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24
The “religious freedom” train ran off the rails on Jones Street yesterday. House Republicans realized the state would lose business and some of them would lose elections.
 
It was a telling turnaround for a body that had pushed through a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages just a few years back. If you ever doubted how fast and how far public opinion has moved on this issue, doubt no more.
 
Apparently, great credit goes to Republican lobbyists and Republican-leaning business leaders who stood up for what’s right, as well as what’s right for the bottom line.
 
The bottom line for the politicians, of course, was their own survival. Rep. Gary Pendleton of Wake County, a former sponsor of the bill, made clear why he had to abruptly abandon his principles: “This bill will cause at least four members to be defeated, including me.”
 
Now we’re talking about what really matters!
 
Of course, this won’t end the legislature’s obsession with regulating how people live and love. An anti-abortion bill swept through the House the same day. The debate was made memorable by one opponent’s searing personal story and one sponsor’s explanation that it’s just like requiring a waiting period for real estate transactions.
 
Well, that’s one way to look at it.
 
And the legislature will no doubt find another way to let magistrates who so choose choose not to carry out the laws they are sworn to carry out.
 
For a few hours, Democrats worried that they wouldn’t be able to keep saying that Republicans care more about regulating your personal life than about rebuilding the economy from the Bush Recession.
 
Not to worry.

 

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23
WRAL’s documentary on Jim Hunt brings back fond, and not so fond, memories. It implicitly brings up the dramatically different philosophy that marks North Carolina’s leadership today. It shows the toll that politics can take on all involved, especially families. And it tells a largely untold story about one key to Hunt’s success, Carolyn Hunt.
 
That’s a pretty good hour’s work, or 48 minutes. It’s a credit to producer Clay Johnson. You can watch it online here.
 
My first thought: Lord, we were young then. Most of the interviews were done soon after Hunt left office in January 2001. Some of those interviewed are no longer living: Joe Grimsley, Ben Ruffin, Jack Hawke, Governor Jim Holshouser.
 
There’s a rare interview with Bert Bennett, Hunt’s political mentor. Bert recalled the “gleam in his eye” that Hunt had during Terry Sanford’s 1960 campaign, which Bert managed. “You could see that he would like to someday maybe be in Sanford’s shoes, be Governor.”
 
Bert, always pithy, summed up Hunt’s energy, ebullience and sheer enjoyment in being Governor: “I think he hated to go to bed.”
 
Watching it, I swelled up with pride in being part of what Hunt did. It was very different from what the state’s leaders are doing today. Hunt believed that government could make a difference in people’s lives. Today’s Republicans are wedded to the proposition that government can’t and shouldn’t do anything.
 
See if you agree after you hear narrator David Crabtree go through what Hunt pushed government to do: statewide kindergartens, Smart Start, higher teacher pay, board certification for teachers, the Basic Education Plan, the School of Science and Mathematics, recruiting high-tech businesses, transportation bond issues, equal opportunities for women and minorities, on and on.
 
The program doesn’t minimize defeats (1984), disappointments and dumb mistakes. They’re part of the story, too.
 
Clay’s interviews with Carolyn and their four children give you a glimpse of how important she was, even though she remained publicly reticent. You can also see in their faces and sense in their words how tough it all was – losing in 1984, being in the public eye and feeling the pressures of office.
 
An interview with Jim Hunt’s also-reticent brother Robert shows the impact that the boys’ parents had on them.
 
Of course, I’m no objective viewer. If you like Hunt’s politics, you’ll like the program. If you don’t, you probably won’t.
 
One thing came through clearly – again, in interviews from 15 years ago, when battle scars were still fresh: Hunt just drove Republicans crazy.
 
Probably still does.

 

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22
A wise old Democrat notes, “Don’t forget this about Hillary Clinton: She’ll have two of the best politicians in America helping her - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”
 
Between them, Bill and Barack have won four presidential elections. One more than the Bushes and four more than the other wanna-be’s.

 

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22
If there’s a lonesome pilgrim out there hoping the recent Supreme Court decision will restore honor and fairness to redistricting… well, the Wizards have him surrounded.
 
When Republicans dreams came true and, at long last, they got to draw their own districts, they set out to find a special kind of Wizard.
 
Next the Wizards went to work carefully studying the Voting Rights Act and years of court rulings – then announced they’d reached a rock-solid conclusion: The law, the Republican Wizards said, required legislators to draw as many districts as possible where 50% of the voters were African Americans.
 
Not 40% or 60% -- but 50%.
 
And that’s what the Wizards did.
 
And, up in Washington, the wise-men in Obama’s Justice Department blessed their work, saying, Amen – the Wizards had dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s and complied with the Voting Rights Act.
 
And their plan worked out just fine: More Republicans were elected. More African Americans were elected. And more Democrats lost.
 
Meantime, over on the other side of the isle, the Democrats were hiring their own set of Wizards who sat down, looked at each district and applied different mathematics completely – they asked, How many African Americans do we need to add to this district to elect a Democrat?
 
The answers the Democratic Wizards got varied from district to district – it could be 30% in one district and 34% in another and 40% in still another – but, for Democrats, that math worked out just fine too: More Republicans would lose. More Democrats would win. But not necessarily more African Americans.
 
The Democrats then took the next step and sued – to replace Republican wizardry with Democratic wizardry.
 
And, now, an odd thing is going to happen: The courts are going to decide which type of wizardry best serves the ends of justice.


