Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Finally, Michelle Goldberg gets it! For a moment…

argument

For close to a year, I’ve been listening regularly to the NYT’s podcast “The Argument,” starring three of the paper’s op-ed writers.

There are two people on the left — David Leonhardt and Michelle Goldberg — and one on the right, Ross Douthat.

That may sound a bit lopsided, and for me it is, but not in the way you think. Week after week, I agree to varying degrees with liberal Leonhardt and conservative Douthat, and get really frustrated and turned off by the views of Michelle Goldberg.

One reason for that is that she’s always dissing my man Joe. It started before he got into the race last year, with her strongly expressing her wish that he NOT get in the race. After that, she continued to be a prominent voice among the nattering nabobs of the left competing to see who could be more dismissive of the former VP.

It’s not that she hated him. It’s just that she, you know… dismissed him. She was all like, Oh, good old Uncle Joe; he’s a sweet guy and I can put up with him at the family gatherings, but we all know he’s past it, and he has no business getting back in the game — the poor guy’s going to break a hip or something. And he just doesn’t get the world of today…

And as I walk about downtown listening to these podcasts, I’m like, No, YOU don’t get it…

But today, I finally got around to listening to yesterday’s podcast, which was about Joe’s triumphs of the last few days, and finally, she got it! She was awesome in the degree to which she got it, and how well she expressed it. I had to go back and listen again to write down some of the great things she was saying, starting with…

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg

So much of what we’ve been talking about the last few months, especially in the debates, has been irrelevant.

People… care less about the details of, you know, how we’re going to pay for universal healthcare, or Medicare for all vs. Medicare for all who want it.

There are people who really care about that stuff. But what most people care about is, you know, the house is on fire; how are you going to put it out, not how are you going to rebuild afterwards….

Yes! Absolutely! I’ve been so impatient with all the idiots out there talking about this process in terms of who got off the greatest zingers in last night’s debate, or how Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren was going to pay for those plans, or whatever…

Who cared? I didn’t. Because the house is on fire! Stop talking about rearranging the furniture!

Also, too many people fail to get that the problem isn’t this plan or that plan of Bernie Sanders. The problem is Bernie Sanders, and the way he and too many of his followers conduct themselves. And a moment later, Ms. Goldberg said some awesome things about that:

I don’t think the Sanders movement understands how alienating it is to people who aren’t already on board with it, or maybe to people who are on board with maybe 85 percent or 90 percent of what they believe.

There’s a sort of paranoid style in that movement…

I’ve been around the left long enough to know that the left has always attracted a certain number of people who, um… you know, who are sort of just in it for the reeducation camps, right?…

Left-wing movements kind of succeed or fail to the degree that they can, you know, marginalize or quarantine those figures…

Yes! Absolutely! You get it! Paranoid style!

When she made that crack about the re-education camps, I laughed out loud, right there in the middle of the household goods department in Belk. (On rainy days, I tend to go do my afternoon walk in the nearly empty Richland Mall, rather than walking across the USC campus and around the Statehouse.)

And one of the guys on the show — I think it was Leonhardt — laughed, too. It was so perfect, so dead-on.

You go, Michelle!

But then, later in the show, she said she was going to vote for Bernie instead of Joe.

And suddenly the member of the trio I love to boo was back. I’m just briskly walking into Barnes and Noble shaking my head. I can’t believe it…

It’s alright, I guess. Most of the world came around and backed Joe this past week. Some people just take a little longer. No way to speed it up without, you know, re-educations camps…

Elizabeth Warren has to THINK about it? Really?

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

So Elizabeth Warren has dropped out.

But she has not endorsed anyone.

She says,

Not today. I need some space around this and want to take a little time to think a little more.

REALLY? You have to think about whether you want to back Joe Biden… or a guy who would lead to four more years of Trump, loss of the House, and zero chance of dumping the Senate majority that refused even to consider evidence in the impeachment “trial”?

What is this about? Angling for an offer from one camp or the other?

Speaking of which: There are people out there saying Warren should be Joe’s running mate. The old “balance the ticket” nonsense.

Absolutely not, Joe. Go with Amy Klobuchar.

In case you haven’t noticed, Democrats are rejecting the left wing of the party. Pick a representative of that faction, and you’ll lose large chunks of the coalition that’s assembled behind you these last few days, the coalition that will take you to victory over Trump. They’ll want someone else like you, and that’s Amy Klobuchar. Or some other moderate who didn’t run.

For that matter, the fact that she had to think about whom to support should disqualify her as a running mate, without considering anything else. Amy Klobuchar didn’t have to ponder it.

