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22

A veteran Raleigh hand speculates about what’s behind the Republican shenanigans on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation fund:

“The kerfuffle over the natural gas pipeline fund proves once again that nobody in Raleigh knows what they’re doing. Or does it?

“On the surface, the Governor and his team appeared seriously naïve to think the mitigation fund wouldn’t be linked to the issuance of environmental permits, which magically sprang forth when the funding deal was finalized. On the other side of the deal, the utilities appeared totally clueless in their political thinking when their plan was to give a Democratic governor some play money and leave the GOP legislature out of the discussion.

“But, there’s the faint smell of a rat in the air. It sure looks like the utilities could’ve been played by the Republicans in a ruse to embarrass the governor. ‘Sure,’ the GOP leaders probably said to the oblivious utility lobbyists, ‘go ahead and work with the governor. We’ll be just fine.’ Then, as soon as the ink was dry, the GOP called the governor corrupt, called for an ethics investigation, and told the parties that their MOU was meaningless.

“Whether it was a colossal screw-up or a clever scheme, everybody (except ratepayers) stumbled into getting what they want: utilities get a massive new capital investment in their rate base, the governor gets some economic development down east, and the GOP gets control of the pipeline fund and a chance to embarrass its rival in the governor’s office.”

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21

Hooray for the high school students in Florida and North Carolina who are mobilizing, marching and pushing politicians to stop mass school shootings.

These teenagers need to be in it for the long haul. They already see politicians ducking the debate and offering up stupid ideas like arming school teachers. The outspoken survivors in Florida are being attacked by Internet trolls and Fox loudmouths.

Their generation needs to learn a lesson that passed right over a lot of Baby Boomers: The best way to beat bad politics is with good politics.

It feels good to protest in the streets and post on social media. It’s not enough. You need to elect people who stand up for students and teachers instead of kowtowing to the NRA.

The NRA is the enemy here. Don’t attack gun owners. Don’t even attack the politicians for being craven cowards. (No, on second thought, go ahead and attack the politicians.) But remember: the ultimate solution is at the ballot box. You break the NRA’s stranglehold on politicians by winning elections.

Organize. Support good candidates. Raise money for them. Canvass for them. Run yourself. Vote. Get your friends and families to vote.

If you combine this potential electoral power with what’s already going on across America with women and minorities, you’ll see a big change. Starting in November.

You’ve started something. See it through.

Posted in: Issues
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20

Hallelujah. The Russians are back.

I know that sounds odd to say. Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, for forty years Russian villains plotted to crush us until the Berlin Wall fell then, for thirty years, no more villains.

Now, they’re back. But there’s a silver lining in every cloud: Seeing a Russian villain on his doorstep sobers a man. Will Vladimir Putin landing on our doorstep sober us?  

Posted in: General, Issues
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14

I just got around to reading Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” and my reaction was different from what I heard when the book came out.

Then the Rob Porter spouse-abuse scandal erupted – and highlighted what I took from Wolff: Trump is a total, bumbling, ignorant, incompetent fool. He is surrounded by total, bumbling, ignorant, incompetent fools. He turns anybody who works for him – no matter how able, talented, competent and experienced – into a total, bumbling, ignorant, incompetent fool.

Maybe Democrats ought to stop wetting their pants and setting their hair on fire every time Trump says or does something outrageous. Which is about six times a day. Maybe our hysterical overreaction forces Trump voters who are having second thoughts to instead cling more desperately to him.

Maybe it’s time to show Trump some of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan once called “benign neglect.” Focus on developing a positive message for changes that help Americans in a changing world, a challenging economy and an unsettling society. Change Congress this year. Let Robert Mueller do his thing – quietly, methodically and meticulously investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. Let Senator Burr decide whether to put party or country first.

We’ve got a long way to go. Save something for the end of the game.

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12

For years – for decades – I’ve expected ‘The National Debt’ to the sink the economy but the crash never came; it defies common sense but, somehow, no matter how much the politicians spent the chickens never came to roost. Hardly a soul even noticed when President Trump didn’t mention the debt in his State of the Union Speech – but one person did: David Stockman, who was President Reagan’s budget director.

