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National Republicans

23
Every now and then Gary and I venture out of our respective sanctuaries to journey out into the broader world and, just the other day, we meandered all the way across Raleigh to speak to a very nice group of folks about politics (from our different perspectives).
 
And, sure enough, during the meeting a hand went up and someone asked: With all these polls showing the Republican Party at its lowest popularity ever – how many Republican candidates could lose next election?
 
Gary, gentleman that he is, felt it was only fair I answer the question.
 
Now there’s no doubt a fair amount of people are unhappy with Republican politicians. They’re not in love with Democrats either. But the polls do show they’re more unhappy with Republicans.
 
I said, Imagine, off the shores of Africa a hurricane’s forming. Then imagine you could put all the Republican candidates on the tip of the beach in Wilmington. Now that hurricane may dissipate. It may roar across the ocean and turn north and swamp Boston. Or it might roar straight ashore in Wilmington.
 
And if you’re a Republican candidate standing on the beach, the same person asked, what do you do?
 
I said, Prepare for the worst.
 

 

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22
For a year we’ve heard how the digital geniuses in the Obama campaign demolished Mitt Romney. Now they can’t make the website work for the biggest thing in his administration?
 
This might say something about the difference between campaigns and governing – or between the private sector and the public sector. Government IT programs are notoriously subject to technical disasters. Witness NC TRACKS, NC FAST and the college application process. Even Facebook fell on its face yesterday.
 
But this is still bad news for the President. And, with the shutdown behind us, it’s big news.
 
Obama is reduced to attacking his own people. His defenders resort to: “Obamacare is a lot better than the website.”
 
Unfortunately in today’s world, if your website sucks, people assume your whole operation sucks. Especially the young people Obamacare targets to buy health insurance.
 
Republicans got burned by the shutdown. So now they’ll turn up the heat.
 
What an irony if technological incompetence causes the most tech-savvy administration in history to bungle its biggest achievement.

 

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21
The post-mortem’s are rolling in from the wise heads in Washington over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling votes and their verdict is unanimous: Ted Cruz was crushed. The Tea Party was annihilated.
 
But all these Washington pundits may be sailing right past one subtle fact.
 
Heritage Action and Club for Growth and the Tea Party weren’t just battling Obama and they weren’t just battling for spending cuts – they were battling the Supreme Leaders of the Washington Republican Party and their goal wasn’t just to win two votes in the House Republican Caucus – it was to win Republican primaries.
 
It’s no secret the Tea Partiers have their hearts set on cutting government. And cutting spending. And cutting debt. But they can’t accomplish those goals as long as the Washington Republican Establishment is standing in their way.
 
Instead history will repeat itself and what happened on the Continuing Resolution and Debt Ceiling votes will happen again and again – in the end the Republican Establishment will vote with Democrats to raise the Debt Ceiling without spending cuts.
 
So the Conservatives have to get the Republican Establishment out of the way. Which means one simple fact: They have to win primaries. Which is why they chose to make the Continuing Resolution a fight about Obamacare.
 
After all, drawing a line in the sand on the debt and saying to Obama, We won’t take more of the same-old same-old – if you want to borrow more, you’re going to have to agree to cut spending first – would have been a fine battle to fight with Obama. It would have appealed to Independents.
 
But about the worst thing you can tell a Republican primary voter about a Republican Congressman is that he supported Obamacare. And now Mitch McConnell and a whole troop of Republican Congressmen have done just that. And that’s going to be a pretty hard vote to defend in a Republican primary.
 
To the wise heads in Washington President Obama came out of the Debt Ceiling fight as the winner – but, when it comes to winning Republican primaries, Conservatives were big winners too.
 
 

 

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21
Don’t spike the ball too early, Democrats. The Tea Party may be a taste of what’s ahead for our party.
 
Last weeks’ Armageddon – or maybe, “Armadebtaggon” – looks now like a disaster for the GOP. The episode turned Americans and many Republicans against the Cruz crusaders.
 
But the Republican civil war may be a sign of where all American politics is heading in our polarized, high-octane, cable-news-addled politics. Cruz & Co. could just inflame Democratic hard-liners who are fed up with the two-decade-long Clinton-Obama search for elusive middle ground.
 
Remember when Obama ran for President in 2008 promising – in the words of Richard Nixon – to “bring us together,” to overcome the divisions of red America and blue America?
 
Five years later, he wins a much-needed victory by refusing to compromise. Hardball trumped sweet reason.
 
In the wake of battle, we hear high-minded statements about “moderation” and “working together.” A safer bet is more hardball – from both sides. Strap on your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

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15
 

For Republicans, the shutdown turned into a slapdown and the default into their fault.

 The GOP lost the debate, lost the battle for public opinion and put itself in a deep, deep hole for the 2014 elections. Governor McCrory’s DHHS debacle, $87,000 salaries and $230,000 bathrooms pale in significance.

