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Entries for October 2009

23
Today is one of those days I’m glad I'm in politics.
 
I went to the groundbreaking for the James B. Hunt, Jr. Library on the Centennial Campus at N.C.State.
 
There were tributes to Hunt and his contributions to North Carolina – especially for giving NCSU the land that become the Centennial Campus.
 
“No Jim Hunt, no Centennial Campus,” Chancellor James Woodward said. He said that, along with the BellTower, the library will be of NCSU’s signature landmarks.
 
There was a presentation about the library’s mission as a “think and do” center.
 
We saw drawings for the building. It’ll be spectacular.
 
But here’s what I thought about: Jim Hunt made the Centennial Campus decision at the lowest point in his career.
 
He had just lost the 1984 Senate race to Jesse Helms. He had two months left as a lame-duck governor.
 
The mayor of Raleigh, Avery Upchurch, brought a delegation of real-estate developers in to see Hunt. They had their eyes on the land – for houses and apartments and shopping centers.
 
Hunt didn’t buy it. He had another idea: Give the land to N.C.State for a new kind of research campus – a home for the university and for private companies.
 
That’s what he did. The Centennial Campus transformed N.C.State. And the Hunt Library – and the Institute for Emerging Issues it will house – will continue transforming North Carolina.
 
That’s what politics can be.

 

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23
Over in Beijing Governor Perdue’s taking a break from her stressful junket to China to teleconference with reporters back home and say it’s just awful, terrible and cruel and her feathers are all ruffled because twenty murderers are about to be released due to a strange law passed 25 years ago.
 
Now, stop a minute to think.
 
The state’s known of this problem for quite awhile. So these murderers getting paroled is not a surprise. Which means the Governor’s had quite a while to find a solution – but hasn’t. Or didn’t. But now it’s hit the newspapers it’s got her attention big time and she’s hand-wringing and grand-standing way over in China – but still hasn’t solved the problem.
 
Now, surely there is a legal way to keep twenty murderers in prison. I’m no lawyer but, after all, how does the legislature retroactively shorten a prison term the courts and a jury set? That sure sounds like the legislature’s trampling on the Judicial Branch – heck, why have judges and juries if politicians can change their verdicts (or at least the sentences). Maybe the Governor should have put the best legal minds in the country to work on that or finding some other legal solution.
 
Instead about the only one doing anything constructive is U.S. Attorney George Holding, who’s got his lawyers scrambling to solve the Governor’s problem – and find a legal way to keep the felons in jail.
 
This is one heck of an example of how government works.
 

 

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22
If you’ve bought the line there’s a budget crisis in state government – here’s proof you may have been sold a bill of goods.
 
The State Department of Agriculture ordered 9,000 camel-colored t-shirts to give away at the state fair – for $18,000.
 
You might ask – why did the state need to give away t-shirts in the middle of a budget crisis? It gets better.
 
The t-shirts came and they were white, not camel-colored. The Department called the t-shirt vender in New York said they’d ordered camel-colored shirts and didn’t want the white ones. The New York vender said, You’re right, I screwed up. Look, these t-shirts are no good to me now. You can have them free and we’ll call it even.
 
The Department of Agriculture said, No way, we want camel.
 
End of story: The Department orders 9,000 camel colored t-shirts from another vender for $31,000, then tells the New York vender he owes the state $13,000 for the difference.
 
Meanwhile they’re 9,000 white t-shirts sitting somewhere in a warehouse in Raleigh.
 
Bottom Line: The State could have had 9,000 t-shirts for free – but, instead, spent $31,000 because someone at the Department of Agriculture like camel.
 
How’s that for how government works?
 

 

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22

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22
“The War Room” has a sequel. There is now a film about the 2006 election – “HouseQuake” to go with the classic documentary about Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign.
 
(I am compelled to insert here that I have a brief role in “The War Room.” I challenge you to find it.)
 
Political junkies in North Carolina will have another reason to see the new movie: It was directed by Karen Price, daughter of Congressman David Price.
 
It premiered in Washington Wednesday.

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22
… couldn’t get any worse, it did. Her popularity dropped again.
 
