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15
The Reverend William Barber stepped back up onto his soapbox and thundered it’s time that Richard Burr and Thom Tillis left the chains of hatred behind and joined the chorus for justice by voting to confirm Loretta Lynch.
 
The Reverend went on to explain how he’s looked into Ms. Lynch’s heart and how he knows her worth and how she will work to cure racism, sexism, classicism (whatever that is) and homophobia.
 
William Barber’s about as fine a demagogue as has come down the pike in years. And there’s no doubt he has an unmatched penchant for draping himself in holiness.
 
But, then, so did Elmer Gantry.


 

 

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15
Paul Krugman’s column runs twice weekly on the far-right side of The New York Times’ op-ed page, which is ironic given how far left his opinions are. He’s more liberal than me!
 
But he had a good one this week on the vast differences between any Democrat and any Republican in the Presidential race. He gave Democrats who yearn for a Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton much food for thought.
 
Krugman decried what he called “personality-based political analysis,” a debatable stance, but his real point was:
 
“There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.
 
“For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act. Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.
 
“Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more. Any Republican would try to cut taxes on the wealthy — House Republicans plan to vote next week to repeal the estate tax — while slashing programs that aid low-income families.
 
“Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which has recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested. Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, ‘systemically important’ financial institutions.
 
“And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.”
 
No matter how-many-angels-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin internal debates Democrats have, this is the real debate in 2016.
 
Let’s get on with it. As Krugman says, “American voters will be getting a real choice.”

 

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14
When the young woman who runs Memories Pizza in a small town in Indiana told a reporter she wouldn’t cater a gay wedding all hell broke loose – a mob formed on the Internet howling she was an ignorant bigot and a Nazi and there were death threats and threats to burn her business.
 
The mob ruled.
 
The pizzeria closed. The woman fled. The politicians in Indiana did an about face.  
 
Then, unexpectedly, a second mob rose up howling back at the first mob. The Internet posts got ugly. And uglier. Then an unusual thing happened: A man in South Bend, Indiana wrote a post asking people to send donations to the young woman.
 
The Religious Freedom Act is dead in Indiana. But thanks to $842,000 in donations Memories Pizza will remain open.


 

 

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13
Pat’s attacking Phil’s tax cut plan, and the Senate’s Sales Tax Plan, and the Senate’s Religious Freedom Act (about gay marriage) was a mixed bag – after all, voters like tax cuts and are split on gay marriage (with almost all the Republicans agreeing with Phil).
 
But next Pat hit the mother lode, attacking Phil for the Senate’s plan to redraw the County Commissioners’ districts in Wake.
 
There aren’t many lines left in politics. But redrawing districts because you lost an election goes too far. If the Senate’s new districts had been in place last fall, while losing the county by 30,000 votes, Republicans would have won 5 of the 9 seats on the County Commission.
 
Independents, Democrats and all but the most hard-bitten Republicans know that kind of politics crosses the line. And, right now, Pat McCrory’s the only Republican standing up and speaking out for them.


 

 

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13
Hillary Clinton’s announcement was so damn good it ought to end all the hand-wringing and bed-wetting in the Democratic Party. It won’t, of course, Democrats being Democrats. But she puts a stake down right on the ground where Democrats can win big in 2016 – from the White House all the way down the ballot in North Carolina.
 
She puts it more smoothly than this, but her message is blunt: It’s all of us against them, them being the 1 percent at the top and the Republicans who are their handmaidens.
 
Before we descend into the coming 19 months of over-analyzing, over-thinking and under-listening, let’s frame the presidential race the way most American voters will: Who understands ME and who will really be on MY side?
 
That’s what the video hits squarely: the myriad lives and concerns of real people and families – people starting out in life, people (yes, including same-sex couples) starting a marriage, people retiring, people starting a new career, people starting a new business and even people who just want to keep their dog from eating the trash.
 
