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09

“We’re with Trump,” he said after Tuesday’s elections.

Indeed you are. 

So is every Republican on the ballot next year. They’re lashed to Trump like Ahab to the whale. If they cross Trump, they lose a primary. If they’re with him, they lose the kind of suburban voters who made Tuesday a rout. 

Now, Democrats can be forgiven for dancing in the end zone this week. The results were as pleasant a surprise as Trump’s win a year ago was a sickening shock. 

But let’s not get carried away. Virginia, New Jersey, Maine and Washington state aren’t exactly a representative sample. 

New Jersey just had eight years of Chris Christie. He was Trump before Trump: belligerent, loud and just plain mean. The act got old, like Trump’s already has.

Virginia is now a solid blue state, thanks to the growth of the DC suburbs and college-educated whites. Hillary won Virginia by 5.  Northam won by 9. That’s a 4-point bump, enough to nearly flip the state House there.

North Carolina may be headed the same way, given the growth in cities and the decline of small towns and rural areas. But we’re a lot bigger than Virginia, and we haven’t reached that demographic tipping point. Yet. And Republicans are doing all they can to stop that college-educated thing.

A 4-point swing would be nice in North Carolina, enough to break the supermajority, but not flip either house. It would jeopardize George Holding and Robert Pittenger (if he survives the primary.) Hillary would have been even with Trump, and Cooper would have won by 4.

(Now we wish we’d had special legislative elections here this year. The next year would have been a lot different.) 

A couple of things worth noting from Virginia:

– Health care was a big issue. And the one thing voters knew about Northam was that he’s a doctor.

– Voters under 30 went for Northam by 40 points. These are voters who’ve known only two Presidents – Obama and Trump. 

So my email is full of messages from Democrats celebrating Tuesday. They see a toxic stew brewing for  the GOP – rejection of Trump and Trumpism and a backlash against racism and bigotry, stirred in with a Republican agenda that takes away health care and raises taxes, and, in Raleigh, a level of greed, power-grabbing and corruption never seen before. 

That’s three juicy targets to pick from: Trump, Republican policies and Republican corruption.

But Democrats have our own problems. The Hillary-Bernie fight goes on. The centrist-leftist fight goes on. As the Raleigh mayor’s race showed, racial tensions smolder.

It’s like I told Carter about a possible Democratic wave in 2018.  “Don’t worry.  We’ve got a whole year to screw it up. And we’ve got some of our best people working on it.”

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08

The NAACP called him ignorant. So did the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Professors from Harvard, Yale and Columbia called him blind and strange. The Washington Post attacked him. And so did CNN. On Social Media he was also called provocative, dangerous and depressing.

It all started when a church in Alexandria, Virginia decided to take down two plaques commemorating George Washington and Robert E. Lee – then a Fox News reporter asked John Kelly what he thought of Lee: General Kelly said Lee was “an honorable man” and added “men and women of good faith” fought in both sides during the Civil War.

And that started the howl.

But back in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt called Robert E. Lee “one of our greatest American Christians.” Teddy Roosevelt also praised Lee. And so did Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (who hung Lee’s portrait in the Oval Office), Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

And what about George Washington? Well, he was the man who, after the revolution, refused to be made king.  

The howl’s a peculiar thing: It tells you Republicans are evil, Democrats are evil, and Trump is evil. It tells you Washington, Lee, Francis Scott Key, Columbus and General John Kelly are all vile – and, worst of all, the howl breeds blindness: Blindness when we look at where we came from, blindness about where we are, and blindness when we try to see where we are going.

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07

The NAACP called him ignorant. So did the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Professors from Harvard, Yale and Columbia called him blind and strange. The Washington Post attacked him. And so did CNN. On Social Media he was also called provocative, dangerous and depressing.

It all started when a church in Alexandria, Virginia decided to take down two plaques commemorating George Washington and Robert E. Lee – then a Fox News reporter asked John Kelly what he thought of Lee: General Kelly said Lee was “an honorable man” and added “men and women of good faith” fought in both sides during the Civil War.

And that started the howl.

But back in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt called Robert E. Lee “one of our greatest American Christians.” Teddy Roosevelt also praised Lee. And so did Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (who hung Lee’s portrait in the Oval Office), Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

And what about George Washington? Well, he was the man who, after the revolution, refused to be made king.  

The howl’s a peculiar thing: It tells you Republicans are evil, Democrats are evil, and Trump is evil. It tells you Washington, Lee, Francis Scott Key, Columbus and General John Kelly are all vile – and, worst of all, the howl breeds blindness: Blindness when we look at where we came from, blindness about where we are, and blindness when we try to see where we are going.

