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13
Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted man in America.” Brian Williams became the least trusted man in America overnight and had to leave the set. The same day, Jon Stewart, who had become the new most trusted man in news to many, left on his own terms. Just days before, WTVD anchor Larry Stogner, whose face and voice spelled “trust” and “pro” to many in North Carolina, left because that voice was failing him.
 
Williams’ tale is as old as Greek mythology: hubris. It wasn’t enough to be a network anchor and crossover star on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. He had to exaggerate his experiences in Iraq, apparently among others.
 
Stewart’s rise reflects those of us who read Mad Magazine in the 60s and love the snark and cynicism of today’s satirical media, online and on cable, especially when it’s aimed at Fox News and Republicans.
 
Larry Stogner is something different. He represents something true and lasting. Maybe, even, something fundamental in the North Carolina we love.
 
Larry is a small-town North Carolina boy who never left. He never hopped to a bigger market or took a network job. He stayed here. He stuck with us.
 
He is a Vietnam veteran. But he never boasted about it, or exaggerated it. He was always Larry, and he was comfortable with that.
 
This is personal. Larry and I were capital reporters together in the early 1970s. He covered Governor Hunt when I was Hunt’s press secretary. We both went to China with the Governor in 1979.
 
Now, the cruelest of diseases is robbing Larry of what outwardly made him Larry. But it can’t touch his heart, his soul or his character.
 
For being who he was, nothing more and nothing less, I thank him.

 

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12
A few days ago, Chapel Hill was the focus of mourning and remembrance for an extraordinary coach who lived a long, full life of service and leadership.
 
Today, and sadly for a long time to come, it’s the focus of grieving and remembrance for three extraordinary young people who seemed headed for long, full lives of service and leadership, before they were murdered by a pathetic loser who apparently hated all religions and all people, especially those who park in the wrong place.
 
Of course, some nitwit lawyer sought out the cameras so the man’s wife could assure us it was all about parking, not racial or religious hatred. Thanks a lot, pal.
 
Of course, some nitwit politician or commentator will seek out the cameras to complain about all this #MuslimLivesMatter stuff. Probably already has.
 
A neighbor said the guy had “equal opportunity” hatred. Pardon us for noticing that he gave only three people the opportunity to have a bullet in their heads and all three of them were noticeably Muslim. Pardon us for understanding exactly why Muslims feel they are targets of hate. Because they are.
 
At times like this, the old speechwriter in me scours the statements of politicians and public figures, hoping for a nugget of wisdom and real thought among the banal boilerplate.
 
Not surprisingly, I found it from the Congressman from Chapel Hill, David Price:
 
“This appalling act of violence has shaken our community's sense of peace and reminded us once again that we still face serious barriers to mutual acceptance. We must redouble our efforts to bridge the gaps of intolerance and hatred that divide our society."
 
Amen, brother.

 

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12
Reverend William Barber went down to the newspaper and sat down with Ned Barnett to have a chat about the state’s soul.
 
Now the main problem with the state spiritually, according to Reverend Barber, is Republicans. He’s thundered from podiums from Asheville to Wilmington that Republicans are heartless varmints who stomp on women, children, and the blind, halt and lame.
 
You could search for years and not find a more remorseless demagogue – or partisan Democrat – than William Barber.
 
But that’s not how Ned Barnett saw it at all: The Reverend, he explained in his editorial, built his ‘Moral Mondays’ movement on morality, not politics. That as Barber himself says, Moral Mondays isn’t about left and right, it’s about right and wrong.
 
Pure baloney.


 

 

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11
Once when Democratic County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward was in the hospital she asked the Republican Commissioners to allow her to participate in a board meeting by phone – but the Republicans said no.
 
Another time, in the middle of a fight, the Republicans waited until Ward left the board room to go to the restroom then promptly held a vote.
 
All that orneriness didn’t sit well with a lot of folks and, last fall, every one of the Republicans were voted out of office and we ended up with seven Democratic County Commissioners.
 
