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08
Democrats need to stop wringing their hands and worrying about November. And start fighting back on health care.
 
Here’s the message:
 
This year – over the opposition of every single Republican in Congress – we did something that Americans have needed for 50 years.

When the health-care bill passes, every American will be able to get insurance. Every American will be able to see a doctor. No American will get turned down.

And if the Republicans win big this fall, you can be sure of one thing: They will take that health care guarantee away from you.
 

 

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07
There is a natural rhythm that usually governs politics. And it suggests that 2010 will be a Republican year.
 
But not so fast.
 
Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote The Cycles of American History about those political rhythms.
 
In recent years – as both parties have migrated to their political extremes – the cycle has become more volatile.
 
After Republican dominance in the 1980s – they won three straight presidential elections – the country went Democratic in1992, then sharply Republican in 1994, then Democratic again in 1996 and 1998.
 
Then came Bush and two good Republican cycles in 2002 and 2004. Then two Democratic cycles in 2006 and 2008 – and Obama.
 
The reason is simple. Both parties – either quickly or eventually – overreach their mandates. And the voters pick the other party to bring things back to the middle, where neither party has its center of gravity any more.
 
So what could keep 2010 from being a Republican year? The answer: Republicans.
 
This could be a replay of 1998. That should have been a Republican year, coming after Clinton’s reelection and his Monica Lewinsky impeachment scandal.
 
But Republicans – led by Newt Gingrich – overplayed their hand. Voters decided that the GOP was more interested in its power than their problems.
 
Democrats – including John Edwards in North Carolina – won big.
 
Republicans’ stridency, negativity and hypocrisy today stun me. But they don’t bother me. I hope they keep it up. It’s the Democrats’ best hope.

 

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06
As the health-care battle resumes in Washington, some history may be just what the doctor ordered.
 
Most people believe this battle traces back to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s failed effort to reform health care in 1993-1994.
 
Actually, it goes back to 1991 – and a now-forgotten special election for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
 
Harris Wofford, who had been a civil rights adviser to John Kennedy, was appointed to the Senate by then-Governor Bob Casey (father of the current Senator Casey) to succeed John Heinz (who was married to Teresa Heinz – now Teresa Kerry) after Heinz died in a plane crash..
 
When Wofford ran in 1991, he was an underdog to former Republican Governor Dick Thornburg, who was seen as a potential presidential candidate.
 
Wofford’s campaign was run by two then-little known Democratic consultants: James Carville and Paul Begala.
 
They found that Pennsylvania voters were worried about paying for health care. And they adopted as their battle cry something a voter said in a focus group:
 
“If every criminal has the right to see a lawyer, every American should have the right to see a doctor.”
 
Thanks to that issue, Wofford won.
 
The next year, Carville and Begala ran Clinton’s presidential campaign. Everybody remembers Carville’s famous war-room sign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
 
But few know what else was written on the sign: “Change vs. status quo. And don’t forget health care.”
 
Democrats should remember that lesson now. Their reform message must be just as simple and strong.
 
If it is, the Republicans’ rock-solid opposition may come back to haunt them this November.
 

 

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01
The Teens may come to be Barack Obama’s decade the way the Eighties were Ronald Reagan’s decade.
 
Ideology aside, the two Presidents have much in common.
 
Both were outsiders who ran campaigns that upset conventional wisdom.
 
Both had lives before politics – Reagan as an actor and union leader, Obama as a community organizer and law professor. And both were ridiculed for those pursuits.
 
Both made themselves into good writers – and great public speakers.
 
Both came to the White House when Americans desperately wanted change.
 
Reagan’s sunny optimism was a welcome relief from the gloom, malaise and economic stagnation of the Seventies.
 
The question is whether Obama’s laid-back style will wear as well as a contrast to the last decade’s hyper-partisanship, terror of terrorism and near-economic catastrophe.
 
If it does, this will be his decade.

 

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31
Republicans – including Senator Richard Burr – couldn’t wait to blame the Obama administration for the Christmas Day terrorist scare.
 
In other words, to indulge in the kind of politics they called unpatriotic when Bush and Cheney were in charge.
 
Let’s look at some facts.
 
A. Burr agrees with the President that the failed attack in Detroit was a colossal failure in communications between the State Department, the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security. 
 
B. Burr concludes that the Obama administration isn't being tough enough in the war on terrorism.
 
C. The 9/11 attacks took place almost 100 months ago.
 
D. Obama has been President for 11 months.
 
E. Bush and Cheney were in charge of American security for 89 months.
 
Now let’s play the blame game.

