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Entries for February 2013

28
Now that the Case of the Not-Blueprint Memo has been solved, Democrats and progressives can move on to important issues like what Republicans are doing on education, Medicaid, unemployment assistance, tax reform and … hold on, what’s that?
 
Never mind. Apparently, we will move on to the new state Democratic chairman owing almost $290,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties.
 
Here’s some advice to Randy Voller: The best thing you can do for your party, state and country is resign, go back to work and pay off your taxes.
 
It’s admirable that you owned up to the problem and are paying off what you owe. But it won’t wash to say: "That's why I feel that as party chair I have a real good insight into what a lot of folks are dealing with here in North Carolina."
 
No, Mister Chairman, most folks in North Carolina don’t owe $290,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties.
 
Please go. There are more important things to talk about.
 

 

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27
Two years ago, Republicans controlled the County Commissioners and the School Board and were happy.
 
Then Democrats won the next School Board election – so they were happy and the Republican County Commissioners were unhappy.
 
Next the Republican Commissioners decided to redraw the Democratic School Board members’ Districts to get them out of office – which made the Democrats unhappy.
 
Then the Republican County Commissioners hired a lobbyist to lobby the General Assembly to pass their plan and the Democratic School Board members hired a lobbyist to stop them. Between them, the two boards spent $60,000 on lobbyists – which made taxpayers unhappy.
 
Next the two boards met to try to stop fighting long enough to agree to pass a $1 billion bond referendum. That made the Chamber of Commerce happy – until, in the middle of the meeting, a School Board member said the Republican Commissioners had ‘disrespected’ the School Board. Then Republican Commissioner Tony Gurley responded, I’m getting sick and tired of having this person whispering words like calling me a jerk into my ear as I’m trying to speak. And School Board member Susan Evans said, I didn’t say that. You told me 'tough luck' or something else.
 
Then they adjourned.
 

 

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27
Being mean is not a formula for success in politics, and Governor McCrory may learn that lesson the hard way.
 
Hold on, you say. What about Jesse Helms? He made a 30-year career out of being mean and picking on politically weak victims.
 
Glad you asked. Here’s the difference: What works for a Senator doesn’t work for a Governor.
 
With Helms, people thought: “There are 99 SOBs in the Senate. Let’s send them a real SOB.” After all, nothing really gets done in the Senate.
 
But voters know that a Governor makes decisions that can help – or hurt – real people.
 
Like not extending Medicaid to 500,000 people who don’t have health insurance – and might not get life-saving health care.
 
Like cutting unemployment assistance to people who can’t find a job and may have trouble providing for their families, while raising your Cabinet secretaries’ pay.
 
Like stigmatizing immigrants on license plates and making it hard for them to get an education for their children.
 
Now, the Governor is a likeable, affable fellow.  But he needs to consider how politically vulnerable he might become if he starts looking like Jesse Helms with a smile – especially among moderate Independents.
 
Of course, this assumes those voters know what the Governor is doing. That’s the Democrats’ responsibility.

 

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26
Back in 1980, Senator Helms’ political organization had won elections in 1976 and 1978. And after Reagan won, we figured the conservative millennium had dawned and we’d mastered the art of politics. Next election we lost five races.
 
Back in 1980, Jim Hunt had built the most powerful political machine ever seen in North Carolina and had never lost an election. He lost for the first time in 1984.
 
In 1980, when he was 32 years old, Bill Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas – the youngest Governor in America. Two years later, after he lost the next election, he joked he was now the youngest ex-governor in America.
 
Hubris – thinking you’re smarter than you are – is a deadly vice.
 
Republicans in North Carolina have now won two straight elections. They worked hard and won the legislature in 2010 then kept it and elected a Republican Governor in 2012 – and they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t hear the genie of pride whispering in their ears.
 
But has a new Republican era dawned in North Carolina?
 
The polls don’t seem to say so. There’re still more Democrats than Republicans. And voters don’t see eye to eye with Republican legislation on Unemployment Reform, the Medicaid Expansion, or Tax Reform.  
 
There’s no doubt it can be a good thing to pass an unpopular bill. But it’s a mistake to tell yourself voters agree with you when they don’t. And it’s an even bigger mistake (I know, I made it in 1982) to assume the good times will roll on and on – in politics that’s when the Good Lord throws you a curveball and you land on your backside in the dust, eyes wide open to a new kind of wisdom that comes with humility.  
 

