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Entries for January 2010

31
I told myself I wouldn’t post another word about John Edwards.
 
But then I spent an hour on the phone with a disillusioned former staffer from Edwards’ presidential campaign.
 
This young man now finds himself unemployable. “Former John Edwards staffer” doesn’t look so good on a resume.
 
He began to have doubts about Edwards’ honesty back in 2006. But he’s an idealist – like many young people in politics – and thought he could help elect a President who would be good for America. So he hung in there.
 
Now he’s beating himself up over what he should have known – and done.
 
He’s wondering if he’ll ever trust another politician – or work in politics again.
 
And he hasn’t heard a word from Edwards in months.
 
There are a lot of others like him. Edwards went through staffers like potential jurors. He had a different chief of staff almost every year in the Senate – and a different set of campaign consultants every couple of years.
 
When I say Edwards still owes people an apology, I’m talking about the young man who called me.
 
But, as I told this fellow, don’t hold your breath.

 

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29
When Ruffin Poole was twenty-five years old and fresh out of law school he went to work for Mike Easley; he’s thirty-seven now and indicted for 51 counts of everything from extortion to racketeering and could go to prison for 85 years.
 
What went wrong – for a small town boy from Kinston? For twelve years Poole watched Mike Easley taking free trips, enjoying free perks and making real estate deals with supporters who wanted something in return from state government – and before long Poole started aping his mentor.
 
Easley took free trips.
 
So did Poole. Six trips to Costa Rica.
 
Easley got a $130,000 discount on a beachfront lot at mogul Lanny Wilson’s Cannonsgate development.
 
Poole invested $100,000 in Cannonsgate – and made a $30,000 profit in four months.
 
Easley took free golf outings.
 
So did Poole.
 
Poole got a free trip to New Orleans for a bachelor’s party, a free engagement party, a free beach weekend at a Figure Eight Island resort and free liquor for his wedding reception – he watched Easley, served Easley and copied Easley and now Poole’s indicted. So what does his old mentor say?
 
Walking what sounds like a very uneasy line Easley’s attorney carefully explained the Governor has no knowledge about the allegations against Poole but “he has faith in Ruffin Poole and finds it hard to believe that he would ever intentionally violate the law.”
 
Translation: ‘I know nothing but Ruffin, while you’re talking to the prosecutors, remember I’m still your friend.’
 
Mike Easley may know nothing or he may know quite a lot but either way Mike Easley made his own unique contribution to Ruffin Poole’s downfall. Our children learn the most from us not by what we tell them or teach them but what they see us do. It is how we live and act day to day and not our words that permeates their lives.
 
Ruffin Poole was twenty-five – he was a young man from a small town in an intoxicating political maze and he should have known better but a different mentor might also have led to a happier outcome.
 

 

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29
No one was much surprised when John Edwards fessed up and said he was the father of Rielle Hunter’s daughter – but nothing involving John Edwards ever seems to run along the straight and narrow path and sure enough there was an odd line in Edwards’ confession that twisted contrition into a knot.
 
Here’s what the News and Observer reported: “Edwards finally admitted Thursday he had fathered Francis Quinn Hunter, the daughter of his former mistress Rielle Hunter. The day before, he pulled on a pair of blue jeans and headed for Haiti. "He took a sleeping bag; he had no return ticket.”
 
Now, why on earth would John Edwards – in the middle of a confession – have his P.R. people tell the press he was headed to Haiti with a sleeping bag and no return ticket?
 
I suspect it is because John Edwards’ cardinal sin isn’t adultery – it is vanity.  He can’t stop praising himself – or paying P.R. people to paint a portrait that has him possessing a spirit and compassion so noble and profound and burning he rushed to Haiti with no way to return home.
 
But what happened to that same compassion when it came to the simpler and more profound duty of acknowledging his own daughter?
 
John Edwards hasn’t turned over a new leaf. He’s simply demonstrated he’s the walking, breathing, talking caricature of a vanity so boundless it would make Snow White’s stepmother blush.

 

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29
I don’t know Ruffin Poole well, but he never struck me as a fellow who posed a physical danger to the populace.
 
So why did the feds force him to make a well-photographed “perp walk” in cuffs?
 
I put that question to a Democratic lawyer friend of mine who has done considerable work in the federal courts.
 
He said the feds are sending a message to anybody who works in state government: Violate the law – and the public trust – and this could be you.
 
That would get my attention.

 

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29
“The jobs governor.”
 
“Setting government straight.”
 
“Career and college – ready, set, go.”
 
“Safe communities.”
 
You may as well get familiar with all these phrases. You’ll be hearing them from Governor Perdue – presumably for a good while.
 
Team Perdue has carved out those words as her roadmap to political recovery. They’re putting into practice the most fundamental political-message lesson: focus and discipline.
 
The media, of course, won’t like it. Their job is to find something new to report every job. Perdue’s job is to say the same thing over and over. Therein the tension.
 
Democrats should welcome the Governor’s course. And hope she pursues it relentlessly.

 

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28
President Obama showed anew Wednesday night why he got elected – and why he remains the dominant political talent in America today.
 
