Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mr. Blust Plays Peekaboo

Charter Communications screwed up the broadcast of the N.C. House & Senate candidate forum last night (how are you LATE to an event like this, when your job is broadcasting?), so the first several minutes were not taped. We feel certain that many would-be viewers tuned in to Channel 2 at 6 p.m., and when nothing resembling a candidate forum flashed on the screen for five, six, ten minutes, they justifiably gave up and started watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" reruns.

Pity, since both Cullie Tarleton and Steve Goss made strong showings.

Incumbent Republican House member Gene Wilson, Tarleton's opponent, made no showing at all. He wasn't there. Any explanation for that was lost, obviously, in the missing opening minutes of the forum.

David Blust, the Republican candidate against Steve Goss for the senate seat, was there, and his was a super-cagey performance, some parts of which will be highlighted here. Blust has behaved as though the seat were already his by divine right. Once he beat incumbent Republican John Garwood in the primary, in a low-down nasty campaign that blamed Garwood not only for the N.C. lottery but for drunk-driving deaths and general moral decay, he essentially rested on his laurels. According to his campaign finance reports, he was out of money after the primary, especially after paying his own business $7,000 for "advertising," and he didn't seem particularly concerned about November. That sense of self-satisfaction may have taken a dent or two recently -- we don't know -- but Blust is always a fascinating player on a public stage where he has to address ALL the citizenry and not just those he knows agrees with him.

So he went substantially underground.

He praised the North Carolina wine industry.

He professed himself a big BIG supporter of alternative energy.

He bashed CAFTA and NAFTA.

He agreed with the Democrats. He agreed with them a lot. "Ditto," he said. "I agree with both of you fellows," he said. That's just what I was going to say, he said. Answering a question second or third was the cat-bird seat for Blust, since he could play off what the Democrats said. Having to answer a question first, however, was far more uncomfortable.

For example, one of the questions that went to Blust first:
Q: What would you do to support public education and the facilities needed by our schools?
Blust: You mean locally or statewide?

After the moderator suggested that "locally" was probably the thrust of the question, Blust the-private-school-promoter said (verbatim):
Blust: Well, I think we've done that for years with bond referendums and also looking at needs through the legislature and, you know, if you have, you know, facilities that need to be built -- I look at Northern Guilford High School down in Guilford County, look at Charlotte, they are adding a new high school every couple of years with population growth, so, you know, certainly the answer is, you know, you've got to, got to provide high schools for those people when the population is exploding like that.

Now that requires some unpacking. You would expect the great local opponent of a new public high school to bring up referendums immediately, but what did he mean, changing the subject so radically to Guilford and Meckenburg counties? Did you miss the implied emphasis? "You've got to, got to provide high schools for those people." But not necessarily for your own people.

Yes, Blust came out bravely in favor of referendums, which as we know is the weapon of choice locally to first delay and then derail a new high school. In response to another question about the wisdom of referendums, Blust pointed to California as the fount of wisdom: "California ... has initiatives all the time that they throw out there." California should be our bright and shining beacon of good government?

Blust has been told, evidently, that immigration is the best button to push, revealed in the following exchange:
Q: What will be the number one priority of your term in office?
Blust: Will you repeat the question.
Q: What will be the number one priority of your term in office?
Blust: It's hard to say just one ... but illegal immigration....

It was clear from the unclear ramble that followed that Mr. Blust has no PLANS for dealing with immigration, which is a federal issue anyway, but only wanted to wave it in people's faces, in case we should forget that he shares our prejudices. Those particular prejudices were on more ample display a little later in the forum when Mr. Blust said (again verbatim):
Blust: We've got a problem. And when illegal immigrants can come here -- you know, years ago our forefathers came here and they learned the language and they learned the culture and they became legal. Yes, our Christmas tree growers do hire a lot of these folks and there's a worker program out there that certainly needs to be tweaked, out of Washington, but we've got a problem we need to deal with. They shouldn't be able to get drivers' licenses. Here we have money problems with education in our schools. We're having to hire people to come in and, you know, decipher what they're saying. I just think that's a problem.

In some amazement at that response, Steve Goss said illegal immigration was partly a matter of national security, but it was also partly a matter of "compassion."

Compassion was just not on Mr. Blust's mind last night. Jesus would have been so proud!

FOOTNOTE ON REFERENDUMS: Wonder what Mr. Blust says to Ashe Countians on the subject? A referendum for a new Ashe County high school failed -- what? -- twice before the County Commission decided to build one anyway. It took bravery. And the county is justifiably proud now of what it would never have gotten through a referendum. "Referendum" is just another way of saying "We don't want no stinking public education."

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