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‘You said to watch that documentary – with all that ranting about ‘real nut jobs’ and ‘stone cold losers’ those two guys remind me of a pair of teenage boys.’

Judge Bryne grunted. ‘You mean Roger Stone and Donald Trump?’

The waitress served three breakfast plates. Conor glanced around the table. ‘That show addled my brain – since then every politician I see on TV sounds like a teenager: Paul Ryan, Sean Spicer – not Mitch McConnell. Nobody’d confuse Mitch McConnell with a teenager.’  

‘Did you read the article too?’

‘The one about bullies?’

A psychologist had written about the traits of school yard bullies: Name-calling (‘he’s a wacko’), belittling others (‘little Marco’), blaming others (‘totally wrong NBC’) and bragging (we had a H-U-G-E crowd last night).

‘What I can’t figure out,’ the judge said, ‘is what we did to deserve this plague.’

‘That’s easy: You take a fellow who’s down on his luck, in a ditch, then you hold an election and the teenage boy tells him, ‘I’m going to screw the politicians that landed you in that ditch.’

‘That’s how. Not why.’

‘Well, the why is Biblical. To cure an Egyptian of mendacity takes a plague of frogs or locusts. But when you mean to cure a hard-headed American that takes a plague of teenage boys.’



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Hand it to Trump. He moves fast. As big a crook as Richard Nixon was, it took him four years to get caught. Trump did it in three months.

It took two years for Nixon to resign.

What might happen with Trump?

Some smart people think he might quit. That he’s thinking: “Running was fun. Winning was huuuuge fun. But this job isn’t fun. It’s hard work. People aren’t nice to me. Some people even criticize me. They don’t all see how great I am.”

So maybe he quits and nurses the grudge forever. Starts Trump TV. And threatens to run again every four years.

Impeachment? That’s hard to see. Republican members of Congress would have to grow some balls. Not happening today.

Or maybe they’ll decide their own political hides are at risk. And dump Trump.

Or it could all turn around for Trump. We’re one terror attack and one working North Korean missile away from him pulling off a George W. Bush-9/11 turnaround.

Or maybe our great system of government works again, like it did in Watergate and Monicagate. A long, painstaking investigation – plus congressional public hearings – gets to the truth. Politicians in Washington rise to the moment. And the right thing happens, whatever that is.

One can hope.


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Harrison Hickman, my genius pollster friend, told me a simple fact about the 2016 presidential election that I had not seen anywhere.

The votes that Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, got in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were enough to swing the election from Hillary Clinton. And make Trump President.

Here are the numbers.

            Clinton           Trump           Margin           Stein

PA       2,926,441     2,970,733     44,292            49,941

MI       2,268,839     2,279,543     10,704            51,463

WI       1,382,536     1,405,284     22,748            31,072

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Former Governor Jim Hunt celebrated his 80th birthday last week. And this year marks 40 years since his first year as Governor.

Last Thursday evening, Governor and Mrs. Cooper hosted Governor and Carolyn Hunt, their family and about 200 “Hunt alumni” – from 16 years of staff, Cabinet and campaign teams – for a wonderful event at the Executive Mansion.

The Coopers were gracious. Governor Cooper paid tribute to a leader he worked with – and still gets frequent calls from. He said he often points out Hunt’s portrait to Mansion visitors. He tells the visitors, “That is the greatest Governor in the history of North Carolina.”

Before we sang Happy Birthday, Governor Hunt spoke. He talked a bit about what we had done over his four terms in office, but, characteristically, he talked more about what needs to be done now. Recruiting candidates for the legislature, raising money, electing Democrats and helping Roy Cooper govern and lead.

The essence of Jim Hunt.

People ask me what he was like to work with. They say, “I don’t mean the public figure. I mean the man. What was he really like?”

Here’s your answer. It’s an interview that WRAL’s David Crabtree did with Hunt last week. You’ll see the personal force, the passion and – above all – the driving, lifting optimism that the people of North Carolina can do great things.

Watch all eight minutes. Then imagine watching it, listening to it and living it for 16 years.

That’s what it was like.

That’s why those of us who worked with him not only feel lucky, but are driven still. Because so much of what poses as public leadership today is so small, pale and mean beside the example Jim Hunt set.

Happy birthday, Governor. Thank you for all you’ve done. For North Carolina – and for every one of us.


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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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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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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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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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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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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?’


     ‘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?’


     ‘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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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
Gary Pearce
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.”
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
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.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
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