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The Republican Insiders in Congress trooped down to the White House just before Christmas and standing in lines on the steps overlooking the South Lawn pledged their undying love for President Trump.

The holidays passed and after New Years both Republicans and Democrats sat down around a table in the White House and pledged they’d work with the President on immigration reform.

Had the Swamp surrendered? Had President Trump made peace with the Insiders? Had a new day dawned?

 Two days later several Democratic and Republican Senators returned to the White House and when President Trump heard the immigration plan they’d agreed on he slipped and blurted out the word s***hole.

The Swamp was still a swamp. Trump was still Trump. The love affair was over. And nothing had changed.

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Hardly anyone likes politicians drawing districts to elect themselves but, to rip apart the Congressional Districts Republicans drew, Judge James Wynn spun a tale full of fictions.

Judge Wynn described the Republican Plan as a vicious extreme ‘partisan gerrymander’ that would assure Republicans win 10 of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional seats for years and cited reams of computer analysis and algorithms and experts he said proved he was right – but his ruse was simple: He only analyzed Obama-era elections from 2010 to 2016, when President Obama’s unpopularity created ‘Trends’ that favored Republicans. In each of those four elections swing voters disapproved of Obama (and Hillary) and voted for Republicans.

The same thing happened with voter turnout in 2010, 2014 and 2016: Voters who disapproved of Obama were fired up and went to the polls while, to give one example, in the 2016 election a drop in African-American turnout hurt every Democratic candidate.

Judge Wynn had carefully arranged the pieces on the chess board (by only analyzing elections where trends favored Republicans) – so he could say the Republican Plan insured 10 Republican Congressmen would be elected and re-elected in election after election.

But would that happen in those same districts in an election where the trends and turnout did not favor Republicans? Data on the General Assembly’s ‘Redistricting Website’ tells the rest of the story.

In 2008, Democrats won the races for Governor, Senator, Attorney General and President in North Carolina.

In that election Kay Hagan carried 8 of the 13 Congressional Districts Judge Wynn claims insure 10 Republican Congressmen will be elected.

Beverly Perdue carried 6 of the 13 districts.

And Roy Cooper? Roy carried every one of them. 13 of 13.

There’re a lot of valid arguments against redistricting but, instead, like a politician, Judge James Wynn choose to spin a tale.

Posted in: General, Issues
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President Trump said over and over that his tax cut is the biggest in history but, then, the press reported the Treasury Department had ranked every tax cut (as a percentage of GDP) since 1940.

Was Trump first? No. 

Was he second? No.

Where did he stand? Last. Seventh out of seven.

Which leads to a troubling question: Why is Donald Trump blind to the price he pays for each slip? Why can’t he stop?

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My blog “President Shithead” irked a TAPster who worked for Jesse Helms (not Carter): “I don’t mind when you pick on my old boss, but saying he’s part of a string of Trumps… that’s hitting below the belt.”

That is pretty low. But is it justified? Well, Martin Luther King Day is an appropriate day to ask just that.

It was 35 years ago – in 1983, right before the Hunt-Helms Senate race in 1984 – when Senator Helms took to the Senate floor to filibuster against a federal holiday for Dr. King. Helms was the Trump of his day, happy to say things that he knew – and hoped – would drive his opponents nuts.

During his filibuster, Helms said King was a Communist, a trouble-maker and immoral. It was nothing more than he’d said for years on WRAL, but saying it on the Senate floor set off a statewide and national firestorm. Which Helms wanted.

And, just as he wanted, he put Governor Hunt on the spot: Did Hunt support a King holiday? Hunt did. Which gave a lot of his white friends and supporters back then heartburn. It was one of Hunt’s finest moments, I always thought, especially since it played a big part in his losing to Helms. So, I’m not at all inclined to look kindly on Helms.

Still, looking back at Helms and looking now at Trump, I’d have to say no, I don’t believe Helms sunk to Trump’s level. Which makes Trump’s level officially as low as you can go.

