Last week, Gov. Mike Easley apologized for appointing Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. It was Easley’s way of distancing himself from the rogue prosecutor now that the entire free world has condemned Nifong’s actions. A lot of folks seemed impressed by the gesture, but Easley should be excoriated for making such a bad choice, not praised for regretting it. That’s because both the appointment and the apology, like everything else Easley has done, were politically motivated.
Let’s review some of Ealsey’s history in that regard.
Following Hurricane Katrina, oil companies went on a profiteering spree, jacking up gasoline prices by 60 cents per gallon in one day alone. This was a particular hardship for North Carolinians who already pay among the highest gas tax in America. But while Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was busy suspending the gas tax to help his citizens, Mike Easley flew to his beach house and said there was nothing he could do to abate the crisis in our state. Where’s the apology for your insensitivity, Mike?
Shortly thereafter, heating oil prices were predicted to soar for the winter, so GOP lawmakers pushed to eliminate tax on home heating fuel. Easley refused, saying the state could not afford to lose the revenue. Yet, even when we ran a surplus, Easley refused to issue refunds or credits for the little guy. Instead he presided over numerous hikes in the state sales tax. How about an apology for that, Governor?
And it was Easley who railroaded the Dell incentives package through, giving legislators only a few hours to study the details. A closer examination would have revealed that Dell is free to fire as many as 40 percent of its new workforce without losing a penny of perks. Governor, an apology is certainly in order to anyone who gets laid off from Dell.
But then, that Dell sweetheart deal shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, our governor has always been friendly to outsiders. For example, Easley never lifted a finger to reform lax DMV licensing procedures which facilitated the 9-11 attacks. And, during his two terms in office, illegal immigration has increased nearly 400 percent. Thanks to Mike Easley, we taxpayers are spending a half billion dollars per year to educate children of illegal aliens who pay no taxes at all. Why not apologize for those transgressions, Governor?
Clearly, Easley has a lot to apologize for, which is why his latest act of penitence is disingenuous at best. That’s because Nifong wasn’t the governor’s first such disaster. Easley also sat back and enabled Jim Black and Mike Decker to alter the legislative majority in an unprecedented scandal that indirectly benefited the Governor. Laws were broken, public confidence shaken, but not once did Easley step in and condemn the speaker and his cronies. And let’s not forget Easley’s political appointment of Britt Cobb to run the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. After Cobb was defeated by Steve Troxler, Easley was in the background pushing Cobb to seek a new election, so that the governor could keep control of more patronage jobs. No matter that the retake would have cost us taxpayers millions of dollars.
Such behavior by a chief executive is a bit scary. But the really frightening thing is that some folks are now urging Easley to throw his hat in the ring as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2008, or to challenge Liddy Dole for her US Senate seat. Either strategy, if successful, would elevate our esteemed governor to a bigger stage, and position him for national office. If that happens, we will have unleashed a politically savvy but generally incompetent man onto the American public, much like Texans did with George Bush. I implore my Democrat friends to please just let Easley go quietly from the Governor’s mansion. I beg you not to encourage him in any way that will allow him to create havoc on a wider scale. Don’t let him get near Washington in any capacity.
Right now, Easley is making apologies to Tarheel folk. But if North Carolinians advance his political career any further, we may be the ones apologizing – to the rest of the nation.
Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on MY48 (cable channel 15).