Former Republican County Commissioner calls his party out for a new playbook

The following editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday. It is called “My GOP needs a new playbook before it’s too late” and is written by Matthew Ridenhour, a former Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner. I pasted it in its entirety, with a link if you wanted to see the official version. It speaks for itself.

“The GOP has a difficult future, and I’m not sure whether the party and its faithful understand this. If we are going to have a successful party — indeed, a party at all in 10-15 years — we need to have an honest look at where we are and determine an admittedly difficult path forward. The GOP has firmly planted its flag in the rural areas of our state and across the country. This has led to many victories at the state and federal level, but it is not a viable long-term strategy. The problem is simple — rural areas are not growing. They may be solidly red, but college grads are moving to cities like Raleigh and Charlotte — not to Mayberry. There have been a multitude of books, research, and analysis around the death of small-town America. Cities will become so blue and populous as to turn red states blue. In 2018, both in Mecklenburg County and across the nation, Republicans lost scores of seats in urban and suburban areas. Many wrote this off as typical midterm election results, but in 2020 Republicans did not fare much better. In four years the GOP lost the House, Senate, and presidency. How do we regain our once-reliable suburban voters?

Our message must match our actions; voters look for authenticity. We purport to be the party of individual liberty, but what liberties do we promote besides the Second Amendment? We say we support our LBTQ+ and Log Cabin Republican friends, but then we attempt to regulate what occurs between consenting adults. We are slow to repeal blue laws. We are hesitant to support even medicinal use of marijuana. We say we support religious liberties, but when we open every meeting and convention with a Christian prayer, is that welcoming to people of other faiths? We say we are the party of fiscal conservatism and limited government, but then pass laws like the Patriot Act, create the Department of Homeland Security, launch the Space Force, and oversee some of the largest periods of government spending in the 21st century. Again, this all comes across as inauthentic and hypocritical. The GOP often states it is a big-tent party, but if voters do not feel they belong in the tent, then is it really? Voters in 2018 and 2020 decided that our tent was not big enough for them. If we continue to lose would-be GOP voters, then we will not gain back the ground necessary for long-term electoral success. We will continue to lose the suburbs, older Republicans, and young people.

Voters in urban and suburban areas talk about issues like affordable housing. Student loan debt. Homelessness. Economic mobility. They do not talk about “God, Guns, and the Constitution,” though they may love all three. This does not mean the GOP should become “Democrat-lite.” Rather, find and promote conservative solutions to issues facing urban and suburban voters. Accept that Republicans engaging on these issues and others are not Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) but instead are Republicans fighting for voters on a very different battlefield than our friends in rural areas. Support the rights and liberties of others, so long as they do not encroach upon our own rights. As Ronald Reagan said: “The heart of conservatism is libertarianism”. Some Republicans will object, and counter that we are poised to take the House, and maybe the Senate, in 2022. I do not disagree, but that will only belie the decades-long voting trends in urban and suburban areas. We must change our message and our course for long-term success. Let’s Make the GOP Big Tent again.”

I agree with this Republican’s comments. Yet, one thing the party can start with is to support those who are telling the truth and calling out those who are purposefully misleading people. Ridenhour will be dismissed as a RINO, which is a shortcut label by a person without a good rebuttal. Yet, he is not alone in saying this among Republicans. He just needs more support in what he is saying.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article255097637.html#storylink=cpy

Colin Powell’s Advice to Graduates (and all Americans) Rings True

An imperfect American hero died yesterday – Colin Powell. After hearing him speak at my son’s graduation seven years ago, I posted the following. Powell was a good man, but in my view he was used to be the face on a non-righteous cause by his superiors That tarnished his reputation some, but he still had an exemplary career.

My oldest son graduated yesterday from college (a big yay!) and we attended his outdoors graduation on a beautiful, sunny and pleasant morning. We also looked forward to the commencement speaker, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. Powell’s speech was humble, poignant and inspiring. The part that resonated with many of the graduates was his academic record, which did not hinder his success.

