Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Truth About General Petraeus

I have to admit at the outset that I know next to nothing about the American military or the people in charge of it and to be honest I am kind of happy to leave it like that. From the safe distance of Europe, I always regarded the men who lead that army as part loony, part scary and part comic, like characters out Dr Strangelove. Now that I live somewhat closer to them I see no reason to change my mind. They are people I would not like to get any closer to than a movie screen.

However I do know one or two things about the media and accordingly I was always suspicious of the adoration and uncritical praise the US media heaped upon the now scandal-ridden General Petraeus. As others have commented in the last day or so, long before Paula Broadwell unzipped the general’s trousers the media had been queuing up to give him blow-jobs.

There are three features which characterize all countries’ media and America is no exception:

One is the preference of media folk to hunt in packs or herds, in the sense that if you get a story wrong it sure helps that everyone else in the business has as well. It’s called perfect cover. But its really pernicious effect is that everyone, more or less, has the same story or at least the same approach to and explanation for the story. The herd instinct in the media imposes uniformity.

The second is an overpowering hunger for access. By access I mean the willingness of people, especially people in power, to talk to them. Gaining access is the emblem of success and it is what keeps editors’ smiling at the reporters who have it and glowering at those who don’t. Access brings a badge of respectability (meaning that the reporter is deemed trustworthy) and stories. The fact that the stories generated by access are invariably worthless pap doesn’t matter because it’s the fact that pap was produced by access that really counts. Access brings its own constraints however. Gaining it is one thing but the real trick is keeping it and the only way to do that is to keep on writing or broadcasting in the way that pleases the access donor. In other words, step out of line, question the donor’s veracity or motives, or in any other way annoy the donor and access can be withdrawn. Your editor won’t care why it was withdrawn, just that now you don’t have it but your competitors do – and needless to say the subsequent implications for career prospects are pretty obvious. Controlling access is the single most powerful weapon that can be used to manage the media. It keeps all those people on MSNBC, CBS and CNN, not to mention the NYTimes, the Washington Post and so on in line.

The third universal characteristic of the media is cowardice. That means that very, very few journalists have the cojones to engage in the sort of reportage that means breaking away from the herd and endangering your access. Doing that gets you a bad name amongst your colleagues, seriously pisses off your boss and can destroy your career. (It is the reason, in my experience, why those who get to management positions in news organizations are often the most mediocre)

This is not the time and place for an essay on the state of the modern media but it is arguable that the highly corporate nature of the business in America has intensified the effect  of these three factors in this country and accelerated the decline of conventional media (but benefited social media alternatives). This is not to say that the same factors are absent elsewhere. In fact I would argue that the smallness of the media in Ireland, in contrast to America, also intensified the unhealthy consequences of all this.

Anyway to get back to Petraeus, I had always suspected that these factors were present in spades with him if only because when I see and hear the media collectively having orgasms over an individual as they did with him for so many years, then every suspicious fibre in my body quivers.

It has taken Petraeus’ fall to bring this story out and it makes good reading and watching (a possible fourth characteristic of the media is that they are pretty vengeful when exposed as fools and suckers). Although he is most definitely not in that category, there is this article by Michael Hastings who single handedly brought down another military idol, Stanley McChrystal. He points out that Petraeus’s two claims to military genius – the Sunni Awakening in Iraq and the counter insurgency strategy in Afghanistan – were both frauds and that the man’s track record in those two countries points to an uncaring willingness to use brutal violence.

The other is an interview that Hollywood director Oliver Stone gave to CNN last night. Stone makes the same points but adds that Petraeus has, as much as Obama, been responsible for the vast expansion of drone deployment by the CIA in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Arab/Muslim world. He says, correctly in my view, that this may well be the result of putting a military man in charge of the CIA. The consequences of that, the deaths of innocents, many of them children, and the anger and alienation that will one day revisit America, is perhaps the best reason to greet Petraeus’ disgrace and departure with joy and relief. And in the future to take the media’s praise of a general, or anybody else, with a bag of salt.


