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National Republicans

02
Is this a “Groundhog Day” sequel? Republicans talking about impeachment? Is it 1998 again?
 
Dan Barkin had an intriguing article in the N&O about several Republican U.S. Senate candidates talking up impeaching President Obama. They fumed about Obama’s alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, not to mention being black, a Democrat and President anyway.
 
Democrats should hope that the Republicans beat this drum. And that Thom Tillis is forced to take a public stand. Tillis wasn’t at the Lake Norman Conservatives forum that Barkin went to; the Speaker routinely ducks Tea Party events.
 
The last time Republicans got riled up about impeachment was, of course, the last time a Democrat was President. That was Bill Clinton, and it all started with some unseemly and unpresidential behavior.
 
The Republicans got obsessed with Clinton’s sex life. Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth got hot on the trail. Kenneth Starr launched an in-depth, full-blown (pardon the expressions) federal case.
 
Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and Later-Briefly-Speaker Robert Livingstone demanded impeachment and denounced Clinton. Later, it turned that they were guilty of similarly sins at precisely the same time. No matter.
 
They saw impeachment as the road to control of Congress in 1998. Lauch Faircloth rode the same horse against John Edwards in North Carolina. Edwards ran as an exemplary family man (this was a long time ago, remember) who thought Washington had its priorities wrong.
 
The GOP strategy backfired. Voters cared more about their lives than Clinton’s sex life. Edwards beat Faircloth. Democrats gained congressional seats in Clinton’s last mid-term election. The impeachment drive fizzled, and both Gingrich and Livingstone left Congress in disgrace.
 
A rerun is just what Democrats need. And Tea Party Republicans are just crazy enough to make our wish come true.
 
Meanwhile: Where do you stand, Thom?

 

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24
50 years ago we declared war on poverty, spent $20.7 trillion, and lost. So now the President is trying again. Only this time he’s calling it a war on income inequality because a war on poverty only appeals to folks who are poor while a war on income inequality appeals to just about everyone except, maybe, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.
 
Now you’d think the President would start by attacking the root causes of the income inequality. But politics doesn’t work that way. Because what politicians are interested  in is votes – and taking money from one group of folks and giving it to another is a proven plan that works at the ballot box.  But like a lot of modern politics it does little to fix the root of the problem.
 
The other day in the newspaper Robert Rector reported there are now 80 means-tested welfare programs that take $916 billion from one group of folks and give it to 100 million other folks. Despite that poverty rates haven’t dropped but, on the other hand, poverty is not what it used to be. Today, our typical poor soul lives in a house or apartment in good repair with air-conditioning and cable TV that is larger than the house of an average non-poor soul in France, England or Germany. He has a car, TVs and a DVD player. There’s a fifty-fifty chance he has a computer. A one in three chance he has a big flat screen TV. And, thankfully, a big majority of today’s poor are not undernourished and didn’t endure a day of hunger over the previous year.
 
Still, no one doubts there are still people who need a helping hand – which led Mr. Rector to a surprising fact: Fifty-one years ago, the year before we declared war on poverty, 6% of America’s children were born out of wedlock. Today 41% of our children are born out of wedlock. Now, why on earth should a child’s mother and father not marrying make a farthing’s difference when it comes to how much a child earns when he (or she)  grows up?
 
The answer’s a mystery but statistics don’t lie and they say children raised in single parent homes are four times more likely to be poor, and children who grow up without a father at home are 50% more likely to be poor when they grow up.
 
It sounds illogical but the numbers say more traditional families mean less poverty. But for a politician in pursuit of votes that turns a simple political opportunity into a knotty intellectual problem.
 
One more fact: Today when a mother on welfare has the good fortune to fall in love with a man who has a job and marries him she loses her benefits. Now, in a way, that’s logical. But if you’re a single mother who may be losing, say, $10,000 in benefits it’s also 10,000 reasons not to marry the man of your dreams.

 

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21
A TAPster who spent years working in economic development shares this:
 
“The most astonishing news last week (other than the daily calamities at DHHS) was the invitation we received via email to attend a fundraiser in Raleigh for the governor of South Carolina. Yes, the head sandlapper is coming to Raleigh to raise money at the behest of a Raleigh lobbyist.
 
“Huh?
 
“Why would any North Carolina lobbyist think this is a good idea and why would any North Carolinian attend and give money? Gov. Haley leads an administration that is agile and effective when recruiting new business and jobs to her state. She and her team are kicking North Carolina’s butt all over the place in the industrial recruiting wars, and won’t think twice about luring away our existing businesses, aggressively wooing our prospects with big incentive packages we can’t match, or starting the Civil War again if that seems necessary.
 
