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08
The debate in the Democratic Party isn’t even whether Hillary Clinton should be the nominee. It’s whether anyone should even have the audacity to challenge her.
 
This is truly remarkable, when you think about it. Democrats always want a fight. Every year in modern times when no incumbent Democratic President was running for reelection, there was a fight: 1960, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Sometimes there was a fight even when there was an incumbent: 1968 (before LBJ pulled out) and 1980 (Ted Kennedy challenged Carter).
 
Two old Democratic heads have taken the two sides of this debate: the ever-contrary Gary Hart (for a challenge) and one-time Clinton tormentor Jerry Brown (against a challenge).
 
Hart, who almost knocked off Establishment choice Walter Mondale in 1984, says there should be and will be a challenger, former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who happens to be a former Hart campaign staffer.
 
Hart said, “The job of a challenger is to force specificity: Here is my plan, now let’s see her plan.” He decried dynasties: “If you’ve got to have a billion dollars to run for president, how many people can do that? Only the Clintons and the Bushes and one or two others. This country is 330 million people, and we should not be down to two families who are qualified to govern. … When you create dynastic networks, you shut a lot of people out.”
 
On the other side is Brown, the past and present Governor of California. Brown ran against Bill Clinton in 1992, famously angering Clinton in a debate when he accused Hillary Clinton’s law firm of benefiting from its relationship with the-then Governor of Arkansas.
 
But now he says, “I can’t think of anything I’d rather have less if I were running for president than to have a competitor in the primary. The primaries get into all the little nuances and small differences of candidates of the same party. What Hillary needs is a good debate drawing the distinctions between where she stands and where all these Republicans, these wannabes running around, (stand).”
 
“There’s some big differences, and they’re more with the Republicans. So let’s have the debate and let’s see where America wants to be. I don’t think running some couple of Democrats would illuminate the process.”
 
Brown, always good for a good quote, also took a shot at Republicans who oppose President Obama’s immigration executive actions, calling them “at best troglodyte, and at worst, un-Christian.”
 
For now, while a new Republican candidate announces every week, Clinton has four unannounced but real opponents: her own perceived shortcomings as a candidate; Bill Clinton, who is like one of those flashy basketball players who can keep both teams in the game at the same time; her huge campaign team’s potential for discord and dysfunction; and the media, which seems suspicious and even hostile to her.
 
She has enormous strengths: experience, a proven record, toughness and the historic momentum behind electing a woman to the Presidency.
 
The question for Democrats is whether a challenge would make her stronger or expose real flaws

 

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07
Much to my amazement, I turn 66 years old today. I never thought I’d be this young when I got this old.
 
There was a time after turning 60 when I was reluctant to reveal my age. I didn’t want people to think I was, you know, TOO old. Now it’s a badge of honor.
 
I’m lucky, first of all. Too many of my peers didn’t make it to 66. Others are ailing, infirm and unable to enjoy life like they used to. But I also have many friends in their 70s, 80s and beyond who are hale, hearty and hard to keep up with.
 
I’m blessed with good health. Most every day, I run, swim or do yoga. Running is key to my end-of-life planning. That is, I plan to drop dead running at a ripe old age. Go straight from running to lying on the ground. No stop for nursing homes, feeding tubes or assisted living.
 
That could be a while off. My 80-something mother is enjoying her second marriage and travelling all over. Her mother lived to be 107.
 
I’m blessed with my family, friends and colleagues. Thanks to our children, I have young friends who tolerate me, teach me new things and constantly refresh my outlook.
 
I have work I love doing, a blog I love writing and clients I love working with. As Warren Buffett says, I tap-dance to work every day.
 
Also this spring, I celebrate 50 years of working. When I turned 16 in 1965, my father sent me to see Woodrow Price, managing editor of The N&O. Woodrow gave me a job as a copyboy, kind of a newsroom go-fer. I stayed at the paper for 10 years.
 
Nearly 40 years ago, on January 1, 1976, I went to work for Jim Hunt in his first campaign for Governor. That turned out well.
 
Thirty years ago, in January 1985, I opened my own consulting firm. Still going strong.
 
So I have much to celebrate today. Cut the cake!

 

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06
You could hear Republican heads exploding when the President announced a deal to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Predictably, Republicans sided with Bibi over Obama.
 
There is something about their knee-jerk response that raises suspicions. Is it really a bad deal, or is it just that Obama’s political enemies are just bound and determined to oppose anything he does? Is it really such a great idea for the United States to blindly rubberstamp everything Bibi does? Is what Bibi says is good for Israel automatically good for America?
 
The same suspicion rises when the GOP war hawks demand a full-scale war with ISIS. Their reasoning: ISIS is a bunch of savage, terrible people. They behead innocent people and do other horrible things. Even worse, we see it online and on the evening news.
 
Well, the world is full of terrible people doing horrible things. Like Boko Haram in Africa. But they don’t seem to have the same level of media savvy as the savages in ISIS. Ergo, send our military into the Middle East. After all, it worked out so well last time.
 
Pardon us for noticing that the Iran deal’s detractors don’t have such a great track record.

 

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03
Roy whacked Pat. Pat then slapped Phil. Phil poked Pat back. And no one laid a glove on Roy.
 
That was last week.
 
This week Roy whacked Pat again. And Pat gabbed Phil three times.
 
Last week Pat said Phil was cutting taxes too much – and this week he said  Phil was ‘raising taxes’ too much. And added Republican State Senators sounded to him a lot like John Edwards talking about ‘class warfare.’
 
Pat also said Phil’s bill saying magistrates don’t have to perform gay marriages – if it doesn’t sit well with their religious beliefs – is wrong-headed. And the Senate’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Bill” (which also relates to gay rights) isn’t needed.
 
