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North Carolina - Republicans

16
Sometimes all you have to do is repeat a politician’s own words. Like Senator Bob Rucho’s tweet: “Justice Robert’s pen & Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then the swords of the Nazis,Soviets & terrorists combined.”
 
(Note to grammar cops: Yes, his tweet said “has,” not “have” and “then,” not “than.”)
 
It appears from Rucho’s Twitter profile that the tweet was posted at 4:41 am Sunday. Maybe he was hacked. Or maybe 4:41 am is not a good time to be tweeting. You’re up either too early or too late.
 
This gives Democrats an opportunity. They can ask random Republicans: Do you agree with Senator Rucho?
 
First let’s ask state GOP Chair Claude Pope. He has shown he does not tolerate comparisons to Nazis.
 
Pope pounced this summer when columnist and UNC-TV host D.G. Martin made an oblique reference to Nazis in a column about North Carolina politics.
 
Pope called Martin’s column "inexcusable, disgusting and shameful." He called on UNC-TV to suspend Martin's show, lest his comments "damage the reputation of an otherwise upstanding organization.”
 
“It’s a shame that UNC-TV televises such a divisive, toxic personality with our taxpayer funds,” he went on. "We call on UNC-TV to suspend this program while they evaluate their relationship with their host who made such an outrageous and damaging comparison. Such divisive hyperbole only serves to confuse and trivialize issues that are important to North Carolinians, who all deserve a formal apology.”
 
Both Carter and I posted blogs pointing out how much of a stretch it was to say D.G. had compared Republicans to Nazis.  Carter wrote, “Ole Claude, out of paranoia, foolishness, or a plain mean streak, indulged in a fact twist.”
 
Nevertheless, D.G. stood up and said: “I'm very sorry that I offended some people, and I apologize. Period."
 
Will Claude Pope hold Senator Rucho to the same standard to which he held D.G.? Will any big-name Republican have the courage say Rucho went too far? Will Rucho apologize?
 
We’re all atwitter with anticipation.

 

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13
Both President Obama and Governor McCrory are learning that reforming health care can be harmful to your political health. Their politics are different, but their experiences are strikingly similar.
 
Both are trying to make big changes in the health care system, Obama with the Affordable Care Act and McCrory with Medicaid privatization.
 
Both have had a hard time explaining exactly what they’re doing. Few people can explain in a few words what Obamacare does. Few grasp what McCrory is trying to do with Medicaid.
 
Both have had trouble with websites and computer glitches.
 
Both operate in a poisonous, polarized political and media environment with political opponents who are poised to pounce.
 
Both face skeptics in their own party.
 
Both have Cabinet secretaries who have become piñatas for blame and calumny.
 
From both, the lesson is the same. Health care is big, and it’s complicated. You better be clear about what you’re doing. You better not underestimate the obstacles. And you better bring your A game.

 

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05
A TAPster who is a veteran of corporate America and the Raleigh political scene offers another take on Governor McCrory and the Charlotte Observer column:
 
“Gary's blog 'McCrory under siege' and the Observer story that prompted it are revealing, but the governor's thin skin and ego are not the weaknesses that doom the McCrory administration.

“Being a governor is about being a tough manager, a thoughtful strategist, a bully and a visionary. McCrory is none of these, which is a sad surprise to his disappointed friends around the state. He has no idea where his team is headed, and his floundering, undisciplined (yet well compensated) team certainly doesn't either.

“An example of this was the sidewalk exchange this week between Art Pope and Rev. William Barber with a gaggle of citizen and media witnesses. No boss in his right mind would encourage an atmosphere where a senior staffer would think freelance banter is ok, but it's ok on Team Pat. In most organizations, such a misdeed would lead to a firing.

“The Observer article painfully noted that Pat often doesn't always make sense
when he talks. If he can’t articulate his message to a newspaper reporter in a way that makes sense, he certainly can’t articulate a vision if he had one. He whines about negative media coverage, but that makes him looks like, well, a whiner.
 
“No organization can survive if the boss is a thin-skinned, egotistical whiner – and not much else.”
 

