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Another day, another idiotic outburst by Donald Trump, then another lame excuse that he was just kidding. But the Donald has raised an important question: Which American President is to blame for ISIS?

It’s George W. Bush.

True, Trump is so bad that W, his low-energy brother and his noble yet hapless father look good to us now. But let’s not get carried away.

It was George W’s decision, egged on by Darth Chaney and the Evil Neocons, to wreck Iraq after 9/11 even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The result: thousands of young Americans killed and maimed, trillions of dollars wasted and the moral stature and respect that America commanded in the world on 9/12 squandered.

Not to mention leaving a vacuum that fostered ISIS, the chaos and killing in the Middle East today and a tsunami of immigrants in Europe.

It could get worse. A President Trump would be the most valuable recruiting tool ISIS could have. There would be a surge of new terrorists around the world and right here at home.

While we’re on the subject of Bush 43, let’s also remember he took office when the economy was booming, unemployment was low and the federal budget was running a surplus. He left us with the worst economy in 80 years, the highest unemployment in decades and the worst budget deficits in history.

If a decent, well-meaning fellow like Bush could do that much damage, think what Trump could do.


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A pundit on Fox News said, Trump flubbed during the primary and it didn’t matter. So why should it matter now?

Sounds logical.

But does the logic hold water?

Back during the primary when I’d turn on the television I’d see a debate stage full of Washington Republican politicians – and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Like a lot of Republicans I was worn out with Washington Republicans – for years every time they made another deal with Obama the anti-Washington wave rolling through Republican politics got bigger and wider and deeper.

And no one on that stage sounded less like a Washington politician than Donald Trump.

The moment Trump opened his mouth and spoke that wave swept him up and because  the wave was powerful his flubs didn’t matter – what mattered was whipping those Washington politicians.

But that election’s over and done now and a new election is underway and the other day a commentator on the radio pointed out that Obama got 65 million votes in 2012 – so Trump has to get 70 million to win this election. Then he added: Trump got 13 million votes in the primary so he needs to add another 55 odd million.

And on that rock the pundits’ seemingly logical solid assumption about flubs sinks into a wobbly analogy: Because the question those voters are asking themselves is how risky will it be to elect Trump – and those flubs make it look pretty risky.

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Donald Trump is not some weird, one-time, election-year anomaly. He’s the logical product of a Fox News/Facebook society.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, put her finger on it. She said Trump is “unworthy of being our president” because of “his constant stream of cruel comments and…his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing.”

Why should “cruel comments and attacks” surprise us in a Presidential candidate? It’s exactly how we talk to each other and about each other in the cable-TV, online age.

Self-proclaimed media genius and reputed sexual predator Roger Ailes engineered the perfect money-making machine at Fox News by force-feeding anxious, angry and fearful viewers a 24/7 stream of anxiety, anger and fear. Often delivered by hot women in short skirts.

When we Boomers were kids, our parents warned us that watching too much television would warp our brains. Turns out they were right.

And look at how we talk when we’re online. Look at the ugly, spiteful things we say to and about other people. Look at the friends and families who unfriend, unfollow and fall out over politics.

The very things we would never say if we were writing a letter or talking to someone, we have no hesitation saying when we’re sitting on the sofa tapping away on our smart (?) phones and tablets.

I’m sure I’m guilty of it right here on this blog.

Surely the digital revolution empowered us to do great things. It also unleashed our worst selves.

What’s to stop us from getting even coarser and crueler, as Fox News and the left-wing wannabes egg us on?

In the end, you have to hope that the ultimate decency in people will prevail.

In the meantime, click off the TV and log off. Read a book or take a walk. We’ve got three months to go to Election Day.


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Hillary Clinton would be cruising to a landslide victory of historic proportions – if it wasn’t for her damn emails.

She had a great convention. She got a great bounce in the polls. She wisely stayed silent while her opponent attacked a Gold Star family, fought with his own party and made people question his mental stability.

Then she went out and started over-answering and over-explaining about her damn emails again. She revived the same old concerns about her truthfulness and trustworthiness that drag her down in the polls.

As a reporter once said about another candidate in another race, she “has the lawyer’s habit of exaggerating to make a valid point.”

Somebody needs to do an intervention. She needs a short, sharp answer, like:

“Email servers weren’t something I knew much about, but I know a lot about them now. I made a mistake, I’m sorry, and I learned my lesson.”

Then she can tell people who want to “lock her up” to zip it up.