“What we need is a road block at South of the Border and a strong dose of reality in Raleigh.”

 

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17
The newspaper reporter asked if North Carolina’s Senate Primary was going to be the next litmus test of the Tea Party’s political muscle – and as fast as he could Greg Brannon’s campaign spokesman said ‘Yes’ then added the Primary was just like Senator Rand Paul’s election in Kentucky in 2010 and Senator Ted Cruz’s election in Texas in 2012.
 
“In those races, he said, you had a candidate that was handpicked and heavily supported by the DC establishment up against a Tea Party candidate supported by the grassroots. In both instances the grassroots candidate won big.”
 
Now, of course, you can’t fault Greg Brannon’s spokesman for wanting to get a step ahead of Thom Tillis – but what landed in the newspaper was only part of the story.
 
It’s true Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both won.
 
But on the way to winning they also raised a lot of money. Rand Paul with the help of his father’s supporters across the country. And Ted Cruz with the help of Senator Jim DeMint, who all but adopted him.
 
Here in North Carolina, so far, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, who’re challenging Thom Tillis, have both been noticeably short of cash.
 
And that’s the big fact in the Senate race: No one, or at best only a handful of voters,  knows Greg Brannon. They don’t know he’s the next Ted Cruz. And he hasn’t had the money to change that. So the real fight in the Republican Primary isn’t between the Establishment and the Tea Party – it’s between Greg Bannon and his empty cash box.

 

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15
Back before Christmas when Congress struck its ‘big budget deal’ the newspapers were running stories left and right telling everyone how Round 2 of the Sequester was going to be aw-ful and terr-ible and croo-el.
 
In one story a lady in Fayetteville told how the army was going to be so decimated by the next round of Sequester cuts that landscaping at Fort Bragg would grind to a halt. Another lady lamented how over in Durham Head Start was serving forty-two fewer children now than a year ago and Lord knows where it would all end.
 
In story after story pundits predicted coming tribulations that sounded eerily like the tribulations the same pundits predicted last spring: The homeless would go without shelter. The army would be crippled. The White House would never reopen for tours.
 
In fact, back last spring, during the first Sequester there was so much wailing and gnashing of teeth that just about everyone got into a dither but, then, the cuts came and went and the sky didn’t fall and life went on pretty much as usual. So this time when the same pundits  begin roaring Armageddon was at hand most folks just sort of shook their heads, thought, I’ve heard all that before, and went on about their business.
 
One group of folks who did get the dithers this time – in a big way – were Republican Congressmen. House Speaker John Boehner got such a bad case of the willies he got into a name calling contest with the Tea Party groups who liked the cuts, calling them varmints and villains then (to the Republicans’ surprise and Obama’s delight) whipping a bill through Congress that killed the cuts stone-cold dead.
 
Which sounded like the end of laments.
 
But wasn’t.
 
Because President Obama waited a few days then announced he wanted the Speaker and the Republicans in Congress to spend another $25 billion to extend unemployment benefits for another year.
 
And what did Speaker Boehner say?
 
He said he reckoned that, first, they ought to cut spending.

 

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15
Fearless Forecast: Obamacare won’t be a decisive issue in 2014, but Chris Christie’s bridge-gate will be in 2016.
 
That sounds backwards. After all, polls right here at home show that Obamacare is dragging down Senator Hagan. And the buzz is that Christie’s poll ratings are holding up and Republicans are rallying around him.
 
But both will change, and here’s why: Nobody understands Obamacare; it’s too complicated. By November, nobody will understand what Obamacare did or didn’t do. They won’t have the patience to read complicated analyses of the complex, confusing health-care system.
 
The only thing people understand about Obamacare is that the website didn’t work. That is something we get.
 
And everybody gets bullying and deliberately causing traffic jams. Plus, the media will never get tired of this story, especially since it reinforces an existing impression of Christie.

As for Christie’s “bounce,” remember that it took two years for Watergate to bring down Nixon. Republicans rallied around him at first. Then, like now, they were uniting against the “liberal media” more than for Nixon/Christie.

In politics, what's up today is likely to be down tomorrow. And vice versa.

 

 

 

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11
Republicans can toss their Christie for President buttons, but they can learn a lesson from Governor Soprano.
 
Pat McCrory can learn to take responsibility. He, Phil Berger and Thom Tillis (“whining…losers”) can learn that voters don’t like bullies.
 
