Author Archives: Brad Warthen

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….

Top Five Movies (or TV Shows) for the Fourth of July

  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” — Frank Capra really gets America. Or at least, he got the America of his day, and that means he got it the way I get it. (It feels like I was right there, in a previous life.)
  2. Young Mr. Lincoln” — If you don’t do anything else today, watch the clip above. You only have to watch the first minute and 18 seconds. It’s amazing, the best thing Henry Fonda ever did. I thought about Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which is magnificent and of course has superior, modern production values. But I had another Spielberg flick below, and besides, this one’s awesome.
  3. John Adams” — Yeah, this one’s a TV show, which is why I added the parenthetical in the headline. I can’t think of anything better on how America became America. And as I keep saying, Adams is my fave Founder. He’s the one who rammed independence through the Congress. Jefferson just wrote it out — because Adams picked him to do it.
  4. Saving Private Ryan” — Yeah, I know — Bud and maybe others will say, “This isn’t Veteran’s Day, nor yet Memorial Day!” Yeah, well, freedom isn’t free. And this is the best film evocation of that ever made. I get chills, and misty eyes, during the cemetery scenes at the start and end. July Fourth message to us all: Earn this!
  5. Yankee Doodle Dandy” — Because there had to be a musical, and have you ever seen anything better than James Cagney dancing down those stairs? Particularly amazing if you only thought of him as a gangster type.

Honorable mention:

All the President’s Men” — Because America. Because First Amendment. Because scrappy newspapermen taking down a corrupt administration. Best part — the scenes in which Woodward and Bernstein interview people who do not want to talk to them. They are wonderfully ragged and awkward, which is what it’s like in real life. I really appreciate the director leaving them that way and not trying to slick them up, Hollywood-style.

"Yankee Doodle Dandy"

“Yankee Doodle Dandy”

Open Thread for Monday, July 2, 2018

thai

Some things to kick around:

  1. Happy real Independence Day — I say that because I’m more of a John Adams guy than a Thomas Jefferson guy. (So I’d be a Federalist if, you know, the party still existed.) And July 2 was the day the vote for independence happened. And if Adams had had his way, we’d have Monday off instead of Wednesday. So, yay, Adams!
  2. SCE&G files lawsuit to block 15-percent rate cut Legislature passed — You sort of saw that one coming, didn’tcha?
  3. Lizard’s Thicket closes Midlands store for renovations — Dang, man! The one on Elmwood just got reopened, and now they’re closing this one, too?
  4. Trump Criticizes NATO Allies for Not Increasing Defense Budgets — Hey, I’m with him on that one, but after needlessly trying to start trade wars with them and otherwise insult our allies, this is probably not the right time to double-down on this one. I mean, if you care at all about anything positive happening, which of course he doesn’t…
  5. 12 Boys, Missing in Flooded Thailand Cave, Are Found Alive — That gives us something to celebrate, anyway. By the way, I’ve explored a cave in Thailand. Pretty spooky…

That’s what I’ve got. Y’all may have something better, which is cool because it’s an open thread…

A reassuring fact about the U.S. Supreme Court

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just to help everybody calm down a little:

I’m not saying that a court vacancy isn’t an important thing. Of course it is. It means we’ll be choosing one-ninth of one of the three branches of our federal government, and for life. It’s critical that we find a qualified jurist with deep understanding of the law — like the ones already on the court. As evidenced by all those 9-0 decisions. There are no idiots on this court, no justices who fail to see the law clearly, just as the others do. Consensus is most common result.

From what I’ve seen, Neil Gorsuch is such a person. So, from everything I read. Was Merrick Garland. Yes, Democrats, you had every reason to be outraged at what McConnell did. To refuse even to consider a sitting president’s nominee was a gross dereliction of duty, an insult to the Constitution. It was the grossest partisan action I’ve seen the Congress take in many a year. The senators were free to reject Garland upon consideration — in fact, it would have been their duty to do so had they found him unqualified. But no one even suggested he was unqualified (because, to our knowledge, he was not). They simply refused to consider him. That was a profound sin against our republic, one that stains the reputation of everyone involved in the refusal forever.

This — Kennedy’s retirement — should have been Gorsuch’s turn to be considered.

