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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

24
To Ronald Reagan, it was always “morning in America.” To John Hood, it has always been “midnight in North Carolina.”
 
There’s nothing special about North Carolina, Hood argues. Our “exceptionalism” is a myth.
 
Therein lies the difference between Reagan’s sunny conservatism of the 1980s and Hood’s dark depictions now. And the N&O’s Rob Christensen, whose Twitter handle is “@oldpolhack,” eviscerates Hood’s rewrite of history in his column today.
 
Christensen writes: “Hood seeks to frame the debate as between ‘constructive conservatives’ and ‘the left,’ as if we were living in California and not North Carolina. North Carolina ranked 45th in the country in state government per capita spending growth in the years between 2001-2011, according to a study released last year by the conservative Tax Foundation. Some left. North Carolina has been governed by moderates, both Democrats and Republicans, until the current experiment to make the Tar Heel State a national laboratory for libertarian conservatism. Hood finishes his column by saying, ‘When it comes to economic history, let’s stick to nonfiction.’ Hear, hear.”
 
Hear, hear indeed.
 
An interesting sidelight here is how Rob, now that he’s a twice-weekly columnist instead of a daily reporter/analyst, is becoming more comfortable moving beyond straight reporting and into deeper analysis. For decades, Rob carefully muted whatever political views he has. I have no idea what they are, and I pride myself on being able to sniff out people’s politics at a thousand paces.
 
How many times have Democratic operatives grumbled: “That damn Christensen. You can tell he’s a Republican.” Well, no, I couldn’t tell. But I could tell he was a damn good reporter.
 
And he’s becoming a damn keen commentator.

 

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23
My late father was a dyed-in-the-wool Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat. He liked to tell this story about why.
 
Jim had a lot of reasons to admire Roosevelt: His family was hit hard by the Depression, and FDR gave them and families like them help and hope. He passed Social Security to keep older people out of poverty. He started the Manhattan Project, which led to Harry Truman dropping the bomb, which Jim always said saved his life, because otherwise he would have been in the invasion of Japan.
 
But it was more than that.
 
Jim was born in 1927. When he started first grade at Ahoskie, N.C., elementary school, there was a picture on the wall of the President. It was Franklin Roosevelt. The year Jim graduated from high school, there was still a picture on the wall of the President. It was still FDR.
 
When that picture stays on the wall through 12 years of school, through a Depression and a World War, I guess it stays with you.

 

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22
Ken Burns’ remarkable series on the Roosevelts makes it clear that Franklin D. Roosevelt never would have passed the Gary Hart adultery test.
 
Would that have been good for America?
 
As Burns’ series was ending, The New York Times published a story by Matt Bai on the scandal that ended Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign – and how it “forever changed American politics.”
 
Surely, Hart was no FDR. But Hart offers this might-have-been: He might have beaten George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush might not have become President “and we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. And a lot of people would be alive who are dead.”
 
Bai reconstructs the story that shifted the goal of political journalists from being well-connected insiders who knew Presidents intimately (Teddy White, James Reston) to being truth-telling investigators who brought down Presidents, or at least presidential candidates (Woodward and Bernstein). Which led to bad boys whose careers were shattered (John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer) and those who survived (Bill Clinton) and those who came back (Mark Sanford).
 
Yes, we want to know the character of the men (and women) who want to be President – or any elected official. But, if you’re going to indulge in the alternative history of a President Gary Hart, consider an alternative history in which the press corps kept FDR out of the White House.

 

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19
Every budding journalist is taught to look for the “local angle” in any big story. WRAL takes the prize for this one: “Scotland County residents watching overseas vote for independence.
 
The lead sums it up: “As the world waits for the outcome of Thursday's historic vote on Scotland's independence, southeastern North Carolina's Scotland County - some 3,700 miles away - can't help but keep a close eye on the decision.”
 
It turns out that Scotland County “was once the home to one of the largest settlements of Highland Scots in the country” and that “today, there's still a Scottish influence.”
 
But my late, great mentor Bob Brooks at the N&O would have told the reporter there’s a big unanswered question: Will Scotland County seek its independence from North Carolina?

 

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19
Carter and I were on News14’s Capital Tonight this week, talking with Tim Boyum about debates today and the Hunt-Helms debates 30 years ago. You can watch our segment here.
 
Tim was struck by how free-flowing and wide-open the 1984 debates were. As we talked with him, we realized that we had happened onto a format that gave voters more insight and information than debates do today.
 
For some reason, debates now are dictated by the clock: “Here’s the question and you have 60 seconds to answer.” Then: “You have 30 seconds to comment on that answer.”
 
Then the media complains because the candidates gave canned 30-second and 60-second responses consisting mostly of talking points and recitals of their TV ads.
 
Well, duh.
 
The format that the Helms and Hunt campaigns negotiated – not entirely to the liking of the broadcasters, by the way – provided for a lot more depth, back-and-forth and give-and-take.
 
Somebody will always object: “But what if one candidate goes on for five minutes?”
 
Believe me, nobody will go on for five minutes on television. And if they did, they would be committing political suicide.
 
So throw away the stopwatches. Let ‘em debate.

