TIME White House

White House: Shelling Of U.N. School in Gaza ‘Totally Indefensible’

An alleged Israeli strike hit a crowded U.N. school used as shelter for refugees in the northern Gaza Strip killing at least 15 people the Palestinian Health Ministry said, on July 30, 2014.
An alleged Israeli strike hit a crowded U.N. school used as shelter for refugees in the northern Gaza Strip killing at least 15 people the Palestinian Health Ministry said, on July 30, 2014. Ashraf Amra—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has issued the Obama administration’s toughest critique yet of Israeli conduct in the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, saying Thursday that the Israeli shelling of a U.N. school-turned-shelter for Palestinian civilians was “totally indefensible.”

Addressing reporters, Earnest quoted U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” of the attack, which took place early Wednesday morning. At least 19 people died in the incident, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which ran the shelter. The shelling marked the sixth attack on a U.N. shelter during the ongoing conflict.

On Wednesday, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said “the United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza,” but did not single out Israel for responsibility. Earnest’s comments went further, noting that the U.S. government has no reason to doubt U.N. reports that Israel was behind the shelling.

“It does not appear there’s a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident,” Earnest said.

“The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible,” Earnest said. “And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”

Earnest said the incident should redouble efforts for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, prospects for which slimmed Thursday as the Israeli military prepared to broaden its operations inside Gaza.

“The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of those who have been lost in this terrible conflict,” Earnest added. “And what we are simply asking the Israelis to do, in fact urging the Israelis to do, is to do more to live up to the standards that they have set for their own military operations to protect the lives of innocent civilians.”

Caches of weapons have been found in at least three UNRWA schools over the course of the three-week conflict. In the most recent incident, the Israeli military said its forces took fire from the area around the school and returned fire.

“We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza,” Meehan said. “All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN’s neutrality.”

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Joe Lieberman: Obama Administration “Has Gone Off The Track” On Israel

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-CT., during a press conference in the Senate Studio in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on December 31, 2012.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-CT., during a press conference in the Senate Studio in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on December 31, 2012. Douglas Graham—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

The former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee-turned-independent also says he is watching the rise of Rand Paul "with concern."

After 24 years representing Connecticut in the Senate, Joe Lieberman left Washington in Jan. 2013 as a man without a party—a Democrat-turned-independent-turned-GOP-endorser.

Speaking to TIME 18 months later, Lieberman is content with his decision to quit the Senate, but still has doubts about Washington’s handling of domestic issues and global crises. “I do feel that the Obama administration has gone off the track in the efforts to broker a ceasefire,” he says, saying that the reported terms of a U.S.-offered agreement would have left Hamas stronger from its ongoing conflict with Israel.

The former Democratic vice presidential nominee said he takes issue with the growing “neo-isolationism” within the Democratic and Republican parties, saying he’s watched the rise of Sen. Rand Paul “with concern.” “The world suffers and the American people suffer eventually both in terms of our security and our prosperity—and ultimately our freedom—if we’re not engaged in problems elsewhere,” he says.

Lieberman said he has yet to make a decision about who to endorse in 2016, after drawing fire from Democrats for his outspoken support for Sen. John McCain over then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. But he said he believes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would keep the Democratic Party engaged in the world.

Lieberman was recently named the inaugural Joseph Lieberman Chair in Public Policy and Public Service at Yeshiva University where he will deliver lectures and teach in the upcoming academic year. Lieberman says he hopes to convince young people to pursue public service despite the gridlock in Washington.

The following conversation has been lightly condensed and edited:

Looking at the dysfunction in Washington today, are you glad you left Congress? How do you plan on encouraging young people to go into public service in this political climate?

I didn’t leave because of the partisanship and the lack of getting anything done, but it made it a lot easier to leave. I will tell you that my last two years was the least productive of my 24 for me and for the Congress really. And I watch it needless to say from here with a sense of, oh, disappointment, frustration, and in some sense embarrassment because I still feel an identity with the institution. And I know how important it is that it gets some problems solved.