 

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26
Why do congressional Republicans keep jumping off the cliff – and taking the country with them? Don’t they see the political trap that President Obama has sprung on them?
 
You could enjoy what they’re doing to themselves politically if you didn’t hate what they’re doing to the country economically.
 
Here’s just part of the sequestration toll in North Carolina, according to theCharlotte Observer and News & Observer: “Hundreds of North Carolina teachers would lose their jobs, many families across the state would no longer get help with preschool or day care for their children, and 22,000 civilians who work for the military in the state would face pay cuts.”
 
Nationally, unemployment will go up.  Economic growth will go down.  The recovery from recession will be slowed.
 
Worst of all, lines at airports will get longer and slower. Now you’re talking a real crisis.
 
Republicans have convinced themselves – again – that their strategy is a winner. They are blinded by ideology. They hate government so much they thinks everybody hates it. They’re already forgotten how Obama won an election they were certain he would lose.
 
So Obama just goes up to bat every day and hits another one out the park on them.
 
One of two things is certain to happen at this rate: Republicans will eventually wake up and change, or they will get their brains beat in at the ballot box, and it won’t matter.

 

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26
President Obama’s in full campaign mode with his eyes fixed on taking control of the House of Representatives next election. He’s put his campaign to work targeting Republican Congressmen and he’s telling voters because of the Sequester 7,450 children in Florida won’t receive vaccinations, 800 victims of domestic violence in North Carolina won’t receive care, and 1,200 teachers in California will lose their jobs.
 
Now the Washington Republicans could argue Obama’s wrong – the cuts aren’t that bad. Or that the tax increases Obama wants will do more harm to the economy than the cuts.
 
But they’re not doing either. Instead they’re agreeing with Obama that the cuts are terrible – then they add that the terrible cuts are all Obama’s fault – that it’s the Obamaquester.
 
Obama’s answer to that is to say – reasonably – that he hopes Republicans will help him avoid children losing vaccinations by passing a few tax increases on the rich and Republicans say, again, the terrible cuts are all Obama’s fault.
 
It’s a dead end.
 
I don’t understand why the Republicans don’t make a list of $85 billion in wasteful spending – like the government’s free cell phone giveaways – and put it in front of Obama and say, If you want to spare unvaccinated children in Florida – let’s cut this program.
 
That sure sounds better than Republicans saying, Sure the Sequester is terrible but we won’t raise taxes to stop it because it’s all your fault.
 

 

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25
Kim Genardo of NBC-17 is following a well-trod path from capital reporter to Governor’s communications director. Most every governor hires a capital reporter to tame the savages. I made that switch from the N&O to then-Lt. Governor Hunt in January 1976 – 37 years ago! (As I recall, I was about 13 years old.)
 
Two issues arise here – one past and one prospective. First, the past: Was she talking to the Governor about the job when, as the N&O noted Saturday, “she did a one-on-one interview with McCrory for WNCN 10 days ago”? If she was, she shouldn’t have done the interview. It puts her coverage in question.
 
Second, looking ahead: Which master will she serve – Governor or media?
 
It’s a tricky task. Some Governors think that, since you were one of them, you should have some kind of mojo that insures positive media coverage. But some journalists think you’ve sold out and gone over to the dark side.
 
Some hacks-turned-flacks turn into media scourges. They block reporters’ access to the great man, yell and scream at reporters who write tough stories and thereby poison the relationship.
 
I made my share of mistakes, but learned one big lesson: Your job is, in fact, to serve two masters. Yes, you work for the Governor, but your paycheck comes from the taxpayers of North Carolina and you have a unique responsibility to serve the public.
 
So you have to respect the role journalists play in getting information to the public, even if your boss and the people around him get mad. You have to help both sides: help the governor tell his story and help the reporters write their stories.
 
Fortunately, I had a boss who understood the role of the media, liked to read newspapers and watch the news and – most of all – didn’t hold a grudge. Oh, he got mad about stories. But he vented his anger with me, not them, and he was willing to talk to the reporter again. After all, there will be another paper and another broadcast tomorrow.
 
