Max Boot is now a free man

Meant to post earlier this week about Max Boot’s column headlined: “I left the Republican ideological bubble. I don’t want to join another.” An excerpt:

Max BootNow that I’ve left the Republican Party, I am often asked why I simply haven’t become a Democrat. In part it’s because I don’t agree with the progressive wing of the party: Some of them are as protectionist, isolationist and fiscally irresponsible as President Trump. But it’s also because, after having spent my entire adult life in one ideological bubble, I don’t want to join another. I refuse to make excuses for Trump — and I don’t want to be tempted to make excuses for a future Democratic president, either, as so many did for Bill Clinton after his sexual misconduct…

Of course, one doesn’t have to succumb to such foolishness to identify with a party, but there is that danger.

That arises from the intellectual dishonesty that party identification fosters. One falls into the habit of supporting (or at least failing to oppose) the stupidest things advocated by members of one’s own party, and opposing the wisest notions that arise from the other. Boot uses similar words to describe the problem:

One gets the sense, as my Post colleague Jennifer Rubin wrote, that if progressives championed the theory of gravity, conservatives would denounce it. In fact, public-opinion research suggests that many Republicans would be likely to support climate-change solutions if they were proposed by Republican leaders — and conversely many Democrats would be likely to oppose them even if they would have backed the very same policies when put forward by Democrats. We’ve already seen the parties flip positions on Russia because of Trump. That is the danger of ideology, and why I strive for an empirical, non-ideological approach instead, even if that leaves me in a political no-man’s land where I am sniped at by both sides.

Frankly, I didn’t think of Boot as being stuck in GOP thought ruts to begin with. He has seemed independent-minded for some time. But I’m glad that he feels he’s been freed of such habits.

Anyway, welcome to the UnParty, Max…

One of my favorite moments from the campaign

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While I’m sharing photos of James enjoying the campaign trail, I need to show you this sequence, which never went out on social media, but which was a favorite moment of mine.

This was at the Joe Biden fundraiser. This was after all the speaking, when the candidates and Joe were just meeting and greeting and posing for selfies and such.

A lot of politicians kiss babies. But I’ve never seen one get more of a kick out of a baby than this. And it didn’t seem to bother him that this baby was campaigning for someone else…

 

A guy who really enjoys some retail politics

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On a previous post, I said something about James Smith liking the retail politicking way better than the unfun stuff like making fundraising calls. Which of course makes him, well, human.

Someone said he didn’t seem that way at the Gallivants Ferry Stump meeting last spring, that he seemed kind of standoffish there.

Well… I can’t speak for the primary campaign. But during the general, when I was working for him, what I saw was a guy who really dug meeting people. In support of that, I’ll just share a very few of the pictures I pumped out, a couple of dozen a day, on social media.

When it came to interacting with regular folks, I can only think of one guy who might enjoy it more than James, and that’s his longtime political mentor, in the front row of this picture I took on Oct. 13:

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Wait! Isn’t that one of my campaign tweets?

One of the many occasions on which we spoke out about this very thing...

One of the many occasions on which we spoke out about this very thing…

Just saw this, which gave me flashbacks:

Man, how many times in the last few months did I say or type — in Tweets, on Facebook, in press releases, in statements to reporters — some variation of “Some of the best jobs in South Carolina are threatened by the tariffs that Henry McMaster refuses to take a stand against?”

More times than I care to remember…

Not gonna say we told you so… not gonna say we told you so…

Blue IS my favorite color, but others are nice as well…

blue iconsOccasionally, when I’m in a hurry to open my Twitter app, I mistakenly click on my email. Or my WordPress app. Or LinkedIn. Or the remote app for the Apple TV.

Why? Because they’re all blue!

This morning, my iPad was showing me a bunch of apps that needed updating (don’t ask me why it was showing me this rather than just updating them automatically as usual; I suppose I’ll have to go in and reset something), and every single icon showing on the page was blue.

And note that some of the most obvious blue icons that come to mind — Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox — weren’t even represented in this list.

Why is that? Is there research showing that that’s the most desirable color for an app? Is that evidence so powerful that it prevents developers from even having the thought, “Maybe I should make my icon stand out from the others?”

And does anyone besides me think this is odd?

OK, now… as I frequently do, I wrote the above without taking the trouble to Google, “why are so many app icons blue?” Before clicking “publish,” I decided I would. Like most questions that occur to me, this one had apparently been asked a gazillion times. (You know, I was a far more original thinker before Google came along.)

None of the answers were totally satisfactory to me. Yeah, OK, so blue is the most common favorite color on the planet, across cultures, genders, etc. It’s a safe choice for someone trying to appeal to a wide audience, not as edgy as, say, the execrable orange.

Got it. In fact, I sort of knew that stuff without asking. But still, it seems more developers would look at that sea of blue on their smartphone screens and think, “I want to stand out.”

But they don’t. Because they’re not such original thinkers either, apparently…

Evidently, I was misreading the signs (or lack of them)…

In a comment on a previous post, Scout was talking about how James Smith did better than Democrats usually do in her Lexington County precinct. She went on to say:

James got significantly more votes than Sheheen did against Haley the first time around in actual vote numbers (not percentages), but the turnout was just bigger all around, so it still wasn’t enough.

Clearly James got more democratic votes than typically happens around here. But again, It just still wasn’t enough…

That got me to thinking about this: Statewide, James not only got a lot more votes than Democrats usually do; he got way more votes than Republicans usually do. Consider:

  • In 2006, Mark Sanford won with 601,868 votes.
  • In 2010, Nikki Haley won with 690,525 votes.
  • In 2014, Nikki won even bigger with 696,645 votes.
  • In 2018, James got 784,182 votes — and lost.