His speech was masterful. His tone was perfect. And he smilingly skewered a range of targets – Republicans, Democrats, Supreme Court, big banks, you name it.
 
But his positioning was even more important than his performance.
 
The key to his speech was a warning to Republicans in the Senate. In effect, he said that, if Washington doesn’t produce this year, you’re to blame.
 
Republicans have been in high spirits since the Massachusetts election. If they have any sense, they’ll realize they’re on the court with the political version of LeBron James.

 

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28
I don’t recall hardly ever seeing eye to eye with State Representative Mickey Michaux but the other day he hit the nail on the head.
 
Governor Perdue’s favorite Cabinet Secretary Lanier ‘The Artful Dodger’ Cansler traipsed over to the legislature for a meeting and after a fair amount of hemming and hawing admitted he had miscalculated his department’s budget by $250 million.
 
Representative Michaux shot back, ‘So, now, you’re telling us that money we put in the budget for you, your figures, are not going to happen?’
 
That’s exactly what Cansler’s telling legislators and they might as well get ready – because the bottom line may turn out to be a lot worse than Cansler’s ready to admit.
 
Last summer Secretary Cansler promised legislators if they’d let him pass out $250 million in no bid contracts he’d be able to cut his department’s budget. Well, he’s passed out the contracts but there’re no cuts. Instead, by coincidence, Cansler’s budget is in the red $250 million.
 
What went wrong? Cansler gave legislators two explanations at the meeting.
 
First, he said, He just never figured in a recession unemployment would go up and more people would need Medicaid.
 
Second, he blamed the Obama Administration.
 
Washington, he said, has been painfully slow in signing off on the Medicaid cuts he wants. (Of course, what he didn’t tell to legislators is the Obama Administration told him last summer it wouldn’t go along with his plan to cut thousands of elderly and disabled patients’ health care by expediently declaring they were no longer – ‘legally’ – sick.)
 
So, now, the horse is out of the barn.
 
The $250 million’s spent, the Obama Administration’s done just what it told Cansler it’d do and legislators might as well get ready for more bad news: The $250 million Cansler admits his department is over budget – is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
 

 

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27
Once you get past the dishing about Sarah Palin, John Edwards, et al in the book Game Change, you learn a few things.
 
Like about President Obama.
 
That he’s like a basketball player who wants the ball when the game is on line.
 
That he has supreme confidence he can rise to the moment.
 
That he especially has confidence he can give a speech that changes the game.
 
He came through throughout his campaign – the speech on race, his performance in the fall debates, his cool response to the economic meltdown that caused John McCain to melt down.
 
Can he do it tonight?
 
One caution: Don’t rush to instant judgment tonight or tomorrow. Wait a few days. Instant analysis often proves wrong later.
 
Bill Clinton’s first State of the Union after the 1994 election – which lasted about 17 hours, as I recall – was panned at first.
 
Later, it turned out that Americans watched it all. And liked it.
 
Two weeks ago, Scott Brown was a game-changer.
 
Tonight, the reigning king takes his shot.

 

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26
Coming out of a meeting over in the state legislature Senate Kingpin Marc Basnight ran head on into a gaggle of reporters and right off someone asked if it wasn’t a bit underhanded for Basnight to appropriate $25 million for a new fishing pier at Nags Head and then have his own construction company build it.
 
 No sir, Basnight said, There wasn’t one thing wrong with that.
 
Why not, the reporter asked.
 
Because, Basnight said, He hadn’t had a thing to do with Basnight Construction in ten or fifteen years.
 
What’s more, Basnight added, Last August when his cousin Jimmy had told him the company was going to bid to work on the new pier he (Senator Basnight) had uprightly and immediately resigned as President of the company.
 
Resigned, that is, as President of a company he’d just said he hadn’t had anything to do with for fifteen years.
 
About an hour later from after Basnight’s perspective things went from bad to worse.
 
Researchers at the Civitas Institute issued a ‘Research White Paper’ that showed Basnight Construction Company was awarded a contract to work on the pier nine months before Basnight resigned.
 
So Basnight’s been President of a company for fifteen years – but he now says hasn’t had anything to do with it; and he told the press he resigned before the company bid on building the pier – but now it turns out his company got the contract months before he resigned.
 
Well as the comedian on television used to say, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
 

 

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26
Congressman Brad Miller is never the happiest of warriors. But this year could raise his angst to new levels.
 
Miller worries in the Greensboro News & Record that – thanks to the Supreme Court’s corporate-campaign ruling – he might be the target of bank-sponsored attacks.
 
“I’ve made a real nuisance of myself to the most financially powerful industry in the United States,” Miller told Mark Binker.
 
Banks wouldn’t be his only worry. He’s also got Carter Wrenn running Bernie Reeve’s campaign against him.
 
Democrats facing Carter always ask me: “What’s he going to do?” Like it’s a mystery.
 
Carter will do the voodoo he always does.
 
Bernie’s campaign will do the research, they’ll raise the money, and Carter will have Bernie chewing on Brad’s leg from the get-go.
 
Memo to Brad: Don’t sit around waiting for it. Get going now. Define Bernie before he defines you.
 
Miller should win his race. After all, he drew up his own district.
 
But he won’t be having a lot of fun.

 

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