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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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12
December brings “Best of 2013” Lists, and here’s one about Governor McCrory, courtesy of the website Buzzfeed.
 
(Like President Obama. I thought buzz feed was something you did in college at 2 a.m.)
 
The Governor has acquired a reputation as the unwitting source of unintentionally funny and baffling statements – and misstatements. This is a collection of some gems, titled “North Carolina’s Hilariously Incompetent Governor in 15 Quotes.”
 
Now, some of them are new to me. Did he really say, for example, “My strength is concepts and strategy and theory and also facts”?
 
But I know he said, ““We didn’t shorten early voting, we compacted the calendar.”
 
With any luck, the Governor will challenge the list. That would be fun.

 

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11
Politics 101 used to say that getting in the news was good for politicians. Not today.
 
The new rule is: If you’re in the spotlight, you’re losing. The more you’re in the news, the lower your poll ratings.
 
When the government shutdown dominated Page 1, Republicans plummeted in the polls. When Obamacare took over the headlines, Obama took a hit. Now Obamacare coverage has cooled, and Obama’s national numbers have ticked up.
 
Same for Kay Hagan. She was up when the news focused on the shutdown, then down during the Obamacare frenzy.
 
Same thing in Raleigh. When the legislature was in town, its approval ratings fell. Now that Governor McCrory is the lead story, his numbers are down.
 
Why? Because voters hate politicians. The more they see of them, the more they hate them. And they’re cynical about government. They don’t believe government can do anything right.
 
At the same time, the news media has laid off staff and cut back routine coverage of government. Scandals and foul-ups get far more attention than the new initiatives politicians love to tout.
 
Governor McCrory thought he would get applause for “fixing” Medicaid and DHHS. Instead, he and Secretary Vos got roasted. Same for his Department of Commerce reorganization; coverage will focus on the flaws and faults.
 
Come next November’s election, the loser will be whoever is in the spotlight.

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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11
So, according to the newspaper, a varmint in Fayetteville shanghaied two teenage girls, held them hostage for months, beat them, threatened to kill their families, raped them, turned them into prostitutes, videotaped them having sex then a high judge gave him 45 years in prison.
 
These days we’re civilized and enlightened but given some varmints’ meanness it sure makes you wonder whether folks in less enlightened times (when they held public hangings) understood varmints better than we do. 

 

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Posted in: General, Issues
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10
This from our Shameless Self-Promotion Department:
 
Carter and I did an interview with Don Gonyea, National Political Correspondent for NPR.  Part of it ran in a story about Senator Kay Hagan’s reelection race. 
 
And I was interviewed on Chris Fitzsimon’s News & Views on WRAL-FM. It’s on the NC Policy Watch website.

 

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10
Nelson Mandela lived half a world away, but North Carolina has a history with South Africa and the apartheid system he destroyed.
 
Go back more than 50 years. Jim Hunt, a student at N.C. State in the late 1950s, heard Allard Lowenstein speak to a National Students Association meeting about “the terrible injustices and cruelties” of apartheid in South Africa. Lowenstein compared apartheid to segregation in America and the South. Hunt recalled, “I was absolutely persuaded that a segregated system was wrong, morally wrong.”
 
Go back almost 30 years. In 1986, North Carolina’s two Senators, Jesse Helms and Jim Broyhill, voted to sustain President Reagan's veto of a law imposing economic sanctions on South Africa over apartheid.
 
They were on the losing side, legislatively and historically.
 
The vote to override was 78-21, 12 votes more than the two-thirds needed. Republicans had a majority of the Senate (52 members), but voted to override Reagan by 31-21.
 
Bob Dole, the majority leader, called the vote as a ''litmus test'' on civil rights. Then-freshman Senator Mitch McConnell said of Reagan’s opposition to sanctions: ''I think he is ill-advised. I think he is wrong.”
 