It’s sort of a cliche that big turnout favors Democrats. Not this time.

One explanation I’ve heard is that the S.C. population is growing rapidly — and that a lot of the newcomers are people who don’t know squat about either Henry or James, but brought the habit of voting Republican along with them when they came here.

But obviously that’s not the whole answer. A lot of other factors were at work here.

For us on the Smith campaign, that outcome is counterintuitive. The lack of enthusiasm for Henry even among Republicans was palpable throughout this campaign. He barely squeaked by in a runoff in his own party’s primary, and was particularly weak in the Upstate — which is one reason why James did about 20 percentage points better than Vincent Sheheen had done in Greenville.

All over the state, we could see that almost no one wanted a McMaster sign in his front yard. My brother, who lives in a Republican neighborhood in Greenville, kept sending me pictures of Smith/Norrell signs next to signs for Republicans running for other offices. I thought maybe he was just noticing the things he wanted to see, but when I spent the day up there before the second debate and drove around looking, I saw the same thing — Smith signs everywhere, McMaster signs almost nonexistent. (And I’m not the kind of guy who fools himself into seeing only what pleases him. I’m hypercritical — always looking for the things that are WRONG — and attach great importance to bad news. Every McMaster sign I saw during the campaign was like a kick in the gut. But during all those months, I got very few kicks in the gut.)

It would be foolish to go by yard signs alone in trying to predict an outcome (so you can save your breath telling me that), but the McMaster sign deficit was so HUGE that I kept thinking it was a ruse of some sort. Maybe the McMaster campaign was deliberately holding the signs back, and they’d all go up in the last few days before Election Day to give him and his supporters a psychological boost, and discourage our voters. Or something. The lack of red signs was just weird.

(One day shortly after joined the campaign in July, I drove past the McMaster headquarters on Gadsden Street behind the governor’s mansion. The yard was full of signs, and I thought, so that’s where they all are! I almost did a blog post about it, but decided it would be unseemly given my role in the campaign. Anyway, I figured that sooner or later, I’d start seeing them scattered across the state in great profusion, and then I’d regret having made fun. But it never happened…)

Obviously, it seemed to us, we had the enthusiasm advantage. We weren’t counting our chickens or anything, because we knew the odds were always against a Democrat. But we had some things to feel good about. And the reason I’m talking about the sign thing, as insignificant as it it, is that it was something tangible I can point out to you.

It stood to reason that McMaster would get the votes of people who always voted Republican, but from what we could see, that was about it — and he wouldn’t get all of those (we were seeing and hearing a lot of indicators on that point). So how is it that there was both a big turnout, apparently with lots of people who had never voted for governor in previous years, and Henry still won?

It’s impossible to know for sure, but we can speculate…

I took this photo on July 12. I thought, "So THAT'S where all the McMaster signs are -- at his headquarters!"

I took this photo on July 12. I thought, “So THAT’S where all the McMaster signs are — at his headquarters!”

Humanity took one small step forward this week

At least The State played it prominently...

At least The State played it prominently…

There’s been little in the news to make us happy about being a member of the human race lately. I certainly wasn’t encouraged by the election result, as you can imagine. But the tawdriness, the discouragement goes far beyond that.

So it was nice to see us make a tiny bit of progress as a species earlier this week, with the successful descent and landing of our latest mechanical emissary to Mars.

No, it’s not as cool as if we’d actually send people there, but it’s something, however small. It shows us reaching out, growing, expanding out grasp and our consciousness beyond the cesspool that dominates our public conversation.

So I felt good about it, and looking back, I wish I’d seen more prominent coverage of it. No, I don’t expect everybody to be herded into the school auditorium to watch it live, the way we did upon John Glenn’s first flight when I was in 3rd grade. But I’d like to have seen more than I did.

At least my former newspaper played as the centerpiece on the front. That was nice, although I’d have appreciated a little more depth. And I’d like to have seen more celebration elsewhere, because lately there’s been so little for us humans to celebrate. Maybe it was there. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong direction…

Another sad thing: My sojourn in a Trump-free world is over

James Smith and Mandy Powers Norrell told me they wanted to bring me onto their campaign in a meeting on June 26 in Mandy’s legislative office in the Blatt building.

I don’t know what brought it up, but at some point I said something like, “One thing I feel sure of, you don’t win this election by talking about Donald Trump.”

“THANK you!” said Mandy. Apparently, she’d heard too many people give her advice that differed from that. Being from a county that went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 — but one that loved her enough that she faced no opposition from either party for her House seat this year — she saw us as having nothing to gain talking about you-know-who.

The pattern was set there and then. Henry McMaster would be about Donald Trump, and Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton, and abortion, and other names and ideas that divide us on the national level. We would talk about South Carolina issues that we face in common — SC schools, SC healthcare, energy for SC, our roads and other infrastructure. This would not be a simple matter of political expedience in a red state — the truth was that those issues were the reasons James and Mandy were running. They wanted to provide leadership on issues that matter to South Carolina, not play the stupid 24/7 national partisan talking-points game. Everything about their public lives up to that point underlined that fact. This was who they were.

There would be times in which it was impossible to completely avoid that person’s name, or the policies he propagates — such as when his tariffs threatened some of the best jobs in South Carolina — but our emphasis would be on emphasizing Henry’s refusal to distance himself from those policies.

Within the campaign, if someone embarked upon a sentence that could not end logically without acknowledging the existence of the person who is currently POTUS, we — and especially the candidates — would usually handle it by calling him “45.”

