We are truly legendary, to the point that political junkies sit around up in Washington dreaming up Top Five lists about us, a laHigh Fidelity, such as “The five nastiest South Carolina races ever.”
At least, Chris Cillizza at the WashPost‘s The Fix does.
And it’s a pretty good list even though it’s awfully heavy on stuff that happened during my own career. He does, to give him credit, give a mention to the legendary Preston Brooks, but the Top Five are all 1978 or later.
Given that limitation, it’s a good list. He counts them down thusly:
5. 2002 Republican governors runoff:
This is the one I wrote about yesterday (at least, I wrote about the GOP effort to come together AFTER this nasty battle
), between Mark Sanford and Bob Peeler. Peeler’s campaign, run by party regulars, was inexcusable, as Cillizza correctly recalls: “In one particularly memorable Peeler ad, a Sanford look-alike is shown stripping a soldier down to his underwear to illustrate Sanford’s alleged attitude toward military funding.” Yep. I remember it well.
4. 1978 4th district race: The abominable campaign against Max Heller, featuring anti-Semitic push-polling by Carroll Campbell’s pollster. I was in Tennessee at the time covering Lamar Alexander and Jake Butcher, but I’ve heard plenty about this from my good friend Samuel Tenenbaum over the years.
3. 1980 2nd district race: Also before I came home to SC, but I knew the players later: Lee Atwater, on behalf of Floyd Spence, told the press that Tom Turnipseed had been hooked up to “jumper cables” — a reference to shock treatments he had received for depression as a teenager.
2. 2010 Republican governors primary: That’s the one we just lived through. Or rather, are still living through. If we live.
1. 2000 Republican presidential primary: The filthy tricks that George W. Bush’s campaign used against John McCain to stop his candidacy and give Bush the momentum to go on and win the presidency. Not sure this was necessarily the nastiest by SC standards, but it certainly had the most profound impact on the world. I firmly believe that otherwise John McCain would have been our president on 9/11 and thereafter, which would have been better for us all. That knowledge of how South Carolina let the world down was very much on my mind when we pushed for McCain’s victory in the 2008 primary. (I also felt responsible because the newspaper — over my strong objections — endorsed Bush over McCain in 2000.)
They keep talking about us. And they will continue to do so, until we turn our backs on all this stuff. Which is why I’m rooting for Vincent Sheheen.