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03
When the media covers a scandal involving a politician, the coverage can be as big an issue as the politician. Take two stories this week – one national and one in-state.
 
The state Senate race in Fayetteville between incumbent Wesley Meredith and challenger Billy Richardson blew up over allegations that Meredith and his ex-wife fraudulently obtained government welfare benefits for their son 18 years ago.
 
The national story goes back 26 years to the sex scandal that sank Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
 
The common thread is how the media did or didn’t cover the scandals – and what the media should and shouldn’t do.
 
Documents involving Meredith were “shopped around” – as several stories said – for a couple of weeks. But no newspaper or TV station bit. Then Richardson held a press conference, released the documents and called on Meredith to explain. Even then, at least one newspaper was still debating late in the day whether to run the story. It did.
 
The national story is over how in 1988 the Miami Herald staked out Hart’s townhouse in Washington after getting a tip that Hart was having a tryst with a young woman. Matt Bai wrote in The New York Times recently that the story marked the point in time when the mainstream political media went tabloid – and changed political coverage forever, for better or worse.
 
At Politico today, Tom Fiedler, the then-Herald reporter who confronted Hart and wrote the original story, defended it. At issue, Fiedler wrote, is “the existential question of the news media’s role in a presidential campaign. Simply put, what exactly does the public expect the news media to do? I think the voting public expects the news media to provide them with the factual information they need to cast an informed ballot.
 
“That factual information can mean different things for different voters. Some voters might want the media to report a candidate’s positions on the economy, abortion, civil rights, immigration, gun safety and so on. They care little about the candidate’s personal beliefs or behavior. But some voters—indeed, the great majority of voters—are more interested in who the candidate is. This is the much-discussed character issue. It goes to the essence of the candidate; it’s about authenticity, empathy, integrity, fairness and more. Issues change, and with them the candidate’s positions. But character doesn’t change, at least not much. For a journalist to withhold information that more fully reveals the character of a candidate would, in my opinion, be a sin of omission.”

Here, Senator Meredith has relied so far on the time-honored, knee-jerk political response – Richardson is smearing him, the allegations are beneath him and he doesn’t have to explain anything.
 
Wrong.
 
As Carter said in today’s Fayetteville Observer, "You can't shuffle it under the rug.”
 
And reporters and editors in North Carolina – no less than the national media – will have to decide whether to be the rug or the window. 

 

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02
How toxic is the Republican brand in Wake County? Just listen to Republican politicians.
 
Gary Pendleton (House 49) boasts of his “Democrat (sic) friends.” (Note: Democrats hate it when Republicans use “Democrat” as an adjective. It’s “Democratic.”)
 
Tom Murry (House 41) says he’s “independent” and “stood up to his own party.”
 
You have to listen to John Alexander’s (Senate 15) wife, because he stands mute in his TV ad. She says, “I’m a Democrat; he’s not.” (“Don’t even say that word!!”)
 
It appears that familiarity with the legislature has bred contempt.
 
Then there is this from Gerry Cohen (@gercohen on Twitter), the respected retired legislative counsel:
 
“Something is afoot in Wake County. Comparing the 3 month July through September period, 2010 saw 8,585 new voters, by party Democratic 33.9%, Republican 26.2%, Unaffiliated 38.8%, Libertarian 1.1%.
 
“2014 has seen 15,344 new voters (a 78% increase from 2010), by party Democratic 30.8%, Republican 18.0%, Unaffiliated 50.3%, Libertarian 0.9%. The 18% GOP number for 2014 resembles an Orange or Durham County statistic.
 
“In 2010, Blacks made up 19.3% of the new voters during that period, this year it is 25.0%.”

 

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01
Yes, there’s still five weeks to go. Yes, anything can happen. But the story of this race is likely to be that Thom Tillis lost it when he stayed Speaker in this year’s legislative session.
 
