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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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18
Like a bull seeing a red cape Karl Rove lowered his head and horns swinging, charged straight for Cole Porter’s adoring but unhappy wife;— as soon as actress Ashley Judd (who starred in De-Lovely) became a possible Senate candidate in Kentucky Rove had put out an ad out saying, “Ashley Judd’s an Obama-following, Obama-loving, radical Hollywood liberal and a carpetbagger who looks down her nose at hillbillies.”
 
Goring a hard-bitten politician is one thing – but goring a soft-spoken, doe-eyed actress is another. The same shoe doesn’t fit every foot. And Karl Rove’s been hollering ‘Obama-loving liberal’ for so long he’s now beginning to sound like a one-trick pony.

 

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14
I settled into my chair, rocked back, opened a book, and a few minutes later Obama’s measured voice floated across the room saying John Boehner ought to delay the Sequester, then Obama explained how government ought to do more for people with less and it’s only fair the well off pay a little bit more – and whether you agree with him or not Obama’s voice sounds reasonable and logical.
 
Then the voice of a Republican Congressman speaking in short clipped sentences floated across the room saying Obama invented the Sequester, calling it the Obama-quester three times and it was like listening to a teenage child or Sean Hannity during a rant.
 
It’s odd: Even as I disagreed with Obama he sounded reasonable. While the Republican Congressman sounded petty and mean.
 
The next morning in the News & Observer there was a poll about Obama’s soaring approval ratings and Congress’s sinking popularity and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal – explaining the Republicans’ demise – said, It’s time Republicans started sounding like adults.
 
As the Lord told St. Peter, The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart: Obama’s got an old-fashioned liberal’s heart and words like ‘saving the middle class’ roll off his tongue like honey. Obama-quester is a kind of vision too but when the word rolled off the Republican Congressman’s tongue it sounded like a howl.
 

 

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13
After Tea Party candidates rolled to victory in 2010 they headed for Congress to cut spending, and late one night, six months later, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner announced they’d made a deal to pass the biggest annual spending cut in history.
 
Now, two years later, it turns out the cuts were an illusion: Most of the spending that got killed, the Washington Post reports, was already dead – because President Obama and Speaker John Boehner cut money that was never going to be spent. They ‘cut’ $14.6 million that had been authorized to build the Capital Visitor Center – which had already been built. They ‘cut’ $375,000 that had been authorized for a road that didn’t exist. And cut $6 billion that had been authorized to pay for the Census in 2011 – but the Census ended in 2010.
 
A former Obama official also told the Post that both sides, both the President and the House Leaders, knew what they were calling cuts were simple authorizations that were never going to be spent.
 
The Tea Partiers got fusselled.
 
As Congressman Mick Mulvaney ruefully explained, looking back, “Many of the cuts…were smoke and mirrors. That’s the lesson from April 2011: That when Washington says it cuts spending, it doesn’t mean the same thing that normal people mean.”
 

 

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13
Thanks to the 2012 campaign and Mitt Romney, President Obama has found his voice. That gives him a big advantage over Republicans the next two years.
 
For all his writing and oratorical skills, Obama never found a way in his first term to effectively tell his story – and sell his message. That led to the 2010 electoral disaster.
 
But something has changed. It started election night. Democrats asked: “Where was this guy in that first debate?” It continued in his inaugural speech. And he showed it again last night in the State of the State.
 
Obama even looks different – looser, more relaxed, more confident. And he has figured out how to explain his vision of government in as strong and compelling a way as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton did theirs.
 
Here was the key line last night: “They (the American people) know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.”
 
Here’s how he said it at the inaugural: “The commitments we make to each other - through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security - these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
 
That theme set him up last night to draw this contrast with Republicans: “…we can't ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won't grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can't just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that's the approach I offer tonight.”
 
Of course, Obama might never have found that message without Mitt Romney. Romney set out an opposing vision, and Obama had to counter. And Romney gave Obama an opening that he seized with alacrity.
 
In 1996, remember, Bob Dole talked about “building a bridge to the past.” Clinton countered with “building a bridge to the future.” That became the theme of his second term.
 
