South of the Border

Why has our governor gone to Mexico this week, abandoning us and our many problems—bridges and roads needing fixing, pensions running out of money, casinos closing, the budget unbalanced, Sandy repairs unfinished, rich people leaving--just to meet a few Mexicans and tell them how wonderful our state is?

There are plenty of Mexicans here in New Jersey. According to the latest census numbers, 217,715. And that doesn’t include the undocumented, as we of the liberal persuasion prefer to call our illegals. The actual number of Mexicans is significantly higher, according to the Mexican Consulate General in New York.

Our governor can meet a lot of foreigners just travelling around New Jersey. We’ve got Chechens, Guatemalans, Arabs, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Uzbekistanis, Indians, illegal Chinese. We’ve got everything. As I say, you can learn a lot just by going into any fast food restaurant in New Jersey.

The governor doesn’t have to go anywhere, whatever the cover story, like the current hajj to Mexico City, i.e., bringing more business to the state.

Despite the glowing press releases about the expense account trip, it’s all window dressing for the real purpose.

This is the time of year on the political calendar when all serious non-candidates for a party’s presidential nomination hit the road for foreign lands, a sacred ritual for those playing the game of non-candidacy. In the old days, it was called the Three I- League, with non-candidates always visiting Ireland, Israel and Italy. It gave them a chance to hoist one in Dublin, break matzo in Tel Aviv and dig into spaghetti bolognese and a pizza chaser in Rome. It was supposed to resonate with ethnic voters back home.

More recently, non-candidates are regular Marco Polos in extending their travels. Rand Paul, for example, spent a week in Guatemala. Rick Perry went to New Hampshire. Few could equal non-candidate Ronald Reagan, who after losing the GOP nomination in 1976, went to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Iran, Singapore, London, Paris, and Germany. He was a Metternich and Talleyrand of global policy in his mind by the time he ran and won in 1980.

Making the pilgrimage makes the non-candidate seem more presidential, as if expertise about world affairs is absorbed through breathing the air or having their passports stamped.

The theory that travel is broadening is seen as especially true in the case of our governor. The media lately has been questioning his credentials in international savvy, which he himself has admitted. Pushed about his weakness in the global policy part of his resume, according to the New York Times, the governor said, “I don’t have the briefing and the background to be able to say I understand all the intricacies of it.”

The implication is being unschooled in the nuances of global affairs is a handicap for a potential president.

Are they kidding?

Nobody really knows anything about global affairs until they become President. Take Bill Clinton. The only thing he knew was what he learned at the International House of Pancakes.

Republican candidates typically know zip about foreign affairs. In this age of enlightenment, during the 2012 campaign, the only one who didn’t seem to be a complete dumbo was Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Ambassador to China. And you know how much that helped him in the primaries. It’s almost as if we Republicans are suspicious of politicians who know too much. Wonks and eggheads don’t win pennants.

In modern times, the only Republican candidate who seemed to have studied up on foreign affairs was George W. Bush. He spent 20 years being tutored at home by his father and learned friends. Judging by the Republican Iran War, and what it cost in terms of blood and national treasure, he might have done better collecting driftwood at the ranch. “Actually, he may have been drunk all those years, “ one analyst speculated.

Not only W, but also his whole administration seemed ignorant about getting involved in a region where folks were killing each other since 607 A.D. when Sunni-Shia began not getting along.

What worries me now is that our governor apparently has been studying to make up for this alleged deficiency in reasons to vote for him, should he actually decide to become a candidate. He is reportedly hitting the books with a team of crack experts. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is an informal foreign policy tutor, the papers say. So he can learn all about calling a WMD in the desert when it is only a mirage.

He is also known to have consulted with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who may be explaining the Domino Theory, the Republican reason for the Vietnam War, which was supposed to stop the spread of communism. Something went wrong with that policy, should any non- candidate visiting the capitalist nations of China, Vietnam and other South Asian free market countries might conclude. Go know.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Let’s hope that all of this cracking the books and after the trip to Mexico the governor doesn’t come back to Trenton with any new ideas about how to appeal to the conservative GOP base on controlling illegal immigration. Mining the Rio Grande might go too far, but sending a gunboat up the river should satisfy conservative hard liners, without whom the election of a non-candidate would not be possible today.


Marvin Kitman
September 4, 2014

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history.

Public Domain Photo by National Park Service Photographer Jack E. Boucher.