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At times like this I consult my friend Boweaver. Now 90-something, he’s seen it all. He grew up in the Depression, enlisted in World War II and would be happy if FDR had lived forever and stayed President. His counsel generally keeps my head from exploding. He wrote back:

“Who cares if Trump called some countries ‘shitholes’? Who cares if Fox and fans cheer him for ‘not being politically correct,’ ‘telling it like it is’ and ‘talking the way real Americans talk’? Who cares if every day he demeans people, defiles the Presidency and debases America?

“Yes, he’s a foul-mouthed buffoon. Yes, he’s ignorant, insulting and incompetent. Yes, he’s an embarrassment to our country. But we’ve always had fools and frauds in high places, and we survived them. We had MacArthur, McCarthy, Cohn, Wallace, Thurmond and Helms – a whole string of Trumps. For gosh sakes, we had Nixon as President and his crowd of crooks and goons. We survived them all, and we had the good sense and good luck to have Truman, the Kennedys, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama, Sanford, Hunt, Price, Hagan, Cooper and Stein.

“I didn’t have any use for Eisenhower, Reagan or the Bushes – they were always for the rich man and never for the little guy – but they were patriots and honorable men who cared about their country. And they knew the words to the national anthem.

“Now we’ve got Trump, and we act like it’s the end of the world. But no. For all our faults and all our mistakes and all the times we’ve followed the wrong leaders, the American people are always better than this.

“We put up with a lot, because we’ve got a lot going on – families and jobs and bills and homes and whatever aches and pains and illnesses and losses and tragedies and personal and family problems we have to deal with. But, in the end, we’re good and decent people, and – just like Churchill said about us – when we’ve exhausted every alternative, we’ll do the right thing.

“We’ll get rid of this SOB and all the SOBs around him, just like we got rid of the rest of those SOBs.”


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Michael Wolff wrote Trump was crazy and dumb and Trump fired back on Twitter that he was a smart, stable genius but the master of the put-down (who once immolated Lindsey Graham by calling him a dumb, crazy, nut-job in one breath) had slipped: Trump tweeting he wasn’t crazy sounded crazy.

Wolff wasn’t entirely unkind to Trump: In his book he said the Donald Trump you meet in person is different from Donald Trump you see in public: In person Trump is polite, courteous and flattering. But Wolff also, less kindly, described Trump as a child with a child’s need for quick gratification and as a vain man without guile – which sounds odd until you think about it: When a Washington politician sets out to deceive you he does it with cleverness (and guile) but when a thought pops into Trump’s head in the next breath it rolls off his tongue without calculation.  

Wolff was less kind to Steve Bannon who he described as a failure on Wall Street and in Hollywood but who, then, in a stroke of good fortune landed in the good graces of Rebekah Mercer who told Trump she and her father would contribute $5 million if Trump would hire Bannon to run his campaign.

The way Wolff tells the story Bannon, by his own lights, set out on his new mission with the best of intentions – but then immolated himself by telling Wolff his own stories about Trump.   

Posted in: General
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The ‘Tweet of the Year’ award doesn’t go to Trump or a Hollywood liberal but to Mike Huckabee who, after watching The Darkest Hour, tweeted ‘in Donald Trump we have found our Churchill.’ The Trumpsters set Twitter on fire with cheers and the ‘Trump Haters’ had heart-lock – and politics went crazy again.

Later, the night after Huckabee’s tweet, I had dinner with a doctor, a surgeon, who said he’d given up reading newspapers and watching TV news because he didn’t believe any of them anymore. That vacuum of disbelief may quickly become the most powerful force in American politics.

 Politics isn’t really about Trump-haters and Trump-lovers howling at each other on Twitter: It’s about tides and rivers; after we lost the Vietnam War a river of fear (that we were losing the Cold War) swept across the nation and elected Reagan; last year a river of Populism that hardly a soul saw swept across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan – and elected Trump.

And now that vacuum is creating a river of people who are waiting for a man they can trust to walk onto the stage and, when that happens, the river will do the rest.

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2017 was a cold first year for Governor Cooper. More heat is coming in 2018.

Fittingly Cooper started both years on TV, managing snow and ice storms and wearing “disaster casual” (a tip of the TAP hat to Joe Stewart). In between, the Governor navigated an icy relationship with a power-crazed Republican legislature. He spent a lot of time in court battling legislators’ blizzard of power grabs.