The issues in the shutdown-default battle escape most Americans. It’s too big, too complicated and too easy to dismiss as just more Washington dysfunction.

But one thing is clear: the public blames the Republicans. They blame the Tea Party even more. They like both less than ever. They like President Obama and Democrats more than before. And they even like Obamacare more than before.

All this was shown in last week’s NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, which apparently shocked Republicans into staging a retreat. It found that, by 53-31, the public blames Republicans more than Obama. 

Just 24 percent have a favorable opinion of the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party. Both numbers are all-time lows in the history of poll. 

Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who did the poll with Republican Bill McInturff, said: “These numbers lead to one inescapable conclusion: The Republicans are not tone deaf; they are stone deaf.” 

It’s beyond most of us what exactly has been going on in Washington and what it means. But we’re clear on who to blame.

 

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15
In the 2006 election voters gave Republicans the boot.
 
In 2010 they turned around and gave Democrats the boot.
 
Now, according to a new poll, 60% of voters would vote to remove all the politicians in Congress. Democrats and Republicans.
 
A sign of sanity?
 

 

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14
There’s been a lot of screeching and howling coming out of Washington about who shut down the government. Respected economist Thomas Sowell lays out his opinion pretty calmly below:
 
Who Shut Down the Government?
By Thomas Sowell
 
Even when it comes to something as basic, and apparently as simple and straightforward, as the question of who shut down the federal government, there are diametrically opposite answers, depending on whether you talk to Democrats or to Republicans.
 
There is really nothing complicated about the facts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for ObamaCare.
 
This is not a matter of opinion. You can check the Congressional Record.
 
As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion either. You can check the Constitution of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, which means that Congressmen there have a right to decide whether or not they want to spend money on a particular government activity.
 
Whether ObamaCare is good, bad or indifferent is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of fact that members of the House of Representatives have a right to make spending decisions based on their opinion.
 
ObamaCare is indeed “the law of the land,” as its supporters keep saying, and the Supreme Court has upheld its Constitutionality.
 
But the whole point of having a division of powers within the federal government is that each branch can decide independently what it wants to do or not do, regardless of what the other branches do, when exercising the powers specifically granted to that branch by the Constitution.
 
The hundreds of thousands of government workers who have been laid off are not idle because the House of Representatives did not vote enough money to pay their salaries or the other expenses of their agencies — unless they are in an agency that would administer ObamaCare.
 
Since we cannot read minds, we cannot say who — if anybody — “wants to shut down the government.” But we do know who had the option to keep the government running and chose not to. The money voted by the House of Representatives covered everything that the government does, except for ObamaCare.
 
The Senate chose not to vote to authorize that money to be spent, because it did not include money for ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he wants a “clean” bill from the House of Representatives, and some in the media keep repeating the word “clean” like a mantra. But what is unclean about not giving Harry Reid everything he wants?
 
If Senator Reid and President Obama refuse to accept the money required to run the government, because it leaves out the money they want to run ObamaCare, that is their right. But that is also their responsibility.
 
You cannot blame other people for not giving you everything you want. And it is a fraud to blame them when you refuse to use the money they did vote, even when it is ample to pay for everything else in the government.
 
When Barack Obama keeps claiming that it is some new outrage for those who control the money to try to change government policy by granting or withholding money, that is simply a bald-faced lie. You can check the history of other examples of “legislation by appropriation” as it used to be called.
 
Whether legislation by appropriation is a good idea or a bad idea is a matter of opinion. But whether it is both legal and not unprecedented is a matter of fact.
 
Perhaps the biggest of the big lies is that the government will not be able to pay what it owes on the national debt, creating a danger of default. Tax money keeps coming into the Treasury during the shutdown, and it vastly exceeds the interest that has to be paid on the national debt.
 
Even if the debt ceiling is not lifted, that only means that government is not allowed to run up new debt. But that does not mean that it is unable to pay the interest on existing debt.
 
None of this is rocket science. But unless the Republicans get their side of the story out — and articulation has never been their strong suit — the lies will win. More important, the whole country will lose.
 
 

 

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10
A government shutdown’s turned out to be a peculiar sort of beast.
 
First, before a shutdown, every politician – in both parties – declares the government shutting will be terrible. Awful. Armageddon. And every politician swears they want the government to stay open.
 
Then the government shuts down.
 
Next one group of politicians proposes to reopen the government one agency at a time – and passes bills to fund half a dozen agencies. The other group of politicians declares it wants every one of those agencies open too.
 
Then refuses to vote to open even one of them.
 
Next both groups of politicians agree to pay every furloughed government employee every penny of their back pay when the shutdown ends – which turns furloughs into vacations with pay but doesn’t open a single government office and costs millions.
 
