“Ironically, I tend to look left,” said SC Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson at the Columbia Rotary Club today. “That’s a joke.”
He said that because he had already gotten a big laugh, unintentionally. Worried about his time, he had turned to tell our president that he was just going to speak a minute-and-a-half about Yucca Mountain before going to questions. Except that our president, Rodger Stroup, was on his right, and he turned the other way and said it to David Kunz, who was seated up there to do Health and Happiness. The laugh came when David said, very enthusiastically, “All right by me!”
But the rest of his speech went pretty well. Crawford Clarkson turned to me afterward to say it was one of the best speakers he’d heard at Rotary. And Crawford’s been in Rotary approximately forever. I said I didn’t know about that, but I thought he did well.
He did well because he spoke as something other than what detractors of his Dad might expect. Sure, he started out sounding a lot like Joe, looking around the room and recognizing his many friends. But that was cool. I’ve always liked that about Joe. He’s very sincere about it, and so was Alan. Alan was a bit cooler about it, in fact. Joe tends to be rather manic in his extreme excitement to be there as a congressman.
Anyway, as I said, some would like to think that Alan is another Charlie Condon. (Charlie, who is a perfectly reasonable human being in person out of the limelight, turned into a sort of pandering monster as A.G., pursuing one issue after another that seemed fabricated to further his political career.) But I haven’t seen that yet, and there was none of that in the presentation we got today. Charlie would have worked in the “electric couch” somewhere, but not Alan.
Wilson spent a large portion of his time simply talking about the routine work that the A.G.’s office does in the course of meeting its statutory and constitutional obligations — handling civil litigation, criminal prosecution, post-conviction relief, criminal domestic violence, etc. That he chose to do so, to explain his office in such professional terms rather than political ones, is to me worthy of praise. Perhaps because I’m always on the lookout for another Charlie. (Fellow Rotarian Henry McMaster was a welcome change from Charlie — and it should be pointed out, Henry was largely responsible for the emphasis on CDV. I’m glad to see Wilson is continuing to be interested in that.)
Then he got onto the controversial issues — the NLRB/Boeing thing (although in SC, that’s hardly controversial), the health care mandate, Yucca Mountain — and he fought his corner well on these. His point on each was that he approached them according to the law as he read it. Of course, I’m less likely to disbelieve him than some, since I see the first and third ones the way he does. I disagree strongly with him on the middle one (and the idea that he could be successful in pursuing severability appalls me), although I fear he may be right that in the end it will be settled by a 5-4 SCOTUS decision, one way or the other.
In supporting his assertion that for him it’s about the law and not political advantage, he cited the Cornell Arms case, in which a security guard shot and killed an unarmed man who he said he thought was threatening him. Wilson said some told him that “You’ll take heat” from 2nd Amendment advocates for supporting the government’s prosecution of the guard. But in his account, he said, “That’s irrelevant.” The man had served five years, and would have been released by the state Supreme Court had Wilson not filed for a rehearing. As John Monk (happy birthday, John!) reported after the meeting:
“This has nothing to do with the right to carry (guns), nothing to do with the gun issue,” Wilson said. “The defense has the right to appeal at each level of litigation, and the state has a right to ask the court to reconsider their decision.”
A good example for the point the A.G. was making. But whether you agree that he’s always representing the law rather than serving politics, I was impressed that he took no opportunity to posture before Rotary. There was no ideological cant about “big government” or, to cite something his predecessor sank to in trying to run for governor, about promising to protect us from Obama and his Washington “vultures.” He opposes the mandate and sees it as constitutionally unsound. Fine. I just disagree. At least he expresses himself like someone who respects the law, rather than an ideological ranter.
And that counts for a lot. Now, to be perfectly frank, his website seems a tad more self-promotional than his speech today (I went there to get y’all a link to look up more about these issues and his involvement with them). But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good speech. That it was, and well received.