Notwithstanding all of that, or maybe in some sense because of all the dysfunction in the federal government and government generally, but the federal government particularly, people like me have to try to convince students that it’s worth getting involved and that they can still make a difference and maybe together with others of like mind and heart they can actually change things for the better. I look back on my years in public service with a lot of gratitude for the various things that I was able to do. Part of my message to the students at YU is going to be I never got, honestly, anything significant done without the support of people in the Republican Party. In other words, I never felt that I could do it alone as a Democrat, and obviously in my last term as an independent I needed support of people in both parties. It’s all about a willingness to put—as formalistic as it sounds—to put the interests of country ahead of the interests of party or ideology.

How do you view the turmoil in the world today and the American response, particularly to the conflict in Gaza?

These events have occurred of their own momentum. They have a life of their own. On the other hand, I’m afraid that the U.S. has sent a message that we’re going to be less engaged in the world than we have been at other times in our history and I’m afraid that encourages some others to try to take advantage of us and our allies. It’s not just President Obama and the U.S. government, I think in many ways it’s the Europeans as well. And I’m afraid that may have encouraged Putin to seize the moment and seize Crimea. So the world suffers and the American people suffer eventually both in terms of our security and our prosperity—and ultimately our freedom—if we’re not engaged in problems elsewhere. So that’s a general statement.

I think in the Hamas-Israel conflict, which is just one of a broader series of conflicts going on in the middle east, the administration has been strong in supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against the Hamas missile attacks and the Hamas terrorist attacks. But lately, I do feel that the Obama administration has gone off the track in the efforts to broker a ceasefire, as much as everybody would like to see the violence stop. Because I think those efforts, if they had been pushed any harder—it seems like they have fallen by the wayside now—would have really allowed Hamas to emerge from this much stronger than they went into it and they began this. Israel is our ally and Israel is a democracy and Israel is governed by the rule of law. Hamas is a terrorist organization that is a declared enemy of the U.S. as well as Israel. And the last proposal made by Secretary Kerry, who I greatly admire and like, but nonetheless if the proposal was as it was reported, it really would have strengthened Hamas and weakened Israel. And in some sense coincidentally strengthened Qatar, Turkey, and Iran who are backing Hamas and weakened our other allies in the Arab world like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE and the Palestinian Authority who don’t want to see Hamas strengthened. So I think it was a mistake and I’m glad it seems to have fallen by the wayside and I hope the Secretary tries again but with another plan.

Looking ahead to the 2016 election, what do you make of the field. Many Democrats are coalescing around former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, do you think you will as well?

I don’t know yet. It’s good to be out of active politics and watching it. I’ve known Secretary Clinton for a long time. We met briefly, though I got to know President Clinton much better, when they were both at Yale Law School. And I’ve known them well. So I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton and some of the things that I’ve worried about in both the Obama administration and the drift of the Democratic party which is away from American international leadership, I hope and believe would not be true with Hillary Clinton as the candidate, and if she’s elected, as the president. But it’s much too early for me, anyway, to decide what or whether or if anybody cares I will do in this campaign. The more fascinating part of the campaign, of course, will be the Republican presidential primaries.

What do you make of the rise of Sen. Rand Paul and the Republican Party’s isolationist wing.

I’ve watched it with concern, because honestly, as a pro-defense Democrat, there’s a way in which I relied for some period of time on the Republicans—and some Democrats, but not other Democrats—to support strong defense, muscular foreign policy, etc. Now there is a certain attrition happening on the Republican side, mostly among the so-called libertarians and to a certain extent among tea party people who are so focused on reducing taxes that they seem more willing than Republicans have in recent years to cut back on support of America’s defense. There is—I don’t think any of us have found the right word for it, so I opt for neo-isolationism. There is a kind neo-isolationism, certainly a retrenchment from internationalism going on in both parties and to me it’s troubling. It’s troubling for the future of the country.