 

 

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22
This guy wanted the last laugh. But is it funny or just a sad commentary on politics today?
 
WSOC-TV reported that a Cabarrus County man who died last week, Larry Upright, 81, had one final request for his family. So the obituary they wrote concludes: “Also, the family respectfully asks that you do not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. R.I.P. Grandaddy.”
 
The family told WSOC it was all in good fun. The story described Mr. Upright as “a diehard Republican” (no pun intended).
 
His son said, “We know he’s up there giggling right now. Just laughing out loud.”
 
Well, good for him. But, if I live to be 81, I hope my family finds something to say other than urging you to vote against some politician.
 
Besides, Hillary may yet get the last laugh.

 

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20
It happens just about every day: You open the newspaper, read about a politician, and shake your head thinking, That’s just plain crazy.
 
Not long ago the Senate proposed that, prior to Congress approving an agreement with Iran, the President should certify Iran is not supporting “terrorist attacks against Americans.”
 
Oddly that didn’t sit too well with White House Press spokesman Josh Earnest – who shot back it was a bad idea because the provision would make “the agreement contingent upon Iran renouncing terrorism.”
 
Yes, it would.
 
But do we really want an agreement that allows Iran to build a nuclear bomb – if it doesn’t renounce terrorism?


 

 

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20
Here’s a TV viewing tip for those who want to see the right way to do politics and public service.
 
Wednesday at 7 pm, WRAL will air a one-hour documentary, “State of Mine: The Jim Hunt Story.” It’s narrated by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree and was produced by WRAL News Documentary Producer Clay Johnson. Clay tells me I’ll enjoy it because my interview was taped when I was many years younger.
 
Clay began working on the project soon after Hunt left the Governor’s Office in 2001, so it has a lot of material from people who are no longer with us. In a release, WRAL said, “In addition to Hunt himself, interview subjects include former key campaign staff, former cabinet members, political strategists who waged campaigns against Hunt, election opponents, personal friends and exclusive interviews with his family members.”
 
I understand Carter makes an appearance. Can’t wait for that.
 
Here’s a link. You can see a trailer and a timeline. The full program will be available online after it airs, possibly along with supplemental video.
 
An aside: Next year will mark 40 years since Hunt was first elected Governor, in 1976. Already, some Huntsters are talking about organizing a Hunt Alumni Reunion next year. Part of the price of admission: Bring along somebody under 40 so they can see the right way to do it.

 

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17
A TAPster who doesn’t like the legislature posed a good question, and it is reinforced by a story on the excellent EducationNC (EdNC) website.
 
The TAPster asked: Who exactly are the members of the legislature? Where are they from? Where did they go to school? What are their backgrounds and life experiences? Why do they do what they do?
 
The TAPster wonders how many of the elected representatives shaping North Carolina’s future have a first-hand knowledge of North Carolina’s past or present. The TAPster hopes that someone will research the answers.
 
Which brings us to an EdNC profile written by Alex Granados of Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), who co-chairs both the House K-12 Education Committee and the House Education Appropriations Committee.
 
The profile begins:
 
“(Horne) is the education legislator. It’s an odd moniker considering he only moved to the state in 2005, has no education background and didn’t even start out focused on the subject.
 
“An almost 8-year veteran of the Air Force, Horn made his living as a food broker, retiring in 2002 from his business which he says was the largest food broker in the country at the time. When he retired, he worked with big names such as General Mills, Butterball and ConAgra.”
 
It reminds me of an education professor’s warning to his prospective-teacher students: “Everything you do in the classroom will be dictated by old white men who haven’t been in a classroom since college.”
 
So consider this an invitation, or a challenge, to some researcher to answer the TAPster’s questions. 

 

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16
To my readers: Because you often come here through Facebook or Twitter, you may not see Carter’s blogs. But you should. Because even when you don’t see eye-to-eye with him, you get to see where he’s coming from.
 
And sometimes, shockingly enough, you may find yourself agreeing with Carter. So I wanted to be sure you read his blog about the Republican redistricting of Wake County.
 
Especially this:
 
“There aren’t many lines left in politics. But redrawing districts because you lost an election goes too far.”
 
Read his post here.

 

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16
Supporters of gay marriage figure it’s time to change two things: First, to change the legal definition of marriage to allow a man to marry another man.
 
The other change is even knottier: Discriminating against a man (or woman) because of race is illegal; gay rights supporters want to make it equally illegal to discriminate against a man because of his sexual orientation. Which, in a way, sounds reasonable. But, in another way, is the legal equivalent of giving government a knife to hold to the throats of people who disagree with gay marriage.
 
Under the current law, even if the state of Indiana changes the definition of marriage, Ms. Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza can say no to catering a gay wedding. It’s her choice. It’s not discrimination.
 
But if gays become a protected minority that changes. And not catering a gay wedding becomes illegal. And Ms. O’Connor lands in the soup.
 
Twenty-five years ago two Native American drug rehabilitation counselors who worked for the government got fired for smoking peyote. That sounded logical. But the Indians argued peyote smoking was part of their religion so firing them violated their freedom of religion. That sounded a bit odd. But Congress agreed. And New York Senator Charlie Schumer passed a law saying firing the Indians was wrong.
 
Liberals also like to say government has no business telling people what they can or can’t do in the privacy of their bedroom – but what about government walking into Ms. O’Connor’s pizzeria and telling her what to do?
 
Shouldn’t she be allowed to practice her religion – just like an Indian smoking peyote?
 


 

 

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