Anyway, I thought I’d better say that now…

Turns out American voters aren’t crazy after all (except in, you know, California…)

Joe at 701

Just kidding (kinda) with the California thing. Think about it: If Bloomberg had just dropped out and endorsed Joe 24 hours sooner, Sanders wouldn’t be winning in La-La Land, either.

This is just a day for celebrating the good, common sense of the American people.

After the insanity of 2016, after a year in which voters kept insisting on attaching themselves to anyone, anyone at all, except the obvious, sensible choice… after a year of “oh, but my ideology!” nonsense… everybody got together and realized that they’d always loved Joe, so, you know, let’s go with Joe.

And not a second too soon. The nation was babbling hysterically. We South Carolinians gave it a good, tough-love slap in the face. And on Super Tuesday, the nation said, “Thanks. We needed that…”

I don’t know about you, but for me, it feels great to see things taking their proper shape around me. Finally. It’s kind of like waking up from a nightmare, realizing it was a dream, and thinking: “Oh, it’s alright then…”

Suddenly, people remember what was obvious — no one else who was running had the ability to connect in a positive way not only with most Democrats, but with independents. And not only them…

Some of you will rain on my parade by saying, “Yeah, but Trump voters… they’re still crazy…”

Maybe. But maybe that won’t matter in November. Haven’t you seen those analyses that say Joe is winning on the strength of support from, not only African-Americans (whom the pundits ignored and dissed until South Carolina), but also white suburbanites? That means he’s winning the people who gave Democrats their 2018 wins in the House — people who are key to beating Trump.

Still, as I’ve said before, there is still a problem in the country, and it won’t be gone just because Trump loses the election. The fact that so many voted for him in 2016 — something the American electorate would NEVER have done before that — points to something being profoundly wrong out there. The Bernie Bros, who crave revolution, are another indicator of the same thing. The nation has to find a way to heal that disaffection.

But there’s no better way to do that than by lining up behind a decent guy most Americans can find it in themselves to actually like. That’s a good first step.

I hope those of my friends who supported other candidates in this process can forgive my enjoying this moment. I’m not enjoying your candidates’ losing. I’m celebrating their getting behind Joe. I already liked Amy and Pete. Now I like them more. I even like Bloomberg today — in spite of that if-he’d-dropped-out-before-Joe-would-have-won-California thing.

Today, I am hopeful — more so than I’ve been in awhile. We still have a long road ahead of us. Bernie, who as we all know doesn’t play well with others, is not going to quit. But now, there’s a clear path for the candidate who far better reflects what most of the country wants. And I feel good about that…

Top Five Coolest Airplanes Ever

F-4

I’m trying to keep my mind off of Super Tuesday today. The last three days have been wonderful, from Joe’s stunning win here, through the endorsements of Amy, Pete and Beto. But while Joe was concentrating on South Carolina, Bernie was getting a huge head start everywhere else, especially California. And Bloomberg was spending half a billion dollars to try to win the very voters Joe needs to stop Bernie.

Burl with one of his early models.

Burl with one of his early models.

So… how about a Top Five List? I’m feeling kind of basic today (I’m in a “Top Five Side One, Track Ones” mood), so let’s make this the sort of list we could have made when we were 11 years old and building model airplanes. Back when we weren’t cool (yet), but we had a keen sense of what we thought was cool. We can make it a sort of tribute list to our friend Burl Burlingame, who along with many other accomplishments was the best modeler any one of us ever knew.

And just to head off the “war-monger” cries from some of my friends, I’m sorry, but warplanes have always been cooler than civilian aircraft. Not because they’re warplanes, but, well, just look at them. Built for speed and performance, they’ll always be cooler than, say, a 707. The way a 1964½ Ford Mustang or a 1962 Jaguar XK-E is way cooler than a minivan.

This was inspired by a video YouTube suggested to me this morning. I had called up Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” and YouTube suggested something called “Best Rock Songs Vietnam War Music.” And again, it’s not “War” that makes it cool. Think about the Vietnam War movies you’ve seen. Don’t they tend to have awesome soundtracks?

So, intending to just leave it playing while I worked, I called it up. And the first image on the screen was the above one, of an F-4 Phantom taking off. (No, wait — the flaps are down, so I think it’s landing. But I don’t know. Bob Amundson, can you give us a ruling?) It showed while CCR’s “Fortunate Son” was playing.

