Monthly Archives: February 2009

Will Corruption Count This Time?

Despite our reputation as a state where political corruption runs rampant, corruption rarely plays a role in the outcome of our elections. With a few notable exceptions, candidates who make a priority of leveling ethical charges against their opponents usually end up on the losing end of our electoral contests.

The tactic did not work for Tom Kean Jr. when he ran against Bob Menendez for U.S. Senate in 2006. Likewise, Doug Forrester’s attempt to paint a picture of Jon Corzine as the creation of party bosses fell flat during the 2005 gubernatorial campaign. And the strategy of tying legislative candidates to a Governor surrounded with ethical questions failed to yield dividends in 2003. Not only did the Democratic Party weather the attacks, it actually picked up seats – a rare occurrence for a party in power in a mid-term election.

There are many theories as to why corruption has not worked well as a campaign issue. Continue reading

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A-Rod, Banking Bailouts and Public Policy

A familiar theme emerged during Alex Rodriguez’s ESPN interview about his use of performance-enhancing drugs as a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003. Although A-Rod acknowledged his use of the substances, he repeatedly indicated that it was part of the culture at the time. As if to somehow excuse his actions, over the course of the interview, he made statements such as:

  • “Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose.”

Upcoming Events

The New Jersey Political Science Association will conduct its annual meeting on Friday, February 27, at the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University.  I will be one several speakers on the panel discussing New Jersey’s 2009 campaign for Governor.

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My research essay on media coverage during the Vietnam War era has been accepted for presentation at an academic conference in New York City (March 14 at Marymount Manhattan College).

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I will be a panelist at the New Jersey Communication Association Conference (March 28 at Kean University), discussing personal privacy on the internet.

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On April 24, I will take part in “A Fiscal Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” the Annual Symposium of the State Chapters of the Association of Government Accountants and American Society for Public Administration. I will be on a panel that will discuss “How the Media Crisis Affects the Government Crisis.”

It’s Always the Economy, Stupid

A few years ago, when Tom Kean Jr. was running against Bob Menendez for U.S. Senate, the Fox News Channel asked me to comment on the race. Before the interview was taped, the reporter told me she was going to focus on whether the war in Iraq would be a greater issue for New Jersey voters than the economy. I told her I believed the war was important to New Jerseyans, but that pocketbook issues would be a larger factor when people went to the polls. She asked the same question several times and in several different ways while the camera was on and I continued to give the same response, although none of this part of the interview made it on the air. Instead, the segment included two carefully selected sound bites related to Kean’s chances of winning the election.

I recall this exchange not to lay fault with the Fox News Channel; Keith Olbermann already has the corner on that market. Instead, the experience reminds me that more often than not, elections are — as James Carville put it back in 1992 — about the economy. And that goes for New Jersey’s 2009 gubernatorial election too. Continue reading

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

With an unprecedented number of layoffs and buyouts, 2008 was a devastating year for journalism in New Jersey.

Or was it?

It all depends on whether you are looking at the glass as half empty or half full.

From the half empty perspective, it was truly sad to witness the struggles the state’s newspapers confronted in order to survive.  Likewise, it was alarming to watch so many talented journalists depart the news industry in New Jersey. Continue reading