 

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04
To show he isn’t “obsessed with his image,” Governor McCrory sent a response to the Charlotte Observer that showed he is, in fact, obsessed with his image.
 
This calls to mind Virginia Sen. William L. Scott. In 1974, New Times magazine labeled Scott the country's "dumbest" congressman. Scott called a press conference to deny the charge. He “met with a notable lack of success,” one observer noted.
 
Two things got Governor McCrory in this fix. First, he had 90-plus minutes with an editor who has been sympathetic and supportive. But McCrory apparently spent most of the time complaining about what the media is saying, not talking about what he is doing.
 
Second, he keeps reinforcing the impression that he is careless with facts. So we wonder: Is he ill-informed, or is he deliberately trying to mislead?
 
Neither one is good. And either one can hurt him. He is getting hurt now because political insiders suspect he is lacking in either intellect or integrity. Eventually, he could lose the trust of the public.

 

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03
Governor McCrory certainly isn’t the only politician “obsessed with his image.” But he shows it more than any politician I’ve ever seen.
 
Read Taylor Batten’s remarkable and revealing account of his hour-and-40-minute interview with the Governor. Batten, editor of the Charlotte Observer’s editorial page (which endorsed McCrory for governor) wrote: “This is a man obsessed with his image and how he’s portrayed. It’s clear he doesn’t go a day without being deeply frustrated by what he sees as unfair attacks on his good name.”
 
Three things come clear. First, it’s easy to get under McCrory’s skin. Second, he reads and remembers everything that is the least bit critical. Third, he can’t remember where he read it or who said it. He criticizes the media for getting things wrong, but he gets wrong what they got wrong.
 
You’re left with the impression of a man who is over his head and about to go under.
 
At one point, the Governor asked Batten: “What are the other eight things I said wrong by the way?...You had an editorial where ‘McCrory’s misstatements. Eight misstatements.’ I forget how many.”
 
Batten: “I tell him I don’t know what he’s talking about, and an adviser points out that he’s thinking of a news story written by a (Raleigh) News & Observer reporter.
 
McCrory says: “No. That was their editorial. Or was that a repeat? Maybe, I don’t know which ones I’m reading.”
 
Indeed he doesn’t.
 
It’s going to be a long three years, Governor.

 

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02
So long as politicians exercise – and abuse – power, we need the press and professors around to question power. But it looks like Republicans in Raleigh want to shut down questions and shut up critics.
 
This after Governor McCrory promised to run an open, transparent administration.
 
First, McCrory’s highly paid PR flacks say they aren’t being paid enough to fulfill their legal obligation to provide public records – that is, records about how our government is working and how our tax money is being spent. No, they want to charge extra for that.
 
Then, McCrory’s political allies at the Civitas Institute demanded emails from Gene Nichols, a UNC law professor who is prone to castigating the Republicans. Maybe Nichols, like the Governor’s flacks, should charge Civitas a few thousand dollars for his time and trouble.
 
Suspicious minds wonder whether the next story will be about pressure on UNC to get rid of Nichols. (“Will no one rid me of this troublesome professor?”)
 
Which would be a modern reprise of the Speaker Ban Law. Which will damage the reputation of North Carolina’s universities. Which will discourage bright, entrepreneurial people from coming to North Carolina.
 
History is replete with the shattered careers of puffed-up politicians who tried to silence their critics. Whatever short-term gains McCrory & Co. think they’re getting here, they will pay a high price down the road. That’s a truth they can’t suppress.
 
The question is whether any Republican leader in Raleigh realizes how wrong-headed – and ultimately self-defeating – this course is.

 

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29
Thanks to Senator Bob Rucho for serving up a heaping holiday helping of hilarity: “JFK could have been the founder and leader of the Tea Party.”
 
Let’s let JFK answer himself. In the 1960 campaign, he said: “I have yet to hear of one single original piece of new, progressive legislation of benefit to the people, suggested and put into a fact by the Republican Party.”
 