So, I spent a blessed 14 weeks, plus a day or two, without having to think about him. It was wonderful. It wasn’t hard, because I didn’t have time to think about him. I didn’t have time to think about the things I needed to think about, much less the occupant of the White House. I spent most of my breakfast reading time on The State and the Post and Courier, and neglected my usual Washington Post and New York Times. I’d skim those national outlets, but I wouldn’t dig in.

The only thing that marred my bliss from being in a Trumpless universe was the reporters who wanted to drag him, or other national shouting-match issues, into this far better world. “What does James think about Brett Kavanaugh?” “What effect is Trump having on your race?” Or the ultimate “have you stopped beating your wife” question, “Are you for or against abolishing ICE?” (Usually, these came from national outlets — the last one from the right-wing Daily Caller, which seemed to do little but ask such questions — and I felt OK ignoring those. Nothing against national journalists, but unless they were asking about something that bore on the job of governor of South Carolina, they were a waste of my scarce time. But occasionally, to my great dismay, such questions came from South Carolina outlets. Sometimes I ignored those, too; mostly I answered with our campaign’s raison d’être: “We are completely focused on South Carolina issues…”)

But now, those happy days are over. There’s little in the SC papers to interest me — certainly nothing to absorb me with the intensity of the campaign — and I’m drifting back to those opinion pieces in the Post, the Times and elsewhere.

And you know who keeps coming up there, in pieces by writers from across the political spectrum. With a certain resignation, I allow myself to think about what they’re saying. And occasionally, someone says something worth saying.

As you know, I rather enjoy Ross Douthat’s High Tory-but-unpredictable approach to things, and I thought he made a good point here the other day:

Generally, Donald Trump’s Twitter beefs are an expense of spirit and a waste of breath. But a minority of them are genuinely edifying, and illustrations of his likely world-historical role — which is not to personally bring down our constitutional republic, but to reveal truths about our political situation, through his crudeness and goading of others, that might be harbingers of the Republic’s eventual end…

Indeed. The problem with Trump isn’t Trump himself. When he was a national joke on both the left and the right, someone everyone could safely ignore, everything was fine. The problem is that enough voted for him to make him president. The problem is out there, in the electorate.  That is the thing that could be the sign of the Republic’s end. He is just a sort of canary in the coal mine, except that the warning isn’t that he’s keeling over, but that he thrives, at least with a dangerously large segment of the population.

The rest of Douthat’s piece is worth reading as well, particularly his evocation of the danger posed by “the steady atrophy of legislative power and flight from legislative responsibility” on Capitol Hill.

I was a bit disappointed today by neocon Jennifer Rubin. Her headline, “Trump’s incoherence is too much — and it’s getting worse” — drew me in because it made me think the piece would concentrate on his constant abuse of the English language, a topic always near to my heart. She started promisingly enough:

Jennifer RubinPresident Trump has never been a model of consistency or coherence. However, as pressure builds both from looming investigations and the impending transfer of power in the House from the Republican majority to the Democrats, his ability to maintain even the pretense of normalcy and rationality begins to crumble. That’s true on both foreign and domestic policy, giving the impression of a president teetering on the brink of a complete meltdown….

But on the whole coherence wasn’t the issue so much as erratic behavior and policy inconsistency. So, you know, the usual stuff…

Then, from the center-left, we have E.J. Dionne’s piece today, “This is the only Trump syndrome we need to worry about.” The syndrome he means is “denial — a blind refusal to face up to how much damage Trump is willing to inflict on our system of self-rule, and on our values,” with particular concern expressed for “the cost to the United States of abandoning any claim that it prefers democracy to dictatorship and human rights to barbarism.”

I think the part I liked best, though, was when E.J. specifically pointed to the very same problem Douthat lamented, the abdication of responsibility on the part of the legislative branch:

E.J. DionneTrump’s crude statement backing the Saudis was too much even for many in the GOP. “I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) wrote on Twitter.

But Republicans have said all sorts of things about Trump and then backed off when it mattered. (See: Cruz, above.) They have long tolerated the praise he regularly lavishes on dictators. They have been eager to moonlight themselves as Trump PR firms as long as he delivered tax cuts and judges….

Anyway… I’ve been dragged back into the world where people talk and write about Trump. I suppose I should take solace from the fact that at least some smart people are doing so thoughtfully — although whether their thoughtfulness is enough to light our way out of this mess remains to be seen…

More about those job-killing tariffs Henry won’t stand up against — but y’all don’t care about that, do you?

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As Levon Helm said as Jack Ridley, All right, y’all — here we go again.

The P&C brings us twin stories today about the continuing ill effects of Trump’s tariffs — up to which McMaster will not stand (I’m nothing if not grammatical). Of course, they’re doing what anyone with any understanding of the way the world works would expect: threatening some of the best jobs in the state:

I’m not going to repeat myself. I’m just going to refer you to this release, and this one and this one and this one, and then stop there, because you’re probably not even following the links to those.

But yeah, we told you so.

And what did reporters keep asking me about? The next ad buy, or when some yahoo who plans to run for president in 2020 might be coming to South Carolina…

Here we go again, y'all...

All right, y’all — here we go again…

Anybody else tired of ‘Christmas’ yet?

"I say humbug to you, sir! We haven't even had Thanksgiving yet!"

“I say humbug to you, sir! We haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet!”

… ‘Cause I am.

I am not a Scrooge. I have been fully conditioned to say that, by a lifetime of seeing Scrooge — before the ghosts — as a bad guy, who was redeemed by getting into the Christmas Spirit.

But you’ll note, if you go back and read the story, that he got into the Christmas Spirit on Christmas Day — that is, on the first of the 12 days of actual Christmas.