And four gay mayors then invited Pat to join their gay rights coalition.
 
It’s been a messy two weeks. But there’s a method in the madness.
 
Roy wants to be Governor so he’s attacking Pat on education.
 
Pat figures Phil is too conservative and attacking Phil will help him defeat Roy.
 
And, well, Phil’s simply for old-fashioned conservative. Who’s for lower taxes and opposes gay-marriage.
 
And that’s the way of things: Take a bit of logic, add politicians, taxes, and gay-marriage – and you end up with a quagmire.  


 

 

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02
For Christians, Easter is more than eggs, ham and bunnies. It’s a celebration of the central miracle and mystery of faith – the resurrection of Jesus, the hope of salvation and the promise of everlasting life.
 
Meanwhile, the secular political world is roiled over laws that, critics say, would let people of faith discriminate against LGBT people.
 
This Easter weekend, then, let’s ponder what Jesus might do. Condemn LGBT people and condone discrimination against them? Turn them away from the inn, as it were?
 
Apparently, many people of faith fervently answer yes.
 
Many others find it abhorrent to their faith and their understanding.
 
Maybe we ought to do more praying and less judging.

 

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01
Governor McCrory and Speaker Tim Moore have two big reasons to worry about the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” (aka, the “Freedom to Discriminate Against Gays Act”): business and politics.
 
It’s bad business for North Carolina. And bad politics for McCrory, Senator Burr and House Republicans.
 
Business first. Indiana shows how such a law can hurt a state’s brand and scare away business. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla vetches about not having incentive money. This could make his incentives moot.
 
Then there’s politics. Republican strategists are worrying, and they should, over how much political money could flood into North Carolina against their candidates because of the law. If they think they saw a lot of independent money flow in last year against Thom Tillis, wait until they see how much money this issue attracts.
 
That could cost Burr and McCrory reelection. It could also take out House Republicans in Wake County like Nelson Dollar, Marilyn Avila and Gary Pendleton.
 
Philosophically, this is a classic American debate. It pits two of our strongest impulses: on one hand, to respect every individual’s sincere religious beliefs and, on the other hand, to knock down all forms of discrimination against any individual.
 
But forget philosophy. This is politics. For Republicans, it’s Business Republicans against Church Republicans.
 
Democrats may hate the legislation. But they can love watching Republicans fight over it – and lose over it.

 

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31
Thanks to a TAPster who remembers the 1980s for this one:
 
 
“(North Carolina Congressman) Patrick McHenry is listed as an organizer of a new joint fundraising committee named – drum roll – Whip It Good PAC.  At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently not.”
 
 
For those not familiar with the Devo song and video “Whip It,” enjoy.
 
 
Whip it, Patrick.

 

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30
Going back to the days of Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt, Young Democrats were a breeding ground for extraordinary leaders. But the current crop may become the best ever.
 
I spent several hours in Chapel Hill Saturday morning at the annual state convention of YDs, College Dems and Teen Dems. They are just as smart, capable and determined as their predecessors. They are extremely focused, serious and hard-headed in their politics.
 
They know the party faces tough challenges in North Carolina, so they’re free of the overconfidence and sometimes-overweening personal ambition of some past YDs. Above all, they are committed to Service with a capital S.
 
One panel, far too brief, featured eight young Democrats who hold elected office across the state, including Wake County Commissioners Matt Calabria and Jessica Holmes. Each panelist had four minutes to talk about the rewards and challenges of running for and serving in public office. They should have had 20 minutes each.
 
I was on a panel just before them, serving as the designated Old White Guy. The last question to us was whether the Democratic Party has a strong bench of talent. Judging from Saturday, the clear answer is Yes.
 
Being there did more than pump me up. It told me this crowd is ready. They get that the Democratic Party has to update its message for a new state, a new generation and a new economy. They understand how data, analytics and social media are transforming political communications and organization.
 
They don’t see themselves as “leaders of the future.” They’re ready now. Older Democrats need to be ready for them. If they aren’t, they should be pushed aside. And I’ll help push.

 

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27
After capturing the capital the rebels are now hurtling toward Aden.     
 
The President’s fled. No one knows where he is. Or if he’s in the country.
 
And the rebels have put a $100,000 bounty on his head.  
 
Our Embassy’s been shuttered. Our troops have been evacuated.
 
Saudi Arabia’s making airstrikes but it looks like it’s too late.
 
Last fall, President Obama hailed Yemen as a prime example of his success in the battle to stop terrorists like ISIS.
 
Now, in Yemen, the terrorists have all but won.
 
In Washington, the best President’s press spokesman can do is say, ‘We call on them to stop the instability and violence.’
 
And we’re a pretty long way from the days when Presidents ‘walked softly and carried a big stick.’


 

 

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27
We’re going to have to start thinking before we hit Send, Share or Post.
 
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spent a couple of weeks wallowing in a media mudbath over her State Department emails. Jeb Bush pounced on her. Then we found his staff deep-sixed many of his emails.
 
Roy Cooper called for more open government. Then the Republican Party called on him to release 14 years of his emails. Good thing Roy’s folks didn’t ask my advice. I’d say, “Screw ‘em. It’s a political stunt and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
 
The latest advance in opposition research is scouring the social media profiles of newly hired campaign staffers, many of whom have posted statements and photos that don’t read so well or look so amusing in retrospect. A few promising careers crashed as a result.
 
How would you like someone examining every email you’ve sent, plus every online post, picture and hot-headed comment?
 
Carter and I may well have posted blogs that we would regret today. But writing a longer post, as opposed to a quick, a Facebook retort or a 140-characer tweet, usually gives you time to realize that what you’re saying is best left unsaid.
 
As super-lawyer Edward Bennett Williams once observed, “Nothing is frequently a very good thing to do and always a brilliant thing to say.”

 

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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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