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Entries for October 2009

20
When Ken Lewis entered the U.S. Senate race, he had a good story about his family’s rise from slavery and the farm. The N&O said he “vowed to support policies that would help other families pursue the American dream.”
 
Lewis said:
 
"That arc of progress that begins right here in PersonCounty at the end of Outlaw Road
really defines who I am."
 
A big thing is missing there: What policies? And how will they help North Carolinians?
 
It’s not enough to have a good story about yourself. You have to relate it to voters.
 
One other beef: That “arc of progress” phrase. A too-obvious imitation of Barack Obama’s “arc of history.”

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19

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I’ve been chosen – according to the official-looking letter – to be part of the 2009 Congressional District Census!
 
And to whom do I owe this honor?
 
Michael Steele, chairman of the national Republican Party.
 
His letter tells me that I am “one of a select few” chosen for the Census in the 13th Congressional District.
 
Why me?
 
Mr. Steele breathlessly informs me it’s “because of your high level of political involvement ands steadfast commitment to the Republican Party.”
 
This is reassuring news.  No matter how bad things look for Democrats, Republicans are clearly capable of screwing up their chances.

p> 

 

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19
Some Democrats will no doubt grumble about Erskine Bowles joining ex-foe Senator Richard Burr’s economic-development summit.
 
Burr no doubt welcomes the bipartisan image as he begins his reelection campaign.
 
Bowles no doubt would tell critics he’ll work with anybody to help the university and the state.
 
Truth is, Bowles was never comfortable as a partisan campaigner.
 
He was comfortable negotiating a balanced budget between President Clinton and congressional Republicans.
 
He’s comfortable as university system president.
 
And he probably cares not a whit what true-blue Democrats say.

 

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16
Thirty years before Governor Perdue’s trip to Asia, I went with Governor Hunt on the first trip by a North Carolina governor to China.
 
That was not long after the fall of the Gang of Four. We saw “Democracy Wall” in Beijing where people could post and read news.
 
But censorship was still strict. I had bought a Time magazine in the hotel reserved for Westerners. Going to one meeting, I was sitting in the back seat of the car with our Chinese translator. He eyed my magazine. I whispered, “Want it?” He quickly slid it into his briefcase.
 
China was gray, poor and monotonous. Everyone wore Mao suits and rode bicycles.
 
While we were there, the infamous Greensboro Massacre took place. Neo-Nazis fired on a march held by the Communist Workers Party. Several communists died.
 
There we were surrounded by a billion communists. And they’re being shot on the streets back home.

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15
Last January Governor Perdue decided to climb out on a limb and appointed a health care lobbyist, Lanier Cansler, head of state health care programs.
 
Of course, Secretary Cansler came into office with a welter of conflicts of interest. His old clients – like the Nursing Home Association – do business with his department. His old lobbying partner works with a firm getting contracts from Cansler’s department. His wife’s firm lobbies for Pharma, which just defeated legislation that would have saved taxpayers $84 million by having NC Medicaid use generic instead of name brand drugs.
 
So, given all these cross currents, giving Secretary Cansler the authority to pass out no bid contracts shouldn’t have looked like a good idea.
 
But no bid contracts was one of the first things Secretary Cansler had on his mind after he took office and the legislature went along, giving him the authority to hand out a quarter of a billion dollars in contracts without asking for a single bid.
 
Now why on earth would the legislature do that? Well, Secretary Cansler explained that granting no bid contracts was quicker, which meant he could implement his plans to save the state money immediately – which happens to be exactly what the folks at DMI (who’re now part of a criminal probe) told legislators a year ago when they wanted to give a $35 million no bid contract to Verizon.
 
In other words, legislators fell for the same line twice – so now Secretary Cansler, a former health care lobbyist, is going to be passing out no bid contracts – and that’s another example of how government works.  
 
 

 

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15
It’s scary when Carter and I agree. But he’s right about Afghanistan (see his blog below).
 
President Obama can start earning that Nobel Prize by vetoing General McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more soldiers.
 
