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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

19
Two things are for sure here: First, it’s never good to be linked to Mark Sanford in a Page One story. Second, if Bev Perdue had done it, McCrory and the Republican Party would be howling for her investigation, indictment and impeachment.
 
But there are two big questions: First, how bad, and how politically damaging, is Governor McCrory’s $185,509 stock payout from Tree.com/Lending Tree? Second, is his Defcon 5/massive nuclear retaliation smart or stupid?
 
Clearly, the deal smells. And, clearly, the Governor told us as little as possible about it before now. He knew that people might question their Governor getting a post-election sweetheart deal that paid him more than his state salary.
 
Especially since Lending Tree has been accused of violating state and federal laws. And paid $3 million to South Carolina in 2012 after regulators said it hadn’t disclosed that it was being paid by the lenders it recommended as having the best mortgage rates.
 
McCrory and Sanford weren’t exactly serving on the board of a corporate citizen like Red Hat or First Citizens.
 
But what McCrory did pales beside how he has reacted. The blitz he launched against AP and its reporters was breathtaking.
 
In one statement, he said of the story, “It was written with malice and the intent to do harm without any factual consideration given.” In an interview, he said, “I almost call it the new Rolling Stone type of Journalism."
 
The N&O called the response “an assault on the AP.” Several reporters expressed amazement on social media – and defended the AP reporters. One non-media post said something you always hear in these situations: “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” One PR veteran said, “If this is what works, I need to retire.”
 
McCrory critics said it’s just another sign of the Governor’s prickliness and over-sensitivity, an overreaction cooked up in the heat of anger and frustration.
 
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s cold political calculation. And maybe it will work.
 
No, it’s not PR 101. The conventional approach is to argue the facts, but not attack reporters’ integrity. This is a whole new barrel of ink.
 
Team McCrory, as they call themselves, may figure he can’t survive two years of ethics stories like this and the 60 Minutes story on Duke and coal ash. Maybe it’s easier to destroy the messenger than defend the Governor.
 
This all comes just as AP announced that it is “doubling down on state government coverage.” On AP’s website, one editor says, “...(W)e are really pushing our state bureaus to focus their time and effort on content that is exclusive to AP and that our members and subscribers can’t get anywhere else. That needs to be our guiding principle. We do that exactly as we always have: by developing sources and breaking stories, being fastest on big breaking news, and by providing explanation, analysis and depth on the stories that have the biggest impact on peoples’ lives.”
 
They sure started with a bang. And McCrory fired back with an even bigger bang. Now it’s war.

 

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17
Conventional wisdom says only two people can stop Hillary Clinton from the nomination in 2016: Hillary herself and Bill Clinton.
 
But two other people embody a potential problem: Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Senator Jim Webb. Warren and Webb are vastly different individuals, but are making much the same critique of Washington. The message appeals to many Democrats and, at least indirectly, criticizes the Clintons. It’s anti-Wall Street, when the Clintons have close Wall Street ties and deep Wall Street wallets. From Webb, it’s also anti-war, when Hillary has a reputation as a hawk.
 
As Carter noted this week (“Cross of Gold”), Senator Warren rang even conservatives’ bells with her floor speech against a budget-bill provision that “put taxpayers back on the hook for the bailout of big banks.”
 
Webb, who served one term in the Senate from Virginia, wrote this in 2010 about the 2008 bailout (“We Helped the Bankers. Now It’s Their Turn.”): “The financial sector recovered rather quickly, but not without a vast amount of help. The time has come to include taxpayers in the rewards of a recovery that would never have happened without their money.”
 
Warren is a Massachusetts liberal, sort of a Howard Dean (without the scream) appealing to “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” Webb is an odd duck, a white Southern populist of the type that has nearly disappeared.
 
He’s a Naval Academy grad, a Marine and Vietnam combat veteran, twice-wounded and much-decorated. He’s a great writer, of novels, history and memoirs. He was President Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, but he stayed a Democrat, unseated George Allen in 2006, then left the Senate after one term.
 