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Six of us sat down for our weekly lunch and an ethical  perplexity landed on the table: Does a Republican have to defend Donald Trump, no matter what he says, because if he doesn’t he’s helping elect Hillary? Eric, an attorney, asked.

No one liked Hillary but no one liked Trump either and then Eric continued, Trump will appoint better Supreme Court Justices. He’s the lesser of two evils – and it seemed the ends of defeating Hillary justified the means of standing behind Trump to everyone except Richard – who asked:

Do you think Trump regrets his bragging and bullying and saying Ted Cruz’s father and Lee Harvey Oswald were friends?

I wouldn’t go that far, Eric laughed.

So isn’t it wishful thinking to think, Richard asked, those vices will sow seeds that bear good fruit?

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Sitting in a century old steakhouse staring out at the Brooklyn Bridge thirty years ago Hank Greenburg (the pollster not the baseball player) explained an election that could only happen in the grubby circus of New York politics: Given a choice between a Crook and a Fool, he said, voters take the Crook.

His theory was simple: You can predict what a Crook will do but you never know what a Fool may do.

Back then – during the final chapter of the Cold War – from where I sat in the world of southern politics I saw two kinds of candidates: Conservatives and everyone else. And Hank’s idea that crooks and fools had a unique role of their own to play struck me as perverse.

But three decades later Hank’s theory has stood the test of time: We have two New Yorkers running for President and the last fifteen polls show Hillary Clinton leading.

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The most devastating TV spot in political history was the “Daisy ad” in 1964.

This year, Hillary Clinton’s campaign needs an ad that makes one simple point: If Donald Trump is elected President, he will have sole, unchecked power to start a nuclear war.


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Hillary Clinton has been to North Carolina. President Obama has been here. Bill Clinton is back here. Tim Kaine has been here.

It’s time to send the Big Gun: Michelle Obama.

She was the biggest hit of the Democratic Convention, excepting Khizr Khan. Of course, Donald Trump hasn’t attacked Michelle. Yet. Maybe Melania is planning to use Michelle’s speech from this convention too.

A recent PPP national poll found that Michelle is the most popular Democratic figure in the country, with a 56-39 favorable rating. Next is Joe Biden at 50-39 and then her husband, at 50-47.

Michelle’s work with military families has always been a big hit here. She’s popular with women Independents, who admire a woman who has raised two exemplary children in the White House spotlight. (Yes, Barack deserves some credit, but we know who does the heavy lifting.)

She’s smart, she’s strong, she’s classy and, above all, she’s real.

So memo to the Clinton campaign: North Carolina is the Big Show, and we want the Big Star.

Send us Michelle.


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Pat McCrory is acting more and more like Donald Trump.

Like Trump, he’s thin-skinned and sensitive. Like Trump, he personally and viciously attacks anybody who disagrees with him. And like Trump, he can’t stop digging his hole deeper.

McCrory had his chief of staff call a late-night press conference to accuse a career state scientist of “lying under oath.”

That’s a serious charge. And the story demands serious attention.

It looks like McCrory’s political appointees pressured scientists to water down (so to speak) health warnings about drinking water near Duke Energy’s coal ash dumps. The scientists refused to buckle. So the political people just changed the warnings themselves.

This isn’t just politics. It directly affects the health and lives of hundreds of North Carolina citizens.

It’s clear why this would happen. McCrory already is hurting from his career with Duke and because he agrees with Duke that consumers should pay for the coal-ash cleanup.

So, just as with Hate Bill 2 and the NBA All-Star Game, and just like Trump, McCrory doubles and triples down.

Which raises once again the old adage: The worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted.

The Clinton and Cooper campaigns might heed another adage: When your opponent is busy shooting himself in the foot, stay out of the line of fire.



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It’s an odd sort of logic: UNC-Chapel Hill lawyered up and made its case to the NCAA: It admitted it held phony classes that never met; it admitted football and basketball players were in the classes – but said none of that’s a problem because phony classes don’t violate NCAA rules.

It’s an unusual argument coming from the ‘crown jewel’ of higher education – but that’s how UNC Chancellor Carol Folt sees it: We did it. We’re guilty. But we shouldn’t be punished.

And the responsibility doesn’t stop with Folt: Not one member of the Board of Governors, the Trustees, or  Margaret Spellings has said: Wait a minute. Hold on. This doesn’t pass the smell test.

Posted in: General, Issues
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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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