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Entries for September 2011

30
Today this blog is Talking About Baseball.
 
My son James and I are Tampa Bay Rays fans. We saw a lot of their players come up with the Durham Bulls. We’ve been to a couple of spring training games.
 
So I forgive him for calling me after midnight the other night. (One day he’ll learn why parents dread nothing more than a phone ringing after midnight.)
 
But it was good news. In two dramatic, last-second games – ending within minutes of each other – the Red Sox lost, the Rays won and the Rays were in the playoffs.
 
James figured I’d given up and gone to bed when the Rays fell behind 7-0 in the eighth inning. He was right.
 
How was I to know the Rays would come back to tie the game on a pinch-hit home run by a .108 hitter? With two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. And win in the 12th with a walk-off home run that hooked just inside the left-field foul pole.  
 
Or that the Red Sox – leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, within one strike of a win – would lose when former Ray Carl Crawford couldn’t prevent a single.
 
The AP had a great account of “baseball's night to remember.” Read it here.
 
Baseball may not have the constant action of basketball and football. But it’s a lot like politics: endless tedium interspersed with teeth-gnashing tension, epic collapses and heart-stopping endings – the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory.
 

 

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29
The logical reaction to Governor Perdue’s statement about suspending elections is “what was she thinking?” Fair enough.
 
But the really nutty statements came from what one reporter called “the black helicopter crowd.” Like:
 
Fox News: “NC Governor Recommends Suspending Democracy to Focus on Jobs.”
 
Think Progress: “North Carolina Governor Proposes Ignoring Constitution.”
 
Powerline: “Democrats Emerge From Closet, Oppose Democracy.” Then the lead: “How many Democrats are National Socialists at heart? Quite a few, I suspect, and every now and then the Democrats’ totalitarian urges break through to the surface.”
 
Of course, Fox and the right-wing websites are in the business of inflaming people. Politicians, on the other hand, need a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver in situations like this. To switch metaphors, when your opponent is shooting herself in the foot, you should stay out of the line of fire.
 
Pat McCrory demonstrated a certain clunkiness:
 
"Not only does this bizarre commentary suggest ignoring the Constitution, but does Governor Perdue forget her own inability to work with the Legislature, regardless if controlled by Democrats or Republicans? Governor, those in glass houses should not throw stones. We look forward to all of the upcoming elections in North Carolina in 2012."
 
Senator Phil Berger got the tone right with what seemed to be tongue-in-cheek statement: ““In light of Gov. Perdue’s support for suspending Congressional elections, I want to state clearly, on the record, that I do NOT support suspending our next gubernatorial election.”

 

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28
The hot topic in Raleigh today is Governor Perdue’s comment – or joke, or quip, or gaffe – about postponing congressional elections. The Drudge Report went to DefCon 5. Local and national reporters called: “Is this a real problem for her? Is this part of a pattern? Is this a big story?” Insuring, of course, that it’s a big story.
 
Let’s get a grip. I doubt she was seriously calling for cancelling elections or advocating overthrow of the government. I’m sure Republican operatives and conservative websites are hyping it. And I bet she regrets saying it.
 
This all illustrates the risks politicians face every day when they open their mouths. One slip of the lip and – zip! – you’ve gone viral.
 
For perspective, Governor Perdue should consult former Congressman Bob Etheridge, who became famous with his “Who are you?” video sensation on YouTube.
 
I’m reminded of the long-ago press conference when Governor Hunt stepped into it by saying something should be done about “wild and crazy” groups like the Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan. Duane Powell did a great cartoon of his fellow speakers fleeing the podium and me jumping out the window.
 
Hunt survived, but the world is different today.
 
Here’s what Perdue should do: Go on camera, right now. Don’t put it off, don’t delay and don’t hope it all goes away. Just face the music and say, “I was expressing my frustration with Congress, and I said something dumb. Forgive me. Get over it. Get back to work.”