History, mathematics and physics are all decipherable but the Science of Economics is a mystery – so I can’t begin to explain why Stockman believes that a ‘Debt Reckoning’ is at hand, but his theory has something to do with “the Fed and other central banks” monetizing the debt which apparently means that, somehow, the Fed and central banks have been printing money.

And, now, that ‘monetizing’ is going to end: The banks have started selling the debt they printed money to buy and, once that tide rolls ashore, the roof is going to cave in.

As I said, economics is a mystery. But if you’re looking for a storm cloud on the horizon this might be a good one to keep your eye on.  

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12

Power turns some politicians into bullies. Especially when they’re running scared. So it was with Republican legislators who embarrassed themselves trying to embarrass Governor Cooper’s new legislative liaison last week.

They turned what could be a useful policy debate into a typical political sideshow. Typical.

The ostensible issue was a $58 million mitigation fund the Governor negotiated along with approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. No doubt Republicans fear Cooper will use the money to do something good for Eastern North Carolina’s economy and environment. Have to nip that in the bud.

Republicans want to tag it as a “slush fund.” Meaning: “Money we don’t get to spend.” Cooper should welcome that debate. As one TAPster said, “Everybody gets upset about North Carolina paying incentives to big corporations. Here are corporations giving us money! What’s not to love?”

The real story here is the Republicans’ real fear: that the U.S. Supreme Court will punt North Carolina’s legislative-redistricting case back to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Which has, in case you forget, a 4-3 Democratic majority.

Republicans are doing all they can to politicize the courts. It’d be fitting if the courts get the last word on the politicians.

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09

Joe Biden’s book, “Promise Me, Dad,” is pure Biden: warm, heart-wrenching and, though short, pure-Biden windy. It reminds you what a great human being Uncle Joe is, what a great Vice President he was – and why he shouldn’t run for President.

There’s something of a Biden boom now, especially among my old white male Democratic pals. Biden leads some polls for 2020. Certain Democrats are certain Biden would have trounced Trump last time and will next time.

Not so fast, my friends. 

The Democratic Party and the country need a fresh face and a new voice in 2020. Lord knows we’ll be tired of Trump’s face and mouth. And we’ll want a younger face than 70-somethings like Biden, Warren and Sanders.

Biden was a disaster both times he ran for President, in 1988 and 2008. His undoing was his gift of gab – an endearing quality, until Joe goes on too long, talks himself into trouble or, as in 1988, steals somebody else’s speech word for word.

He has a big problem in the age of #MeToo. He was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. He was too easy on Thomas and too dismissive of Anita Hill.

That’s three strikes, Joe. Not to mention that by 2020 you’ll have been a creature of Washington and Congress for 50 years.

We love you, Joe. We love your book, we love your love of family, and we love your heart and heart-on-your-sleeve humanity. We love you for all you did for Obama – and for America. But we promise you, Joe: We need to move on.

Posted in: National Democrats
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07

When you watch the politicians arguing on CNN and FOX about the FISA Memos you can’t make heads or tails of what’s going on.

To Republicans their Memo proves the FBI used political research paid for by Democrats to get a warrant to wiretap the Trump campaign – or one-time Trump advisor, Carter Page – which Sean Hannity branded “one giant incestuous circle of corruption.”

Democrats, on the other hand, believe Republicans have manufactured a political sham to torpedo the FBI to help Trump.

Five years ago, in 2013, the FBI wiretapped three Russian spies in New York City who were trying to recruit American agents – and one of the people the Russians tried to recruit, by dangling energy deals in front of him, was Carter Page.

When the FBI busted the spy ring, two Russians were expelled, the third, who didn’t have diplomatic immunity, went to jail, and Carter Page told the FBI he had no idea the Russian he’d been talking to was a spy.

Next, in 2016, sitting in a room full of editors from the Washington Post, Donald Trump was asked, Who’re your foreign policy experts? He mentioned five people and one was Carter Page. After Page’s name appeared in the Post, the Russians invited him to Moscow to give a speech.

