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10
A long time long ago in the far away Kingdom of Columbialand  two tribes battled over control of Congress for years then one of the tribes (the Republicans) split into two smaller tribes: The Pachyderms and the Tea Partiers.
 
The Tea Partiers turned out to be an unusual tribe. They had a creed and they also had no doubt at all the highest virtue of all was to fight ferociously for spending cuts.
 
When it came to spending cuts, the Pachyderm Chief agreed with the Tea Partiers. Or, at least, he said he did. But, in practice, the Chief had discerned an odd quirk of human nature: He’d figured out that while almost everyone (meaning all the voters in Columbialand) liked spending cuts, as soon as the Tea Partiers cut a specific program everything turned upside down. For instance, if the Tea Partiers cut farm subsidies farmers were outraged and adamantly said, No. He’d seen the same thing happen over and over; whenever the Tea Partiers tried to cut funding for parks, or schools, or widget makers – someone always got mad.
 
Once when the Tea Partiers tried to cut defense spending it made defense contractors so mad they’d told  the Chief they wouldn’t give him another dollar – which caused the Chief a huge conundrum. Because what he loved (with the same passion the Tea Partiers loved that creed of theirs) was winning elections.
 
So the way the Chief saw it what the Tea Partiers were doing was just plain lunacy and, finally, one December morning when he’d had enough he declared war. He opened fire with both barrels, telling everyone who’d listen the Tea Partiers were crooks who were raising money (from the Republican faithful) to line their own pockets then he made a deal with his sworn enemies, the Obamacrats, and passed a budget that increased spending.

For one moment, it looked like the Chief had won a huge victory. But then he got a rude awakening. He found out what he’d really done was start a Civil War. And, worse still, he was the one in hot water. Out in the hinterlands the average Republican didn’t think any more of his deal with the Obamacrats than the Tea Partiers did.

 

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08
It’s a sure sign a politician is in trouble: He gets a new press secretary, communications director or whatever you call it. So Governor McCrory shipped Kim Genardo to Commerce and replaced her with Josh Ellis.
 
I know nothing about the inner workings of this Governor’s Office, nor about the performance of his communications office. I knew Kim and Josh as reporters, and both are capable professionals.
 
I’ve seen this movie. For eight years (1976-1984), I was Governor Hunt’s press secretary. Every Monday morning, he met with his Cabinet and staff. Every meeting, every Cabinet secretary reported on the wondrous work being done in their departments. The conclusion was always self-evident and unanimous: “We’re not getting our story out.” Guess who was to blame.
 
The more likely problem here is substance, not spin. Performance, not PR.
 
Witness the coincidental announcement that DHHS gave a $3 million sole-source contract to a Washington consulting firm to fix the administration’s Medicaid problems.
 
Note that the N&O asked for public records regarding the contract eight weeks ago. “After repeated requests, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office released two documents Thursday evening; the Department of Health and Human Services released some of its records Friday evening, after issuing a news release about the Alvarez & Marsal contract.”
 
Ah, “Friday evening,” the classic dumping time for bad news.
 
No wonder DHHS and McCrory didn’t want anybody to know: The contract pays “$473 an hour for each of three principals of the firm, $394 an hour for each of three consultants, $242 an hour each for two analysts and $84 an hour for an intern.”
 
DHHS may have to hire a couple more 24-year-olds at $85,000 per year to supervise all its no-bid, personal services, sweetheart contracts.
 
Get to work, Josh. Your in-box is full.

 

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07
This blog comes from a long-time, active Chamber member. I approve this message:
 
“There’s a political lesson for all of us in the needless maelstrom that has engulfed the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce: You get fleas or worse when you lie down with dogs and dog killers, and you can destroy your credibility in a flash of bad judgment and sloppy PR.
 
“The chamber has inexplicably invited convicted felon, dog abuser and pro football player Michael Vick to speak to an event honoring ‘champions.’ The chamber’s defense is that his story is about human failure and redemption … and the chamber apparently believes that going to prison for hurting and killing dogs is a life lesson for young people.
 
“Vick has retired from hooking up dogs to car batteries and returned to the comfortable life of multi-millionaire football player and after-dinner entertainer, so the chamber is counting on him to sell some tickets.
 
“But business leaders whose names adorn the chamber’s membership list count on the organization to advance their political agenda and to be taken seriously. Their tolerance – and silence – around this misguided speaking invitation is contributing to the erosion of the organization’s political credibility and effectiveness.”
 

 

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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06
Your first reaction was probably the same as mine. Clay Aiken? The singer? For Congress?
 
