President Obama may hit political turbulence in North Carolina visit

When President Obama visits North Carolina in a planned stop in the Research Triangle on Wednesday, it won’t be the first time a trip to the state coincided with his State of the Union address. Last year, a visit to the Asheville area followed the event; Wednesday, the president is expected to preview economic policy at N.C. State University in Raleigh before his Jan. 28 speech. Are there politics involved? The answer, as always, would be yes.

Choosing Mel Watt’s successor — on North Carolina’s agenda


Charlotte, N.C.- Former Congressman Mel Watt is now heading the Federal Housing Finance Agency, but his promotion leaves voters in the 12th Congressional District with no one to speak on their behalf. Mary Curtis joined Rising today to talk about the politics of choosing Watt’s successor.

A question of race is raised

When a reporter asked the question, it was startling because everyone is so used to the interpretive dance around the “r-word,” race, particularly when it comes to describing opposition to any move by the administration of President Barack Obama. After Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote on the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, press secretary Jay Carney was asked if the White House saw a racial motive. Carney said, “I think it is about politics, and I think we’ve seen this kind of obstruction far too often. For individual motivations, you need to ask the individuals.” The answer was as cagey as ever.

In Watt’s case there were other reasons given for the rejection: political philosophy, or the belief by conservatives that the congressman would favor more federal involvement in the home mortgage industry; competence, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) questioning Watt’s “technical expertise and experience,” and, of course, the brick wall of senators, such as Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has said he wants more information on last year’s attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, before he will approve much of anything.

It is also true that Republicans chose the nomination of Watt — a black Democrat from North Carolina — for the rare though not unprecedented move of filibustering a sitting member of Congress in a sub-Cabinet but still important post. (Republican Sen. Richard Burr of Watt’s home state, with Rob Portman of Ohio, did split with the GOP to support Watt.)

In North Carolina, a civilized gun debate fails to change minds

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In a mostly blue city in a mostly red state, a crowd of several hundred filled a theater for a community conversation called “Voices in the Gun Debate.” It was cordial, which is more than you can say for much of the national dialogue that has NRA leadership and gun control advocates giving little ground in language or policy. But at evening’s end, there weren’t many conversions, either.