The political media hates this sort of thing, of course. As The New York Times noted archly, Clinton “finally” appeared at the 1:33 mark of her 2:18-minute video, titled “Getting Started.” The Times failed to note that, in her first screen shot, she’s listening, not talking. Now we’ll have to endure endless media commentary about whether she’s said enough yet about where she stands and whether she’s done enough yet to make the media happy.
 
The video’s contrast with the Republicans who have so far announced for President was striking. Both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul had the traditional Big Speech at a Big Lectern to a Big Crowd. Their events screamed “Politician!” Clinton’s video said “People!” As of 9 am this morning, her video had been viewed 2.2 million times on YouTube alone. How many people saw Cruz’s and Rand’s announcements?
 
(By the way, Cruz staked out his turf as the reddest red-meat Republican there is. His real base is a handful of billionaires who care about one thing only: not paying taxes. Paul’s target constituency appears to be, as one TAPster noted, white males between the ages of 18 and 20. Which is fitting for a candidate who looks like a cross between a hobbit and one of Harry Potter’s classmates.)
 
Let’s do something radical here. Let’s actually pay attention to what Clinton said, and not just what the big feet and big mouths say about it:
 
“I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m running for President.
 
“Americans have fought their way back from some tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.
 
“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion. So you can do know more than just get by. You can get ahead, and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong.
 
“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”
 
Here’s how one wise old North Carolina Democrat sized it up: “People in this country are getting pretty damned fed up with struggling to get by while the top 1 percent take everything and tell the rest of us to go to hell.”
 
That’s the ground where 2016 can be won, and won big. That’s why Democrats who yearn for an Elizabeth Warren to get in the race are wrong. As California Governor Jerry Brown said, “the primaries get into all the little nuances and small differences of candidates of the same party. What Hillary needs is a good debate drawing the distinctions between where she stands and where all these Republicans, these wannabes running around, (stand).”
 
Those differences are big. And that debate is on.

 

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10
As Hillary Clinton gets ready to announce, Republicans are obsessed with attacking her and the media is obsessed with her emails, her husband and her relations with, yes, the media. But voters are more likely to care about the fundamental strengths she brings to 2016: she’s a Woman, she’s Older and she’s White – the WOW factor.
 
Jill Lawrence in Politico put it this way: “…for all her challenges, self-made and otherwise, Clinton has demographic advantages that could swing decisive battleground states her way. She is not young; she is not black; and she’s not a guy. All of which gives her an edge in her quest to succeed the young, black guy now occupying the Oval Office.
 
Continuing, “For reasons that are not pretty, nominating Clinton could stanch the flow of white seniors and white working-class voters, particularly men, away from the Democratic Party. ‘She’s white,’ one national Democratic strategist says simply. ‘That’s going to make it easier for her in some places. The reality is race is still an issue in our society. We certainly see that in the way people vote.’ Another party operative, a veteran of several presidential campaigns, was even more emphatic: ‘The race thing cannot be overstated. It’s like a shark. It’s so close to the surface in some places that you can see its fin’.”
 
“See its fin,” hell. You can see the whole damn great white shark of Race hurling itself into the boat and grabbing you by the leg, just like in Jaws.
 
Lawrence’s article reminds us that Americans usually want a President whose main qualification is that he (or, now, she) is different from the last guy – often, but not always, including being a member of the other party: Ike was old, JFK was young. Nixon was a crook, Carter was honest. Carter was weak, Reagan was strong. Bush was a Republican like Reagan, but kinder and gentler. Bush was clueless about the economy, Clinton felt your pain. Clinton was a rake, both Bush II and Gore were (then) fine family men. Bush was a doofus, Obama was smart.
 
Ironically, Republicans who worship Ronald Reagan now say Clinton is too old. She’s 67, which is young (see my blog this week, Get Your Kicks at Age 66). She’ll be 68 on Inauguration Day, more than a year younger than Ronald Reagan when he took the oath. But that’s another story.
 
Probably, Republicans won’t be able to resist being ageist, which will alienate us older voters. And they’re proven over and over they can’t help being sexist and patronizing.
 
