Smart politics makes N.C. look stupid


imagesThe News & Observer has an excellent story this morning about the controversy over the search for a president of the UNC system. It would be funny if it weren’t such a sad statement about our political leadership, university system and academic freedom.

Oh, you’re right, you have to laugh at the pouting, the arrogance and the stomping of feet by people old enough to be considered adults. It’s just a shame that they are embarrassing the state. Again.

A quick reminder: The legislature and governor, newly controlled by GOP since 2012, replaced most of the Democrats on the Board of Governors. Then, just certainly coincidentally, the Board of Governors decided it wanted its own person to serve as president of the university system because the current one, Tom Ross, was a Democrat. Everyone on the board said politics had nothing to do with Ross’ ouster, but they give no other logical reason for firing a man who by all accounts has done a good job.

Now, to today. From the N&O’s story:

“The UNC Board of Governors has been called to an emergency meeting Friday to get an update on the UNC presidential search and to talk with leading candidate Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary in George W. Bush’s administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the search.

“The meeting has touched off a storm with leaders in the legislature, who wrote to board members Thursday, saying that the gathering could run afoul of new legislation that requires the search committee to bring forward three candidates to the full board for discussion.”

It sure did. The House Speaker and the leader in the Senate couldn’t believe any body would do something they didn’t like, calling it the “Board’s attempt to circumvent the overwhelming will of the elected people of the State of North Carolina.” (Take note: It doesn’t say the overwhelming will of the people, but of the “elected” people. Big difference.)

Thom Goolsby, a former legislator and now member of the Board of Governors, complained that the people of North Carolina has lost trust in the chairman of the board, John Fennebresque. (I agree, but not for this act. For the ouster of Ross in the first place.)

It does seem as if Fennebreque is sticking a finger in the legislature’s eye. Note, however, that the legislation referred to above isn’t yet law because it hasn’t been signed by the governor.

So, let’s do a brief accounting before today’s meeting:

* Freedom to conduct the hiring process the way we want gone? Check.

* Political gameplaying entering the world of the state’s university system? Check.

* Appointees not doing the political bidding of the legislature? Check.

* Citizens of North Carolina embarrassed by the behavior of all involved? Check. And double check.

Carter Wrenn, a Republican, wrote an unrelated blog post yesterday about the political leadership in the state. It rings true here. “Governor McCrory isn’t one of those politicians who lusts after power; he’s more like a genial movie star or an actor who walks onto the stage, speaks his lines, listens to the applause then moves on to the next act.

“The Bull Mooses in the State Senate do lust for power. They bulldoze the Governor. And the House. And don’t allow pesky critters like facts get in their way – they bulldoze them too.”

All of the players in this drama with one exception are members of the same party. The one exception is Ross.

He’s also the only one who has behaved with the dignity of an adult throughout this whole debacle.

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