Squeezed In The Middle

by Geraldo Rivera | Jan 24, 2014

Watching New Jersey Governor Chris Christie twisting in the breeze, and reading a beaten down President Obama’s interview in the current New Yorker magazine, I am reminded of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's caution that in politics as in life, "standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."

The governor and the president aspired to break out of their respective stereotypes and attract broad bi-partisan support. Both, though, have been hobbled by self-inflicted wounds. Christie crashed into Bridgegate. Obama seems lost in the Matrix known as Obamacare. Both proud, powerful men are humbled their natural enemies’ ascendant.

In Governor Christie’s case, despite his conciliatory inaugural speech, which called for an end to divisive partisanship, it seems unlikely that the pro-life, pro-immigration reform, pro-business conservative will ever again attract the Democrats and independents that propelled him to re-election by 22 points last November.

Those fair weather friends are gone forever. Six of the governor’s closest aides are implicated in a series of infuriating, possibly criminal scandals including the infamous bridge closing, and progressive partisan purists are gloating, “See, I told you so; Christie’s just another right-wing bully.”

Swept into the White House in 2008 on a wave of optimism that a New (post-racial/post-partisan) Age had begun, the president tried to defy critics who feared that he would be Community-Organizer-in-Chief.

Instead, he was muscular in hunting down al-Qaeda, and he resisted attempts to stereotype his domestic agenda; "General Motors is alive. Bin Laden is dead," and all that.

But his goal of being a leader for all the people collapsed, in part crushed by the worst website ever launched. After jamming through his national healthcare scheme without a single Republican vote, and then lying about its consequences, he’s lost the chance to be a transformative president.

He wanted to be regarded as a Teddy Roosevelt or Abe Lincoln; now he’s fighting to avoid going down in history as a black Franklin Pearce or Millard Fillmore.

Mr. Obama's worst sin in health care reform was trying to chart a middle-course between doing nothing about the uninsured, which the right preferred, and giving everybody Medicare, which he should have done if he cared about satisfying his natural allies on the left.

Hosting a call-in radio show as I do isn’t like running a state or a country, but it is an excellent place to understand the difficulty of moderation, and to feel the depth of emotion on the left and right. Each extreme is hyper-vigilant to bust my chops whenever they sense I’ve strayed too red or too blue.

Still, because compromise and conciliation are the only way to preserve "a more perfect union," here is a partial program for the next generation Obama or Christie.

Among many other policies, the thoroughly modern moderate must,

1- Embrace the domestic policies of centrist Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who warned of the consequences of the deterioration of the traditional family. To combat the malignant trend of unwed, single mothers, implement Geraldo's Law, which mandates that there be a father's name on every birth certificate. In the case of same sex marriage, which I also embrace, the law would require two parents to be named, regardless of sex.

2- In fact, emphasize personal responsibility in all policies. Example: unemployment insurance must be capped at 26 weeks. Any longer than six months encourages sloth and destroys ambition. At times of national or regional economic duress, when unemployment persists above say 6%, extended unemployment insurance would be provided. But it would require the recipient to work for the government in some capacity that requires him or her to show up somewhere, everyday. No show, no pay.

3- Proclaim that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is obscenely low and must be raised. California's proposal to go up to $8/hour in 2014 and $10/hour in 2016 is about right. Once set, federal minimum wage must be tied to inflation.    

4- Be in favor of charter schools and universal pre-K. Be against public sector strikes and ridiculously lush pensions. Everyone would be required to contribute to their own retirement accounts.

5- Abolish the cap on payroll tax, which is rising this year to $117,900. Someone making $117,900 should not be paying the same total dollar amount of payroll tax that someone making $117,900,000 pays. This reform would fund Social Security indefinitely and is a Rich Man's tax that does not punish success. Also, the retirement age must be gradually increased as life-expectancy continues to rise.

6- Be in favor of Stop and Frisk, and other pro-active New York City-style policing. But legalize marijuana and dramatically reduce penalties for most drug use. Abolish mandatory minimum sentencing.  

7- Be for vastly broadened legal immigration. It is what makes us stronger than shrinking nations like Russia and Japan. Be in favor of a broad amnesty for otherwise law abiding undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before a certain date.

8- Be against the stridency of organized protest groups including the NAACP, the Tea Parties, and the militant wings of both the Gay Rights and Pro-Life movements.

9- Be against the blasphemous exploitation of tragedies like Benghazi, either by Democrats looking to protect Hillary Clinton or Republicans who keep repeating the lie that we could have saved our people there, if only Barack Obama had stayed in the Situation Room that awful night.

10-Be extremely reluctant to commit to large-scale foreign interventions like Afghanistan and Iraq.

11-Be in favor of state-of-the-art, but reasonable, prudent intelligence gathering with judicial supervision.

12-Be in favor of tax and business policies that reward enterprise and preserve capital, not crony capitalists, who are the ultimate socialists. Proclaim a partial tax amnesty for repatriated capital currently being held abroad. Keep inheritance and capital gains taxes reduced.

13-Remove defense spending from legislative control. Close unnecessary military bases, like those in Germany and those in the U.S. that were built to fight Native Americans and Mexico in the 19th Century. Phase out weapons programs that a panel of real war fighters deems wasteful and ineffective. Tax lobbyists. Restrict the number of lawyers graduating each year. Vastly expand medical school enrollment. Offer free medical school tuition to all doctors and other health care professionals who would then be required to work in the community for a designated period after graduation.

There is much more, but be warned, because this manifesto has something to anger everyone, if you embrace it you had better not stumble or as Christie and Obama have discovered, the partisans will seek to destroy you.

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