Powell attended City College of New York (CCNY), as that was the only college he could afford to attend. He said he was not a great student and, in fact, the only way he was permitted to graduate was when CCNY’s leaders decided to add his ROTC straight A’s into the mix. He said his GPA increased to a 2.0, to which the graduates laughed heartily. His point was meaningful. First, he said they have named all of these buildings for me due to my success and my old professors are probably rolling over in their graves.

Second, he said just because you did not graduate with a 3.5 GPA does not mean you cannot be successful. Find your path and work hard. This meant a lot to my son who would be among the significant majority in the beneath 3.5 crowd. It resonated with him to hear words of encouragement that yes, if you work hard, you can succeed. The fact that any graduate can remember portions of a commencement speech, is pretty telling. Powell humorously mentioned that when you think back on this day, remember it was C-O-L-I-N P-O-W-E-L-L that spoke at your graduation spelling it out for everyone.

Powell had other words of advice. Get involved with your community and know the issues of import. And, go vote. He said if you are not registered to vote come see me afterwards. You are the people who must keep politicians honest. And, if you don’t like what they do, vote them out. Our is a great country, but you have to be engaged.

He also noted the beauty of compromise. He said our founding fathers came together and passionately argued over how to govern. The Articles of Confederation were insufficient and they argued over its replacement, our constitution. He said from the outset, we have benefitted from the ability of different points of view to compromise. He encouraged people to use their passion and knowledge to influence others, but be in a position to understand the opposing arguments and compromise.

Finally, he said take care of the environment. He said I am not a climate change expert, but it does not take a scientist to recognize we need to stop putting bad stuff into the air and in our water. We have to be better stewards of our earth. An article in “Stars and Stripes” about his commencement speech can be read with the following link: http://www.stripes.com/news/us/colin-powell-urges-grads-to-work-hard-give-back-1.281445

Let me close with two final comments. First, Powell agreed to shake the hand of every student, all 940 who graduated that day. Some shakes came with hugs from more demonstrative folks and he took it all in with a great sense if humor. This meant a lot to the graduates and parents.

Second, I am so proud of my son and proud for his achievement. He worked hard to make it and he did. He will be a better citizen, a better employee and a better person because of his education. The esteem of accomplishing such a great task is significant. He is closing this chapter with equal parts excitement, trepidation and melancholy before moving on to a new one. The sadness is he is leaving his home for four years before making a new one. He is leaving friends, but will stay in touch and make new ones. But, the future is in front of him. Places to go and things to see and do. Well done, son. I love you very much.

Bipartisan compromise works in North Carolina on energy bill

In an article written by Lucille Sherman and Adam Wagner in The Charlotte Observer called “NC’s governor signs major energy bill, laying the groundwork for a budget compromise,” much needed bipartisan compromise is highlighted. It should be as this is the way things need to happen for lasting changes. Both sides must buy into the agreement.

Here are a few key paragraphs, but the entire article can be linked to below.

“With North Carolina’s top Republican lawmakers standing beside him, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed Wednesday a piece of energy legislation that was years in the making. The long-awaited proposal, House Bill 951, solidifies Cooper’s goal of carbon neutrality in the state by 2050 and gives Duke Energy, the state’s dominant utility, a win it has long sought on multi-year rate-making.

Though some of North Carolina’s businesses and renewable-energy advocates objected to the bill’s passage, the compromise is a win for both the Republican-majority legislature and the governor, and it comes as both parties negotiate a spending plan for the state….

When you’ve had a successful experience in negotiating a deal, it makes the next deal between the same people much easier because you understand each other better and you understand that you can’t get all you want,’ said Senate minority leader Dan Blue, a Democrat serving Wake County.