How did this appointment come about? What are you hoping to accomplish?

It ended up with an unexpected result. Richard Joel, the president of YU, reached out to me last year about wanting to do something in my name at YU in public policy. For the obvious reason, I suppose, that I am both Orthodox Jewish and was involved in public service. I was touched and honored by that. Because I hoped and still do that it’s going to be a permanent, endowed chair, but then they surprised me toward the end of the process asking me to be the first occupant of the chair, which I’ll do for a while as long as it’s working for me and the students, but i’m exciting about it. It’s very much part time. I’m going to give three public lectures in the fall semester in various schools of the university, probably starting with one Yeshiva College, one at Stern [College for Women], and then one at Cardozo [Law School]. And then in the second semester I will teach an undergraduate course in public policy, public service. So I’m looking forward to it. I actually taught this last semester at Columbia law School and I’m going to repeat that course this fall and I enjoyed it immensely, more than I expected actually. It was just very rewarding to try to convey what I experienced and learned to the next generation of students, some of whom, hopefully, will consider public service.

I’ve taught college courses way back to the late 70s and early 80s at Yale. So those were residential college seminars and I enjoyed that too. But I must say that I’m at a different stage of my life. I finished my time in elected office, I look back at it with great gratitude that I had the opportunities I did. There is no question I was influenced by people who were in once sense or another teachers of mine. So I view this as an opportunity both to try to inform students today about public policy, but also to hopefully attract some of them into public service.

TIME Congress

Paul Ryan: Sue Obama, But Don’t Impeach Him

Rep. Paul Ryan speaks to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on July 30, 2014. Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan said Republicans should continue with their plans to sue President Barack Obama over his executive actions and regulations, but should stop short of attempting to impeach him.

“This does not rise to the high crimes and misdemeanor level,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The impeachment talk has been a steady theme among the GOP’s Tea Party wing and has been embraced in recent days by Democrats as a potent fundraising tool.

“I see this as sort of a ridiculous gambit by the President and his political team to try and change the narrative, raise money and turn out their base for an upcoming election that they feel is not going to go their way,” Ryan said Wednesday, echoing House Speaker John Boehner’s comments Tuesday that the White House’s impeachment talk is a “scam.” “We have no plans to impeach the President,” Boehner said.

But the White House has been hard at work keeping the issue alive. On Friday, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer said he “wouldn’t discount” the possibility of impeachment. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest read off a list of Tea Party Republicans who had made comments about impeachment, defending the White House’s decision to talk about the issue.

Earnest would not say that Democrats should stop fundraising off impeachment, a tactic that has brought in more than $1 million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It is up to Democrats to make their own decisions about ensuring that their candidates have the resources necessary to run successful campaigns in the fall,” he said.

Ryan, however, defended Republicans’ decision to file a lawsuit against Obama’s executive actions, saying that Congress’ traditional avenue of checking the executive branch—through budgeting—is unavailable because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“What John [Boehner] is doing is expressing frustration that we are not using the power of the purse, so he’s trying to stand up for congressional prerogatives and that is why the lawsuit has intellectual merit, because we want to show that we’re not going to take this lying down,” he said. “The President is issuing executive orders and regulations that exceed the parameters of the statutes that gave him the authority in the first place.”

 

TIME russia

U.S., E.U. Boost Sanctions on Russia

"It doesn't have to be this way"

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The U.S. is escalating sanctions on the Russian economy nearly two weeks after the shootdown of a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine and amid growing violence along that country’s border with Russia. President Barack Obama announced the new sanctions Tuesday hours after the E.U. approved similar measures.

“Today the United States is imposing new sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy: energy, arms, and finance,” Obama said from the White House.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned three Russian banks: Bank of Moscow, Russian Agricultural Bank and VTB Bank OAO, in an effort to increase “costs” on Russia, Obama announced, while the U.S. government is restricting exports of energy-related parts to Russia.