If Scrooge had gone into Walmart on the day after Halloween, hoping to pick up some Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins on sale, only to find all the Halloween stuff replaced by Christmas-themed merchandise — which actually happened to yours truly — I’d have called him a hero for crying “Humbug!”

And that’s what he’d have been: A hero. A man fighting a lonely fight against the cheapening and dilution of what was once a perfectly lovely holiday. Not the holiest day in the liturgical calendar, but a nice one nonetheless.

What put me in this Scroogesque mood? I made the mistake of listening to commercial radio for a few minutes this morning, and every ad I heard was Christmas-themed. And this is 13 days before the start of Advent, which is the whole season that occurs BEFORE Christmas arrives.

So I have my legitimate grievance…

So much for my best-selling diet book

When I first joined the Smith campaign, Doug Ross suggested I take good notes so I could write a book about it when it was over.

That didn’t really appeal to me, but I did think for a moment that maybe I was onto an idea for a best-selling diet book.160.7

That’s because I lost about several pounds in the first month of the campaign, even though I was eating like a horse.

I had already been steadily losing weight in the months before, what with my walking/elliptical regimen. I had dropped down from 177.6 on the last day of December to 166.7 on June 26, a few days before joining the campaign on July 1.

I felt good about that progress, but as you know, it took a lot of hard work. I was a walking demon, averaging over 16,000 steps a day in some months.

But once I joined the campaign, my workout regimen was severely curtailed (like a dog watch) — I’d do the elliptical in the morning — maybe — and make no particular effort to walk further during the day.

And as I said, I ate as much as I wanted. Yet on the last day of July, I had dropped to 160.7 pounds. I appeared to be on track to weigh less than 150 by Election Day, easily.

And all it took was stress like I had never experienced in a job before! Pressure all day and into the night! Going from 0 to 60 in one day, and it never letting up!

A small price to pay for eating all you want, exercising only moderately, and still losing weight.

I was onto a best-seller, called “The Campaign Diet:” All you had to do is get someone to hire you as the most visible staff person on a statewide political campaign, doing a job you had never done before in your life! No problem!

But then, my premise started to fall apart. My weight hit its low point on Aug. 23 — 160.6.

Then, it started climbing back. Inexorably.172.2

It hit 165.7 on Sept. 25, and then 168.7 on Oct. 22. Then, during that week on the RV, my working regimen fell completely apart, and despite the fact that I was missing meals, it kept climbing. And as stressful as that week was, it didn’t do the trick any more.

This morning, at my lowest point in the day — after a short workout, and before breakfast — I hit 172.2.

I think the problem is, you get used to stress. Your body adjusts. It ceases to be a magic potion for weight loss. And then there’s the fact that eventually, the stress itself goes away. You get used to a new routine. You might even enjoy it.

So I’m back to long walks and watching what I eat, if I want to get back down into the 160s.

So much for the best-seller…

It’s gonna take me some time to get interested in stuff again

The BBC's all about Brexit today. Meh...

The BBC’s all about Brexit today. Meh…

I’ve got a lot going on right now. I’ve got something to finish for the campaign, which I hope to mostly knock out tomorrow. I’m picking up a few ADCO projects that have lain fallow while I was on the campaign. I’m going to be spending a bunch of time with the grandchildren the next few days — which is great, since I saw them so little during the campaign.

But I don’t think any of those are the real reasons I haven’t posted but about three times since the campaign ended.

I’m just finding it hard to get interested in the news and issues that are out there. After the intensity of the campaign, none of these things really grab me, and I’m not at all motivated to comment on them.

I spent a few minutes looking for topics today, and my reaction to everything I found was, basically, meh

Brexit? That’s the big news today, and I am unmoved. Look, Britain has been pretty much shafted ever since that vote, and what does anyone expect from Theresa May? She inherited a no-win situation. I have no advice for her or anyone else involved in that mess.

Election results other than ours? The most “dramatic” result is that Democrats won the House and Republicans kept the Senate. And you know me: I’ve never been able to care much which party has a majority in Congress. The parties don’t even seem to care. If the Dems re-elect Nancy Pelosi, you’ll know they don’t care at all. I care about South Carolina. And nothing good is happening here, unless you’re looking forward to being entertained by having Dick Harpootlian in the Senate. I’m not, particularly.

The nuclear fiasco? I was kind of bored with that before the campaign. I was interested in seeing S.C. start dealing with the mess with new leadership, starting with a governor who wasn’t sitting on six figures in donations from the big utilities. We might have had some hope for a new direction on energy. Now, fuggedaboudit.

Donald Trump? I’ve spent the last four months and more ignoring his existence — talking about national politics was Henry’s thing, not ours. I generally blew off idiotic press questions that had nothing to do with being governor (“What is the impact of Trump on SC politics?” “What do you think about Brett Kavanaugh?” “Do you favor or oppose abolishing ICE?”), and I liked it. My head was in a good place. I don’t even want to start pretending I care about that stuff now.

For the last few months, my energies went into trying to do something about the problems our state faces. Now, it’s hard to get motivated about merely commenting on things. Even pop culture. Lately during my morning workouts on the elliptical, I’ve been watching “Designated Survivor” on my Roku, and let’s face it — it’s not that good a show. I’ve tried getting back into “Babylon Berlin,” but that takes an emotional investment, or a certain indifference to human suffering…

So… it’s going to take some time before I find topics I’m itching to blog about. Bear with me…

I've been watching this lately. And let's face it; it's not that good a show.

I’ve been watching this lately. And let’s face it; it’s not that good a show.