The energy bill is not the first compromise between the two branches this year. Cooper signed a criminal justice reform bill with bipartisan support and worked with the legislature to create a plan to reopen schools amid the pandemic. But the energy proposal is one of the most complicated compromises between the two branches yet, and lays the groundwork for an even bigger trade-off in budget negotiations.

‘It creates momentum,’ Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, said after a committee meeting last week. ‘Having a bipartisan solution here on energy does help lead to a bipartisan solution on the budget.'”

As with any compromise, there is give and take. But, the key is something tangible and largely helpful got done. This is the way it should be. Getting helpful things done is what we are owed by their efforts. Kudos for making it happen to all involved. Please keep doing it.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article254959687.html

Dr. Fiona Hill cautions all on civil unrest fomented by the outgoing president (a needed repeat from this mid-January, 2021 post)

The following post was written about a week after the insurrection instigated by the former president to try and overturn the results of the 2020 election. Dr. Fiona Hill* spoke on PBS Newshour last night and offered that because the former president is so ego-maniacal, he is very susceptible to manipulation. She also said earlier this week, if Trump were to be reelected, our democracy would be over. The former president responded with his usual name calling defense, which is his way of discounting very credible critics like Hill.

Dr. Fiona Hill is one of the most credible public servants who risked a great deal by testifying of her concerns regarding the coercion of Ukraine to benefit the president.* In an article called “Former Trump official Fiona Hill: ‘President’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war’” by Justine Coleman of The Hill, she cautions of more civil unrest. Here are a few paragraphs along with a link below.

Former Trump National Security Council member Fiona Hill on Monday said that President Trump’s ‘actions have put us on the brink of civil war’ after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol last week.

Hill, who served as the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council, called the Capitol raid a “coup” in a Politico op-ed, saying that a coup does not need to be a ‘sudden, violent seizure of power involving clandestine plots and military takeovers.

‘Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent,’ she said. ‘He normalized his actions so people would accept them. I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them.’

The former Trump official said Trump’s efforts to stay in power during his presidency amounted to a ‘self-coup’ that was ultimately unsuccessful. But she noted ‘the bad news is that his supporters still believe the false narrative’ that the president won reelection after he and other Republicans have promoted unfounded claims that widespread voter fraud led to his loss.

Trump has not repudiated it, nor have the House and Senate Republicans who voted against the Electoral College results, she wrote. ‘Millions of people still think the election was stolen. They still support Trump the person, not the Republican Party, and many are prepared to take further action on his behalf.

‘As in the case of other coup attempts, the president’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war,’ Hill continued. ‘Trump did not overturn the election results, but, just as he intended, he disrupted the peaceful democratic transition of executive power.’

Her voice is one of experience and reason. She needs to be listened to by all, but especially Republicans in position of leadership.

Former Trump official Fiona Hill: ‘President’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war’ (msn.com)

*Per Wikpedia, Fiona Hill is a British-American foreign affairs specialist and academic. She is a former official at the U.S. National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs. She was a witness in the November 2019 House hearings regarding the impeachment of President Trump. A PhD in history from Harvard University, she is currently a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Bad word, bad word

My wonderfully efficient and effective Administrative Assistant for many years was the epitome of customer service. She had better customer service instincts than many consultants both internally with colleagues and externally with clients. She was also a very devout woman and you would never hear a curse word cross her lips.

Yet, she would get angry from time to time like we all do. So, if she was really annoyed with some mix-up or maltreatment, I would hear her say “bad word, bad word.” That was her way of cursing. No four letter expletives, just the same two words repeated twice. Very few of us can live up to that kind of exemplar.

Many who follow this blog know I do not give much credence to name-calling or labels. It weakens the argument of the user, as they tend to be shortcuts to defamation of another person or group. I do my best to avoid them, but of course, I do mess up. Yet, I try to focus on the deceitful words or actions than call the espouser a liar. I also try to avoid using those bad words in print, maybe using asterisks are the infamous acronym of BS.