A Note To Irish-America: Make Sure Promises Are Kept

The aftermath of Barack Obama’s re-election to the White House has brought speedy speculation about changes the victorious Democrat will make to his second-term Cabinet. According to The New York Times today, Hillary Clinton is likely to leave her job as Secretary of State (amid speculation she will prepare a run for the presidency in 2016) and the favorite to replace her is Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry, who was an unsuccessful White House contender in 2004. Attorney-General Eric Holder, who has stubbornly pushed the PSNI subpoenas through the federal courts, looks like he will stay however.

It is far to early to take this speculation seriously, but should it come to pass then John Kerry should be reminded by Irish-America of the stand that he took on the PSNI demand for interviews from the Boston College archive way back in January 2012. Should he end up in Foggy Bottom the hope must be that he will put his most welcome words into action if he has the power so to do.

In this regard, Irish-America could do worse than follow the famous example set by the Skibbereen Eagle in August 1914, on the eve of war, when West Cork’s most celebrated newspaper told Kaiser Wilhelm that: “The Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on you”.

New York Times, November 7th, 2012:

“The most prominent members of his cabinet will leave soon. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner long ago said they would depart after the first term, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, previously the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, has signaled that he wants to return to California in the coming year. Also expected to depart is David Plouffe, one of the president’s closest confidants…..


“…….A front-runner for secretary of state appears to be Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Democrats said worries about losing his Senate seat to the Republicans in a special election had diminished with Tuesday’s victories. Another candidate has been Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, but she has been a target of Republicans since she provided the administration’s initial accounts, which proved to be wrong, of the September terrorist attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

“While no one in the White House blames her, “she’s crippled,” said one adviser who asked not to be named discussing personnel matters. Another possible candidate, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, has told Mr. Obama he wants to stay in his current position, according to a White House official.

“Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., once expected to leave, now seems more likely to stay for a while.”


Hillary Clinton flanked by two supporters of the campaign to stop the PSNI subpoenas served on Boston College. To her left is her possible successor, Sen. John Kerry. To her right is Sen. Richard Lugar, ousted by the Tea Party in Indiana.


January 23, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State

Department of State

Washington, DC 20521

Dear Madam Secretary:

I write today with concern about the ongoing court efforts on behalf of the United Kingdom to obtain documents and recordings from Boston College’s Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

I know you’ll understand that this matter is of interest to me for a number of reasons. First, it has a profound impact on Boston College, a highly respected university in Massachusetts, as well as implications for the confidentiality of other research projects of this nature. More broadly, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am obviously concerned about the impact that it may have on the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process.

It is possible that some former parties to the conflict may perceive the effort by the U.K. authorities to obtain this information as contravening the spirit of the Good Friday Accords. I am proud of the role our government – and the Clinton Administration specifically – played to bring about that fragile peace. I am equally impressed by the courage and tenacity of the people of Belfast to rebuild their lives and their city. It would be a tragedy if this process were to upset the delicate balance that has kept the peace and allowed for so much progress in the past fourteen years.

Given my deep concern, I spoke to Attorney General Holder about this matter late last year. I fully recognize that the United Kingdom has invoked the provisions of our Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and that this is clearly a factor which affects our flexibility dealing with such a request. Nonetheless, given the close relationship we have with the United Kingdom and the deep and enduring interest all of us share in seeing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, I would urge you to work with the British authorities to reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke their request.

I would like to thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


John F. Kerry

Cc: The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General



The Arrest Of Padraig Wilson – Some Thoughts, Some Questions

If I was in the leadership of Sinn Fein there is one question to which I would now be urgently trying to get an answer and it is this: who took the initiative that led to the arrest and charging of former senior IRA member Padraig Wilson who last week was arraigned on charges connected to the high profile IRA murder of East Belfast man Robert McCartney in January 2005?

There really are only two possible answers. It was either McCartney’s sisters and partner, who have campaigned tirelessly to obtain justice for their late brother, or it was the PSNI. If it was the former then the Adams-McGuinness leadership can rest a little easier. But if the PSNI was behind the arrest of Wilson, if it was their detectives who dreamed up the prosecution strategy and pushed it forward, then they have every reason to be very concerned for it signals a willingness and even a determination by the PSNI, notwithstanding the peace process, to pursue high level Provo apparatchiks for past offenses, a willingness even to pursue the top men themselves.

