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President Bush’s immigration speech showed just how far he has fallen.

And it happened when – in my opinion – he actually is trying to do the right thing. (There, that’s my nod to bipartisanship this week.)

On gay rights, Bush is the monkey to the right-wing organ grinders. Even though Laura disagrees – publicly!

On immigration, Bush actually has the instinct to stand up to the talk radio blowhards.

But he doesn’t have the political heft to do it.

Instead, he spends most of his speech begging the right-wingers to please believe that he’s not for “amnesty.”

Amnesty, by the way, has been a political poison pill since Nixon’s CREEP fed it to McGovern in 1972: “Acid, Amnesty and Abortion.”

Bush had to grovel even more. He had to promise to call out the National Guard, which is already so overstretched in Iraq it couldn’t help Katrina victims.

The most bitter pill of all: About the only kind words for Bush – “courageous” – came from Ted Kennedy.

Bush’s ratings are falling faster than the stock market is rising.

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WRAL-TV and The News and Observer have taken a poll on the Wake County School Bonds. They found voters:

  • Favored a $625 million bond with no tax increase 64% to 28%

  • Opposed a $998 million bond with a tax increase 59% to 27%

  • Opposed a $1.15 billion bond with a bigger tax increase 57% to 35%
That’s a pretty clear message. Two-thirds (64%) of the voters turned thumbs down on a tax increase.

The School Board’s conclusion is puzzling. Initially, some of the Board members argued the poll meant they should abandon the $998 million bond they’d been pushing (which 59% of the people opposed) – to go for the bigger $1.15 billion bond (with the bigger tax) because only 57% of the people oppose it. In the end, the Board voted to ‘compromise’ and spend $1.06 billion.

If this is what passes for ‘logic’ on the school board we have got bigger problems than a building shortfall.

Who knows why 2% fewer people opposed the bond with the higher tax? Maybe the explanation is a handful of parents – who oppose more year-round schools – want the bigger bond regardless of how much it costs.

But that isn’t the point. The point – the School Board seems unable to get – is that 64% of the voters in Wake County don’t want any tax increase at all. Each of the three independent polls on the Schools Bonds showed any bond including a tax increase losing decisively.

It would seem the Board had a clear choice – accept a bond to increase spending $625 million without a tax increase. Or go for a new tax and lose at the polls. It decided to go for the tax.

Let us hope the School Board understands more about education than it does about polling.

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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Us Southern Democrats have worried a long time about being totally abandoned by the national party. This election could accelerate that trend.

Especially if Democrats win control of the U.S. House by knocking off vulnerable Republicans in the Northeast.

Various reports show that districts won by John Kerry – but that still have GOP congressmen – are prime Democratic targets this year.

A lot of non-Southern Democrats believe that it’s time to forget the South and focus on the coasts and the industrial Midwest.

And it won’t help if we lose the state House this year.

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Posted in: General
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Governor Easley’s sneaky streak breaks out every now and then. To hear the Governor tell it he’s going to do two things with the State’s $2 billion surplus: increase some needed spending and cut taxes.

What’s sneaky – and what he’s not talking about much – is that his tax cut is only a fraction of spending increases.

In fact, the Governor’s ‘tax-cut’ is more like a political fig-leaf than a tax cut. But it’s served its purpose, politically. The Governor’s reaped a windfall of newspaper articles saying he’s going to cut taxes.

The Governor’s also been telling voters for years he favors a ‘cap’ to limit state spending increases to 6% a year. But this year, for the first time in a long time, the State has a huge budget surplus. So, the Governor wants to increase spending a whooping 10.6%. As a result, his sneaky streak broke out again.

Governor Easley says – with a straight face – he still has his ‘spending cap’ in place – but, he adds, there are just a few items in the budget that are exempt. Like teacher salaries. Whoops! That’s one whopping big part of the budget he just exempted from his cap.

Now, whether we should raise teacher salaries more than 6% isn’t the point. The point is there isn’t really a spending cap and it’s misleading for the Governor to claim there is.

The Republicans in the legislature are now beginning to debate the Governor’s ‘tax cut’ and his ‘spending cap.’ The Governor is trying to mislead voters by calling a fig-leaf a tax cut and a ‘spending limit’ he has punched full of holes a ‘cap.’ Ridicule is a powerful political weapon. The Republicans in the legislature should use it.

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Congressman Brad Miller’s opponent, Vernon Robinson, last week sent out one of the wildest, most over-the-top, most clever, most irresponsible, most expensive and – I hope – least effective mailings I’ve ever seen.

