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I opened the newspaper, saw the headline, and thought, Oh, Lord – in black and white right in front of me the New York Times headline roared: Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea.

Then, a moment later, further down into the article I read exactly what Donald Trump had said to the United Nations: “If the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, ‘we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.’”

The Times headline had Trump making a threat.

But what Trump had actually said was a warning – If you attack us, we will have no choice but to destroy you.

Of course, either way, boasting I will ‘totally destroy’ you wasn’t gentile southern manners but, at the same time, there was also no getting around the fact the Times twisted Trump’s words.

Which is a problem.

How we see Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump and North Korea’s nuclear missiles is based on what we read in the newspapers; it’s based on a picture the media paints and when they paint a false picture – whether it’s out of bias or blindness or greed – there’s a price to be paid, and, before all’s said and done, the New York Times pictures may turn out to be as deadly as Kim Jong Un’s missiles.

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The headline read ‘Independents Pass Republicans’ meaning there are now, for the first time, more Independents than Republicans in North Carolina – which sounded dismal. But there’s a missing piece.

When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980 voter registration in North Carolina was Democratic 71%, Republican 25%, Independent 4%.

In the last 37 years Democratic registration has dropped 32 points, Republican registration has risen 5 points, and Independent registration has risen 26 points. That sounds simple but it’s a tad misleading too: Because in the last decade Democrats and Republicans both have been dropping while Independents have been going up and up and up.

In the mean streets of the political world the math is inescapable: Democrats have been falling faster than Republicans for almost forty years but since they started at 71% they’re still ahead.

But that’s not the important question – this is: Why have voters turned their backs on both parties? The straightest road to an answer may be to ask: Who is to blame for the broken politics in Washington?

A hyper-partisan Republican will say, The Democrats, and a hyper-partisan Democrat will say, Trump and the Republicans, but more than half the Republicans, half the Democrats and most of the Independents say, Both are to blame.

How did we land in that mess?

Here’s a suggestion: Sixteen years ago, back in 2001, Osama bin Laden landed us in two wars and we’re still fighting both – we’ve failed to win either war through a Republican President, a Democratic President, and through both Republican and Democratic Congresses. America’s been at war all my children’s – and probably all your children’s – adult lives.

Is it any wonder people blame both parties?

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Trump called Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man on a suicide mission.’

Kim called Trump ‘a dotard’ and ‘mentally deranged.’

Trump called Kim ‘a madman’ and Kim called Trump ‘a frightened dog.’

The Chinese stepped in and said everybody ought to take a deep breath and calm down and, of all people, the Russians said the whole thing sounded like ‘a kindergarten fight.’ Whoever heard of the Russians being the voice of reason? But there’s no denying it: Trump and Kim were acting like a pair of teenage boys.

I wonder what would happen if both Kim and Trump, alone, just the two of them, were sent to a deserted atoll in the Pacific Ocean where, when they threaten to ‘rain fire’ on their enemies, they could only hurt each other and no one else. Would their blustering stop?  

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Bill Clinton’s old pollster Stanley Greenberg joins the pile piling onto Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Greenberg’s most striking point is the campaign’s overreliance on “data analytics” and under-reliance on polls, focus groups and good old political gut. In other words, the campaign abandoned the very same techniques that made Bill Clinton a winner in 1992 and 1996. Bill devoured polls like Big Macs.

Charging Hillary’s campaign with “malpractice and arrogance,” Greenberg writes:

“The campaign relied far too heavily on something that campaign technicians call ‘data analytics.’ This refers to the use of models built from a database of the country’s 200 million–voters, including turnout history and demographic and consumer information, updated daily by an automated poll asking for vote preference to project the election result. But when campaign developments overtake the model’s assumptions, you get surprised by the voters—and this happened repeatedly.

“Astonishingly, the 2016 Clinton campaign conducted no state polls in the final three weeks of the general election and relied primarily on data analytics to project turnout and the state vote. They paid little attention to qualitative focus groups or feedback from the field, and their brief daily analytics poll didn’t measure which candidate was defining the election or getting people engaged.”

Hold the mayo! No state polls in the final three weeks? Do you see any connection with losing four battleground states by less than one point?

It’s easy to say, glibly: “I don’t trust polls.” There are plenty of bad polls and wrong polls. But you can’t beat a good poll for giving you an understanding of how people see an election, the candidates and the issues. Data analytics can tell you a lot about voters, but it can miss a lot. Obviously. Hillary’s campaign missed a lot.