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03

You need a break from Trump, Trump, Trump. So dive into this great (and long) read about what happened to Congress, Washington and the Republican Party over the last 25 years – told through the (famously weepy) eyes of former Speaker John Boehner: “John Boehner Unchained: The former House speaker feels liberated—but he’s also seething about what happened to his party” by Tim Alberta in Politico.

From the time Boehner was elected to Congress in 1990, he went from being a right-wing, Democrat-baiting, bomb-throwing devil incarnate to a likeable, chain-smoking, wine-drinking guy you could do a deal with if it weren’t for the hateful, flame-throwing, barn-burning Tea Partiers who took over the GOP. And then came Trump.

You know things are bad when Democrats miss Boehner and Bush.

Alberta writes:

“To outsiders, Boehner might just be the happiest man alive, a liberated retiree who spends his days swirling merlot and cackling at Speaker Paul Ryan’s misfortune. The truth is more complicated. At 67, Boehner is liberated—to say what he spent many years trying not to say; to smoke his two packs a day without undue stress; to chuckle at the latest crisis in Washington and whisper to himself those three magic words: “Not my problem.” And yet he is struggling—with the lingering perception that he was run out of Congress; with his alarm about the country’s future; and with the question of what he’s supposed to do next.”

The story is based on 18 hours that Alberta spent with Boehner, talking, playing golf, towel-snapping with his buddies and, yes, drinking red wine. North Carolinians mentioned include Boehner’s long-time buddy Richard Burr, Patrick McHenry (Boehner says, “McHenry’s going to be the speaker one day”) and Mark Meadows (Boehner says, “He’s an idiot”).

Boehner holds nothing back, pegging a few of his ex-caucus members as “terrorists” and “assholes” as he lights up another Camel. But the story isn’t all name-calling and score-settling:

“…(T)he story of Boehner’s 25 years in Washington is also the story of the Republican Party, the Congress and American politics in the post-Ronald Reagan era: an account of corruption and crusading, enormous promises and underwhelming results, growing ideological polarization and declining faith in government. The same centrifugal forces that made Boehner’s job impossible have bedeviled his successor, Ryan, and kept the GOP majorities in Congress from passing any landmark legislation in 2017. Now, as the revolutionary fervor that swept Boehner into the speakership degenerates into a fratricidal conflict centered around Trump, the former speaker’s frontline view of the Republican civil war is essential to understanding what went wrong.”

Alberta tells the story well. Enjoy.

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01

Monday’s indictments brought to mind the predictions a wise lawyer made this summer about the Trump-Russia investigation.

First, he predicted, Mueller would investigate the people around Trump. If he found possible crimes, he would indict them and offer them a choice: Help the investigation or go to prison. (Twenty years for Manafort.)

Then, the lawyer predicted, we’ll find out how much loyalty these people feel to Trump. Will they protect him, or will they sing?

Loyalty is a two-way street. We know how much loyalty Trump shows to the people around him. Like the “low-level volunteer” (Trump’s description) who has been cooperating with the investigation for months. Last year, Trump identified the same guy as one of five foreign-policy experts advising him. “Excellent guy,” Trump said then.

How much loyalty does that guy feel now?

To sum up the story so far, here’s a great analysis of Monday’s indictments from Lawfare:

“The first big takeaway…: The president of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.

“The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to “arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials” and to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some of them.”

Stay tuned.

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30

Two questions arise now that Manafort and an associate have been charged.

Will Trump go full Nixon and fire Mueller?

If so, will the Republican Congress stand up for the rule of law?

All eyes on Burr and Tillis.

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26

Jeff Flake said it’s time to stand up. Then he said he’ll step down.

Bob Corker stood up to Trump, but he’s also stepping down.

George W. Bush gave an eloquent speech. But W, Poppy and Low-Energy Jeb are history.

John McCain gave a great speech. But he has nothing to lose.

For all the fine speeches and tough talk, one thing is clear: Trump has completed the hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

Republicans are too cowed by Trump and Steve Bannon to stand up and speak up. That, or they’ll overlook anything in hopes of enacting their agenda: screwing most Americans and rewarding the super-rich.

Flake drew a parallel between Trump and Joe McCarthy. It was Boston lawyer Joseph Welch who took down McCarthy on national television: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness….Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

No, Trump doesn’t. His mentor and role model is McCarthy’s sidekick Roy Cohn, who taught Trump to never apologize, never back down, and attack, attack, attack. 

The Republican Party has surrendered to Trump. Come the 2018 mid-terms, Republicans will sink or swim with him.

