Unless you've been living in a hole, you've probably heard at least something about a secret confab near Vail, Colorado, where the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch referred to the 2012 elections as "the mother of all wars." (He may or may not have been referring to President Obama when he evoked Saddam Hussein—more on that below—but he certainly used Saddam's battle slogan to characterize efforts by him and his brother to evict Obama from the White House.)
In the week since we ran Brad Friedman's two-part series, which publicized audio from inside the big event and broke the news that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had delivered the keynote speech (a fact Christie had kept hidden from New Jersey voters), dozens of news outlets have picked up the story, and even taken it further. Here are a few highlights.
Christie "mentally deranged," says New Jersey Democratic Assembly leader: In the audio from his June 26 keynote speech, Christie boasts about backroom dealings with two state Democratic leaders—Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver—to pass a bill forcing public employees to pay more for their pensions. (Christie has called the pension overhaul his "biggest governmental victory.") "I want to post the bill, but I think when I go on the floor, my own party's going to take a run at me to remove me as speaker. So I can't post the bill," Christie says Oliver told him. "I think the only way I survive is if the 33 Republicans in the chamber will agree to vote for me for speaker. Can you work it out?"
After the audio broke, Oliver told the Newark Star-Ledger that Christie was "more mentally deranged than some of us thought. Never happened." True or false, Christie's story led to speculation that Oliver could be ousted from her leadership role. But two state Democrats speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Cherry Hill Courier Post that reports of party infighting are overblown, and Oliver's position is safe. Her standing with Christie, whom she also called a "rattlesnake," could prove more icy.
In early July, Sweeney went ballistic on Christie, claiming the governor had double-crossed him on the pension deal by unilaterally using his line-item veto to slash services to the poor. Back then, the former union leader called the governor a "rotten bastard" and "rotten prick" and said he "wanted to punch him in his head." He responded more coolly to the Koch seminar revelations, but speaking to the Asbury Park Press through a spokesman, he did manage another jab:
The Senate President has no comment on remarks Governor Christie made while he was wining and dining with ridiculously wealthy people just days before he cut funding for visually impaired people, our most vulnerable seniors, and programs for sexually abused children, while coming to the aid, yet again, of his rich friends.