I was left behind by the Leave No One Behind bus

The only photo from the bus that shows me. Probably taken by Mandy. I appear to be engaged in some sort of incantation, probably pumping out a press release or a Tweet. In the background you see Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier, so this was probably the first day on the bus.

The only photo from the bus that shows me, since I was usually shooting the pics. Probably taken by Mandy. I appear to be engaged in some sort of incantation, probably pumping out a press release or a Tweet. In the background you see Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier, so I’m guessing this was the first day on the bus, when I was still relatively sane.

Ken Kesey had one rule for the Merry Pranksters in their acid-fueled magical mystery tour across America in Furthur, the ultimate, aboriginal psychedelic bus: You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus. As you may recall, I’ve used a variant of that as a tagline for this blog in the past.

With Kesey, it was both a practical admonition — if you’re not on the bus when we’re ready to go, we’ll leave you — and a sort of cosmic statement of connectedness, as he elaborated:

There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.

I spent the last week of the gubernatorial campaign on a borrowed RV — which we referred to often as not as “the bus” — that was decorated not with wild psychedelic swirls but with images of the candidates and gigantic representations of our bumper stickers and our tagline, “Leave No One Behind.” In a series of texts with the campaign manager at about 6 a.m. on our first day with the bus, I suggested we call it the “Leave No One Behind Tour,” and that’s what we did.

It was an intense experience. The whole campaign, of course, was an intense experience, unlike anything I’d ever been through, even in my newspaper days. The involvement, and the demand on my physical and mental stamina, was rather overwhelming. For the first month, I didn’t know if I’d make it. Then, I sort of started getting used to it. And then, the pace stepped up, and increased more and more until the end, but my body and nerves kept adjusting. A typical day would involve cranking out my first release by about 6:30 a.m. and continuing at a dizzying speed until fairly late at night — but that doesn’t really fully express it. At first, things would be a bit slower on weekends, but by the end, they were not — a Sunday became like a Wednesday, without end.

But those last days on the bus exceeded anything that went before. And as often as not, I was the only staffer on board for the whole day and into the night with James and Mandy. But as amazed as I am that I made it through, this was only a brief taste of what James, and later Mandy, had been enduring for the past year. For them, and for usual driver Scott Harriford — the first staffer hired way back in the summer of 2017 — the RV was probably more like a vacation.

But they’re all three a lot younger than I am.

Scott Harriford, who had been The Driver for the last year-and-a-half, actually got some snooze time on the bus tour.

Scott Harriford, who had been The Driver for the last year-and-a-half, actually got some snooze time on the bus tour.

The incident I want to tell about happened the morning of Saturday, Nov. 3. But I’ll start with the day before.

We had a slow start on Friday, not rolling out from headquarters until about 8 a.m. I think that morning I even had a chance to run get breakfast at Cap City between pushing out the morning release and boarding the RV. Our first destination was a meeting with officials at Greenville Health System to talk about Medicaid expansion and other healthcare issues. Just one of many, many encouraging meetings J and M had had in the Upstate in recent months with folks some of y’all might expect to support Republicans. But you didn’t read about it because it was private and therefore I didn’t pump out social media about it. I just sat against the wall of the conference room and sort of half-listened, enjoying the break.

Then, it was off to Buffalo Wild Wings in the same city for a lunch meeting that Patrick Elswick (here’s video of Patrick) had set up with some veterans. Here’s social media about that. It was during that lunch that we learned Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had given to the campaign, and I Tweeted about that, too.

At Buffalo Wild Wings with the veterans.

At Buffalo Wild Wings with the veterans.

At Wild Wings, I think, was where Campaign Manager Scott Hogan joined us. There had been certain… glitches… the day before, which we had blamed on inadequate advance work, and Phil Chambers had drafted a new schedule for advancing every single stop for the rest of the tour, and Scott had joined us to, among other things, see how that was working.

Next stop was an elementary school in Simpsonville. Since it was a public school, we couldn’t park in front of it, so we parked at a park about a mile away, and someone — Phil or one of the Scotts — drove them over in a car. I was delayed getting off the bus, and they were gone by the time I descended into the rain. But then I got tied up with a couple of supporters who had been attracted by the bus, who wanted to help — with signs, or something — so I got their contact info and arranged with their county coordinator to get with them, and got back on the bus. I had to use pictures shot by Harriford for the school event Tweet. I was for a moment flummoxed as to how to post a picture without showing kids’ faces, and Mandy just took a pic and edited out the kids who were facing the camera. Duh. I was getting punchy by then.

Then, on to a literal town hall meeting at Gray Court Town Hall. By this time, various Upstate media were joining us and we started a series of brief interviews. Tim Waller of WYFF would do two or three live feeds during the next hour or two. The town hall went well. Then, on the way back to the bus, we stopped at an antique store where J and M made a fun purchase — a circa-1940s Erector Set, which included a working motor. They showed it off in a video that I Tweeted.

Tim Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus.

Tim Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus.

Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus. Then, James and Mandy spent three hours at the Greenville NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. I spent most of that time catching up on stuff on the bus. Phil and the two Scotts went off in search of food, and eventually brought German, the driver, and me some excellent takeout — flatiron steak with tiny potatoes and lightly cooked green beans. Way better than my usual McDonald’s.

Sometime after 10, J and M got away from the banquet and headed for an informal gathering with friends and supporters at a downtown Greenville joint, Ink N Ivy. My old colleague Jim Hammond, who had been a huge help to the campaign, was there, and we chatted for a few minutes. But then I heard Hogan and Phil were going to make a breakout, leave the bus behind and head to Columbia. Matt Gassan, who had advanced the event, told me they were at the corner with the engine running. Tired as I was, the flesh being weak, and knowing the bus was scheduled to leave HQ the next morning at 7, I decided to escape with them….

