The Old Bull Mooses walked into a meeting with the House to wrangle over the state budget but before they could fire a shot the House’s lead wrangler, Nelson Dollar, threw them a curve ball: He announced he was calling half a dozen school superintendents to testify at the hearing.
The Bull Mooses had been ambushed – Dollar had invited the nice, earnest school superintendents to tell the Senators all the ways their budget was wrong – while the TV cameras rolled.
Then the Bull Mooses did something that played into Dollar’s hands – they turned a little media event into a big media event: They got mad, stood up, and stalked out of the room.
Later, after the superintendents had left, when the Senators trooped back into the room they were still mad and, right off, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown raked Dollar over the coals. After Brown finished, Senator Jerry Tillman waved the latest House budget proposal at Dollar and told him it wasn’t worth the paper it had been written on.
The Old Bull Mooses had been sandbagged. Trapped. Gotten mad. Dug the hole deeper. Then, still mad, acted like grumpy old men.
In their bones, the Bull Mooses surely believe they’re the true defenders of virtue standing up to House whiffenpoos but, by the end of the meeting, instead of pillars of rectitude they looked like Liberty Valance pummeling Jimmy Stewart.
They’d turned themselves into the perfect foils and Governor McCrory – who’d already fired a broadside accusing the Senators were playing “inside the beltline politics” and comparing them “to Democrats” – let fly with still another broadside.
Senate Leader Phil Berger’s generally a soft spoken man but a couple more meetings like this and, instead the Old Bull Mooses being defenders of virtue, everybody’s going to be cheering for the man who shot Liberty Valance.