[audio:http://www.johndavisconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/April-21-Marc-Basnights-Best-Friend.mp3|titles=April 21 Marc Basnight's Best Friend] “If you see him, tell him I said to ‘take it easy.’ But he doesn’t know how to do that.” Hubert Poole, former NC Senate Sergeant at Arms, speaking about Sen. Marc Basnight Note: In light of the tornado disaster, with flags flying at half-mast in honor of those
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“If you see him, tell him I said to ‘take it easy.’ But he doesn’t know how to do that.”
Hubert Poole, former NC Senate Sergeant at Arms, speaking about Sen. Marc Basnight
Note: In light of the tornado disaster, with flags flying at half-mast in honor of those who lost their lives in North Carolina, I thought it more appropriate to write about something other than politics. This is about a happenstance talk with Marc Basnight’s best friend yesterday while cleaning up storm debris.
Early Response Team
A couple months back, my wife and I decided to sign up for an Early Response Team training program sponsored through our church by the Office of Emergency Services of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Little did we know how soon our training would be needed.
When the devastating news began to be reported about the extent of destruction and loss of life caused by tornadoes here in North Carolina last Saturday, we knew that the phone call or e-mail would be coming soon. After all, five thousand homes were damaged here in Wake County.
Early Response Team training focuses on mitigating the damage to homes caused by natural disasters. One of the most common tasks is getting trees off houses and covering gaping holes in roofs with tarps to keep the rain from causing further damage.
On Monday, the expected email arrived. The Early Response Team at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church was needed on Wednesday to help get trees off the houses of elderly homeowners … including the home of the parents of Bettye Poole, a member of our Sunday School class.
The center on Shaw University’s 1947 CIAA Championship team
On Wednesday morning, I joined the group of 10 volunteers in front of the church. We were briefed about the tree removal work that we would be doing in the Madonna Acres neighborhood near St. Augustine’s College. We were assigned 8 homes, and would begin with Bettye Poole’s parents.
It was surreal to drive through Raleigh’s beautifully groomed neighborhoods and then turn right on Delany Drive and see total destruction. Trees were down everywhere. Not a house was spared. The utility crews were already there replacing downed power lines.
Within minutes the roar of chainsaws signaled that the work had begun. No one had to be assigned a task. Everyone just began to cut and drag limbs to the street.
After several hours of removing debris, I decided to take a break. I noticed that Betty Poole’s 85-year-old father was sitting on the porch watching us work. I went over and introduced myself. Thus began one of those memorable conversations that life treats us to once in a blue moon.
Turns out that Hubert Poole, a Marine during WWII, had been the center on Shaw University’s 1947 CIAA Championship basketball team. He had also been a teacher and coach at Ligon High School here in Raleigh when it was an all-black school during segregation. I told him about my first job as a seventh grade English teacher at an all-black school in Marion County, Mississippi … two years prior to integration.
We traded stories about the awkward and sometimes hostile experiences of public school integration.
In Mississippi, public schools were integrated in January 1970. It had been 16 years since the US Supreme Court rendered segregated schools unconstitutional in the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education decision. Since that time, the priority of the white only administrators in Marion County had been avoiding integration. No attempt had been made to develop an orderly process for matters like assigning teachers to schools … and classes to teachers.
Assigning teachers to schools by drawing names out of a box
In December before integration was to begin, teachers were notified by the administration to assemble in a gymnasium for the purpose of assigning teachers to schools. Upon arrival, we were shocked to learn that our assigned schools would be chosen by drawing names out of a box. Each principal would draw names of teachers until the number of teachers to be assigned to that school was reached. No consideration was given to matters like the subject we were trained to teach.
We were assured that the assignment would be temporary, only from January until the end of the school year in May. That would give the county school officials time to come up with a more suitable means of assigning teachers to schools. We all sat silently. No one dared say anything. That’s how awkward the racial atmosphere was during the early days of integration.
