Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What on earth happened to Thom Tillis?

Two takeaways from Thom Tillis going viral Tuesday by saying restaurants maybe shouldn't have to make their staffers reach for the soap:

1) Speechmaking is hard. Thom Tillis is not a dumb man. He can work his way in and out of policy particulars with the best of them. Yet there he was Tuesday with a Class A Washington Uh-Oh. He grossed out America with mental pictures of restaurant staffers handling their food after a soap-free trip to the restroom. Even worse, he proposed replacing one regulation (a sign requiring handwashing at restaurants) with another regulation (requiring restaurants to say they don't wash hands) all in the name of smaller government.

What happened here? Our theory: He tried to go off-script a little. He wanted to be a little funny. He wanted to be a little bold. So he veered from the prepared notes and thoughts that politicos bring to these forums. It's certainly not the first time he's blurted something less-than-smart or tried too hard to impress his audience.

It's also a reminder: It's hard to stand in front of audiences, be intelligent, keep things interesting, and say what the people want to hear. Politicians who do it well should be admired for their smarts, not ridiculed for their smoothness. Tillis is thoughtful and forthright, but too quick to freelance. Given the national ridicule he invited Tuesday, we're guessing he'll be a quick learner, too.

2) Tillis is wrapping a good idea in bad packaging. The good idea is to take a thoughtful look at regulations. See which of them might be duplicative. See which might be unnecessary. (Is encouraging handwashing unnecessary? If you've ever worked in a kitchen, you'd say no.) The bad packaging is "small government," because the goal behind looking at regulations shouldn't be to reduce the size of government, but to make government work better.

This is the trap Republicans too often find themselves in with regulations. They could sell a solid outcome - improving government - but they chain themselves to the sexier outcome, making government smaller. Tillis got tangled in the latter yesterday, then compounded his mistake by proposing something that didn't even make government smaller.

One more takeaway: With all this talk about handwashing Tuesday, we couldn't help but remember one of our favorite grumps, Charlotte's Robert D. Raiford, proposing that we all never shake hands again

Peter St. Onge


elite games said...

typical day for the CO..pushing the gay agenda and bashing conservatives

Tvan said...

If you listen to the dialog, he said, “I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says we don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom. The market will take care of that. It’s one example.”

In other words, people would stop patronizing this place and the business owner would have to make a decision on what to do. It was simply tongue in cheek, but because it's Thom Tillis (R) saying this and not Thom Tillis (D), the world is going mad over the statement.

Arnold said...

One serious issue here relates to the fact that while republicans regularly trash regulations, they have a great deal of difficulty talking about specific regulations they want to eliminate (or modify). I'm sure there are many regulations that deserve reconsideration, many regulations are useful. They improve health, safety, and other consumer protections. After all, requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands is a good idea. And there are many other regulations which are beneficial (although the benefit may not be initially obvious). But that's the difference between a political talking point and serious political proposals.

dadgum said...

This was a great example of people reading a misleading headline, and commenting on just that. And sharing. And commenting. Without ever reading the content. If it was a test, the news and Facebook won.0

Unknown said...

This reminds me of the liberal protected class representative from GA, Hank Johnson, who was against the US moving more Marines to the military base in Guam because the island would tip over.
Or the time Obama declared the US had 57 states.
Or Dr Leake had a real doctorial degree, and lived in her voting district.
Politics are but a folly.

Dr. McGuckin said...

Yes, lack of hand washing by restaurant employees sounds terrible, but why do these people not complain about lack of hand hygiene in healthcare? . If they knew that each day in US, hand hygiene among healthcare professionals occurs less than 50% of the time. would they be just as concerned? Maybe taking the Senator's idea to healthcare industry would make an impact on this silent epidermic. We recently published a research article on this issue and found consumers have no idea of lack of hand hygiene, but over 93% of the people in our study said that if they knew these face, they would not go to that hospital, yes, this choice and knowledge,

Unknown said...

Five years and eleven months; that's how long you rightwing spin doctors are going to have to deal with this clown.
You can say what you want about his words and what he meant by them. Those of us who did not vote for this throwback know exactly what he meant; he wants to live in a world like Somalia, where everyone is free to do as they wish, an anarchist's chaos where "only the strong survive."

Cornelia said...

If Tvan is correct, to take a quote out of context makes the CO look petty and silly. It is your job to provide your opinions about politicians and government officials on the op-ed and editorial pages. But to comment on statements taken out of context diminishes your credibility.
Also, I wonder how many are dumb enough to think the mere presence of signs guarantees that employees wash their hands? Maybe more in Charlotte than I care to acknowledge.

Garth Vader said...

Homework for the Observer Editorial Board:

1. Enter the following into a Google search:


2. You will get five hits.

3. Click on each hit.

4. Observe that none of the five violations under "2-301.14" are for failing to wash hands after a restroom visit.

5. Explain.

LR said...