What continues to trouble me is with social media so pervasive and the managers of such tools like the one (Facebook) which is getting scrutiny in Congress as we speak, we have entered into a post-truth society. The truth continues to have to work hard to keep its head above the surface. A social media expert said this weekend misinformation is six times more likely to be read and routed than the truth. And, that company who denies they know this is not being very forthcoming so says a whistleblower. Ads are how they make money, so the more read posts make more money for them.

I have used this example many times but Vladimir Putin’s early career was in disinformation for the KGB. Today, as the leader of Russia, stories by former TV producers and media people speak of Putin having a very active role in various communication channels. But, this does not surprise me because of the controlling nature of the country.

It is troubling the former US president is a huge fan of Putin’s. Though, what bothers me most is not the former president has a penchant for using untruths to tell a story he wants to tell. Based on his well-documented history, I expected these actions. What bothers me most are those acting like sycophants and rationalizers to grease the skids for the untruthful narrative and provide air cover for such stories.

It should not take so much political courage to stand up and call out the untruthful stories. Yet, it does. The folks who do get vilified and even receive death threats. And, they know this going in and still call the lying out. The folks could have been past supporters, but get ostracized for saying even the simplest of things that contradict the untruthful narrative.

So, many staff and public servants have been removed for daring to call out the untruthful behavior. That should speak volumes, but simply is not getting inside the communication channels of those who really need to hear it. This is where the rationalizing is used to sand around the edges of a bad story or deny its truth.

It truly makes you want to curse. Bad word, bad word. So, now that I feel better, what can we do? Reach out to legislators who do the right thing and thank them. Reach out to them with concerns, as well, but do your best to avoid name calling and labelling. Write comments to others like you would want to receive them – focus on brief, civil discourse. And, listen to people, not to respond, but to understand. If there is a place where you can find agreement, even on the smallest of issues, start there.

Here are a few themes to bear in mind:

-we need legislators to focus more on passing needed legislation than trying to score victories. Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job.

-we need legislators to focus on the truth more than they are doing. You owe it to us. Governing is hard enough with the facts – when people use lies, it is nigh impossible.

-when an incumbent or former incumbent denigrates the office or our country through his or her actions, the party to which he or she belongs should not try to cover up such action. The party should be leading the effort to right wrongful behavior.

On this latter point, there are many examples where entities failed to heed this advice and paid for it with damaged relationships, tarnished brands and the loss of huge sums of money – think the Catholic Church, the US Olympic Gymnastics Team, the Boys Scouts of American, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco International, The PTL Club, etc. for both financial fraud or sexual assault convictions and claims.

So, instead of bad word, bad word, we should be able to say good job, good job for those who do the right thing..

Good faith dealings – a needed reprise

I wrote the following post following the death of the 41st president. While an imperfect man, with whom I did not always agree, he lived an exemplary life. There are several lessons for us courtesy of George H.W. Bush.

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and cart fees. Bush insisted that he pay for his and his friends fees. He noted it would not be right for a golf club to not expect him to pay.

– a Democrat Senator noted that it was not unusual for Bush to invite a handful of Senators or Congressional representatives to the White House on late Friday afternoons for martinis, which Bush made. He would also give them a tour of the White House, if any had not seen it before.

– many noted that Bush was a voracious note writer and they took pride in words of encouragement, support, sympathy or thanks; these notes were received by media, foreign and domestic leaders, public servants, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

– after he retired, the son of one of his secret service guards was struggling with Leukemia and losing his hair due to the Chemotherapy. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the son to lift his spirits,

– many leaders and public servants noted that Bush had many relationships around the world and here in the states, which benefited him and our country in troubling or challenging times. His ability to tap these resources to build coalitions to do things is paramount to several successful endeavors.

– relationships matter at home too, with a lovely marriage to Barbara for 73 years and a beautiful family of children and grandchildren. Marriage is hard work – this speaks volumes about the Bushes.

