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27
It’s going to be too funny if Newt Gingrich, who took negative politics to a new level in the 1990s, is undone now by negative politics. That’s karma.
 
If his swoon continues in Iowa, the only way Iowans can pull off their quadrennial surprise is to give a victory to Ron Paul or Rick Santorum. That will be a headline for a couple of days, but will present hardly a speed bump to Mitt Romney.
 
Nobody seems to have the staying power to beat him over the long haul. Gingrich and Rick Perry couldn’t even get on the ballot in Virginia, for Pete’s sake. Which gave the media an excuse to exclaim in unison that Newt is “disorganized.” It’s one of those times a real event gives reporters and analysts the chance to talk about what they’ve all along viewed as a candidate’s character flaw.
 
So Democratic opposition researchers need to train their sights on Bain Capital and what Mitt’s hiding in his tax returns. That, possibly combined with Gary Johnson (who may be the most interesting character in the race; click here to read why) and Ron Paul running in November on third-party tickets, may be just the ticket for Democrats.
 

 

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26
We defeated Libya with laser-guided missiles that, NATO said, never ever blew up anyone but the bad guys. It sounded too good to be true – and it was. Now, NATO admits, those laser-guided missiles killed a fair number of civilians – which isn’t a shock. But does leave one loose end.
 
It may be NATO’s generals believed the myth of laser-guided missiles but shouldn’t at least one of the Great Democracies (or someone, somewhere) have said candidly, Sure, we’ll defeat Gaddafi – but this talk of painless victory is a pipedream.
 

 

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26
It didn’t take Republican legislative leaders long to learn the high-handed ways that they used to complain about when Marc Basnight and Tony Rand were running the Senate. Witness Senator Berger’s threat to wreak vengeance on six cities that appealed the legislature’s curbs on involuntary annexations.
 
There’s just something about being in power, especially in the Senate, that is intoxicating – and intolerant of any challenge.
 
It reminds me of what one Republican said is the real reason the legislative powers want Pat McCrory as governor: “They can push him around, and they’ll run things.”

 

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26
Last month, the state’s economy didn’t grow and create new jobs but unemployment went down. How is that possible?
 
Well, look at it this way: Imagine you’re a politician running for reelection and you’re praying your policies work and unemployment drops but the Labor Department just insists on putting out pesky figures that make your life harder. The solution is straightforward: You simply tell the numbers crunchers to shuffle a few peas and pods and move around a few facts and declare that thousands of people have left the workforce (because they’re no longer looking for work) and the result is like magic: Suddenly, without creating a single job, you’ve reduced unemployment.
 
The same News and Observer report about unemployment also included two heartwrenching stories about people who are out of work. Lakeshia Cobb is a 32 year old single mother with six children who receives $400 a week in unemployment benefits. Her car has been repossessed. She lives with relatives. And her children face a barren Christmas. But she has hope for the future – “It’s the only way to keep your sanity and keep going on,” she told the News and Observer.
 
Anthony Norman, a 43 year old electrician, is in a fix too. Mr. Norman has been out of work for 2 years. Worse, he just received his last unemployment check. Worse still, last week his girlfriend gave birth to his third child. “They always say God doesn’t put anything in front of you you can’t handle, but I’ve met my limit,” Norman told the newspaper.
 
There is no doubt about the power of God’s mercy but it’s also true God’s been known to send messages during hard times and it may be He’s sending one to Mr. Norman.
 
Finally, on unemployment, Wells-Fargo bank had the last word. It’s been studying the figures, and, the bank announced, the problem is clear: “Layoffs in the government sector continue to be a big drag on the economy.”
 
And that’s Wells-Fargo’s conclusion: We need to have more people work for government.
 
But Obama already tried that.
 

 

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24
After he read the stories in the News and Observer about the hospital war in Raleigh between Wake Med and UNC Health Care, a retired health care administrator wrote in the newspaper that years ago Mayo Clinic founder William J. Mayo had said, “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered.”
 
Then the former administrator added, It sure looks like the elbow throwing in Raleigh has a lot more to do with power and executive egos than patients.
 
And that’s about as good a last word on Raleigh’s hospital wars as you could ask for.
 

 

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24
Our annual orgy of spending and consumption is nearly at an end. A day of peace and stillness beckons.
 
Not that I’m going to get all holier-than-thou. An orgy of spending and consumption is exactly what our economy needs.
 