 

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30
A year is a long time in politics. One year ago:
  • Barack Obama was a colossus, a superstar who had transformed politics
  • Bev Perdue was about to enjoy a (short) honeymoon
  • The clouds over Mike Easley were just gathering
  • Tony Rand was ready for another turn as second-in-command of the Senate
  • Wake County Democrats were celebrating winning control of the county commissioners.
You know what happened next – and why Republicans are confident, even cocky.
 
But they should wish the 2010 elections were today. And Democrats should be glad they’re 10 months away.
 
A year is a long time in politics.

 

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22
President Obama and the Democrats are doing a better job ramming health-care reform through the Senate than explaining it.
 
They should try this message: 31 million.
 
That’s the number of uninsured Americans who will get health insurance over the next decade because of the bill. That’s not Democratic rhetoric. That’s from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
 
The cost? Well, the CBO says the bill will CUT the deficit.
 
Only a Republican could fuss, fume and fulminate because 31 million fellow Americans will get better health care.
 
Instead of worrying that society is losing the true meaning of Christmas, Republicans should practice what Jesus preached.
 

 

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22
Are Washington Republicans learning from Wake County Republicans?
 
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a leading opponent of the health-care reform bill, said Sunday: “What the American people should pray is that somebody can’t make the vote.”
 
Democrats protested that Coburn was wishing misfortune on a Senator.
 
Maybe Coburn was just hoping that – a la the WakeCounty commissioners – a Democrat will go to the bathroom long enough to let Republicans prevail.
 
Given the heavy-handed rule of Republicans when they ran Congress, they hardly have room to squawk now.
 
Harry Reid’s strategy is bold and brutal: We’ve got the votes, and we’re going to pass the bill.
 
It’s about time Democrats showed some ruthlessness.

 

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10
Tiger Woods, Mark Sanford and John Edwards should arrange a threesome – on the golf course, that is. They have a lot in common.
 
Like how to fall so far so fast.
 
The Roaming Eye of the Tiger makes Sanford and Edwards look tame. Last I checked, Tiger was something like 10 or 11 over par. Sanford had only his Argentine soul mate and Edwards, only Rielle.
 
A legislative committee said Sanford brought "ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame" to the State of South Carolina.
 
That takes some doing.
 
Maybe Bill Clinton could round out the foursome – and give pointers on surviving "ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame."
 
I love hearing PR experts pontificate about what they would tell Tiger to do – if only he would call and pay them big bucks.
 
There is nothing he can do. Not for a long time.
 
He’ll spend next year negotiating a divorce settlement and child custody with Elin. He’ll have plenty of time to work on his game, since he can’t show his face at a golf tournament.
 
Can you imagine the hecklers? Can you imagine any pro willing to be paired with him – other than John Daly?
 
Maybe in 2011 Tiger can rejoin the tour and resume his march to 18 majors.
 
The only question is whether his life story will have two parts – Rise and Fall – or three: Rise, Fall and Comeback.
 

 

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01
 
Not every politician can straddle a fence standing on one leg, but Newt Gingrich can do it and make it look easy.
 
For over a decade Newt’s enthusiasts and supporters have been saying his ‘Contract with America’ was why the Republicans swept the 1994 election – but, in fact, right here in North Carolina just before the election a candidate took a poll and asked voters how they felt about Newt’s ‘Contract with America’ and voters said, Huh? Come again what’s that? They’d never heard of it.
 
But, nonetheless, after the election Newt and his admirers – no doubt believing it – went right on telling how the ‘Contract’ won the election and, in an example of how history is written, fiction became legend and legend became myth.
 
Last week, Newt stepped onto center stage in American politics again – this time to talk about religion and politics.
 
He started his Thanksgiving message by describing a painting in the Capital of the Pilgrims praying on the deck of the Mayflower, then added how on Thanksgiving Day Americans should offer prayers of thanks to the God of Washington and Lincoln but, then, right in the middle of his homily he said “That doesn’t mean we’re all Christians. It means we’re Americans; lucky citizens of a nation uniquely rooted in faith in our Creator.”
 
It sounded odd – right in the middle of all that piety politics reared its ugly head and Newt slipped into covering his flanks with Buddhists and Muslims and so on.
 
Now I reckon most folks would say that was open-minded and big-hearted but it sure sounded like Newt – not meaning to – had demoted the God of Washington and Lincoln with a politically correct bromide.
 
And that’s politics in American today.
 
We’ve become a nation of religious fence-straddlers whose primary goal is not to offend anyone from atheists to Hindus when talking about our Christian heritage.
 
Compare that to General Washington – when he was praying during the winter of 1777 here’s what the Father of Our Country said to his soldiers at Valley Forge: “To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the distinguished character of Christian.”
 

 

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