Then I met him.  He’s the same person you meet in his announcement video.  He’s smart, serious and genuine. He clearly has thought deeply about policy matters. He has a unique voice that is a breath of fresh air in a polluted political climate. And he has a genuine empathy for people that he has demonstrated as a YMCA counselor, a special education teacher, a foundation leader and a UNICEF representative overseas.
 
He’s kind of like Opie Taylor would have turned out if he’d had a big voice. Except he’s tougher than he looks.
 
Republicans predictably pushed the rewind button on their political mud machine. The haters and the homophobes crept out of their Internet cellars. Have at it. Aiken’s campaign feeds off their fuel – and the public’s disgust with it.
 
For Democrats, there’s a choice between competing theories of the race.
 
Keith Crisco’s theory is that he can peel off Republican voters in Randolph County. He says he did it when he ran for county commissioner in 1992. He lost, but he ran ahead of Governor Hunt and President Clinton.
 
Aiken’s theory is that he can mobilize a new wave of new and young voters. He can inject new energy, reshape the electorate and shake up the race.
 
There is a new generation of voters – and leaders – rising in North Carolina. They are idealistic and driven to make a difference. They are connected and engaged. If Democrats win them now, they can win with them for a long time to come.
 
The question for Democrats is which path is right for the future. Which helps Kay Hagan most this year and helps candidates for governor and President in two years. I think the answer is obvious. That’s why I’m for Clay.

 

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03
When you’ve got bad news, get it out. It only gets worse with age.
 
Pat McCrory’s new-look DENR failed that test last week, at a time when people were watching closely how the  administration would react to its first environmental crisis.

When three million-plus gallons of untreated sewage spewed into the Haw River, DENR told the city it could delay public notification until the spill was stopped and the actual extent of the spill was known.
 
Didn’t thirsty citizens downstream have a right to know a river of sewage was heading their way?

Pipes break, spills happen, and no governor can prevent them all. But governors are judged by how they react to breaks and spills. DENR’s delay was a missed opportunity for McCrory’s team to show they are serious about protecting the environment and serving every citizen.

 

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02
Is this a “Groundhog Day” sequel? Republicans talking about impeachment? Is it 1998 again?
 
Dan Barkin had an intriguing article in the N&O about several Republican U.S. Senate candidates talking up impeaching President Obama. They fumed about Obama’s alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, not to mention being black, a Democrat and President anyway.
 
Democrats should hope that the Republicans beat this drum. And that Thom Tillis is forced to take a public stand. Tillis wasn’t at the Lake Norman Conservatives forum that Barkin went to; the Speaker routinely ducks Tea Party events.
 
The last time Republicans got riled up about impeachment was, of course, the last time a Democrat was President. That was Bill Clinton, and it all started with some unseemly and unpresidential behavior.
 
The Republicans got obsessed with Clinton’s sex life. Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth got hot on the trail. Kenneth Starr launched an in-depth, full-blown (pardon the expressions) federal case.
 
Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and Later-Briefly-Speaker Robert Livingstone demanded impeachment and denounced Clinton. Later, it turned that they were guilty of similarly sins at precisely the same time. No matter.
 
They saw impeachment as the road to control of Congress in 1998. Lauch Faircloth rode the same horse against John Edwards in North Carolina. Edwards ran as an exemplary family man (this was a long time ago, remember) who thought Washington had its priorities wrong.
 
The GOP strategy backfired. Voters cared more about their lives than Clinton’s sex life. Edwards beat Faircloth. Democrats gained congressional seats in Clinton’s last mid-term election. The impeachment drive fizzled, and both Gingrich and Livingstone left Congress in disgrace.
 
A rerun is just what Democrats need. And Tea Party Republicans are just crazy enough to make our wish come true.
 
Meanwhile: Where do you stand, Thom?

 

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31
Nobody ever runs for office on snow removal, but it’s a sure way to get run out of office.
 
This week the mayor of Atlanta and governor of Georgia are skating on thin ice after a winter storm left thousands of people stranded on the roads. Earlier this month, New York’s new mayor caught flak when some people thought the city’s rich neighborhoods were being cleared faster than other boroughs. Everybody remembers that a big snowstorm ended John Lindsay’s tenure as mayor.
 
Raleigh went through a nightmare a bit like Atlanta’s a few years back. For weeks afterward, city and school officials were slipping and sliding with excuses, explanations and promises to do better next time.
 
And they did. Now, the hint of a snowflake in the forecast and – bam! – schools are cancelled. But at least we’re not stuck on the road for nine hours or at school overnight.
 
