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Entries for July 2009

31
Recently I blogged that, if Elaine Marshall gets in the Senate race, her candidacy should give pause to Ken Lewis and Cal Cunningham.
 
The reverse is also true.
 
Yes, Lewis and Cunningham are both unproven unknowns. But don’t overestimate how well known Marshall is. Or Richard Burr, for that matter.
 
In recent weeks, I had a chance to meet and eat (separately, of course) with Lewis and Cunningham.
 
Both are impressive men. Both have good stories to tell. Both are the kind of energetic, idealistic young candidates that either political party would want to have.
 
Lewis, who is African-American, worked hard for President Obama last year. He has a foot in both the black church/political world and the corporate world. Cunningham served one term in the legislature and volunteered to serve as an Army lawyer in Iraq. Both are corporate attorneys. Both have some good early support.
 
Lewis struck me as having a better grasp on his message now. Also, he seemed more set on running – period – whereas Cunningham seemed to be angling for the DSCC’s anointment.
 
Here’s another of the Lessons I Learned From Jim Hunt: All six times he ran for statewide office (five wins, one loss) Hunt never dilly-dallied about whether to run. Not for him the ego dance of maybe-I-will-maybe-I-won’t. When he did that dance (1986 and 1990), he was delaying the announcement he would not run.
 
No, when Hunt ran, he ran – hard. From day one. Anybody else thinking about running knew that they would have to go through him.
 
We’re now in the campaign-before-the-campaign. Lewis may force Cunningham – and Marshall, too – to decide early whether they want to fight hard for the nomination or hold back in hopes the DSCC will clear the field for one of them.
 
I wouldn’t advise them to wait too long.

 

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31
Good Lord: There’re terrorists in Johnston County. They’ve been sitting down there around a local fish pond for three years planning to go to Israel and blow someone (and themselves) sky high. 
 
In the old days Johnston County was famous for Ava Gardner and world-class bootleggers but times have changed; now the home of Mule Day has marched into the Modern Age and Jihadists are living in Willow Springs  with an arsenal of submachine guns in the basement; it’s enough to shake your faith piney woods churches, dowager aunts and Stonewall Jackson.
 
We may just look back in ten years and say, Right then, right there, the moment George Holding and those FBI agents arrested those terrorists around that catfish pond – that was the moment we knew for sure The Old South was Gone with the Wind.
 

 

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30
It’s a fact: One hand in Governor Perdue’s administration doesn’t have a clue what the other hand is doing. The Governor’s out telling everyone who’ll...

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29

 

Barack Obama brought his health-care reform campaign to Raleigh just as polls suggest support is slipping for reform.
 
As always, Washington and the media are poised for a rerun of history. They see the story in terms of the death of Clinton Care in 1994.
 
But the story could turn out different this time.
 
For one thing, Obama may get something the Clintons never got: an actual bill that passes a congressional committee. In both houses, compromises are being hashed out – with even some Republican support in the Senate.
 
For another thing, Obama has never wedded himself – as the Clintons did – to a 1,000-page plus bill that sets out a specific, comprehensive reworking of the entire health-care system.
 
For a final thing, Obama – throughout his campaign and, so far, his administration – has proven to be much savvier than the Clintons.
 
He is cooler and more patient. He does not get stampeded. And he stays focused.
 
My friend Joyce Fitzpatrick points out that Obama fits the digital age. Not for him the old politics of focusing on just one or two big things. He multitasks. He views the multiple challenges of recovery, financial regulation, health-care reform and racial reconciliation not as distractions, but as opportunities.
 
He also is positioning his opponents – both Republicans and interest groups – as the status quo. In politics, change always beats the status quo.
 
Health-care reform is not a Big Box program like Social Security, Medicare or the prescription drug benefit.
 
Instead, it is going to be a set of incremental steps.
 
Obama is setting up himself to say: We’ve made a big step in the right direction. But we have a lot left to do.
 
That could be his campaign slogan in 2012.

 

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29
The capital press corps and several editorial writers have whacked Governor Perdue and the Democratic legislative leadership for not getting a budget done.
 
But does anybody outside downtown Raleigh care?
 
Obviously, other people in government care. Like local governments. And school officials who don’t know how many teachers to hire.
 
But I have a feeling that the flap is mainly confined to those people who work at the Legislative Building and have to put up – once again – with the legislative session running into August. And wrecking vacation plans.
 
Here’s a lesson I learned working for Governor Hunt: The average voter pays no attention to the daily back-and-forth in Raleigh. That is, the developments that rivet reporters. That leave Senators convinced that House members are looking bad with the public – or vice versa. And Republicans convinced the Democrats look bad – or vice versa.
 
Most all voters think all legislators are wasting time and tax money in Raleigh. Senate and House. Democrats and Republicans. Period.
 
Last week, one very smart legislator asked me if it would be a good idea for legislators to roll out the cuts they made before rolling out tax increases.
 
Theoretically, yes. But – just as they don’t follow the ins and outs of legislative maneuvering – voters never believe the legislature really cut the budget. You can cut billions. But one story about one program that seems to waste millions – or just thousands – and the cuts are forgotten.
 
Finally, remember that the end of the session is always a mess. I saw it happen sixteen times when I worked with Governor Hunt. Dozens more as a reporter, editor and now blogger.
 