– Finally, in today’s times it is hard to convince some that perception is not reality. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time polishing our own apple or thinking those that do it well rate more highly as a result. One magazine defined Bush as a wimp when he ran for President, primarily because he was an obsequious Vice-President. Here was a man who flew 58 combat missions in WWII and was shot down. He was not raised to brag on himself. It would not have been false bravado for him to do so. False bravado seems to be mistaken for actually bravery these days. But, the reason he was called a wimp due to being obsequious is while he offered criticism to  President Reagan in private, it would have been detrimental to call him out in public.

Each of us could be better people. Our leaders should be among our better angels. Character matters. Dealing with people in a good faith manner matters. Telling the truth to the media, colleagues and the American people matter. Being accountable matters. Real courage is usual quietly borne and not bragged about. We should remember these truths. We should do our best to emulate them.

Grandstanding is not governance – not even close

As someone who follows the news and used to hold most elected officials in higher esteem, I am continually frustrated with the absence of good governance in Washington and various state capitols. Rather than governance, I see grandstanding for sound bytes to beat the other party over the head with. The purpose is to remain or regain power, where they will be in charge of doing nothing to govern.

Several Congressional representatives and Senators have retired or are retiring. The principal reasons are the disillusionment with the open hostility between factions and the fact over 1/3 of their time (some said 40%) is fundraising for the party. Let me say that last part in a different way. We taxpayers are paying for elected officials to hit us up for money between 33% and 40% of the time.

In essence, elected officials are more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. A further frustration is the number of folks who just don’t bother to reach out to all constituents and only care about their own party. The truth has become a casualty. And, what is sad is those who pay attention to the news know many of these elected officials are lying and know they know they are lying, but they lie anyway.

Grandstanding is a pronounced way of lying drawing attention to the person so doing. To me, it is akin to a gorilla beating on its chest to make an opponent cower and not fight back. Right now, we have an entire party that is OK with the US defaulting on its debts. Increasing the debt ceiling is to address what we have already spent or decided to spend, which the same folks did not seem to mind doing. Or, they cut revenue which also increased the debt.

In fact, many of these same folks voted on a tax bill in December, 2017 that reduced taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals which raised the debt by $2 trillion, approximately. In essence, we added to debt to make a pretty good economy a little better for a little while. Per the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, we must do both – cut spending and raise revenue to address our deficit and debt. The math will otherwise not work.

I have shared with several Senators it is OK to push back on spending to make sure we consider the best investments, but grandstanding on a debt limit that you helped make worse is not the place to do it. Before the pandemic, the US was around $22 trillion in debt with a $1 trillion annual shortfall on our budget ($3.4 trillion in revenue on $4.4 trillion in expenses). After needed pandemic stimulus, we are even worse off on debt and scheduled to be even further behind.

The last time we had a debt limit standoff was about eight years ago, led by Senator Ted Cruz (who by the way voted for the tax bill increase noted above increasing the debt). Our allies pleaded with us not to renege and when the US was within twenty-four hours of defaulting, ten female Senators from both parties told Cruz and others to get out of the pool for an adult swim. These ten women resolved the matter and the US did not default.

Our debt and deficit has been caused by both parties. Do not let either party say it is the other one’s fault as that simply is not true. And, we need for both of them to be involved to remedy this. Unfortunately, no one has the stomach to do what it really takes to resolve this. Any elected official can spend money and reduce taxes. Any elected official. But, that is precisely the problem. We need serious discussion with data and not grandstanding. Grandstanding is not governance.

Three Questions

It was announced yesterday, the additional review of the Arizona 2020 election results by a pro-Republican group confirmed once again that Joe Biden won the election in Arizona. This follows on a recent ruling in Michigan that attorneys representing Trump must pay legal fees for their frivolous lawsuit and have been referred to the state bar association for possible disbarment.

It should be noted that the former president has lost well over 60 court cases on his election fraud claims, winning only one small case in Pennsylvania. So, with this in mind, here are three questions.

