VIDEO: 3 Things Chris Christie Must Do To Survive "Bridgegate" on MSNBC

What does America like more than a fall from grace? Redemption. If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn't break the law, then he can be on the road to recovery from Bridgegate, a scandal that threatens his ability to govern and his presidential ambitions. At issue is hours-long congestion leading to the George Washington bridge caused not by a traffic study but according to Christie accusers, the Guv's grudge against the Fort Lee mayor for refusing to endorse him before November's election.

All of a sudden, his straight-talkin', what-you-see-is-what-you-get public person turned to vindictive bully. While a probe delves into Bridgegate, another investigation looks into Christie's choice of a higher bidder to make commercials with federal Hurricane Sandy relief money promoting New Jersey tourism starring the Guv and his family. Writing about the bridge imbroglio, an editorial titled Chickens Come Home to Roost, questions if any appearance, or actual bullying is, as Mr. Christie claims, "the exception not the rule." The Asbury Park Press editors note:

"Sadly, it isn’t true. It was a pattern, born of arrogance..."

Many elements are still in play with the most important evidence that Governor Christie committed a crime. If nothing new emerges (including new scandals) and the investigations reveal that he and his staff acted improperly but did not break any laws, then it's rehabilitation time. To effectively govern and/or pursue 2016 ambitions, Governor Christie must pursue:

  1. Transparency: he needs to get out in front of his critics and accusers, collaborating fully with the investigations and set up an independent inquiry. He must not only acknowledge what happened. He must own up to it 100%, apologize, and ask for forgiveness due to his lack of judgement from Bridgegate traffic victims and the people of New Jersey.
  2. Humility: If arrogance as mentioned in the aforementioned editorial is at the heart of Christie's bullying behavior, then the antidote is humility. Humble pie should be the main course of his act of contrition which is connected to...
  3. Get to work: Education and public safety are some of of issues he can tackle to get his New Jersey poll numbers back up. Upside: adding to his state record will only help his national poll numbers  Remember, they didn't even register a blip when Bridgegate broke because the country was more focused on the tundra cold weather, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.


I made these points on MSNBC's Live Agenda panel with host Richard Lui. It seems the Governor listened to me since just a few hours later at the State of the State address, he followed my lead almost to the letter (or he has a good crisis communications management team working day and night in the so-called war room). The Governor didn't go all the way, using the passive: "mistakes were made" as opposed to "I made a mistake." Is this an indication that proof is going to emerge that links him directly to breaking laws so he can't be caught on record lying, fodder for cable news infinite loops and GIFs? Did the former prosecutor rear his ugly head and "lawyer" his script, more an act of CYA than redemption?

Under the national media microscope, this speech is now behind him.

The question is: what's ahead for Governor Christie?

I joined panelists Amanda Terkel from the Huffington Post and The Maddow blog's Steve Benen to discuss Chris Christie, as well as President Obama's forthcoming spotlight on using his executive authority to bypass Congress under the auspices of helping the middle class. Perhaps to this economic push on the heels of a crappy job report, he'll add executive authority to halt the deportations which have skyrocketed on his watch?

Click below to watch this appearance which aired on January 14, 2014.

 Do you think the Chris Christie scandals have long enough "legs" to cripple any presidential ambitions?

VIDEO: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: Revival of the Progressive Agenda? on MSNBC

For my first roundtable discussion of 2014, the topic was the first test of New York City's shiny new Mayor Bill de Blasio who was inaugurated two days before a blizzard. Like the Big Apple's top executive, I, too, had some luck, touching down after my Christmas break as the first heavy snowflakes fell. Unlike Manhattan, the metro Washington, DC area shuts down at the slightest sighting of a few flakes. So I was happy to be on terra firme before being diverted to say, Cancún, or delayed-for-hours-in-an-airport-until-finally-being-cancelled. VIDEO_NYC_Mayor_Bill_de_Blasio_Revival_Progressive_Agenda_MSNBC