Padraig Wilson pins the Irish tricolour to the coffin of Kevin McCracken who was shot dead in the aftermath of Loyalist Michael Stone’s gun and grenade attack in Milltown cemetery in March 1988. In attendance are Sinn Fein official Tom Hartley (wearing spectacles) and, to his right, then IRA Northern Commander, Martin McGuinness

And with the legal fight to prevent the handover of the Boston College interviews still unresolved that is something that should cause the Sinn Fein leadership considerable pause for thought.

Sinn Fein’s pose on the Boston College tapes has been to ignore the dangers to their leaders, to Gerry Adams in particular, and to concentrate their ire against myself and Anthony McIntyre for compiling the archive. They have done this via proxies like Danny Morrison or Niall O’Dowd and that stance has confused and perplexed many in Irish-America. But if it turns out that it was the PSNI who pushed for the Padraig Wilson arrest then Irish-America’s concerns will have been justified, for it suggests the police may not be deterred by the rank or status of any individual if they decide to use the tapes in court.

That is an issue yet to be resolved but in the meantime there is no doubt that when the PSNI pursued Padraig Wilson they chose a man who was a key confidante of the Adams-McGuinness leadership, a fixer of serious problems ready to undertake the most delicate tasks on their behalf, and an IRA activist of the highest order.

Sentenced to 24 years for a car bombing offense in 1991, Wilson was IRA commander in the Maze prison during the critical years of the peace process and showed himself to be very supportive of a strategy that was causing much confusion and concern amongst the IRA’s rank and file, especially in regard to the possibility of the IRA decommissioning its weapons.

Throughout the years between the 1994 IRA ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement four years later, the IRA stance on this question was, at least in public, unequivocal and was best captured in a 1996 statement from P O’Neill which told the world: “There will be no decommissioning either through the front or the back doors”.

But it was Wilson in a June 1998 interview who helped open the back door, telling The Financial Times: “I think a ‘voluntary’ decommissioning would be a natural development of the peace process once we get a sense that the arrangements envisaged in the agreement are beginning to function”.

I turned up to a Sinn Fein press conference on the morning that interview appeared and Gerry Adams’ aides furiously denied that Wilson’s remarks represented party policy (although I do remember that Richard McAuley wore a cynical grin as he peddled this line) and some even denounced Wilson for straying too far from the orthodoxy. I didn’t believe them partly because I had caught them out lying so many times by that point and also because I knew that the IRA leadership was riven with disputes over the decommissioning issue and that the Adams-McGuinness party was being accused at Army Council and IRA Executive level of trying to facilitate it in underhand ways.

As it turned out my skepticism was a prudent for this is exactly how decommissioning did happen a few years later. So here was an example of Wilson facilitating Provo policy in a classic Adams way, making a policy statement that was deniable to the rank and file but re-assuring to the other parties in the peace process dance, not least the British government. Padraig Wilson was turning out to be a loyal and dependable servant.

His importance to the leadership was recognized by the British who twice gave him leave from the Maze prison to attend crucial IRA Conventions, concessions that were unprecedented in the history of British-IRA interactions. The government was presumably motivated by a comfortable degree of confidence that he would support the Adams-McGuinness line and could help swing Convention delegates in their direction.

Padraig Wilson leaves the Maze prison for the last time

On the first occasion, in May 1998, he was let out for eight hours to attend the Convention that approved the recently brokered Good Friday Agreement. Calling the decision to free him “exceptional”, the Northern Ireland Office said it had been taken “in an effort to promote the agreement and to encourage the peace process.”

When Wilson was released in December 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the nature of his relationship with the IRA and Sinn Fein leadership and theirs with him was unmistakably clear: he loved them and they loved him back. Former Adjutant-General and soon to be Junior Minister in the Stormont power-sharing government, Gerry Kelly was at the gates of the Maze to greet his released colleague. Wilson’s first remarks to the waiting media were in glowing praise of his leaders:

Gerry Kelly praises Padraig Wilson’s leadership of IRA prisoners during the peace process negotiations

“It has been a very important period for us and a very interesting period. Nothing that has happened would have been possible without the leadership and commitment of our comrades in Sinn Fein and the republican structures, and we are very thankful for that. The very fact that I am here today a considerable number of years before the British government and others wanted me to be out is down to the working efforts of our comrades in the republican movement.”