Now Wake County is blessed: We have a solid economy and a growing population and both are bringing more money into the county’s exchequer each year but, as soon as they got sworn in, the new Democratic Commissioners proved there are more vices than orneriness: They announced it was time to raise taxes.
 
Those old Republican Commissioners were no saints but the new Democrats are making them look better every day.


 

 

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11
Sunday morning, Joe Neff’s story ran on Page 1A of the N&O. Tuesday at 2 pm, Dana Cope held a 90-second news conference (no questions, please) to resign.
 
As WRAL’s Laura Leslie said on Facebook, “Well, that was quick.”
 
Maybe Cope decided his legal problems dwarf his political problems. Or maybe it would be tough to explain a $57 eyebrow wax at European Wax Center to a guy driving a dump truck at DOT.
 
For many Democrats, Cope’s downfall and Randy Voller’s departure as Democratic Party chair are signs of spring. Both organizations can now push the reset button.
 
With Patsy Keever as chair, there is hope that the party can actually become a functioning political entity.
 
SEANC has no Patsy Keever in sight, and it’s hard to have confidence in a board that stuck with Cope as late as Monday, but at least there is a chance to make SEANC an effective force, rather than just making everybody everywhere mad.
 
In other states, state employees’ associations and unions stand up to government-bashing Republicans. Cope’s strategy seemed to be to bash Democrats when they were in power and bash Republicans when they are in power.
 
It was a hard strategy to understand. Now we get it: It was all about Dana Cope. Eyebrows and all.

 

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10
Before the sun set, the day the legislature returned to town, the Bull Mooses in the Senate had locked horns with Pat McCrory.
 
The Bull Mooses are a gregarious lot but they’re dangerous when crossed and, somewhere along the way, they decided there was a hole in the Governor’s boat when it came to fixing tough problems like cleaning up coal ash ponds or Medicaid.
 
So along with the House they passed a bill that took the coal ash cleanup right out from under the Governor and gave it to an Independent Commission – that the legislators appointed.
 
Of course, none of that sat well with the Governor but he’s cut from a different bolt of cloth from the Bull Mooses: He’s affable and easy-going and would rather avoid a fight than start one but, still, he couldn’t take getting shoved aside lying down – so he sued. It was time, he told a special three judge court, to put the Bull Mooses in their place. By telling them they had violated the Constitution.   
 
That sounded reasonable but it turns out there’s a hole in the Governor’s boat this time, too: Because the folks he wants the judges ‘to put in their place’ also vote to set the courts’ budget and the judges’ salaries.
 
If Pat McCrory’s going to whip the Bull Mooses he may need a bigger hammer.


 

 

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09
She plighted her troth not in church and not as a bride or in marriage but in town hall meetings and political forums and rallies, saying she was a fire-breathing Tea Party conservative in a Congressional District filled with small towns and flannel-shirted farmers and churches full of hymn-singing Baptists.
 
After consummating her victory (with an oath of office) Renee Ellmers settled into Congress – then the wind veered and when she veered with it she left the Tea Partiers back home with raised eyebrows. But there was no tempest. She was reelected and reelected again.
 
Then she surprised not just the Tea Partiers but just about every other Republican in her district by single-handedly stopping a bill that would have prohibited a woman having an abortion after 20 weeks.
 
This time there was a tempest. Harmony vanished. And cries rose of betrayal and infidelity and her first response made the storm worse: She said she’d opposed the bill because it was unpopular with younger voters.
 
When political expediency didn’t sit well she changed directions – in a heartbeat – and gave a different reason: She said she was standing up for rape victims – that the rape exception in the bill was too weak. (The bill said a rape victim had to report the rape to the police in order to have an abortion after twenty weeks.)
 
Her second explanation collapsed like a house of cards when  Linda Devore, the Republican Chairman in one of the biggest counties in her district, asked bluntly,How many rape victims wait until they’re five months pregnant to decide whether to have an abortion or not? It doesn’t compute with people.
 
The third time she not only shifted directions she did a complete about face – and announced she was going to vote for the bill.
 