In 2012, Romney and Republicans – sometimes deliberately and sometimes clumsily – talked about a nation of builders and a nation of takers, the “47 percent.” Now Obama has flipped their own message against them.
 
Marco Rubio is a prettier, more pleasant face than John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul. But Obama has him and the Republicans in a rhetorical box, hoist by their own words.

 

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11
There’s a full throated debate going on in Washington – Republicans are saying ‘the Sequester’ wasn’t their idea, it was Obama’s idea, and the White House is saying, ‘Obama’s idea! John Boehner not only voted for the Sequester, after it passed he bragged he’d gotten 98% of what he wanted.’
 
Meanwhile the Republicans, after frantically searching for a way to match the President’s bully-pulpit, at last have found one by whacking Obama with the Twitter hashtag #Obamaquester.
           
So here’s where we stand: Two years ago, Obama invented the Obamaquester to cut spending, and, two years ago, John Boehner was for it (98%). But now Obama’s against it. And so are the Republicans. And the whole thing’s clear as a bell on Twitter.
 

 

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04
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest blogger is Tapster Joe Stewart.

 

I grew up in Raleigh, graduating from Athens Drive High School in 1982.

The athletic conference (note singular) at the time was the Cap 8 and included (what seemed like) the remote outposts of Fuquay-Varina and Smithfield Selma.
 
I moved away for a while, and when I returned in 1996 the place had definitely changed, and continues to both in size and diversity of the population.
 
Just ask state Representative Tom Murry, whose 41st State House District in Wake County contains a significant number of Indian Americans - Morrisville, the heart of Rep. Murry’s district, is home to the Hindu Society of North Carolina.
 
In fact, Indian Americans are a whopping 16% of the lawful American citizens eligible to cast a ballot for Rep. Murry on election day. 
 
While most attention in recent years has focused on illegal Hispanic immigrants here in North Carolina, Rep. Murry’s district shows there’s actually far more than that one dynamic to discuss on the topic of how immigration impact local communities like his, given the dramatic growth in our State’s foreign-born population (up by 64% since 2000).
 
The NC Center for International Understanding (full disclosure: they are a client) is hosting a conference (not advancing a particular policy proposal, but rather providing a forum to allow discussion among all points of view – a review of the list of sponsors highlights that fact) on February 28 entitled ‘Immigration Matters’ at the Hunt Library on NCSU Centennial Campus (http://IMforum.eventbrite.com).
 
It’s proven to be a timely program, given recent calls for federal immigration reform from both Congressional leaders and the White House.
 
Consider this: the US Chamber, a business advocacy icon, will speak at this event on the need for reforms to our work visa system – it’s hurting US businesses when skilled positions for which no American worker is available go unfilled because guest workers can’t get the visa to come do the job.
 
And this isn’t just about high-tech, high-skill positions. It’s about all the service sector jobs there simply won’t be enough American-born workers for (think home health care, the folks needed to take care of all us aging Baby Boomers).
 
A UN population and workforce study released in 2000 projected that by the end of 2103, due in large part to declining birth rates in America, the labor force growth in the United States will be zero, and by 2020 will have a 17 million shortage of working age people for the jobs available.
 
So there’s a lot to talk about, and Immigration Matters will be a great opportunity to hear from many different voices on this subject.
 
By the way: when people ask me, as a ‘native,’ if these changes bother me, I always say ‘this was a great part of North Carolina then, but it’s an outstanding corner of the world now.’

 

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04
Speaker John Boehner probably never meant to end up being the face and voice of the Republican Party – but he’s the man in the room facing Obama so that’s how it is.
 
Last month, just before the House passed the Speaker’s bill to raise the debt ceiling until May, I asked an old friend who’s a long-time pollster, “Do you reckon the House Republicans are about to help or hurt themselves with voters?”
 
He shrugged and said, “It doesn’t matter.”
 
Then he explained the House Republicans’ problem isn’t issues like ‘Debt Ceilings’ it’s that voters see them as shallow, petty Washington politicians.
 
Now, if the pollster’s right that’s bad news – because when character rears its head in a political fight it’s usually deadly. Ask Newt Gingrich. Or Herman Cain. Or remember Richard Nixon.
 
