Don’t worry, guv. Reagan did it, too

Posted by Dan Barkin on November 11, 2013 

John Frank’s story today about Governor McCrory, and his off-the-cuff style and occasional difficulties with the finer points of policy, reminded me about the hedgehog and the fox.

The fox, as the tale went, knew many things but the hedgehog knew one big thing.

Ronald Reagan was the classic hedgehog. He did not know, nor did he want to know, the gritty details of government policies or programs.

He actually knew more than one big thing; he knew two big things: Government spent too much and the Soviet Union was bad. So he focused on restraining the growth of government, cutting taxes where he could, and doing whatever he could to hasten the demise of communism.

Like Gov. McCrory, Reagan was prone to occasionally having a loose grip on facts and getting in trouble when unscripted. Like when he did a sound check in 1984 before his weekly Saturday address, saying that he’d signed legislation that outlawed Russia and we begin bombing in five minutes. That didn’t go out over the air but it did leak out and the Russians were not pleased.

Didn’t seem to matter to the voters. You can be a successful politician if the public knows you well and overlooks the occasional verbal stumble, and if you succeed in doing what you set out to do. A little luck doesn’t hurt, either.

Reagan had been in the public eye for decades when he became president. It didn’t matter so much to the public that after some press conferences, his staff had to correct this or that misstatement. He also had a roaring economy in the ‘80s.

Gov. McCrory is still getting established in the minds of North Carolinians. He has been governor for 10 months. And before that, he was down in Charlotte, well-known in the Queen City but not necessarily so much statewide. So he doesn’t yet have that reservoir of goodwill that Reagan accumulated during the years he was a movie star, then a TV spokesman for GE, and then a popular governor of California.

I think Gov. McCrory deserves credit for talking to John Frank for the story that ran today. But that’s also smart, because it shows the public that, heck, yeah, he goofs here and there but he’s not that worried about it. People appreciate politicians who don’t hide behind their staff and are willing to own up to stuff.

And, frankly, if the economy improves, the unemployment rate comes down, and the governor fixes some of the problems that he came to Raleigh to fix, folks won’t remember in three years that, early in his term, he got tangled up on some policy details or occasionally said some things he wished he could take back.

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