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IN MY OPINION . . .

No Motive to Lie

Clearly, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is telling the truth, and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable are not. How can I be so sure, when the matter seems like a classic "she said-she said" standoff? The mayor has no motive to lie, while Guadagno and Constable have every motive to lie: otherwise, they'd be admitting to a crime.

Using federal funds, or the withholding of those funds, to pressure a public official—in this case, making Sandy relief money for Hoboken contingent on the mayor supporting a redevelopment plan promoted by Gov. Christie's closest political ally, David Samson—is extortion. Read More 
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Bridging the Credibility Gap: Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge Scandal

Gov. Chris Christie, in a December 2, 2013 news conference, ridiculed the notion that anyone in his administration had anything to do with the GWB lane closures, which snarled traffic for four days, September 9-12, 2013, at the bridge and throughout most of Fort Lee.

"I moved the cones, actually, unbeknownst to everybody," Christie said, with his trademarkable brand of sarcasm. It was a traffic study, the governor asserted, referring to testimony of his appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, before the NJ Assembly's Transportation Committee, on November 25th.

In an attempt to transform outrage over Fort Lee's traffic problems into a discussion of preferential treatment, Christie expressed indignation at the idea that Fort Lee, or any town, would have three dedicated bridge lanes. He promised that PANYNJ Chairman David Samson, another of his appointees, would look into that policy.

There was no traffic study, despite Baroni's dog-and-pony show before the Transportation Committee.  Read More 
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A Sesquicentennial of Note and Remembering JFK

A Sesquicentennial of Note

Seven score and ten years ago, today, Abraham Lincoln brought forth at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a 272-word speech that many consider the best ever delivered by any political leader. As statesman Edward Everett, the principal speaker that day, would later tell the president, Lincoln had done more to capture the essence of the moment—the dedication of a national cemetery honoring those who had died in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War—in two minutes than Everett had done in two hours, the length of his own speech.

If "brevity is the soul of wit," Lincoln's speech stands as the 19th-century model for the twitter generation.  Read More 
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Gov. Chris Christie's electoral triumph

If you've read my op-ed articles in The Record or my blog posts, you know that I have often been critical of the governor. I blasted him when he cut $800 million in state aid to education soon after taking office ("NJ schoolchildren caught in the crossfire"), giving school boards little time to plan for the impact. I blasted him for expense-account overreach when he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey ("A Tale of Two Christies") and for screwing up our "Race to the Top" application for federal aid to education ("Christie plays the blame game, the digs a bigger credibility hole").

But then, in a featured Sunday op-ed piece last December ("Rethinking Christie"), I succumbed. The man has political courage, perhaps the trait I admire most. And he was responsible for getting a pension and health benefits overhaul through the Democrat-controlled state legislature, despite the opposition of public employee unions. It will save property taxpayers in New Jersey a billion dollars per year once fully implemented.  Read More 
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The Bill Clinton Phenomenon

I've never been a fan of Bill Clinton, nor, for that matter, of Hillary. Yet, in my personal dislike for the man, I am in a distinct minority.

Despite being just the second president in our history to have been impeached by the House of Representatives (like Andrew Johnson, he was acquitted by the Senate), Bill Clinton now enjoys almost superstar approval ratings among the American public. Right before the Democratic National Convention in 2012, Clinton, who was to be the event's principal speaker and President Obama's much needed "Secretary of Explaining Stuff," was polling a 69-percent favorability rating. That number would have been north of 80 percent, undoubtedly, if only Democrats were asked. Even now, as Obama's poll numbers settle in the low 40-percent range, Bill Clinton is still over the 60-percent mark. He is clearly the Democratic equivalent of the Teflon Man, himself—Ronald Reagan.  Read More 
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Making sense of the Zimmerman verdict

If you aren't too sick of reading or hearing about the Zimmerman trial and verdict, here is my take, from the perspective of a trial prosecutor with more than 40 jury trials.

Whether you agree with the jury's verdict or not, we must accept the verdict for what it was—an entirely reasonable and logical outcome, based on Florida law. After five weeks of inconclusive testimony from prosecution witnesses who seemed ill-prepared and, more often than not, supportive of the defense's theory of the case rather than the prosecution's, we cannot fault the six women who sat through it all and who deliberated for 16 hours before reaching a decision. They did not act hastily or without due consideration of all they saw and heard. They did their duty, as jurors and citizens, so let's stop, in the media and in our minds, chastising them.

At best, this was a manslaughter case to begin with, and it should have been investigated and charged as such. Second degree murder was a political charge, not one based on facts likely to produce a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, for me, the second degree murder charge was the most odious and dangerous aspect of this case, because it threatens our entire system of criminal justice, a system grounded in the rule of law, not emotional considerations or political pressure.  Read More 
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"Come home, America"

Okay, I'll admit it. In the 1972 presidential election, I voted for George McGovern over Richard Milhous "I'm-not-a-crook" Nixon. But it wasn't because of Watergate, which had barely invaded the national consciousness at the time.

Democratic nominee McGovern didn't get to make his acceptance speech at his party's National Convention that summer until the early morning hours, after most television viewers had gone to
bed. Consequently, few Americans heard one of the finest, most patriotic speeches ever delivered in a political campaign. Few Americans heard World War II-hero McGovern's stirring, eloquent plea, "Come home, America," in which he made the case for the United States to end its destructive, ill-conceived foray into Viet Nam and come home.  Read More 
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Christie and Property Taxes

Letter to the Editor, The Record

I was a frequent critic of Gov. Christie's early fiscal policy, especially his slashing state aid to suburban school districts in 2010. Ramsey, my town, lost $2.2 million in one swipe of the governor's budget-balancing knife, further burdening local property taxpayers.

Statewide, public education lost $800 million, all to preserve an income tax cut for the rich on the theory they would thus be motivated not to move to tax-friendlier climes. A theory since disproved.

Then, the governor redeemed himself.  Read More 
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"You have the right to remain silent . . . ."

The debate began soon after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's capture. Should authorities treat the 19-year-old Boston terrorist, a naturalized U.S. citizen, as an "enemy combatant" or as a murder suspect?

If the former view prevailed, the theory was that he could be questioned for an indefinite period without the need to administer his Miranda rights; if the latter, it was the general consensus  Read More 
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Speech at the "Stand Up for Gun Sanity" rally, sponsored by the Bergen County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Sunday, April 21, 2013, Christ Episcopal Church, Ridgewood, NJ

We thought Newtown would be different. Why? Because the specter of 6- and 7-year-old-bodies, each riddled by as many as 10 or 12 bullet holes from a semi-automatic rifle, was too horrible to imagine. Surely that image would be the tipping point, the impetus to get Congress to act.

But here we are, 128 days after Newtown,  Read More 
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