 

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28
If history is any guide, Mitt Romney will win the Republican presidential nomination.
 
For some reason, Republicans nominate presidential candidates who ran unsuccessfully before – like Romney this year. See Ronald Reagan (the GOP gold standard) in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008. The exception, George W. Bush, really isn’t an exception; he was a sequel: The Return of Bush.
 
Maybe it’s a hierarchical thing: the last loser deserves the laurel. More likely, it’s that losers learn from their mistakes and work hard to get better. Last time, Romney was too stiff and a poor debater. This time, he has does a passable imitation of a real human being, and he’s sharper in debates.
 
Typically, too, first-time Republican candidates underestimate how tough a presidential campaign is. Rick Perry is finding that it’s different from Texas.
 
Democrats are the opposite. We love first-timers: JFK in 1960, McGovern in 1972, Carter in 1976, Clinton in 1992 and Obama in 2008. Otherwise, we like former Vice Presidents like Humphrey, Mondale and Gore.
 
Maybe there’s something in the different DNA of Democrats and Republicans. Democrats love something new, while Republicans stick with the tried and true.

 

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27
A friend who watches politics for a trade association makes an apt observation: Voters don’t always behave the way the experts expect them to.
 
Republicans are still celebrating their 2010 victory in North Carolina. They’re certain their redistricting schemes will give them a lock on the state for the decade – or maybe the rest of the century.
 
Tweet! That’s a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration!
 
My friend notes that the GOP won its big majorities in districts drawn by Democrats. And a reversal could happen again – in 2012 or 2014.
 
Two reasons. First, North Carolina is a dynamic state. It’s growing fast, and population patterns are changing fast. Most important is the transition from a rural to urban state.
 
Second, politics is inherently unstable and unpredictable.
 
Winners always assume the last election means that the voters finally have come around to their way of thinking – and will stay there forever, head over heels in love with the incumbents.
 
No. Instead, the politicians in power inevitably do something that makes voters mad. That’s what happened to Republicans in 2008 and to Democrats in 2010.
 
My guess – and it’s only that – is that the 2010 Republican wave will roll on into 2012. Republicans may win the White House, the U.S. Senate and the governor’s office.
 
They’ll truly be convinced then that the Millennium has arrived. They will stand like giants astride the political universe, hurling thunderbolts and indulging their every whim.
 
For two years.
 
It’s the law of political karma: Every victory sows the seeds of its own defeat.

 

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26
The other morning at breakfast Richard the Intellectual (who’s a retired banker) stared at the newspaper headline – Europe Debt Crisis Shakes Stock Market – and laughed: Well, it’s beginning to look like thirty years ago the Wall Street Masters of the Universe sold us a bill of goods.
 
Free Trade, he said, was supposed to make everyone rich. Us, the Chinese, everyone. Then Free Trade gave birth to Globalism which was to make everyone richer. But then the Greeks turned out to be spendthrifts and whoosh-bang the bottom fell out of their economy and, suddenly, instead of making us richer ‘Globalism’ had landed us on the hook for the Greeks’ debts.  Because if a mob takes to the streets in Athens the shock waves rumble across the webs of Globalism to Topeka and to save some ‘global’ bank in New York or Frankfort or Paris we have to bail out Greece.
 
Maybe, Richard said, next time some Wall Street genius says, This is a win-win, everybody gets rich – we ought to shoot him before he does any real damage.

 

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26
Something about the combination of barbeque and politics makes political reporters salivate over writing a down-home story about how we’uns in Nawth Ca’lina don’t cotton to outsiders insulting our proud pork product.
 
There has been a run of these stories since news broke that Rick Perry once dismissed North Carolina barbeque as tasting like roadkill.
 
An interviewer asked me – in all seriousness, I think – whether that would hurt Perry in the North Carolina presidential primary.
 
No. If Perry gets that far, he’ll turn it into plus by eating barbeque all over the state and gushing about how he loves it now.
 