But a question nags when you see cars lined up at the malls, shoppers loaded up with gifts and restaurants jammed with holiday parties: This is a recession?
 
Well, yes, some people surely are suffering. Which makes the story about the Secret Santa who paid off several families’ layaway at Wal-Mart stories a welcome reminder of the real Christmas spirit.
 
Then there are the people who work Christmas Day – at hospitals, utility companies, homes for the aged and disabled and, yes, the media – so we can all enjoy ours.
 
In the news are reminders of people around the world who don’t have our freedom to bitch about those who govern us. Or our freedom to worship as we wish – or even not worship. Although you’d better not admit to the latter if you run for public office.
 
My guess is that all of us who read this blog and follow politics have the good life. Not everybody does. Be thankful.
 
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays.
 

 

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23
Twenty years ago SBI agent and blood-splatter expert Duane Deaver withheld evidence in a murder trial in Raleigh and an innocent man went to prison.
 
Later, in a murder trial in Johnston County a federal judge ruled that Deaver had given “false and misleading testimony.”
 
Then a few days ago Judge Orlando Hudson in Durham ruled Deaver had misled the jury in another murder trial and ordered a re-trial because of Deaver’s perjured testimony.

Well, naturally, the News and Observer hot-footed it straight to the Attorney General and put him on the spot, asking, What are you going to do about this mess? Will you investigate Deaver’s perjury? What are you going to do about the other cases he testified in?
 
Attorney General Cooper submerged. With a curt, No comment – he went on submarine maneuvers.
 

 

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23
Democrats have fretted over the emergence of Super PACs, fearing that their big money and negative ads will help Republicans. But, so far, Republicans are the leading victims of Super PACs.
 
Newt Gingrich has been savaged by them. Mitt Romney feigns innocence while his millionaire friends dump a truckload of negatives on Newt. One assumes it’s only a matter of time before anti-Romney Republicans do the same to him.
 
Meantime, Democrats need to be organizing their own Super PACs to destroy the eventual Republican nominee next year. And a lot of the opposition research will already be done for us by the other Republican campaigns!

 

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22
Since last spring, like hopeful school girls, conservatives have been falling in and out of love with Michele Bachmann, with Rick Perry, with Herman Cain. Now we’re asking breathlessly, Is Newt the one? – followed by a harsher question, asked with a hint of desperation, Is there anyone else?
 
It wasn’t hard for Newt to convince Republican conservatives he’s the one, instead of Mitt Romney, and soar to the top of the polls. But, now we’re learning, Newt’s also like a girl with a past – he’s telling anyone who’ll listen that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paid him a small fortune just to sit at his feet and listen to his wisdom as a historian. Unfortunately for Newt, it didn’t take Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann but one debate to cut through that bit of word parsing: What Newt had to sell was influence and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn’t pay to hear his lectures on history – they paid him for his influence.
 
So, no, Newt’s not the one. In fact, no one’s the one and, barring a miracle, for conservatives this election is coming down to a hard lesson in Hobson’s Choices.
 

 

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22
On behalf of all Democrats, I thank Speaker Boehner and House Republicans for their unexpected and unbelievably generous Christmas gift.
 
Of course, their gift for the country as a whole is more like a lump of coal. They want to give 160 million Americans a tax increase, cut off unemployment benefits and nip the nascent economy recovery in the bud, as Barney Fife would say.
 
It’s too much for even Senate Republicans.  There, the two-month extension passed by 89-10, with support from 39 Republicans.
 
Apparently, House Republicans are all for tax cuts – but only for rich people. Gosh darn it, somebody has to stand up for the 1 percent in this country!
 
We Democrats appreciate them drawing the line so clearly as we head into an election year. Bob Etheridge, especially, thanks Renee Ellmers for taking the lead here.
 
Speaking of leading, the brouhaha led to real profiles in courage by the leading Republican presidential candidates when they were asked to weigh in:
 
Newt Gingrich said: “I have no idea how I would try to handle it if I were in John Boehner’s position.”
 
Mitt Romney was just as strong. According to the New York Times: “He declined to say whether he supported the House Republican position to reject the two-month extension, which had the overwhelming support of Senate Republicans. Asked directly if he disagreed with Mr. Boehner, he replied: ‘I just told you my position. I did not say that, so I’m not going to say that I said that’.”
 
Well said, Mitt. Well played, GOP. Merry Christmas to you all – and to all hard-working, taxpaying Americans, just try to have a happy new year.
 

 

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