Daily Archives: January 9, 2012

The legislative agenda? Same as it ever was

My ex-colleagues at The State did their annual laundry list of what the SC General Assembly should do in the session that convenes tomorrow, and as Cindi Scoppe acknowledged in her accompanying column, there wasn’t much new to see:

IF THE HEADLINE on today’s editorial provokes in you a sense of deja vu, that’s because it’s the same one we used last year to greet the annual return of the General Assembly. And it’s no different in substance from the year before that. In fact, the need to overhaul our tax code and spending policies and restructure our government have been among the top five issues confronting the Legislature for as far back as I can recall.

I’m not particularly fond of writing the same editorials year after year, but what choice is there? Our overarching problems are unchanged because the Legislature keeps tinkering around the edges or, worse, fixating on red-meat issues that satiate cable-news-engorged constituents but do nothing to nurture a state starved for a government that actually works. A government that provides the services that our state needs, in at least a moderately efficient way, and that pays for those services through a tax system that does not unnecessarily burden our citizens or undermine our values or give special favors to favored constituencies.

Yep, our state’s needs don’t change much from year to year. And neither do our lawmakers’ penchant for ignoring those needs.

If you’ll recall, my very last column at The State (“South Carolina’s Unfinished Business,” March 22, 2009) pretty much covered the same ground. That was almost three years ago. And after all that time, I would only need to reword one short passage:

Raise our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax by a dollar, bringing us (almost) to the national average, and saving thousands of young lives.

Actually, you wouldn’t even have to reword it — you would just have to add a parenthetical acknowledging that our state has taken a tiny baby step in that direction. Other than that, the column could pretty much run as-is.

Little wonder that I don’t get too excited with the new session rolls around each year…

Sheheen named as one of 12 to watch nationally

Vincent Sheheen in 2010 with his dad, Fred, and the last Democratic candidate for governor to do better than he did.

Vincent Sheheen in 2010 with his dad, Fred, and the last Democratic candidate for governor to do better than he did.

I was shocked, shocked, to see that Governing magazine named Sen. Vincent Sheheen one of its 12 legislators to watch in 2012:

Sen. Vincent Sheheen exceeded all expectations in his 2010 race for governor. Running in a strongly Republican state in a strongly Republican year, he lost to Nikki Haley — who attracted considerable national media attention — by just four percentage points. An effective legislator, he had sponsored 18 bills that became state law prior to his gubernatorial campaign.

Sheheen, whose father was a state education commissioner, served as a city prosecutor and a state representative before winning election to the Senate in 2004. “Sheheen represents the pragmatic tradition of South Carolina found in dynamic leaders such as former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings and former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley,” says Andy Brack, publisher and columnist of StatehouseReport.com.

He is widely expected to run again for higher office. “Sheheen remains a public critic of Gov. Haley, which may help explain her rather extensive out-of-state fundraising during her first year in office,” says Jack Bass, a College of Charleston political scientist.

Why was I shocked? Because I thought it was some sort of physical law of the universe that national media were incapable of acknowledging Vincent’s existence.

Over and over, we heard (and still hear) about the terribly exciting miracle of the Indian-American woman who won the GOP nomination in our state, and then went on to be elected by the skin of her teeth, garnering a small percentage of the vote than any other statewide Republican in a huge year for Republicans.

Not once did I see even a hint of that sort of interest in the first Lebanese-American Catholic nominee in state history — who did better than any Democrat since Jim Hodges won, by hitching his star to a state lottery, in 1998.

Until now.

What Romney said about NLRB was technically wrong, but his message was accurate

Late last week the Obama re-election campaign brought to my attention a PolitiFact piece that said something Mitt Romney said about Obama’s NLRB was untrue.

And it was, technically. But what he was trying to say was essentially true.

Politifact described the Romney ad this way:

In the ad, Romney stands in front of workers on a factory floor and says that “the National Labor Relations Board, now stacked with union stooges selected by the president, says to a free enterprise like Boeing, ‘you can’t build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a right-to-work state.’”

Here is Politifact’s ruling (and go ahead and read the entire explication that precedes it):

The Romney ad claimed that the NLRB told Boeing that it “can’t build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a right-to-work state.”

The NLRB’s complaint started a legal process that could ultimately have resulted in a factory closure, but the NLRB as a whole didn’t tell Boeing anything. What’s more, the legal basis for the action centered on whether Boeing was punishing the union for staging strikes, not that Boeing had opened a factory in a right-to-work state. We rate the statement False.

Bottom line, Boeing had said it wanted to get away from all those strikes, and that’s that got it into trouble. Well, one good way to get away from strikes is to go to a “right-to-work” state, where you are less likely to be dealing with a union.

So… as an editor, if someone had written for publication the words spoken in the Romney ad, I wouldn’t have allowed it. I’d have reworded it. But I would have understood what he was saying.

Here’s a shocker for you: People whom Romney has supported are supporting him in return

I have always, according to everyone else, underestimated the role of money in politics. It bores me, so I don’t attach the importance to it that everyone says I should.

But for all you folks who are so much more world-wise than I, here’s a tidbit to gnaw on:

Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC and its affiliates states have lavished close to $1.3 million in campaign donations to federal, state and local GOP politicians, almost all since 2010. His recipients include officials in the major upcoming primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, and in three southern Super Tuesday states where he was trounced four years ago.