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26

The aging UNC professor who met Miss Bikini World on the Internet then flew to Bolivia to meet her in the flesh but, instead, came face to face with a man standing in front of his hotel in La Paz holding an empty suitcase who said, ‘She left this. Take it to her in Buenos Aires. She’ll meet you there’ – is back in the newspapers.  

After the professor landed in Buenos Aires the police found four pounds of cocaine in the lining of the suitcase and, after that, he landed in an Argentinian prison.

Meantime, back in Chapel Hill, the Deans, concluding the professor couldn’t very well teach his classes form a prison in South America, suspended his pay; then the professor, after telling the Deans teaching his class from prison wasn’t going to be a problem, sued the University.

The verdict was peculiar: The judge didn’t show much empathy for the professor’s pursuit of Miss Bikini World but explained the way he saw it, after reading the law, UNC had violated its own policies when it came to paying tenured professors: He then ordered UNC to pay Paul Frampton $263,000 which has to leave you shaking your head wondering who on earth could have written a policy that said a tenured professor could go on getting paid while he was in prison for drug smuggling.

Anyhow, the University paid Frampton, regrouped, fired him outright, but now he’s out of jail, demanding his tenure back.

Which leads to a second tale: At the professor’s trial the prosecutor produced a series of text messages the professor had sent Miss Bikini World which, the prosecutor told the jury, proved Professor Frampton knew that suitcase was full of cocaine. Back then, the professor admitted he’d written the texts – but he told the New York Times they were just jokes he’d sent to his ‘loved one’ to amuse her.

Now the Professor’s changed his story: He says he didn’t write a single one of those texts – that the prosecutor wrote them to frame him. And what’s more, he says, he can prove it. How? He explained to the newspaper he’d paid a scientist in London called a ‘forensic linguist’ and the scientist has no doubt those texts were written by someone who speaks Spanish.

So how does this chapter end?

Today Professor Paul Frampton is teaching at a university in Italy – while arguing a university in North Carolina (that paid him $263,000 while he was in prison) has a ‘moral obligation’ to give him back his tenure.

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25

So Bob Corker fired a broadside at Trump calling the White House an “adult day care center” and Trump fired back at Corker calling him ‘Liddle Bob Corker’ but that wasn’t unusual – this was: Next President Trump claimed Corker had begged to endorse him for reelection and, when Trump told him no, Corker had high-tailed it out of the race.

But Corker told a different story: He claimed Trump had not only asked him to run for reelection but had also, repeatedly, promised to endorse him if he did.

So, somebody’s lyin.’ But who? And what’s the harm?  

A Senator telling tales about a President can create do a lot of mischief. Fake news stories. Mean tweets. Fodder for click factories.  

But a President telling tales can be worse: The President’s the keeper of the public trust – when Americans don’t see eye to eye with a President it leads to spats and grumpiness but democracy stumbles along as long as the public trust is intact. But when a President loses the public trust – as Nixon did – every time he opens his mouth people think he’s trying to hoodwink them. And the ship of state sinks like the Titanic.  

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24

Gene Nichol, who’s the former Dean of the UNC Law School, and who may be the most politically correct man in North Carolina, tore into the new UNC Board of Governors saying right wing politics is taking over the university and the Board is to blame.  

It’s difficult to tell whether Dean Nichol’s broadside was a political eruption or an old-fashioned case of paranoia but, either way, it doesn’t seem likely UNC is on the verge of turning into a bastion of conservatism.

The bruhaha – that lit Dean Nichol up – began when students at Chapel Hill, protesting, demanded ‘Silent Sam’ be taken down; then the professors, miming the students, chimed in the statue should have been taken down long ago; and, next, University President Margaret Spellings and Chancellor Carol Folt, with the Boards’ blessing, wrote Governor Cooper asking him for help so they could take down the statue.

Then, unexpectedly, the wind changed – a new member of the Board, Tom Fetzer, circulated a letter saying President Spellings and Chancellor Folt had made a big mistake – and a majority of the Board co-signed Fetzer’s letter.

The Board members then introduced three more motions – one to cut tuition, another to cut President Spellings’ staff, and a third to move the UNC Board out of Chapel Hill – and all three passed.

And then Dean Nichol lifted his pen and let-fly in the News and Observer.  

But, for just this once, politics may not be the villain: Over in Chapel Hill diversity is like a sacred grail but, on the other hand, when it comes to ideas they don’t like Chancellor Folt and Company are not very diverse at all. Complicating the problem, over the years, Chapel Hill has become like an island isolated from its neighbors – surrounded by impenetrable ivy walls the Deans and professors have evolved into a kind of elite so out of touch that the common working man, scratching his chin, watching their protests, thinks, ‘Ole Roy and the basketball team are okay but I’ve got doubts about the rest of those folks.’

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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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