Making a statement
When one is a governor-elect, there are lots of decisions to make. Transitions, appointments, policies and personnel decisions all occupy your dwindling time, and they are all really important to get right. But when the governor-elect is Pat McCrory, this is all a bit easier, since he’s been planning this day for roughly a decade, and he knows basically how he wants them to run.
Of course he needed a Chief of Staff, and that was an easy decision to appoint the guy who has been running his transition team. A new DHHS Secretary? That’s simple too- just find a retired physician and former Ambassador to Estonia who just happened to have bundled some campaign donations. Want a Deputy Director of Budgets? This is the easiest decision of all: just appoint a billionaire buddy, largest campaign donor, and conservative businessman Art Pope.
Surprised? Let’s face it folks – we knew he would be there somewhere.
Many of us work in politics because we enjoy the unpredictability of it all, the sheer lunacy hiding behind the mundane screen of banality that passes for modern politics. But every once in a while, a politician decides that he (or she… but usually he) does not have to answer for a decision because only the political operatives or the “chattering classes” are paying attention to it, and there will be no political fall-out or repercussions.
I believe that is how and why Mr. Pope is now officially a part of Mr. McCrory’s cabinet. The calculation was made that it was more important to give Mr. Pope what he obviously wanted than to give North Carolina what it actually needs, and no one will be paying attention to a boring list of cabinet appointment released a few days before Christmas.
And you know what? Mr. McCrory was correct. In an informal poll of non-political friends this morning, (and yes, I have a few) not one had heard about this appointment, and only two were vaguely familiar with Art Pope and his involvement in conservative politics in North Carolina. While I will take personal responsibility for these few lost souls, the story is being lost among the familiar narrative of politics as usual in Raleigh.
McCrory’s Chief of Staff defended the decision to appoint Mr. Pope last night by saying that Pope has the necessary background and leadership skills necessary to discharge the post. There is no doubt that Mr. Pope is a very smart and capable man who can more than handle a deputy position of this caliber – but there are plenty of others who could do it as well, without the political baggage.
By making this appointment, Mr. McCrory is sending a message to North Carolina about what kind of governor he will be for the state: I campaigned as a moderate, but I will govern as an ideologue. Buckle up folks – it’s not the end of the word, but it's still going to be rough.