In New Hampshire, a U.S. senator, a congressman, 10 state senators and three executive councilors shared $26,000 in donations from Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC in 2010 and 2011 combined. All 15 have showered Romney with endorsements leading up to Tuesday’s primary

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came out for Romney last month – a year after his Free and Strong America PACs funneled $36,000 to the Tea Party darling’s 2010 election bid. And 19 state and Washington, D.C., lawmakers in three Super Tuesday states – Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia — are backing Romney after his PAC poured a total of $125,500 into their coffers for elections held in 2009 and 2010.

Make of that what you will. Me, I’m like, Yeah, I knew that they were supporting each other. So what do I care about the money? But that’s me. I’m cynical about cynicism; I think it’s all overblown.

It’s as over as it can get without being over

How’s that for hedging, Yogi Berra style? Hey, I’m not going to get caught out on a limb again like I did with my prediction, the day he announced, that Rick Perry was going to win it all (all, that is, except the presidency). Hey, how was I to know he suffered from chronic brain freeze? (OK, actually, I hedged that prediction, too — but nobody remembers that.)

This time, I’ve been more cautious. All during the holidays, I kept getting these vibes that made me feel like this year was not as freaky as I thought it was, and that things were starting to take their customary shape.

All during the fall, even very late fall, I was puzzled. I didn’t know what to tell people who asked me how the GOP presidential nomination process was going in South Carolina. Likely Republican voters were just jumping from candidate to candidate like restless frogs moving from one lily pad to the next.

I knew that the party nationally, and in SC particularly, had been having an identity crisis ever since 2008. The usual patterns didn’t apply, as we saw with the victory of Nikki Haley over more normal Republicans. It didn’t look like the Tea Party was going to be that much of a factor this time, but it was hard to say.

I even started to believe that this time, for once, South Carolina might not go for the eventual nominee. Which would greatly reduce the SC Mystique in the national party.

But then, things shook out to the point that the familiar pattern asserted itself. After all that running around and flirting, SC Republicans started flocking to Mitt Romney. The pattern here has been to go for the establishment guy, and this year that guy was Romney. Last time, he was the Last Conservative Hope for the right, the last chance to stop the establishment candidate of 2008, John McCain — who, for his part, had been the outsider candidate in the previous contested GOP primary, in 2000.

I heard the pattern described well on NPR Friday:

You know, one thing about this race – for all its weirdness and twists and turns – it still is following the traditional form for a Republican primary. There is an establishment candidate. There are some conservative alternatives. Usually the establishment guy wins; that seems what’s like what’s happening this time.

And the guy who came in second last time – because the Republicans are still a hierarchical party, despite the Tea Party – is first this time. It happened with McCain. It looks like it’s happening with Romney. And the other thing, it looks like Republicans, as Bill Clinton used to say, fall in line instead of falling in love. Yes, Romney has weaknesses but they haven’t – conservatives have not been able to find an alternative.

Yup. And that’s what’s about to happen in the Palmetto State — whatever happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, SC is the place that says, “Y’all settle down, now — here’s your nominee.”

I’m late in writing this. I should have said it on the last day of 2011, when I read that Warren Tompkins had jumped aboard the Romney bandwagon.

All the other GOP establishment types had declared themselves early — Alan Wilson, Henry McMaster, Mike Campbell and John Courson for Huntsman, Bobby Harrell for Perry, etc. — but Warren had hung back. Warren is the Tessio of GOP endorsers in SC — he’s the smart one, who backs the most likely horse.

When I saw he’d made that move, I said to myself, Self, Warren is seeing the same stuff you’re seeing — and then some.

But I didn’t utter the words “It’s over” until Friday, when I said in a Tweet responding to the latest poll numbers:

It’s over. Unless, of course, it isn’t.“@postandcourier: SC GOP voters like Romney best,… CNN/Time poll says. #scpolhttp://ow.ly/8kBBS

Notice the hedge. I’m being smart. I want people to call the “Tessio of SC bloggers.” No, wait — he got whacked. How about, “The Clemenza of SC bloggers.” That would be more like it.

Today, I’ve been talking to a number of SC Republicans to get their thoughts on the race. I started my day over breakfast with an activist who has not declared for a candidate, even though he sees the writing on the wall. His first words to me were, “It is so over.”

I’m inclined to agree.

Born to rule, that’s me (Can a quiz be wrong?)

First, I think this quiz is fixed. Wes Wolfe Tweeted out that he’d taken a “which Downton Abbey character are you” quiz, and turned out to be “Robert, Earl of Grantham.”

So I took it — there are only seven questions, all multiple choice — and sure enough, I, too, am the lord of the manor.

Of course, as I was taking it, I was deliberately (but honestly, except when the questions were too silly to have an honest answer) answering the questions that I knew would take me in that direction — with one or two exceptions. In response to the question, “I have a whole weekend to myself! I’m going to…,” I did not answer “Attend a jolly good foxhunt, followed by billiards and cigars.” That’s because I enjoyed the answer, “What’s a ‘weekend’?” so much. I knew that another character said that — the old lady who is clueless how the world works outside of Downton.

But even when I turned away from that path, I still ended up being the earl. For instance, on “My favorite movie is…,” the honest answer for me was “The Godfather.” So I said that, knowing that the best answer for the earl was “Henry V” — which would have been my second choice. I ended up being the earl anyway. And when I went back and tried it again, answering “Henry V” this time, I was still the earl.

I have a theory that the thing is rigged. Would anyone, taking this, end up being one of the downstairs characters? I doubt it, unless they were trying.

If you take it, let me know where you end up.