There were those who were surprised when Dianne Feinstein revealed at a Senate hearing this week that a mysterious drone allegedly tracked her to her S.F. Presidio Terrace mansion.
We were not among them.
As every school child knows, Difi since her early days in politics has responded with alacrity, vigilance and ferocity when her public life spills over too far into her private. When labor types mounted a picket line at her house in 1975 to protest her actions as a city supervisor, for example, she vowed that, “If any harm comes to my family, I will come at you like a tiger.” A year later, when anarchist underground groups targeted her, she promised not “to give in to a threat in any way,” and started packing a .38 in her purse.
Serious stuff, as is the fact that these days the Senior Senator from California, now chair of the Intelligence Committee, presumably possesses plenty of national security information that, you know…
Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she once found a drone peeking into the window of her home — the kind of cautionary tale she wants lawmakers to consider as they look at allowing commercial drone use…
Feinstein said she encountered the flying robot while a demonstration was taking place outside her house. She said she went to the window to peek out — and “there was a drone right there at the window looking out at me.” She held her hand inches from her face to indicate how close it was: “Obviously the pilot of the drone had some surprise because the drone wheeled around and crashed, so I felt a little good about that,” she said.
Ahem. A moment to collect our thoughts.
Pink elephants for the 21st century. Neither Feinstein nor her staff offered further details about the, um, aircraft surveilling her splendid neighborhood. And while we certainly agree with her view that the U.S. should go slow on licensing drones for commercial use, we find persuasive this excellent report and video posting by Philip Bump on the Atlantic Wire, suggesting the purported drone was actually a, um, little pink helicopter purchased on Amazon.
Quite probably, it was a small toy helicopter flown by protesters from Code Pink — in which case it may not be the nightmare scenario one might fear…Looking at her! This is a terrifying new world, indeed.
Next up: Difi spots Russian commando frogmen creeping out of the sea at Pier 40 while dining at Delancey Street Restaurant with John Burton.
“Emergency! Everybody to get from street!”
But with the first media feeding frenzy of the 2016 presidential race continuing to generate countless millions of sentences, journalistic circumnavigation of the porcine politician’s gut may yet be accomplished. Especially now that Governor Zaftig has taken on a personal trainer to help trim his tummy.
As every sentient Calbuzzer surely knows, Christie’s standing as the closest thing Republicans have to a presidential front-runner is now imperiled by the Paulie Walnuts-style knucklehead scheme in which top members of the big man’s staff orchestrated the worst traffic jam in the history of man to punish the Democratic mayor of the charming burg of Ft. Lee for failing to endorse Mr. Beef’s re-election campaign. Or something. (Ed note: can we get some more words in that first sentence?)
Setting aside for a moment the political implications of this entertainment, the broader significance of the scandal lies in celebrating the excellent job performed by a local news hens and hounds in digging out and driving the story.
Partial as we are to tabs, we gazed approvingly, nay longingly, at the wood headlines set forth by the editors of the New York Post and Daily News on successive days when the story burned brightest. It’s hard to pick only one favorite but “Fat Chance Now, Chris” seemed the most analytical of the bunch, dumping all over Balloon Man’s presidential chances in a mere four words.
Why newspapers still matter: There can be no doubt, however, that it is The Record, popularly known as the Bergen Record, that demonstrated for all to see the abiding importance and enduring value of a local paper that takes seriously its watchdog mission.
If it weren’t for the dogged local press corps, Christie would still be ridiculing this story, attacking the legislators investigating it and persuading most of the national press to dismiss it.
The first reporting on the scandal was by the local traffic columnist in The Record, John Cichowski. The week of the traffic tie-ups, Cichowski was already calling bullpucky on the Port Authority line that some sort of “study” was to blame.
He pointed to political retribution as a more likely explanation. A steady stream of local reporting followed until, ultimately, Shawn Boburg’s scoop last Wednesday in The Record: the governor’s deputy chief of staff e-mailing Wildstein, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
On the newsroom side, the key to the Record’s terrific reporting was its relentless, hard nose push for public record access against political and bureaucratic obstacles, as the Poynter Institute noted. On the management side, what’s notable is how a newspaper owner committed to local news and trusting of its editorial management can make the paper matter in a powerful way, even at a time of diminishing resources.
By the end of the day, the site had logged about 700,000 unique viewers, up from a typical day of 250,000 uniques, and at the time a record for the paper.
Thugs, bullies and crooks: The Daily News summed up the choices we’re left to mull over, after watching Christie’s mea non culpa over the closing of the George Washington Bridge by his staff and transit appointees:
“In the best possible light,” the NYDN wrote, “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie built a top staff of lying thugs who threatened lives and safety to serve his political ends. If not, Christie is a lying thug himself.”
Whether it was retribution for a mayor’s refusal to endorse him for re-election, or some other reason, matters little in the tiny world beyond Manhattan and Jersey. What’s clear to everyone: just as Richard Nixon affirmed the opposite when he said, “I am not a crook,” so did Christie make the case against himself when he insisted, “I am not a bully.”
Likewise, his faux self-flagellating “mistakes were clearly made” description of events which was, as our old friend Bill Schneider cleverly noted, spoken in the “past exonerative” – a passive denial of responsibility as employed by Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, to name a few.
Christie, whose appetite for adulation is exceeded only by his gluttonous ego, didn’t even bother to question his now-former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, who wrote the infamous “time for some traffic problems” email. To which, Christie’s high-school pal and Port Authority appointee David Wildstein replied, “Got it.”
Whether Christie can win the Republican nomination for president in 2016 has been always open to serious doubt, given that the GOP knuckle-draggers who decide these things made people like Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain their frontrunners a various times.
But now he’s branded himself as either a lying bully or a hapless incompetent – pick your poison – and obviated the nagging vision of having to pull William Howard Taft’s oversized bathtub out of storage.
Book it: Take the Niners and the points.