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27
Yes, 1,000 wins in college basketball is remarkable. But three front pages? That’s what greeted readers of the N&O print edition Monday morning.
 
First there was Page One of the main news section. In approximately the same size type that might say “WAR!” was “1,000” – in Duke Blue, of course. Beneath were a large photo and two stories about Mike Krzyzewski’s achievement. There was room left for one other story, about Wake County schools.
 
Then came the Sports section, with a three-quarters page photo of Coach K and two more stories on the front. Then there was a special 10-page Commemorative Section. The cover was a full-page photo of “Coach W.”
 
In all, I counted 10 long stories, five shorter stories, six sidebars and graphics and 27 photos.
 
Already, as you might expect, the N&O is getting letters complaining. Obviously, K-haters couldn’t think of a worse way to wake up Monday morning. Then there are serious readers who decry devoting so much ink to basketball when there is much more important news in the world and, especially, when newspapers editorialize about scandals “driven by an over-the-top emphasis on college sports.
 
Not so fast, my friends. This is the price you pay for being able to get a newspaper at all.
 
Journalism today is about clicks, clicks on websites. The more clicks the N&O site gets, the more ads they sell, the more money they make and the more they can spend on reporters to dog your Governor, your legislature, your community, your courts, your schools, your colleges and universities and – yes – scandals “driven by an over-the-top emphasis on college sports.”
 
The N&O, like all newspapers, has suffered through hard times since the Daniels family sold the paper – at the peak of the market – 20 years ago. Ads have dried up, readers have fled, the paper has shrunk and the news staff has been decimated, or maybe double-decimated.
 
A key part of the N&O’s survival strategy is to own ACC sports coverage. Good ACC coverage is good business. It pays the bills.
 
Those of us who regularly pull against Coach K should congratulate him. Give the commemorative section to a Duke fan. And be thankful that coverage like this, even if we don’t like it, keeps the clicks clicking, the reporters digging and the paper coming every morning.
 
Still, go to hell, Duke.

 

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27
It was a rare feat: Frank Luntz somehow found the twenty maddest-at-Obama people in the country and put them in a ‘focus group’ on Fox News after the President’s State of the Union speech – and they didn’t have one kind word to say.
 
But you have to give the devil his due: Barack Obama can be a powerful speaker. Who has a unique political voice. And Tuesday night there was no ‘voice’ on the Republican side of the aisle with the power to match him. 
 
And that’s what Republicans need to find sooner rather than later: A ‘voice’ who can step to a podium, look Obama in the eye, and answer him.

 

 

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26
The government is too big, Republicans say. Too much bureaucracy, too much waste, too many overpaid, do-nothing chair-sitters mooching off hard-working taxpayers.
 
Presumably, House Speaker Tim Moore agrees. He’s as eager as any other hard-nosed Republican to cut out the deadwood.
 
But first he has to hire a staff. Here, thanks to Under the Dome, are some of the positions on the Speaker’s staff:
 
-          A Chief of Staff
-          A Deputy Chief of Staff
-          A Communications Director
-          A senior policy adviser
-          A policy advisor on agriculture and education
-          The director of House caucuses/policy analyst
-          A senior policy advisor for health issues
-          A director of boards, commissions and constituent services
-          A policy advisor on transportation and public safety
-          An executive assistant/director of administration
-          Another policy analyst
-          An administrative assistant
 
Once upon a time, House Speakers in North Carolina got by with a couple of administrative assistants and a legislative counsel or two, some of them part-time.
 
Now, apparently, it takes a lot of staff to cut down the size of government.

 

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26
She said Yes. Then No. Then Yes, again.
 
Four years ago, running for Congress, Renee Ellmers told voters she was a nurse who had “held the hands of new born infants.” Yes, she said, she was Pro-Life.
 
Then, last week, she said No to banning abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. The idea, she said, was unpopular with younger voters.
 
She won (scuttling the bill) but was pounded by Pro-Life groups: One called her “traitorous.” Another wrote, “She is worse than a Democrat.”
 
Ellmers then did another about-face, announcing she was all for the abortion ban.
 
Yes. No. Then Yes, again. All in one week.