1.How many times must Donald Trump lose the same count of election results for it to sink in he lost?

2.How many court cases must Donald Trump lose before he realizes he is wasting money, credibility and attorney reputations contesting election results?

3.When will Republican party leadership tell the followers of Donald Trump that he lost the election, so get over it and let’s move on?

Three simple questions. To be frank, for someone who does not like to lose, the former president has put himself in an endless cycle of losing by rewinding and replaying the same story. And, yet his sycophants continue to burn their own reputations to support this continuing farce. Then, we have that sedition thing.

Allies are critical – we cannot take our friends for granted

When a German state official was asked a few years ago what are the strengths of America, he noted its military power and its allied relationships. His concern at the time was the lack of respect that the previous president was showing to our allies. Sadly, the current president has made a second mistake in keeping our allies abreast. This cannot happen.

The first mistake was not giving ample heads up to our allies that the US was pulling out of Afghanistan. They were somewhat surprised and, as a result, less prepared to act when the time came. That is poor form.

The second mistake happened this week when Australia canceled a deal with a French entity for submarines to make a better deal with the Americans. No phone call or heads-up was made to the French and they were beyond frustrated. In fact, France pulled their US ambassador in protest. Just three months ago, President Macron said side-be-side with President Biden, America is back.

Allies are critical. With allies on our side, we have been able to build coalitions to do things. Yet, when we lied to our allies about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as pretense for invading Iraq, our allies were left holding the bag as well. A UK investigation faulted President Bush and Prime Minister Blair for misleading the UK people about the WMDs.

The US announced leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord in 2017, an accord that all but three countries had signed. It was an agreement we helped forge, yet our word does not mean as much with fickle presidents. Fortunately, we rejoined the agreement under President Biden. One departure under the last president that got less press is the US pulled out under an eleven country Trans Pacific Partnership to enable Pacific based countries to better compete with China. The other ten countries went on without us.

No deal is perfect. No relationship is perfect.. But, we cannot take our friends for granted. This is especially true when an action may be detrimental. You must talk it through. Thinking of it in terms of married relationships, marriage is hard work. You have to work at it and you cannot take your partner’s love for granted. Our allies may not love us, but the same goes for them. Do not take them for granted.

Letter from my Republican Senator who voted for the Infrastructure Bill

The following response from Senator Richard Burr was after I thanked him for his vote and encouraged him to see this thing over the finish line with his advocacy.

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684). I appreciate hearing from you. 

Please know that I understand your thoughts on the historic infrastructure package that recently passed in the Senate. As one of the 22 Senators who helped negotiate the framework of the bipartisan bill, I believe it is a major investment in America’s economic future. It provides the largest core infrastructure investment in our nation’s history and it does so responsibly – without raising taxes. While no compromise bill is ever perfect, I’m proud to have worked with my Senate colleagues to find common ground on an issue that affects all Americans. 

This bill is particularly important for growing states like North Carolina. As more families and businesses call North Carolina home, we have to have the right infrastructure in place to meet the needs of a growing population. Poor roads and high traffic areas cost commuters and businesses a not insignificant amount of money each year. This legislation will provide $9 billion to update, expand, and repair North Carolina’s roads and highways. It also invests heavily in airports, bridges, rural broadband access, and our clean water supply. 

America’s aging infrastructure poses a risk to our economic growth and our ability to compete globally in the 21st century. Modernizing our roads, bridges, railways, ports, waterways, broadband capabilities, cybersecurity, and more will help lower the costs of doing business, create more jobs, and spur innovation. 

For these reasons, I voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on August 10, 2021. It is my hope that the House of Representatives will quickly pass this historic investment in our nation and that President Biden will stick to his commitment to sign H.R. 3684 into law. 

Again, thank you for contacting me. Should you have additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to let me know or visit my website at http://burr.senate.gov. 

Sincerely, 

Richard Burr

United States Senator