Greenberg also writes about the now-legendary white working-class voters:

“Clinton and the campaign acted as if ‘demographics is destiny’ and that a ‘rainbow coalition’ was bound to govern. Yes, there is a growing ‘Rising American Electorate,’ but…you must give people a compelling reason to vote and I have demonstrated for my entire career that a candidate must target white working-class voters too.”

Greenberg says Democrats and progressives now need to ask:

“What is the role of the working class and white working class? How do you build off of anger toward an economy that fails the middle class, but still align with professionals, innovators, and metropolitan areas? How do you credibly battle corporate influence and corrupted politics? Can you simultaneously advance identity and class politics?”

If Democrats don’t solve those puzzles, they won’t seize the openings offered by Trump, Washington Republicans and the coming GOP civil war.

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When a politician takes a poll most folks figure he means to figure out how he can bamboozle people and there’s truth in that but a poll’s also a picture of the powers – like fear, revenge, blindness and rage – shaking the political world and even through a poll won’t show you angels and demons you might spot their tracks buried in the pages of statistics.

One poll – taken not long after protestors in Durham tore down a Confederate statue – asked, ‘Do you want to take down Confederate statues or leave them up?’ and by a margin of two to one people said, ‘leave them up.’ The Democratic Party’s base was the only exception.

Which meant, without knowing it, and probably without caring a toot one way or the other, the protestors in Durham had landed Roy Cooper in a crossfire: Roy’s base wanted Confederate statues taken down but the Ticket Splitters wanted to leave them up – so Roy needed a third solution and he amicably proposed one: Move them. Then he asked the Historical Commission to move three Confederate statues off the Capital grounds to a battlefield in Johnston County and my guess is that would simply have made both sides mad but, whatever might have happened, it didn’t matter as soon as Phil Berger weighed in.

Phil pointedly explained to Roy why the Historical Commission didn’t have the legal power to move those statues then asked Roy a blunt question: If you think Confederate statues are symbols of racism, why did you decide to leave up statues of a Democratic Governor who was a white supremacist, a Democratic Governor who served in the Confederate Army, and a statue of Democrat Andrew Jackson (who was no friend to minorities)?

He put Roy in a box: The Ticket Splitters already disagreed with Roy and as soon as the Democratic base, the only group who did agree with him, found out he was leaving up statues of Charles Aycock and Zeb Vance they were going to come knocking on his door.  

It was like watching a chess match. Roy moved. Phil moved. And when Phil set down his chess piece Roy was in danger of getting shot from both sides.

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It’s the crossfire dozens of Republican Senators and Congressmen are facing – it happened to a Congresswoman in Alabama like this: The Republican State Legislator challenging her in the primary said, ‘It’s a choice between me, the first guy to endorse Trump, or a Congresswoman who said Trump was unfit to serve’ and make no mistake: That bite has teeth. The Republicans who vote in Primaries like Trump a lot more than they like Washington Republicans.

That’s one jaw of the trap. The other is Independents. They don’t like Trump and, when a Congressman sides with Trump, he risks losing their votes and losing to a Democrat in the General Election.

One Congressman in South Carolina explained his dilemma this way: He said, I’ve got a Republican challenger who says I don’t vote with Trump enough and a Democratic challenger who says I vote with him too often.

That’s being caught in the crossfire.  

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Down in Alabama there’s an election – a Republican runoff – today and the Washington Republicans led by Mitch McConnell have moved heaven and earth to elect Luther Strange (who was appointed to Jeff Session’s Senate seat) while the Anti-Establishment-Trump-Populist Republicans (from Steve Bannon to Sean Hannity) want to elect Judge Roy Moore but there’s a twist in the story: Donald Trump is for the Establishment candidate.

Last Friday night Trump was in Alabama campaigning for ‘Big Luther’ Strange and it was pure Trump: He praised ‘Big Luther’ almost as much as he praised himself then trying the oldest trick in the book he said ‘Big Luther’ was a sure bet to win the General Election but he wasn’t so sure about Roy Moore.

The Swamp’s for Strange. Trump’s folks are against Strange. And Trump’s with the Swamp.

How do you figure that?

It gets even odder: Trump’s base doesn’t seem to care what Trump says – they voted against Luther Strange in the Primary and Roy Moore is now leading Strange in the Run-Off.

Last Friday night Trump climbed out on the end of a limb so today, down in Alabama, is his base going to salute and say, Yes, Sir, and vote against Roy Moore or is it going to saw the limb off behind Trump? And if it does what does it mean? By midnight we’ll know how the answer to the first question. The second question, well, we’ll have to wait awhile to see the answer.