The new sanctions also apply to United Shipbuilding Corp., the largest such company in Russia. “We have hit five of the six largest state-owned banks in Russia,” a senior Obama Administration official said Tuesday.

The U.S. will also require export licenses for energy-related technology for new Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale projects, according to that official. Additionally, the official said there would be no new Ex-Im Bank transactions with Russia.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Obama said, calling on Russia to rein in separatist forces and become a “good neighbor” to Ukraine. “This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made.”

Obama said that since the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that Russia and “its proxies in Ukraine” had in several ways impeded the crash investigation, including by tampering with evidence. The U.S. government believes that Russian-backed separatist forces deployed an SA-11 surface-to-air missile provided by Russia to shoot down the airliner, likely confusing it with a Ukrainian military aircraft.

Obama said the new sanctions would further weaken the Russian economy, which has suffered from capital flight amid the ongoing crisis, adding that still more sanctions could be imposed if Russia doesn’t reverse course. When asked if the rising diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Russia represent a “new Cold War,” Obama balked. “No, this is not a new Cold War,” the President said.

TIME White House

The Story Behind President Obama’s Custom Golf Balls

Not all golf balls are created equal when the President tees up for a foursome

Golfing at the tony Congressional Country Club this weekend, President Barack Obama shanked a ball off the first tee into the woods, providing a similarly unlucky player with a keepsake souvenir—a personalized presidential golf ball.

Dallas resident Pace Doherty found the president’s ball on Sunday, a day after the duffer-in-chief hit the links with aide Marvin Nicholson and ESPN personalities Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. The Titleist balls were personalized with Obama’s official nicknames, with the word “POTUS” on one side and the number “44” on the other. (Obama is the 44th President of the United States, and POTUS is the quasi-official acronym for his job title.)

A source familiar with the president’s golfing confirmed that Obama personally pays for the golf balls, which retail for $57.99 a dozen, or about $10 more than a non-customized set.

Doherty posted a photo of the custom golf ball on Instagram.

Titleist spokesman Eric Soderstrom identified the ball as from the company’s signature Pro V1 line, currently played by 2013 Green Jacket winner Adam Scott. “We have been supplying golf balls to golfing presidents for many years,” he said Monday. “It is harder than you think to stamp perfectly on a round sphere with dimples in it.”

In his definitive tome on presidential golfing, First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush, ESPN reporter Don Van Natta, Jr. records former President Richard Nixon playing with custom golf balls featuring his signature and the presidential seal. Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all had golf balls featuring their signatures as well.

Presidential golf balls and boxes, 1970-92.
Presidential golf balls and boxes signed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior. Sarah Fabian-Baddiel—Heritage Images/Getty Images

The golf ball in question differs slightly in design from Obama’s first presidential model, also a Pro V1. The initial version featured the “44” with the presidential seal on the opposite side. Titleist sold Obama those balls in a custom half-dozen box emblazoned with the presidential seal.

As recently as 2010, double-digit play numbers were reserved for the commander in chief alone, requiring the company to make special modifications to its processing line. But no longer. The company upgraded its manufacturing systems to allow anyone to print double-digit play numbers. Custom Pro V1 golf balls monogrammed with a “44” and “POTUS” like Obama’s retail for $57.99 on the website Golfsmith.com.

Amazon.com sells the monogram-free stock dozen Pro V1 golf balls for $47.95.

 

 

 

TIME Immigration

Obama: Migrant Children Without Humanitarian Claims Will Be Sent Back

An estimated 90,000 migrant children could cross into the U.S. before September. The President met with leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to discuss ways to slow the influx

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President Barack Obama took a tough line on the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have crossed the nation’s southern border in recent months, saying those without humanitarian claims will be subject to return to their home countries eventually.

Meeting with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Obama continued his efforts to dissuade parents from sending their children on the often dangerous journey to the United States. “Children who do not have proper claims,” Obama said, “will at some point be subject to repatriation to their home countries.”

