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Entries for 2009

01
I talked to two seasoned and smart Democrats recently who think that – contrary to all the talk about 2010 being a Republican year – Richard Burr will be vulnerable.
 
One, who watched Burr’s race in 2004, thinks he is a weak campaigner. That year, Burr did in fact campaign as far under the radar as he could. He depended on good TV ads to carry him.
 
Also that year, Erskine Bowles never really had the desire to rip Burr’s heart out of his chest. Though that’s exactly what Burr’s ads did to Bowles.
 
The other Democrat had an interesting theory about how to go at Burr: attack him for voting for the Wall Street bailout last fall.
 
That’s right, while hard-working Americans were about to go under, Richard Burr voted to take their money and give it to Wall Street fat-cats and big-bank execs.
 
That attack, combined with the special-interest tag Burr has acquired in Washington, could prove deadly.

 

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01
 
Not every politician can straddle a fence standing on one leg, but Newt Gingrich can do it and make it look easy.
 
For over a decade Newt’s enthusiasts and supporters have been saying his ‘Contract with America’ was why the Republicans swept the 1994 election – but, in fact, right here in North Carolina just before the election a candidate took a poll and asked voters how they felt about Newt’s ‘Contract with America’ and voters said, Huh? Come again what’s that? They’d never heard of it.
 
But, nonetheless, after the election Newt and his admirers – no doubt believing it – went right on telling how the ‘Contract’ won the election and, in an example of how history is written, fiction became legend and legend became myth.
 
Last week, Newt stepped onto center stage in American politics again – this time to talk about religion and politics.
 
He started his Thanksgiving message by describing a painting in the Capital of the Pilgrims praying on the deck of the Mayflower, then added how on Thanksgiving Day Americans should offer prayers of thanks to the God of Washington and Lincoln but, then, right in the middle of his homily he said “That doesn’t mean we’re all Christians. It means we’re Americans; lucky citizens of a nation uniquely rooted in faith in our Creator.”
 
It sounded odd – right in the middle of all that piety politics reared its ugly head and Newt slipped into covering his flanks with Buddhists and Muslims and so on.
 
Now I reckon most folks would say that was open-minded and big-hearted but it sure sounded like Newt – not meaning to – had demoted the God of Washington and Lincoln with a politically correct bromide.
 
And that’s politics in American today.
 
We’ve become a nation of religious fence-straddlers whose primary goal is not to offend anyone from atheists to Hindus when talking about our Christian heritage.
 
Compare that to General Washington – when he was praying during the winter of 1777 here’s what the Father of Our Country said to his soldiers at Valley Forge: “To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the distinguished character of Christian.”
 

 

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30
Readers of The National Enquirer knew from the beginning what readers and viewers of ESPN, the networks, The News & Observer, The New York Times and all other major media didn’t know until well after Tiger Woods made one of his worst drives ever.
 
Last week, The Enquirer reported that Tiger had been – as they say – “involved” with another woman.
 
Once again, the mainstream media had to decide whether to repeat “tabloid trash,” as John Edwards once called it.
 
Well, The Enquirer turned out to be accurate about Edwards. Why not trust it on Tiger?
 
A footnote: Enquiring golf minds want to know what club Mrs. Woods used to “free” her husband.
 
A five- or six-iron sounds right for the job.
 

 

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24
I’ve never laid eyes on Joe Sinsheimer. Politically he and I walk on opposite sides of the street. But if you ever get the feeling North Carolina politics has turned into a swamp of no-bid contracts and corrupt politicians stop a moment and consider what Sinsheimer has single-handedly done with good old-fashioned hard work – starting three years ago when he put the pieces of the Jim Black ‘Lottery Scandal’ together, then had the courage to speak out against the leaders of his own party.
 
I guess exposing Black may have made Sinsheimer a kind of pariah to North Carolina’s deal making politicians but it’s also made him a kind of one man crusade against corruption and he just struck again – after former Governor Easley’s factotum Ruffin Poole told the State Board of Elections he wasn’t going to testify at Easley’s hearing subpoena or no subpoena.
 
It sounds like Poole, an attorney, was what I guess folks in an older cruder political age would have called a bag-man – a political fixer collecting campaign cash for Easley’s campaigns then passing out favors from the Governor in return.
 
