A friend shared this observation with me today, and it seemed right on the money.
In the old days, they were called “Kremlin Watchers” – international analysts who’d keep an eye on the public appearances of top Russian leaders to determine who was on the ins and who was on the outs. Often, the biggest display of closeness to power was at the annual May Day parade in Red Square. Who appeared atop Lenin’s tomb, and what order they were standing in often signaled critical changes in power and influence.
Well, applying that cold war practice to today’s budget signing by Gov. Pat McCrory offers some interesting, and perhaps revealing, insights.
Often it is who isn’t in the picture than who is. Just two legislators showed up for the photo op – and they were both from Raleigh. One isn’t seeking re-election – state Sen. Neal Hunt. State Rep. Nelson Dollar, has no significant opposition in his district. The rest of the gaggle – Art Pope, Chloe Gossage, Thomas Stith, Lee Roberts and Eric Guckian – all folks who are McCrory administration insiders and on his payroll.
Now, when a governor signs a budget bill, it is usually something that legislators, in particular, flock to be a part of. They’ve got a tax cut they want to take credit for; a program created they want to bask in the glory of or pay raises they want to be sure to be recognized for. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest – nowhere to be seen. Senate President ProTem Phil Berger, absent. House Speaker Thom Tillis, nowhere around – probably miles and miles away shaking down folks for his Senate campaign expenses. Even McCrory opened his remarks by saying he was hitting the road as soon as he signed the budget.
Perhaps, those absent are adopting the point of view once expressed by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards: “You can put lipstick on a hog and call it Monique, but it is still a pig."
It's a sad day when the only people attending such a supposedly ceremonious event are people who are paid to be there. Let's face it. No one wants to take credit for this abomination. Least of all Thom Tillis.