And it’s a safe bet Obama knows nailing Republican Congressmen as Washington politicians is about as good a way as any for his new Super-Nonprofit to elect a Democratic House Majority next election.
 
So what can Speaker Boehner do?
 
Well, if it’s just a plain simple fact and true that House Republicans have become died-in-the-wool Washington politicians – there’s not much he can do. Obama won’t allow him to escape the facts. And the only cure for bone-deep sinning lies beyond politics in the realms of repentance and Grace.
 
And even if it’s not true Boehner still faces a tough job – because serving as Speaker while proving to voters he (and fellow House Republicans) are not Washington politicians is one tall order.
 

 

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28
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest today is Joe Stewart.
 
Currently reaching their 18th birthday at a rate of 13,000 a day, the 80 million-strong Generation Y (those born 1982 - 1995) will be the majority of the US workforce and a full third of the voting population by 2015.

This surging tide is poised to become the replacements for the currently-in-charge Baby Boom Generation (today, the median age in Congress is 57, and is 60 among current US governors), leap frogging over Generation X (who kinda sat political life out) to dominate the America governing class.

Less cynical and more civically engaged than Gen X, and far more technology-oriented than Boomers (who are still getting political information from television news and newspapers), Gen Y is poised to be the biggest, most diverse and highly educated generation in American history.

Their enthusiasm about making history was a major factor for Obama in the 2008 presidential race, but hard economic reality cooled that a little in 2012.

So does either party have a lock on Gen Y going forward? It's hard to say.

I suspect if 'old' leaders of the Democrats and Republicans can't get past partisan sniping and ideological extremism, this group of spunky youngsters is likely to declare a pox on both the political party houses.

In all likelihood, Gen Y-ers are going to be America's first 'Imagecrats' - attracted more to charismatic, bigger-than-life, social media savvy candidates they 'like' (every Facebook pun intended) irrespective of party.

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28
When it comes to climbing up on a soap box and waving his arms and hollerin’ like a banshee there’s hardly anyone who can hold a candle to Newt Gingrich. But there’s a peculiar trait about people who talk a lot about their ‘bold ideas’— when you boil away their highfalutin rhetoric a lot of times what they’re doing is more like swatting flies than pondering the mysteries of the Universe.
 
Newt fired off a “tough memo” (as he put it) to the Republican Political Mandarins in Washington saying he was so badly shaken by how wrong he was about Romney winning that he’d been doing some hard thinking – then he launched his latest ‘bold idea’: To catch up with the Democrats, he said, the Republicans ought to (as quickly as possible) copy Obama’s playbook on Coalition Building, micro-targeting, Internet savvy, and connecting with Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and African Americans through ‘infotainment.’
 
That had a nice ring to it, especially since no one but political consultants and computer nerds have a clue what ‘micro-targeting’ and ‘infotainment’ mean.
 
But did ‘infotainment’ really whip Mitt Romney last fall? 
 
Last summer after the primaries the Republican Mandarins Karl Rove-types were sitting around rooms talking to one another and telling one another, Obama’s a failed President and voters know it and we’ve got the election in the bag.
 
They said it over and over like a mantra and Fox News repeated it so often it got to sounding like cold hard fact.
 
What they missed was that Obama wasn’t about to sit still as a lamb waiting for the axe to fall – instead he figured on getting out of the axe’s way. Obama rolled out his heavy artillery and commenced to pounding on Mitt Romney, calling him a polecat in seven different languages, and, then, the Mandarins sitting in rooms were watching Obama ads, shaking their heads and telling themselves, ‘None of that matters. Obama’s a failed President and we’ve got the election in the bag.’
 
It was a fatal case of miscalculation.
 
Because by September Obama’s pounding had suburban women in Virginia and autoworkers in Ohio thinking, Well, Obama’s done his best even if it’s not as good as I’d hoped – but that darn Mitt Romney’s a gazillionaire who doesn’t care a toot about my problems.
 
Newt fixing the Republican Party’s ‘micro-targeting’ or ‘infotainment’ is a fine thing. But the real big question is: Why did our Republican Mandarins figure Obama calling Romney a skunk didn’t matter?

 

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