He has the military cred to oppose the Iraq and Afghan wars and to question an interventionist foreign policy. On the economy, he says things like:
 
“Walk into some of our inner cities if you dare, and see the stagnation, poverty, crime, and lack of opportunity that still affects so many African Americans. Or travel to the Appalachian Mountains, where my own ancestors settled and whose cultural values I still share, and view the poorest counties in America – who happen to be more than 90 percent White, and who live in the reality that ‘if you’re poor and White you’re out of sight.’ The Democratic Party used to be the place where people like these could come not for a handout but for an honest handshake, good full-time jobs, quality education, health care they can afford, and the vital, overriding belief that we’re all in this together and the system is not rigged.”
 
On today’s market, it’s unlikely either Webb or Warren will stop Hillary. Warren says she’s not running. After Obama, the party isn’t likely to nominate another first-term Senator. Webb has formed an exploratory committee, but, culturally and viscerally, he probably gives a lot of Democrats the hives.
 
Looking over the two of them now may be akin to kicking the tires on sports cars when you know you’ll probably go with that reliable Clinton Family Truckster. But strange things can happen on the road to the White House.
 
In 1996, Bill Clinton talked about “building a bridge to the 21st Century.” Twenty years later, Hillary will have to build a bridge between her record and Democrats who yearn for a newer, more exciting ride.

 

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16
Once again, a TAPster bails me out on a busy day with this guest blog:
 
“Regardless of our personal feelings about Governor McCrory, we should all pray for his safety. We should help him across the street, taste his food and take turns guarding the mansion’s front door.
 
“These drastic measures are required to ensure that no accident or bad chicken salad or crazed terrorist gives the current lieutenant governor a shot at the big job.
 
“Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, obviously and understandably, is bored. The lieutenant governor isn’t a real job. Its only function is to preside over the Senate, so there’s not much to do when the legislature is out of session. Despite this, the citizens give him a large staff, a big office, a fulltime paycheck and no parental guidance.
 
“So Forest is spending his idle time dreaming up stuff to do. He’s stirring up support for a convention of states to rewrite the nation’s Constitution. Seriously? Our lieutenant governor?
 
“The only constitutional rewrite we should contemplate is one to make the lieutenant governor a part time job to preside over the Senate. We can close his office, fire his staff and give the savings to the teachers.”

 

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15
Democrats in Washington are squabbling about torture, a $1.1 trillion budget bill and regulations on Wall Street and big banks. Democrats in North Carolina are squabbling about – I kid you not – Charles Brantley Aycock.
 
Specifically, the squabble is in part over whether the wife of a descendant of North Carolina’s governor from 1901 to 1905 should be state Democratic Party chairman in 2015.
 
Aycock was both a racist and a pro-education (for whites) governor. For years, the state party had an annual Vance-Aycock weekend in Asheville, since renamed the Western Gala because of Aycock’s racial policies. One of his modern-day descendants apparently opposed the name change, feeling that the good Aycock did should outweigh the bad. For this heresy, some Democrats believe that said descendant’s wife, Patsy Keever, should not be party chair.
 
As a long-time Democratic activist asked this weekend, “If my great-grandfather was a horse thief, do I have to leave the party?”
 
This would be of great concern. If it mattered. But, in today’s world of creative campaign financing and myriad political committees, the state party doesn’t matter.
 
In fact, this squabble is a good thing. It gives the people who fight about things like this something meaningless to tear each other apart over. Which frees up everybody else to get about the work of winning elections in 2014.
 
Next up: Given their records on slavery, do we rename Jefferson-Jackson Day? This should keep the Goodwin House busy through November 2016.

 

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12
The months right after an election are, as James Carville once said, “when you stop screwing your enemies and start screwing your friends.”
 
That’s true of winners and losers. The winners fight over the best jobs and nicest offices. The losers fight over who’s to blame. And they jockey for positions in the next campaign.
 
It’s the nature of people in politics – candidates, consultants and staffers alike. They spent the last year ripping apart people in the other party. After the election they keep doing the same thing, just to somebody else.
 