Mayor de Blasio, who is the first Democrat to hold this office in two decades, stuck to his guns in a buzzy inaugural address with a "progressive" rhetoric matched by optics. As to the latter, former President Bill Clinton swore him in. Hillary Clinton--who has the chattering class on fire with rumors of a 2016 presidential run, was conveniently seated next to the podium, allowing for a whole lot of free airtime during the Mayor's speech. Then Mr. de Blasio was seen shoveling snow outside his Brooklyn home. I sure wish I lived further north because I could have used a helping hand: my long travel day, coupled with an early morning start to prep our MSNBC panel, meant that the snow soon turned into rock solid ice.

As to the "progressive" rhetoric, Mayor de Blasio referenced the tale of two cities from his mayoral campaign. Through this Dickensian metaphor of a New York where the rich have become richer and everyone else has fallen, if not into, closer to poverty, he argued for one city. In this New York City, more people have access to resources, such as education and affordable housing, allowing them to thrive.

But critics have rightfully found the holes, some of them gaping, in Mayor de Blasio's goals. The Washington Post Editorial Board questions how progressive he can be if he is not willing to take on the city's power broker's such as the teacher's unions as his predecessor Michael Bloomberg did. The former Mayor's policies of closing failing schools and opening charters schools, contributed to significantly raising graduation rates.

Then there's another uncomfortable fact: reality. Funding affordable housing or his signature universal full day pre-K program require a combination of tax hikes on the wealthy or tax incentives for developers that at once sweeten the pot but are "fair" (a criticism he lodged against Bloomberg).

As I mentioned on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts show Agenda panel which focused on Mayor de Blasio, it is one thing to campaign and another to govern. I am a firm believer in coalitions to not just win elections but to make government work for people. Liberals repeatedly commit the same mistake of assuming top down bureaucratic prescriptions from the centers of power will work in real life.

Not quite. In the case of pre-kindergarten programs such as Head Start, the reviews are mixed. Why? Because the stakeholders rarely involve more than those in city halls, state houses, Washington, and think tanks. Church leaders, Boys and Girls clubs, recreation centers need to be recruited to educate parents, for example, on the importance of reading to your child at least 20 minutes a day or checking homework daily.

Programs and money help but aren't a panacea.

A large, important program requires community buy in with the highest success level coming not from outreach but in-reach--evangelized community members supporting and holding each other accountable.

As a national trendsetter, Americans battered by the global financial crash of 2008 and our anemic economic recovery will surely be looking to New York for an attempt at leveling the playing field. We desperately need it--"one America" or "one New York" where those who do everything right like getting a good education and working hard, can get ahead. Mayor de Blasio has been on the job less than a week and is showing some good signs such as keeping on some Bloomberg staff who were likely helpful during the blizzard. But the best way to make sure you have a say in how the playing field is leveled?

Don't leave it, requiring average voters to remain informed, engaged, and participating.

Click below to watch my appearance on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts show as part of the Agenda panel joining Bill Scher from the progressive Campaign for America's Future and MSNBC contributor Dr. James Paterson. This aired on January 3, 2014.

 Thoughts on Mayor de Blasio's first days in office?

VIDEO: Newtown Anniversary: Why Gun Safety Stalled on MSNBC

Today is my birthday and like last year, I remember waking up, my heart filled with gratitude and optimistic about the blessings awaiting me--How would I show the people I love that my world begins and ends with them? How would I leave this a better place? How will I recover from failure and disappointment with wisdom gained, stronger and more resilient for the challenges and the victories ahead?

The very next day, on December 14, 2012, I learned, likely on Twitter, of the unspeakable horror that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman entered a school, shooting it up like a video game except that the victims are not fictional characters but 26 small children, 6 people who worked at the school, as well as the gunman and his mother. As I said on NPR which I write about in Will There Be Another?, it's difficult, even for the most removed person, not to personalize a tragedy like Newtown: my bestie works in a Connecticut school. Mami retired from a school district. One of my nieces is the age of the child victims.

