Gov. Pat McCrory met President Barack Obama on the tarmac Wednesday in North Carolina with a message: don’t be a stranger.
The Republican governor told the president he wants to build a relationship to get help with issues from food stamps and Medicaid to unemployment and offshore drilling.
“In the short time I had on the tarmac I took advantage of every minute,” McCrory said in an interview at N.C. State University, where he attended Obama’s speech. “I talked about wanting to build a relationship with the White House in dealing with complex issues from unemployment to Medicaid to food stamps and also offshore drilling.”
“He immediately, to his credit, introduced me to his energy secretary and I’m setting up a meeting in February with the energy secretary with other governors to explore and hopefully move forward offshore drilling, at least for natural gas off our coast,” McCrory continued. “So we are beginning that dialogue. We need to move forward with energy exploration in North Carolina and at least this first window of opportunity of dialogue and I look forward to building that dialogue.”
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Asked about the political optics of embracing Obama at the airport, as his party bashes the president, McCrory said it’s not about politics. “I could care less,” he said. “My job is to build relationship with the chief executive officer of our country and I’m honored to welcome the president.”
McCrory, too, has aimed vitriol at the president, particularly when it comes to the federal health care law and even misdirected blame toward Obama for the state’s unemployment benefits situation.
McCrory is well aware of the federal government’s influence over programs run by his administration. The food stamps issue is at the forefront. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is threatening to cut off the state’s program if it doesn’t start meeting deadlines to deliver the aid. “We have some very complex issues to deal with. The immediate one is the threat to cut off our food stamps. I got some immediate issues where I’m going to have to have some very serious conversations with some of the president’s departments.”
On drilling, though, McCrory felt like he made progress by setting up the meeting. His message to the administration: “Let us at least begin seismic testing to see what’s out there,” he said. “Let us find out what’s out there so we can start developing plans for implementation. Until we can do that we are wasting our time talking about it.”