All of that is the case. But I just can’t get as worked up about the situation as both sides seem to be — the right with excitement at the enormity of their opportunity, the left with horror at the impending disaster.

For one thing, this area seems to be the only one in which Donald J. Trump doesn’t go with his own twisted instincts. He left the choice of Gorsuch over people who actually know something about such things. Of course, they are people who will put forth potential nominees that the left would not. But they will put forth qualified individuals.

My greatest concern is that Trump — who has been more and more off the leash lately — will do so over this as well, and ignore the advice of the people who know better than he does. I don’t think that will happen, if only because of the way his warped ego works: He has received a great deal of praise — which he values disproportionately — over the Gorsuch decision, so I think he’ll stick with the process that gave him that “triumph.”

I know that nothing I can say will diminish the anxiety of people whose focus is entirely on the relatively small number of 5-4 decisions — especially my friends who, unlike me, think Roe v. Wade was a wonderful thing, to cite one issue that many think is in the balance here (which I sort of doubt, but I can’t say for sure).

But it would be a wonderful thing for the republic if folks on both ends of the spectrum could calm down. These vacancies have distorted our politics far, far more than enough.

Many cycles ago, this one small part of the job description, which usually arises only once or twice in a term, started having far too great an impact on voters’ decision-making. Think about it: We wouldn’t have Trump in the White House if not for all the religious conservatives who would never, ever have considered such a crude, vulgar, amoral person to be their chief magistrate except for one thing — the kind of justices they expected him to nominate, in contrast to the ones Hillary Clinton might have named.

So we have a guy who daily seeks new ways to alienate our allies and cozy up to dictators, a man enamored of trade wars, who pursues grossly immoral, cruel policies on our border, deliberately increases polarization in the electorate and stirs hatred against our critical institutions, from our justice system to the free press. Of course, I could go on, but you would think that list would be enough to suggest that picking a president on the basis of that one thing, judicial nomination, is a terrible and reckless course of action.

But far too many on the right do just that. And so do too many on the left.

I don’t know how we get to where everybody puts this in perspective again. But one place we might start is by considering that fact that the most likely result is that the Court will decide matters 9-0. That ought to have a calming effect. Not that I’m holding my breath…

The Roberts Court, June 1, 2017.  Seated, from left to right: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer.  Standing, from left to right: Justices Eleana Kagan, Samuel A. Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil M. Gorsuch.  Photograph by Franz Jantzen, Supreme Court Curator's Office.

The Roberts Court, June 1, 2017. Seated, from left to right: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer. Standing, from left to right: Justices Eleana Kagan, Samuel A. Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil M. Gorsuch. Photograph by Franz Jantzen, Supreme Court Curator’s Office.

Can it with the lame excuses for incivility

The president of the United States is a jerk. His loyal followers are jerks, as they eagerly demonstrate at the rallies where he laps up their adulation. His jerkiness is what they love about him, and theirs is what he loves about them — or would be, if he were capable of loving anyone but himself.download (2)

The people in his administration are, with occasional exceptions, also jerks.

And if you think that the way to defeat all these jerks — in elections, or merely in the court of public opinion — is to be a jerk yourself, then you’re an idiot.

Oops. There I go, being a jerk myself. But I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing people give stupid excuses for being uncivilized.

I sort of reached the end of my patience with the “They did it first!” argument this morning:

I don’t know about Democrats, but anybody who wants to turn back the tide of boorishness is going to have to start by acting like a grownup. That’s not all that’s required to win, of course, but it’s a prerequisite for my vote.

Poor Eugene Robinson. I normally don’t even read his columns. That headline of his just ended up being the straw on the camel’s back….

Benjamin, Kennell honored by Community Relations Council

Matt Kennell and Steve Benjamin, with their awards.

Matt Kennell and Steve Benjamin, with their awards.

It occurred to me today that I don’t tell y’all enough about the doings of the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. Which means I’m not being a very good board member.