Now, how on earth, you might wonder, would a Democrat be all for opening government – but then vote against opening half a dozen parts of government?
 
Or how on earth can a Republican vote for furloughing people and paying them not to work – instead of simply paying them to go on working?
 
It turns out the President, the Senate, and the House work like a three way firing squad. Not one of them can spend a penny the other two don’t agree to. Now, fortunately for the elderly, long ago another Congress agreed to pay Social Security benefits. But, legally and constitutionally, the President and the Senate can’t fund their heart’s desire (Obamacare) as long as the House says, No Way.
 
Which leaves the Democrats with three choices: Bribery. A swap. Or coercion.
 
The President ruled out a swap declaring, I won’t negotiate. Period.
 
Bribery’s out because any Republican Congressmen taking a bribe (say an earmark) to pass Obamacare wouldn’t have to worry about winning the General Election – because he’d never make it out of the primary.
 
Which leaves coercion and, say what you want about Obama, you have to admit for all his suaveness and soft-spoken words the President’s a warrior of the first order. He didn’t come from behind and whip Mitt Romney by being Caspar Milquetoast. Plus, he’s endowed with a true believer’s faith. And a riverboat gambler’s nerve.
 
So, when the Republican House offered him everything he wanted except Obamacare, he figured, To heck with it – I’ll double down and bet the pot to win it all.
 
And, just like in a poker game, that left the Republicans with two choices: Fold their cards or take a big gamble too.
 
The prospect of calling Obama (and betting  the house) made the Pachyderms  plenty nervous – a lot of them figured the safe move was time to walk away from the table. In the end they made their bet but, right away, so as not to offend Independent voters, they immediately set about reopening as much of the government as they could – everything from national monuments to cancer research.
 
That made life complex for President Obama and the Democrats. Who wanted voters mad at Republicans. To do that, the shutdown had to hurt. So reopening parts of government didn’t fit into their plans. So they refused to even fund cancer research.
 
So how does all this end? Does Obama blink? Or the Republicans?
 
Here the President has one big advantage. He’s never going to run for office again. He’s done. But in two years a lot of Republican Congressmen are going to be up for reelection.  And more than a few of them have a nervous eye peeled toward next November.
 

 

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09
So all the DHHS scandals are based on a report that was doctored to mislead legislators and taxpayers.  The $87,000 salaries for young campaign aides, lucrative contracts for political allies, eyebrow-raising sudden exits by top department officials and sweet severance payouts.
 
All that is based on the McCrory’s administration claim that it inherited a “broken” Medicaid system. Now that claim is exposed as a selective, slanted editing of the facts.
 
No wonder Secretary Vos doesn’t like requests for public information. No wonder one of the $87,000-a-year aides shepherded her away from pesky reporters after Tuesday’s brutal legislative hearing.
 
We know all this thanks to Rose Hoban, a smart, persistent reporter for North Carolina Health News. Renewed proof, by the way, that great journalism no longer comes only from traditional journalism.
 
The slated editing is worse than the usual Republican tendency to ignore facts, like evolution and global warming. This is leaving out facts. It is substituting factual information with made-up gobbledygook. It is deliberately misleading the public and their elected officials.
 
Hoban’s expose shows that, in doctoring a report on the state Medicaid program, “McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light.” They “eliminated detailed explanations.” They deleted the fact that “North Carolina’s administrative costs are lower than most states rather than 30 percent higher, as maintained by McCrory administration officials.”
 
Governor McCrory probably had enjoyed Obamacare and the federal government shutdown pushing DHHS scandals off the front page recently.
 
Now DHHS is back on the front burner. And the kitchen is getting hotter.

 

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08
What if Obamacare flops? What if the public has sticker shock? What if voters blame both sides for the shutdown?
 
From the White House down, Democrats seem awfully confident the shutdown-Obamacare standoff will end well for them.
 
Plus, they say, Americans will love Obamacare once they get to know it. But suppose all they know is that their insurance company raised their premiums? Will they blame the company, or Republicans governors and legislators, or Obama?
 
Democrats point to how this ended in 1995. But this is 2013. It’s Obama, Reid and Boehner, not Clinton, Dole and Gingrich. It’s Obamacare+Shutdown, not just the shutdown.
 
Republicans have their talking points down; Carter spelled them out: We’re reasonable folks. Let’s fund the programs we agree on. We’re ready to negotiate.
 
Do Obama and Reid look unreasonable, refusing to negotiate?
 
Here is what you can be sure about: America is far more bitterly divided today than 20 years ago. Republicans have poll-tested their messages, as I’m sure Democrats have. And, above all, people have an innate suspicion that government screws up whatever it touches.
 
I hope Democrats haven’t mis-underestimated the enemy, as George Bush would say, or misread the battlefield.

 

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Carter & Gary
 
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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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