Storms bring out the worst in people. They get mad if things shut down and mad if they don’t. And nobody is ever satisfied with how fast the roads get clear.
 
As the AP’s Michael Biesecker noted: “Ah, Facebook. Where anti-tax, anti-annexation, small-government Southerners go to vent when no one plows and salts their roads.”
 
Bad winter weather often catches politicians by surprise, especially if they just took office. They’re not ready. Apparently, they don’t get briefed on that at New Governors’ School. They often stumble by making too-grand promises before it snows.
 
By their second or third winter, they figure out the drill: Put on khakis and a cool-looking jacket. Look like you’re concerned and in command. Get on TV with the guys and gals in uniforms behind you.
 
And hope like hell that it melts fast.

 

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29
Some Republicans probably would like to get Sen. Bill (Mad Dog) Rabon a rabies shot - or get him fixed, if you know what I mean.
 
Rabon’s now-famous rant just shows that, in politics, the worst wounds are self-inflicted. Rabon diminished his own stature, put his bosses in an awkward spot and gave folks more reasons to despise the arrogance in the General Assembly.
 
This bone gives us a lot to chew on.
 
First we have a leading Senator cussing, bragging and boasting about how important he is. Real leaders never have to tell you how important they are.
 
Then Senate leaders say they’ll kill the bill because Mr. Powerful’s comments to his constituents were recorded and made public. That’s public policy by petulance.
 
Apparently, only powerful legislators have the right to speak. But you can’t tape them or quote them.
 
Then we have a Republican legislator suggesting that the Governor and First Lady broke the law by speaking up for the bill. (By the way, good for the McCrorys for caring about puppies. Now what about children whose families can’t get food stamps from DHHS?)
 
Senator Rabon did provide this interesting insight. He said McCrory asked him: “Well, Bill, what in the hell is wrong with a bill that just makes people feel good?”
 
Believe me, there is nothing in this episode that makes people feel good about their leaders in Raleigh.

 

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28
As a boy easily bored in school, I loved snow days. We lived in one of the world’s great sledding locales, just off Canterbury Road in west Raleigh. Every crossing street – Churchill, Lewis Farm, Grant – is a steep hill both ways. We spent hours going down them, going home long after dark.
 
Then you grow up. You get jobs at places where you have to show up on snow days, like newspapers and Governor’s Offices. You have to fetch kids from school, then keep them entertained at home. I learned why my mother was happy to let the four of us sled ourselves to exhaustion.
 
Now, as empty-nesters, snow days are welcome again. An excuse to stay home beckons. You can work there perfectly well; that’s why Al Gore invented the Internet. And no kids strewing wet coats, hats, gloves and boots across the floor every couple of hours.
 
Some people stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper. We check the red wine supply. We debated evacuating to the beach, where up to 10 inches is predicted. But our place there is small. With two people and two dogs, it could be like “The Shining.”
 
One day, though, I want to watch snow fall on Jockey’s Ridge and the Roanoke Sound.
 
My cousin Karen is probably amused by all this. She grew up and lived all her life in Rochester and Buffalo. Just a few months ago she, her husband and their dogs moved to the Charlotte area. I’m sure she’s laughing at us cancelling school before a flake falls, rushing to stock up like the End Days are nigh and tuning in to 24-hours Stormaggedon news coverage.
 
So now it’s time to chill out, curl up and watch it pile up. But let’s have a thought for other people. Like utility linemen out in the dark and cold making sure you have lights and heat. Like police officers, fire fighters and paramedics who are out there for us. Yes, even like news people who have to be there.
 
And people who aren’t lucky enough to have heat and warmth. Or a roof over their heads and a warm bed to lie in.
 
As you watch the President, the politicians and the pundits tonight talk about poverty, inequality, unemployment and the politics of it all, remember that there are people out in the cold.
 

 

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27
Don’t you suspect there’s an email to the effect of “Time for some voting problems for Democrats”?
 
Why else would 13 Republican legislators try to quash subpoenas for any documents they have related to the “rationale, purpose and implementation” of the state’s new voter ID law?
 
This, you recall, is the same crowd that promised greater openness and transparency in government. Then cheered when their allies at the Civitas Institute demanded emails, phone records and calendars from Gene Nichol, director of the school’s poverty center. Nichol’s sin is that he has been outspokenly critical of the Republican regime.
 
Now, I’ll grant you that Democrats were in power in Raleigh so long that they abused their power. But the Republicans are sure catching up fast.
 
Hypocrisy, as much as money, is the mother’s milk of politics.

 

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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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