North Carolina Republicans could learn a lot from watching high-profile Democrats handle gaffes. Throughout the year, members of the North Carolina GOP have made asinine statements or told outright lies that have caused a stream of minor media storms and occasionally ended up on late night television. The latest was Senator Rucho’s ridiculous tweet saying Obamacare was worse than the Nazis, Soviets and terrorists combined.
To their credit, I didn’t see even twitter-nuts coming to his defense, but I didn’t see any rebuke from Senate leadership, either. In contrast, was former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta’s comment comparing the House Republicans to a “cult worthy of Jonestown.” Even though he made the statement a few months ago, Fox News and conservative social media lit up, hoping it would become a firestorm.
It didn’t. Why? Because Podesta immediately owned the statement and apologized. The whole episode was over before it even got started.
Rucho, in contrast, doubled down, stood by his absurd statement and called his critics the “socialist elite.” Instead of going away, the story has lasted the whole week and Rucho has lost credibility with the press. From now on, Rucho’s statements will be taken with a grain of salt.
But it’s not just Rucho. Pat McCrory has made numerous misstatements and errors throughout the year. Instead of issuing corrections or apologizing or even offering plausible spin, he blames the press and partisans for his woes. As his interview with Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer illustrated, McCrory has tarnished his credibility.
And while Obama may be suffering from the Obamacare rollout, he owned his “if you like it, you can keep it” statement and apologized. It still might come back to bite him or Democrats in tough races, but, for the time being, the storm has settled a bit. Had he tried to somehow defend his statement or blame criticism on partisanship like our governor, we would still be reading about it everyday.
North Carolina Republicans are new to governing and they still have lot to learn. Phil Berger and Thom Tillis would be smart to try to keep their caucus members off of social media until they gain some self discipline. But short of that, they need to force legislators to quickly walk back their stupid statements or face discipline. As for the governor, they need to just stay out of the hole he’s digging.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >