Saunders: In grocery flap, Gov. McCrory missed a chance to shine

bsaunders@newsobserver.comFebruary 23, 2014 

Man, talk about whiffing on a hanging curveball.

That’s what Gov. Pat McCrory did last week.

Drew Swope, the cook canned for confronting the governor while McCrory was shopping at Reid’s Fine Foods in Charlotte, should’ve been fired for disrespecting any shopper, not just a governor.

McCrory, though, was not just any shopper, and he should have begged store owner Tom Coker to sheathe the pink slip and allow Swope to keep his job at Reid’s.

McCrory: Halt! Fire not that man, kind sir. With the current state of the Obama economy, ’tis not right to cast a working man out on his keister. In a few decades, when my policies finally kick in, jobs will be plentiful; but for now, allow him to remain in your employ. Besides, I am always glad to get feedback from my constituents.

Good photo op

See how that works? The governor gets in a dig at President Barack Obama – and what Republican can pass up that opportunity? – he gets to tout his own policies, and he comes across as magnanimous and gracious all at the same time.

Next to emerging from a burning building, face and suit covered in soot and holding a litter of day-old kittens, McCrory couldn’t have asked for a better photo op than one of him sitting down and chatting with an unimpressed resident.

When Swope said, “Thanks for nothing,” and – in his telling – walked away, McCrory should have pounced on the political opportunity he was handed like a lion on a lame, well-seasoned lamb.

Swope: Thanks for nothing.

McCrory: Why, you’re welcome, young man. I – hey, wait a minute. I see what you did there. You’re being facetious, aren’t you? Ha ha. I always knew N.C. voters were among the wittiest in the nation.

Come, let us sup together, and you can tell me what it is that has you disaffected with my administration.

Over a couple of Reid’s New York strips and a bottle of Ferrari Brut from Italy – a sparkling wine that Reid’s website declares, “screams celebration” – McCrory and Swope could have had a civil discussion. McCrory would have had a chance to learn what the average Swope thinks. Swope, for his part, could have seen that the governor isn’t such a bad egg, after all.

With flashbulbs popping in the background, of course.

Failed to capitalize

Man, image-makers have been known to choreograph events like that, yet here our governor was handed one legitimately – and he failed to capitalize on it.

I asked Mike Gauss, accounts director for the Raleigh public relations and marketing agency Articulon, how he would’ve advised a client to handle the Reid’s situation.

“In a situation like that,” he said, “it’s absolutely important to remember that you’re not just representing yourself, even if you’re just trying to get lunch. You are actually representing the organization you’re with – in the case of the governor, that’s the full state of North Carolina. … In that vein, the first thing you need to do is remain calm and understand that you aren’t to take things personally.”

Swope said the governor swore at him; McCrory’s people said he didn’t.

Gauss continued, “One thing is to inquire … why the person feels and thinks what they feel and think, and engage in conversation. We always recommend to our clients that you engage in conversation and, when possible, do it in a public format to show that you’re listening and caring. That’s one of the greatest things you can do to show the world you care.”

Instead of the governor showing that he cares, though, many readers from whom I heard felt he came off as thin-skinned and petty.

Typical of the responses I received was this one from a reader named Ronny, a service industry veteran who wrote, “Sounds to me like Swope took an opportunity many of us would jump at, and did his little act of outrage with a minimum of drama. … McCrory could have and should have just shrugged it off.”

McCrory’s people insist it was they, not he, who complained to Coker, but that didn’t stop some of the blame residue from getting on the governor’s sneakers.

On the rare occasions that someone disagrees with me in an unkind manner – and by “rare,” I mean 37 times a day – I generally try to see their perspective and determine how we can become of one accord.

For instance, after I wrote last week that the rude cook should’ve been fired, one of my biggest fans wrote “Rude? You’re talking about rude? You racist piece of @&#$.”

Had I responded in kind, in anger, that would have only escalated the ill will emanating from him, and isn’t there enough of that in the world already?

That’s why, recalling the biblical entreaty that “a kind answer turneth away wrath,” I inquired about his mother.

I ask you, who can get angry at you when you inquire about his or her mother – or ask their boss not to fire them?

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service