According to a poll last week an astonishing 63% of North Carolinians disapprove of the job Perdue is doing as Governor. She’s lost the support of Moderates, Conservatives, Independents, Republicans and half the Democrats who voted for her last November.  All she has left is about 29% of the voters who are largely liberals in her own party – and just as soon as they find out what she’s doing to Medicaid patients they’re going to be having second thoughts too.
 
Here’s an example: There’s a state Medicaid program that provides nurses to care for invalid children in their homes. I don’t mean children who’re a little ill. Children with MS and Cerebral Palsy and who need ventilators to breathe.
 
It’s a tiny program with just 350 patients in it but the only way these children can stay at home and out of institutions is the nurse Medicaid provides who spends part of her day caring for them.  But Perdue’s Department of Health and Human Services just announced it’s cutting their care. It is cheaper the state’s Department of Health and Human Services declares to put them in institutions than to care for them in their homes. So the time nurses spend with these patients is being cut or eliminated.
 
Now a conservative Republican – like me – might swallow hard and buy Perdue’s explanation that there’s just not enough money to provide a nurse for a child with MS – but a true-blue liberal’s going to be livid with sheer moral outrage.
 
And that outrage is going to hit Perdue right dead center in what’s left of her popularity – because it’s going to be pretty hard for a liberal who supports President Obama’s ‘Public Option’ to vote to reelect a Governor who cut care for a child with MS – while spending $25 million to build a fancy fishing pier at Nags Head.
 

 

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22
Public Policy Polling did a poll that seems obvious: Fox viewers don’t like Obama, and MSNBC viewers do.
 
But the point was reinforced last week by Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu (and UNC grad), in a talk in Chapel Hill.
 
Kilar said the Internet is essentially a tool that enables us to watch only what we want to watch.
 
The last episode of “MASH” had 100 million viewers – the largest TV audience ever.
 
That will never happen again in a world of 300 channels – and millions of Internet sites.
 
The great challenge in political communications today is how to reach that fragmented audience.

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Posted in: General, Issues
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21
Recently I was subjected to a speech by columnist-commentator George Will.
 
He courageously took on Washington’s big spending. His implication was that President Obama is the culprit.
 
To his credit, Will did acknowledge that George Bush’s prescription drug benefit – which doesn’t let the government negotiate lower prices – is part of the problem.
 
But he ignored three other big causes of the deficit:
  • Bush’s war in Iraq
  • Bush’s tax cuts
  • Bush’s bailout.
If I was an umpire, I'd call Will out on strikes.
 

 

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20
The answer in a nutshell is Republicans in Washington.
 
The other morning ole Newt Gingrich, who talks the talk and has gotten himself anointed as ‘conservative thinker’ numero uno turned his attention from Washington to Lake Placid, New York and endorsed a liberal who’d make Nancy Pelosi proud.
 
Why would a deep-thinking Republican do that? Because Deidre Scozzafava has an ‘R’ next to her name on the ballot and she’s the darling (and handpicked candidate) of the Washington Republicans – John Boehner, Michael Steele and so on.
 
And who is Deidre Scozzafava? She’s the Albany Assemblywoman Republican House Leader John Boehner and the gnomes at the NRCC picked and have spent half a million dollars to elect in the Special Election in New York’s 23rd District – a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the Civil War. She has two opponents: A Democrat, and the nominee of the New York Conservative Party, which 29 years ago elected Jim Buckley to the Senate.
 
Ms. Scozzafava’s for gay marriage, abortion, President Obama’s Stimulus Bill and voted for 190 tax increases in Albany and Newt’s waving the flag to elect her against a conservative candidate whose stands on issues are, well, what politicians like John Boehner and Newt Gingrich say they believe in.
 
We haven’t had a good house cleaning at Republican Central in Washington since the 1970’s when the current Washington Republicans ancestors were fighting to elect anybody but Ronald Reagan.
 
It’s time to pull out the broom.
 

 

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20
Most of my political conversations these days are about investigations, not elections.
 
Especially about John Edwards and Mike Easley.
 
This can’t be good for Democrats.
 
But maybe the party can find shelter from the fallout. Try this:
 
Neither Easley nor Edwards ever was a good party man.
 
Easley rarely went to party events. Edwards left North Carolina after 1998 and ran straight to Iowa.
 
Maybe if they’d spent more time rubbing shoulders with good North Carolina Democrats at barbeques and rallies, they would have had less time to get into trouble.

 

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