Also in 1960, he defined himself this way: “If by a ‘Liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal’, then I'm proud to say I'm a ‘Liberal’.”
 
As to Rucho, let us quote Lloyd Bentsen: “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

 

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25
Now, that’s positively Orwellian. And it’s the latest in a long string of eye-catching – and embarrassing – statements by Governor McCrory.
 
Two weeks ago, John Frank wrote in the N&O: “At least a dozen times in his first 10 months as governor, McCrory’s remarks have sparked controversies. McCrory is prone to misspeaking. He generalizes in a way that can insult key constituencies. And he mispronounces the names of even his closest aides.”
 
So now it’s a game to keep score on when the Governor, instead of “stepping on toes,” as he likes to say, is tripping over his own feet.
 
But wait, there’s more. McCrory also said, “If you survey most Democrats, they also agree with our laws and voter ID.”
 
That may have been true at one time. But no more. Democratic support is dropping as more and more Republicans tell the dirty little truth that McCrory won’t admit: There is no problem with voter fraud. This law is intended to keep Democrats from voting.
 
But we’re not done yet. McCrory also said controversy over the voter-suppression law is “much ado about nothing.”
 
“Nothing”?  Suppressing a citizen’s right to vote is “nothing”?
 
Three things here. One, the Governor’s staff needs to recognize that he’s prone to these stumbles when he’s doing national-media interviews. He gets careless, and he overreaches.
 
Two, these things can add up and do real damage to a politician’s image. You can develop a credibility gap like LBJ and Nixon. Or become a punch line like Sarah Palin.
 
Three, history’s judgment awaits. A thoughtful Governor might ask himself: Do I really want to be known as the Governor who tried to block African-Americans, young people, women and older people from voting?
 
Because he will be.
 

 

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12
Governor McCrory and legislative Republicans have a theory: Cut taxes and regulations, and jobs will flow in. What if they’re wrong – not only on the economics, but also on the politics?
 
What if their theory leads to North Carolina becoming a more Democratic state?
 
The question arises from two recent conversations: one with an experienced economic developer and the other with a local real estate agent. Both said their prospects today are asking: “What’s going on in North Carolina?”
 
(Which was the first question, though he used more colorful language, that John Oliver asked in his show Saturday night. He added: “North Carolina is the meth lab of democracy.”)
 
That word is getting around the country. If McCrory, Berger, Tillis & Co. are wrong, companies aren’t saying: “Let’s get on down to North Carolina where taxes are low and regulations are non-existent.” They’re saying: “Are the smart, creative people I need going to go there – or stay there?” And: “Does my family want to live there?”
 
So here is what will happen. Cities like Raleigh and Durham and Charlotte will do what Austin did with its “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. They’ll tell the rest of the world: “We’re not like the other yahoos here. We’re different. Come on down.”
 
The people and the jobs will keep coming to Raleigh and Durham and Charlotte, the Democratic areas. Nobody will go to the Republican strongholds – the small towns and rural areas. Those places will wither away as their young people move away.
 
And North Carolina will be more Democratic.

 

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09
Since I’ve been rough on Governor McCrory – and will be again – I’m providing equal time today to a TAPster who makes a valid point:
 
“Here’s one vote to stop harassing Governor McCrory over expenditures to make the mansion a modern, livable home. In fact, those of us who care about the state should insist that our political leaders take care of our property and repair state buildings before they become termite-infested piles of debris held together with spitballs.
 
“The mansion is a state treasure. Like most state buildings, it isn't maintained properly. Let's face it, the mansion's potty repair budget is a drop in the bowl, and the chief executive of the country's 10th largest state should have a toilet that works properly, especially when he has to live in the joint for security reasons.
 
“The crazy political extremists have made it impossible for our leaders to lead, even when it comes to a mundane plumbing project. Let's get our heads out of the toilet and focus instead on the really important stuff before our state's enviable national reputation is flushed into history.”
 
Of course, I’d argue that McCrory and the Republican legislature is doing a fine job of flushing away our reputation. All the more reason they should have working bathrooms.

 

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