… and found myself, half an hour later, on a godforsaken, wind-and-rainswept vacant lot in some part of Greenville I’d never be able to find again, helping put up a couple of gigantic campaign signs that Hogan and Phil were determined we should not leave unused back at HQ. Sure, I agreed that we were all determined to leave it all on the field in this race, but somewhere about this time, I privately decided they were both lunatics. Eventually, we headed back, getting home sometime well after midnight. I forget when. I then set my alarm for 6 a.m.

It would be much later that I would figure out what had happened. The thing is, I set my usual weekday alarm for 6. It just never occurred to me that the next day was Saturday.

At 7:39 a.m. the buzzing of my phone finally woke me. Multiple texts had been missed, and Hogan was voice-calling me. The bus was, finally, rolling away from HQ without me. Major panic on my part to say the least.

Hauling my old Volvo down two-lane roads I managed to catch up to them in Greenwood, in time to get some pics and Tweet about that first event. I then drove ahead to the next event, at a restaurant in Spartanburg. Ginger Crocker caught a ride with Noah Barker, who was advancing the lunch event — so she could drive my car back to Columbia and I could rejoin the bus, which I did, and we continued on another long, long day.

Eventually, it occurred to Mandy what had happened to me...

Then it occurred to Mandy what had happened to me…

All that day, I was perfectly mortified. I knew just what had happened, and I had been thinking the very same words about it all day. But very late in the day or that night, I was sitting across the little table from the candidates talking over the day, when the words occurred to Mandy and she said them out loud: “You got left behind by the Leave No One Behind Bus!”

James thought this was high-larious! He roared his appreciation of the irony.

Me, I didn’t think it was so funny. I had let down the side, and was full of self-reproach. And I resolved yet again to do a better job tomorrow than I had today…

The first morning of that final tour. I was so intent on getting the bus in the frame I failed to notice J and M were in shadow. I did NOT Tweet this one...

The first morning of that final tour. I was so intent on getting the bus in the frame I failed to notice J and M were in shadow. I did NOT Tweet this one…

The last group picture

Last shot

Phillip and Kathryn have already remarked upon a version of this photo, on Facebook. Said Phillip:

Brad looking extra cool and laid-back there off to the side, showing the youngsters how it’s done.

This was on Saturday. It was the last time campaign staff were together in headquarters. We had cleaned the place out. Or rather, everybody else had cleaned the place out and I had helpfully watched them do it.

I was more helpful on Thursday, when we had dismantled and removed most of the furniture. I went through every sheet of paper in the random heap on my desk — actually, a bare-bones table from Ikea — and then dismantled the table, and left the pieces on the front porch where presumably someone was to pick them up. And did some other stuff, but mainly dealt with my own particularly chaotic space.

But when I got there Saturday, I was late, and everyone else seemed to have a task, and before I could get my bearings we were done, and posing for pictures. (The group you see above is more or less the core staff, with a volunteer or two. Some people who played a major role are missing, such as Phil Chambers.)

It wasn’t a total waste, though. Managing to look cool in the picture is in itself an accomplishment, right?

I’ll have more to say about the last few months, about what preceded the cleaning-out. But I’ll probably unpack it randomly, as a picture or a word or something in the news reminds me. My mind is still decompressing at the moment. All those months of intensity at an increasingly faster pace, culminating with those eight days and nights on the RV — it’s going to take time to process.

In the meantime, there’s the last picture. There will be more. I shot thousands… Below is one (that I did not shoot; this was done by a professional) showing some of the same people the day Joe Biden came to Charleston.

Between those two was the most intense part of the experience. The Biden thing seems in a way like yesterday, and in a way like 10 years ago…

Biden group shot

 

Have any of y’all voted yet? If so, how?

voting 2

I’m reliably informed that “in-person absentee voting” — which is what we’re supposed to call it instead of “early voting” — has now outstripped 2010 and 2014, with eight days still to go.

It certainly looked that way at 2020 Hampton late this morning, when I shot these pictures.

I’m wondering how many of y’all have availed yourselves of that opportunity. And if you don’t mind sharing, how did you vote?

There are indications that the absentees are mostly going for us. I don’t know that for sure, but we’ll know soon enough.

As for me, well, you know that I like to vote on Election Day. It’s a communitarian thing. Something about standing in line with my neighbors to participant in an American ritual. So unless something comes up that makes me think I’ll be too busy, I’m waiting until then. (Actually, maybe I should ask James and Mandy and others on the campaign if they anticipate that being a super-busy day for me — since I never engaged in this kind of thing before.)

But if you want to vote now, please do, by all means. It’s kind of a rush to see all those folks lining up, eager to vote. Democracy in action…

voting 1

Suddenly, from out of the cold mist, a blog post

The-Band-self-titled-Album-Cover-web-optimised-820

I just looked poked my head our from campaign HQ for a moment, and I can report that we now have perfect weather for listening to The Band.

Start with the brown album. If you have time for just one song, go with “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)“…

Other good listens for precisely this weather, this time of year, in this latitude, is John Lennon’s “Imagine” album. Not the title track so much because it’s overdone (and, good as it is, overrated). Go with “Jealous Guy” or something along those lines. You want to listen to this in an empty room (like the one in the video) with lots of reverb.

Finally, these climatic conditions are also conducive to the enjoyment of some of Rod Stewart’s early hits, such as “Maggie May,” “Handbags and Gladrags” and “Mandolin Wind.” All very autumnal.

