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Entries for October 2012

31
Last spring an old friend, a pollster, came to Raleigh and predicted without blinking Romney was going to win and I said, Why’s that? and he said, It’s simple. A lot of people who voted for Obama last time won’t vote for him again but I don’t know anyone who voted for McCain who is voting for Obama this time.
 
Over the summer Obama did his best to make the election complicated, calling Romney a greedy bone-crushing capitalist, anti-women, anti-middle class, anti-senior citizens and adding Romney was a liar and flip-flopper to boot.
 
By fall the swing voters were asking themselves if Romney might turn out to be a worse President than Obama then they watched the first debate and decided whatever Romney’s flaws, bungling the economy worse than Obama wasn’t one of them – so, in the end, it looks like the election has turned out to be simple.
 
Swing voters only needed the answer to one question.
 

 

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31
Looking at the big money backing Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, a knowledgeable lawyer warns: “There would seem little doubt now but that Justice Newby will have to recuse himself from any redistricting case that might come before the high court.”
 
The lawyer says Newby may also have to recuse himself from cases involving business or corporations.
 
This lawyer writes: “The reason is actually very simple: Judges should only hear cases with a completely unbiased view when the case reaches the court. It is obvious from the very statements of the financial supporters who have already poured $$$$$$ into the Newby campaign, including that of Tom Fetzer, that they expect Newby to vote to protect the redistricting plan passed by the Republican-led legislature last year.
 
“Also, Newby goes around the state making speeches about his ‘business’ background.  No doubt that is why the NC Chamber of Commerce and other business-related contributors have given huge sums toward his election.  He may be asked to recuse in some of those cases as well.
 
“Lawyers generally agree that recusal of judges is a difficult issue. Apparently, there is no bright line formula for making the determination. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that there must be an inquiry as to the influence of financial contributions to a judicial campaign that ‘would offer a possible temptation to the average … judge to …lead him not to hold the balance nice, clear and true.’   
 
“This one seems like a no-brainer to me.  Newby would have to be made out of stone to ignore the expectations of those responsible for his election.” 
 
One factor is the sheer volume of money, which dwarfs the candidates’ spending. 
 
Craig Jarvis reported in the N&O: “Money keeps pouring into efforts to retain state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby over challenger Sam Ervin IV, an appellate court judge – more than $2.5 million in total so far.
 
“Newly posted campaign finance records show a huge infusion of out-of-state funding, including national Republican interests trying to protect redistricting maps…. 
 
“A huge part of that – $860,000 – comes from the Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Washington, D.C. The Institute for Southern Studies, in an analysis Tuesday, reports the RSLC has a vested interest in keeping the GOP-drawn congressional and legislative district intact, an issue that will end up before the state Supreme Court, which currently tilts conservative 4-3.” 
 
It seems clear what they expect for their money.

 

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29
Sandy is about to blow away – literally – everything we think we know about this presidential election. Soon it will all be up in the air – or under water.
 
There is no way to exaggerate the impact of a storm that covers 500 miles, hits 50 million people and lasts for days.
 
Should President Obama cancel every campaign event and focus totally on recovery? Should Romney keep campaigning? If not, what should he do? Do you pull all your ads? Does a negative ad backfire now? Is anybody paying attention? Will the storm wash out the vaunted Obama ground game? Will people even be able to vote?
 
What about voters’ psychology? Will they now want a corporate turnaround artist and Olympics-saver? Or will they wonder again whether Romney understands and cares about real people in real trouble?
 
Apropos of that, my friend Reid Overcash passed this along from the fake Twitter account #RomneyStormTips: “Everyone in the path of the hurricane should head to their second or third home to safety.”

 

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29
The presidential race turned around when Mitt Romney turned into a moderate in the first debate.
 
Who knows if he is really the moderate of October or the “severe conservative” of the primaries? My guess is that he’s an unprincipled son of privilege who, like George Bush, is trying to live up to an idolized and distant father.
 
But the reaction to his shift – and the now-tight race – shows what American voters are yearning for.
 
So here’s the best definition I’ve seen of a moderate, from David Brooks of The New York Times:
 
“First, let me describe what moderation is not. It is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Only people who know nothing about moderation think it means that.
 
“Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea. Instead, she has a deep reverence for the way people live in her country and the animating principle behind that way of life. In America, moderates revere the fact that we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream — committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.
 
“This animating principle doesn’t mean that all Americans think alike. It means that we have a tradition of conflict. Over the centuries, we have engaged in a series of long arguments around how to promote the American dream — arguments that pit equality against achievement, centralization against decentralization, order and community against liberty and individualism.
 
“The moderate doesn’t try to solve those arguments. There are no ultimate solutions. The moderate tries to preserve the tradition of conflict, keeping the opposing sides balanced. She understands that most public issues involve trade-offs. In most great arguments, there are two partially true points of view, which sit in tension. The moderate tries to maintain a rough proportion between them, to keep her country along its historic trajectory.
 