Kelly repaid the compliment with the IRA leadership’s good housekeeping seal of approval of their former prison commander:

“I’d like to welcome him personally as a long term friend and a comrade and also to say his leadership, (and he’s been leader of the republican prisoners for some considerable time in the jail now), has been well appreciated both inside the jail and outside it. He has been a good leader in good times and bad.”

Notwithstanding his work for the burgeoning peace process, Padraig Wilson was soon back at the heart of the IRA, that is if the Colombians, British and Americans are to be believed. Some two years before Padraig Wilson’s release from jail, the IRA had begun a ‘cash-for-know-how’ relationship with the FARC guerrilla movement in Colombia in which the IRA allegedly passed on their skills in the manufacture and delivery of home made bombs and mortars to FARC which in return paid the IRA handsomely with large amounts of cash. The money, it is claimed, came from FARC’s dealings in the cocaine trade.

The Daily Telegraph made Wilson’s involvement in all this public in a May 2002 report written by the redoubtable Toby Harnden, author of the classic study of the IRA in South Armagh, Bandit Country. Describing Wilson as a “senior IRA leader and key ally of Gerry Adams”, Harnden, quoting Colombian, British and American sources in his report, said Wilson had traveled to Colombia using a false passport in April 2001, less than two years after his release from the Maze.

The report continued:

“Colombian intelligence documents say that Wilson entered Bogota, the capital, on Air France flight 422 on April 5 last year and flew on by Satena Airlines to San Vicente del Caguan in Farc territory. There he was met by guerrilla leaders. He returned to Paris on April 16 by the same route.

“A copy of an Irish passport bearing the name James Edward Walker and a photograph of Wilson has been passed to The Telegraph by Colombian intelligence.

“Wilson was accompanied on the flights by Niall Connolly, Sinn Fein’s representative in Cuba. Connolly, Monaghan and Martin McCauley were arrested on Aug 11 last year as they tried to leave Bogota for Paris.

“They are alleged to be leading IRA members and are in jail awaiting trial on charges of training Farc terrorists.

“The presence of such a high-ranking IRA man as Wilson in Colombia is powerful evidence that training activities were authorised by the terrorist group’s top leadership.

“A surveillance photograph of Wilson taken at San Vicente del Caguan airport was shown by the Colombian authorities at a House international relations committee hearing in Washington last month. Wilson, a former Sinn Fein worker, is a strong supporter and friend of Mr Adams, the president of Sinn Fein.”

For whatever reason Padraig Wilson escaped arrest in Colombia and returned back to Belfast where he continued to undertake delicate missions for the Sinn Fein and IRA leaderships, monitoring in particular possible media stories that could damage the likes of Gerry Adams. His official role in Sinn Fein was director of international affairs, a job once undertaken by Ted Howell who was perhaps the most important backroom Provo figure of this current leadership.

If the PSNI are to be believed, Padraig Wilson’s delicate diplomacy included intervening on the IRA’s behalf in a notorious rape case. That involved allegations from a close relative of the late Joe Cahill that she had been repeatedly assaulted by a senior IRA figure in West Belfast for many years while being forced to take part in an IRA “investigation” that was primarily concerned with discrediting her allegations. In mid October this year a judge in Belfast lifted reporting restrictions on the identities of people charged in connection with the affair. Amongst those charged with IRA membership and assisting in the management of an IRA meeting was Padraig Wilson.

The charges leveled against him last week in relation to the Robert McCartney killing are remarkably and perhaps significantly similar: IRA membership and addressing a meeting “to encourage support for the IRA”. A PSNI detective told the court that Robert McCartney’s five sisters and his partner had made witness statements accusing him of involvement in an IRA investigation following McCartney’s death.

Robert McCartney, stabbed to death by IRA members

The fatal stabbing of Robert McCartney, which followed a row in a city centre pub between him and several leading IRA members from the Markets and Short Strand areas, caused a major public relations crisis for Sinn Fein, especially in the United States and greatly intensified the pressure on the IRA to fully and finally decommission its weaponry.

