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Entries for February 2012

29
Dan Blue’s decision to run didn’t surprise many Democrats. They had seen him do this dance before.
 
Bob Etheridge’s decision to run did surprise a few. They think he is hurt by the “loser” tag, the “who are you?” video and consequent difficulties raising money. But he’s ahead in the polls, so why not run?
 
Here’s the big question now: How will Bill Faison do? He’s an unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign. He’s not out of the usual mold for a Democratic candidate for governor: safe, sensible, moderate-progressive.
 
Faison’s look and his tone have an edge. Some see meanness; other see a fighter. Whatever you call it, few Democrats would have someone tweeting on their behalf who calls other politicians “corporatists.” Faison also has eagerly embraced the “Occupy” movement. There’s also his divorce. And there are hard feelings over the sharp elbows he threw at Governor Perdue.
 
The question may not be whether Faison can win. It may be whether he can get more than 20 percent – and force Etheridge and Walter Dalton into a ruinous runoff.

 

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28
The John William Pope Foundation took issue with my recent blog “Reading Ayn Rand.” I’m always flattered that the Pope people read my blogs and think they’re important enough to take issue with, so I’m happy to post their comments. Note, however, that there is nothing here to change my basic point: The best way to protect college students against Ayn Rand’s thinking is to force them to read Ayn Rand’s writing.
 
The response is from David W. Riggs, Ph.D., Vice President, Operations and Programs, John William Pope Foundation:
 
“I was recently alerted to your "Reading Ayn Rand" post about a supposed Pope-related grant to Guilford College.  In your post you link to the source of your information -- an op-ed written by a professor at Guilford.  The professor's op-ed is false and misleading on at least two fronts.  In an effort to clarify and correct, I sent the letter below to the professor, and CCed the president of Guilford College and the Guilfordian student newspaper.
 
“Dear Professor Zweigenhaft,
 
“Your column titled, "Guilford's $500,000 Grant Part of a Conservative Agenda," published in the Guilfordian, February 16, 2012, is false and misleading on at least two fronts.  First, if you had actually read and understood Jane Mayer's New Yorker piece from October 2011, you would know it reported that Art Pope and the organizations he supports did not utilize the precedent set by Citizens United.  (Additionally, in terms of overall spending, the Democratic Party and its contributors out spent Republicans by millions, but still lost the 2010 election – a fact that is inconvenient to your narrative.)
 
“Second, you mention Art Pope and provide your characterization of his philanthropy while in the same breath mentioning a $500,000 grant to Guilford College.  The reader is misled to believe that Art Pope or the John William Pope Foundation is somehow connected to the $500,000 grant.  At least two websites have carried your misleading story about a Pope Foundation grant to Guilford. 
 
“The Pope Foundation had no part, nor was ever aware, of any grant to Guilford College.
 
“You are free, of course, to quibble with faculty and Guilford administration on whatever choices they make for the school that employs you.  However, in bringing Art Pope’s name or the Pope Foundation’s name into your academic infighting, you have deceivingly manufactured a boogeyman.
 
“When approached by colleges and universities to fund academic programs, the Pope Foundation has responded with millions of dollars in support of higher education. I am left wondering if you are simply an errant faculty member or if Guilford College has a policy of preemptively discouraging potential donors.”
 

 

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28
I hope North Carolina Republicans get to do this year what North Carolina Democrats did in 2008: decide their party’s presidential race.
 
Obama clinched the nomination when he won North Carolina’s primary, according to none less than the late Tim Russert of NBC.
 
So I’m pulling for Rick Santorum to win tonight – or do well enough to stretch the fight into May.
 
It’s high time North Carolina had some say in the Republican presidential race. The last time was 1976, when Tom Ellis and Carter kept Ronald Reagan alive with a win here.
 
Obviously, I have ulterior motives: If the fight goes on another two months, just think of all the stupid things the candidates will say.
 
Mitt Romney will find more ways to remind us he’s rich and totally out of touch. In the last week alone, he said his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs” and some of his best friends “are NASCAR team owners.”
 
And Rick Santorum! By May, he’ll be calling for the public stoning of gays, adulterers, birth control-users and parents who want their kids to go to college.
 
Then there’s Newt Gingrich. He’s been quiet lately, so you just know he’ll unleash a few bombastic boners – maybe right here in our state.
 
It’s almost too much to hope for.

 

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27
“Republicans being against sex is not good. Sex is popular.” - Republican strategist Alex Castellanos
 
A long, hard-fought presidential nominating race doesn’t hurt Republicans by leaving them divided. They’ll unite against President Obama. No, it hurts with voters in the middle.
 
First there’s this obsession about whether President Obama is “real” Christian. Franklin Graham expressed his doubts, once again showing he’s not half the man his father is. And Rick Santorum can’t help but sound like an American Ayatollah.
 
 
Every voter who agrees with Santorum is already going to vote Republican. But, just like when Pat Buchanan dragged the party into “culture wars” in 1992, a lot of voters don’t like political-religious wars.
 
As Alex Castellanos noted, voters also wonder about the Republican obsession with birth control and sex.
 
Then there are voters who ask: Why are they talking about this stuff when I’m worried about the economy?

 

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24
Rick Santorum, who wants to take America back to 1900, takes me back to 1984.
 
That was the year of the Hunt-Helms race. In the dying days, we were behind in the polls – and desperate. With the help of (believe it or not) Dick Morris, we came up with a bomb to blow up Helms’ lead: an ad that said Helms opposed all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. (True.) But we went farther. We also said he would make birth control and contraception illegal. (Also true.)
 