Carlee Soto upon learning that her sister was gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza

As is to be expected and despite the efforts of the powerful gun lobby spearheaded by the National Rifle Association (NRA), support swelled for more gun safety. Still, only a few months after the Newtown massacre, a crucial gun safety measure failed in the Senate, prompting some strong words from a person close to this tragedy as I write in “Disgusted” and “Disappointed”: Newtown Shooting Victim’s Sister Carlee Soto to the Senate.

A year since Newtown, public support has waned. Gun safety remains, along with immigration, tax and entitlement reform, trapped in legislative purgatory where good ideas, principles, and agenda items go to die by inertia and obstruction. We can blame the dysfunction in Washington. You must also assign blame to what functions in Washington--powerful special interest money. In the case of gun laws, the gun rights lobby has won this battle, fighting off federal legislation (and winning key local victories). Their power lies in part with money, historically raising more and contributing to candidates, according to the Washington Post and the Sunlight Foundation.

We must also blame gun safety advocacy groups for failing to frame the issue in a way that sticks.


What more can stick, Viviana, than 26 children being gunned down?, you may be asking.

I couldn't agree more. But gun safety groups are up against money and politics. One suggestion is to move away from framing this issue as gun control to get and keep gun off the streets. Gun rights groups say this is a slippery slope that will lead to banning all weapons. All of sudden, weaponry used on battlefields halfway across the world becomes as protected as a rifle used on weekend hunts.

However, a new report suggests that positioning gun safety not to single out individual shooters but as a public health issue can yield more results for gun safety advocates. Think of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or the anti-smoking campaigns of the 80s and 90s. Simply put, it's not about exposing city kids to hunting and fishing as the former President of the NRA recently stated. Rather, it's about making the streets they walk, the schools where they study, and the malls they cruise safe.

Now this makes sense, is simple, and may create more buy-in from a public that is tired of this senseless yet preventable violence.

Let's hope so.

Nearly 200 children have died since Newtown.

Let's hope that next year, we aren't mourning the loss of 200 more.

Courtesy: MSNBC

The Newtown anniversary and stalled gun safety laws was the primary topic I discussed on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts Show Agenda panel with The's Corey Dade and MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin on December 12, 2013.

Click below to watch:

Do you believe gun safety will make it into our laws?

VIDEO: On CNN for the First Time: Is Best Man Holiday a "Race-based" Film?

In 1998, I stepped into the Washington bureau of CNN. I was an intern. Back in the day, interns didn't sue employers for not getting paid but instead were grateful for the opportunity to do more than answer phones, check the fax machine, and get cafecito. I did that for one week and asked my supervisor for more of a challenge. He called me "uppity."

At the time, I was a woman in a hurry--a Ph.D. candidate who found out her parachute was a very different color than the Yale blue academic regalia she would don at convocation and graduation. Older than most of my intern crew, I had to get my high heels dirty and garner experience to convince a future news director to give me a job--¡my first besides folding sweaters at The Limited in high school!--in Midland, Texas.

I've been back at CNN several times for CNN en Español--at the DC bureau and headquarters in Atlanta to speak about Election 2012 and women's issues. But I never made it on regular CNN until this past November when guest host and NPR TV critic Eric Deggans invited me to be a guest on Reliable Sources--the CNN show devoted to media matters which I have been watching since my Texas reporting days.


Along with's Alyssa Rosenberg (who is also another Yalie), we discussed the controversy around USA Today labeling The Best Man Holiday movie "race-based." Alyssa notes that if Best Man Holiday is "race-based", then so are ten movies not classified as such, including Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. Do we classify these films as "wealthy white-privilege-themed"? Indeed, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander, no?

As Claytor Reports notes on my Facebook page, Best Man Holiday is about the daily things that affect most people not just the country but the world over--regardless of race and I would add ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.