I will never forget the introduction of the principals by the white Marion County School Superintendent at the meeting in the gymnasium. He introduced the white principals as “Mr. Smith” or “Mr. Jones,” and introduced the black principals by their first names only … “James,” or “William.” Looking back, I shake my head at the thought that he didn’t realize the extent of his disrespect. Little had changed since the days when slave owners listed their slaves by first name only along with other inventory when their estates were settled: “1 Negro boy, James, age 45” “1 Negro boy, William, age 53.”
My name was drawn by “Mr.” Mabry, principal at the all white Bunker Hill School on the all white side of the county. Bunker Hill School was a long, ranch style wooden building, with two wings of classrooms, four on each wing, separated by the library, lunch room and the principal’s office. Bunker Hill School was first grade through eighth grade. There was no kindergarten.
The black and white teachers “assigned” to Bunker Hill met with Mr. Mabry a couple of days before school was to begin to discuss class assignments. He began by saying that under the circumstances, the only way he knew to make class assignments fairly was for teachers to select their classes in the order of seniority. He had written the names of the subjects to be taught on the blackboard. The older teachers went first, getting to chose subjects and the grade level with which they had training and experience.
I was the youngest teacher, and the last to choose. There was nothing left to choose. I was stuck with 7th grade Science, 8th grade American History, 6th grade Boys Physical Education, and two Study Halls. Remember, I had been a 7th grade English teacher. Irrelevant.
As I entered the building on the first day of school, I had to run the gauntlet of angry white parents loitering on both sides of the hallway. “He’s one of the nigger teachers,” I heard someone say.
Marc Basnight’s best friend
All of these experiences came back as I sat on the front porch with Hubert Poole yesterday listening to him talk about integration here in Raleigh; about pickup trucks with gun racks and hostile students.
After retiring from a life-long teaching career, Hubert Poole became Sergeant at Arms in the North Carolina Senate. Over two decades, he became a respected and beloved member of the Senate family.
“I started in the Senate at about the same time as Marc Basnight,” he told me, adding, “I’m Marc Basnight’s best friend.”
Poole went on to tell me about the kindnesses extended to him by Senators over the years, Democrats and Republicans, and how he knew what they were going to say on the floor before they said it. I could have talked with Mr. Poole all afternoon, but it was time to get back to work.
As I was walked down the porch steps he said, “If you see Marc Basnight, tell him I said to take it easy.” I knew just how well he knew Basnight when he added, “But he doesn’t know how to do that.”
Out of the devastation of a tornado, a conversation by happenstance took place yesterday with someone who had lived through the devastation of Jim Crow laws. I am so pleased that as a member of the Early Response Team at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church I had the opportunity to help Hubert Poole mitigate the tornado damage to his property. After all, he devoted his life to mitigating the damage of a segregated school system here in Wake County.
Hubert Poole was a member of segregation’s Early Response Team.
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Post: December 7, 2010 Volume III, No. 2 “I can’t control my caucus anymore.” NC Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, Sited in John Davis Political Report, Volume II, No. 8, December 10, 2009 NOTE: For those of you who are not subscribers, please subscribe today at $485 for the Premium Annual Subscription by clicking
Post: December 7, 2010 Volume III, No. 2
“I can’t control my caucus anymore.” NC Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, Sited in John Davis Political Report, Volume II, No. 8, December 10, 2009
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A Political Wave Does Not a Majority Make
Many assert that the Republican “Wave” of 2010 was the reason that North Carolina Republicans won the majority in both chambers of the General Assembly on November 2, a first since 1898. Well, if all it takes is a GOP “Wave,” then why haven’t Republicans won the majority in the North Carolina General Assembly more often than the one time in 1994 … during a stretch of 112 years? Why is it that only two other states, Oregon and Washington, have an undefeated run of Democratic governors as long as North Carolina?
Sorry, a wave does not a majority make.
The Republican “wave” that swept the U.S. this fall presented a wonderful opportunity for Republicans to achieve historic gains in North Carolina … but nothing more than a wonderful opportunity. Democrats have always been able to beat back the national Republican wave election years because of money, savvy and unity … aided by underfunded Republican candidates and Republican Party disunity.
In 2010, the Republican and Democratic caucus strengths were reversed. It was the Democrats who began to self destruct. Republicans seized that opportunity by doing everything right while the Democrats were doing the most important things wrong.
