Friendly Fire: Biden’s climate defeat, the threat to gay marriage and Murphy’s rejection of top charter schools

Jersey political insiders: On the left, Julie Roginsky, a career Democratic strategist and TV commentator; on the right, Michael DuHaime, a Republican strategist and public affairs executive.

Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion across the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we prove it every week. 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 Editorial Page editor Tom Moran.

Q. As record heat waves smothered Europe and America, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin killed President Biden’s climate plan, this after the Supreme Court pulled the teeth out the EPA’s regulatory powers. This strikes me as Biden’s biggest defeat yet. What do you think?

Mike: Well, there’s a long list of defeats now, but I would say the biggest still is Biden’s failure to pass Build Back Better, the ill-advised huge spending plan. Biden came in thinking he would be the next FDR with BBB, but instead he is Carter.

Julie: If Senator Manchin were simply to say that he doesn’t want to address climate change because he fears it will put a final nail in the West Virginia coal mining coffin, I would understand it more than his using the pretext of inflation to combat something that has already negatively impacted his own constituents. If the Ohio River dries up further, it will affect shipping to his state. West Virginia tourism, including white water rafting, will shrink dramatically if the Gauley River has insufficient water flow. And that’s before we get to the devastating impact on the rest of the world, which cannot be overstated.

Q. Why did Republican senators unanimously oppose it? In 2008, the party platform called for a cap-and-trade system and Sen. John McCain devoted one of his first major speeches in the campaign to the issue. Help me understand the politics behind this shift, even as the science has become indisputable?

Mike: There are numerous reasons, but mostly cost and reliability. While Biden is begging Saudi Arabia to export more oil, he is demonizing US companies. No one believes he is even serious about this. It is a pander to the left. People can’t afford to fill their gas tanks, yet he’s lecturing us hoping to guilt us into putting up more windmills. New Jersey is trying and it is taking forever. We all want to lower emissions and move toward greener sources of energy, but the current Democratic plan is very costly and will drive up costs while limiting reliability. At a time of massive inflation, no one wants to hear that.

Julie: I’m not sure how it is President Biden’s fault that the Republican Party is not fact-based anymore, but I applaud Mike for trying. Denying science has become a feature of the GOP’s platform, whether it is denying man-made climate change or vaccinations. That is all this is about.

Mike: Nice try to paint all Republicans who don’t put windmills in their backyards as science-deniers. It is the Democrats who deny the facts in climate change. The single biggest reason emissions have dropped to a 20-year low is natural gas replacing coal. Not wind. Not solar. But natural gas. Wealthy liberals have this utopian view that everyone can afford solar and wind power. They can’t. And for all of the left’s promises, the percentage of electricity produced by renewables in New Jersey today is the same as under Chris Christie five years ago. In fact, we now burn more natural gas under Murphy than Christie because one of our nuclear power plants has shut down. We can all move to greener and cleaner air, but not by demonizing the other side and shutting down the infrastructure needed for the one fuel source that is actually making progress cleaning the air, like New Jersey and New York have foolishly done.

Julie: No need to paint anyone in any way. Here is the excerpt from the 2020 Republican platform: “Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.” If you think it is extremist to believe that climate change is not the pressing national security issue of our time that has already led to famine, mass migration and conflict, just wait for the horrors that the next decade will bring you.

Q. The House, fearing the Supreme Court may reverse its decision on gay marriage, voted to protect that right by statute. (Even GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who opposed that right as a state legislator, voted yes.) Will the Senate go along? If it does not, will Republicans pay a price?

Mike: I hope so. Republicans should be supportive of marriage equality. The party has long been wrong on this, so it is an opportunity to go on record making it right. Better late than never.