Indeed, these values are universal and in the case of this film or the TV prime time drama Scandal on ABC, the lead characters are as multi-faceted as anyone else--with hopes, frailties, broken dreams, and struggles.

These characters, however, possess what I like to call, a +1 point of view. This perspective is diverse and mixed, a product of mingling with and marrying people from different backgrounds. My conclusion is not just anecdotal. It's a more representative view of our country, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Virtually every day, turn on the TV, read your newspaper online, go to the movies and what you see spotlights how out of touch Hollywood and media are, but not because they don't read the census report. The whole lot of studio heads, directors, agents, and network executives walk around with their "eyes wide shut," failing to see the changes all around them. With media centered in Los Angeles and New York City, two incredibly diverse, specifically Latino cities, the lack of diversity at the highest levels is more than an oversight. It's insight into a retro and myopic world that shapes the way our country is viewed.

The lack of diverse representation in Hollywood and media's top ranks hurts the bottom line. An off headline such as USA Today's Best Man Holiday blunder or the absence of a Latina host on The View generates the response:

Huh?/¿qué qué? They just don't "get it."

Thanks to our fragmented media word, we can click the remote or our smartphone to go to one of the ba-zillion sites that do get it. This is one business practice that eventually is bad for business.

The solution includes creating pipeline programs that recruit, retain, and promote diverse talent--easy fixes. Some are in place thanks to the continuous advocacy and efforts of organizations such as the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.

But it will take a Hercules. More than a powerful person in a position of power, change requires a champion and a believer to reign in the clacking chorus.

I can think of some "Hercules" in Hollywood who can hire and promote diverse talent.

They have the power but do they have the will?

Click below to watch my first appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources which aired on Sunday, November 24, 2013.

Can you name some "Hercules" in Hollywood who have the power to hire and promote diverse talent? If so, please list them.

VIDEO: Politically Moody? Depends on Your State (of Mind) or What I Said on MSNBC

#ICYMI, Time Magazine published an article on geopolitical moods.

¿Qué qué?

It's a political take that collapses the nature versus nurture debate: what factors shape you--our DNA or our surroundings. Researchers set out to discover which attitudes and attributes best mirror a region. It's insightful and a little funny. For one, I'm still trying to figure out why I left glorious California, a deep vibrant green that according to this "mood map" symbolizes creative and relaxed. I went East, specifically the Northeast--firstly New England then Washington, DC which is blue for "temperamental and uninhibited." I also lived in Texas which in typical Lone Star state tradition exhibits "blue" qualities in a sea of, on one side "friendly and conventional," and on the other, "creative and relaxed." Click to read America’s Mood Map: An Interactive Guide to the United States of Attitude and take the quiz.


While fun, I want to know more about the impact patterns of migration on a region. Perhaps there's a clue in Virginia and North Carolina classified as "relaxed and creative" as the areas around Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia prove. Certainly, Election 2013 which elected Terry McAuliffe, it's first Democratic governor of the Old Dominion in 40 years, seems to be more evidence of migration's dynamism and how it can factor, if not outright put a race in play.

I will be curious to see how new voters--Latinos and youth--change the mood map and how candidates and parties adjust their outreach and engagement. This of course changes according to powerful factors such as the make-up of the electorate which is a subset of the population and divides even more if you ferret out primary from general election voters.

I discuss this fun topic on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, joining The Gaggle roundtable with Robert Costa, Washington editor of the National Review and Democratic pollster Margie Omero of Purple Strategies. We also gabbed about 2016 chatter around Senator Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton which I write about in VIDEO: Latino Voters and Election 2013, 2014, and the BIGGIE 2016 or What I Said on MSNBC.

 Click to watch this segment which aired on October 25, 2013:

No surprise I'm a mix. What's your political "mood"?