But she miscalculated again. Fickleness only dug the hole deeper. Her final position made the only voters who still agreed with her – the Pro-Choice voters – mad too.

 

 

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09
Uncovering hypocrisy by politicians is as easy as finding sand at the beach. But the turnabout by Republicans on redistricting reform is noteworthy for its cynicism. Here’s what four key GOP Senators say now and did then.
 
“God bless ’em, I can’t wait to get it over here. It’s dead. It’s not going anywhere.” - Senator Tom Apadaca, who sponsored redistricting reform three times (2007-08 S1122, S1093) (2009-10 S25).
 
“It doesn’t need a new commission, it’s unnecessary….The Supreme Court made it clear how to draw these maps, it eliminates the gerrymandering that they’re talking about.” - Senator Robert Rucho, sponsor of Senate bill 283, Independent Redistricting Commission, 2001.
 
"Some feel like it should, some feel like it shouldn’t. You know, the other side had a chance to do that for what, a hundred and some years, never did and there’s some pressure to do it. Again, I’m not sure where our caucus will be on it, but we’ll have that conversation." - Majority Leader Sen. Harry Brown, who sponsored redistricting reform legislation three times.
 
“I have yet to see a so-called independent redistricting commission that is truly independent. ... I'm still out there looking for that nonpartisan soul that really has no opinion about politics one way or the other that has an informational background in politics. So I believe that (state Supreme Court) decisions provide North Carolina with a set of criteria that removes many of the problems that folks have complained about with reference to redistricting. I don't see an independent redistricting commission or any of the proposals that have been floated as improving on the system that we have now.” - Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger, who five times sponsored redistricting reform legislation (2001-02 S283) (2005-06 S430) (2007-08 S1122, S1093) (2009-10 S25).
 
Then there is Governor McCrory, who said last November: "I think the gerrymandered districts where we have no competition in the general elections make all of our jobs difficult." Unless I dozed off during his State of the State speech, he did not mention it Wednesday night.
 
In fairness, some Republicans have not let where they sit change where they stand on reform, like Rep. Skip Stam of Wake County. He still supports it.
 
Also in fairness, Democrats could have passed redistricting reform long before now. They didn’t see the light until they lost the power.
 
There is one difference: Democrats didn’t promise to end gerrymandering. Republicans did. Will they break their promise?
 
If they do, Democrats should make them pay. They should make Republicans the poster boys for corrupt machine politics. Then, when they get back in power (the wheel always turns), Democrats better keep their promise.
 
 
 

 

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06
Robed in black from head to toe, a hood covering his face, with a hostage kneeling at his feet, he lifted a knife and started his litany.  
 
Know, oh Obama, he said, that we will cut off your head in the White House.
 
He wasn’t done.
 
This is my message to France and Belgium… we will come to you with car bombs and explosive charges, and will cut off your heads.
 
He also had a message for the leader of the Kurds.
 
As for you, oh Masoud, you dog, we are going to behead you and throw you into the trash bin of history.
 
And, finally, he said a Japanese journalist he held hostage had less than “24 hours to live” – unless a ransom was paid.
 
It was like watching Genghis Khan on the Internet.
 
And it was like going back to 1939 – we looked across the water and saw plain as day a devil but told ourselves he wasn’t our problem – that we didn’t have to fight, that it was the British and French he was after so it was up to them to defeat him and send him back to the desert places.  
 
But it wasn’t to be.
 
It was us he was after.  


 

 

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06
Senator Tillis, we’d like to discuss your intriguing idea about not requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands before serving our food, but we’re due back on Planet Earth.
 
Besides, who could top Barry Saunders’ skewering in the N&O? Especially this: “Repeated efforts to get a comment from the senator’s office or from Starbucks’ headquarters were unsuccessful: Both apparently wish to – forgive me for this – wash their hands of the whole thing.”
 
But give Tillis credit. He did – forgive me for this – put his finger on the crux of the issue: “That's the sort of mentality we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country.”
 
He’s right. That’s exactly the sort of mentality we would need to have.

 

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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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