“Americans have prospered over the centuries because we’ve kept a rough balance between things like individual opportunity and social cohesion, local rights and federal power. At any moment, new historical circumstances, like industrialization or globalization, might upset the balance. But the political system gradually finds a new equilibrium.
 
“The moderate creates her policy agenda by looking to her specific circumstances and seeing which things are being driven out of proportion at the current moment. This idea — that you base your agenda on your specific situation — may seem obvious, but immoderate people often know what their solutions are before they define the problems.”
 
 

 

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26
For an epic election loser, George McGovern had a big impact on North Carolina politics. Like Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt.
 
If not for McGovern’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972, North Carolina never would have had a Senator Helms. The Nixon tide swept Helms into Washington. It also brought a Republican, Jim Holshouser, into the Governor’s office, but that worked out OK.
 
That same year, Jim Hunt was the highest-ranking Democrat to survive the tide. He was elected Lieutenant Governor while Skipper Bowles (Governor) and Nick Galifianakis (Senate) were losing.
 
Hunt was never a McGovern fan. “McGovern was way too liberal for me,” he told me when I was researching his biography. “I didn’t like his crowd. I thought they were hurting the party.”
 
Ironically, McGovern paved Hunt’s way into politics. After the disastrously riot-torn and boss-run 1968 Democratic convention, McGovern chaired a commission to reform the presidential nominating system. It required the state parties to reform their delegate-selection processes.
 
Then-Gov. Bob Scott appointed Hunt to chair the state party’s commission. Hunt held hearings around the state, and the commission opened the party up to more involvement by women, young people and minorities. Hunt also made a lot of friends. He expanded the organization that carried him into office in 1972. The rest is history.
 
Later, Hunt got a chance to reform McGovern’s reforms. After 1980, the party realized that the pendulum had swung too far. Hunt was appointed to chair a national party commission to revise the McGovern commission’s work. It restored some voice for party leaders and elected officials.
 
By the way, that was crucial to Barack Obama’s nomination in 2008.
 
It just goes to show that the political football takes funny bounces – and has unpredictable consequences.

 

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25
I’d just finished breakfast and opened the newspaper when a dyed-in-the-wool yellow dog Democrat crossed the restaurant, sat down across the table and said, ‘That new ad of Paul Newby’s makes him look like a fool.’
 
He was talking about the Newby Super PAC ad – which has hound dogs braying in hot pursuit of two thugs who dive into the back of a pickup truck to escape, all narrated by a fast talking banjo-picking actor singing ‘Paul Newby’s a tough ole judge.’
 
‘I reckon,’ the Republican sitting beside me said, ‘they figure come Election Day voters will remember ‘Paul Newby’s a tough ole judge’ but forget they heard it in that damn fool ad.’
 
‘So you figure,’ the Democrat snapped, ‘making Paul Newby a fool will get him elected?’
 
‘You’ve got to give them credit for one thing,’ the Republican said. ‘That ad sticks out. It’s not about to get buried under the clutter of Obama and Romney ads.’ 
 
That wasn’t the end of it.
 
Two days later on Sunday morning I was lying in bed peacefully reading the newspaper when Newby’s Super PAC ad came on TV and half-way through the banjo picking my wife’s voice echoed down the hallway from the kitchen.
 
 ‘That’s a tacky ad.
 
That was the subtle language of marital diplomacy. Translated into plain southern English what she meant was: Tell me you didn’t have anything to do with that ad.
 
For once I was innocent – looking toward the doorway, I said, ‘Does that mean you’re not voting for Paul Newby?’
 
The hallway went silent a moment. Then my wife’s voice floated into the room again, a bit sharper, ‘Do you like that ad?’
 
‘They’re gambling.
 
Then I explained the theory about the Newby Super PAC, figuring by Election Day voters would remember ‘Paul Newby’s a tough ole judge’ but forget the tacky ad.
 
That didn’t cut much mustard with my wife – or anyone else.
 
Every day someone – a lawyer, a campaign worker, a man in the locker room at the health club – cornered me about that ad. On Friday I spoke at a luncheon for two dozen Republicans and as soon as the time came to ask questions a grizzle-haired fellow’s hand shot up and he asked, ‘What about that Newby ad?’
 
I floated the theory again about voters just remembering ‘Paul Newby’s a tough ole judge’ but the words barely got out of my mouth before a voice from the back of the room rang out like a rifle shot saying, ‘My grandmother’s got a theory too – she says pretty is as pretty does and that ad says Paul Newby can’t tell the difference between common sense and plain fool politics.’
 

 

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25
Debra Goldman seems to be an equal-opportunity 911 caller. She apparently has called the police now about two fellow board members. This on top of dozens of calls to her Cary home in recent years.
 
If she gets elected State Auditor, the police may need to build a substation at her office.
 
No wonder Pat McCrory wisely put some distance between himself and her in Wednesday night’s debate.
 
Ms. Goldman says she was threatened by another school board member, apparently Keith Sutton. Sutton says her charge “may be racial.” Jim Martin says, “Sutton was not the only member, nor the first member, to issue an ‘offensive and threatening’ outburst.”
 
School board meetings sound like a gang fight.
 
