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26
Folks who vote in Republican primaries, if asked, will tell you they’re Conservative and most will firmly add they’re Very Conservative as opposed to A Little Conservative.
 
In the uncompromising depth of his conservative beliefs, Ted Cruz is their cup of tea.
 
But…
 
It’s hard to put your finger on that ‘but…’ but instead of marching onto the Presidential battlefield at the head of an army of Conservatives, Cruz trails Scott Walker and Rand Paul.    
 
National Review published an article by Charles Cooke that may touch on the reason why.
 
Mr. Cooke described the first time he heard Cruz speak: He listened, agreed, admired Cruz’s intelligence, never doubted his sincerity but added, For all his obvious talent Cruz’s rhetorical style frankly makes my hair curl a little.
 
He heard both Cruz and Marco Rubio speak a year later: The audience, he wrote, was more excited to hear Cruz – but after the speeches that changed.
 
Rubio talks to you – Cruz seemed to lecture, one attendee told him.
 
Ted Cruz is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative running in a primary full of two-fisted conservative voters and being tough and smart and sincere may be all it takes at the end of the day. But… how you explain your beliefs matters and a glimmer of conversation, and speaking to people rather than at them, might be the fuel to ignite Ted Cruz’s campaign.


 

 

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25
Sometimes in politics you have to rise above principle.
 
Republicans vow to resist fight President Obama’s “redistributionist” economic policies. Then GOP legislators plot to redistribute sales tax revenues from urban (Democratic) to rural (Republican) counties.
 
Senator Ted Cruz vows to repeal Obamacare. Then he signs up for insurance under Obamacare.
 
Governor McCrory pledged to end the corrupt, secretive practices of his Democratic predecessors. Then he repeatedly fails to accurately report his financial affairs.
 
Legislative Republicans promised to end the partisan machinations of their Democratic predecessors. Then they gerrymander congressional and legislative elections and then move on to county and municipal elections.
 
John Hood has a timely warning in his blog about the unintended consequences of monkeying with elections: “…my message to today’s North Carolina Republicans is this: change an electoral rule if it makes sense on the merits, but don’t do it assuming that your party will benefit. Back in the day, Democrats checked their swing. Now they’re glad they did.”

 

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24
With the Irish Prime Minister sitting beside him, Obama said Republicans are against education. Infrastructure. Research. The things needed to create jobs. National defense. And the middle class.
 
Then having thrown down the gauntlet, and concisely summed up how he felt about the Republican budget, the President rolled out the welcome mat for the Prime Minister.
 
Next I turned to a stack of newspaper clippings about Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker – looking for an answer to Obama.
 
Walker was criticizing unions.
 
Cruz was criticizing Obama’s deal with Iran.  
 
Paul was talking about criminal justice reform.
 
And Bush was saying it’s the President’s job to reweave civility into political discourse.
 
Answering Obama would have been as simple as saying, If you don’t agree with the President about how big the federal government ought to be – he says you’re against the middle class. Now, does that really make sense?  
 
But no voice took up the gauntlet.


 

 

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23
Ex-Congressman Barney Frank suggests this slogan for Democrats: “We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.”
 
Take the GOP’s hard-line opposition to Loretta Lynch’s nomination as Attorney General. On one of Sunday’s talk shows, a Republican said the Senate shouldn’t even vote on her nomination. Why? Because, he said, she’ll continue the policies of current AG Eric Holder.
 
Help me here. If the Senate doesn’t confirm Lynch, then Holder stays on, right? And pursues the same policies as now, right? The policies that President Obama wants his AG, whoever he or she is, to pursue. Right?
 
How does refusing Lynch an up-or-down vote change that?

 

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16
Back when Navy Seals evened the score with Osama bin Laden, the Secretary of Defense proclaimed “defeating al-Qaeda” was within our grasp. Victory was at hand.
 
Then the wheel came off the cart.
 
And now up in Washington the Director of National Intelligence is telling Congress the threat of ‘terrorism is worse than at any point in history.’
 
How did we wind up in this train wreck?
 
The answer is harsh: We deceived ourselves.

We were never on the verge of victory.
 