VIDEO: Latino Voters and Election 2013, 2014, and the BIGGIE 2016 or What I Said on MSNBC

Although it's Election 2013, the media have been talking non-stop about 2016. On the Democratic side, Hillary is right now the strongest Democratic candidate for President and a fundraising juggernaut--if she chooses to run. But remember what happened with all that infallibility talk on 2008. A certain junior Senator from Illinois with barely any grass under his feet snatched the Democratic nomination and presidency. Let's not underestimate the variables--the economy, if Democrats overreach as David Frum deliciously imagines in a 2016 crystal ball reading post in The Daily Beast.

On the Republican side, the man who forced The Government Shutdown, Ted Cruz, is fanning 2016 chatter because of several visits to Iowa, the state that holds the first presidential contest and gives a candidate political momentum.


A lot can happen between now and then, like today's election. Although off year contests barely register a pulse in the national media, this year is different because of some high profile races that could reveal a national political trend that I argue makes a compelling case for the political power of the so-called Center, as defined by a recent NBC/Esquire poll and which I write about in: Immigration Reform: Where's the Center?

In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe--Hillary and Bill Clinton campaign chair alum and former chairman of the Democratic National Party, is making his second bid for the governorship and is poised to win by a landslide over Republican and Tea Party darling Ken Cuccinelli.

It's flipped in traditionally blue New Jersey with Republican governor Chris Christie expected to beat his Democratic challenger by double digits. He is the case study of a political animal who has defied polls and political trends to follow his survival instincts. Case in point, he campaigned with New Mexico governor Susana Martinez who has little name recognition or skin in the New Jersey political game, setting off speculation that a Republican Christie/Martinez ticket could win Latino voters and the White House.

And this last part is the most important: the participation of Hispanic voters. On Election night 2012 when President Obama beat his challenger by 5 million votes, sweeping the Latino vote, a new political adage was born:

The road to the White House goes through the barrio and the bodegas of America.

I would add negocios since Hispanics open small businesses at more then twice the national average and escuelas since 25% of public school students are Latino.

But non-presidential election years are characterized by low voter turnout, even more so for groups who are key members of coalitions that win elections but aren't ballot box reliables who are older and white. Latinos and youth voters are "up for grabs" voters with numbers as a main advantage. If they mobilize, elections are a blow out for the winner, as was the case with President Obama was he was re-elected.

The question is:

Which voters will show up, galvanized by the government shutdown and near debt default brought to you by the Tea Party?

Conversely, will voters be so disgusted, they sit it out?

Primary races are where the soul of a party is bared for all to see. One of the valuable lessons Republicans learned in 2012 is that a candidate who tacks too far to the right  jeopardizes  the general contest.

The off-year races--such as 2013--will give us a good gauge of voters' moods.

But will it give us an accurate read of what will happen in 2016?

Click below to watch my participation on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd with Gaggle roundtable guests Robert Costa, Washington editor of the National Review and Democratic pollster Margie Omero of Purple Strategies as we gab about 2016. This segment aired on October 25, 2013:

What will voter turnout say about the current politics and the future? 

Immigration Reform: Where's the Center?

Immigration is that can that's always being kicked down the road--displaced by the global financial meltdown, passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"), Syria's gassing of civilians, heck, even this season's premier of Scandal on ABC.

But now that the government shutdown is finito, having narrowly averted a debt default, immigration is back...for now. While we are in the so-called calm before our next manufactured political storm, this issue's current movement, while not unexpected, is significant. This is especially the case for Republicans who desperately need to swap their "Party of No" image for one of good ideas and better policy. To be clear, conservatives have good ideas, for example on immigration making permanent the E-Verify system that would penalize employers who do not perform due diligence when hiring an employee.

Unscrupulous companies that exploit those without their work visas, you're on notice.


