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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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08

 

Obama and the Republican Leaders in Congress are eyeball to eyeball over immigration with the President saying he’s done a fine noble deed to bring five million people out of the shadows and with Republicans saying Obama’s fine noble deed is just an unconstitutional power grab.
 
They’re having a fine row but the odd fact is Obama and the Republican Leaders don’t really disagree.
 
According to Obama when he gets to court he’s going to say, Your Honor, Congress told me to deport 11.3 million people but they only gave me the money to deport 400,000 a year – so I’ve set priorities. I’m going to deport the major crooks first, the minor crooks second, other troublesome folks third and until that’s done I’m going to let everyone else come out of the shadows and live like normal people – and, by the way, my priorities (like deporting the felons and gang members first) are the same priorities Congress set in bills it passed.
           
And it’s a safe bet the Republican Leaders in Congress aren’t going to give the President a ga-million dollars to deport all 11.3 million illegal immigrants. The Republicans don’t want to spend the money. Obama doesn’t want them to spend the money. And neither side wants to find out what happens if they try to round up 11.3 million people and ship them home.
 
So, if Obama wins (and his Executive Order stands) millions of illegal immigrants will stay right here, and if the Republicans win they’ll stay right here too.
 
So, what’s the squabbling over?

 

 

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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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05
Talk about a fellow being star-crossed – after the election as everyone took a deep breath and settled back peacefully for Thanksgiving the Governor, without a lot of hoopla,  quietly launched his reelection campaign, blanketing the Internet with a nice pleasant new video – then, the next day, an environmental group announced it had found a new coal ash spill (or leak) and this time the arsenic wasn’t pouring into a river that runs into Virginia.
           
The Southern Environmental Law Center reports its testing proves coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s Buck Power Plant near Salisbury are (and have been) leaking vile chemicals into the Yadkin River and both Duke Power and the State (which by now has surely tested every coal-ash pond in existence) have hushed it up.
 
Meantime, while fate was unkind to the Governor, down the street in John Skvarla’s office the sun was shining.
 
Talk about good fortune: The day before the new spill (or leak) landed in the newspapers Skvarla resigned as head of DENR (the department in charge of coal ash) to become Secretary of Commerce.


 

 

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04

 

About two decades ago, WRAL and WTVD ran a story about a young woman, Beverly Jones, who’d donated one of her kidneys to her husband whose kidneys had failed.

Now usually, kidney donors have to be blood relatives – but not always and Beverly was the first unrelated kidney donor ever accepted by the transplant program at Duke.

Back then, Beverly and Stan lived next door to me and, in addition, Stan's mother Frances had worked for Jesse Helms for years, running his Raleigh office. I'd probably have been fired two weeks after I started working with Jesse if it hadn't been for Frances. But that's another story.

Today, the kidney Beverly gave Stan is failing and he’s been on a waiting list for a year, and sick, and he could still wait years – except for one hope: A program that reduces how long a person spends on a waiting list for a new kidney.

The program was started at Johns Hopkins back in 2001 and at Duke in 2011 and works like this: Say a person (like Stan) needs a kidney and has a donor (say, his brother) but the brother’s kidney is incompatible. It allows Stan and his donor to do a 'kidney-swap' with another family who’s in the same situation.

That sounds odd and improbable but when you consider there're 2,800 people in NC waiting for kidney transplants it's not that improbable at all.

So here's why I'm writing to my Honorable (and hard-pressed) friends in the Fourth Estate: What Stan needs is publicity – stories in the newspaper and on radio and on television about the ‘kidney swap program.’ I know that's a lot to ask but these are good folks and they're in a tough spot.
 
If you‘d like to lend a ‘helping hand’ by writing a story call me or email me (info@talkingaboutpolitics.com) and I’ll call you. Happy Christmas.


 

 

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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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03
There you go again, Governor. “Stepping on toes.”
 
Some people think leadership is about getting people to work together, or inspiring them to put the common good ahead of self-interest or even, as Harry Truman once said, “persuading people to do what they ought to have enough damn sense to do on their own.”
 
Not our Governor. He believes a leader’s job is to “step on toes.”
 
Yesterday, he resorted to that same phrase twice, once in praising his outgoing Commerce Secretary and then in the video launching his reelection campaign.
 
Of Sharon Decker’s work on the public-private economic development partnership, McCrory said: “She stepped on a lot of toes to make that happen.” She apparently will now be stepping on toes in the private sector, while John Skvarla steps on toes in Commerce rather than DENR.
 
McCrory’s campaign website has this video clip: “As a mayor for 14 years, I knew you had to take bold action, and you had to step on the toes of people who wanted to keep the status quo.”
 
The phrase struck a familiar chord. A Google search unearthed this gem of a story last year by Jeremy Markovich at Charlotte magazine: “The Pat McCrory Toe-Stepping Quote Generator.” Markovich collected a long list of toe-stepping.
 
In July 2013, the Governor told CNN: “I have stepped on toes in my first six months in office of the right and the left and the media.”
 
In September that year, he told the Washington Post: “We’re stepping on the toes of a lot of the establishment that’s been controlling this state government for a long, long time, on both the left and the right.”
 
He didn’t hold out on in-state media, telling WRAL in January 2013, “I don't want to step on people's toes to cause pain. I want to step on people's toes to get them to stand up and recognize that we've got a problem and we've got to fix it” and WNCN in July “But listen, I'm shocked [my approval numbers are] that high because we're stepping on the toes of the status quo.”
 