Julie: I would hope that there are at least ten senate Republicans who will support marriage equality as a matter of conscience. Let’s not pretend that this Supreme Court won’t overturn Obergefell, the way it just overturned Roe. I wish I could say that anyone who opposes marriage equality will pay a price but in this environment, I am not convinced. Perhaps on this issue, the better course to take would be to ignore the political repercussions and simply just consider your conscience. If two consenting adults are in love and want to get married, why should you care beyond wishing them a lifetime of happiness?

Mike: On this we agree, Julie. Well said.

Q. An investigation by the Bergen Record found that New Jersey lost a whopping $850 million to New York by agreeing to depart from the normal formula used to divvy up federal aid. Did Gov. Phil Murphy just get schooled by the rookie New York Gov. Kathy Hochul?

Mike: Ooomph, that’s a gut punch as a New Jersey governor. New Jersey sends way more money to Washington than we get in return, but for a long time, the one policy area of exception was transportation. We usually get our fair share back on that front, so being swindled by New York to the tune of almost a billion dollars hurts. New York governors and mayors only respect strength. See Christie’s dealings with Gov. Paterson, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor de Blasio.

Julie: What can I say? Tough women know how to get stuff done, especially when they are competing against men who consistently underestimate them. Kathy Hochul and her top aide Karen Keogh absolutely played the governor and his team, especially after the governor’s aides crowed for months about how they would not settle for a dime less than the federal formula. (Spoiler alert: they settled for nearly a billion dollars less).

And what does New Jersey get for this? Not even a commitment to protect drivers from New York City’s congestion pricing, which is coming in the next several years. If I were Gov. Hochul, who is up for election in November, I would campaign on how I clawed money for my state that should have rightly gone to New Jersey and didn’t have to give up anything in return. I used to think that every time New York big footed New Jersey over the last five years, it was because former Gov. Cuomo was a master tactician (until he wasn’t) but now Cuomo is gone and I am starting to believe that the problem was never actually on the east side of the Hudson River.

Q. Murphy just rejected the expansion of popular charter schools in Newark that were rated as top performers by his own Department of Education, including schools of North Star Academy, the most popular choice among Newark families. Why would he do that?

Mike: Murphy has long been opposed to the expansion of charters, likely due to his teachers union ties, but this is a terrible decision. Charters are a lifeline for many Newark families, and they have largely been quite successful. We need more choice in education, not less. Parents without the means to send their children to private schools are beholden to a monopoly based on their zip code. Choice brings out competition and the best in every industry in America, yet we limit it in public education, to the detriment of students. When parents have choices, students win.

Julie: It is unconscionable and a slap in the face to the very voters of color who put this governor over the top in last year’s election. I understand that Gov. Murphy has deep-pocketed donors to placate but I might remind him that the backbone of the national Democratic Party is African American women – the same mothers and grandmothers whose children are being stranded today as a result of this decision. This is something for the governor to consider if he anticipates finding himself in, say, South Carolina in early 2024.

Q. Finally, humpback whales are back to the waters outside New York Harbor in greater numbers, thanks to cleaner waters, and a Rutgers study found they are sticking around longer to feed, for an average of 38 days. So, sorry to be a flat-out lefty on this, but who says government regulations are a bad thing?

MIke: I am glad to hear you are finally giving President Richard Nixon his just due for his creation of the EPA. Republicans support sensible regulations. The US was a disaster environmentally in the 1970′s, and we have come so far. While government should be limited, it must be strong where it chooses to be impactful.

Julie: Why are you apologizing for being a flat-out lefty? Humpback whales love us.

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A note to readers: Mike and Julie are both deeply engaged in politics and commercial advocacy in New Jersey, so both have connections to many players discussed in this column. DuHaime, the founder of MAD Global, was chief advisor to former Gov. Chris Christie, and has worked for Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and President George W. Bush. Roginsky, a principal of Comprehensive Communications Group, has served as senior advisor to campaigns of Cory Booker, Frank Lautenberg, and Phil Murphy, and has worked with Rep. Phil Norcross, the brother of George Norcross. We will disclose specific connections only when readers might otherwise be misled.

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