly disavowed the support of David Duke.

It was even stranger to see Christie so slavishly playing second fiddle-- appearing behind Trump at rallies while Trump prattled on, wearing what CNN called a “hostage face”-- especially when Trump didn't stop needling Christie. In one instance, Trump appeared to make fun of Christie's weight, telling him that he could no longer eat Oreos; in another, Trump held an umbrella above his own head while Christie, standing right next to him, got wet in the rain. And yet Christie continued to stand, mutely, by Trump's side. “I'd never seen him be so deferential,” Tom Kean, a former New Jersey governor and Christie's political mentor, says. “But it's a normal reaction to be deferential to someone you wanted a job from.”

But the job never came. First, Trump picked Mike Pence over Christie for his running mate. Then, after Trump won in November, he chose Jeff Sessions over Christie for attorney general. Adding insult to injury, Trump fired Christie as the chairman of his transition team-- the consolation prize Christie had been given when he was passed over in the veepstakes.

Christie insists that he and Trump have no problems with each other-- that, in fact, they've been friends for years-- and it's obviously important to him that people know he views himself and the businessman turned president as peers. Christie's former law partner and longtime political consigliere, Bill Palatucci, emphasizes that when Trump and Christie first met in 2002, Christie said hello as a favor to Trump's sister, a federal judge whose jurisdiction includes New Jersey. “I think it's crucial to understanding the relationship,” Palatucci says. “To meet Trump on such a level playing field means a lot, and they've always seen themselves as equals.” Christie says of Trump: “He gets mad at me at times, he yells at me at times, but he respects me.” Christie adds that he often yells back at Trump, although “less now that he's president.”

Indeed, it's conventional wisdom among political insiders that Christie's problem isn't so much with Trump as it is with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose father Christie sent to prison when Christie was a federal prosecutor. Even on that score, Christie downplays any friction. “There's a lot of history there, not between me and him but between me and his father,” Christie says, “and Jared has continued to tell me that he holds no grudge against me, so I have to take him at his word.” As for who has torpedoed him repeatedly in TrumpWorld, Christie is as philosophical as he is fatalistic. “When you're as prominent a person as I've been, there's more than one person shooting at you all the time,” he says. “So unless you see it, you don't necessarily know which bullet hit you.”

...The job that Christie did ultimately get, chairing the Trump-created President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioids Crisis, has been dismissed by some as the ultimate booby prize. But Christie actually jumped at the opportunity. Indeed, according to one Trump adviser, Christie, after not getting the attorney-general assignment, ultimately passed on several other possible posts in the Trump administration-- including secretary of commerce and secretary of veterans affairs, as well as ambassadorships to Italy and the Vatican. (Christie denies being offered the positions with the departments of Commerce and Veterans Affairs.) “Trump asked Jared, Reince, and Bannon to find him a job,” says the Trump adviser. “But Christie didn't want to give up being governor for what they were offering.”

Working on the opioids issue is something Christie has been interested in for years, and not only because it allowed him to keep his day job. More than two decades ago, as a newly elected New Jersey county freeholder, Christie launched a successful push to get the local government to pay for inpatient drug treatment for adolescents who couldn't afford it. “We were the first county in the state to do that,” he boasts.

A decade later, the issue became even more personal when one of his best friends from law school—who was by then a successful attorney—developed a Percocet addiction. Christie and other friends were enlisted to stage an intervention, and for the next eight years—through the man's divorce, his trips to rehab and then his relapses, the loss of his law license and his home—Christie was part of his support system. In early 2014, the man called Christie to check in. “He said he was doing really well and he wanted to show me how well, and ‘Let's go out to dinner,’ ” Christie recalls. The night they agreed to meet, the man stood Christie up. Three weeks later, Christie got the call he knew was coming: His friend had been found dead in a motel room, an empty bottle of Percocet and a drained quart of vodka on the nightstand. “His death,” Christie says, “was one of the more traumatic moments of my life.”

Christie's presidential campaign revealed to him just how widespread the opioid problem was. On his first visit to New Hampshire as a candidate, he stopped for lunch at a pizza place in Manchester. The owner told him that one of his employees had overdosed in the bathroom the day before. He learned from one of the women who did his makeup before his appearances on cable shows that she was a recovering addict. And he heard, at countless town halls, from those impacted by addiction. “I was confronted with a real sense of despair,” Christie says.