How did he do? Well, there are two ways to keep score in politics (between elections): polls and fundraising.

His poll numbers are far sunnier than the legislature’s. Cooper’s approval ratings are in the mid-50s; the legislature’s are in the low 20s.

Cooper and his team are relentlessly raising money to break the Republican super-majority. As a challenger in 2016, Cooper outraised a sitting Governor by 3-2. Given incumbency and Democratic anger/enthusiasm, he’s probably raking it in.

Ultimately, Cooper will – fairly or not – be rated on whether he restores Democrats’ clout in the legislature and whether he wins reelection. (No one-term Governor will ever be judged a success.)

As Governor last year, Cooper was notably cooped up by the legislature – to an extent no North Carolina Governor ever had to endure. But he still had some wins: big job announcements and, notably, repeal of HB2.

True to his cautious and somewhat reserved nature, Cooper chose not to spend his first year as Governor No – publicly bashing the legislature every day on every issue, tempting though it may be. That’s one reason his poll ratings held up; he’s not seen as a typical politician.

He could change as the 2018 mid-term elections near. It’s striking that he spoke out so strongly in December against the Republican tax bill in Congress. He did the same on Obamacare. And now on off-shore drilling.

On state issues, he’s focusing on the Republican-created class size chaos, which is a hot enough issue to bring out hundreds of protesters on a freezing-cold day, and water quality.

Like most Governors, this one would love nothing more than to birth a signature initiative that goes down in history, like Terry Sanford’s education program or Jim Hunt’s Smart Start and teacher pay raises. The Governor has to weigh whether to propose something that this legislature might swallow (like what?) – or something they’ll reject and he can use as a campaign club.

All told, Cooper adeptly survived a forbidding first year. A warmup looks likely this year, thanks in part to a national political climate change that bodes well for Democrats. The big storm comes November 6.

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The big holiday gift book was about Grant. The big movie is about Churchill. The hot book now – and the big story – is about Trump.

Two leaders. And one poor excuse for a leader.

I haven’t read the Trump book. I’ve read plenty about it. It’s set the political and media agenda since the snow fell. It pretty much says that all we suspected about Trump and his administration is as bad as we feared – or worse: childish, chaotic, chronically disloyal and maybe criminal.

We start 2018 the same way we started 2017, wondering how the hell we got into this mess and what happens next.

Democrats can start by blaming ourselves. Our allegiance to and affection for the Clintons led us to nominate the one person Trump could beat. Except maybe Bernie Sanders.

Let’s pick a winner next time, shall we?

Republicans are most to blame. First, they nominated Trump. Second, they either support him, fear him or think they can use him. Third, he’s a logical product of 50 years of racial appeals, religious intolerance and anti-government cant and nonsense.

Democrats’ path this year is clear: A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for Trump. A vote for a Democrat, any Democrat, is a vote against Trump.

If Democrats sweep Congress, they’ll impeach Trump. If Republicans get slaughtered in November, some of the survivors may finally stand up to him.

That’s the only way this ends well.

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One morning at 6:23 am, not long after Roy Moore lost, the President set out to reassure his base by tweeting that, since Republicans were 5-0 in the Special Elections for Congress, they were on track to do ‘very very well’ in the upcoming election – then explaining his talents as a prognosticator the President added he’d predicted Ed Gillespie’s loss, Roy Moore’s loss and his own victory in 2016.

Only Trump hadn’t predicted Ed Gillespie would lose. And though five Republicans (in safe seats) had won Special Elections they’d had to struggle. For example, Trump had defeated Hillary in Montana by a landslide but the Republican running for Congress in the Special Election only won by 5 points – which wasn’t a sign of a wave of impending victories.

One tweet, two slips – you have to wonder, Why does President Trump make mistakes like that?  Does he just shoot from the hip without thinking? Is he careless with facts? Is he a salesman who says whatever it takes to close a deal? Does he think no one will notice his slips? Or, if they do notice, it won’t matter?

It’s an odd problem. And a sign of a sad ending.

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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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