Chris Christie is not a 'small ball' politician [Commentary]

Maryland's former governor offers thoughts on unionizing college athletes and Chris Christie's innocence

Perhaps you missed ... a regional National Labor Relations Board decision that ruled Northwestern University's football players are "employees" subject to union representation. And before you dismiss this decision as the ravings of some bureaucrat laborite, remember that the appeal goes to the full Barack Obama-controlled board, now simply a satellite operation for the AFL-CIO.

My readers can figure out the myriad problems with this concept on their own, but allow me one simple illustration of the awkwardness involved. Let's say your (fullback) son is recruited to Northwestern because the school uses the "I formation," a set that requires a fullback. But (as so often occurs in big-time athletics), there is a coaching change during your son's sophomore year. The new coach brings a "spread" formation, which does not require a fullback. Your son is now out of a job. Query: can your 19-year-old bring an unfair labor practices complaint against the offensive coordinator and/or the head coach and/or the school? And, if yes, what is the appropriate remedy? Please feel free to add your horrific scenario to this poorly thought out proposal.

There is a need for reform within big time college athletics. Sharing the wealth is a good idea. (For example, a higher stipend for revenue producing athletes makes sense.) So do proposals that require schools to fulfill their end of the scholarship bargain — you know, the "scholar" end. Requiring schools to pay tuition and fees for the full four years has merit as well.

But the idea of a "linebacker/shop steward" should be a non-starter.

Perhaps you missed ... the report issued by a group of former prosecutors that concluded New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had no knowledge of the September lane closures on the George Washington Bridge — the so-called "bridgegate scandal." No surprise here; Mr. Christie was adamant about his lack of culpability in the politically motivated bridge caper. As a former U.S. Attorney, he knew that any credible evidence to the contrary would mean the end of his national political ambitions. On a personal note, I predicted in this column a few months back that Mr. Christie would be exonerated. I know Chris Christie to be a straightforward, no nonsense guy unlikely to get himself mixed up in this type of "small ball" politics.

Whether the story will continue to haunt Mr. Christie's emerging presidential campaign is anyone's guess. But the way in which the unfolding scandal was handled should serve as a model for anyone caught up in a media whirlwind. Up front and transparent will usually ensure you live another day — at least, that is, unless your last name is "Clinton."

Perhaps you missed ... the appointment of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, as the new chairman of the Senate Energy and National Resources Panel.

Possibly the most vulnerable of the Senate Democrats up for re-election in November, Ms. Landrieu is using her new position to push a pro energy industry agenda popular at home but anathema to the vast majority of her liberal Democratic colleagues.

All of which represents an interesting challenge to the more conservative voters of Louisiana: Do they support their hometown senator now that she runs the most important committee for an oil and gas state, or do they replace her with a Republican who will more closely reflect their views on a wider range of economic and social issues?

Recent polls have Ms. Landrieu trailing her top GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, within the margin of error. And the incumbent's numerous votes in support of Obamacare will be front and center this November.

Some southern "Blue Dog" Democrats have it both ways — talking business at home but voting labor in Washington. In this respect, Louisiana voters now must decide if Senator Landrieu put up one too many Obamacare votes on the scoreboard. A word to the wise: Voting with Harry Reid can be a dangerous habit in a red state.

Speaking of Majority Leader Reid, perhaps you missed ... recent announcements by members of the Senate Democratic Leadership that they back Mr. Reid's return as leader regardless of whether Democrats retain the Senate in November.

Such pronouncements serve to remind political observers that leadership positions (in both parties) are not necessarily awarded to the most telegenic or effective communicators. Rather, it is those who best handle internecine conflict and possess strong fundraising prowess who tend to ascend. This Capitol Hill fact of life may be distressing to some, but it will not change in the foreseeable future.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.


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