And – no matter what we were promised when we invaded Iraq – there was never going to be a limited war with a quick and painless victory.
 
And after the fighting was done in Iraq we were never going to be able to quickly pack up and come home – because if we failed to lay a foundation for peace (with a successful occupation) we’d end up with… ISIS.
 
We’re also learning there’s no substitute for a leader (in the White House) who can explain the wickedness of ISIS. Politically-correct talk rationalizing beheadings (by saying they are the result of poverty or political alienation) doesn’t cut it – and neither do euphemisms (like calling ISIS simply a new kind of ‘Violent Extremism’) that infer ISIS selling infidel women as slaves has nothing to do with its peculiar version of Islam.  
 
We’ve spent over a decade learning the hard way: One mistake at a time.
 
The American people arenow (according to a new poll) ready to fight ISIS. And send troops into combat.
 
And what about the President? He says we can defeat ISIS with one more quick, painless, limited war.
 


 

 

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11
Over a decade ago some genius up in Washington – I think it may have been Donald Rumsfeld – figured we could conquer Iraq with 150,000 soldiers; that we could fight a little war with a little pain and have the troops home by Christmas – so we rolled straight into Baghdad then found out occupying a nation of 30 million people with 150,000 soldiers wasn’t such a good idea.
 
The occupation turned into a quagmire. The roof fell in. We ended up with ISIS.
 
It was the repeat of an old story: If you go to war use overwhelming force. It hurts more in the short run but pays off in the long run. You don’t get sunk by the inevitable surprises and miscalculations.
 
Now we’re facing another war and President Obama’s sent a bill to Congress – called an “Authorization to Use Military Force” – and it’s like déjà vu all over again.
 
We fought one limited war to whip Saddam and got ISIS.
 
And now we’re about to fight another to whip ISIS and Lord knows what we’ll get next.
 
There’s not much doubt we need a leader with conviction (and, maybe, meanness) to whip ISIS but even more, to avoid another quagmire, this time we need a leader with the courage to tell the hard truth – rather than promising he can get the job done with a little war with a little pain.


 

 

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09
Before any 2016 death match, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush face a death march through the media and their own parties’ chattering crowds.
 
Last week’s crisis was Clinton’s email while Secretary of State. The DC media pounced and some Democrats went into a frenzy of fretting: The Clintons are their own worst enemies! They think they’re above the rules! They can’t handle the media! Hillary can’t get her own campaign organized!
 
While the rest of us wondered: Who cares?
 
(The most interesting development was Lindsay Graham saying he has never sent an email. Really? Never? Isn’t that a Constitutional requirement to be President?)
 
Bush faces his own media/party critique: He’s too moderate! Conservatives in Iowa don’t like him! Even Republicans have Bush fatigue! His charter school in Florida failed!
 
This is all gripping chatter to those who like to chatter. But now is a good time to remind yourself that no real votes will be cast for nearly 10 months.
 
You can breathlessly follow all this all year if you want. After all, either Clinton or Bush, or other candidates, could chase a rabbit off a cliff any time.
 
Or you could save your breath. There’s a long way to go.

 

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05
This is about as good a tale of conniving as I’ve heard: I can’t remember why but forty years ago back in 1976 the state legislature moved our Presidential primary up from May to March – then the unexpected struck and Ronald Reagan whipped Gerald Ford.
 
It was the first time Reagan won a primary. And the only time a sitting President ever lost a primary. And it turned the 1976 election upside down.
 
Down in South Carolina, watching, inspiration struck Lee Atwater and, after a bit of conniving of his own, Lee got South Carolina to move its primary up so in 1980 South Carolina was the ‘first primary in the South.’
 
Atwater’s plan worked better than he ever imagined. The winner of the South Carolina’s primary has gone on to win the Republican nomination in 8 of the last 9 Presidential elections.
 
In fact, South Carolina liked its new status so much, at some point, it got together with Iowa and New Hampshire and persuaded the Republican National Committee to pass a rule saying no other state could hold a primary before March 1.
 
