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Judging from his HB2 emails, Pat McCrory would fit in fine with Trump. He’s thin-skinned, obsessed with how the media treats him and always whining about unfair coverage.

Now, let’s be fair. All politicians obsess about how the media reports on them.

But here’s what separates leaders from politicians: Leaders learn.

Instead of constantly complaining, McCrory might have read all those stories and thought: Hmmm, HB2 is hurting North Carolina. It’s embarrassing the state. It’s costing us jobs and businesses. Maybe I ought to say it needs to be changed, or revisited, or amended, or something.

The emails make clear McCrory had doubts about HB2 from the start. He feared the legislature would go too far. And it did.

But he didn’t have the backbone to stand up publicly and say what he thought. He signed the bill. Then, when the backlash started, he got his back up. He doubled down. He attacked HB2 opponents in the nastiest, most personal way. He made himself the HB2 poster boy.

Except for that thin skin and thick head, McCrory now would be beginning his second term as Governor.


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When Democrats look at Trump’s immigration ban, they see chaos, cruelty, carnage, confusion and controversy. Not to mention a lack of planning, a lack of coordination and even cause for impeachment.

Steve Bannon sees things working out just like he planned.

Bannon is Trump’s brain. Where Trump is impulsive, Bannon is strategic. Where Trump reacts to the last thing he saw on TV, Bannon has a master plan for the first 100 days. Where Trump doesn’t read books, Bannon reads a lot.

Bannon has an expansive world view that drives how he uses his power and position in the White House. It’s illuminated in a transcript of his Skyped remarks to a conference held at the Vatican in the summer of 2014, obtained by Buzzfeed.

It’s a long read, but it reveals the brain that feeds Trump.

Bannon’s remarks made clear the motive behind the immigration ban.

“…(W)e are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it….I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam….”

He made clear why the inaugural speech he wrote for Trump takes on all Washington politicians:

“The tea party in the United States’ biggest fight is with the Republican establishment, which is really a collection of crony capitalists….”

Bannon says “there is a global tea party movement” driven by “a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West in our beliefs… a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.”

He bemoaned the “immense secularization of the West.” He defined Breitbart News and the Tea Party as “the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement….”

At times, Bannon sounded like Bernie Sanders:

“The 2008 crisis, I think the financial crisis — which, by the way, I don’t think we’ve come through — is really driven I believe by the greed, much of it driven by the greed of the investment banks.

“…(N)ot one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis. And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken. So part of the prime drivers of the wealth that they took in the 15 years leading up to the crisis was not hit at all, and I think that’s one of the fuels of this populist revolt….”

He had this assessment of Vladimir Putin:

“I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents….However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”

All this brings to mind previous political operatives who saw themselves as big, global, civilization-transforming thinkers. See Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove.

Nevertheless, Democrats underestimated Bannon once. When he took the helm of Trump’s campaign last summer, nobody thought they could win.

Democrats need to do more than fuss and fume. They need to figure out how to beat Bannon.


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Fearless and unfettered by creeds, mocking his foes, he tweeted New Year’s greetings to “my many enemies who have fought me and lost so badly.”

His vanity boundless he loves talking about himself, boasting, ‘Great meeting…packed house…long standing ovations.’

When he speaks one man sees a Deliverer while another sees a devil; one roars he’s the champion of the forgotten man and the other howls he’s lying through his teeth while a third man, watching for the next piece of the puzzle to fall into place, wonders where his country will be when it ends.

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Mention Jerry Brown, and people are apt to laugh and say, “Governor Moonbeam” or “flake” or the like.


Today, Brown is serving his fourth term as California’s Governor. He restored his state to fiscal sanity. He made it a climate-change leader.

He has emerged as a wise elder and truth-teller.

And never more so than in his State of the State speech last week. While Democratic politicians in Washington fumble and stumble to respond to Trump, Brown summoned the clearest thinking and strongest words.

Some highlights:

(T)his morning it is hard for me to keep my thoughts just on California. The recent election and inauguration of a new President have shown deep divisions across America.

While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. We have seen the bald assertion of “alternative facts.” We have heard the blatant attacks on science. Familiar signposts of our democracy – truth, civility, working together – have been obscured or swept aside.