We’ll see how Hillary’s rollout goes. My guess is that she’ll run a far better campaign than in 2008. You learn a lot when you lose. She has a better team around her and gets better advice. Last time, her pros wanted her to act tough and downplay being a woman.
 
This time, the real Hillary could be exactly what Americans really want

 

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08
A young woman wearing a black dress, sitting on a stool legs crossed, speaking with a measured British accent, looked into a camera and told how after Issah Al Qurain’s village was captured soldiers came into his home, took his money, then told him to convert or they’d kill his wife and children. 
 
He converted.
 
A fortnight later the soldiers came back and told him under their law – Sharia Law – his ten year old daughter had to marry.  
 
He fled across the Nineveh Plain, talking his way through three road blocks, following back roads, arriving homeless, penniless and outcast in Kurdistan with his wife and children.  
 
The Monastery St. Michael, sitting on a mountainside above the plain (amid towns and villages where Christians trace their roots back to the time of Paul the Apostle) is, itself, 1600 years old and has survived Mongols, Saracens and Ottomans.
 
After ISIS captured Mosul, six miles away, soldiers painted red letters on the homes of Christians – as Nazis painted Stars of David on the homes of Jews – then gave them three choices: Convert, pay a ransom, or beheading .
 
Mosul emptied. The villages emptied. As Christians fled. Leaving behind seven monks in the monastery.
 
In Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, the young woman, now dressed in a dark shirt and jeans, interviews the Catholic Archbishop, asking, Where are the Christians of the Nineveh Plain today?
 
Looking like a stoic Italian friar instead of an Archbishop born in Baghdad, Basar Wanda says, “Disappearing. It’s dying.
 
The young woman asks about the American airstrikes on ISIS and he explains, “For me, ISIS is a cancer. It’s a disease. So sometimes you take some hard measures, unfortunate measures to treat this cancer.”
 
So you want a major military offensive to retake Mosul, getting rid of the Islamic State, defeating them militarily?
 
He stares back at her with black eyes. “Please God.”
 
A ticking stopwatch replaces the young woman on the screen and the video ends – it was made by 60 Minutes.
 
Four years ago, the night a hundred thousand men filled Tahrir Square in Cairo, when Hosni Mubarak’s government fell, the young woman was sent to cover the demonstration; when her crew turned out the light on her camera to change a battery, in the darkness, a mob of men surrounded her, tore her away from her guards, tore away her clothes – then raped her repeatedly.
 
Twenty-five minutes later the mob shifted driving the men holding her toward a fence on the side of the square where a line of Egyptian women sat – and the women saved her, closing around her, standing in a line between her and the mob.
 
She fled Egypt, returning home, was hospitalized, recovered, then returned to work, covering wars in Libya and Iraq.
 
After her report for 60 Minutes about the lost Christians of the Nineveh Plain, Lara Logan was hospitalized again due to injuries she received in Cairo.


 

 

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08
The debate in the Democratic Party isn’t even whether Hillary Clinton should be the nominee. It’s whether anyone should even have the audacity to challenge her.
 
This is truly remarkable, when you think about it. Democrats always want a fight. Every year in modern times when no incumbent Democratic President was running for reelection, there was a fight: 1960, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Sometimes there was a fight even when there was an incumbent: 1968 (before LBJ pulled out) and 1980 (Ted Kennedy challenged Carter).
 
Two old Democratic heads have taken the two sides of this debate: the ever-contrary Gary Hart (for a challenge) and one-time Clinton tormentor Jerry Brown (against a challenge).
 
Hart, who almost knocked off Establishment choice Walter Mondale in 1984, says there should be and will be a challenger, former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who happens to be a former Hart campaign staffer.
 
Hart said, “The job of a challenger is to force specificity: Here is my plan, now let’s see her plan.” He decried dynasties: “If you’ve got to have a billion dollars to run for president, how many people can do that? Only the Clintons and the Bushes and one or two others. This country is 330 million people, and we should not be down to two families who are qualified to govern. … When you create dynastic networks, you shut a lot of people out.”
 