 

 

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23

 

Most of us older white conservatives just naturally see a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts who taught at Harvard and figure – barring a miracle – she’s got to be a liberal so it came as a shock the other night when a young conservative posted a link to one of Elizabeth Warren’s speeches with one word beside it: Wow!
 
Wall Street, Warren said, is nailing American workers to a ‘Cross of Gold’ to make already rich corporations richer.
 
Then she got right down to brass tacks and said we need to break up the big banks. 

Whatever else Elizabeth Warren may be she’s not just a liberal or just another Massachusetts Senator – she’s a voice we haven’t heard in a long time: The living and fire-breathing reincarnation of William Jennings Bryan populism.

 

 

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22
The liberal folks over at ProgressNC let fly with a broadside at the Governor about his ethics, then let fly again with a press conference and, by then, they had the folks at the Charlotte Observer so stirred up they let fly with broadside of their own asking, Was Pat McCrory fibbing then, or is he fibbing now?
 
The way the liberals tell it Governor McCrory underhandedly omitted facts from his Financial Disclosure Reports to hide conflicts of interest – and that he was paid a lot of money by less than saintly corporations.
 
Now it’s hard to believe anyone – even the liberals – thinks the State Ethics Commission (which as long as anyone can remember has been a toothless tiger) is going to strip the Governor’s epilates off in public but, then again, it may be the Ethics Commission is just a way station on the way to court which is where the liberals really want to end up – which would open a whole new can of worms.
 
Either way, this is no one time liberal rant about the foibles of Republican politicians. ProgressNC has fired the opening salvo in the Governor’s race and they mean to go right on chasing Pat.   


 

 

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22
After being blasted by the liberals (for hiding conflicts of interest) Governor McCrory ran head-on into a second broadside from the opposite direction: Tired of Medicaid wrecking havoc on its budget the State Senate served notice on the Governor his time is up – he’s had his chance to fix Medicaid and failed so the legislature’s going to appoint an Independent Board to solve the problem.    
 
Now, for the Governor, there’s two ways to look at the Senate’s proposal. It’s certainly a slap in the face. But, on the other hand, it may be a blessing in disguise. After all, the Senate just proposed to take the biggest tarbaby in all of state government off the Governor’s hands –so, perhaps, the practical thing for him to say would be, Thank heavens. Take it. You’re welcome to do it – but, of course, instead the Governor’s fighting the Senate tooth and nail. He dislikes losing control of roughly half of state government even more than he disliked the Legislature setting up a Commission to handle the coal ash cleanup.
 
Now all this sounds like there’s a great deal of hostility between the Governor and the Senate but, in a way, the Senators like the Governor just fine and want him to get reelected –they just think he didn’t get the job done on Medicaid.
 
It’s also hard not to empathize with the Governor: He’s got liberals shooting at him from one side and Republicans shooting at him from the other and whoever claimed the middle ground was the safe place to be never got caught in a crossfire.


 

 

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21
Awhile back Ted Cruz got some unusual praise from two odd places.
 
“I think he’s the most talented and fearless Republican politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years,” James Carville said in an interview on ABC. Then, on his TV program, Dick Morris compared Cruz to Ronald Reagan.
 
When Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney walked onto the stage the tides shifted away from Cruz and the lights dimmed but, in time, tides tend to flow back into their courses so, for Cruz, this eclipse may be a trial and not a defeat.
 
Roughly half the people who vote in Republican Primaries do not call themselves “just conservative” or “somewhat conservative” – they call themselves “very conservative.” And they like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney just fine but, when you get right down to brass tacks, Ted Cruz is their cup of tea. He’s one of them. And it’s only a matter of time before they figure it out.
 
Maybe just until the first Presidential debate.  


 

 

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21
President Obama's speech last night showed he has a knack for coming back after a setback - and a knack for the comeback quip.
 
Three things about the night: (1) How Obama framed the debate (2) the partisan debate over bipartisanship and (3) the split-screen social media experience of watching political events like what Twitter dubbed #SOTU.
 
Framing the Debate
 
How good was the speech? Well, Democrats wish he had given it before the 2014 elections. And they liked the way he set up the battles to come in Washington this year and in the 2016 elections.
 
It helped, of course, that he had good economic news to talk about. As he chided the dour Republicans, “That’s good news, people.”
 