Or local media. He told the Mt. Airy News, “These are the toes I’m stepping on in North Carolina right now.”
 
Now, maybe the Governor is just “staying on message,” as they say. Or maybe he can’t think of anything else to say. Or maybe there’s some deep psychological explanation we can’t begin to figure out.
 
Maybe we’ll want him to keep stepping on our toes for four more years. Or maybe we’ll give him the boot.

 

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02
A TAPster points out that my blog yesterday about Young Dems didn’t take note that two young Dems (“young” being broadly defined as younger than me) already are making their mark in statewide office.
 
I wrote that Senator Josh Stein could be “the first in his class” of young Democrats to be elected to statewide office. My apologies to 40-somethings Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Treasurer Janet Cowell!
 
Also of note, Goodwin was the first Young Democrats of North Carolina President elected to the legislature in decades, perhaps the first elected to the legislature while still serving as YDNC President, and the first former YDNC officer elected to statewide public office since Elaine Marshall.
 
Making this correction allows me to make a point: Nothing solves a party’s problems faster than recruiting, developing and encouraging good candidates. Nothing prolongs the problems more than a conflict between generations – e.g., “those old fossils need to get out of the way” or “those young whippersnappers need to wait their turn.”
 
Old heads and new faces can make a powerful combination.

 

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01
Democrats looking to the future should look today to the swearing-in of four new Wake County Commissioners.
 
They are a large part of why I told the AP’s Bill Barrow that the key to the party’s success in 2016 and beyond "will have to come from younger Democrats in the cities." Huffington Post picked up his story, and my quote got widely circulated over the holiday.
 
Which prompts me to, as they say in Congress, “extend” my remarks to include not only the young but also the young in spirit, like Sig Hutchinson, who was key in organizing the unified Wake campaign that elected him and three other commissioners, John Burns, Jessica Holmes and Matt Calabria. That blend of experience and new faces, as with Sarah Crawford and Tom Bradshaw in the hard-fought Wake Senate races, is powerful.
 
Democrats’ House victories in Wake and Buncombe counties were bright rays in an otherwise dark November sky. The party now needs to build on that success and on the strengths of an extraordinary new generation of leaders now rising across the state.
 
Just to name a few: newly elected Representatives Gale Adcock in Wake and Brian Turner in Buncombe, Senators Jeff Jackson and Jeff Ford of Mecklenburg, Wake Rep. Grier Martin, Wake Commissioner Caroline Sullivan, Dare Rep. Paul Tine, plus Deborah Ross, Kim Hanchette, Dan Blue III, Zeb Smathers, Andy Ball and a host of active and impressive Young Democrats and College Democrats.
 
Wake Senator Josh Stein may be the first in his class to move up to statewide office in 2016. Watch him debate Senator Bob Ruccho on tax policy, and see why.
 
In years past, the Young Democrats Clubs produced leaders like Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt, Bill Whichard, George Miller and more. In years ahead, young Democrats can produce more leaders like them who can win and govern successfully.
 
For now, the Wake County commissioners can blaze the trail for the party’s statewide comeback in 2016 and beyond.

 

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28
Bowater is a wise old soul with a unique way of looking at the world. He’s an older white gentleman who grew up in Northeastern North Carolina but grew out of the political views that his peers espouse over coffee at Bojangles. I wanted his take on Ferguson.
 
He smiled. “Well, I must be the only person in America who gets both sides.”
 
That’s a signal for me to raise an eyebrow and invite him to launch a typical soliloquy. I did. And he obliged.
 
“I get how a policeman might take his gun and fire away at a guy he thinks is trying to kill him. Being a cop is no fun job to have. You gotta make split-second decisions when somebody’s coming at you. And I get how all my friends say the grand jury heard the evidence and decided that the cop didn’t commit a crime.
 
“But,” he started, then stared out the window. “A grand jury ain’t a trial jury. And I’ve always heard a DA can indict a ham sandwich if he wants to. So I guess it’d be an easy thing for a DA to let a guilty man off if he was so inclined.
 
“So I get black people getting mad and feeling like they’re getting screwed by the system. After all, they have been all their lives. And I get how there are always hotheads who want to burn everything down.”
 
Bowater doesn’t go on Facebook or any of that, so I told him about all the rage and bile that’s come out, some of it among friends and family members. What’s that about?
 
He looked out the window again. “That ain’t nothing new. I’ve seen that before. I saw it right here in the 1950s and the 1960s when they started integating the schools and passing civil rights laws. I saw the same anger you’re seeing on this Facebox or whatever it is. It’s just the same old thing.
 
“Son, that’s what people do when their way of life is threatened. Back in those days, white people didn’t think black people should go to the same schools and stores and restaurants we did. They felt threatened when the government said they had to.
 
“Over time, they got used to that. But now they feel threatened a new way. Hell, a lot of it’s because we elected a black President. Nobody ever thought that would happen. And we got immigrants who speak Spanish. People like me always felt like, even with integration, we were on top and would stay on top. Now that’s changing. People are mad and scared because the world is changing and they feel threatened.”
 
I ventured, “It makes you worry about what’s going to happen in this country.”
 
He wasn’t having any of that. “Hell, boy, we had a Civil War! We killed each other over this kind of thing. But we got through it. I lived through a Depression and a World War and all the civil rights upheaval. We got through it. And we’ll get through this.”
 
He took a sip of coffee and looked out the window. “We always get through it.”

 

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