But on Saturday, in cities across the country, we also witnessed a vast and inspiring fervor that is stirring in the land. Democracy doesn’t come from the top; it starts and spreads in the hearts of the people. And in the hearts of Americans, our core principles are as strong as ever.

So as we reflect on the state of our state, we should do so in the broader context of our country and its challenges. We must prepare for uncertain times and reaffirm the basic principles that have made California the Great Exception that it is.

Brown talked about immigration (before Trump announced his ban):

(I)mmigrants are an integral part of who we are and what we’ve become. They have helped create the wealth and dynamism of this state from the very beginning.

I recognize that under the Constitution, federal law is supreme and that Washington determines immigration policy. But as a state we can and have had a role to play. California has enacted several protective measures for the undocumented: the Trust Act, lawful driver’s licenses, basic employment rights and non-discriminatory access to higher education.

We may be called upon to defend those laws and defend them we will. And let me be clear: we will defend everybody – every man, woman and child – who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.


More than any other state, California embraced the Affordable Care Act and over five million people now enjoy its benefits. But that coverage has come with tens of billions of federal dollars. Were any of that to be taken away, our state budget would be directly affected, possibly devastated. That is why I intend to join with other governors – and with you – to do everything we can to protect the health care of our people.

Climate change:

Whatever they do in Washington, they can’t change the facts. And these are the facts: the climate is changing, the temperatures are rising and so are the oceans. Natural habitats everywhere are under increasing stress. The world knows this….

We cannot fall back and give in to the climate deniers. The science is clear. The danger is real.

We can do much on our own and we can join with others – other states and provinces and even countries, to stop the dangerous rise in climate pollution. And we will.

Truth and civility:

As we face the hard journey ahead, we will have to summon, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature.” Above all else, we have to live in the truth….

When the science is clear or when our own eyes tell us that the seats in this chamber are filled or that the sun is shining, we must say so, not construct some alternate universe of non-facts that we find more pleasing….

Along with truth, we must practice civility. Although we have disagreed – often along party lines – we have generally been civil to one another and avoided the rancor of Washington. I urge you to go even further and look for new ways to work beyond party and act as Californians first….

The challenge:

While we now face different challenges, make no mistake: the future is uncertain and dangers abound. Whether it’s the threat to our budget, or to undocumented Californians, or to our efforts to combat climate change – or even more global threats such as a financial meltdown or a nuclear incident or terrorist attack – this is a time which calls out for courage and for perseverance. I promise you both….

California is not turning back. Not now, not ever.

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Trump started his Presidency with a speech that should have surprised no one. It’s what he said from day one.

Then he sent his spokesman to tell a blatant, bald-faced, laughable lie about crowd sizes. “Alternative facts,” the White House explained.

Trump has an obsession with the size of his things.

Then hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest. Those crowds were huge even by Trumpian standards. If all those people organize, vote and work, 2018 could be as big a change as 2010.

Here’s the question: Will what worked for Trump the candidate work for Trump the President?

Just as John Kennedy was the perfect President for the new television age, Trump is the perfect President for the Twitter age. He lives inside his own echo chamber. He tweets his every thought. He delights his fans and enrages his foes. His posts are simple, sharp and mean-spirited.

Trump defines himself by two things: the deals he makes and the fights he picks. And he always wins – or so he says.

In the campaign, he picked fights with all 16 Republican opponents – and with the GOP Establishment. One by one, he mocked them and insulted them. And beat them.

Then he did the same with Hillary Clinton.

In his inaugural speech, he picked a fight with all Washington, with both parties and with every politician on the stage behind him.

Ronald Reagan picked a fight with Washington, but only half of Washington: the big-spending, big-government, soft-on-communism liberals and Democrats.

Trump took on all of them, Republicans too, because he’s not really a Republican. He’s our first third-party, independent President. He sees himself as bigger than both parties, bigger than Washington, bigger than the world.

He’s the Twitter President. The Insult President. And the Alternative Facts President.


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Donald Trump was blunt, saying his Presidency is going to be about taking power away from the Washington Politicians and giving it back to the people.

I’d like to say, Amen.

