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Issues

25
Give Governor McCrory credit for proposing something big and bold, a $1 billion transportation bond issue. It sounds like a stimulus program, but that would be the kiss of death in the Republican legislature. He may find himself needing some Democratic allies.
 
He and Secretary Tata will have to answer a lot of questions: how to pay for it, can the state afford it and, of course, why these specific projects?
 
Like every Governor, McCrory promised to take politics out of transportation decisions. Here’s the definition of “politics”: a road somebody else wants. And the definition of “real need”: a road you want.
 
Speaking of needs, why was there no mention of I-95? It’s the most congested, dangerous major road in the state.
 
How can the state seriously pursue a large auto manufacturer without upgrading I-95? The first thing a big plant like that needs, especially if it’s near Rocky Mount, is access up and down the East Coast.
 
Let’s get on with it. Start your engines, warm up the road graders and load up the dump trucks.

 

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24
The other day our top General went over to the Senate and said turning the Iraqi army into a real fighting force may not be possible ;--then he said no one knows who the ‘moderate’ Syrian Rebels will attack once they’re armed – they might attack ISIS or might attack Bashar Assad and, regardless of who they attack, arming just 5000 ‘moderate’ Syrians (as the President proposes) isn’t going to be nearly enough to whip anyone.
 
Meanwhile the same day, over in Iraq, the success of our bombing campaign was limited to blowing up a truck, an artillery piece, and two small boats on the Euphrates River.
 
This is an odd – but familiar – picture.
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like we may be getting into another ‘political’ war: If the President does nothing he gets pilloried but if he does what it takes to destroy ISIS (by putting boots on the ground) he gets run out of town on a rail – so he’s sailing down the middle ground uneasily doing what’s popular and avoiding what’s unpopular which may come back to haunt him – like it has other Presidents.

 

 

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23

Two things happened the other day: One nasty. The other confounding.
 
First ISIS posted a video on the Internet telling President Obama (in no uncertain terms) to watch out – it is going to target every American soldier he sends to Iraq.
 
Second, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, our top General, added a new wrinkle to the meaning of the words ‘no boots on the ground’ – telling Congress it may just turn out, one of these days, that he might recommend American soldiers join Iraqi troops in “attacks.”  That wouldn’t, he added , mean GI’s would be in combat. Instead, they’d simply be “close combat advisors.”
 
Now think about that.
 
It’s a pretty bad thing to send a soldier into combat alongside a brigade of his buddies – who’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
 
But it’s a lot worse thing to send him into combat with a brigade of Iraqis – when that happens a ‘close combat advisor’ could wind up alone in a foxhole with no buddies in sight.

 

 

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22
The way the President figures it the Iraqi army’s going to supply the ‘boots on the ground’ to whip ISIS but the other day, up in Congress, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said half the Iraqi army isn’t fit to fight and the other half will have to be rebuilt “with U.S. training and equipment” before it can fight.
 
Part One of the President’s plan to whip ISIS is bombing – and that’s going fine.
 
But Part Two – putting Iraqi boots on the ground – just took a nosedive.

 

 

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20
This came as a surprise: Iraq’s new Prime Minister does not want American troops in Iraq. They’re not welcome. And, he says, not needed.
 
It’s tempting, since Prime Minister al-Abadi figures he can whip ISIS on his own, to just say, Yes, sir. We’re out of here. But, on the other hand, we landed in this mess because ISIS whipped the entire Iraqi army hands down (and took Mosul and some dam and half the country).
 
From there, Iraqi politics gets even more confusing. Or, maybe, cleverer.
 
Where the U.S. should attack ISIS, al-Abadi suggested, is Syria.
 
Now that’s not as straightforward as it sounds: Because it turns out our allies the Iraqis are also allied with our enemy the Syrians, and not just allied – our Iraqi friends have been meeting with our enemy Bashar Assad  in Damascus to figure out how to work together to whip ISIS which is attacking both of them.
 
And that’s not all: It turns out our ally Iraq is also allied with our enemy Iran -- which is helping al-Abadi by sending ‘Shiite militias’ to whip Sunni ISIS.
 
In fact the other day in Paris, where we were busily at work building a coalition to whip ISIS, al-Abadi held a press conference and said he found it puzzling we hadn’t invited Iran to join us then added, That puts me as prime minister of Iraq in a very difficult position.
 
It’s a heck of a muddle. Our friends are allied with our enemies, one set of our enemies is attacking another set of our enemies, and we’re not welcomed in Iraq where we don’t want to be anyway.  
 
As they used to say in World War II: It’s pure FUBAR.
 

 

 

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19
President Obama came out swinging, saying, We have to act fast. We cannot dawdle on this one. We have to move with force – but he wasn’t talking about ISIS, he was talking about the Ebola virus and sending 3000 soldiers (putting boots on the ground) to Africa.
 
Each of us looks at villains thru different eyes: The muhjadeen I see as a murderous terrorist, Sally may see as the exploited victim of colonialism. The fear that sets my teeth on edge, may barely cause her a lost moments sleep.
           