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Last night’s installment of Ken Burns’s “The Vietnam War” recalled how divided our country was 50 years ago.

Today we’re just as divided. Thanks to Trump.

Apparently, the Divider-in-Chief doesn’t have enough on his plate with North Korea, Russia, Obamacare and hurricane relief. So he goes to Alabama and (surprise!) attacks athletes who happen to be black and who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police shootings.

Hand it to Colin Kaepernick. However good he is at quarterback, he’s a master at starting a national conversation.

Except we can’t have a conversation. We have to attack, demonize and destroy each other if we disagree.

Thanks Trump.

This is the worst thing about him. It’s not just that he pits black against white, Democrat against Republican, Trump voter against Clinton voter, Tea Party Republican against Establishment Republican, NFL and NBA against NASCAR.

It’s that – always, always – he pits the worst in human nature against the best in human nature, against what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

You see this in how some CEOs, politicians and maybe your family members seem emboldened by Trump to derogate and denigrate anybody they disagree with or don’t like. It’s open season. Be like Trump!

When Carter and I spoke at Quail Ridge Books a few weeks back, the question came up repeatedly: What happened to civility? Well, the man with the biggest microphone in America and 38.8 million Twitter followers has declared war on civility. 

The Vietnam series reminds us that it’s happened before. In 1968, Nixon got elected by setting black against white (the Southern Strategy), hard-hats against long-hairs, and his so-called Silent Majority against his Enemies List.

How did that work out? You could look it up.

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Stop saying Trump should stop Tweeting. Why should he? It works for him. He has 38.8 million Twitter followers, and he can talk directly to them.

That’s real communication power.

Instead of whining, Democrats need to get tweeting better. And there’s no better role model than 91-year-old former congressman John Dingell of Michigan.

Mashable wrote than Dingell, “has been quick, witty, and on fire with his 140 characters for years. Despite his age, he knows how to use the tweet machine the way it was intended: biting commentary, playful retweets, and insightful and smart reactions. Time and again he’s shown he’s mastered Twitter.”

After Charlottesville, Dingell tweeted:

“I signed up to fight Nazis 73 years ago and I’ll do it again if I have to. Hatred, bigotry, & fascism should have no place in this country.”

On Russia:

“Flynn lied about Russia.
“Kushner lied about Russia.
“Sessions lied about Russia.
“Trump Jr. lied about Russia.
“Trump is lying about Russia.”

Dingell has been doing it for years. 2014:

“Staff has now informed me of what a Kardashian is. I’m only left with more questions.”

I have one quibble with the Mashable article. The headline says: “91-year-old former congressman shows millennials how to tweet about Trump.”

Why millennials? What about the rest of us? Especially us aspiring geezers. And especially Democrats who want to run against Trump in 2020.

If you can’t tweet well, you can’t communicate in today’s world, and you have no business running for President.

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We need a break from politics. So today’s blog comes from our dog Ringo. It’s the first in a series of Doggy Bag restaurant reviews for dogs and their owners.

Sometimes I go out to eat with my people. (Note to Gary: dogs, like divas and big-time CEOs, have “people.” Not “owners.”)

This week, we visited the Char-Grill on Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh. My people have been Char-Grill fans for decades. Back then, Broughton and Saint Mary’s students hung out at the original Hillsborough Street location. Today, happily, there are many locations.

The highlight(s) of my visit were the French fries. They are fat and juicy, even though I tended to end up with the little, crispy dregs. Doggonit!

From the too-small portion I got, the signature char-grilled burgers are top of the line.

(Note: I never get enough to eat. That apparently is a trait of Labs. My mother was a Lab. Papa was a rolling stone. I’m a rescue mutt.)

My people enjoyed what appeared to be excessively large and thick milk shakes. They didn’t share with me – something to do with my digestive system, best I understood the conversation.

The outdoor seating at Char-Grill – a must for us dogs – is adequate. Unlike some fine establishments, there are no water bowls for dogs. And the other diners weren’t interested in sharing their meals with me. Bad people!

But the table height was conducive to foraging for ground scraps.

Ringo’s Rating for Char-Grill on Edwards Mill Road: Three Paws Up.

Only one reason it didn’t get the coveted Four Paws Up: No alcohol. I don’t partake, of course, but when my people do, they stay longer and I get fed more. Also, more people stop to pet me.

That’s all for now, doggy friends. Keep begging! They’ll give in.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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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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