But Obama did preview what the administration is calling a “pilot program” that he is considering in Honduras to allow those with refugee claims to make them from that country without physically making the journey to the United States.

“Typically refugee status is not granted just on economic need or because a family lives in a bad neighborhood or poverty,” Obama said. “It’s typically defined fairly narrowly.”

“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” he added. “If that were the case it would be better for them to apply in-country rather than take a very dangerous journey up to Texas to make those same claims. But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants.”

Obama said such a system would keep smugglers from profiting off families seeking better lives for their children, and “makes this underground migration system less necessary.”

Earlier this month Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson estimated that up to 90,000 migrant children will attempt to cross into the U.S. during the fiscal year ending this September.

TIME republicans

Top Obama Aide: Rand Paul Is ‘Most Intriguing’ Republican

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the 2014 National Urban League Conference July 25, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the 2014 National Urban League Conference July 25, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jay LaPrete—Getty Images

"He's the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans"

A senior aide to President Barack Obama suggested Friday that Sen. Rand Paul would be the greatest threat to Democrats’ hopes to retain the White House in 2016.

Speaking to reporters, counselor to the president Dan Pfeiffer said the Kentucky Republican is “one of the most intriguing candidates” in the field because of his appeal to younger voters of both parties.

“He’s the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans,” Pfeiffer said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “Every other Republican running is basically just Romney-lite when it comes to younger Americans.” Rand has made reaching out to non-traditional voters a signature component of his political agenda, most recently delivering a speech Friday to the National Urban League.

As for the senator’s presidential hopes, Pfeiffer questioned whether Paul has the organization to be a real threat and acknowledged that he would have to first make it through a tough primary where some of his positions are problematic to voters. But, he added, “there’s a germ of something there.”

Among Paul’s potential rivals, Pfeiffer suggested that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would be one of the weakest candidates Republicans could field. “I think that Sen. Cruz would be a really interesting candidate for Democrats,” he said. “He is deeply out of step with the country on a wide array of issues.”

Asked whether he would prefer to run a candidate against Cruz or Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Pfeiffer laughed, “That’s like, would you rather have ice cream or cake.”

One of the longest-serving Obama aides, Pfeiffer brushed away the suggestion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee, has tried to distance herself from Obama in recent weeks as she travels the country on her book tour.

“I don’t think that we should presume that Secretary Clinton or anyone else must agree 100% with the president on every single decision that was ever made, either before or since,” Pfeiffer said. “But she has been incredibly loyal to this president.”

“On the long list of concerns that I have in my life, political and otherwise, this is pretty low on the list,” he added. “I don’t think that she’s trying to distance herself.”

TIME Barack Obama

Top Obama Aide: I ‘Would Not Discount’ Impeachment

U.S. President Obama greets U.S. Vice President Biden before signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Barack Obama before signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the White House in Washington on July 22, 2014. Joshua Roberts—Reuters

House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against the president has "opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some in the future," says Dan Pfeiffer

A senior aide to President Barack Obama said Friday he “would not discount” the possibility of Republicans trying to impeach the president in the coming months.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Dan Pfeiffer, a counselor to the president, said House Republican efforts to sue Obama could lead them down the road toward impeachment proceedings.

“I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off,” Pfeiffer said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “I would not discount that possibility. I think Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some in the future.”

Pfeiffer’s comments came as a new poll from CNN/ORC was released showing that around one third of Americans, and a majority of Republicans, said that Obama should face impeachment.

Asked whether impeachment would be a net positive for the president, Pfeiffer said he didn’t think so. “I think that impeachment is a very serious thing that has been bandied about by the recent Republican vice-presidential nominee [Sarah Palin] and others in a very non-serious way, and no one has even made any allegation of anything that would be within six universes of what is generally considered in that space. But no, we take it very seriously and I don’t think it would be a good thing.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel accused Pfeiffer of playing “political games” with the suggestion of impeachment. “We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals. It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.”

