North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger was once a semi-reasonable guy. Conservative? Certainly. But during the first several years of his tenure in Raleigh, Berger mostly came across in a way you might expect from a middle-aged, small town, Republican lawyer: Traditional and pro-business, but pleasant, intelligent and friendly enough. Though progressives seldom found themselves agreeing with Berger, he was someone who with whom a person could have a discussion (and maybe even find some common ground).
Something happened in recent years, however, to the old Phil Berger. Especially since he became Senate leader and developed ambitions for higher office (either for himself or his kid), the old, semi-friendly small town lawyer has been replaced by a meaner, edgier, much more reactionary Phil Berger. Sometimes you almost feel as if you’re watching someone trying to play a role. His policies and policy statements are uniformly reactionary and harsh while those of his staff members are frequently even more extreme.
For a case in point, check out this story in today’s Fayetteville Observer. It’s about an effort that advocates at the NC Justice Center have launched to call attention to the disastrous consequences that would befall North Carolina if the federal budget “sequester” goes into effect. Mind you, the damage that would be caused by sequestration would be simply enormous — especially to military dependent communities like Fayetteville. This fact explains in large measure why so many conservative, pro-military politicians of both parties have spoken against the idea (people like John McCain and Lindsay Graham).
Yesterday, the Justice Center arranged a conference call in which some state legislators pleaded for the federal colleagues to avoid sequester. Unfortunately, the wisdom of the idea of state lawmakers standing up for their state doesn’t seem to have occurred to the 2.0 version of Senator Berger or his staff. This is from the Observer article:
It appears unlikely that the letter will get much support in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“We are not engaging in the left-wing N.C. Justice Center’s daily publicity stunts,” said Amy Auth, spokeswoman for state Senate leader Phil Berger, in an email. “They should voice their concerns with federal legislation to our federal legislators.”
You got that? Calling on Congress to do something that would save thousands of jobs in already struggling communities and that’s favored by John McCain and Lindsay Graham is a “left-wing publicity stunt.”
Good grief. Have things really gotten this posionous on Jones Street?
Of course, in fairness, an honest person has to admit that Berger does know at least something about such matters; his performance as Senate leader over the last few years does appear to amount to one big publicity stunt.