That is all. You may go… And I must get back to work. The music helps…

Open Thread for (late) Monday, July 23, 2018

NYT page

Yeah, I’m still here. Super, super busy is all. Here are some topics…

  1. Tariffs Imperil a Hometown Business in South Carolina: BMW — This was several days ago, but it was huge: It took up most of the NYT front page above the fold. And the Charleston paper played their own story on the subject even bigger on their front on Sunday.
  2. 17 Dead After Amphibious Tour Boat Sinks In Missouri Lake — Horrific. Something I wonder about, but haven’t seen an answer to in coverage: Are these “ducks” the same amphibious vehicles used in landings in WWII?
  3. Toronto: suspect identified in shooting that left two dead and 13 injured — And then there’s this. I wish I had better news for y’all.
  4. They Vowed to Fix the Subway. On-Time Rates Are Still Terrible. — Also from NYT. Many of y’all probably don’t care, but like Frank Horrigan in “In the Line of Fire,” I love me some public transportation. Especially the systems in NYC, London and Bangkok. And Disney World, of course. I hate to see subways having trouble.
  5. Striptease and half naked football players part of Clemson event for female fans, video shows — Because y’all always say I don’t give you enough sports news. Does this count? Speaking of which, I just finished (during my early-morning workouts) rewatching Ken Burns’ “Baseball” series, this time complete with the updates that take it through the early 2000s. They have the Red Sox breaking the Bambino Curse, but it doesn’t get as far as the Cubbies breaking their even longer one. Great stuff, though…
Frank Horrigan and I love public transportation...

Frank Horrigan and I love public transportation…

‘How to live to be 102,’ according to Samuel

Samuel 102

Years ago — probably well over a decade ago — I was having lunch with my good friend Samuel Tenenbaum, and he pulled a Ziploc sandwich bag out his pocket. It contained maybe a dozen or so pills and capsules of different colors, sizes, shapes and textures.

As he proposed to take them all, I asked about it, and he explained that they were various kinds of vitamins and minerals. He explained what each was for. He had researched each pill in sufficient detail that I was impressed, and after pondering it for awhile, started doing the same myself.

For several years, I was spending a remarkable amount at the Vitamin Shoppe, for… let’s see… vitamin C, a B complex, fish oil, calcium and vitamin D, zinc, iron (in those days, my iron occasionally fell short of the minimum when I tried to give blood), COQ 10 (someone had told me it helped brain function, which I figured I could use), some others I forget, and a multivitamin (just to cover any bases I had missed). I’d put them in a little plastic snack bag each morning, put that in my pocket as I left the house, and take them all during breakfast after I got downtown. Because they all say to “take with food.”

Then, over the last few years, I sort of fell out of the habit. I still have several bottles of various sorts in a kitchen cabinet, but only occasionally do I think even to take a multivitamin.

But some folks are more consistent than I. Samuel, for one. And then some.

On Friday morning, I was sitting down to eat at the usual place just as Samuel was preparing to leave after his second breakfast. It’s not that he’s a hobbit; if I remember correctly, he’s told me in the past he usually eats a little something at home when he gets up at 4:30 a.m. each day, then has a more sociable breakfast downtown hours later).vitamins

He joined me — so we could chat about my new job — and asked the waiter for a glass of water. Then he pulled out the bag you see at right. He had greatly expanded his vitamin-taking, to a phenomenal extent. At least, I hadn’t remembered there being that many before. He’s really pushed the envelope.

I was reminded of the time Dick Cavett took his show backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. He was chatting with Mick Jagger just before he went on stage, and someone started passing around a tray covered with various kinds of pills, which band members took as they chose. Cavett asked what they were and Jagger said “vitamins.” And salt pills. I thought that was meant as a joke. After all, it was the ’70s. But after seeing Jagger continue to shake it onstage decades longer than Jimmy Fallon predicted in “Almost Famous,” I suspect maybe they were vitamins…

Perceiving my interest, Samuel proceeded to rattle off what they all were as he took them several at a time. I wasn’t taking notes, but most of them I’d never heard of. I thought that if I start getting seriously back into vitamins, I’m going to have to study up on the latest things.

I asked him to let me take a picture of him and the pills, to share here on the blog. He said sure, and that I should tell everybody, “This is how you live to be 102!”

He could be onto something. He’s 10 years older than I am, and still going strong. So’s Mick Jagger, last I saw…

Amazingly, they’re actually getting the boys out of the cave

Ekapol and players

Ekapol Chanthawong and some of his players.

I really spoke too soon the other day when I celebrated the discovery of those boys missing in the cave in Thailand. I was far too sanguine.

Turned out their situation was still horrifically perilous. So perilous, in fact, that this just would not work as fiction. In “Lassie,” Timmy was always falling down an old mineshaft or something (this was such a common plot device in the late ’50s that as a little kid I had the impression the whole country was honeycombed with abandoned mines, all of them covered only with rotting boards that wouldn’t even hold a small boy’s weight). But all Lassie had to do was get within hearing of the shaft, hear Timmy yell, “Go for help, girl!” and the day was saved.

A fictional plot like this would be dismissed by the most credulous viewer as too contrived: It takes six hours, much of it underwater, even for an elite diver to get to the precarious shelf where the boys are, cut off by rising rainwater. It’s so difficult that a veteran diver, a former Thai Navy SEAL, died Friday just trying to place spare air tanks along the route. The boys can’t swim. Even if they could, they’re not trained SCUBA divers. Some of the passages through which they have to pass are so tight that air tanks would have to be removed for even the kids to get through them. It’s so hard to get them out that consideration was given to leaving them there for months until the rainy season is over, resupplying them for the duration. But no — the monsoons continue to fall, meaning the water in the cave will rise.

