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22

Imagine: A reporter leaning over a computer, eyes locked on Donald Trump’s face, watches the President’s lips begin to move, hears the words ‘Great,’ ‘Huge’ and ‘Fake News’ and goes a little berserk – then the phone rings and a voice says sitting in the Oval Office with the Russian Ambassador the President did the same thing: His lips moved – before he thought – and he blurted out secrets.

Imagine this too: For a moment the reporter hesitates. He doesn’t have one shred of proof. His sources won’t talk to him on the record. He can’t quote them. But the tale did sound like Trump – so maybe temptation whispered: The minute they see your headline – ‘Trump Leaks Top Secret Information’ – the Trump-haters are going to click. You could get a million clicks.

Minutes after the story landed on the Washington Post’s website, down at the White House, Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, and Dina Powell, the Deputy National Security Advisor, all said it was false.

I was in the room,” McMaster said.  “It didn’t happen.”

A firestorm erupted and, dancing a two-step, parsing words the Post replied that even though McMaster said its story was ‘false’ that didn’t mean he meant it was incorrect – then suddenly, at the end of the day, it no longer mattered: There was celebration – and cheering – in the newsroom as an ebullient columnist tweeted, ‘Scoop breaks record for the readers per second.’

It was a bad day for journalism. But the Washington Post sold a lot of internet ads.

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17

That’s the guidance Deep Throat gave Bob Woodward through Watergate. It also applies to Trumpgate.

(Of course, it’s hard to follow anything given the velocity with which Trump is trampling the government, national security and the Constitution.)

With Trump, it’s always about the money. His money.

That’s his Russia tie. Not just the long red one around his neck.

A lot of Russian rubles may be flowing, like the Don River, into Trump deals, Trump hotels, Trump golf courses – maybe Trump vodka.

Of course he doesn’t want us to know that. Because then we’ll know how deeply Putin has his hooks into America’s President.

 

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16

CNN said Roger told Donald he ought to fire Comey and Donald Tweeted “Fake news. Have not spoken to Roger in a long time.” Then Roger told ABC he’d spoken to Donald “very recently.” It was an odd sort of disagreement between two old friends that left ‘Trumpistas’ angry, liberals outraged and the media in a tizzy, so in a nano-second a wave of ‘Roger said, Donald said’ stories flew across the internet.

Now here’s the question: Did it matter when Donald talked to Roger? Or was it all just  show business? Like a tiff on a reality show that earned Roger and Donald a mountain of publicity?

 

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15

Trump saw the FBI on his trail. So he fired Comey.

Senate Boss Berger was enraged that Democrats had the gall to propose amendments to his budget. So at 3 am he rammed through an amendment taking money away from schools in Democratic districts.

Those were the actions of tyrants.

There’s another way.

Governor Cooper believed he had a responsibility to stop the damage HB2 was doing to North Carolina. So he worked out a solution with Democrats and Republicans. He shepherded it through the legislature, even though some of his strongest supporters were angry.

Then North Carolina got 1,200 new jobs paying $100,000 on average.

That’s how a leader does it.

 

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12

It was part circus and part melodrama but the mill wheels were grinding, even if it left you shaking your head: On Twitter Trump was hollering ‘Ask her who leaked the classified information’ and, at the same time, the Democrats were howling ‘Prove Flynn was Trump’s go-between with the Russians.’

A trio of Republican Senators set out to bash Sally Yates but it was like watching a terrier yip at a steel magnolia.

The retired general sitting at the table beside Mrs. Yates – who had more than a little curmudgeon in him – was a character-study in his own right: Hunched over he’d sit listening with rapt attention to a long-winded Senator ramble through a harangue then answer with a one syllable grunt – either ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’

No one sitting in the room had a bit of doubt the Russians had meddled in our election or that Michael Flynn had lied to Mike Pence and no one disagreed with Sally Yates when she said that meant the Russians could say to Flynn: You either do what we say or we’ll leak the proof you lied to Pence.

So who do the wheels grind next?

It seems certain the leaker President Trump is worried about is going to be caught. The old curmudgeon handed Lindsey Graham a road map to find him or her.

No one had a shred of evidence – or proof – Trump was in cahoots with the Russians. But as the hearings roll forward Donald Trump’s in for an ordeal by fire: Every breath he’s taken is going to be under a microscope. There’ll be no covering up a single foible. But that’s the messy strength of our democracy: No one can cure the circus. Or stop the mill wheels grinding.

 

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08

He leaned forward pouring over page after page of numbers, searching for a lodestar, then stopped: ‘Republicans are dropping. Democrats are dropping. Independents are going up. There’ll be more registered Independents than Republicans by the end of the year,’ he said and I asked, ‘Did you see Pat McCrory’s TV interview?’

     ‘You mean where Pat said he wants a rematch with Roy Cooper?’