Responding to the Ebola virus the President emanated strength but you have to wonder what would have happened if he had shown the same kind of strength when ISIS went on its rampage – instead of saying, Be calm. The world’s always been messy.

 

 

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16
It turns out not having ‘boots on the ground’ isn’t quite what it seems.
 
The other day when the President said he was sending 425 more soldiers to Iraq he added, These American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.
 
That sounded reasonable – sort of – but, it turns out, not all of the American soldiers in Iraq will be sitting around offices in Baghdad.
 
In fact, some of our soldiers are going to “be advising Iraqi Army commanders in the field” and coordinating airstrikes for advancing (hopefully) Iraqi troops — which makes it sound like ‘boots on the ground’ could land a GI pretty close to the front line in a shooting war.
           

 

 

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15
 Not long after President Obama pressed the go-button Kay Hagan chimed in, “The President and our military leadership have now developed a plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels and defeat ISIS with a sustained campaign of airstrikes.”
 
Moderate Syrian rebels? Do you reckon such a creature really exists?
 
Basing a military campaign on finding Syrian moderates, well, might turn out to be like finding the Abominable Snowman.

 

 

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11
Back in 1939 (when a varmint was on the loose) there was hardly a mother, father or wife around who felt enough fear or saw any good reason to send their sons or husbands to Europe to fight what looked like a modern version of the bubonic plague – which left Franklin Roosevelt facing a knotty problem.
 
Because sooner or later the varmint was going to land on our doorstep fully armed with German tanks and dive bombers – so Roosevelt had to get all those mothers, fathers and wives scared enough or angry enough to stop saying, It’s none of our business, and start saying, We don’t have any choices left – we have to fight.  
 
It was a tall order: Roosevelt had to turning a slumbering and naturally divided Democracy into a single-minded juggernaut that figured no one was safe with a fellow on the loose who didn’t think twice about shooting anyone that looked at him crossways.
 
So, as Hitler crushed France and bombed London and rolled toward Moscow, as each blow fell Roosevelt nudged and poked and prodded using each crisis to build the fear and unity to whip the varmint.
 
Then, in 1941, Roosevelt cut off oil to the Japanese – which mattered back then because the Japanese got most of their fuel from American oil companies. Then the Japanese decided to bomb Pearl Harbor to sink our fleet so they could sail South to capture the Dutch oil fields in Indonesia and, by sunset on December 7th, Roosevelt had a united (and white-hot angry) nation on his hands.
 
Today there is a varmint on the loose over in Syria and Iraq beheading Americans (and Kurds and Syrians) and posting videos on the Internet (which even Hitler didn’t do in the newsreels of his day) and sooner or later this varmint’s going to land on our doorstep too.
 
It’s a hard fact: We’re no more united – or ready to fight any kind of real war – than we were in 1939. But it’s also a fact there’re crazy folks on the loose who have a mean streak a mile wide.
 
So – instead of saying ‘stay calm, don’t worry, the world’s always been a messy place’ and promising he can serve up a painless victory without ‘putting a single boot on the ground’ – maybe the President ought to start poking and prodding to open people’s eyes to the threat so we can whip the varmint and get it over with.

 

 

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27
When the pollster asked voters, Who should pay for the coal ash cleanup, Duke Energy or consumers? the answer came back loud and clear: Voters had no doubt. Almost to a man they said Duke Energy.
 
Now that didn’t mean that was the right – or fair – answer.
 
But it did mean any legislator who disagreed was going to have to give voters a good practical or theological or economic or political reason that changed their minds because, otherwise, the moment he said he wanted consumers to pay for the clean-up (in the form of higher electric bills) he’d be committing the political equivalent of walking in front of a firing squad.
 
The Republicans decided not to give voters a reason to change their minds – and the Democrats didn’t need too.
 
Because the moment Duke Energy called for higher electric bills, whether Roy Cooper and Company saw that as corporate wolves preying on hapless sheep or whether they, more practically, asked themselves, Who do we want to stick with the bill – six million voters or one corporation – they immediately rolled out a law saying Duke should pay every penny. And, a month later, when Duke reported a $600 million quarterly profit it looked like the Democrats were standing on solid ground.
 
The Republicans headed down a different track. They didn’t say they wanted six million voters to pay for the coal ash cleanup but they did kill the Democrats’ law dead in its tracks – then passed a law of their own saying Duke Energy couldn’t ask the Utilities Commission for a rate increase for four months  (until January 15) which created two problems.
 
First, a voter who didn’t want his electric bill raised now didn’t want it raised after January 15 either. Second, the Democrats had given voters an unequivocal no rate increase pledge while the Republicans had said let’s wait until after the election and see.
 
I reckon that makes it all but certain before long we’re going to see ads saying Republicans sided with Duke Energy – and then Republicans are going to need to give voters a darn good reason why it’s necessary or right or fair for them to pay to clean up the coal ash ponds. Beyond that, in November, when voters troop to the polls there may be just one question left: Which do they dislike more? Obama? Or paying $10 billion more in electric bills?
 

 

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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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