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Entries for November 2009

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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20
 
When I was a boy I had a wire-haired terrier, a stray who showed up on the farm and made himself at home; one day walking past a woodpile the terrier spotted a barn rat and in the blink of an eye charged, ears tucked back, hair bristling; now, far as I know, that terrier had never laid eyes on a rat before but in that one glance knew he’d come face to face with his blood enemy.
 
With the same instinct Sarah Palin seems to have taken one glance at Washington Republican Political Establishment (WRPE) and spotted her blood enemy.
 
The WRPE is a strange beast. Its lineage is hereditary and, over the last thirty years, entwined with the fortunes of the Bush dynasty. You can’t separate the WRPE and the Bushes. President Bush the Senior’s father was a Wall Street banker and Republican Senator from Connecticut – so it was natural when George H.W. Bush landed in Washington he was appointed to one of sinecures of the WRPE – Chairman of the National Republican Party.
 
George H. W. Bush survived Watergate and went on to lead the Washington Republican’s losing fight against Reagan in 1980. Then the Gipper either slipped or got hood-winked in a weak moment and picked George H.W. Bush for Vice President. For awhile after that the WRPE more or less laid low – until Bush was elected President then it re-ascended to supremacy.
 
Next the torch passed to Bush the Younger and with Karl Rove pulling the strings the WRPE took control of just about everything in the Republican Party in Washington and a good bit of it outside Washington – for instance, handpicking candidates (like Liddy Dole).
 
Now the Establishment Republicans are good at flying conservative flags but when it comes right down to it they have no real interest in ideology. They can take it or leave it, depending on whether or not it works politically; to them conservativism isn’t a creed it’s a political tool to be used or discarded as needed.
 
They’re also a company of politicians who’ve learned they can make a lot more money lobbying Republicans than electing them (for instance, five of the six Republican Party Chairmen picked by George Bush have been lobbyists) and, by and large, while they’re world champion lobbyists their record of winning political campaigns is checkered.
 
After Clinton’s impeachment, even with Democratic fortunes at a low ebb, they lost the popular vote in the 2000 election (but had the good fortune to be saved by the Electoral College). They did defeat liberal John Kerry in 2004 but then got walloped by Pelosi and Obama in 2006 and 2008. And then there’s what just happened in the Special Congressional Election in New York’s 23rd District this year.
 
Just as Rove and company have been doing for years, the WRPE handpicked a Republican candidate, arranged for her to get the nomination (without a primary), then ran her campaign. Their political theory this election (which explains their choice of Albany Assemblywoman Deidre Scozzafava) seems to be ‘inclusion’ – that the key to winning elections for Republicans post-Obama is running ‘inclusive’ candidates who lead ‘inclusive’ campaigns and if that sounds a bit like Republicans imitating Democrats – well, it is.
 
If you want a firsthand example of ‘inclusiveness’ take a moment to go to the Republican National Committee’s website and click on the link to their Facebook. You’ll land on a page called ‘Heroes.’ Then click again to look at the gallery of Republican heroes. The first four pictures that pop up are Lincoln, two African-Americans and a Hispanic. The second four pictures are Reagan, a woman and two African Americans. It’s a perfectly politically correct gallery of “Republican Heroes’ carefully selected to meet quotas for women, African-Americans and Hispanics. For instance, Jose Barbosa (a Hispanic leader from Puerto Rico) is on the official Washington Republican hero list while Teddy Roosevelt failed to make the cut.
 
Deidre Scozzafava, the Assemblywoman the WRPC picked as their candidate in New York, was the soul of ‘inclusion.’ She was so inclusive she supported President Obama’s ‘Stimulus Bill,’ gay marriage and voted for a hundred and ninety tax increases. The National Republican Party spent over a million dollars to elect her and the result was a meltdown. Scozzafava started out leading in the polls, collapsed, and didn’t make it to the finish line – instead she withdrew at the 11th hour then in a final act of ‘inclusion’ endorsed the Pelosi Democrat to help him defeat the Conservative Party nominee by 3000 votes.
 
It’s hard to imagine a more bungled political campaign – or one more devoid of principle.
 
Which brings me back to Sarah Palin.
 
There are times – like when she’s ‘tweeting’ – when Governor Palin sounds like the Yukon Gold Rush version of a Valley Girl. But it also looks like the first time she sat down in a room with the lobbyist politicians running the John McCain’s campaign – right off she spotted her blood enemy.
 
At first the fight between Palin and the Washington politicians was a simmering feud, then it was a guerilla war and now it’s an outright war with neither side asking for or offering quarter. And if you think Palin is overmatched consider this: The official RNC Facebook page has 100,000 members. Sarah Palin’s Facebook page has over 900,000.
 
As long as the Washington Republicans are hanging around its neck the conservative movement is at best treading water and at worst sinking and Sarah Palin is the one national Republican leader standing up to them. That may not be the savviest political move and it doesn’t mean she’s qualified to be President but, right now, it does make her the one essential woman in conservative politics.
 

 

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19
Laura Leslie of WUNC-FM – who does a great political blog - told a panel during last year’s campaign that she was sick and tired of men who liked Sarah Palin because she is “hot.”
 
Sorry, Laura, but how else can someone so clearly unprepared for national office be taken seriously as a candidate for national office?
 
Maybe we’ll learn one day that this is all some elaborate reality-TV concept. Some manic producer in New York said:
 
“Okay, here’s the idea. We’ll take this good-looking babe. We’ll have her come from someplace crazy – like Alaska! And she’ll have a family full of nut cases. Then we’ll throw her into the middle of national politics and see what happens.”
 
Charisma – call it “hot” – has always been part of politics. Witness John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
 
What’s new with Palin is her true believers’ fervent faith that her lack of intellectual depth is a qualification – not a disqualification – for high office.
 
In the end, Palin’s appeal is more like that of Richard Nixon and George Wallace: the politics of resentment.
 

 

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