     ‘It sounded that way.’

     He nodded – then asked: ‘Do you know how many followers Pat has on Facebook?’

     ‘201,000.’

     ‘Is he doing anything with them – is he talking to them?’

     ‘He posted 8 times last month. Twice each week.’

     ‘How many followers does Dan Forest have?’

     ‘78,000.’

     ‘What about Phil Berger?’

     ‘137,000. And Phil’s got more sizzle than Pat or Dan. He lights into Roy Cooper.’

     ‘Facebook numbers aren’t scientific – like a poll. They don’t mean Pat beats Dan in a Primary.’

     ‘No. They don’t. But Pat is better known than Dan.’

     ‘What about Phil –  do you think he’ll run?’

     ‘Phil keeps his own council. But he is sending out mailings to Republican voters statewide.’

     ‘What about money?’

     ‘Pat’s got 10 times the money in the bank Dan has. And Phil’s got more money than Pat.’

     He glanced down. Chuckled. ‘If they all run it’ll be Katie-bar-the-door-time. There’s never been a Republican primary for Governor with three major candidates.’

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05

“I was all set to terminate. I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it,” Trump told the reporter.

But he didn’t terminate so, in the next breath, he was telling the reporter, “I get a call from Mexico yesterday, ‘We hear you’re going to terminate NAFTA.’ I said that’s right. They said, ‘Is there any way we can do something without you — without termination?’ I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Well, we’d like to negotiate.’ I said we’ll think about it. Then I get a call, and they call me, I get a call from Justin Trudeau and he said, ‘We’d like to see if we can work something out,’ and I said that’s fine.'”

It was all true.

But why was it in the newspapers?

After he had dinner with China’s President at Mar-a-Lago Trump told reporters, He’s a good man. He’s a very good man and I got to know him very well… I have a very good personal relationship with President Xi.

And after our military started building a missile defense shield in South Korea, Trump, talking with another reporter, said he wanted South Korea to pay for it.

So why is Donald Trump telling reporters stories about his dinners and phone calls and tiffs?

He loves publicity.

A reporter calls. Temptation whispers. And he can’t resist.

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03

David Brooks, the columnist, felt a sea-change.

Last fall, before the election, liberals saw Donald Trump as a buffoon who couldn’t possibly win the election then, on Election Night, right in front of their eyes, the clown turned into a dragon.

After the election – as the dragon headed for Washington – the shaken liberals saw a threat so dire they panicked and, as Brooks put it, “Many of us Trump critics set our outrage level at 11.”  

Panic led to outrage, outrage fueled hysteria, and all hell broke loose.

Then, last week, when Brooks looked at Trump the threat had suddenly “gotten smaller.” Trump, he realized, “tends to back off” when faced with a fight. The dragon had vanished and in its place Brooks saw “a man who is a political pond-skater – one of those little creatures that flit across the surface, sort of fascinating to watch, but have little effect as they go.

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02

To show strength, he said he’d ordered an aircraft carrier to sail straight north to North Korea – then the Pentagon released a photograph of the carrier sailing straight south away from Korea.

He pounds the Washington Politicians but, despite his threats, his wall’s stuck in Congress, his immigration plan’s stuck in the courts, and the newspapers taunt him about the cost when he flies to Mar-a-Lago.

He’s happy Ivanka and Jared are with him in the White House but Steve’s fighting with Jared so his peaceful mornings in Trump Towers are a fading memory.

He doesn’t believe in polls but it’s just as well – his base still loves him but he’s kaput with Democrats and wobbling on his last legs with Independents.

He’s hoeing a tough row: He happily opens the newspaper each morning then he reads the press calling him “Rodney Dangerfield” or “Elmer Fudd” – but he’s got no quit in him. He gets knocked down, picks himself up, and climbs back into the ring.

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28

Last year Trump tore into NAFTA. 

And said China was a no-good currency manipulator, NATO was obsolete, Obama’s Iran Agreement was the ‘worst deal ever,’ and Obama’s Paris Climate Change Agreement was a ‘hoax.’

And he said he was going to fix them all and ‘Make America Great’ – and the crowds at his rallies roared ‘Amen.’

Neither Obama’s Climate Deal or Obama’s Iran Deal was a treaty so, after Trump took his hand off the bible and finished saying the oath of office, all he had to do was say the word and they’d be kaput.

But he didn’t.

He also did an about face on NATO, saying it was no longer obsolete. And on China, saying it was not a currency manipulator.

But here’s what’s peculiar: The folks who’d cheered for Trump and attended Trump rallies didn’t give a toot. Let a Congressman or a Washington Politician try to fuzzle them and they’d be screaming for his blood. But when Trump did it they didn’t mind. They went right on cheering.   

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Carter & Gary
 
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The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
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They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
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