So I got to thinking, and here’s the list. And not in order of coolness — more chronological:

  1. Fokker DR.I Triplane. The Red Baron‘s plane, it was both wicked and ungainly looking — but all planes looked awkward back then, right? The SPAD was all right, and the Sopwith Camel had a great name, but the Fokker was cooler. Also, 11-year-olds who build airplane models like to say “Fokker.” Almost as good as saying the full name of the Fw 190.
  2. P-51 Mustang. Maybe the nicest-looking, solid-but-sleek design in aviation history. And quite a formidable fighter. Also, it looked so modern. (Weirdly, the P-47 Thurderbolt came later, but looked 20 years older — at least to my eye.) I had trouble on this one. I was torn between this and the Spitfire, which won the Battle of Britain (OK, the Hurricanes helped) — the ultimate emblem of British pluck. But as big an Anglophile as I am, I went with the American plane.
  3. C-47 Skytrain. Or Dakota. Or Gooney-Bird. OK, it’s not fast, and it’s not sleek. Definitely the Plain Jane of the bunch. But it was so awesome in its plainness. One of the main instruments that won the war for us. The Band of Brothers jumped out of them, they saved Berlin in the Cold War, and… It was the first plane I ever flew in, hopping over the Andes, up and down the Pacific coast of South America. An unbelievable amount of noise and vibration, but a real thrill for a kid. So I’m playing favorites here.
  4. F-4 Phantom. My generation’s version of the P-51. It had a solid look to it, like nothing could knock it out of the sky (a handy attribute when flying Wild Weasel missions), but also looked like it could fly like a bat out of hell. And it sorta could. These also loom large in my legend, from the ones that flew out of MacDill AFB when I lived there in high school to the ones the Kansas Air Guard flew over our house (we were under the takeoff pattern) when I worked in Wichita.
  5. X-15. The world’s first operational spaceplane, the futuristic great-grandchild of Yeager’s X-1. This was another one I had to think about a bit. It was competing with the SR-71, another sci-fi sort of aircraft. But the X-15 was the one I thought was cool when I was a kid, and it wins on sheer speed. The Blackbird could cruise at Mach 3.2, but in 1967, the X-15 set the speed record that still stands: Mach 6.70.

I almost put the Navy’s ultimate WWII plane, the F4U Corsair, on the list (foldable gull wings! Pappy Boyington!). But the P-51 beat that out as well as the Spitfire.

The North American X-15 rocket plane, made to fly to the edge of space.

The North American X-15 rocket plane, made to fly to the edge of space.

How did your precinct vote? NYT has a cool interactive map

big map

I find that the most convenient place to find that hyperlocal information, right down to my neighborhood level, is…

The New York Times. I tried finding it at thestate.com, and maybe it’s there (in fact, I feel like it MUST be), but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, they have an awesome interactive map. And I see that in my neighborhood, my man Joe cleaned up, with a higher percentage of the vote than he got overall in Lexington County.

Here are the numbers for my precinct:

Quail Hollow

 

To get your precinct, just go to the link, zoom in on your county, and roll the cursor around until you see your own polling station.

Open Thread for Monday, March 2, 2020

amy

Image from her campaign website…

You know, after this weekend, I just feel better about the whole world, and I’m in a generous mood. So instead of a Virtual Front Page, let’s go with an Open Thread, because they’re more fun:

  1. Klobuchar dropping out of 2020 race and endorsing Biden — You go, girl. Pete showed her the right thing to do, and she did it — and then went Pete one better. She remains my top choice for veep. What else can I say, except what David Leonhardt had to say today (see item No. 3.)
  2. Pete Buttigieg Will Endorse Joe Biden for Democratic Nomination — And then Pete followed suit. I’m reminded of what Frank Bruni said in his column in the NYT after Pete dropped out yesterday: that “the youngest of the Democratic aspirants did the grown-up thing.”
  3. Bernie or Biden. Period. — That’s the headline on David Leonhardt’s column today, and that’s where we stand. There are no other real choices. So it’s time to decide, Democrats: Go down the tubes with Bernie, or take back the White House with Joe. As Joe said Saturday night, after South Carolina had done its bit to make everything devastatingly clear, “win big or lose, that’s the choice.” At this point, the only likely role of Bloomberg would be to continue to split the moderate vote, and deliver the nomination to Bernie. So he needs to get out, too.
  4. Coronavirus: 2nd Person Dies In U.S.; New Cases Reported In Florida And New York — In this area, unlike in politics, the bad news keeps coming.
  5. Stocks Rally on Hopes for Stimulus Amid Virus Fears — Let’s hope the uptick continues.
  6. What popular chain businesses is Columbia missing? The State raises this question, and offers a lot of silly answers, but to its credit includes the one that matters: an Apple store. It raises doubt that we’ll get one, but come on, gimme a break: Augusta’s got an Apple store…
  7. Jack Welch, corporate America’s ‘manager of the century,’ dies at 84 — OK, I feel guilty about this, but as a guy who follows popular culture and not business, I confess that my first thought was, “Does this clear Jack Donaghy’s way to the chairmanship?”

