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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

27
Before a hurricane brushed the coast, Governor McCrory warned us not to put on our “stupid hats.” Then Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama’s foreign policy for not being more visionary than “don’t do stupid stuff.”
 
Well, call me stupid, but I’m so confused by the world today that “don’t do stupid stuff” sounds pretty smart.
 
ISIS or ISIL (which one is right?) is beheading people, so we may go back into Iraq on the same side as the Syrian government, which we don’t like. Islamic terrorists all over the place want to attack us or take us hostage, but we don’t want to pay ransom. Young Americans go to the Mideast to join the jihad, kill people and sometimes blow themselves up. Egypt and the UAR attack somebody in Libya, and we’re not happy about that. Israel and the Arabs are at war again, or in a cease-fire again, or not. Then you’ve got the Russians and the Crimeans and the Ukranians at each other’s throats. The Chinese are doing something in the ocean somewhere. And I can’t keep the Sunnis and the Shiites straight.
 
The world made sense when there was the USA and the West on the side of good and the Soviet Union on the side of evil.
 
Now Obama's critics want him to "do something." But remember what happened the last time a President (namely George W. Bush) decided to “do something” (namely, start two wars that lasted a decade). That looks stupid in retrospect.
 
I like having a President who’s in no rush to put on his stupid hat.

 

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26
It’s refreshing to see real brains working on the other side of the political aisle, rather than just mouths mouthing talking points. (In fact, it’s refreshing to see that on your own side.)
 
So this “Tsunami Watch” memo by my Republican pollster friend John McLaughlin and his brother Jim caught my eye. The subhead is “Polling results cast doubt on an anticipated midterm GOP wave.”
 
The memo quotes Carter, which makes it even more credible.
 
The Brothers McLaughlin ask: “With the president receiving such a negative rating, Obamacare being disliked, and the belief that the economy is still in a recession, why are so many voters still undecided and not breaking for Republicans? Why aren't these undecided voters breaking against the unpopular president and his party?”
 
Their conclusion: “Over four years ago….we identified the tea-party movement as a major asset to Republicans that would eventually help them regain their House majority. Since then, the president and his allies in the media have relentlessly attacked our friends and allies in the Tea Party, and four years of attacks have taken a toll. Today, the Tea Party is as polarizing as the president.”
 
They add: “Finally, we asked a question that longtime friend and successful Republican strategist Carter Wrenn suggested to get to the heart of the deadlock: ‘A lot of Americans are fed up with typical Washington politics. Who do you think is most responsible for our broken political system?’ The plurality of voters, 43 percent, say both Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party, versus President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Only 26 percent blame Obama and the Democrats....Most of those who are undecided for Congress, 65 percent, now blame both parties. Among the undecided voters, only 16 percent blame the Democrats and only 12 percent blame the Republicans. As long as these undecided swing voters are blaming both parties, they will remain undecided for Congress and deflate the midterm tsunami.”

 

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25
Ten years ago this month, Barack Obama first streaked across the political skies with a rousing Democratic Convention speech in which he famously proclaimed there wasn’t a red America and a blue America, only one United States of America.
 
Today President Obama presides over an America bitterly divided between red and blue. He doesn’t seem at all happy about it, and nobody seems happy with him. He couldn’t even summon up a moving speech on race after Ferguson, always his go-to specialty.
 
He has visibly aged, and he seems dispirited and disengaged. Red and blue America alike slammed him last week for going golfing after denouncing the beheading of a journalist.
 
The state of our political discourse today is that some people seem angrier about him golfing than about these savages beheading a human being and broadcasting it to the world. Nevertheless, the President would have been well advised to take a mulligan on that tee time.
 
All Obama has done in six years is get us out of two bloody wars, save the economy from free fall and begin bringing down the deficit that George W. Bush gave us after inheriting a budget surplus from Bill Clinton. But no good deed goes unpunished.
 
Even Democrats pile on him now: He’s not spending enough time with us! He hasn’t made all those divisions go away! They seem torn between missing Bill and wishing for Hillary.
 
Republicans oppose anything he does and stop anything he tries to do, then blame him for getting nothing done. If they win the Senate this year, imagine how productive the next two years will be.
 
For Democrats, the upside of Republicans controlling both houses of Congress will be the certain election of a Democratic President in 2016. As the GOP proved in North Carolina, they will overreach.