The real story is that we’ve identified the biggest threat to Perry’s campaign: his mouth. Every time he opens it, his poll numbers go down. I’ve heard of candidates shooting themselves in the foot, but Perry has a machine gun.
 
Unfortunately for Democrats, the odds are going up that the Republicans will nominate Mitt Romney, the one candidate who won’t scare the bejeesus out of voters and usher them back into the arms of President Obama.
 
As for barbeque and politics, we haven’t yet seen the obligatory quote from Rufus Edmisten that he would have been elected governor in 1984 if only he hadn’t said he was tired of eating barbeque.
 
Media alert: There are many reasons that Rufus didn’t win that year.  Barbeque was the least of it.
 
The greatest all-time barbeque quote came from that quintessential New Yorker Jim Valvano after he was hired as N.C. State’s basketball coach and immediately hit the statewide Wolfpack Club tour. Valvano said later: “I spent my first month here going to pig-pickings. I spent the second month going to the bathroom.”

 

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23
How’s that for a headline to get your attention?
 
But, seriously. One reason I enjoy this blog is I get insight into viewpoints that differ from mine. This week, I learned something about the attitude toward the gay-marriage amendment and, more to the point, gay people.
 
I blogged (click here): “A business friend of mine wonders what the impact will be on recruiting jobs. How many companies that need smart and creative people will think twice about coming here or investing here?”
 
To which a Republican TAPster and frequent (and enjoyable) correspondent replied: “Is your biz friend somehow linking creativity with sexual deviance? Jes’ askin’….”
 
Well, that’s an interesting question on several levels. No, I thought my friend was saying that some bright and creative people might be gay – or might be put off by North Carolina targeting gays.
 
More important, the question shows the real divide on this issue. The TAPster believes homosexuality is “sexual deviance.” If you believe that, you logically have to support the amendment. If you don’t, you think the whole things is nuts.
 
Once up a time (think Nelson Rockefeller), Republicans thought a divorced man shouldn’t be President. Not long after (think Ronald Reagan), it was no longer a problem.
 
This, too, shall pass.

 

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22
We’re $14 going on $16 trillion in debt, the economy’s in the tank and the only way out is to cut government spending – so it didn’t seem unreasonable to save $2.8 million by closing the 134 year old Post Office downtown (when there’s a newer Post Office a few blocks away).
 
But not everyone agrees.
 
According to the News and Observer federal Judge Rich Leonard’s miffed he didn’t get notice of a public meeting about the closing; another opponent of the closing told the newspaper it’s just too darn hard for walk-up customers to go to the other Post Office.
 
Meantime, a few blocks away, the City is proceeding full steam ahead with a plan to cover the entire roof of the downtown Convention Center with solar panels;―leaving aside the wonders of solar power, is now the time to be increasing spending – couldn’t this government program have waited until times get better?
 
It’s a snapshot of America today: No sacrifice is too small to say no to.
 
 

 

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22
Rep. Bill Faison said out loud what Raleigh is whispering when he told WRAL’s Laura Leslie: “I certainly am aware that Perdue has her own problems, including the possibility of imminent indictments against some of her very close associates."
 
The rumor mill is churning: Will the Governor decide not to run in 2012? Then who? Cowell, Dalton, Martin, Cunningham, Faison, whose Facebook one-cent campaign makes him look like a man stalking the race?
 
Inevitably, somebody asked me about Governor Hunt. No chance, I said; I’ve already done the book.
 
It’s just one more piece of the angst that Democrats are suffering as they ponder 2012.
 
A new face could prove attractive to some Democrats. But Perdue has pulled herself up this year by taking on the legislature. And she has a tough, talented campaign team.
 
Of course, this could also draw an opponent to Pat McCrory in the Republican race. The more winnable it looks for the GOP, the greater the attraction to ambitious politicians.
 
Politics is nothing if not ruthless.

 

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