What else could possibly go wrong?

And yet, amazingly, things went wonderfully right today: They got four of the boys out! Which is just astounding as well as wonderful. But it will be hours, perhaps a day, before more get out. Imagining the terror, the physical exertion, the determination and courage it took those four weakened boys to get out makes me shudder.

But they got out!

A lot of attention has focused on the one adult with them, 25-year-old assistant soccer coach Ekapol Chanthawong, a former Buddhist monk. Some have been critical, saying he should never have gotten the boys into such a situation. But the story plays differently within Thailand itself:

But for many in Thailand, Ekapol, who left his life in the monkhood three years ago and joined the Wild Boars as an assistant coach soon after, is an almost divine force, sent to protect the boys as they go through this ordeal. A widely shared cartoon drawing of Ekapol shows him sitting cross-legged, as a monk does in meditation, with 12 little wild boars in his arms.

According to rescue officials, he is among the weakest in the group, in part because he gave the boys his share of the limited food and water they had with them in the early days. He also taught the boys how to meditate and how to conserve as much energy as possible until they were found.

“If he didn’t go with them, what would have happened to my child?” said the mother of Pornchai Khamluang, one of the boys in the cave, in an interview with a Thai television network. “When he comes out, we have to heal his heart. My dear Ek, I would never blame you.”…

During my brief stay in Thailand three years ago, I was often impressed by the straightforward piety that runs through the hearts of the people there. Just one of many illustrations: We spent two nights in the farmhouse of my daughters’ adoptive “grandparents” in the rural village in which she served her two years in the Peace Corps. In the corner of the room in which we slept on floor pallets there was a small Buddhist shrine.

On the morning we were leaving, before she would let us go, the “grandmother” kneeled before the shrine and let us know we were to kneel beside her. Of course we did, as she prayed for our safety during the rest of our journey. We were deeply touched.

And as it happened, we had a wonderful time, and our trip was remarkably free of untoward incidents.

Call that good luck if you like, but I think all good-faith efforts to reach out sincerely to the Divine have value, however you define the Divine and whatever your dogma. In any case, the presence of that spiritual young man seems to be helping to keep those boys going under the most trying of circumstances.

I don’t have a shrine in my house, but I’ll be going to Mass later today. And on this Sunday, I hope and pray the other nine boys get out as safely as the first four. And that Ekapol does, too…

We explored a cave while we were in Thailand, too. Here, our guide gives us some pointers at the entrance as we prepare to climb down into it. I don't think I'll do that again...

We explored a cave while we were in Thailand, too. Here, our guide gives us some pointers at the entrance as we prepare to climb down into it. I don’t think I’ll do that again…

A bit of news: I’m joining the Smith/Norrell campaign

One victory down, one to go.

One victory down, one to go.

Starting today, I’m joining the James Smith/Mandy Powers Norrell campaign as communications director.

In blog terms this means that, while Leo McGarry is still the guy I want to be when I grow up, it turns out that in real life, I’m Toby Ziegler.

It means a lot of other things, too. More important things.

There are other things it does not mean. For instance, it does not mean, “Brad’s a Democrat now!” Nope, as always, I’m no more of a Democrat than I am a Republican. As you know, over the years I’ve endorsed candidates from both parties in almost exactly equal numbers. I go with the best candidate, without regard to party. In this race, the better candidate is unquestionably James Smith.

This is partly because I’ve respected and admired James for the ways he has served his state and country, and I like what he wants to do for South Carolina — and because, while I’ve only recently gotten to know her, I think Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell is a tremendous positive force in our Legislature (a point on which her largely Republican constituency has repeatedly agreed).

It’s also because Henry McMaster has repeatedly failed to stand up and be a leader on the issues that matter to South Carolina — or on anything, for that matter. He’s a born follower, and he’ll follow anyone he thinks will help him hold high office. It’s almost like the office of governor is vacant, occupied by a nonentity who offers only one thing to the voters: “Donald Trump loves me.”

So what you have here is a guy who doesn’t care about party being so persuaded as to who the better candidate is in this important election that he’s quitting his day job to put it all on the line. Which should count for something among fair-minded observers.

This is weird for me. Very weird. My job will involve constantly dealing with reporters, and they are unlikely to do what I tell them to do, the way they did in my former life. (Which is just plumb unnatural.) As I step out into this unfamiliar territory, I try to reassure myself that others have successfully made the transition before me. For instance, one of my earliest mentors, John Parish — the unquestioned dean of Tennessee political writers — went to work for Lamar Alexander in 1978, and that worked out. “The Bear” remained a hero to young journos like me.

This is the second stage of my transition. As y’all know, I’ve been very frank about which candidates I prefer ever since I joined The State‘s editorial board in 1994. But that was all just words, as Doug would say. A couple of months back, I took the unprecedented step of putting campaign signs in my yard for the two candidates I most wanted to see win this year: James (this was before Mandy joined the ticket) and my Republican representative, Micah Caskey.

Micah has already won his election — he won his primary walking away, and has no general election opponent. So he doesn’t need my help.

James and Mandy have a long, tough campaign ahead of them, trying to win the governor’s (and lieutenant governor’s) office in a state that hasn’t picked a Democrat for either of those offices in 20 years.

But there are reasons to think these two candidates can win. It starts with their qualifications and positive vision for South Carolina, and ends with a factor called “Henry McMaster” — an incumbent who had to scramble like an unknown (against an unknown) just to win his own party’s nomination.

In any event, James and Mandy are determined to win. And so am I….