This week the Immigration Unusual Suspects coalition of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, faith-based leaders, and some Silicon Valley types who after organizing at the beginning of the year to pressure the Senate, are turning up the heat on the House hold outs. The who? Yes, the same characters who brought you The Government Shutdown. Others showing leadership include Congressman Jeff Denham who signed onto a Democratic immigration reform bill and was joined by his Republican colleague Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

Even with a growing conservative coalition from all over the country, a crucial element is missing. The so-called Center as defined by a recent NBC/Esquire poll which refutes the conventional wisdom that people in America are as divided as the elected leaders we send to Washington. Instead, an expanding common ground and shared ideas among mainly whites make up the Center and are being joined by a growing diverse set--women, ethnic and racial minorities, as well as young people. Although progressive, this political "Middle" also displays a more conservative streak in its support of ending:

"affirmative action in hiring and education (57 percent). Most people in the center believe respect for minority rights has gone overboard, in general, harming the majority in the process (63 percent). And just one in four support immigration reforms that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally." [emphasis added]

Unlike the government shutdown or nearing our debt default which strengthened President Obama's hand, overall, immigration reform does not enjoy a plurality of support. I thought this at my DC power lunch spot this week while chatting with a journo friend. Does immigration reform legislation have the support of the white-gloved waiters who don't mind "im'grints" because they work with them everyday? Does it have the support of soccer moms? Will futból mamis who are one generation removed from complicated status and are luxuriating in middle class suburban problems of balancing work, marriage, and kids--are they staying informed, motivating their comadres, and doing their part to keep up the steady pressure with daily acts of civic participation?

Rhetorical questions with answers that reveal a failure on behalf of those who support immigration reform to convince the average people whose political pressure garners attention and action, especially votes. House Holdouts will listen to a critical mass of constituents who believe immigration reform will improve their local economies. The so-called Deportation President will realize that public safety is compromised by programs such as Secure Communities and will pressure ICE to make sure that each of the 1100 people deported each day are hardened criminals.

Until this plurality of regular Americans is convinced that immigration reform is best for them, their families, and neighborhoods, that those who directly benefit from comprehensive legislation are as American as they are, then Speaker Boehner has little incentive to stick out his neck on immigration reform as two members of his conference recently have done. President Obama has little incentive to exert more of his executive authority to grant reprieve to those at risk of or ensnared in today's still wide net of removals.

Click below to watch this "Immigration Mash Up" courtesy of NBC Latino which aired on October 18, 2013.

This clip forms part of a larger post government shutdown agenda panel discussion on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts show which you can view in its entirety and read in The Post Shutdown Agenda or How I Almost Hugged Thomas Roberts on MSNBC.

Click to read more of my posts on politics and immigration.

Why has the so-called Center not "bought in" to comprehensive immigration reform?

The Post Shutdown Agenda or How I Almost Hugged Thomas Roberts on MSNBC

FULL DISCLOSURE: I regularly contribute commentary to MSNBC's Thomas Roberts Show. It is also no secret that I am quite partial to him as the NPR ombudsman notes in a post about sex, looks, power, and the digital space.

"There was, for example, the author of The Wise Latina Club and NPR guest host Viviana Hurtado who wrote in a newsletter blast about MSNBC's Thomas Roberts. After appearing on his show, Hurtado described Roberts as a "smart hunk."

Her comment reflects the flippancy in the freewheeling Internet culture among young men and young women in talking about appearance. The prevalence of such comments may change their impact and make any rules in the mainstream news media seem, well, quaint."


Although I am flattered by being grouped in the "young women" category, the ombudsman misses the new voices and nuances that the "freewheeling Internet culture" allows. The digital space is above all one that threatens the hegemony (yes, I said hegemony) of the so-called arbiters of taste, the gatekeepers who have historically excluded perspectives from different socio-economic, educational, geographic, generational, racial, and ethnic realities. Technology rights this wrong of exclusion, these "others" banding together, finding "voice," community, challenging each other, being informed, and participating as I discuss on NPR (where I occasionally contribute) and write about in Latinos and Social Media: So What? What's Next? Which is What I Said on NPR.