But Sinsheimer added a piece to the picture everyone else missed: He pointed out before Governor Easley left office he appointed Poole to the Board of the so-called ‘Golden Leaf Foundation,’ a political pork-barrel fund that has half a billion dollars in tobacco settlement money sitting in the bank to pass out. In other words, former Governor Easley’s wheeler-dealer is sitting on the board of a state sponsored ‘Foundation’ where he can go right now on wheeling and dealing.
 
So Sinsheimer, who doesn’t seem to have any qualms at all about putting politicians on the spot, wrote Governor Perdue and in effect said, Don’t you reckon you ought to do something to straighten this out? – but Governor Perdue’s response was pretty much the same as former Speaker Jim Black’s when the Lottery Scandal started unraveling: She ignored him.
 
As a result Ruffin Poole’s going right on sitting on the Golden Leaf Board but thanks to Sinsheimer he’s got one big problem: Now just about every reporter in North Carolina is watching to see what he does with the money.
 

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24
  Back after Obama rolled into the White House and North Carolina turned into a ‘Blue State’ overnight Gary told me wryly, Don’t worry, we’ll fi...

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24
This is why Republicans won’t get far running against corruption in Raleigh.
 
The Greensboro News & Record reports: “The State Board of Elections has asked Sen. Phil Berger to explain at least three dozen problems found with his campaign finance reports since 2004, ranging from a lack of information to apparently illegal contributions.”
 
Berger’s response: “I’m confident that once we look at these on an individual basis, we’ll be able to clear these up.”
 
I believe that’s what Mike Easley said about his campaign reports.
 

 

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23
Next year may be a Republican year, but politics is funny. Polls show Richard Burr getting little more than 40 percent of the vote against a generic Democratic opponent.

One problem: No Democratic candidate has yet convinced the party he or she can beat Burr.
 
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is making another run at Cal Cunningham – now that the DSCC’s ill-advised wait on Bob Etheridge is finally over.
 
But the election is less than a year away. Burr is several million dollars ahead in fundraising. His stout defense of the pharmaceutical industry won’t hurt his fund-raising either.
 
The parade of Democrats who maintain they are putting their families first is getting ridiculous. Get real. Any politician worth his or her salt will happily neglect their families for a year for a chance to go to the United States Senate. The calculation is all about whether they can win.
 
The spotlight is now back on Cunningham. His Facebook club says, “We now have every reason to believe that Cal is listening to those who want him back in the running.”
 
Enough listening. Get in the game or get off the field.

 

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23
Governor Perdue finally got some good poll news. Public Policy Polling says her approval rating climbed out of the 20s. She’s at 30 percent, with 49 percent disapproval.
 
But why?
 
One theory: It’s because of her fight to keep in prison the 27 inmates the (Republican majority) Supreme Court wants to set free.
 
But PPP says her rise has been among the Democratic base. Tough-on-crime normally doesn’t move them.
 
Another theory: Her recent visibility – on jobs, energy, etc.
 
While her staff has done a good job focusing her message, today’s headlines don’t change opinions quite as fast as insiders think. Voters listen more slowly than politicians talk.
 
My guess is that it’s the (relative) absence of bad news. The legislature has been out of town, and the news isn’t dominated by budget disasters.
 
Of course, Pearse Edwards, her new message guru, should point out that the rise has come since he took the job.
 



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20
A wise reader – and veteran Raleigh observer – offers this perspective about Senator Martin Nesbitt:
 
“As you’ll recall, Nesbitt was one of Liston Ramsey’s key lieutenants when Liston was overthrown by a coalition of impatient Dems and opportunistic Repubs. Nesbitt was really bitter about what happened, and it probably sidetracked his career for a while. Now, he’s done almost the same thing by pulling a power play on Tony. I also wonder if he will use his new power to get even with the remaining Dems who participated in the coup (Roy Cooper, Pryor Gibson and Jim Crawford are about the only ones left in politics).”
 

 

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20
Ideologues – left and right – see elections as referendums on philosophy. But voters – often as not – are looking for simple competence. Somebody to run government well: protect us from enemies foreign and domestic, encourage job growth, educate our kids, spend tax money wisely and sparingly, etc.
 
Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because President Bush failed the competency test – on the economy, the war, Katrina, the deficit, everything.
 
The American people picked somebody else to steer the ship – not necessarily a new ideology.
 
So why is Obama down in the polls?
 
Well, are things getting better? Are there more jobs? Are we safer? Is the budget under control? Is health care getting fixed?
 
That’s what 2010 will be about.
 

 

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