 

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22
You had to be here in the 1950s to appreciate how much Raleigh and Wake County have changed on the way to one million people. And, to this old-timer, it’s a much better place today.
 
We were poor, provincial, rural and racist to the core. Today we’re affluent, global in outlook, urban and suburban, and a much more tolerant place for all races, backgrounds and lifestyles.
 
It didn’t just happen. Some people – like my friends (and heroes) Tom Bradshaw, Wade Smith, Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt, John Winters and many, many others – made tough decisions that weren’t popular. But look where they got us. Ask yourself whether today’s leaders have the same combination of drive, vision and sheer guts.
 
When people hear I grew up in Raleigh, they often ask: “Inside or Outside the Beltline?” Well, I’m not OTB or ITB; I’m PB (pre-Beltline).
 
Before I started school, we lived in a new development called Northside, because it was on the northern edge of town. Today it’s the area around J.Y. Joyner School, near the car dealerships and fast-food shops along Wake Forest Road. We played in the woods around Crabtree Creek. It was nothing but country.
 
When we moved to west Raleigh, I went to Lacy School. It was a Raleigh City School even though it was outside the city limits, which ran along Brooks Avenue down the hill from our house. Wade Avenue ended at Dixie Trail. Just ended. You took Highway 70 to Durham and points west.
 
There was no North Hills, no Crabtree Valley. The only thing the same is that downtown is (again) booming. Back then, the only places to go shopping or to movies was downtown or Cameron Village.
 
Raleigh was smaller than Durham. But when RTP caught on, our city fathers had the sense to build middle-class neighborhoods to attract the new transplants. (We joked that it was called North Hills because everybody living there was from the North.) Then local leaders had the sense to merge the city and county schools and build the kind of schools that smart people coming to RTP wanted for their kids. Raleigh boomed, and Durham fell behind.
 
Of the numbers used by the N&O to show how much we’ve changed since 1960, perhaps the most striking is this: Then, of adults 25 and over, 12.7 percent had bachelor’s degrees. Today it’s 47.6 percent.
 
Then we were 74 percent white. Today it’s just over 61 percent. Then our rural population was almost 37 percent. Today it’s 6 percent.
 
Yes, this place is busier, more crowded and sometimes more maddening than it was then. A lot of people I grew up with will shake their heads and say, “It’s just not like it used to be here.”
 
They say that like it’s a bad thing.

 

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20
As much as I respect Rob Christensen and the political experts he talked with in today’s column, I disagree with their conclusion that the money spent in the U.S. Senate race has had “little effect.”
 
In fact, I think the ads by Senator Hagan – and on her behalf – have painted Thom Tillis into a corner that he will have trouble escaping.
 
Granted, the movement is small, because the electorate is so polarized. But the shift is small because the pool of swing voters is small.
 
The ads against Tillis – aided by what is happening in this never-ending legislative session – have successfully linked him with two of the most unpopular groups in politics today: the Tea Party and the legislature. And the damage gets worse every day the legislature stays in town.
 
Nor does it help that Tillis can’t get a bill through his own chamber.
 
Maybe he should try a new message: “I’m a leader in a dysfunctional legislature, so I’ll fit right in in Washington.”

 

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19
Republicans strode up to the plate in Raleigh with big bats and high hopes, then whiffed on three straight pitches.
 
Strike one was teacher pay. Their top goal was to stop the bleeding on education. But their so-called pay raise was so full of holes, questions and confusion that nobody is satisfied, teachers are still mad and voters think the Governor and the legislature are anti-education.
 
Strike two was coal ash. They did nothing on the state’s biggest environmental crisis in decades. Nothing.
 
Strike three belonged to Governor McCrory alone. He stepped up to the plate to be the hero on coal ash after the legislature struck out. But he tied himself in ethical knots by wrongly reporting his Duke stock on his ethics statement.
 
How big a sin is this? Well, look at it this way: If Bev Perdue had done it, the legislature would have impeached her.
 
So McCrory is in hot water, Thom Tillis is lagging behind Senator Hagan, Senator Berger’s son lost his congressional primary and – notwithstanding the advantages of incumbency, fundraising and gerrymandering – Democrats may be looking at a good fall season.