When you hear the buzz words spewed from the mouths of marketers and brands about Hispanics "over-indexing" on social media and mobile devices, they don't understand its true power and significance. Technology opens up spaces where power clusters making us not just consumers of products but decision makers.

If perspective and context are everything, the digital space allows for more, with multi-dimensional nuances creating opportunity to inform, discuss, and participate. This more accurate representation of politics, policies, and life turns up the heat on the gatekeepers. Who cares if ABC's The View doesn't have a Latina (which is a criticism I hear from people who think the show is stale)? That's why we have Latinos in Tech and Social Media (LATISM)'s weekly and predominantly female Twitter party where 11 million impressions are recorded on issues ranging from access to health care, education, civic participation, work/life balance, and immigration to name a few issues. This organization took its empowering message from the virtual space to real life, hosting the Top Blogueras leadership retreat in which I participated where the leading Latina bloggers got a crash course in business and marketing. Not only was there charla. We learned skills to not just "take a little time to enjoy the view" (the show's slogan) but change it.

I have often said that The Wise Latina Club gave me the courage to find my voice. This means that the digital space--my blog, my social media, my newsletters--not only gives me the vehicle to express my opinion grounded in solid reporting and contains the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of an emerging political class. It opens the opportunity to express the different elements of my identity including the tension between intelligence and sexuality. No longer driving a square peg into a round hole, no longer straitjacketed by the one dimension and unidirectional media that is broadcast, I can note, for example, that Thomas Roberts is a "smart hunk." In the next breathe, I talk obscure policy wonk-ese. Instead of undermining, each actually reinforces the other. This is what the NPR ombudsman doesn't grasp, not just about me, but about this brave, new world of the digital space.

Which brings us to my appearance on Thomas' show at MSNBC New York City headquarters at 30 Rock. With MSNBC contributor and LeHigh University professor Dr. James Peterson and's editor-at-large Joan Walsh, the topic was the post government shutdown agenda with immigration and a possible new Homeland Security Secretary and the strains our drones attacks policy have created, particularly with our already complicated allies of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Click below to watch this roundtable discussion which aired on October 18, 2013.

Who "gets" integrating digital and traditional media?

VIDEO: 2013 Sophie's Choice: Fiscal Chaos or Health Care Coverage, What I Said on MSNBC

In the middle of our government's shutdown--a culmination of a year of no appropriations bill--I was on a Google+ hangout with the education and literacy organization I co-founded Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL). I interviewed filmmaker María Aguí Carter for our month-long Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books who told us about her documentary Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Civil War Soldier and Spy.

At the end of our hangout, she floated her next project which will explore the decision--a Sophie's Choice--her mother had to make between herself and brother when the family came to this country illegally. Sophie's Choice is the name of the William Styron novel upon which the Meryl Streep movie is based and is a cultural metaphor to describe any unbearable choice.

While a different context, it's a good lens through which to see what's happening in Washington as Republicans force a government shutdown and possible default on our national debt to #DefundObamacare.

MSNBC VIDEO: 2013 Sophie's Choice: Fiscal Chaos or Obamacare

Click below to watch my appearance on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts Show with Richard Lui guest hosting on September 20, 2013. Thanks to NBC Latino for isolating this clip where with guests MSNBC contributor Dr. James Peterson and Liberal Oasis' executive editor Bill Scher, I talk about lawmakers' efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act and how voters who are not Republican primary voters will react.

If you are wondering what's really prompting this fiscal fiasco or why you should care, you're not alone. Truth is, if you're a "normal" adult--meaning, you go about your life resolving differences or conflict through compromise, then the government shutdown evokes apathy and confusion.

We know that the Affordable Care Act becomes law, withstands a Supreme Court and an election challenge.

We know that a faction of House Republicans are using Congress' "power of the purse" to force this shutdown, resulting in a partial paralysis as government workers are furloughed and some services halted. Things can get a lot worst if this bumps up against the fast approaching deadline to raise the debt ceiling, (in)action that could pull our anemic economic recovery back into recession.