The prospect of impeachment could be a political boon for Democrats this fall, driving up the base’s interest in the midterm elections this year. The House only needs a simple majority to report out articles of impeachment, but the Senate must convict on a two-thirds vote, a potential messaging point for Democrats as they seek to hold onto the majority in the Senate.

Pfeiffer said the Republican efforts to sue Obama “in some way validates” the executive actions that the president has pursued, which have come under fire from Democratic critics for being too limited in scope.

TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Battered By His GOP Rivals on Governors’ Circuit

Republican Governors
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listen as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Republican Governors Association's quarterly meeting on Wednesday May 21, 2014 in New York. Bebeto Matthews—AP

On paper, New Jersey's Chris Christie leads the nation's Republican governors. In practice, he is becoming a favored target of his peers.

Forget, for the moment, about the cornfields and the straw polls, the live-free-or-die gun shops of Manchester and the sticky-sweet BBQ pits of South Carolina. There is a point in the 2016 presidential campaign, when the action that matters most is more likely to happen under gilded ceilings of Manhattan’s toniest restaurants than where voters actually live. Which is why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie found himself supping at Cipriani on May 18, seated between the billionaire who might fund his way to the White House and a rival governor who wants the job himself. It was a test meal, in its way, and Christie fumbled it.

Organizers had told the press to attend to hear Christie give a muscular address on his foreign policy vision. But the real audience was his table-mate, Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who dumped more than $100 million to elect Republicans in 2012 and was promising even more. Just weeks earlier, Christie had flown to Vegas with three other current and former Republican governors to meet with Adelson at his Venetian casino under the banner of the Republican Jewish Coalition. There Christie had botched his message, speaking of Israel’s “occupied territories,” a term that the Zionist Adelson does not favor. Christie later apologized during his few private minutes with the GOP kingmaker. Now he was back for what organizers called a “Major Speech on Israel and the Middle East.” And something went wrong again. He didn’t mention Israel once in his 18-minute address. In the midst of a political rehabilitation tour, his tablemate Texas Gov. Rick Perry saw a clear opportunity. When he rose to speak minutes later, Perry shoehorned three references to Israel within 90 seconds.

As the head of the Republican Governors Association, Christie is the charismatic captain of a club composed of formal partners but tacit rivals. And that rivalry has only gotten stronger in recent months. Despite surface-level niceties and some degree of symbiotic friendship, many want to see him and his presidential ambitions go up in flames. On Thursday, the tensions broke into view as Republican state leaders broke with Christie, who has refused to publicly appear with Rob Astorino, a long-shot candidates hoping to replace Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” tweeted Perry, a few days after Christie told reporters he did not believe that the Republican Astorino had a chance of winning. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have all since expressed support for Astorino.

This follows several other thinly veiled slights in recent months. Just last week Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal implicitly criticized Christie’s habit of picking and choosing issues to engage on, saying the GOP must offer ideas not style. “The next big elections can’t be ones about personalities or just about slogans,” he told TIME, after a question about Christie. After Christie became ensnared in a scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, Jindal had told reporters, “No one governor’s more important than the other.” In February, Scott Walker used Christie’s scandal to sidestep questions about an investigation into improper political activities by his former aides. “He addressed it early on, but obviously he’s not out of the woods yet,” Walker told TIME, saying unlike his, Christie’s troubles were “just beginning.” And when Christie was nearly down-for-the-count in the immediate aftermath of the bridge scandal, Perry fanned the flames. “Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?” Perry asked in February on ABC’s This Week.