 

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18
Like many people who have more years behind them than ahead of them, I regularly read the obituaries. First I look for people or families I know. Then I look for their ages. Then I look for the signs of how they died. Many times it says “after a long period of declining health,” “after a long and valiant struggle with (fill in the blank),” etc.
 
So I was struck by a new study, “Dying in America,” which says, “Americans suffer needless discomfort and undergo unwanted and costly care as they die, in part because of a medical system ruled by perverse incentives for aggressive care and not enough conversation about what people want.”
 
How many of us want to be kept alive by machines and invasive procedures that add a few weeks or months to our lives, but nothing to the quality of our lives?
 
Maybe this is something we famously selfish and self-absorbed Baby Boomers can do for our country. After all, a huge chunk of the national health care bill – like Medicare – goes to end-of-life care. Let’s save the next generation some money and save ourselves some suffering. Let’s get serious about planning for the end so we can be at home and free from pain, respirators, feeding tubes and powerful drugs. Let’s get over Sarah Palin’s rhetoric about “death panels” and get serious.

 

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17
The Old Wise Leader (OWL) chuckled over coffee about Republicans’ voter-suppression drive: “They should beware the Law of Unintended Consequences.”
 
I enjoy talking with OWL. He reads a lot, and he thinks.
 
Two things caught his eye: The story about Senator Berger’s voter-confusion ad and a mailing that a friend got. The mailer read: “Important Voter Registration Information Inside.” Inside is a “North Carolina Voter Registration Application.” The headline says, “Register to vote today!” It tells you to fill out the form and mail it in the pre-addressed envelope to the State Board of Elections. (“Postage will be paid by addressee.”)
 
Here’s the odd part. It came from an outfit called the “Americans for Prosperity Foundation.” And it went to a voter who not only is already registered, but also is a regular, long-time voter. A Democrat.
 
“I smell a rat,” OWL said. “Looks to me like they’re messing with Democratic voters’ minds.” Then he chuckled, “But the rats may be walking into a trap.”
 
How so? “Well, folks don’t like rats messing with their right to vote. And they might just decide to teach the rats a lesson – on Election Day.”

 

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16
First Governor McCrory compared Senator Phil Berger to Tony Rand, Marc Basnight and Harry Reid. Then, McCrory said he wouldn’t call the legislature back into session because “after a lengthy session they need a break, and frankly I need a break from them” – a sentiment heartily endorsed by many North Carolinians.
 
This week Senator Berger had some choice words back for the Governor. Commenting on McCrory’s contention that the new coal-ash law is unconstitutional because most members are appointed by the legislature, Berger said in a statement that, “The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer” (Duke Energy).
 
The TAPster who passed along Berger’s quote found it remarkable, given that the United States Attorney is investigating the relationship between an agency under the Governor and Duke.
 
So much for Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

 

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15
More telling than Kay Hagan’s overall lead in the polls may be her overwhelming lead with women.
 
According to a Rasmussen Poll last week, Hagan leads Thom Tillis by six points, 45-39. But then it gets confusing. The poll said Hagan leads among women by 21 points, while Tillis leads among men by nine points.
 
Say again? If the vote splits 50-50 between men and women, and Hagan leads with women by 21 and trails by men by nine, isn’t she then ahead by 12?
 
Unless Rasmussen assumes that a whole lot more men will vote than women.
 
If that assumption is wrong, and if women turn out heavily, Tillis is – as the fellow Down East once said – “Toast. T-O-S-T, toast.”

 

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11
A shadowy terrorist group with Dark Ages savagery and Digital Age media savvy beheads two journalists and posts a video. So – 13 years to the day after 9/11 – we’re off to war!
 
Talking TV heads spin us into a frenzy. Democratic and Republican politicians race to the cameras to out-hawk each other. John McCain and Lindsay Graham talk tough. Old Reliable Dick Cheney warns us that we’d better get back to his war that worked so well over the last decade. Rick Perry sees hooded jihadists filtering in over the Mexican border. Michelle Bachman says it’s the most dangerous thing in the world since Hitler and the Blitzkreig.
 
President (“Don’t do stupid stuff”) Obama keeps his customary cool. No doubt it’s the perspective that comes from viewing the globe from an 18-hole golf course. Yes, he says, ISIL – or ISIS or the Islamic State (why can’t somebody decide?) – is a threat to the Mideast. But not, he quickly adds, to the homeland.
 
But it’s bad enough, apparently, that lions and lambs are prepared to, if not lie down together, mount up together. Us and Iraq and Iran and the Sunnis and Shiites. Maybe Saudi Arab will even use some of the military hardware that we give them when our local police don’t want it. We’re even getting the old band together, that great Coalition of the Willing that marched into Iraq with us to rid the world of Sadaam’s WMDs.
 
Since the video beheadings were viewed by millions (not including me), public opinion in America has swung sharply. No boots on the ground, of course. We want a video-game war where we push a few buttons, blow up the bad guys and get home in time for dinner.
 
Apparently, we make all our big decisions today based on video replay – whether it’s a war, a touchdown or the criminality of a running back assaulting his wife in an elevator (as if you needed a second clip for that call).
 
We don’t have time to study the thing – and ponder what happens next. Just watch the clip, feel the requisite revulsion, and drop the bombs. Not to worry, everything will work out fine this time. Have the talking heads ever been wrong?

 

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