Now that he's tackling the issue for the administration of the man who described New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den”-- “That wouldn't be my characterization,” Christie says-- he's faced a couple of formidable challenges. For one, there was Tom Price, who until he resigned in September was the head of Trump's Department of Health and Human Services and who’d voiced skepticism about medication-assisted treatments like methadone and offered support for “faith-based” approaches. And there’s still Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general and former Alabama Senator who has vowed to fight a new drug war by pushing the harshest sentences possible for even low-level drug offenders. “There are aspects of the administration who still believe this is an enforcement issue,” Christie concedes. And while he's reluctant to mention Sessions by name, it's clear that's who Christie's talking about when he says, “I do think that my emphasis based upon eight years as a governor, dealing with this on the ground, is different from the perspective you get as a United States senator.”

More than Sessions, though, there's the challenge of Trump-- since the commission can only be as effective as the president lets it be. Of course, Christie's opioids commission has been one of the only Trump-administration policy initiatives to be run with a semblance of normalcy. It has held meetings featuring the testimony of well-respected experts and has solicited comments from the general public, as well. Although the commission was about a month late in submitting its interim report on July 31, the document itself was hailed for policy recommendations that accurately reflected the medical and public-health consensus on the issue.

But Trump's response to the report has been as abnormal and incompetent as everything else in his administration. Christie actually tailored the report to his boss's needs, taking the commission staff's initial draft and personally editing it down to a third of its original length. “I remember when I was doing debate prep with [Trump in the general election] and people would come in with binders that were like five or six inches thick, and I'd look at them and say, ‘That's going to be the most exquisite coaster at Mar-a-Lago,’ because he's not going to read all that stuff,” Christie told me. “That's not the way he takes in information. He's much more of a, give him a short bit of writing and then verbally talk to him. And that's what we did on the report.... I wrote the report for him. It's not like a white paper that is 80 pages that he wouldn't look at. I knew who my audience was.”

The report's “first and most urgent recommendation” was that Trump declare the opioid epidemic a “national emergency.” Trump initially seemed to reject this advice in favor of the views of Price, who on August 8, after a meeting devoted to the opioid-commission report, emerged to tell reporters that the president had concluded that the opioid crisis could be addressed “without the declaration of a national emergency.” But then two days later, Trump responded to a reporter's question after a national-security briefing at his golf club in New Jersey by declaring, “The opioid crisis is an emergency. And I'm saying officially right now, it is an emergency. It's a national emergency.” Christie told me that Trump had called him in advance to tell him he'd be making the declaration. “He wasn't ad-libbing at all,” Christie says. But Trump apparently didn't give a heads-up to the rest of his staff, because more than a month after the declaration, his administration has not followed up with any policy changes. If and when it will remains unclear-- even to Christie. “I think the president is probably 90 percent of the way with me,” he says.
Christie loves dining on a big, heaping platter of soft shells crabs, so if he can't solve the opioid problem, maybe he can try solving the Prozac catastrophe... for crabs. A study by Portland State University found that "Oregon shore crabs exhibit risky behavior when they’re exposed to the antidepressant Prozac, making it easier for predators to catch them... For years, tests of seawater near areas of human habitation have shown trace levels of everything from caffeine to prescription medicines. The chemicals are flushed from homes or medical facilities, go into the sewage system, and eventually make their way to the ocean. In a laboratory, the PSU team exposed Oregon shore crabs to traces of fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac. They found that the crabs increased their foraging behavior, showing less concern for predators than they normally would. They even did so during the day, when they would normally be in hiding. They also fought more with members of their own species, often either killing their foe or getting killed in the process."

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At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting how NJ voters either got real stupid in 2013 or got smarter in 2017... or maybe they're just tired of that fat fuck and want him to go away.

Maybe all 3.

In the years leading up to his aborted run for prez, he serially ratfucked NJ by doing what he thought the Nazis in TX and TN wanted instead of what the people of NJ needed. He was $hillbillary except $he was killing people in Honduras and Ukraine (and elsewhere) at the behest of us corporations. He was just ratfucking his own people to impress big R donors and Nazi voters in the south. Evidently he hoped that the Nazis would love a Goering as much as a hitler.

He was mistaken.


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