The potential for Republicans to hold the majority long term has nothing to do with “wave” elections, it is great because they have gotten very good at winning campaigns.
Divided Democratic Leadership Led by Inexperienced War Generals
The NC Senate Democratic Caucus started down the road to defeat on November 17, 2009, a year before the 2010 elections. That was the day Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe) was elected Majority Leader following the abrupt resignation of long-time Majority Leader and Rules Chairman Sen. Tony Rand (D-Cumberland).
Rand was a great war general; Nesbitt was not.
The historic era of unparalleled power of Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight came to an end that day. Basnight began to tell his friends, “I can’t control my caucus anymore.” A new era of Senate leadership began, an era led by seasoned urban lawyers with unquestionable public policy credentials … but not political combat credentials.
Marc Basnight and Tony Rand were unquestionably two of the most powerful legislative leaders in state history … powerful because they knew how to win campaigns even during GOP wave years. However, they wielded their power with such ruthless efficiency that over time they made lots of enemies … including in their own caucus. The little known fact outside the Raleigh beltline is that Basnight and Rand were slowly becoming a minority in their majority caucus.
Basnight and his inner circle were business owners. Their fatal flaw was the failure to see the value in maintaining a base of philosophical allies in their caucus by recruiting and helping elect other Democratic business owners.
And so, imperceptibly over time, a liberal coalition of Senate Democrats grew in number and coalesced to create its own force, a mutinous force that became stronger than that of the leaders Basnight and Rand.
Thus, the fall of the Basnight/Rand Empire … and with it, a divided caucus led by inexperienced political war generals. They were doomed a year ago.
United Republican Leadership Led by Seasoned War Generals Who Can Raise Money
By 2008, Senate Republicans and their political team under the leadership of Phil Berger from Eden had become seasoned political combat veterans. They had become so good that they would have won a majority of seats in the North Carolina Senate, during one of the worst years for Republicans in modern political history, if it were not for the unity, savvy and especially the fundraising prowess of the Basnight/Rand political machine.
Senate Democrats were forced to spend an average of $500,000 per competitive race just to fend off Republicans who spent a third of that. That’s how effective Republican leaders, their political staff and their consultants had become at winning campaigns. They were a serious political threat even during a Democratic “Wave” … long before the GOP wave came along.
Among House Republicans, a strong political war general was needed. In 2010, that leader emerged in the name of Thom Tillis, a two-term member of the House from Huntersville. Tillis joined Skip Stam from Apex in what has become a powerful force with a working relationship that has the long-term potential equal to that of Basnight and Rand. They are competent, intelligent, politically savvy, and committed to the state … with a priority of restoring the state’s economic vitality. Oh, and they can raise money!
“We went in united, we came out united.”
Most importantly, Stam and Tillis are united.
I asked a House member to tell me about the Republican House Caucus meeting held a couple of weeks ago during which Skip Stam and Thom Tillis vied against each other for the position of Speaker. That member said, “We went in united, we came out united … thanks to the way Skip Stam and Thom Tillis conducted themselves.” That speaks well for long-term majority status for Republicans in the North Carolina House.
And speaking of the importance of unity and political warfare experience, the role played by NC GOP Party Chair Tom Fetzer in 2009 and 2010 cannot be overstated. A party with a history of being divided, conservative versus moderates, came together under the leadership of Fetzer. Fetzer not only brought unity to the GOP this election cycle, he brought political savvy and fundraising skills from his years as Mayor of Raleigh and as a political consultant.
Fetzer’s rallying theme for the 2010 elections: “One Team, One Goal, Victory.” Unity, savvy and successful fundraising is why Republicans won in 2010. Otherwise, 2010 would have been just another Republican “wave” year written off as a just another missed opportunity.
Don’t Dismiss the Significance of the GOP Commitment
To suggest that “the wave” alone would have carried the GOP into power in 2010 not only flies in the face of NC history, it dismisses the significance of the GOP commitment.