First of all, the comment was not a joke, nor was it made "tongue in cheek." It was intended seriously, and an obvious attempt to pander to the conservative crowd he was addressing.

As far as the "problem" with Tillis, very simply it's this: he may be an intelligent and thoughtful man--- I'll take the CO's word for it--- but he has thrown in his lot with a party dominated by know-nothings and conspiracy theorists. Today's "Tea Party" is the contemporary version of the paranoid strain in conservative politics that dates back to Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and Barry Goldwater. 50 years ago these people were warning about fluoridated water; today it's hand-washing, vaccines, and death panels. Their ignorance would be risible if it weren't being used to advocate some truly dangerous things, such as a "freedom" exemption from vaccinating our children.

Unknown said...

Speaking of government regulations, why can't businesses in N.C. sell beer/wine on Sunday mornings? Why is the government limiting the proud business owners of our state? Why is the government telling us, as consumers, when we can and can't do our shopping? There is CLEARLY no safety or health issue involved. Why does this limitation exist? Repeal 18B-1004(c)!

18B-1004(c): "Sunday Hours. – It shall be unlawful to sell or consume alcoholic beverages on any
licensed premises from the time at which sale or consumption must cease on Sunday morning
until 12:00 Noon on that day."

Curmudgeon said...

Looking at Tillis' comment another way:

There is a federal law compelling hand washing by employees at a restaurant, but NO federal law compelling vaccination of children.
Seems penny wise and pound foolish to me.
Which one do you think might have the larger impact on health nationwide?

deepenwide said...

Occasionally Tillis handlers aren't able to reel him in when he speaks off the cuff. Tillis is a nutcase and there are many examples of him putting his foot in his mouth. North Carolina deserves him because the people continue to allow themselves to be fooled by every charlatan passing by.

Carolinian22 said...

If only Tillis could be vaccinated against making stupid comments.

Garth Vader said...


There is NOT a federal law requiring handwashing. As the Observer itself pointed out, the handwashing regulation is Section 2-301.14(B) of the N.C. Food Code Manual.

Try THINKING before you post again.

Garth Vader said...


Doesn't your website have an explicit prohibition against namecalling and insults? If so, why does "LR" still have an account? Or do your rules only apply to non-left-wing individuals?

rky84 said...

Tvan's quote of Tillis was verbatim.

The Charlotte Observer's take on this is just another reason why I no longer subscribe.

kantstanzya said...

Why bother even responding to the daily Observer Republican bashing. It's pathetic and frankly tiresome.

Yesterday I watched a tape of our brilliant "smartest President ever" saying he was the first President since George Washington to make beer in the White House. Not only wasn't the White House built during Washington's tenure as President but the capital city wasn't even in Washington DC. How about a long "opinion" piece on that or the myriad of other screw ups and gaffes by Democrats?

The liberal media will continue to berate people like Tillis and Scott Walker who doesn't even have a college degree in favor of people like Obama who have paper credentials but have never run anything and lack simple common sense. People who don't know how to do anything except live off the public teat.

elite games said...

since the CO did a piece on the travel habits of the CEO of's a tidbit about their next presidential hopeful, Hillary...remember when she said she was broke when they Clinton's presidency ended? God help us...

LR said...

Kantstanzya, you've missed the point. This isn't about making a "mistake." Everybody makes mistakes, presidents included. Tillis's problem isn't about getting facts wrong, it's about the ludicrous application of a political principle that's dubious to start with. "The market will take care" of everything? Really? Is that why the federal government had to bail out some of the largest financial institutions in the country 7 short years ago? And even if you accept, as I do, that markets are an essential part of any successful economy, it doesn't follow that every sphere of human activity can be guided solely by market principles. To take the most obvious issue with Tillis's remarks, what happens if I choose to frequent a Starbucks with non-washing employees, contract a disease, then take it home with me and spread it to my friends and family? I made a decision that they will now pay for. The Lone Ranger mentality of so many on the far-right fringe--- the belief that each of us is some kind of isolated atom in a Lockean state of nature--- is absurd. Choice is great, but choice comes with responsibility, especially when our actions can directly affect the welfare of others.

Mark Caplan said...

To Thom Tillis's defenders:

You're not helping him by telling us his comment was tongue in cheek!

Larry said...

Get a Conservative Writer and Conservative Editorial Board member and you will get folks to think of you as anything but a mouthpiece for the democrats.

Thom is of the generation when folks know others have common sense and do not need written rules/laws on what people can do and not do.

He also is of the mind when folks did not use every thing for political, financial, or benefited the lawyers who donate the majority of the campaign money to obama and the democrats.

Larry said...

My, this Michaels comment above is the true epitome of a democrat, is it not.

If you are reading this and you do not see the comment, it is because of a very sad and angry comment with curse words. So they most likely will remove it.

Garth Vader said...

Michael Henderlite is obviously auditioning for the next vacancy on the Observer Editorial Board.