 

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15
Governor McCrory’s blast at The N&O got him another day of the “blaring, top-of-the-fold” headlines he blasted. But this is just the beginning of the Coal Ash Saga. We soon will have a U.S. Attorney’s investigation and a fight over who pays: McCrory’s former boss, Duke Energy, or his current boss, the People of North Carolina.
 
McCrory protested that the N&O’s story Thursday “mischaracterized a misinterpretation of a very convoluted form.” It is not a convoluted form. Look for yourself here. In fact, it is just like your income taxes: You file them by April 15 for the prior year ending December 31.
 
Still, I believe Governor McCrory when he says, in effect, that it was incompetence, rather than a conspiracy. But it is breathtaking incompetence. It is hard to fathom how the Governor of North Carolina and his legal counsel misunderstood the form. Or why somebody on the Governor’s staff didn’t foresee the problem.
 
Here’s what former legislative counsel Gerry Cohen says (and remember, he was honored a couple of weeks ago by members of both parties for his reliability and integrity): “How could Bob Stephens have had a misunderstanding that the date of ownership of the stock was as of April 15, 2014, when the 2013 SEI CLEARLY says on the tip of page 2 that the date of stock ownership was to be as of December 31. Was the mistake that he only read page 1? Or missed the penalties provision at the end of the form, which states that it could be a violation of GS 138A-45? I know that the text of 138A-45 tells you that for a constitutional officer, it is malfeasance and punishable under GS 123-5.”
 
The “misstatement” is a small part of the Governor’s problem. As one TAPster noted, he says he sold the stock NOT because it was the right thing to do, but because his “integrity was being challenged” and he wanted to put “this thing to bed.” In other words, it’s about PR, not integrity.
 
Second, as WRAL reported, “McCrory has steadfastly refused to take a position on whether shareholders or customers should pay for it (the coal ash cleanup), saying that decision should be left up to the state Utilities Commission.”
 
That is a dodge. Democrats in the legislature tried to amend the coal ash bill so the Utilities Commission couldn’t let Duke pass the cleanup costs on to ratepayers. Republicans squashed that, and they will answer for it this fall. And Roy Cooper has taken a position exactly opposite of McCrory’s.
 
Finally, away from the cameras, the federal grand jury investigation rolls on. Wait for those blaring, top-of-the-fold headlines.

 

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14
Long after Watergate brought him down (40 years ago this month), Richard Nixon told David Frost: “I gave them a sword, and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish.”
 
Now, Governor McCrory’s actions on coal ash don’t begin to approach Nixon’s on Watergate. But he has given his enemies a sword tipped with toxic political poison, and they will stick it in and twist it with relish.
 
Today’s N&O story (“McCrory misstated Duke Energy holdings, sold stock after coal-ash spill”) and McCrory’s inexplicable mishandling of the stock issue remind us of a cruel law of the political jungle: The worst wounds are self-inflicted. And this one could be deep and lasting.
 
First, the story renews questions about the political competence of McCrory and his team. Second, it comes just as public anger is growing over whether ratepayers will pay for the cleanup – and the very same day the legislature returns to Raleigh to again do nothing about the issue. And third, it looks like the media has concluded it didn’t give McCrory adequate scrutiny in 2012, which means that the scrutiny – and suspicion – will grow between now and 2016.
 
Just as Nixon could have lanced the Watergate boil early, McCrory could have turned this story around early. Here is what he should have said right after the spill in February:
 
“This is a serious problem, and it will require serious action. I will not let my career at Duke Energy keep me from carrying out my responsibilities to North Carolina. So I am immediately divesting myself of all my Duke stock, and I will be open, forthcoming and transparent as I deal with this matter.” He should have reported exactly how much stock he sold and how much it was worth.
 
Or, as a TAPster emailed today: “The bigger question in his latest mess is why he still owned Duke stock after he was sworn in as governor? That means he was a stockholder when he appointed utilities commissioners and made other decisions that impacted the company and its earnings. How can any reasonable person think that is ok?”
 
If he had sold the stock, McCrory could have made one thing perfectly clear (as Nixon would have said): Coal ash has been piling up for 30 years, under Democratic and Republican governors. The state approved that disposal method because it kept electric rates down and helped North Carolina bring in industry and jobs. McCrory didn’t need to be heavy-handed in making the point, because it’s a fair point and an indisputable fact. He then could be the hero who cleans up the mess.
 
But no.
 
