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Andy Jackson would roll over in his grave.

I just read Jon Meacham’s new biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Meacham shows how Jackson saw himself not just as the executive head of government, but as the true voice of the people. He, not Congress, would chart the nation’s course.

What would Jackson make of this morning’s News & Observer, which reported state leaders’ reaction to revelations the probation system lost track of 14,000 criminals.

The lead quotes were from Marc Basnight. Coming in second was Governor-elect Perdue. Missing – again – was Governor Easley, who promised the N&O a phone call but didn’t dial in.

Maybe it was because Basnight’s quotes were pithier. He may not be a college graduate, but he knows how to express outrage: "a rotten performance." "They have failed all of North Carolina." "Who in the hell did that?"

The words North Carolinians want to hear from their elected leaders.

Perdue wasn’t nearly as colorful: "The whole system is in need of repair…. There is a disconnect that has to be fixed, and I'm going to fix it."

It could be that, after eight years of Easley’s laid-back style, the media looks first to the legislature as the center of action.

Will Perdue change that?

When Jim Hunt was governor, he was always the lead in the story. But, when he returned to the office in 1993, he faced a Democratic legislature that had become accustomed to being in charge with a veto-less Republican in the governor’s office.

Like Jackson, Hunt saw his role as being the primary person who could speak for all North Carolinians.

On issues like probations reform, everybody will be pulling in the same direction. The real test comes when there is something unpopular to be done – like, say, raising taxes. Hunt had to take the lead in 1981 when he raised the gas tax. Easley, Basnight and Jim Black joined hands in 1993.

Bev Perdue is the first true creature of the legislature to be elected governor since Jim Holshouser in 1972. Being the first Republican governor since the Stone Age, he did not have a happy experience with the legislative branch of government.

What approach will Perdue take?

 

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