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North Carolina - Republicans

29
During Governor McCrory’s attack on the AP, one observer compared it to Jesse Helms’ legendary battles with the media.
 
Now, Carter knew Jesse a lot better than I did. But I see a big difference.
 
Jesse attacked the media because he wanted a political fight. McCrory attacked the media because he doesn’t want an investigation of his financial dealings.
 
Big difference.
 
Helms used the “liberal media” as an ideological foil. It was a way to divide the world into friends and enemies on issues. And it wasn’t personal.
 
McCrory’s AP assault is personal. He has accused the AP and, specifically, reporter Michael Biesecker of maligning him and being out to get him personally.
 
McCrory’s fight has nothing to do with issues or ideology. It’s over ethics and possible impropriety. It’s not a debate over policy toward Cuba. It’s about whether the Governor of North Carolina should take a sweetheart payout from a company that is engaged in sleazy-looking business practices that have attracted the attention of investigators in states across the country.
 
Jesse Helms was no friend of mine, but I fought with Jesse Helms, and I studied him out of necessity. Here, Pat McCrory is no Jesse Helms.

 

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26
An outfit called Verifeed says “social conversations” on Twitter helped Thom Tillis beat Kay Hagan. Put me down as a skeptic.
 
You hear a lot of sweeping claims about how social media is transforming politics. The acolytes can drown you in numbers about “clicks” and “reads” and “open rates.” But is there hard evidence that all this moves votes?
 
If there is, please share it.
 
WRAL’s Mark Binker is another skeptic. He posted the story on Facebook and said, “Posting this mainly because I think it's wrong. For Twitter to be a place where a race is won or lost, wouldn't it need to be a more persuasive medium? My window into the platform is that people are sharing news, jokes, etc... but there's not a whole lot of persuasion going on. Tell me why I'm wrong. (Seriously, I don't buy the argument in this piece but I think there might be one to be made.)”
 
You won’t be surprised to learn that Verifeed is a company that “identifies and mobilizes powerful viral ambassadors and amplifiers to drive cost-efficient and high-impact ‘word of mouth’ marketing, customer acquisition, and conversions.” Whatever.
 
In other words, it’s selling what it’s celebrating.
 
Its report on North Carolina said, “Republican activists outperformed Democrats in sheer volume – and resonance – of tweets, with a veritable army of party activists faithfully retweeting and favoriting each other’s tweets regularly, if not hourly. The result calculated by Verifeed in the final seven days was direct engagement with 15,436,367 people by the top 20 GOP influencers – more than 14 times that of the top 20 Democratic influencers, who by contrast engaged just 1,746,178 people on Twitter.”
 
Now, maybe all this math mumbo-jumbo means something. But it looks like most people on Twitter who are interested in politics have pretty much made up their minds.
 
Until the online entrepreneurs can show with hard evidence that they can actually influence votes, hold on to your campaign dollars.

 

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22

 

GQ  just published a list of the 20 craziest politicians and two North Carolinians are on it: Mark Walker, the new Congressman from Greensboro who made the list for joking he’d be for bombing Mexico and that he worries Obama may not leave office at the end of his term, and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx.
 
This is a grave injustice.
 
Why, we once had a state legislator who said he wanted to set up a state religion and another who once said he wanted the state to print its own currency – and then there’s Democratic Party Chairman Randy Vollmer (who even Democrats shy away from) and William Barber who’s in a league of his own.
 
GQ needs to go back to the drawing board. When it comes to politicians, we’ve got dozens who’re crazier than Virginia Foxx.


 

 

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22
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Governor Pat McCrory appear to have different ideas of what “customer service” means.
 
To McCrory and his administration, the “customers” are “corporations” and, too often, “polluters.” To Goodwin, the customers are “consumers” and, in this instance, “homeowners.”
 
 
It may be the first time since January 2013 that business hasn’t gotten exactly what it wanted from Raleigh – and pronto.
 
Why did the industry want a 25 percent increase? Why indeed, after getting an average increase last year of 7.7 percent, as high as 19.8 percent in beach areas?
 
Had some terrible catastrophe drained their reserves? Are thousands of insurance company employees being thrown out on the street in their suits and white shirts?
 
Not exactly. The industry admitted it was guessing about what MIGHT happen in the future. Its spokesman said, “Part of the problem that we have is that the rate product – which is paying claims – is some future event that we really don’t have a good handle on how much it costs. We’re trying to predict what that would be three or four years down the road.”
 
No doubt, the industry would like to base rates on a projection of an End Times combination of hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, Ebola outbreak, terrorist attacks and plagues of locusts and toads.
 
Nice try, boys.
 
Goodwin said his decision will save North Carolina homeowners $600 million.
 
Merry Christmas, indeed.

 

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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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18
About a week ago the Governor went on a tear about 60 Minutes, saying Leslie Stahl had done him wrong; that he’d sat sweating under the hot lights for an hour answering questions but she hadn’t even blamed Democrats once for the coal ash spill – all his work had been for nothing. Worse than nothing.
 
Then, next, he went on a tear against the Associated Press saying they’d treated him worse than Leslie Stahl – that they’d smeared him with innuendo and that no matter what AP said the payments he’d received from Lending Tree (where he’d served as a Director) were 100% legal and he’d earned every penny of the money and he didn’t appreciate getting whacked by “drive-by journalism.”
 
Now the AP story said the Governor’s stock bonus was unusual and raised red flags but about the worse fact in the story was the Governor had been paid $185,000 by Lending Tree, an online loan company that’s a cut above a pay day lender and got fined $3 million by South Carolina for misleading consumers. The AP didn’t say the Governor had done anything illegal. Or that he’d done anything unethical (as Governor ) to help Lending Tree.  
 
So here’s an odd fact: While the AP story wasn’t exactly flattering it didn’t amount to much until the Governor stood up and did something I haven’t seen in 40 years: He announced, I’m not a crook.


 

 

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17
He’d been through, he said, the ordeal of sitting for a whole hour and fifteen minutes under hot lights, sweating, answering questions but then, he added, when he saw the interview on TV he had been shocked.
He sounded – not in the TV interview but, later, when he described the interview to a reporter – like a well-meaning boy saying, I was good, I behaved, and I got punched.
 
Wondering, What did he expect? next I watched the 60 Minutes program about Duke Energy’s coal ash spill – and he was hardly in it:
 
Leslie Stahl asked: Tell us how much the fine was?
 
Pat McCrory said: I don’t have the list but…
 
Stahl interrupted: It was $99,111.
 
And McCrory said: That’s correct. It wasn’t a big fine.
 
That was the only tough question Leslie Stahl asked Pat McCrory.
 
Still boyish at fifty-eight, Pat McCrory’s run head on into a mountain of coal ash, a posse of reporters and a battalion of cold-hearted lobbyists with no respect for boyish charm.     

 


 

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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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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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