And I thought nobody could top the stuff Carter and the Congressional Club used to send out about Jim Hunt.

Now, Brad should win reelection. He’s in a Democratic district that he drew up, for Pete’s sake.

And all the Democratic geniuses say this is our year, with Bush’s approval ratings going down as fast as Iraq casualties increase.

But you have to worry about an opponent who packs into one mailing:

  • “Homosexual marriage”

  • “Flag burning” and a “handgun ban”

  • “An open border” and “amnesty” for illegal aliens

  • “A San Francisco Soul Mate”

  • “Negative character assassination”

  • Even the Tuskegee Airmen.

I admit I read every word of it. All eight tightly printed pages. I couldn’t help it. It was hypnotizing, like watching a snake.

But here is what really disturbed me: that Robinson served as an Air Force “Missile Combat Crew Commander.”

I’m surprised we didn’t all get blown up.

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In 2000, George and Jeb Bush relied on Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State, to recapture the White House for the Bush family.

That made Katherine a hero with Republicans and anathema to Democrats. She rode the notoriety right into the U.S. Senate race in Florida this year.

But her behavior has been so wacky she is fast becoming the Paula Abdul of American politics.

In fact, she may cost Republicans a chance to beat Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

Jeb Bush is now desperately hunting for another Republican candidate. And W kept his distance from the Woman Who Made Him President during a campaign stop this week.

I say they deserve this one.

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Few would argue (with the exception of the members of the House Democratic Caucus) with the proposition that Jim Black, after a year of ‘pay to play’ scandals, is now the most unpopular man in North Carolina. A series of hearings, investigations, and exposes has left the heretofore sure-footed House Leader battered and bruised.

But don’t despair.

The wiley Democrats have a solution: Art Pope.

The Democrats are going to make Pope the most unpopular man in North Carolina – on the theory that when they do voters are going to forget all about Jim Black.

Look for State House hearings to investigate Pope and the ‘millions’ he’s spending on politics. Look for Pope, his friends, the heads of the different conservative organizations he funds (the Locke Foundation and Republican Legislature Majority Committee) and a bevy of political consultants to be called to testify. Look for a lot of digging into Pope’s company, Variety Wholesalers, Inc.

Look for a State Board of Elections hearings where Pope is treated with the same respect as a video poker operator or an optometrist taking the Fifth.

Then in the fall, as Republicans rev-up their campaign denouncing Black, look for a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about millionaires buying elections as the Democrats answer them by denouncing Pope.

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Scientists at the University of Chicago and the University of California have reached a startling conclusion. A woman can tell a man’s testosterone level, whether he’s a one night stand or a potential husband, and how much he likes infants by simply looking at his photograph.

After the scientist showed a battery of young women photographs of various men, Professor James Roney concluded “the women were surprisingly adept in being able to read subtle sexual signals.” He added: “Our data suggests that women are picking up on facial clues that may be related to paternal qualities.” Or the lack of them.

Professor David Maestripieri added, “Our study shows that women don’t just look for masculinity; they also see cues for interest in infants, and they’re very accurate in judging both.” Just by looking at a photograph.

They didn’t even bother to try the same test on men.

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Posted in: General
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Democrats in the State House Committee say they want to ban political contributions from lobbyists to legislators. That’s fine. But don’t be deceived. They are not trying to end ‘pay to play.’ In fact, what they are doing will hardly slow Marc Basnight or Jim Black down at all.

The House Democrats are being clever. It may look to the press and the public like they are taking steps to clean up the scandals in the State Legislature. But they are really doing very little at all. The essence of ‘pay to play’ is swapping political favors for campaign contributions. Banning contributions from lobbyists is a step in the right direction. But, lobbyists are not the main source of ‘pay to play’ contributions. Most of those contributions are made by people or corporations (through executives and PACs) who hire lobbyists.

Banning donations from lobbyists will eliminate the middleman. But the lobbyist’s employer can go right on making ‘pay to play’ contributions. And, Marc Basnight and Jim Black will have no problem finding these people to solicit them. All they have to do is look at each lobbyist’s list of clients.

State Treasurer Richard Moore has solicited over a hundred thousand dollars in contributions for his campaign for Governor from people and groups associated with financial corporations he has hired to manage the state’s $65 billion pension fund. This proposal will do nothing to stop Moore – and other Democratic politicians – from soliciting these kinds of ‘pay to play’ donations.

Banning lobbyists’ contributions will change the mechanics of ‘pay to play.’ But it will not stop it. To do that legislators must go a step further. They must stop legislators taking contributions from the people – or groups – who hire the lobbyists.

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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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