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23
Back in 2009 a newly elected, bristling Michael Steele told CNN he (as Republican Party Chairman) and not Rush Limbaugh was the leader of the GOP and added, ‘Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh’s whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly.’
 
Limbaugh didn’t take that lying down – he landed a verbal hay-maker of his own on Steele’s jaw, Steele went weak-kneed and apologized saying the words that had come out of his mouth did not reflect what he was thinking, meaning, I guess, Steele’s lips have an odd biological capacity for independent speech.
 
Over the coming year Steele landed himself in hot water over and over – by holding a fundraiser in a Los Angeles strip club, using his position as RNC Chairman to charge $20,000 speaking fees (while he was being paid $223,000 to work full-time to elect Republicans) and writing and publishing a book Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.
 
Michael Steele was having a tough tenure as head of the RNC until President Obama saved him by handing Republicans their biggest election sweep in decades.
 
Now Steele’s up for reelection – so does it matter if he leads the RNC’s campaign to defeat Obama?  No, not unless you’re a Republican political consultant looking for an RNC contract, except for one caveat: The RNC Chairman gets to decide how to spend the party’s $170 million budget and a lot of people think Michael Steele bungled that job last election – so now there’s a race on to replace him. And the rumor mills are churning.
 
Karl Rove, rumor has it, opposes Steele. Sarah Palin supports him. Newt Gingrich backs Saul Anuzis, Steele’s only announced opponent. For their parts, Rove, Palin and Gingrich aren’t saying a word one way or the other.
 
Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Chairman who has a goatee ‘Skitch’ Henderson would admire, the day he announced declared that since he believes in loyalty his natural instinct wasn’t to oppose his former leader Steele. But then, in the next breath, adroitly sidestepping that hurdle explains as much as he treasures loyalty his duty to answer the challenges facing the Republican Party is a higher calling – challenges, Anuzis says, he but not Steele can overcome.
 
So in the iconic world of Washington Republican politics next January a cache of trunk waving Pachyderms – the 168 members of the Republican National Committee – are going to meet in the Eisenhower Center in Washington to decide whether to give Steele or Anuzis or another (yet unknown) candidate the check writing authority over the GOP’s $170 million for the next two years.
 

 

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22
Bob Etheridge hurt his reelection campaign by losing his temper on a Washington, D.C. street when accosted by Republican dirty-tricksters.
 
He hurt his lasting reputation by showing a singular gracelessness when he conceded to Renee Ellmers:
 
"The combination of the national tide that swept the country, massive amounts of secret corporate cash funding a campaign of distortions, and dirty politics by Washington, D.C., partisan operatives was just too much to overcome."
 
He should have heeded the immortal words of Dr. J – Julius Erving: “You’ve got to win without bragging and lose without whining.”

 

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20
I've been doing a series of book-signings across the state to promote my Jim Hunt biography.  My publisher, John F. Blair Publisher in Winston-Salem, asked me to write something about the tour for their blog.  It follows
 
Halfway through my tour, I’ve concluded that book-signings are God’s way of rewarding authors for all the angst, anguish and anxiety they suffered while writing their books.
 
Because book-signings are an ego rush.
 
You sit at a table decorated with the book you wrote.  You look up at a line of people holding your book, waiting to speak with you.  When their turn comes, they tell you how much they’re looking forward to reading the book, they’re so glad you wrote it, they remember meeting you at such-and-such, etc.  Then you sign, try to think of something warm or clever or memorable to write, and they go away smiling.
 
Nice.
 
When this tour is over, my family and friends are going to have a tough job bringing me back to earth.  (Rest assured: They’re up to the challenge.)
 
I get an added treat on my tour.  Former Governor Hunt goes to all the book-signing events, too.  He’s a real draw, so we get good crowds.
 
Best of all – after years of writing speeches for him and listening to him give them – I get to talk.  He even introduces me.  And sometimes – but rarely – I get the last word.
 
At the end of each event, I’m spent.  I’m exhilarated – and exhausted.  But I go away with a new appreciation for three things:
 
1. People who read – and buy – books.
2. Publishers like John F. Blair.
3. Independent bookstores that care about authors and, most of all, readers.
 
Bless you all.  Long may you read, publish and thrive.

 

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19
The institution of marriage is clearly in trouble. A new poll says nearly four in 10 Americans believe marriage is obsolete.
 
It seems like the only people who want to get married are gays. And the Republican Party is determined to stop them.
 
This is disheartening news for the cake, catering, flower and photography industries.
 