Governor Hunt also found that reporters’ questions alerted him to problems his own people wouldn’t tell him about. Never in history has a gubernatorial appointee volunteered: “Governor, you know that assignment you gave us? Well, we have made a total hash of it.”
 
So good luck, Kim. All you need is a cool head, a thick skin and a sense of humor.

 

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22
Oh my goodness gracious, Republicans are all aflutter and Twitter is all atwitter over a leaked memo by liberals to “attack…cripple…eviscerate” GOP leaders and even, worst of all, “mitigate the worst legislation.”
 
I haven’t heard so much caterwauling since Jesse Helms was screeching that Ted Kennedy, liberals, blacks and queers were attacking him so you better send money fast.
 
Of course, the best way to get anything reported and read is to stamp it “confidential” and caution all the recipients not to share it with absolutely anybody. Worked like a charm here.
 
Naturally, I had to go to the link and read the whole thing.
 
Now, I don’t like using words like “attack, cripple and viscerate.” But that’s how excitable operatives talk to show how tough they are – Democrats AND Republicans. So pay no attention to the crocodile – or elephant – tears over how mean this is. Especially from people who demonize President Obama and called Governor Perdue “America’s dumbest governor.”
 
Along with the purple prose, I found some interesting information and ideas about how to fight what the plan-writers believe is bad public policy. That's called democracy and debate.
 
Between the lines I also read some welcome fight and focus.
 
To wit: “McCrory’s giving pay raises to Cabinet officials (high-level government bureaucrats) while trying to cut benefits for those who are doing their best to try to work hard emerges as the most salient line of attack against him….”
 
That’s good information to have – and to get to the voters.
 
So spare me the whining and the inevitable high-minded denunciations. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say. If you’re not ready to get some mud and blood on your uniform, get off the field.
 

 

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21
Sarah Ovaska at NC Policy Watch reveals that one Republican legislator who voted to cut unemployment assistance was himself getting that assistance last year.
 
Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, collected unemployment checks for 15 months while he was out of work. But now that he’s in the legislature, he voted with his GOP colleagues to slash unemployment aid for people who can’t find a job.
 
That’s right: he voted against letting other North Carolinians get the same benefits he got.
 
He says he voted for the cuts to get North Carolina out of debt. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t he pay back the difference between what he got and what he voted for?
 
Saine lost his job in May 2010. Then, Ovaska wrote: “A stroke of luck came in August 2011, when the county Republican Party he chaired selected him to take over the legislative seat left vacant when former N.C. Rep. Johnathan Rhyne left the legislature to move to nearby Gastonia.”
 
Yes, he was picked for the seat by “the county Republican Party he chaired.”
 
Well, at least Republicans can say they created a job for one unemployed North Carolinian.

 

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20
What do Marco Rubio and Larry Hall have in common? They made the mistake of giving their party’s response to the State of the Union and State of the State speeches, respectively.
 
Inevitably, this ends up looking like a hostage tape or the speech given by the leader of space aliens who just invaded our planet: “PEOPLE OF EARTH, we come in peace….”
 
Both Senator Rubio and Rep. Hall did as well as they could under the circumstances. Their messages were perfectly fine and well-written.
 
It’s just that they were doing something that nobody – repeat, nobody – can do: Stare into a camera for 10 or 15 minutes (it seems longer) and keep the audience’s interest.
 
Listen to me again: Nobody does that. Do you watch television? Do you see anybody ever doing that? Not even the most polished entertainer would try it.
 
Plus, you’re in that artificial setting right after the audience watched the President or Governor performing in a live arena, surrounded by people who are clapping, frowning and otherwise acting like human beings.
 
It’s a lose-lose deal.
 
Worse, like Rubio, you end up being remembered only for wiping away sweat and awkwardly reaching for water while fixedly staring at the camera.
 
(When Governor McCrory reached over for a stack of papers Monday night, somebody tweeted: “I thought he was going for water.”)
 
Politicians, of course, have an ego that convinces them that the people of earth – or at least America or North Carolina – are eager to hear what they say. No. People change the channel, except for the people who either love you or hate you. You’re not going to win over the people who hate you, and you’re only going to embarrass the people who love you.
 
If you feel compelled to respond, sit down with an interviewer, answer their questions and look and sound like an actual human being.
 
And stop staring at me through the camera. You’re making me uncomfortable.

 

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