At the same time, after the 1976 election, the North Carolina legislature went back to business as usual – and holding primaries in May – and for the last 40 years the North Carolina’s Republican Primary hasn’t mattered a toot.
 
Which suited Democrats just fine – after all about the last thing, say, Jim Hunt wanted was a liberal like Walter Mondale or Michael Duhakis or Al Gore traipsing across the state while he was running for reelection.
 
But, then, Republicans took control of the legislature and decided we’d been sitting on the Presidential sidelines long enough and moved our primary up to the week after South Carolina’s.
 
Which seemed reasonable.
 
But, oddly, sent national Republican Chairman Reince Preibus into a tizzy – Preibus announced North Carolina would not be allowed to hold its primary before March 1 and, he added, if we tried he’d take away 60 of North Carolina’s 72 delegates to the Republican Convention.
 
Those sounded like fighting words but, rather than calling Preibus out, North Carolina’s Republican Chairman decided to strike the flag and traipsed over to the legislature to ask it to move the primary.
 
The State House played its cards pretty close to the vest and didn’t say much either way about Priebus’s edict. But Republican State Senator Bob Rucho didn’t buy it – Rucho stuck to his guns and he’s got a point.
 
It’s as easy for the National Republican Committee to change its rule as it is for us to change our law – and, after 40 years of playing second fiddle to South Carolina, it’s time to unwind this bit of political conniving.


 

 

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03
Back when ex-Sen. Lauch Faircloth was a Democrat, he’d joke: “There are two things I’ve never understood: electricity and Republicans.” Evidently, he figured out Republicans, because he became one. But some of us still struggle. Three cases in point:
 
First: Republicans fought Obamacare because they said millions of Americans would lose their health insurance. Now millions of Americans who got insurance because of Obamacare, including half a million in North Carolina, could lose their health insurance because of a Republican-driven court challenge to Obamacare. How is that good political strategy for Republicans?
 
Second: Washington Republicans want to cut off funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of protecting Americans from evil groups like ISIS, which Republicans say is the greatest threat in the world to our lives and safety. How is that good political strategy?
 
Third: Imagine this scenario. President Ted Cruz gets at odds with the leader of a long-time American ally abroad. Speaker Nancy Pelosi invites said leader to address a joint session of Congress, against the President’s wishes. Would Republicans (a) praise Pelosi for welcoming our ally or (b) accuse her of treason?
 
Maybe we should just try to figure out electricity.

 

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26
A snow-day deep-dive into current political commentary finds three things. One, Republicans are becoming more and more deranged. Two, Democrats are falling deeper and deeper into despair. And, three, it’s all about President Obama.
 
Politics has come unhinged since Election Day 2008 and the election of a black President. It just gets worse as time goes on and he stays in the White House.
 
Look at the Republicans lately. Rudy Giuliani says Obama doesn’t love him or America, which Giuliani apparently considers one and the same thing. Scott Walker isn’t sure Obama is a Christian. Bobby Jindal doesn’t think the President who ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden, drone attacks on al Qaeda and a war on ISIS is protecting us. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell want to shut down Homeland Security because they’re mad at Obama about immigration.
 
Democrats can’t or won’t see that all their problems are simply part of the reaction to Obama. Witness the DNC task force that bemoaned the 2014 election results. Its solution is this gobbledygook from Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear: “We need a cohesive, values-based narrative that quickly and succinctly defines our beliefs and helps voters identify with who we are and how we best represent them.”
 
Get a grip.
 
Democrats ought to be proud. They did something historic, remarkable and praise-worthy. After centuries of slavery and decades of discrimination, they elected the first African-American President. He and Democrats then saved us from a depression, saved the banks, saved the auto industry, gave millions of Americans affordable health care, attacked climate change, knocked down walls of discrimination, reduced the federal deficit, drew down two wars, killed the world’s number-one terrorist and got America back on track after eight years of war, waste and mismanagement.
 
Naturally, there has been a reaction. There always is. American history is two steps forward, one step back.
 
This too shall pass. Obama will be gone in two years. Then we’ll get back to more familiar turf, back to doing what we’ve done for nearly 30 years: hating the Bushes or hating the Clintons. 

 

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