On the other side is Brown, the past and present Governor of California. Brown ran against Bill Clinton in 1992, famously angering Clinton in a debate when he accused Hillary Clinton’s law firm of benefiting from its relationship with the-then Governor of Arkansas.
 
But now he says, “I can’t think of anything I’d rather have less if I were running for president than to have a competitor in the primary. The primaries get into all the little nuances and small differences of candidates of the same party. What Hillary needs is a good debate drawing the distinctions between where she stands and where all these Republicans, these wannabes running around, (stand).”
 
“There’s some big differences, and they’re more with the Republicans. So let’s have the debate and let’s see where America wants to be. I don’t think running some couple of Democrats would illuminate the process.”
 
Brown, always good for a good quote, also took a shot at Republicans who oppose President Obama’s immigration executive actions, calling them “at best troglodyte, and at worst, un-Christian.”
 
For now, while a new Republican candidate announces every week, Clinton has four unannounced but real opponents: her own perceived shortcomings as a candidate; Bill Clinton, who is like one of those flashy basketball players who can keep both teams in the game at the same time; her huge campaign team’s potential for discord and dysfunction; and the media, which seems suspicious and even hostile to her.
 
She has enormous strengths: experience, a proven record, toughness and the historic momentum behind electing a woman to the Presidency.
 
The question for Democrats is whether a challenge would make her stronger or expose real flaws

 

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07
Much to my amazement, I turn 66 years old today. I never thought I’d be this young when I got this old.
 
There was a time after turning 60 when I was reluctant to reveal my age. I didn’t want people to think I was, you know, TOO old. Now it’s a badge of honor.
 
I’m lucky, first of all. Too many of my peers didn’t make it to 66. Others are ailing, infirm and unable to enjoy life like they used to. But I also have many friends in their 70s, 80s and beyond who are hale, hearty and hard to keep up with.
 
I’m blessed with good health. Most every day, I run, swim or do yoga. Running is key to my end-of-life planning. That is, I plan to drop dead running at a ripe old age. Go straight from running to lying on the ground. No stop for nursing homes, feeding tubes or assisted living.
 
That could be a while off. My 80-something mother is enjoying her second marriage and travelling all over. Her mother lived to be 107.
 
I’m blessed with my family, friends and colleagues. Thanks to our children, I have young friends who tolerate me, teach me new things and constantly refresh my outlook.
 
I have work I love doing, a blog I love writing and clients I love working with. As Warren Buffett says, I tap-dance to work every day.
 
Also this spring, I celebrate 50 years of working. When I turned 16 in 1965, my father sent me to see Woodrow Price, managing editor of The N&O. Woodrow gave me a job as a copyboy, kind of a newsroom go-fer. I stayed at the paper for 10 years.
 
Nearly 40 years ago, on January 1, 1976, I went to work for Jim Hunt in his first campaign for Governor. That turned out well.
 
Thirty years ago, in January 1985, I opened my own consulting firm. Still going strong.
 
So I have much to celebrate today. Cut the cake!

 

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06
You could hear Republican heads exploding when the President announced a deal to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Predictably, Republicans sided with Bibi over Obama.
 
There is something about their knee-jerk response that raises suspicions. Is it really a bad deal, or is it just that Obama’s political enemies are just bound and determined to oppose anything he does? Is it really such a great idea for the United States to blindly rubberstamp everything Bibi does? Is what Bibi says is good for Israel automatically good for America?
 
The same suspicion rises when the GOP war hawks demand a full-scale war with ISIS. Their reasoning: ISIS is a bunch of savage, terrible people. They behead innocent people and do other horrible things. Even worse, we see it online and on the evening news.
 
Well, the world is full of terrible people doing horrible things. Like Boko Haram in Africa. But they don’t seem to have the same level of media savvy as the savages in ISIS. Ergo, send our military into the Middle East. After all, it worked out so well last time.
 
Pardon us for noticing that the Iran deal’s detractors don’t have such a great track record.

 

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