Apparently Tillis stayed on so he could raise money. But he didn’t, and he’s at a big financial disadvantage now. A lot of donors weren’t sure it was legal to give during the session.
 
The session spread more legislative poison on Tillis. The Republican War on Teachers is dragging down every one of their candidates, especially Tillis. And Senator Hagan was smart enough and aggressive enough to wrap it around his neck early.
 
Nobody believes there was a 7 percent pay raise, least of all teachers.
 
Give Hagan and her team credit. They raised a lot of money, and they painted Tillis into a corner he can’t seem to escape. And how they have hundreds of well-trained, well-organized field staffers working across the state.
 
Final lesson: Democrats can play the independent expenditure game just as well as Republicans. Republicans are learning that there are some rich – and angry – Democrats. 

 

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29
A party that denies citizens their constitutional right to vote is a party that deserves to lose. That’s the Republican Party today.
 
The party of Lincoln and TR has become the party of Block the Vote: Voter-suppression laws. Cutting back early voting. No same-day voter registration. Elections boards that twist the laws to suit partisan purposes. And now a deliberate effort to confuse voters about their registration.
 
Republicans claim they’re protecting us from voter fraud. But it looks like Republicans are the ones guilty of voter fraud.
 
That latest outrage comes from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Koch-funded ruling wing of the North Carolina Republican Party. The N&O reported: “Hundreds of North Carolinians - and one cat - have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the NC State Board of Elections.”
 
One of the most shameful chapters of North Carolina history was the Democratic Party’s violent suppression of black votes at the turn of the 20th Century. That still lives in infamy today. How long will the Republican Party carry this shame?

 

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26
Maybe Thom Tillis should give Civitas’ pollster math lessons.
 
Thursday morning, Civitas put out this release: “Democrat Tom Bradshaw leads Republican John Alexander by 16 percentage points in the NC Senate District 15 race, according to a new Civitas Flash Poll….” The poll, conducted last Monday and Tuesday, showed Bradshaw ahead 52-36 percent.
 
A few hours later, Civitas put out what it called “a corrected version of today’s flash poll on the candidates in NC Senate District 15.” It showed Bradshaw ahead by 10 points, 46-36.
 
I haven’t checked this morning. Maybe they have Tom behind by now.
 
One suspects the “correction” came after Civitas got an angry call from the Republican Senate campaign committee: Fix this – or else.
 
For the record, I’m working for Tom Bradshaw’s campaign. He’s a friend of 40-plus years and one of the finest people and leaders I’ve ever known.
 
Also for the record, we pay no attention to Civitas’ numbers. It’s probably a setup, anyway, so they can claim in a couple of weeks that Alexander “is closing the gap” or “has drawn dead even.”
 
There’s only one Civitas number I’m sure of: their credibility. It’s zero.

 

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25
Give Governor McCrory credit for proposing something big and bold, a $1 billion transportation bond issue. It sounds like a stimulus program, but that would be the kiss of death in the Republican legislature. He may find himself needing some Democratic allies.
 
He and Secretary Tata will have to answer a lot of questions: how to pay for it, can the state afford it and, of course, why these specific projects?
 
Like every Governor, McCrory promised to take politics out of transportation decisions. Here’s the definition of “politics”: a road somebody else wants. And the definition of “real need”: a road you want.
 
Speaking of needs, why was there no mention of I-95? It’s the most congested, dangerous major road in the state.
 
How can the state seriously pursue a large auto manufacturer without upgrading I-95? The first thing a big plant like that needs, especially if it’s near Rocky Mount, is access up and down the East Coast.
 
Let’s get on with it. Start your engines, warm up the road graders and load up the dump trucks.

 

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24
To Ronald Reagan, it was always “morning in America.” To John Hood, it has always been “midnight in North Carolina.”
 
There’s nothing special about North Carolina, Hood argues. Our “exceptionalism” is a myth.
 
