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Entries for February 2010

26
A reporter was musing recently about how North Carolina politicians used to be a bland, boring bunch.
 
That was back when we prided ourselves on clean, honest government.
 
Times have changed:
 
A former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate brought down by a sex scandal.
 
A former Governor and a key adviser caught up in corruption charges.
 
A former House Speaker in prison.
 
A former Commissioner of Agriculture now out of prison.
 
A former Congressman now out of prison.
 
A former lottery commissioner still in prison.
 
A gay legislator in a custody fight with her partner.
 
Another legislator steps down after shooting somebody.
 
(Is it in bad taste to say Senator Soles is going out with a bang?)
 
One long-time Raleigh hand suggested this all may have gone on before, but nobody got caught.
 
Whatever, Louisiana’s got nothing on us now.
 

 

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26
Jesse Helms is probably rolling over in his recording studio.
 
WRAL, the station that used to run Helms’ editorials opposing desegregation, is now running editorial messages opposing resegregation.
 
That’s how much Jim Goodmon has changed the station.
 
(Does anybody remember when WRAL used to sign off at night by playing “Dixie” instead of the national anthem? Yes, children, stations used to sign off at night!)
 
More power to Goodmon for it.
 
Even better, the Wake School Board Mullahs are mad about it.
 
Which is another irony. Used to, Yankees were the ones telling us to desegregate our schools. Now it’s Yankees telling us to resegregate.

 

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25
The State Democratic Party gets an A+ for rapid response this week.
 
I blogged last week that the N&O overplayed Tom Fetzer’s questions about Governor Perdue’s campaign flights.
 
The research rats at Democratic HQ then turned up questions about Pat McCrory’s campaign flights. That led to an N&O headline – the same size and same placement that Fetzer got.
 
That led in turn to responses from McCrory’s campaign that led to even more questions, which were the subject of a second hit from Democratic HQ.
 
It’s complicated. But it involves a mysterious bank payment of more than $25,000, the disappearance of a $4,000 contribution, contradictory reports about contributions and disbursements and conflicting explanations about what was paid when.
 
You can read it all right here
 
Big-shot consultants and big-name pollsters usually get the attention in politics. As far as I’m concerned, the grunts who do this kind of research – and counterpunching – are the real heroes.
 
By getting a tie out of this one, Democrats get a win.
 

 

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25
Up in Washington last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference every time Scott Brown’s name was mentioned the conservative hordes let out a bellow of approval – but, then, two days later Brown voted with the Democrats in the Senate to end a filibuster against President Obama’s latest ‘Stimulus Bill’ and Democratic leader Harry Reid purred, “I believe this is the beginning of a new day in the Senate.”
 
Scott Brown’s election has been heralded as a conservative triumph but, in fact, it’s not. Instead, Brown’s win is a triumph of Washington Republican pragmatism. The Washington Republicans – whose goal is Republican majorities regardless of ideological persuasion – have succeeded in electing a crucial 41st Republican vote and, in the process, probably dealt a fatal blow to Obamacare. So, they can argue, credibly, that even if Brown strays on Obama’s Stimulus Bills the game was worth the candle and adding up the pro’s and con’s, no matter how Brown votes, Senate Republicans come out way ahead.
 
But, at the same time, they have created – for themselves – a pair of problems:   First, they didn’t elect Brown by saying he was another Olympia Snow  –  instead they waved flags of ideological purity all over the Internet persuading Republican faithful across the nation to pour millions into Brown’s campaign.
 
Result:  The Washington Republican Establishment fooled the core activists in their own party, once again, and a lot of people who oppose Obama’s Stimulus Bills, abortion, and gay marriage contributed to a Massachusetts Republican who supports all three – which leads straight to the second problem.
 
The Independents who voted Republican last fall didn’t do it out of love for the Grand Old Party – they did it because they’re mad as blazes at President Obama.  They want changes in Washington. A lot of changes – which Senator Brown voting with Democrats won’t deliver.
 
It sure looks like Independent voters are going to stick with Republicans through this fall election but if they wake up after the election to find Washington politics rolling along as usual – guess who they’re going be mad at next?
 
 

 

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25
President Obama may be setting up Republicans for a classic one-two punch.
 
First, the left jab: an open, public “discussion” where he challenges Republicans to put their ideas on the table. That’s what they said they wanted, isn’t it?
 
Then, the right uppercut: ramming a health-care bill through using something called “reconciliation.”
 
I don’t know what “reconciliation” means, but it is apparently a parliamentary term for “steamroller.”
 
Republicans will howl about the process. But who cares?
 
Obama needs a win – no matter how bloody. He needs to look strong. Then he can spend the rest of the year blaming Republicans for not doing more. And Republicans can blame him for doing too much.
 
And we’ll get a verdict in November.
 
Either way, Obama’s chances to pass a bill won’t get better.

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24
PR types like to speculate about what they would advise Toyota and Tiger Woods to do in their times of trouble. (Imagine the fees!)
 
For all the ridicule and criticism, I think Tiger made a good first step in his televised mea culpa.
 
But Toyota still can’t get it right.
 
The myth is that you can do something magic in situations like these that will make the problem go away.
 
Afraid not.
 
Both Tiger and Toyota are just beginning a long, hard road. It will take them months or years to repair the damage. And they may never get all the way back.
 
They are both in a no-spin zone. No amount of PR will solve their problems. Only real change – and the difficult process of persuading people they have changed – will work.
 
But Tiger did well in his first public statement.
 