To Democrats, it looks like the FBI tapped Carter Page’s phone to find out if the Russians were trying to recruit him again. But to Republicans it looks like the FBI played politics, following the Democrats’ line, looking for a connection between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

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06

The main character in Michael Wolff’s book isn’t Donald Trump it’s Steve Bannon: The book begins with Bannon having dinner with Roger Ailes and ends with Bannon standing on the steps in front of the Breitbart townhouse in Washington explaining the next move in his war on ‘The Swamp.’

Bannon’s story twists and turns: A successful documentary filmmaker he’d helped co-found the Breitbart website but he’d never worked in a political campaign until one of Breitbart’s investors, Rebekah Mercer, told Donald Trump she and her father would contribute $5 million if Trump would make Bannon his campaign manager.

The morning Bannon walked into Trump Tower, the way Wolff tells it, no one in Trump’s campaign believed Trump could win except Bannon – and looking back, after Trump did win, to Bannon it was clear he’d masterminded a feat of political genius.  

An ideologue – who believed without doubt ‘The Swamp’ had ravaged the Working Class to make the rich richer – Bannon walked into the White House on a crusade but ran head-on into two obstacles: Reince Priebus (knee-deep in The Swamp) and Jared Kushner (breathing the same air as New York billionaires). Bannon also knew one other fact: The man he’d elected President wasn’t an ideologue like him. But he’d just pulled off one political feat so, without blinking, he set to pull off another by defrocking Kushner and Priebus. Instead, as he struggled, he watched his power wane. Kushner urged Trump to hire Scaramucci, Bannon said no, and Trump hired Scaramucci. After that the dominos fell swiftly: Priebus was out, Scaramucci self-destructed, then Bannon found himself out too.

Bruised but still standing Bannon returned to Breitbart where he announced he was going to go on leading the crusade himself – but, needing to stay in Trump’s good graces, he carefully added he would be fighting The Swamp to help Trump.

Next he and Trump landed on different sides in the Alabama Senate Primary and the unexpected happened: Trump’s candidate lost. And Bannon had another vision: He told Wolff with Kushner calling the shots in the White House Trump’s future was bleak – that Trump could be forced to resign or could be impeached or could limp to the finish line and serve out his first term but, whatever happened, Trump wasn’t going to be running for President in 2020 – and, according to Wolff, by the time he interviewed Bannon that fall, standing on the Breitbart steps, Bannon was already telling people he was going to take Trump’s place and run for President himself in 2020.

Is Wolff’s tale true? Who can say? But, after Wolff published his book, in one swift stroke Trump eviscerated Bannon, branding him ‘Sloppy Steve’ and sending him into exile.

So, in a way, being called to testify before a House Committee must have seemed to Bannon like a last hope falling into his lap: The Committee had handed him a way back into Trump’s good graces – all he had to do was what the White House asked: Bannon walked into the committee hearing, sat down, and refused to answer a single question about why Trump fired James Comey.

But if you look at what happened to Steve Bannon another way, he’d simply marched in a circle. He still needed Trump for his crusade. But Trump was no crusader.

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01

Governor Cooper may be doing something few politicians can or want to do: talk to both sides of a divided state.

This week the Governor, who won thanks largely to urban voters, announced a jobs initiative for rural counties. Last week, he spoke on the same day at two events symbolizing the two North Carolinas.

In Mooresville, he honored Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller for their racing-business and charity work. Then, in Ellerbe he dedicated a bridge for Henry Frye, the state’s first African-American chief justice.

NASCAR and civil rights are a twain that rarely meet. About all the two events had in common were cars and the Orders of the Long Leaf Pine that Cooper presented.

A TAPster, obviously a Cooper fan, sent links to the Earnhardt and Frye videos and wrote:

“In watching them back to back, I was struck by the broad audience and also the fact that the Governor really sticks to his usual message of creating opportunity, tearing down barriers and expanding access to education. (It highlights) the desire and ability of elected leaders to speak to different audiences in a meaningful way with a similar basic message (without it being super intentional/forced or less-than-sincere). It feels very unTrump and I found it valuable to watch.”

Can a Governor with rural roots (Nash County) and urban roots (Raleigh) appeal to both? That would be quite the feat in today’s political world. And a lesson for all Democrats.

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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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