What is not yet known is one crucial detail. Did the McCartney sisters go to the PSNI with the idea of implicating Wilson or did the PSNI come to them with the suggestion? If it was the former then the Wilson arrest can be safely regarded by the Sinn Fein leadership as a one-off event; if the latter then it means there could be more and worse to come.

Three of Robert McCartney’s sisters and his partner. Did they or the PSNI have the idea of implicating Padraig WIlson in their brother’s murder? That’s a question Sinn Fein needs to answer.

Padraig Wilson’s colleague Gerry Kelly appears at least to recognise the potential seriousness of the situation, telling the Associated Press: “This is a very serious situation and these charges need to be dropped and Padraic Wilson needs to be released immediately.” Any detectives involved in building a case against Wilson, he added, “need to be removed from policing before they inflict further damage on the peace process.”

There is one unexplained and intriguing aspect to the Padraig Wilson arrest which requires further investigation, assuming the media in Northern Ireland are still alive to the demands of normal journalism. When Marian Price was arrested and charged the British government quickly revoked her license saying that she will have to serve out the remainder of the prison term for the 1973 London bombing. Price had been granted an early release from her life sentence on health grounds and also claimed that she had been given a royal pardon but with the license revoked all bets are now off.

Padraig Wilson has had three strikes against him: his alleged involvement in the IRA’s Colombian adventure and two charges of IRA membership. So far there is no sign that the NI Secretary of State is of a mind to revoke his license and force him to serve out the remainder of his 24-year sentence. I wonder why?

Some (Cynical) Thoughts About Hurricane Sandy

Bloomberg addresses the media in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

People who know me are fully aware of how cynical I am and can be about a lot of things in life, especially when it comes to politics. So a few random thoughts here about the politics of Hurricane Sandy of the very cynical sort.

The first thing is that the storm has confirmed New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg as the repugnant jerk we always thought him to be. The billionaire founder and owner of the Bloomberg financial empire, the self-centered friend of Fifth and Park Avenues and the pal of some of Wall Street’s more execrable burghers, has emerged from Hurricane Sandy as the undisputed Mayor not of New York but Manhattan, that is the bit of city where under Bloomberg’s three-term mayoralty rents have become so high that it really has become off limits to all but the wealthy.

Listening to his press conferences in the days after the storm hit – which we were obliged to do on the radio but not the TV as our bit of the Bronx had lost all power – it was clear that his main and nearly only focus was on Manhattan. Now admittedly a huge chunk of the lower part of the island, from 34th Street on the west side and 42nd Street on the east, had lost power and people there were badly suffering but it has since become very evident that other boroughs, especially Staten Island and Long Island, were hit much harder.

But those areas barely rated a mention by Mayor Mike (incidentally National Public Radio’s New York station WNYC was guilty of the same sin, confirming through its specials on the aftermath of Sandy, its own obsession with Manhattan). Nor has he visited those parts of the city which he is also supposed to be mayor of, areas that were actually hit harder. We should have known earlier about the disasters in the outer boroughs and would have had the Bloomberg administration done its job – but that didn’t happen.

Staten Island, according to one report I read, accounted for half the city’s death toll of forty (as of Friday evening). In Long Island the devastation has been extreme with whole districts left homeless; in one area of the Rockaways some 130 homes were burned to the ground by a fire fanned by hurricane winds. Locals complain at the complete absence of FEMA and say that gas and food are rapidly running out. The weather is getting colder and another fierce winter storm is forecast for next week. There could be and probably will be many more deaths in the outer boroughs where residents are being told that power may be restored by mid-November if they are lucky. But Bloombie has not been seen once in either or any of those areas. But he has toured Manhattan. Several times. As I write this, CBS is reporting that power has been restored to most of lower Manhattan. Great! As for the boroughs? Suck it up.

When finally I got access to the internet, a three hour drive away from our home in the Bronx, I managed to look at a map of the blackouts on ConEd’s website there was one little spot in lower Manhattan where the power was on, a glittering sapphire in a sea of black velvet. No prizes for guessing where. Yes, you got it. The financial district, where Bloomberg’s pals hang out (in fact NYSE officials confirmed that although the market was closed on Monday & Tuesday they could have run the computerized dealings which nowadays account for most of the trading but decided not to [perhaps because it would have put a harsh focus on their privileged access to electricity!]).

