I appreciate my friend E.J. Dionne, who is also a nice guy, bringing this to my attention:
“#AnthonyBourdain spoke up for me at a time when people all over the country were making great fun of the column I write.”
Ms. Hagerty wrote a nice review of an Olive Garden. Bourdain defended her against the “snarkologists.”
— EJ Dionne (@EJDionne) June 9, 2018
It’s the tale of how a little old lady who served as food critic for a newspaper in flyover land was lampooned by the “sophisticates” on the coasts because she unabashedly gave a rave review to an Olive Garden… then was defended by the late Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain wrote of the then–88-year-old Marilyn Hagerty of Grand Forks:
“She is never mean — even when circumstances would clearly excuse a sharp elbow, a cruel remark,” he wrote. “In fact, watching Marilyn struggle to find something nice to say about a place she clearly loathes is part of the fun. She is, unfailingly, a good neighbor and good citizen first — and entertainer second.”
Bourdain added that the book “kills snark dead.”
“This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating — still ARE eating — in much of America,” he wrote. “As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can — while hurting no one.”
So you can see how the “snarkologists” would give her unmitigated hell. How dare she be a genuinely nice person?
Which brings me to James Smith.
This past week, the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor or South Carolina had their final “debate” — an occasion for Phil Noble and Marguerite Willis to snarl, slash and attack James Smith in their desperation (which continues to puzzle me) to tear down the only member of their party who has the slightest prayer of winning the election in the fall.
A number of people — some of them the sort who were just then starting to focus on the race (which is ominous) — thought Smith didn’t come out of the debate well — his opponents kept scoring hits on him, and he failed to deflect the hits and didn’t fight back. (Doug hates that kind of thing. Possibly others do as well.)
It didn’t strike me that way, but then I know James, and I knew that his opponents were making innocent things out to be scandalous. For instance, he has been friends with Rick Quinn, and he was Alan Wilson’s attorney at one point. These are both things that I’ve written about approvingly here in the past, because it shows the kind of guy James is — someone who doesn’t dismiss people because they belong to another political party. You know, exactly the quality you need in a Democrat who wants to get anything done as governor, seeing as how the GOP dominates the Legislature.
His opponents were doing this because with the kind of blind partisans who might (if misled sufficiently) choose them over Smith, it is a prima facie sin to be friends with Republicans. At this point, the snarlers would protest that the sin was the taint of scandal attaching to Quinn and Wilson — but the evidence of his association is from a time years before even the slightest hint of scandal wafted in their direction.
So what’s he going to say? Protest that he was friendly with them then, but not now? An opportunist would leap at the chance to do so. But that’s not James Smith.
James Smith is the kind of guy who offers nothing but positive reasons why he wants to be governor and would make a good one. He’s not interested in slashing out at anyone, or tossing anyone to the wolves.
He could, if he possessed a different sort of character. There are plenty of things he could say about the two spoilers (who will never be anything more) attacking him. I’m picturing, for instance, a pretty devastating ad with one Democrat after another stating clearly precisely what they think of Phil Noble, based on their dealings with him.
As for Marguerite Willis, I can think of a number of ways he could undermine her, but this one would do: He could, for instance, ask her to explain why she said, in their first debate back in the winter, that workers should not have the right to organize into unions. While running for the Democratic nomination, mind. It stunned me at the time (I’m no great fan of unions, but surely people have the right to join them), but the amazing thing is that no one has asked this corporate lawyer to explain that answer — not then, not now.
Unless I’ve missed it. If this has happened, I’d appreciate a link.
Can you imagine what Ms. Willis or Noble, who attack him without letup because the NRA doesn’t hate him, would be doing with such an advantage?
But Smith does not. Because he’s just not interested in doing that.
I imagine that in the fall, James will have some critical things to say about his Republican opponent — because then, there will be substantive differences on policy to discuss. But he’s not interested in playing a gotcha game to get his party’s nomination.
Which raises the question — do nice guys finish last, or does a guy who’s only interested in presenting the positives about himself, and not looking for ways to attack his opponents, have a chance in today’s poisonous political atmosphere?
To find out, watch James Smith on Tuesday.