So, since we had our big annual luncheon today at the convention center, and I tweeted about it, I thought I’d share a couple of highlights:

For instance:

  • Matt Kennell of City Center Partnership is the 2018 recipient of the CRC’s Milton Kimpson Community Service Award.
  • Mayor Steve Benjamin received the organization’s Hyman Rubin Distinguished Service Award.
  • Jennifer Reed was installed as our new board chair, succeeding Hal Stevenson. Hal made the point that she is Jennifer Clyburn Reed, although her relationship to her famous Dad the congressman isn’t something she brings up all that much:

The awards Matt and Steve received are named for two of the first leaders of the CRC, and are given to people who have led in ways that reflect the same spirit. The Council was formed during the civil rights era of the early ’60s by black and white leaders who wanted to see Columbia integrate peacefully, without a lot of the civil unrest that occurred in other Southern cities. Just meeting to discuss those issues was a sort of radical act at the time, and the black and white leaders met on the USC campus, as the guests of then-President Tom Jones, as there was no other place in town where such a gathering would be been accepted.

Today, the Council continues to promote civil conversations about difficult issues facing the whole community.

The role I play is that I’m co-chair — with Roscoe Wilson, who is also related to someone famous, his daughter A’ja Wilson — of the Council’s Community Affairs Committee. We convene issues forums (such as this one on Bull Street) and candidate debates (such as this city council debate), and we’ll be kicking off this year’s monthly Hot Topic sessions with one on affordable housing in August.

Watch this space for more on upcoming programs.

Oh, and as I mentioned in a comment to Doug earlier, I ran into James Smith and Mandy Powers Norrell at the luncheon. No, I did not see Henry McMaster…

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The usual suspects win the runoffs in SC, mostly

usual

No, I don’t know how Keyser Söze did, but there were few surprises in tonight’s results. Let’s review:

  • Henry McMaster. This should have been the least-surprising result of all. McMaster is the incumbent after all, installed by his party’s president, who owed him big-time. Any suspense there was in this race was provided by the fact that practically every principled Republican you ever heard of — from libertarian Tom Davis to business leader Mikee Johnson, from my own well-respected representative Micah Caskey to every other Republican who had run in the primary had backed his completely unknown opponent. Which tells you a great deal about the GOP nominee. He’ll be going up against James Smith, who won his own party’s nomination in a landslide on his first try. Interesting, isn’t it, to contemplate that this matchup is the doing of Donald Trump, Henry’s only well-known Republican fan?
  • Alan Wilson. Despite the Pascoe probe — which was also a factor for McMaster — Alan easily blew by his opponent Todd Atwater. Another one that would have been predictable a year ago, but in the last few months it was a little hard to tell.
  • Paula Rawl Calhoon won the GOP nod to replace Atwater. She advertised on this blog (as did Micah Caskey), so of course she won. Smart lady. When are all those other candidates out there going to wise up (the poor saps)?
  • Sean Carrigan leading. This contest to see which Democrat will go up against Joe Wilson in the fall is the only one I got to vote in today, and I voted for Carrigan. But it’s still fairly close. With 77 percent reporting, he has a lead. (Update: The trend held. Carrigan won.)
  • Lee Bright trailing. Here’s hoping the trend continues, and this is indeed the end of Lee Bright’s political career. But he still has a chance, so he’s still a threat. (Update: The trend held. Bright lost.)
  • Joe McEachern trailing. Badly. But still undecided. Not sure what was going on in this incumbent’s 77th House district, but with 50 percent counted he’s significantly behind. (Update: The trend held. McEachern lost.)

That’s what I’ve got for now. Thoughts?

Want to laugh at media folks? Here ya go…

Well, this kinda cracked me up:

Even though we’re looking at something that’s definitely of a certain time and place — the era of smartphones and social media — I could identify. It’s not all that different from being a reporter in the distant past.

Remember that picture I ran (again) of me and Howard Baker during the Iowa caucus campaign in 1980?

That was taken by the photog who accompanied me on that trip, Mark Humphreys. I always enjoyed working with Mark because he respected my photography skills enough to hand me one of his Nikons when we were out on assignment together, so we could get different angles of the same event.

One night, we were trapped at the general aviation airport in Dubuque by an ice storm. Waiting for Baker’s campaign plane to get clearance to fly back to Des Moines, Baker — a serious amateur shooter himself — and Mark got to talking about the craft, and next thing you knew the two of them were out on the tarmac in the blizzard shooting pictures of each other.