It can be one of the most disheartening and discouraging things about politics. But there’s an upside. If you watch closely, you’ll spot who is sincerely examining what went right and what went wrong and figuring out how to do better next time – and who is trying to climb to the top over somebody else’s dead body.
 
Then it’s simple: You hire the former and avoid the latter like the plague.

 

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11
I dropped in on a wise old Democrat who has been through the political wars, winning more than he lost. I found him undaunted by 2014 and fired up for 2016.
 
He chided me for chiding Senator Hagan for chiding President Obama over the November results: “You were too tough on her. The President should be talking up the economy. We all should be talking up the economy. A lot of good things are happening, and we need to stand up and tell people.”
 
Yes, he said, it was a tough year for Democrats. “But we did a hell of a lot better than any other state.” If the same candidates had run the same campaigns in 2016, he said, “We would have won three or four state Senate seats and even more state House seats.”
 
He’s optimistic about the races for President, US Senate, Governor and the legislature in 2016. He knows how easily Republicans can overreach and wear out their welcome. He believes Democrats will field strong candidates and run strong campaigns.
 
Most of all, he had a clear message for Democrats who are tempted to mope and mourn: “I want to see some fire in your eyes.”

 

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10
Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post used to say: “I come in every day with an empty bucket, and somebody fills it up.” Some days I come in with an empty blog, but TAPsters (readers, commentators and contributors) fill it up. Here’s a guest blog that’s timely in light of Senator-elect Andy Wells’ letter to the N&O today. The writer is no government bureaucrat; he’s a long-time warrior in the corporate world who recruited companies to North Carolina:
 
“North Carolina continues to wander aimlessly in its efforts to recruit new business to the state.
 
“Sadly, the biggest economic prize so far was won by the new CEO of the state’s shiny new economic development organization. He’s coming from Missouri, makes a cool $225k annually and will need a map to find his way from Raleigh to Garner.
 
“C’mon people, was not a single person in North Carolina qualified for this job? 
 
“Actually, it doesn’t matter if the new CEO is from Missouri or Middlesex. As long as Republicans oppose big-time incentives to recruit big-time manufacturers, we can forget an auto manufacturer or other big employer.
 
“The mind-numbing hypocrisy and brain-dead philosophical confusion of our state’s leaders was never more evident than in the final hours of the forgettable legislative session. Legislators killed incentive payments because they don't believe in giving tax dollars to private businesses. Then, within hours, those same people voted overwhelmingly, enthusiastically and without shame to give $12 million of the state’s money to a privately owned paper mill in the mountains that threatened to close if help to pay for pollution controls wasn't forthcoming.
 
“Good luck.”

 

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09
When 60 Minutes came calling, Governor McCrory was quick to dump, and dump on, his old employer Duke Energy.
 
When Leslie Stahl asked about Duke’s record on coal ash, McCrory squinted real serious-like and said, “Actually, there’s been no record regarding coal ash disposal.” Stahl: “They haven’t done anything?” McCrory: “Very little, very little. I think the record has been quite poor. Because frankly it’s been out of sight, out of mind.”
 
Out of his sight and mind too, apparently. After all, he was only at Duke for 30 years and there’s only about 100 million tons of the stuff lying around. How could he know that?
 
He professed to be shocked, shocked, by the spill at Dan River. How could that be, when the plant was closed?
 
Of course, 60 Minutes didn’t let him off that easy. It pointed out that he cut state regulators’ staff and budget. And there’s the little matter of a federal grand jury investigation.
 
This is just a taste of what’s coming for McCrory as he runs for reelection the next two years. Ads already have depicted him with ash on his hands.
 
It’s not just Democrats, liberals and environmentalists. Senator Berger has publicly suggested that McCrory is protecting his old employer.
 
Sunday night, his strategy was to run. But can he hide?

 

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05
You know it was a bad story when somebody says at breakfast, “Did Senator Hagan know she was being quoted when she said that about Obama?”
 
We don’t know. But we do know that Hagan’s interview with a McClatchy reporter threw gas on a fire burning in the Democratic Party – and probably burned her in the process.
 