All hell broke loose. The Helms campaign rushed Mrs. Helms out to defend her husband. The charge was true, so all she could say was that Hunt was despicable saying it.
 
Internally, I learned later from Carter, the ad scared the Helms campaign. It really did have the potential to change the outcome.
 
But all hell had broken loose inside our campaign. We were deeply divided – along gender and generational lines – over the ad. Eventually, the high command got cold feet. We backed off. Big mistake. We might have won.
 
The point of this (to me) painful history is that Santorum is treading on thin ice. Yes, President Obama runs some risk of running afoul churches. But Santorum and Republicans run a huge risk by making it clear they will be perfectly happy if government bans all contraception – either right before or right after they do away with public schools.
 
For a sign of how potent this issue is to woman, look at Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s retreat on the invasive-ultrasound bill yesterday.
 

 

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23
Talk about manna from heaven, Linda Coleman must be thanking her lucky stars – the State Employees’ Union just announced it’s going to spend $1.8 million to elect her and defeat Eric Mansfield in the Democratic Primary for Lt. Governor.
 
The State Employees’ Union has charged into Super PAC land with a passion but here’s a mystery: If they spend $1.8 million on broadcast TV statewide for Linda Coleman she’ll be better known than Bob Etheridge and Walter Dalton and Representative Bill Faison – the Democrats running for Governor – combined.
 
So why fool around with running for Lt. Governor?
 

 

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23
There’s good news for Democrats looking ahead to the fall elections. But then there is really, really bad news.
 
The good news is that Obama can carry the state again. He will play hard – and spend heavy – here. That will turn out votes for the entire ticket.
 
Also good: the bitter GOP presidential race will produce a damaged nominee. Maybe even an unelectable one.
 
More good: the pendulum of public opinion has swung back. The more voters see the results of Republican governance, the more they want to nudge things back in a different direction.  The governor’s race looks more winnable today than it did a month ago. 2012 won’t be 2010.
 
But here’s the really, really bad news: 2010. Democrats picked a bad year to have a meltdown. It left Republicans in control of drawing the districts and in position to raise the big money. They’ve done both with ruthlessly efficiency.
 
Democrats can regain their legislative majorities, but it may take a long time. The best some party leaders hope for this year is electing a new Democratic governor and ensuring him one legislative chamber that will sustain a veto.

 

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22
Campaigning up in Ohio last weekend Rick Santorum allowed that President Obama’s politics springs from his ‘world view’ which in turn springs from “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible.”
 
Obama’s campaign immediately shot back in a white heat that Santorum had just questioned the President’s Christianity.
 
And Santorum answered saying, Not so – he thinks Obama’s a Christian but his world view is something else entirely.
 
So can a President (or, for that matter, a ditch-digger) who’s a Christian have a world view rooted in a phony theology? There’s not much doubt the answer to that is Yes.
 
Back in my Episcopalian days the Bishop once came to visit our vestry to explain why he thought ordaining gay priests was the dead-on-right biblical thing to do – not a soul in that room agreed with him and the whole thing started a row that went on for hours until the Bishop reared back and grinned and said, Well, I’ll tell you what we can agree on – I believe He was crucified and buried and was dead-as-a doornail and three days later He rose as alive as you or me.
 
No one in that room agreed with a word the Bishop had said about gay priests but no one had any doubt he was a Christian either.
 
Theology doesn’t usually come up in a political campaign but Rick Santorum’s touched a nerve. A good part of America looks at Obama’s row with the Catholic Bishops and says, Right on – birth control is every woman’s right and to hell with those fossilized Bishops. But another part of America, like Rick Santorum, looks at Obama-politics and Obama’s ‘world view’ and they’re shaking their heads grimly, thinking, This has gone too far.
 
And between those two world views there’s not one scintilla of common ground.
 

 

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22
Champions of academic freedom are scandalized, but I think this is a wonderful idea: making college students read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”
 
The Guilfordian, Guilford College’s campus paper, reports on a grant to the college by one of Art (“I Am Not an Heir”) Pope’s groups:
 
“The ten-year grant for $500,000 that Guilford College accepted in 2009 included the stipulation that students in certain classes read Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ The grant also stipulated that students who major in business and economics are to receive ‘free’ copies of the novel at the beginning of their junior year, as are certain students in the Principled Problem Solving program.”
 
The paper opines, “The college’s acceptance of the grant, and the faculty’s acquiescence to it, raise fundamental issues about who determines the curriculum, about faculty governance, about the nature of higher education these days, and about the kind of society we hope to be.”
 
Agreed. But look at it this way: forcing a college student to slog through the 4,000-page (it seems) turgid prose and predictable thinking of any Ayn Rand book is likely to lead to a lifetime of skepticism about people who tell you Ayn Rand is the most important intellectual influence on them.
 
So here’s my advice, students: Read “Atlas Shrugged.” Or try. Then read, maybe, I don’t know, “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. Make up your own minds.

 

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Posted in: General, Issues
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22
Tony Tata is the Karl Hess of school superintendents: a click too sensitive to criticism.
 
(Memo to all – and self: The next time you get mad at somebody, feel free to compose a blistering e-mail to them. Then immediately hit “Delete.” You won’t regret it.)
 
Tata had won over a lot of doubters, skeptics and opponents over the past year. He lost them in one weekend.
 
And he looks like a hypocrite by criticizing school board members for involvement “special interests.” A lot of people thought he got appointed thanks to special interests like the Tea Party and the Wake County public school-haters.
 
Most of all, he looks alarmingly thin-skinned for a retired general and experienced administrator. He needs to put the schools ahead of his ego.

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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