- It dismisses the significance of a leave-it-all-on-the-battlefield 18-month commitment of time and energy by an atypically savvy and united group of NC Republican party leaders and their exceptional staff;
- It dismisses the significance of an atypically savvy and united Senate and House Republican caucus leadership team and their exceptional political staff;
- It dismisses the definitive value of the thousands of volunteers who manned the phone banks for months making 2 million calls so they would not be beat this year in the early voting turnout;
- It dismisses the extraordinary class of candidates who neglected their families and risked their personal resources while working the campaign trail to exhaustion day after week after month after month … nights and weekends;
- It dismisses the significance of thousands of new contributors to Republican candidates and the hard work of those who took the time to work the phones raising the money;
- It dismisses the significance of new independent expenditure groups that followed the 2008 labor union play book with a partisan investment of millions;
- It dismisses the significance of the fact that through mid-October, Republican fundraising was UP twice as much as in 2008 while Democrats were DOWN $2 million;
- It dismisses the significance of the Tea Partiers and all of those rallies held all over the state … rallies organized by organizations like Americans for Prosperity and Civitas … rallies that would not have happened if it were not for committed and hard-working staff;
- It dismisses the significance of the value of 60 polls made public by organizations like Civitas, Carolina Strategy Group and Public Policy Polling … and groups like the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation who compiled political research for easy access;
- It dismisses the significance of the value of organizations like the John Locke Foundation that was a constant source of misery for Gov. Perdue and the Democratic establishment, keeping them tripped up with their effective investigative reporting and in-your-face news releases;
- It dismisses the significance of the constant drum beat of conservative thought pushed into the public conscience by talk radio, Fox News and a gazillion conservative publications and web sites.
Republicans in other states may have inadvertently won the power because of the national wave. Here in North Carolina, the “wave” was nothing more than an opportunity.
Republicans seized that opportunity by doing everything right while the Democrats were doing the most important things wrong. The potential for Republicans to hold the majority long term has nothing to do with “wave” elections, it is great because they have gotten very good at winning campaigns.
Well, there you have it, the John Davis Political Report for Tuesday, December 7, 2010.
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Part I: Liabilities 1 – 4 NC Republicans do not have to raise the political bar closer to that of Democrats to seize power in 2010 if Democrats lower their political bar closer to that of Republicans. Toyota Motor Company has lost market share because of worldwide recalls of millions of its cars due to management mistakes
Part I: Liabilities 1 – 4
NC Republicans do not have to raise the political bar closer to that of Democrats to seize power in 2010 if Democrats lower their political bar closer to that of Republicans.
Toyota Motor Company has lost market share because of worldwide recalls of millions of its cars due to management mistakes that led to frightening problems like mysterious acceleration, unreliable breaks and rollovers.[i] Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company just posted a $2.1 billion first quarter profit and is touting the best market share gain since 1977. “It benefited from Toyota’s safety recalls of millions of vehicles,” said Kelley Blue Book, “Ford was one of the top brands considered by Toyota owners who were shopping for a new car.”[ii]
Toyota’s brand is so damaged by sloppy standards that it must now offer promotional gimmicks like 0% loans and $2,000 rebates to lure customers. Likewise, the brand of the North Carolina Democrat Party is so tarnished by a decade of sloppy standards and corrupt leaders that the only way it has kept Republicans from taking over state government is by outspending them 3-to-1 on incentives and political promotional gimmicks.
Many believe that the only way North Carolina Republicans can seize power in 2010 is to raise the political bar closer to that of Democrats. Well, what if Democrats lower their political bar closer to the GOP? Republicans win; that is what is happening in this state.
During the next few weeks I will be writing about the Top 10 political liabilities that have cost Democrats market share and turned the North Carolina Democratic Party into the Toyota Motor Company of state politics. Here are the first four:
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“Basnight often gives campaign money to the state Democratic Party, which can give unlimited amounts to legislative candidates.” AP, March 18, 2010 1 Last Thursday night, former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt hosted a fundraiser for Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. According to the Associated Press, 300 to 400 people
Last Thursday night, former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt hosted a fundraiser for Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. According to the Associated Press, 300 to 400 people paying $100-$4000 were expected to show up in order that the good senator from Dare County would have the war chest needed to continue the 114-year winning streak of the Senate Democratic caucus.