The story began: “President Barack Obama could have done more to help Senate Democrats in last month’s elections if he’d spoken out about the nation’s healthy economy and its positive impact on middle-class families, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina said Wednesday in her first interview since her narrow defeat.”
 
It left Hagan looking like a losing Super Bowl quarterback who gives a locker-room interview and blames the loss on the coach’s lousy game plan.
 
Right or wrong, that’s not the note you want to hit – or the taste you want to leave on your way out.
 
As one prominent Democrat said on social media, “There are many reasons for Senator Hagan's loss. But if I am to lose, I would like it to be because of the principles I embrace rather than assigning it the lack of someone else's intervention or action.”
 
Of course, plenty of Democrats are quietly, or not so quietly, blaming Obama for her loss and losses all across the country. Others blame Hagan for “distancing” herself from the President.
 
Said one: “It would've been fascinating to have seen what would have happened if just ONE Democratic Senate candidate had whole-heartedly ran on Obama's record - which, in reality, is pretty damn good, especially considering where the country and the economy were when he took office. Once again, Democrats let the Republican propaganda machine define the issues for them.”
 
While not in response to Hagan’s interview, another person summed up this viewpoint: “Instead of running away from Obama I think we should of done the opposite. If we had we would definitely not lost Colorado and maybe not even North Carolina since Hagan only lost by 50,000 votes. If Obama had made the immigration speech before the election we would of had the turnout we needed.”
 
Another Democrat offered this: “One of the things I heard earlier this year from business people was that Hagan had reneged on promises she made to support certain legislation and changes in regulation. Her problem was that her support did not square with the administration’s position and they were putting pressure on her since they were pouring so much money into her campaign.
 
“I can’t tell if her change of position led to loss of votes but it certainly put her in the Obama corner with nowhere to turn.  It’s interesting to me that she didn’t inform the Obama people that she had the right to have her own opinion, and that Obama needed her more in the Senate than she needed his money. But he should invest in her anyway since she is way better than the alternative. Well, Obama now has the alternative several times over.”
 
It’s time to recall the wisdom of one of North Carolina’s greatest political minds, Bert Bennett: “When you win, everything you did was right. When you lose, everything you did was wrong.”

 

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04
Senator Kay Hagan ran a strong campaign, but her post-defeat critique of President Obama is weak.
 
Hagan told McClatchy’s Renee Schoof that Obama hurt Senate Democrats by not trumpeting the economy more loudly: “The president hasn’t used the bully pulpit to get that message out in a way that resonates with people. And I think that’s an issue that the Democrats should not cede.”
 
Her statement opens Hagan up to the counter-criticism that some Democrats already are making: She should have embraced Obama rather than distancing herself.
 
Neither argument is convincing.
 
Hagan’s campaign leaders probably would tell you that Obama’s job ratings were the main drag on her candidacy and that embracing him would have been akin to strapping on an anvil and jumping in the deep end.
 
Conversely, Hagan’s criticism ignores the reality that cheerleading a la Ronald Reagan is foreign to the President’s cool, cerebral style. Plus, would voters have bought it if he had tried to sell it?
 
Yes, as the Senator noted, gas prices are low; the stock market is at an all-time high and jobs continue to grow, far different from when she and Obama took office in 2009.
 
The problem for Democrats is that far too many voters – nearly all of them white and middle-class or working-class and many of them presumably Democratic-friendly women and young people – don’t see Democrats as the party of prosperity. They see a party that cares passionately about the poor and about minorities, but they ask: What about me?
 
Yes, they also see Republicans as the party of the rich. But maybe they think they too will get rich, or just richer, with Republicans.
 
Yes, race is part of this. But race doesn’t explain all of it.
 
Democrats must face the unpleasant fact that, since the history-making election of Obama (and Hagan) in 2008, the party has suffered defeat after defeat in three straight elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, governorships and state legislatures.
 
And be clear: To describe the “White Critique” above is not to praise it, embrace it or agree with it. Just recognize it as a fact, a fact the party can either ignore or confront.
 
That is the choice ahead in 2016.

 

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