 

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19
The N&O reported that one of Sen. Phil Berger’s five goals for the new Republican Senate is:
 
“Write a state budget with no tax increases and with the intent of letting temporary sales tax and income tax surcharges expire on schedule” (italics added).
 
Saying that's your “intent” is a lot different from promising you’ll do it. Is this a shift in position?

 

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18
Both parties are busy with the usual post-election rituals. The winners fight over power, and the losers fight over blame.
 
As usual with Democrats, the left and the center blame each other.
 
Heath Shuler, Larry Kissell, et al blame Speaker Pelosi – and, by implication, President Obama – for pushing the party too left.
 
Liberals blame “corporate Democrats who refuse to stand up and fight for real change,” in the words of Jim Dean, brother of Howard and head of Democracy for America.
 
I’ve seen this movie before.
 
After 1984, the Democratic Leadership Council was founded by centrist Democrats in the wake of Walter Mondale’s historic defeat. It worked.
 
But the party’s left has a recurring death wish. And it usually ends up killing off North Carolina Democrats.
 
Here’s the reasoning I can’t follow, as stated by Ari Berman, a writer for The Nation:
 
“Democrats would be in better shape, and would accomplish more, with a smaller and more ideologically cohesive caucus.”
 
In other words, the way to get more done in politics is to lose more.
 
Really?

 

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17
Let me keep pounding the drum I beat yesterday.
 
A front-page article in The New York Times today reinforces the need for politicians to talk about economic growth, not just budget cuts.
 
David Leonardt writes:
 
“We look back on the late 1990s as a rare time when the federal government ran budget surpluses. We tend to forget that those surpluses came as a surprise to almost everybody. As late as 1998, the Congressional Budget Office was predicting a deficit for 1999. In fact, Washington ran its biggest surplus in five decades. What happened? Above all, economic growth. And that may be a big part of the answer to our current problems.”
 
He goes on to show how faster economic growth now could ease the deficit.
 
In politics, a positive and optimistic message always beats gloom and doom. That’s why Ronald Reagan won while many green-eyeshade, bean-counting Republicans lost.
 
Who will relearn that lesson this decade?
 

 

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16
Politicians in Raleigh and Washington are spending their time and energy debating an issue that, I suspect, few Americans spend much time and energy worrying about: the budget deficit.
 
Yes, the average person probably would say something has to be done about the deficit. But the real concern is the economy: jobs, paying the bills, saving for retirement and college, etc., etc.
 
Politicians act like the public is closely following the budget debate. The Republicans, especially, seem to think they’ll get medals for making tough cuts and balancing the budget.
 
Don’t count on it.
 
Voters won’t get excited just because you balance the budget. That’s the least they expect.
 
They want to see a better economy – whatever it takes.
 
So the real question is whether balancing the budget – state or national – fixes the economy? Or will austerity choke off recovery?
 
We’ll find out.
 
But, for now, this might be an opening for both President Obama and Governor Perdue. Instead of trying to out-cut Republicans, they could propose a job-growth plan that balances cutting spending with foregoing tax cuts.
 
Frame the choice: Job growth versus budget-balancing. Let the public decide.

 

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16
After pouring millions into campaigns to elect Democrats from Chris Dodd to local Congressman Bob Etheridge, the Wall Street Banks are now rubbing their hands together and purring over the prospect of the new Republican Majority repealing the President’s new banking regulations – like the legislation the Democrats passed that cut debit card fees for retailers, costing banks billions.
 
And the Washington Republicans aren’t exactly saying to the banks: Forget about it.
 
Who’d have imagined it: It’s just two weeks after the election and in their political wisdom the Washington Republicans are contemplating doing favors for the only villain in sight who’s even more unpopular than President Obama: The Banks

 

 

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16
Sometimes meaning to kick you in the ribs, a fellow hands you a platinum covered gift instead.
 
President of Afghanistan Hamid ‘The Corrupt’ Karzai just did that – he handed us a priceless gift, demanding we stop night raids on Taliban headquarters and adding it’s time we got the hell out of Afghanistan – or, as he put it, the day has arrived for less ‘boots on the ground.’
 
President Obama ought to not hesitate. He should apologize immediately and say, You’re right. We don’t want to tell you how to run your country. That’s your job not ours. You want us out, so we’re leaving.
 
Then the President ought to order General Petraeus to pack up the troops and come home, except for dropping drones on the heads of any terrorists we spot hiding in the Hindu Kush.
 

 

 

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