As the Republican Party looks to its governors for leadership after years of chaos and infighting in Washington, Christie is no longer a cut above the rest, even as he travels the country as the official leader of Republican governors. Christie is routinely on the road meeting donors and reporters, and by the nature of the job working to defend the 20 Republican-held governorships up for re-election this year. Christie allies said the group was close, despite occasional disagreements. “First and foremost, they’re friends, so they want to be able to help each other,” says RGA Executive Director Phil Cox. Like any club, behind the pretense there are tense personal relationships, but the stakes are unusually high. Perry, Walker, and Jindal are just some of the governors competing in 2016’s proto-primary alongside John Kasich of Ohio, and Mike Pence of Indiana.

The Jindal-Christie relationship is the most fraught, stemming from a bitter leadership battle for the high-profile helm of the RGA in 2012. Christie won out, securing enough votes to force Jindal to accept the number two spot. And with Perry, Christie’s conversations frequently could not be described as civil, people familiar with the exchanges said. With Christie’s fortunes soured, his opponents hurriedly planned trips to New York to meet with the donor class he once seemed to have a lock on. Jindal and Perry have been there as much as twice a month since the beginning of the year, while Walker has made at least four trips as he raises money for his own re-election. Meanwhile, top donors are once again clamoring for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to enter the race.

“It’s like your fiancé cheated on you,” said a person close to one of the ambitious governors, explaining why no other governor has yet emerged as a new favorite. “You don’t propose to the next girl you meet. You take your time to have some fun and meet everyone else.” Meanwhile many of the governors Christie is working to re-elect have tried to place some distance between themselves and Christie, with fewer joint events open to reporters. The calls from New York financiers for Christie to run have become less frequent as they take stock of the field. Christie’s core argument to his party and Wall Street has been his electability, and he is still struggling to show he can win despite the setbacks. More importantly to donors, the question is whether he has learned from the experience. “He’s still surrounded by the same guys,” said one top Republican bundler who was previously committed to Christie. “Where’s the growth? I’m not seeing it yet.”

But it is Christie’s economic record that is emerging as a concrete boot to his likely campaign. His state’s finances are in shambles, with Christie forced to rollback a signature effort to begin paying down the state’s skyrocketing unfunded pension liabilities after overestimating state revenues by nearly $1 billion for each of the next two years. Christie’s state lags most of his GOP colleagues on annual rankings of the best state to do business, while its unemployment rate puts New Jersey in the bottom third of states. Where Christie talks up the successes of all GOP governors, Perry and Jindal travel the country referring to the governors as “competitors” for jobs, not-so-subtly highlighting their states’ relative successes.

The bridge scandal has also revealed the insularity of Christie’s team, centered around strategist Mike DuHaime and former law partner and political fixer Bill Palatucci. The former Giuliani for President campaign manager and Republican National Committee member, are the hard-charging pair behind the harder-charging would-be-candidate. Todd Christie, the governor’s brother, rounds out the inner circle that once included Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager who was poised to take on a role with the RGA and was forced to resign in the wake of his involvement in the bridge scandal.

Where Jindal, Perry and Walker all maintain national and grassroots donor lists thanks to political action committees, Christie’s political network is largely confined to New Jersey outside of his appeal to large donors. “He’ll start out at a disadvantage,” said on GOP digital operative familiar with the potential candidates’ operations.

At the Law Vegas gathering of Republican Jewish donors in March, Scott Walker tried to steal some of Chris Christie’s thunder. He sonorously told of lighting a “menorah candle” around Hanukah and that his son Matthew’s name is derived from the Hebrew for ‘Gift from God.’ Walker sidestepped his lack of foreign policy experience by telling of Ronald Reagan’s showdown with air traffic controllers that “sent a message around the world,” and highlighted his ability to win over Latino voters around Milwaukee. Each of these anecdotes were staples of Christie’s now-familiar pitch to donors and party activists.

Thankfully for Christie, he’s still the more dynamic speaker. Following 45 minutes after Walker, Christie told the same stories—but this time, the crowd was brought to their feet for applause.

Correction: The story has been changed to properly describe the people who had characterized the New York event as a “Major Speech on Israel and the Middle East.” They were event organizers.

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