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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

UPDATE: Reporters question Murphy's ambitious plan, veracity of Trump tell-all

Cartoonist Daryl Cagle commenting on the GOP elephant in the room, in this case a racist President Trump in the Oval Office. "You either stand with America's values of Dignity, Justice and Equality for all -- or you stand with a racist president and administration," the Democratic donkey says. "Let's do both," the elephant replies.

COLUMNIST CHALLENGES BOOK
CALLING TRUMP A MADMAN

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

Editor's note: In one of his first acts in office on Tuesday, Governor Murphy signed an executive order demanding equal pay for women in New Jersey.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Democrat Phil Murphy was sworn in on Tuesday as New Jersey's 56th governor, signaling a new direction for the Garden State and ending an 8-year reign of terror by the worst chief executive in New Jersey history.

Murphy's plan -- including legalizing marijuana, creating a state bank, raising the minimum wage to $15 and offering free community college -- only seems ambitious given all the damage conservative ogre Chris Christie did to New Jersey.

When you look at how the GOP thug wrecked state finances, mass transit, the environment and health  care, among other programs, Murphy's progressive agenda may seem impossible to achieve.

But the new governor has a Democratic majority in the state Legislature on his side, and a major ally in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, like Murphy, has pledged to resist all of the reckless policies of President Trump.

Slanted coverage

Sadly, reporters and columnists at The Record, my local daily newspaper, have kept up a drumbeat of doubt when writing about Murphy.

A profile on Sunday's front page appeared under block letters:

"FEARLESS PHIL"

The sub-headline:

"Murphy eager to rush
into fire of politics"

Actually, during the campaign, Murphy was all about issues -- not politics -- and The Record's relentless focus on the partisan divide in Trenton and Washington doesn't bode well for readers. 

Murphy as Sisyphus

The Gannett editors running The Record can't help themselves, using more than half of Tuesday's front page to tell readers Murphy is doomed to fail.

Inexplicably, a Page 1 story on key issues Murphy will face after his inauguration uses an enormous illustration of a Sisyphus-like figure:

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to ceaselessly roll an enormous boulder to the top of a steep hill, only to watch it come back and hit him, repeating the action for eternity.

Praise for Christie

In the story -- "CHALLENGES ALL AROUND" --reporters Dustin Racioppi and Nicholas Pugliese fall all over themselves trying to praise Christie's two terms in office:

"Despite the accomplishments of his Republican predecessor Chris Christie -- an improved economy, slowed growth of property tax bills [and] pension and health benefits reforms for public workers...."

But the reporters then contradict themselves, noting New Jersey "remains mired in costly, entrenched problems," including "a strained budget [and] a pension system in crisis."

Of course, these inept reporters never explain why state workers' pensions are "in crisis" after Christie supposedly reformed the very same system.

'Liberal direction' 

Racioppi was assigned to cover Christie, and judging from his slanted reporting during and after the 2017 gubernatorial campaign, grew to admire the GOP bully and his lieutenant governor, who lost to Murphy.

Today, in The Record's lead Page 1 story, the reporter couldn't wait to slap a "liberal" label on Murphy:

"Taking control from Chris Christie" on Tuesday, Murphy pledged "to steer the state in a new, liberal direction...," Racioppi said.

50 more vetoes

Also on Tuesday's front page, The Record reports Christie signed more than 100 bills into law on Monday, but executed "pocket vetoes" on 50 more.

That would bring Christie's unofficial total to more than 650 vetoes -- a record for any New Jersey governor.

'Fire and Fury'

In an Opinion front column on Sunday, The Record's Mike Kelly cites "errors of fact and judgment" by author Michael Wolff, and concludes he doesn't "trust" the sensational Wolff book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

But Kelly's reporting is hardly original, appearing many days after similar criticism from CNN's Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press" and Fox News, among others.

Wolff isn't the first to report on this chaotic, divisive presidency or suggest Trump is not only incompetent, but mentally unfit for the job.

And the deeply conservative Kelly had readers rolling their eyes when he claimed, "I'm hardly a Trump fan...."

Really? I can't recall Kelly blasting Trump as a racist, con man, serial liar and tax dodger who has divided the country more than at any time since the Civil War. 

But I do recall Kelly's reports during the 2016 presidential campaign, and his repeated pot shots at the record of Barack Obama, our first black president. 

Martin Luther King

On Monday, The Record's coverage of Martin Luther King's birthday completely missed the point.

The sub-headline said:


"Nearly 50 years after his death, Martin
 Luther King Jr.'s message
 still rings true."

But the real lesson is that nearly 50 years after his death, King's dream of racial equality is even farther away from being realized now that we have a racist president and a GOP-controlled Congress in power.

Bannon subpoenaed

Stephen K. Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Bannon is expected to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Trump associates and Russia.

This is the first subpoena served on a member of Trump's inner circle in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, The Times said.