Money flows to those with power. Those with power use the money to keep their power. Those with money use those with power to keep their money. Many of those in attendance at the fairgrounds represented large corporations who claim to be champions of the free market system of economy; a system whereby private interests compete for profit with little governmental intervention. Truth be known, many of those large corporations … like Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina … use government intervention to gain a competitive advantage over their competition; a role government leaders like former Sen. Tony Rand are happy to play … provided you pay … at events like the fundraiser last Thursday night.
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There was a drowning man, 50 feet from shore. A 50 foot rope lay on the beach. A Republican came along and seeing the man struggling threw him 25 feet of rope and said, “If you’ll swim half way I’ll pull you on in.” A Democrat came along and seeing the man struggling threw him
There was a drowning man, 50 feet from shore. A 50 foot rope lay on the beach. A Republican came along and seeing the man struggling threw him 25 feet of rope and said, “If you’ll swim half way I’ll pull you on in.” A Democrat came along and seeing the man struggling threw him 50 feet of rope, then dropped the rope and went off to do another good deed. The man drowned.
As we begin the 2010 election year, all indicators are pointing favorably towards Republicans. We saw in Virginia and New Jersey last year that President Obama’s base is a mile wide and an inch deep. They didn’t vote. Obama’s liberal notions are beginning to raise doubts about his leadership in a nation where 8 out of 10 voters are either conservative or moderate.1 In our state, Democrats are rocked by scandal, a budget crisis and the fall of the Basnight/Rand Empire.
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“For the good of his district and the integrity of the N.C. Senate, such as it is, he [Sen. R.C. Soles, Permanent Senate Democratic Caucus Chair] should throw in the towel while he has a chance to leave on his own terms.” — Wilmington Star-News Editorial, December 12, 20091 While reading the Wilmington Star-News editorial
“For the good of his district and the integrity of the N.C. Senate, such as it is, he [Sen. R.C. Soles, Permanent Senate Democratic Caucus Chair] should throw in the towel while he has a chance to leave on his own terms.” — Wilmington Star-News Editorial, December 12, 20091
While reading the Wilmington Star-News editorial this past Saturday, calling for the resignation of Sen. R.C. Soles, Permanent Chair of the Democratic Caucus, after a Columbus County grand jury requested an indictment for assault with a deadly weapon, I was struck by the characterization of the integrity of the North Carolina Senate with the phrase, “such as it is.”
“Soles’ reputation – always a little suspect since his first indictment in the Colcor investigation of corruption in his home county – has been tarnished to the point that he can no longer represent his constituents effectively or with honor. He turns 75 this month. For the good of his district and the integrity of the N.C. Senate, such as it is, he should throw in the towel while he has a chance to leave on his own terms.”
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.2 Most of the corrupting influence of power is legal, like the disregard for ethical conduct. A great example is the decision of the Senate to keep Sen. R.C. Soles on as Permanent Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus despite years of questionable behavior, the kind of behavior that would have led to the immediate firing of the chair of any other board or committee, public or private. Another example is the “no bid” deals between state agencies and Sen. Tony Rand‟s company Law Enforcement Associates.
The “integrity of the NC Senate, such as it is,” has been corrupted by the disregard for ethical conduct by its leaders. But is character all that important? Is it more important than caring?
No doubt, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight has had a remarkable 17-year run as the leader of the Senate, arguably accomplishing more than any other Senator in state history. No one will ever be able to deny that he and his loyal inner circle, including R.C. Soles and Tony Rand, have done a whole lot of good for a whole lot of people. They care deeply about the Senate, the state and its people … especially Basnight. Basnight personifies the servant leader of the Methodist tradition. He always wants to know what he can do for you. However …
Crabtree Fever Epidemic in the N.C. Senate
Somewhere along the way the Senate Democratic leadership became stricken with a fatal case of Crabtree fever. Crabtree fever is like Potomac fever, caused by elected officials who let their power go to their heads. The only difference between Potomac fever and Crabtree fever is that one is named for a river that flows through the nation‟s capitol and the other is named for a creek that flows through Raleigh.