He framed the fight as good versus evil, fairness versus unfairness, Democrats fighting for the middle class while Republicans cater to the 1 percent. He said “we’ve turned the page” on the recession (read: “Bush”) and are creating more jobs since 1999 (read: “the last time we had a Democratic President, named Clinton”). Bill and Hill had to love that.
 
As one tweet noted during the speech, there probably wasn’t one idea in it that doesn’t get 70 percent support in the polls. The President put himself and the party on high ground for the battles ahead.
 
Partisanship About Bipartisanship
 
After sharply drawing the battle lines, Obama tried a difficult pivot by going back to his 2004 message: “There’s not a Democratic America or Republican America, there’s the United States of America.”
 
You wouldn’t know it by the reaction from Republicans in the hall and afterward. Things still look pretty divided.
 
One big divide is over what constitutes bipartisanship. To Obama, it’s passing the program he outlined. To congressional Republicans, it’s passing theirs. And never the twain shall meet.
 
Yes, we citizens yearn for the two parties to “put aside politics” and “work together” and “do their job.” But there is a fundamental divide in Washington and across the country about what that means. And the divide is over the role of government.
 
Democrats say government can do things to help people and, especially, protect them from the depredations of the free market. Republicans say government can’t do anything, period.
 
That’s a deep gap to bridge.
 
(A new book traces this fundamental debate over government back to the 1966 election: “Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America,” by Jonathan Darman. Check it out.)
 
Even as he called on Republicans to rise about the fray, Obama couldn’t resist a shot. When he said he’d run his last campaign, somebody on the Republican side clapped. He shot back, “I know, because I won both of them.” It sounded too much like the Obama of “you’re likeable enough, Hillary.” Better he had just smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”
 
Split-Screen
 
How did we ever watch political events without Twitter? As you listen to the speech, you can follow the commentary of your choice on Twitter. It’s like being at a basketball game, except people scream on screen rather than at the refs.
 
Judging from Twitter, Obama clearly roused his base. He had Democrats pumped up from the get-go. And Republicans, too. From their get-go, their response was: “Socialism, big government, higher taxes, blah, blah, blah.”
 
Speaking of being onscreen, you almost felt sorry for John Boehner. He had to sit there mute while the President pounded him like a piñata. He had to sit beside Joker Joe Biden popping up to applaud every minute or so. And he knew that millions of people were watching every gesture and facial expression he made.
 
You couldn’t help but stare at him: his skin tone almost exactly matched his red leather chair. He looked like some kind of lizard taking on the coloration of his natural surroundings.
 
All in all, it was a night that put the fun back into politics – for a night.

 

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20
There’s good news and there’s bad news about the true state of the N.C. Democratic Party.
 
The bad news is that the actual financial situation is worse than it looks. Much of the $42,700 that the party has on hand belongs to the House and Senate caucuses.
 
That’s also the good news, because the caucuses have made sure Chairman Randy Voller can’t get to the money.
 
More good news: With county parties, candidate committees and super PACs, Democrats have learned to work around the Goodwin House Horrors.
 
Still and all, it would help to have a functioning state party, one that focuses on electing candidates instead of debating the platform on Iraq and castigating heretics to the true faith.
 
It would help to have one that keeps the phones and Internet working. At times during the fall campaign, both went down at party HQ. That made running campaigns a tad difficult.
 
Voller, who said he doesn’t know what the monthly budget is, blamed others. He told Colin Campbell of the N&O: “It’s difficult to get some of the larger counties to want to pay their money to the sustaining fund.”
 
That’s because they don’t have any confidence in Voller. That’s why Kay Hagan’s campaign worked through the Wake County Democratic Party. That’s why the caucuses put their accounts off limits.
 
Now that Voller has scheduled the election of the next chair in his hometown of Pittsboro, there’s a suspicion he wants to engineer his own reelection.
 
Which brings us to the definition of insanity: to keep doing the same things you’ve been doing and expect a different result.
 
Meanwhile, the campaign for chair will no doubt focus on vital issues, like whether one of the candidates is too close to turn-of-the-century (that’s 1900, not 2000) Governor Charles Brantley Aycock.

 

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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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