That’s the way it is, as Walter Cronkite would have said.
 

 

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28
Elaine Marshall is telling people she’s in the 2010 U.S. Senate race. That should give Cal Cunningham and Kenneth Lewis pause. She has two big advantages: stature and gender.
 
Women have won three of the last five races for governor or Senator in North Carolina: Dole, Hagan and Perdue versus Easley and Burr.
 
In a delightful twist of historical fate, it is now to a candidate’s advantage to be a woman. Most voters are women. Female candidates get more media and national political attention. And there is no Tom, Dick or Harry’s List to raise money for male candidates just because they’re male.
 
But Marshall is not unbeatable. Yes, she beat Richard Petty way back. But Petty was one of those candidates who peaked the day he got in the race. Then he ran his own campaign off the road when he deliberately “bumped” another driver on the Interstate, just to teach him a lesson.
 
Does Marshall have the toughness to raise money and aggressively take on her opponents? She may need it, because she may have to fight for the nomination.
 
In 2008, Chuck Shumer cleared the field for Kay Hagan, with Jim Hunt’s help. Don’t look for Hunt to endorse in the primary this time. And the new DSCC chair, Bob Menendez, is no Chuck Shumer. Plus, Majority Leader Harry Reid has his own mountain of troubles in Nevada.
 
And Richard Burr is not the pushover that Public Policy Polling has tried so hard to paint him as. Some Democratic polls show him surprisingly strong.
 
The Democratic field is still fluid. There is at least one other Big Name looking at the race. But he/she would kill me if I identified him/her.
 

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27

 

Please stop. Drop the grievance. Stop the bleeding.
 
On just one day last week, NCSU’s chancellor said your grievance proceeding is taking up too much of the university’s time and attention, the Democratic Party coughed up $24,000 because of you and the NCSU band cancelled a trip to Ireland because of you.
 
In fairness, it wasn’t exactly clear why you were to blame for the band not going to Ireland. But you’re going to get the blame for everything that goes wrong at State. If Tom O’Brien’s team has a tough year, you’ll probably get blamed for that.
 
You’re hurting the university. You’re hurting the party. And you’re hurting yourselves. Your pursuit of this grievance – and the money – is shredding your reputations.
 
In the end, your reputation is all you have.
 
Please stop.


 

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24
What do you do when your poll ratings are as bad as any governor’s in the country, somewhere down in Bush-Cheney territory? When you’ve been outfought...

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23
Alright. Follow this: The Governor rips into the House and Senate Democrats’ tax increase – saying she cannot abide their raising taxes on working people. Then (giving Mark and Tony and Joe another rap on the nose) she lets fly, again, saying they also cut education too much.
 
Of course that didn’t sit too well over in the legislature. So the Senate and House Democrats shot back that the Governor wants to raise taxes too much – by $200 million.
 
Now, imagine seeing Governor Perdue’s quotes – about Democratic Senators and Representatives – in TV ads next fall for Republican candidates.
 
Republican Senate and House Leaders Phil Berger and Paul Stam must have felt that was about all the good news they could hope for in one day – then the former Governor’s wife, Mrs. Easley, filed her grievance against North Carolina State University. The source of her grievance:  Money. NCSU agreed to pay her $850,000 over five years then – after the News and Observer found out her job was part of a sweetheart political deal – decided the better part of valor was to abandon the whole idea.
 
So, look at this: The House and Senate Democrats want to raise taxes, the Governor wants to raise taxes more and, once they’re through raising taxes, Mrs. Easley wants to be paid another $680,000.
 

 

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23
Columnist Rick Horowitz may be the sharpest tongued liberal around. He probably doesn’t mean much harm but sometimes when he writes he sounds like he has the disposition of a water moccasin.

The other day in a column he called Dick Cheney ‘greedy…vain…and scared’ then panned Cheney for ‘dishing the dirt.’

Now he’s aimed his double edged pen at Senator Jeff Sessions for not kowtowing to liberal cause célèbre Sonia Sotomayor.

Sessions did get a little senatorially windy and high-blown – but nothing he said about Sotomayor held a candle to what Horowitz said about him.

Given a Senate Hearing with a white male with a drawl opposing a Hispanic Female, Horowitz let fly and played the race card. And you’ve got to give him credit how he did it was a pretty clever. He wrote a column pretending he was inside Sessions brain, hearing what Sessions was thinking as he stared across the Senate Hearing Room at Judge Sotomayor. Horowitz has Sessions ruminating this way:

                   ‘I am truth. I am certainty. I am facts. I am objectivity

                                personified. I AM THE WHITE GUY.’

Then, to make sure no one missed his point, Horowitz poured coal-oil on the fire, adding seven more stanzas (each showing Sessions as more arrogant) and each ending with ‘I AM THE WHITE GUY’.

In the end Sessions comes across as a cross between a Senator Foghorn Claghorn and an uncouth lower than pond scum redneck from Alabama.

But Horowitz doesn’t come off too well either: Instead of sounding like the enlightened, liberated, uplifting defender of liberal orthodoxy he had in mind he comes across as the Twenty-First Century version of the Grand Inquisitor – ready to put the thumbscrews on any heretic quicker than Torquemada.

 
 
 

 

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