His legal counsel twice prepared – and McCrory twice signed – ethics statements that failed to disclose the stock. McCrory’s counsel gamely takes the blame and says he misunderstood the forms. You can examine the forms and reach your own conclusion, but they clearly say you are to report all holdings over $10,000 as of December 31 of the previous year. And when the Governor signed the forms he knew what he owned and when he owned it.
 
Clearly, the N&O believes it was misled. The story said: “The News & Observer has sought for weeks to clarify the timing of McCrory’s sale, and McCrory’s office had said there was nothing new. On July 10, for example, (Josh) Ellis wrote in an email message that ‘the governor has complied with all disclosure requirements.’ That changed late Wednesday with the new filing and follow-up interviews with Ellis.”
 
Ellis, the Governor’s spokesman, didn’t help his boss’ case by trying to pass the blame beyond the counsel: “The stock was sold in response to repeated public requests via the media and to stop the constant, unfounded challenges of the governor’s character.”
 
Ellis struck the same chord in a statement May 1: “As public records have shown since April 15, the governor is not a shareholder of Duke Energy. This eliminates the often repeated, ridiculous and false, partisan left-wing attacks challenging the intent of our decisions and policies.”
 
No, it doesn’t eliminate them. It invites more. It dares the media to double down on its McCrory scrutiny. And it makes it harder for the Governor to push back. 

 

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13
Rob Christensen’s column about Tom Bradshaw accurately captures one of the most remarkable people I’ve met through 44 years in newspapers and politics.
 
My first encounter with Bradshaw was much like Christensen’s. Tom was the “boy mayor” of Raleigh, and I was a cub reporter at The N&O. City government was my beat, just as it was Rob’s later; that’s where new reporters started. I was assigned to write a Tar Heel of the Week profile on Tom. And I first experienced the hurricane of energy, intensity and enthusiasm that Tom still brings to life and work.
 
Bradshaw is like a hero out of a Horatio Alger story: an underprivileged kid who worked his way to the top in business, government and civic life – yet never forgot where he came from and how other people deserved the same opportunities to succeed.
 
Rob’s portrait of Tom is spot-on. He also asks the question Tom gets every day: Why do this at this point in your life?
 
Good question, and Tom has a good answer. Read Rob’s column and go to Tom’s website to learn more - and to help him.

 

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12
My first thought when I read that The News & Observer is 120 years old was, “Holy cow, that’s old.” My second thought was, “Hold the coffee, I’ve been reading the paper for HALF ITS LIFE!”
 
My dad moved to Raleigh to work in the N&O composing room when I was a year old. It’s a morning paper, so he worked nights, often getting home near or after midnight. I liked waiting up for him, or waking up when he got home. The newspaper that he brought home literally hot off the presses, with ink that came off in your hands, was probably one of the first things I read as a boy. It was neat to read the news hours before everybody else did.
 
Fifty years ago next summer, I went to work in the N&O newsroom as a teenaged copyboy. I spent 10 years working there, until I joined Jim Hunt’s first campaign for Governor. I learned to write fast and short; to edit copy, lay out pages and write headlines; to cover politicians and bureaucrats. I learned to, as my mentor Bob Brooks told me, “ask ‘em the hard questions.”
 
(I remember when the news about the Jeffrey MacDonald family murders broke. When told that MacDonald claimed it was a gang of hippies, Brooks said gruffly, “He did it. It’s always the husband.”)
 
In that decade I was lucky to work with two generations of remarkable writers, reporters, editors and publishers, some living today, some gone: Pat Stith, Roy Parker Jr., Claude Sitton, Ferrel Guillory, Florence King, David Zucchino, Leslie Wayne, Jack Aulis, Rick Nichols, Peggy Payne, Al May, Woodrow Price, Grady Jefferys, Karen Tam, John Coit, Charlie and Russell Clay, Rob Christensen, Frank Daniels Jr., Sam Ragan, on and on.
 
The talent pool today is just as deep, even if the ranks have thinned. Today, as always, I can read the N&O and know that smart people who aren’t easily fooled are driving to get to the truth of things.
 
It helps, surely, that I like the paper’s editorial stands. If the editorials reeked of Fox News, my blood pressure would probably be as high every morning as the Republicans and conservatives who get apoplectic about it.
 
It has been a good and faithful friend for all these long years. I wish it many more. I’d hate the thought of a morning – or a world – without The News & Observer.

 

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