A TAPster (who once thought well of McCrory) noted the contrast between Christie and McCrory: “Gov. Christie took responsibility for a mess, apologized to his citizens, fired a staffer, and used words you rarely hear from a politician ('heartbroken, stunned, saddened'). In North Carolina, meanwhile, Gov. McCrory blames his predecessors and others for his various messes, never apologizes or takes ownership, supports those who should be fired, and cracks jokes about grave issues. And, the words ‘heartbroken, stunned and saddened’ are never used by him but are, instead, used by his friends to describe his performance so far.”
 
Christie shows that, while voters like a measure of tough talk, there’s a limit. When it slides over into punishing an entire city – even jeopardizing people’s lives, as Christie’s capos did – voters have no tolerance.
 
McCrory might think about that before punishing 600,000-plus people by depriving them of representation in Congress for a year. He, Berger and Tillis might think twice before punishing teachers, or passing a voter-suppression law, or denying health care to people who are struggling or waging a war on women.
 
Ask Christie: It catches up with you.

 

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10
In a speech a couple of weeks ago the President urged Congress to get moving and pass his bill to extend unemployment benefits then, climbing up on his rhetorical high horse, he added that paying unemployment benefits “is one of the most effective ways to boost the economy” – which sounded a little odd, like the President was saying to boost the economy we need more unemployed.
 
Of course, the President didn’t mean it that way at all – but still, in another way, it shows how much faith the President has in the government spending money.
 
No doubt, most folks would agree Congress spending $25 billion to pay unemployment benefits to help needy families keep body and soul together is a necessary but unfortunate burden. But the President goes a step further:  The way he sees it, if unemployment goes down we win – but if it goes up we win too. Because paying more benefits will boost the economy.
 
That kind of thinking could land a fellow in the poor house.
 
Instead, it looks like paying unemployment benefits is like providing life support to a fellow who’s in the hospital. Keeping the respirator going keeps him alive. But it isn’t curing him. And any doctor who tells him he’s in a win-win situation missed the boat.

 

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08
A “record-high 42 percent of Americans identify as Independents: Republican identification lowest in at least 25 years," Gallup breathlessly tells us. But those numbers may obscure the truth about politics today.
 
It’s not that four in 10 Americans swing bath and forth between the two parties – carefully studying the issues, judiciously judging the candidates and preparing to, as they say, “vote the man, not the party.”
 
It’s that politics and politicians are so hated today that people don’t want the stigma of being a “Democrat” or “Republican.”
 
Most “Independents” toe the party line one way or the other. True swing voters are rare. And they’re hard to reach. They are people, women especially, who don’t trust Democrats on money issues and don’t trust Republicans on moral issues.
 
Given the gulf between the parties today, it’s hard to conceive of an informed voter who doesn’t vote consistently with one party or the other.
 
“Informed” is the operative word here. If someone is truly undecided, they’re probably truly uninformed. And probably tuning out politicians.

 

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07
Years ago a doctor asked my mother her definition of happiness and without batting an eye she said: Love and money.
 
When it came to fundamentals mother got right down to brass tacks.
 
A while back up in Washington a piece of the federal government – the National Academy of Sciences – decided Congress needed to figure out what makes people happy so it could pass bills to bring more joy to their lives – so the NSA did a study asking folks questions like how often they smile or laugh every day.
 
When the study was done the scientists carefully analyzed and weighed the data, intending to share the secret to happiness with Congress but the scientists ran head on into a roadblock.
 
The data showed 87% of the American people were already happy.
 
Which left the scientists in a pickle: Because if Congress didn’t need to get into the happiness business the scientists could be out of a job.
 
So the scientists went to work to find a solution to their problem and they did: 87%, they announced, wasn’t good enough.
 
In fact, the scientists reported, sadly, that America only ranked a measly 17th on the world happiness index – while tiny Denmark, the home of Hamlet, ranked first – and, of course, the scientists had hit a nerve: No red-blooded American Congressman could let himself be outdone by a nation no bigger than Rhode Island.
 
Next the scientists announced they’d also discovered another startling fact: My mother was dead-wrong about money.
 
Folks get happier, the scientists reported, up to the exact point where they earn $36,000 a year (or $144,000 for a family of four).
 
After that, they get unhappier or, at best, their happiness flat lines and stays the same.
 
Finally the scientists reported the worst news of all: The USA, income-wise, has already passed the ‘bliss point.’
 
Americans are already making too much money to be happy.
 
Now, there’s a problem Congress can solve.

 

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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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