Critics say he was robotic. Well, he is robotic. That’s how he plays golf. And he approached his appearance the same way he approaches each golf shot.
 
They say he was rehearsed. Like you’d walk into that situation and wing it.
 
But he did the one thing he had to do: Confess his sins and apologize.
 
He hit bottom. Now he can work his way up.
 
Toyota hasn’t come near doing that. And the company will be hounded until it does. Then will come the long process of figuring out what went wrong, fixing it and coming clean about it.

 

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23
Senator Richard Burr wins this week’s hypocrisy award hands down.
 
Formally entering his race for reelection, Burr said something needs to be done to break the “gridlock” in Congress.
 
This, mind you, is the same man who has dutifully followed his party’s lead in gridlocking budget reform, health-care reform and anything else that comes down the Senate pike.
 
He tried to gridlock the jobs bill this week, but several Republicans – including new poster-boy Scott Brown – broke ranks.
 
In a Republican-trending year, the only way to beat Burr will be to run a hard-hitting negative campaign: “He’s part of the problem in Washington.”
 
P.S. And remember that he voted for the bailout.

 

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23
The N&O/WTVD poll on health care left me totally confused.
 
The poll, done by Mason-Dixon, “found that 51 percent of registered voters in North Carolina think Congress should not change the U.S. health care system this year. Thirty-eight percent think that lawmakers should take action.”
 
But then the story went on: “The poll asked voters how they fell along a spectrum of reform possibilities, from major overhaul to no change at all. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they wanted a major overhaul with guaranteed coverage, while 40 percent wanted to control costs and expand availability.”
 
That is, 67 percent wanted changes in the health-care system.
 
So take your choice. Either 51 percent don’t want change – or 67 percent do.

 

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22
Sometimes a story floats in over the transom that’s just too incredible to pass up; – this one came at the expense of Bank of America, which certainly doesn’t need any more headaches after being sued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for fraud, plus a whooping $16 billion.
 
Charlie Cordosa, who used to have a job in construction but is now unemployed, lives in Boston; a couple of years ago Charlie and his wife, Maria, used their life savings to buy a retirement home in Florida, which they’ve been renting,  I guess, to make ends meet.
 
Charlie, naturally, pleaded with the Bank of America not to foreclose on his Florida home, but to no avail – the bank’s foreclosure team showed up, moved out his furniture and padlocked the door.
 
There was just one problem:  Charlie’s house was paid for free and clear.  Bank of America didn’t hold a mortgage on his house.  In fact, Bank of America’s foreclosure team had the wrong house entirely.  (It seems the address in Bank of America’s files was wrong and it should have foreclosed on a house a block away.)
 
But, as Charlie found out, explaining that to a mortgage officer bent on repossession was hard to do.  He also talked to Bank of America’s real estate agent who agreed with Charlie the bank was repossessing the wrong house. But the realtor had no more luck straightening out the mess than Charlie. The bank charged ahead and foreclosed anyway.
 
Next, Charlie drove down from Boston to Tampa and found himself padlocked out of his own home. He pried open the back door, cut the padlock and hired a lawyer. He got his house back from the bank, without a tenant, and he’s still trying to recover his papers and pictures.
 
This is a pretty odd story about what’s happened to free market capitalism in America:  The powers that be in Washington puts the thumb-screws on Bank of America to bail out Merrill Lynch; Bank of America did, then teetered on the verge of bankruptcy itself until it got bailed out itself with $45 billion from taxpayers. Next the CEO of the bank got sued for fraud (for doing just what the government wanted). Then the bank, recovering due to taxpayers’ generosity, gave the executives billions of dollars in bonuses for a job well done. Then the same executives foreclose on the wrong guy and refuse to stop even when he tells them they’ve got the wrong house.
 
Of course, now, Charlie’s suing Bank of America. Imagine sitting on the jury and listening to Charlie’s attorney tell his story, saying, ‘Last month Bank of America gave $4 billion in bonuses to its executives for their good work.   Now, let’s talk about what they ought to pay to Charlie for what they did to him.’
 
I can hear the debate in the jury room on the verdict:
 
Juror #1:  Well, Charlie’s sued for $500,000 – that sounds pretty reasonable.
 
Juror #2:  I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s give him $4 billion – the same amount those scoundrels paid themselves.
 

 

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22
The best message in politics is always: “It’s Time for a Change.”
 
That worked like a charm for Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Voters were anxious, angry and ready to throw out the bums in power in Washington.
 
Nothing has changed this year – except Democrats are now the bums in power.
 
Democratic governors – many of them up for election this year – worried this weekend that President Obama’s message hasn’t connected.

It hasn’t. People still like Obama. But he’s reduced to arguing that his stimulus bill saved jobs and the economy.

Unlike Ronald Reagan, who also took office in tough economic times, Obama isn’t selling a popular cure. Reagan was selling lower taxes. Obama, when you get down to it, is selling more spending.

Republicans believe they’re on the right side of the winning message this year. So why should they do anything responsible – like solving the debt crisis or protecting millions of Americans from ruinous medical bills?
 
Likely as not, Republicans will win big enough this fall to once again become part of the bums in power in Washington.
 
Once they do, they’ll have a choice the next two years: Do something responsible – or just try to beat Obama in 2012. They’ll pick the latter.
 
Once Obama wins reelection against Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or whatever loser the GOP nominates (it won’t be Sarah Palin, though she or Ron Paul may be the Ross Perot of 2012), maybe something will get done.
 
Until then, Americans apparently will just have to hang on and hope for the best.
 

 

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