A measure of the extent to which Bloomberg was out of touch with the feelings of New Yorkers came with his insistence that the annual marathon, scheduled for day six of the Sandy aftermath, should go ahead despite the fact that the runners would pass by spots where dead bodies had lain for two days or near streets where more were homeless than were housed.

Bloomberg said the marathon brought thousands of foreign runners and millions of dollars to the city but the residents of Staten Island and Long Beach said it was the worst of bad taste. (I don’t know what sort of people travel to places like New York for marathons but I did once encounter a woman who had run in the Los Angeles race. She was on the same flight to Belfast and I overheard part of her life history: she lived in Hollywood, Co Down (Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue), her daddy was a retired Assistant Chief Constable in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and she herself was an up and coming barrister who was on first name terms, or so she said, with judges. )

It would be difficult to describe the outrage in the outer boroughs at Bloomberg but the fact that for several days the mayor seemed oblivious and even unsympathetic to the anger was an eloquent measure of how far out of touch, or uncaring, he was. There were two straws that broke the camel’s back and forced Bloomberg to cancel the race – and both illustrated his real attitude to non-Manhattan New York.

One was the disclosure that a generator capable of supplying power to 400 Sandy-devastated homes had been set aside for the post marathon entertainment of the runners – and this as thousands of his fellow citizens sat shivering in idling cars to keep warm knowing that when the gas ran out so would their luck. The other was that scores and scores of portaloos had been set up for the exclusive use of the runners. Now in parts of the city, especially high rise public projects, old folk had been marooned in buildings where the elevators no longer worked, where access to the street was via dangerous, unlit stairways and where lavatories had ceased to flush because power failures had stopped the flow of water. The marathon runners could use the portaloos but not these people.

The other cynical observation concerns Barack Obama who faces re-election this Tuesday. No sooner had the winds from Sandy died down than Obama was on a plane to New Jersey to spend time with a guy who is surely one of the more obnoxious pieces of work in American politics. I am talking about the loud mouthed, egotistical, blustering, far-right bully know as Governor Chris Christie.

The Odd Couple – Christie and Obama Empathize With Sandy Victims

The two of them fast became best buddies, with Christie, who has been an energetic campaigner for Mitt Romney, heaping effusive and even embarrassing praise at every possible media opportunity on a president everyone knows he really loathes. Endless photos of them appeared, the pair – one as tall and thin as a beanstalk, the other an over-ripe plum on legs – like new lovers on deserted if ravaged beaches on the Atlantic coast.

Now the conventional media take on this expedition to New Jersey says that the President was merely doing his job, offering as much humanitarian help as he could to the part of America hardest hit by the storm and Christie, knowing it would be churlish and even politically costly in this normally Democrat-leaning state, to act the begrudger. And it may well be that he was genuinely grateful for the unstinting help Obama had brought. Perhaps, but then……..

As for cynical old me, I couldn’t help contrasting all this with Obama’s absence from New York, where there were many more storm-related deaths and arguably destruction every bit as serious if not as widespread. New York is but a short hop from New Jersey, he could easily have made it and spent a few short hours sharing New Yorkers’ pain – but he didn’t. I think Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano (who?) has been here or will be but I can’t be sure.

So why did Obama choose to go to New Jersey but not to New York. Well, I think the answer lies in the election to be held next week. Christie may be an oaf but he is a talented and articulate one and an asset to the Romney campaign. If Romney could have counted on Christie to come out swinging against Obama after the storm alleging that the President had callously neglected New Jersey, that he didn’t care about fellow Americans, that would have been a powerful weapon to wield in the final days of what was always going to be a closely fought battle.

So, did Obama come to New Jersey in order to neutralize the threat a Hurricane Sandy-armed Christie presented to his re-election chances? I think that is a distinct possibility. I am not saying Obama didn’t care about the people of New Jersey because clearly he did – but he seems to have cared more about them than New Yorkers. As it was, the trip turned out even better than he could ever have imagined, with Christie falling over himself to heap tributes on Obama (an indication also, perhaps, that a Romney defeat would also suit him admirably!). Wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall of the Romney strategy room?