All over what? Republicans say they are defending liberty, fighting big government socialism, and out of control spending which will saddle down our children and grandchildren with loads of debt.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. I, for one, worry about our government's fiscal house. But this isn't the way.


Between politics and policies are people.

Writing in his Wonkblog in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein, not mincing words, stakes a position:

"This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That's it."

So who are these low-income Americans? Millions of blacks, single mothers, and uninsured workers who make very little, clustered in the Deep South where Republican governors have chosen to exercise their states rights to not accept the Medicaid expansion, according to The New York Times.

The message I hear is: if you're poor (insert black, Latino, single head of household woman, etc.), too bad.

I don't hear the message of compassionate conservatism promoted by President George H.W. Bush. I see that the party preservationists such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus have become the minority under siege by emboldened, well-funded ideologues who have no respect for our democracy. This is not about Democrats or Republicans, argues Tom Friedman in his column:

If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.

While this face off in Washington continues, our citizens who have the most to lose are left to fend for themselves, not choosing between buying Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks but rather between food and treatment; a roof over my head and medication.

The faction of Republicans driving this will never agree that Obamacare is a solution, certainly not perfect, to ensure more people get health care coverage.

But what we should be able to agree on is that a growing number of people are making choices that concern basic, daily survival.

They are also Americans and many live in Republican districts.

They need a hand--not a hand out--and we shouldn't turn our backs on them.

Are our politics so polarized that governing will be characterized by lurching from crisis to crisis?

GOP Strat and the Fall or What I Said on MSNBC

Before Congress' recess, immigration reform advocates strategized how to keep precious momentum after legislation survived as I write in "Congress Recess of Immigration Advocacy or My First “Bro fest” on SiriusXM’s Politics Powered by Twitter."

This is no small feat for immigration watchers who witnessed the bill die in the Senate in 2007. Supporters are trying to avert this from happening in the House and indeed showed up at town halls across the country, including in House opponents' districts. Who didn't show? The throngs of angry opponents at least standing against overhauling the nation's immigration laws. They are laser-focusing on the Affordable Care Act and this Fall are adding it to the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff fiscal fights.

What's the strategy?

Refuse to fund it.


This isn't the only game in town. The Republican party hosted a pow wow in Boston, home of our foundational Tea Party which stood up to taxation without representation. Soul searching (this has happened a lot since Election 2012's "thumping"), Newt Gingrich criticized the GOP for being the party of no ideas. As I've said, that's not accurate. Ideas--some really good--are out there such as allowing patient-consumers to buy health plans across state lines to drive down their cost.

You don't hear this or other ideas because #DefundObamaCare (¡!) drowns out everything else.

It also is running contrary to the party's attempts to reach out to new voters, a long view tack in the face of demographic fact: the country is becoming "browner" or more diverse and the Republican base is growing older. In the case of Latinos, "Obamacare" is hugely popular. Makes sense, ¿no?, since this is the group with the largest uninsured. Simply put, the Affordable Care Act means Abuela and Yunior now have better access to get the preventative care and treatment to live healthier lives.

Where is the GOP alternative? Where is the messenger daring on regular basis to do in-reach, going to East L.A., the Doraville section of Atlanta, and La Hacienda supermercado in Orlando to evangelize members of the community with solutions and answers who will in turn spread this good news? Is it the new field team leaders the Republican party announced earlier this summer?

When voters hear, #DefundObamacare, the base hears echoes of liberty and small government.

What does the growing part of the electorate hear?

No healthcare for you.

Too much "No" will translate into another one for the GOP.

In 2016, no White House for you.

This is part of the Agenda panel discussion on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts Show where I joined Thomas, the Nation's Adam Fang, and MSNBC's Timothy Noah.

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What healthcare policy ideas do you want to hear?