Here’s them embarrassing part… I went out to shoot a picture of them shooting each other — figuring it would make a fun shot for our story — but it didn’t come out, according to Mark. My only excuse is that, back in the days of manual exposure, it was really, REALLY hard to get decent photos in a snowstorm with Tri-X black-and-white film.

Technology changes, but the goofy moments spent waiting for news to happen are pretty timeless…

Washington Post sees chance for Smith in SC

There were a couple of SC-related items of interest in The Washington Post today.

One was to be expected: Coverage of Trump’s visit here last night. The headline pretty much says it all:

Trump makes runoff election for SC governor about him, too

For national reporters, that makes it a same-old, same-old occurrence.

The other item is more interesting. The headline is, “Could anti-incumbent fever leave an opening for Democrats in Oklahoma and South Carolina governor’s races?,” and it begins:

Oklahoma and South Carolina don’t top the list for most competitive gubernatorial races in 2018, but Democrats hope to reach for both governor’s mansions this year anyway — especially if Republicans nominate unpopular incumbent and incumbent-tied candidates Tuesday.

The story here isn’t necessarily about President Trump.

Republicans may be victims of their own success in governor’s mansions. They hold a near-record-high number of them: 33 of 50. In states such as Oklahoma and South Carolina, the very fact they’re in power could be hurting them.

Voters in both states with elections Tuesday are incredibly unhappy with their current governors. Some of that discontent is personality-driven, such as in South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is having trouble unpinning the label his opponents slapped on him as a corrupt insider. His runoff against businessman John Warren on Tuesday is expected to be close, even after Trump goes there Monday night to campaign for McMaster….

After that, the story is mostly about Oklahoma, just briefly returning to SC down in this graf:

In South Carolina, Democrats nominated a veteran and Purple Heart recipient, state Rep. James Smith, who’s been able to campaign while McMaster has been focused for the past few weeks on his runoff….

Which isn’t even entirely accurate. James has mainly left it to the two Republicans to dominate the headlines the last couple of weeks while he takes some family time. His general election campaign has yet to start — but based on a conversation I had with him today, look to hear a lot more soon.

I look forward to somebody from the Post coming down here and doing a fuller job of reporting on what’s going on down here. I’d value that outside perspective…

If the Post had checked Twitter, they'd have seen that James has been hiking in Alaska with son Thomas and dog Laffey.

If the Post had checked Twitter, they’d have seen that James has been hiking in Alaska with son Thomas.

How is Wyoming more patriotic than WE are?

This seems kinda screwy to me, but we did make the Top Five, so that’s something:

patriotic

I’m sort of wondering about the criteria that have states that voted for Donald Trump being on average “more patriotic.” I also wonder about Massachusetts — you know, the home of Paul Revere and John Adams (THE guy who persuaded the Continental Congress to declare independence) — ending up 50th. Who’s gonna tell the New England, you know, Patriots?

And what’s with Wyoming edging us out? Is it the Cowboy Factor or something?

Anyway, it’s something besides today’s runoff election to talk about, and I thought y’all could use a break…

Who's gonna tell THESE guys?

Who’s gonna tell THESE guys?

Was there anybody at YOUR polling place?

Quail

Bud reports that at 10:30, he was the second person at his polling place to take a Democratic ballot, and 53 people had voted in the Republican, which actually has hotly contested statewide races still on it.

The numbers were almost identical at my polling place — Quail Hollow — two hours earlier. I took the second Democratic ballot (with nothing on it but a low-profile congressional runoff), and 52 voters on the Republican side. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more people than had voted in the GOP primary at that hour two weeks ago, when there were a lot more signs out for candidates than there were today (see above).

How is it out there where you are?

Hidden camera footage from McMaster HQ: ‘People like that RE-form’

Oops. Wait a sec. Perhaps I should explain that this is a joke, before the cries of “fake news” start.

Anyway, I love this scene, and will use any excuse to go watch it again.

“Maybe we should get US some…”

I especially love the warning, storm-cloud look on Pappy’s face as he waits for what he just knows will be a monumentally stupid observation…

Pappy