It’s hard to sort out all this. But a couple of things are clear.
 
First, there is never an excuse for “offensive and threatening” behavior – by anybody.
 
Second, trouble seems to follow Goldman.
 
Everybody needs to take a deep breath. Goldman ought to step down and let somebody else take her place. And all of us should agree that she has no business holding an important state office.

 

 

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24
The election in North Carolina has moved from old fashioned elbow-throwing into a more interesting topic – sex.
 
When she lived in Pennsylvania Debra Goldman was a volunteer firefighter – then she moved to Raleigh, ran for School Board, won in the Republican sweep in 2009 and now she’s running for State Auditor.
 
The roots of Goldman’s problem go back to a year ago when her house in Cary was burglarized by a thief who made off with $100,000 in jewelry and $30,000 in cash – which she had hidden in a backpack. The police came to investigate and asked, Do you have any idea who robbed you? Goldman had a lot of ideas. Names rolled off her tongue – the Democrat she ran against for School Board, her opponent’s consultant, three of her opponent’s friends, a group that supported her opponent, a Democratic County Commissioner – then a name rolled off her tongue that lit the fuse that just exploded: Chris Malone, her fellow Republican School Board member.
 
Why Malone? the detective asked.
 
The words started flowing again.
 
Malone, she said, had pursued her romantically and told her he loved her and when she rebuffed him he’d broken down and cried. Plus, she said, she knew two other facts: Malone was broke and her house key had been stolen out of her briefcase the same day Malone was sitting beside her at a School Board meeting.
 
The policeman wrote it all down then asked why Goldman kept $30,000 in a backpack. She rolled into another litany, saying she was a retired firefighter and a breast cancer survivor and when she was living in Pennsylvania after 9/11 she’d had a lot of trouble getting money out of her bank – so she kept $30,000 in her knapsack.
 
A few days after the burglary Goldman became even more suspicious of Malone when he showed up at the School Board meeting driving a new pickup truck;---so the police detective put in a call to Mr. Malone and ran head-on into not one but three lawyers. He got a call back from the prominent Republican attorney Kieran Shanahan and when the detective sat down with Malone, Malone had two more lawyers with him.
 
Malone outdid Goldman when it came to pure salacious detail. He and Goldman, he said, had become friends during the School Board election then one thing had led to another until one night just before the election they found themselves alone on the rooftop of the Clarion Hotel in downtown Raleigh and stopped being just friends and, as he put it, started ‘kissing and making out.’ After that, he said, their relationship got more physical.
 
The detective asked if the relationship was over and Malone said, oh, yes, he knew there’d be no more quickies in the car and no more meetings at the Hampton Inn in Cary – they were just close personal friends and by the way, he added, they’d never actually had sexual intercourse.
 
By then I reckon Malone’s lawyers must have been lying passed out on the floor.
 
Next the detective asked Malone about his new pickup truck and Malone said his brother had loaned him the money to buy it and later Malone’s brother and lawyer Shanahan met with the detective and produced the bank records to prove it – so Malone was off the hook for stealing the $130,000 but probably not with his wife or Goldman’s husband.
 
Now the interesting thing about all this is Malone and Goldman’s reaction when the police reports landed on the front page of the newspaper.
 
At first Malone bobbed and weaved, dodging reporters then put out a statement saying he’s staying in the State House race because voters know the kind of man he really is.
 
Goldman was even more aggressive – she issued a statement peeling the paint off the walls, slamming the News and Observer for smearing her just before the election.
 
So now we’ve got a candidate who’s talking about ‘quickies’ in cars and running for State House based on his character, and a candidate for State Auditor who has trouble getting money out of the bank, and there’s not a word of contrition in sight anywhere.
 

 

 

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24
Democrats who worry about GOP control of state government can take heart: It won’t last long, judging from the Goldman-Malone mess.
 
It turns out that Republican Party leaders knew the whole tawdry and titillating tale, but still cleared the field for the School Board Soap Opera stars to run for higher office.
 
What were they thinking? That it wouldn’t get out? That nobody would care? That both Goldman and Malone would get elected – and it would never get out?
 
Pat McCrory says he’ll fix the “broken” government in Raleigh. Maybe he should start by fixing this.
 
Instead, he’s ducking it. Asked if he cast his early vote for Goldman, he told WBT reporter Chris Miller: “I voted for my Republicans. That’s what I did.”
 
When the reporter pressed him on whether that included Goldman, McCrory replied, “Thank you.”
 
It won’t be the last time he gets the question. There’s a debate tonight. And not much else to ask him about in the last two weeks of the campaign.
 
 

 

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23
It made all the newspapers: Last week Mitt Romney announced he’s pulling staffers out of North Carolina, where he now has a lead, to send them to Ohio where the race is closer.

It was perfectly rational. Romney has a little breathing room in North Carolina so he’s moving few people to another state he needs to win. So what was the Obama campaign’s reaction? It said, ‘The Romney campaign is turning its back on hard working North Carolinians.’

Sometimes you have to wonder who comes up with the ‘spin’ that comes out of political campaigns – and if they might not be third graders?

 

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