History teaches us to respect the courage of American military men and women.  The supposed genius of generals – not so much.
 
Forty-plus years ago, a general named Westmoreland pressed LBJ for more troops in Vietnam. Vietnam turned into Big Muddy.
 
Afghanistan looks like Big Rocky.
 
The British and the Russians went down that road. See where it took them.

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15
Governor Perdue is getting some criticism for going to China and Japan during a budget crisis.
 
The criticism is short-sighted.
 
In a global economy – especially in these economic times – a governor needs to be going around the world selling the state.
 
Mike Easley was criticized for not doing enough selling. So now Perdue is criticized for doing too much?
 
Just one piece of advice, Governor. Learn from the Easleys’ Russia trip. Watch the expenses.
 
One story about luxury hotel rooms or expensive meals will overshadow a dozen economic announcements.

 

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14
We Republicans are dreaming the Grand Political Gift is about to fall into our laps – at last an election is at hand where the national political tides are flowing deep and strong in our favor.
 
The odd thing about it is it took electing Democrats to about every office in Washington – to get voters to finally decide to vote for Republicans.
 
Maybe that’s justice. Or irony. Either way, a new Civitas Poll shows Independents now say they will vote Republican 2 to 1 next election. And 22% of the Democrats say they’ll be voting Republican too.
 
It’s a sea change – the whole thing has echoes of 1994 or…well, I can’t remember when there was another election where folks elected Republicans in a tidal wave.
 
Then again, sometimes, if something looks too good to be true – it is.
 
And, besides, this wouldn’t be the first time the political gods dangled a gift in front of someone – then snatched it away.
 
For instance, Barack Obama – as he proved last year against Hillary – is a world class political counter puncher. He can read a poll and it’s hard to see him rolling over and saying to his political masterminds, Look boys, we’ve lost this election, let’s move on to the next one – the one that really counts. Barack Obama’s still heavyweight champion of American politics – he’s taken some punches but he’s not anywhere near flat on his back on the canvas.
 
And consider this: There’s a big political wind growing in Afghanistan.
 
General McChrystal says flat out he needs 40,000 more soldiers or it’s curtains (and our goose is cooked) and the Republicans in Washington have chimed in with a chorus of amens, saying, Send him the troops.
 
And it looks like President Obama may do it. That once he finishes pondering and weighing and figuring how loud the left wing of his own party will holler, he may turn out to be a hawk instead of a dove and actually have his own 40,000 man surge.
 
Now, Afghanistan is one of the great tar babies of history. From the British Raj down to the Russians in the 1980’s it’s been a nightmare for anyone fool enough to fight a war there – and we’ve already been there nearly as long as the Russians, who had no qualms at all about slaughtering innocent people, while we fight our wars by Marquis of Queensbury rules.
 
So what happens if we send 40,000 more men to Afghanistan and the mess turns into a quagmire?
 
Politically, we’ll have people mad at Republicans for sounding the trumpets to charge; at President Obama for siding with the Republicans; and a good part of the Democratic Party will be saying I told you so…we ought to have cut and run – and we all know how the American people feel about wars that don’t work out.
 
That could make for a muddled election in 2010 that doesn’t look at all like a gift from the political gods.
 

 

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14
Even liberal pundits criticize the Obama White House for dissing Fox News. They say the President and his team should deal with anybody – even the devil.
 
I disagree.
 
In politics, it helps to have the right enemy. Fox is the perfect enemy for Obama.
 
By spotlighting Fox as the opposition, he pushes all his Republican critics into the Fox nest – and, by extension, the Rush Limbaugh nest.
 
But, Fox complains, we have 1.2 million loyal viewers.
 
Right, and there were just over 130 million votes cast last year.
 
That means just under 1 percent of the voters regularly watch Fox.
 
And none of them will ever vote for Obama.

 

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14
A Raleigh wag suggests the perfect PR move for John Edwards:
 
“Dancing With the Stars.”

 

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