Therein lies the difference between Reagan’s sunny conservatism of the 1980s and Hood’s dark depictions now. And the N&O’s Rob Christensen, whose Twitter handle is “@oldpolhack,” eviscerates Hood’s rewrite of history in his column today.
 
Christensen writes: “Hood seeks to frame the debate as between ‘constructive conservatives’ and ‘the left,’ as if we were living in California and not North Carolina. North Carolina ranked 45th in the country in state government per capita spending growth in the years between 2001-2011, according to a study released last year by the conservative Tax Foundation. Some left. North Carolina has been governed by moderates, both Democrats and Republicans, until the current experiment to make the Tar Heel State a national laboratory for libertarian conservatism. Hood finishes his column by saying, ‘When it comes to economic history, let’s stick to nonfiction.’ Hear, hear.”
 
Hear, hear indeed.
 
An interesting sidelight here is how Rob, now that he’s a twice-weekly columnist instead of a daily reporter/analyst, is becoming more comfortable moving beyond straight reporting and into deeper analysis. For decades, Rob carefully muted whatever political views he has. I have no idea what they are, and I pride myself on being able to sniff out people’s politics at a thousand paces.
 
How many times have Democratic operatives grumbled: “That damn Christensen. You can tell he’s a Republican.” Well, no, I couldn’t tell. But I could tell he was a damn good reporter.
 
And he’s becoming a damn keen commentator.

 

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24
The other day our top General went over to the Senate and said turning the Iraqi army into a real fighting force may not be possible ;--then he said no one knows who the ‘moderate’ Syrian Rebels will attack once they’re armed – they might attack ISIS or might attack Bashar Assad and, regardless of who they attack, arming just 5000 ‘moderate’ Syrians (as the President proposes) isn’t going to be nearly enough to whip anyone.
 
Meanwhile the same day, over in Iraq, the success of our bombing campaign was limited to blowing up a truck, an artillery piece, and two small boats on the Euphrates River.
 
This is an odd – but familiar – picture.
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like we may be getting into another ‘political’ war: If the President does nothing he gets pilloried but if he does what it takes to destroy ISIS (by putting boots on the ground) he gets run out of town on a rail – so he’s sailing down the middle ground uneasily doing what’s popular and avoiding what’s unpopular which may come back to haunt him – like it has other Presidents.

 

 

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23
My late father was a dyed-in-the-wool Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat. He liked to tell this story about why.
 
Jim had a lot of reasons to admire Roosevelt: His family was hit hard by the Depression, and FDR gave them and families like them help and hope. He passed Social Security to keep older people out of poverty. He started the Manhattan Project, which led to Harry Truman dropping the bomb, which Jim always said saved his life, because otherwise he would have been in the invasion of Japan.
 
But it was more than that.
 
Jim was born in 1927. When he started first grade at Ahoskie, N.C., elementary school, there was a picture on the wall of the President. It was Franklin Roosevelt. The year Jim graduated from high school, there was still a picture on the wall of the President. It was still FDR.
 
When that picture stays on the wall through 12 years of school, through a Depression and a World War, I guess it stays with you.

 

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23

Two things happened the other day: One nasty. The other confounding.
 
First ISIS posted a video on the Internet telling President Obama (in no uncertain terms) to watch out – it is going to target every American soldier he sends to Iraq.
 
Second, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, our top General, added a new wrinkle to the meaning of the words ‘no boots on the ground’ – telling Congress it may just turn out, one of these days, that he might recommend American soldiers join Iraqi troops in “attacks.”  That wouldn’t, he added , mean GI’s would be in combat. Instead, they’d simply be “close combat advisors.”
 
Now think about that.
 
It’s a pretty bad thing to send a soldier into combat alongside a brigade of his buddies – who’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
 
But it’s a lot worse thing to send him into combat with a brigade of Iraqis – when that happens a ‘close combat advisor’ could wind up alone in a foxhole with no buddies in sight.

 

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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