Commentary

Saunders: Gov. Pat McCrory doesn’t find any fault in himself or his people

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJanuary 8, 2014 

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Julius Caesar

“Fault? What ‘fault’ ”? Gov. Pat McCrory

Stuff happens. That’s a fact of life. Who hasn’t tried to open the wrong car door in the mall parking lot, or poured salt in their soon-to-be ex’s oatmeal – OK, maybe that wasn’t a mistake – or mailed 50,000 children’s Medicaid cards to the wrong addresses?

The thing to do in each instance is to acknowledge the mistake, apologize and set a corrective course.

That’s what you and I would do. That’s not what our beloved governor does, though. Through his first year in office, McCrory has been unwilling to criticize or punish his appointees when they’ve made egregious errors – or himself for hiring them.

Buck stops where?

The latest, possibly most egregious, example occurred recently when the Department of Health and Human Services mailed the cards bearing personal, sensitive information to the wrong addresses. Did McCrory publicly upbraid DHHS head Aldona Wos and vow that such incompetence would not be tolerated?

No.

Did he demand that heads roll and someone be kicked out on his or her keister?

No, although one of Wos’ and his earlier mistakes, shamefully overpaid communications director Ricky Diaz, announced this week that he is leaving of his own accord to accept what is likely an even cushier gig in Washington.

Did McCrory, finally, angrily pound his fist on his executive desk and proclaim, “The buck stops here”?

Not a chance.

He more likely said, “The bucks stop here” – pointing to his pocket – “and Aldona and Ricky helped put a lot of them there. Do you think I’m going to fire a major campaign contributor just because some poor people who didn’t vote for me anyway missed their food stamps or had their privacy breached?”

Just blame Bev and Mike

By no means is McCrory unique in his inability to be self-critical. One is more likely to find a professional rassler confessing self-doubt before climbing into the squared circle than one is a politician accepting blame without a subpoena. That’s certainly the case with McCrory. Instead of being incensed at yet another besmirchment of his administration, the governor shifted blame to his predecessors, former Govs. Bev Perdue and Mike Easley.

“There’s been 10 years of operational neglect – not only in that department, but others,” McCrory said Monday. “You can’t fix that in one year.”

See how deftly he deflected blame not only for this fiasco, but for future ones? Yep, “The Bev did it,” is the new mantra coming from Jones Street.

The irony is not just that McCrory came into office preaching accountability, but that he has frequently lambasted President Obama for blaming his predecessor for the genuine melluva hess he inherited.

If the governor and his appointees are merely incompetent in administering these programs and ensuring that people who need help receive it, then that is the best we could hope for.

State Rep. Larry Hall told me Wednesday, “The public doesn’t have confidence in this administration. ... Our inability to serve those in greatest need is really threatening our credibility. We need definite change at the top, in upper level management. ... Identity theft is one of the biggest crimes we have now, but you’ll note that rather than require the cards to be sent back, they gave people permission to destroy them or do whatever other than bringing or sending them back.

“You have to ask yourself,” Hall said, “ ‘Is DHHS really a priority? Is this your A team?’ 

Yikes! Please don’t let this be the governor’s A team, because that would mean its members are not incompetent, but are passive-aggressively trying to sabotage the program from within. If so, they’re doing a good job.

Don’t look at me like that. This is, remember, the same gubna who last year blithely rejected a Medicaid program that would have provided care for 500,000 poor people – even though the federal government was willing to pick up most of the tab. He’s also the one who refused to extend unemployment benefits for thousands of others.

In both cases, his priority was the budget, not people.

So, do we really think he’s losing sleep because some poor young ’uns’ private information was sent to the wrong address or because poor and working families missed a few meals because of bureaucratic foul-ups?

No. A jaundiced eye is precisely what is needed when looking at mistakes that seem only to hurt poor and middle class people.

Look not with jaundiced eye to the stars, though, dear Brutus, but to Jones Street.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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