The biggest symptom of Crabtree fever is an unsightly rash … of bad decisions. Crabtree fever distorts your perception of how immune you are. It causes lawmakers to throw their weight around and run over anyone who gets in their way; a fever that can be easily diagnosed by the degree of hubris of those afflicted. Crabtree fever turns otherwise decent leaders into bullies, bullies who are so intimidating that even the most powerful corporate leaders, like the CEOs of public utilities and insurance companies, cower like 90-pound weaklings; abandoning the greater good of small and medium-sized businesses just to ensure that they don‟t upset the bullies.
Sadly, Crabtree fever also makes leaders think that they are above the law. Yesterday, a second former official of Sen. Tony Rand‟s security gear company LEA said that Rand tried to talk him into a scheme to manipulate the company‟s stock. The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are now investigating the allegations of insider trading. When you are so powerful, like Senate Rules Committee Chair Tony Rand, that you think it‟s OK to peddle stock in a company where you serve as chairman of the board to state agency heads, and then to have those same agencies buy equipment from that company via no-bid contracts, you have a fatal case of Crabtree fever.
Sen. R.C. Soles, Permanent Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, continues to enjoy the support of the Senate leadership despite 40 emergency calls to Soles’ Tabor City home and law office in the past four years involving a shooting, attempted burglary, assaults, breaking and entering, young men high on drugs stalking Soles, loud cursing, screaming, and shots being fired.3 A house Soles purchased for a teenage boy was burned by an arsonist. Soles‟ teenage friend with the burned house was caught driving without a license and was arrested for fleeing police in a high-speed chase in the Corvette Soles bought for him. Soles, 74 years-old, also bought the 17-year-old a pair of four-wheelers and provided him with a generous allowance.
The teenager‟s sister told a reporter for WWAY, the ABC News affiliate in Wilmington, “He‟s [Soles] threatened his life many times.”4 Soles beat charges of conspiracy, vote-buying and perjury in back in 1983. Perhaps, with the help of a good criminal defense attorney, he will beat these charges too. What he cannot beat is the stain he has made on the integrity of the Senate.
Kharakter Found to Cure Crabtree Fever Epidemic
According to Safire‟s Political Dictionary, the word character comes from the ancient Greek word “kharakter,” the word used thousands of years ago for „engraving tool.‟ Over the centuries its meaning has been extended to include the mark a person makes to distinguish themselves.5
Character education is now a mandated curriculum in public schools throughout the nation. In 1993, the Wake County Public School System decided to teach character traits. The controversial issues associated with character education at the time were “which character traits do you teach” and “who decides.” Wake County did something really smart. They turned to the parents of public school children for advice, using an opinion survey. A total of 28,198 surveys were returned by parents. The character trait that got the highest percent recommendation from parents was Respect, followed by Kindness (caring), Responsibility, Courage, Good Judgment, Integrity, Self-Discipline, and Perseverance. Those eight character traits are still taught today.
The great lesson to learn from character education is that all of the traits are important. That‟s the lesson that our political leaders need to dwell on … national and state, Democrats and Republicans. However, no one can deny the good accomplished by Sen. Marc Basnight. He does care about the state and its people. So, what‟s more important, his character or his caring?
In 1996, when U.S. Sen. Bob Dole was the Republican nominee running against President Bill Clinton, ABC News conducted a national poll that examined the importance of character and caring. The question was asked, “Who has the greatest strength of personal character?” Bob Dole won on the issue of character by a 2-to-1 margin. The next question was, “Who cares more about people like you?” Bill Clinton won on the issue of caring by a 2-to-1 margin. The final question was, “What’s more important, character or caring?” Caring won by a 2-to-1 margin.
The great political danger for Republicans in North Carolina is that they too will catch a fatal case of Crabtree fever by thinking that the voters will choose them to lead just because the Democrats have character problems. For those throughout this state struggling with the hardships brought on by this economy, there is no greater character problem than the lack of caring. Perhaps the leaders of both parties need a refresher course in character education.
- Lord Acton, 1834-1902, British historian, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.
- StarNews ONLINE, “Teen with ties to Sen. R.C. Soles back in jail,” Sept. 15, 2009, by Shelby Sebens
- Safire’s Political Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2008