Not Helms, of course. He said on the floor, “The thrust of this legislation is to bring about violent, revolutionary change, and after that, tyranny.''
 
That is, we should protect terror and tyranny in order to prevent tyranny.
 
Jim Broyhill probably knew better. He was no Helms, but he couldn’t split with Helms. Broyhill was running for election to the seat; he had been appointed after Senator John East died. Broyhill lost anyway, to one of those North Carolinians who had decided that segregation was wrong: Terry Sanford.

 

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09
Chapel Hill-bashing may play well on the Outer Banks, but it’s not helping people who live or work south of Bonner Bridge.
 
DOT Secretary Tony Tata sounded like the Fox News commentator he once was when he blasted “ivory tower elitists (who) file these lawsuits from their air-conditioned offices in Chapel Hill…with their lattes and their contempt, and chuckle while the good people of the Outer Banks are fighting hard to scratch out a living….”
 
Governor McCrory, Senator Berger and Speaker Tillis jumped on the bandwagon bashing the Southern Environmental Law Center for blocking the bridge.
 
Every story, like every bridge, has two sides. And so does this one.
 
Derb Carter, the law center’s director, said, “DOT’s plan to build new bridges in the exact same places over Oregon Inlet and along NC-12 is going to cause the exact same problems that led to the current bridge closure and recent road closures: the ocean will continue to scour the new bridges and erode the road, NCDOT admits its proposed bridges will end up in the ocean, and the people of Hatteras Island will continue to be stranded by NCDOT’s poor planning for decades to come.”
 
A longer – and, yes, costlier – bridge over the calm waters of Pamlico Sound is the right long-term decision, Carter said, but DOT refuses to consider that alternative.
 
He also questioned why “Bonner Bridge closed so suddenly, without warning to the public after the bridge had been declared safe for travel just days before.”
 
I get both sides in this debate. I spend a lot of time at OBX. I’ve been over Bonner Bridge and down NC 12 more times than I can count. I know people whose lives and livelihoods are affected every time the ocean takes away their lifeline.
 
I don’t pretend to know the right answer here. But I do know that the political posturing going on in Raleigh over lawyers in Chapel Hill isn’t helping Outer Bankers. Unfortunately, this is what passes for leadership in Raleigh today.
 
To get a good – and, yes, fair and balanced – picture of the problem, including the geography and the history, read N&O Senior Editor Dan Barkin’s excellent Q&A.

 

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06
Governor McCrory’s response to the now-famous Taylor Batten column is worth a close read. After all, it was headlined: “Here’s where my attention really is.”
 
First off, there is not one word in his 397-word essay about public schools or teachers.
 
Then, he said, “North Carolina is poised for an economic revival” and noted the 8 percent unemployment rate. But today’s numbers show that unemployment is down across the nation. If the Governor takes credit for North Carolina, does he give President Obama credit for the national economy?
 
McCrory said: “Since this time last year, North Carolina has gained approximately 80,000 jobs.” But a letter to the N&O noted that, in November, the state’s own figures showed that total employment had dropped by 13,000 jobs.
 
Then, taxes. The Governor said, “Starting on Jan. 1, the income tax rate will go down for every North Carolina taxpayer….North Carolinians will see more money in their paychecks next year.”
 
Here’s the big question. What will voter say next November when Democrats recall the Governor’s words and ask: Did you get a tax cut?

 

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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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05
A TAPster who pays attention to politics and high school football notes that James Hunt High and Terry Sanford High played each other in the first round of the state 3AA football playoffs.
 
The Hunt Warriors beat the Sanford Bulldogs 35-21 on November 15. Since then, Hunt has also beaten West Brunswick and Douglas Byrd to reach the regional files tomorrow night against Southern Durham.
 
Knowing both men, it’s hard to imagine that either team’s players could compete harder than their namesakes. And the mascots are on the money.
 
Do you think there’ll ever be a James Martin High vs. Pat McCrory High game?

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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