But is Donald Trump really a populist crusader? Or is he a pragmatist who simply decided anti-Washington populism was the train to ride to the White House?

The marriage between our nation’s financial elites and Washington Politicians rests on a combination of money and legislation – and there’ll be plenty of legislation weaving its way through Congress this session to prove that alliance is still in place.

Is Trump a populist? Or a skilled pragmatist using populism?

With those bills weaving their way through Congress, it shouldn’t be long before we have an answer.  

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I read down the list of headlines on the newspaper’s website until I came to one that read: Trump’s inaugural address echoes anti-Semitic isolationists and a Batman villain.

Fact, I wondered. Or opinion?

According to the newspaper it was fact. Hard news. When Donald Trump said his inauguration was about taking power away from Washington Politicians and giving it back to the people he was echoing words of the villain in The Dark Knight Rises.

Even worse, when Trump said “America First” he was repeating the words of an anti-Semitic group that, before Pearl Harbor, opposed the U.S. entering World War II.

Those two ‘facts’ didn’t sail onto the internet from an obscure political website, masquerading as news – they were published as real news by a media company that owns newspapers across the nation, including the two biggest papers in NC.

There are many reasons to criticize Donald Trump but turning him into a villain from a Batman movie and calling it ‘news’ – who gains from that? The only answer I can come up with is it happens so a newspaper can get more ‘clicks’ from hyper-stressed anti-Trump activists –and sell more ads on its website. 

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Donald Trump didn’t mince words: “We are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another,” he said, “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to the people.”

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost… Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

Having succinctly explained the reason he won the election, Trump then headed for lunch with members of the House and Senate where he sat listening to longwinded speeches by Washington politicians who didn’t seem the least bit worried.

Meantime, the media pundits began commenting:

It was too dark, one said about Trump’s speech.

I was disappointed, another said.

Trump doesn’t understand. He needs Congress, another added.

In Congress, the same old politicians said the same old things. And, blind to the gulf between Washington and the rest of the country, the pundits missed that Trump had drawn a line in the sand: It’s Washington versus the rest of the country. It’s the Washington politicians versus working people.

And make no mistake: That’s a fight Donald Trump can win.

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A year and a half ago – when the election began – the Democrat Washington Politicians battled the Democratic Outsiders and the Republican Washington Politicians fought the Republican Outsiders.

So where are the four tribes now?

Hillary’s gone. But both the Democratic Washington Politicians and the Democratic Outsiders are carefully watching Trump waiting for him to stumble.

The Republican Washington Politicians have pledged allegiance to Trump – an alliance that is sure to survive as long as Trump remains popular (or, at least, remains popular with Republican voters).

And Trump, himself?

As a candidate Donald Trump played by a new set of rules. He was smart and strong and ruthless – but also vain and vulgar. And it worked. He won. And now in Washington – determined to drain the swamp – he still plays by his new rules.

But when Trump took the oath of office he inherited an old rule: In Washington, power is divided. And limited. No one has the power to run the government alone.

Time will tell… but the next fight between Trump and the other Three Tribes may be about power.

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Back in 1789 there was nothing in the federal Treasury worth stealing but Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams it was only a matter of time: He didn’t see, he said, how the Constitution would stop a scoundrel (or a group of scoundrels) clever enough and ruthless enough to cajole (or buy) 51% of the votes in Congress from reaching into the Treasury to take other people’s money.

Time made Jefferson a prophet: After he was President, Congress passed tariffs to protect New England manufacturers from British imports.

Later, in the Gilded Age, Congress gave railroad tycoons land grants as subsidies (in all Congress gave the tycoons more Western land than there was the entire nation of Germany).

Then as cold hard cash rolled in over the next century the system evolved – as Congress passed out loopholes, tax breaks, government contracts and bailouts for corporations ‘too big to fail’ – into a near perfect system of plunder.  

 Then, last election, disgust with Washington politicians left hard-pressed Millennials voting for a socialist leveler and working class families cheering for Donald Trump to drain the swamp – and Trump landed in the White House, rocking the Old World to its foundations.

But the same Old World that gave us plunder had virtues too: Power was divided. And limited. No politician had enough power to run the government alone.

And Trump, heading to Washington to drain the swamp, is about to come face to face with those limits. 

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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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