Why’s Pete dropping out now? Because he was always the smart one

With Pete Buttigieg dropping out, one my favorite NYT features now looks like this:

no pete

So, Pete’s out, but sooner than I expected it.

This seems precipitous. Why didn’t he wait until after Tuesday?

Still, as Michael Corleone said about Tessio, Pete was always the smart one. He gets out now, making room for the eventual nominee, and the party will be grateful to him, which helps when he runs again.

He’s got all the time in the world. If he waits 20 years, he’d still be a young candidate — prime presidential age. For that matter, he could wait 40 years, and he’d still be no older than some of the top contenders today. And life expectancy will be so much longer then.

It’s such a smart move, so lacking in emotion or ego, that it makes Pete a little scary — kind of like Michael Corleone himself. Such perspective and self-control is remarkable in the young.

You know, Pete is the first candidate who I think I’m actually going to miss. Most of the rest, I was glad to see go. He was my third favorite — a distant third, just as Amy Klobuchar was a distant second. But still, one of my top three.

Speaking of Amy… ahem. Pete was doing better than you were. You got 3 percent in South Carolina. When my man Joe Lieberman got 3 percent in South Carolina, he dropped out. Better get while the getting’s good, if you want to be Joe’s running mate. He’ll be grateful, because with Pete also out, his only rival for the role of The Man Who Stopped Liberty Valance (I mean, Bernie) will be Bloomberg.

And I don’t even know what Tulsi Gabbard thinks she’s doing…

Did ‘Operation Chaos’ actually deploy on Saturday?

NBC

Yes, I think it did. It just wasn’t enough to stop Joe Biden’s huge victory.

Of course, I can’t be sure.

There are some indications that Operation Chaos DID turn out a few Republicans who tried to sabotage the Democrats by voting for Bernie Sanders.

(At this point, I would normally launch into an indignant sermon about how evil such an effort is — a deliberate attempt to undermine our democracy, and even worse, an attempt to make sure Americans have NO good choice in November. That’s something I can get pretty worked up about. But it failed pretty spectacularly, so never mind. Turns out most people aren’t jerks.)

Take a look at the results for our two neighboring counties:

  • In Richland, a strongly Democratic county, Joe got 51.9 percent of the vote, and Sanders got 17.7 percent.
  • In Lexington, one of the most Republican counties anywhere, Joe only got 39.9 percent of the vote — still a big win, but 12 points lower than in Richland. And Bernie got 23.6 — 6 points higher than in Richland.

Bernie did even better in Greenville, while still getting pummeled — 24.7 percent to Joe’s 38.2.

Makes you wonder how big Joe’s victory margin would have been without Republican interference… Or, for that matter, without Steyer spending $23 million on media alone in our state trying to steal Joe’s black support.

I would love to think that some Republicans turned out because they were Never Trumpers, trying to help the Democrats come up with someone who might beat Trump by voting for Joe. I think that’s possible. But there’s no way to be sure of that, either.

By the way, I’m very proud to point out that in my home county, Marlboro, Joe got 61.3 percent of the vote, and Bernie didn’t even come in second! Steyer did, with 20.2 percent. Which is an indicator that Steyer did make slight inroads into Joe’s African-American base. (Marlboro is a black-majority county.)

But it’s not that simple, either. Joe did even better in neighboring Chesterfield County, with 64.1 percent. But less than a third of that county is black. Which could explain why Sanders beat Steyer there.

Fun with numbers. (Mine came from The New York Times.)

The best of all possible primary results!

Post Joe

I was really hopeful, but I never would have guessed that, once South Carolina FINALLY got to have its say, things would have gone as wonderfully as this.

JOE WINS

The best shot I could get from where I was standing.

Joe CRUSHED it.

South Carolina DELIVERED.

Now, finally, you can see national media — who have seized every opportunity to be as dismissive of Joe as possible — saying that he has emerged as the man to stop Bernie Sanders.

Joe was always the candidate for real Democrats wanting to save their party, and beat Trump. (And he was the candidate for a lot of us independents, too.) People — especially African-American voters — in South Carolina knew that. Today, they told the rest of the country.

And the rest of the country is taking note.

Will it be easy? No. This helps on Super Tuesday, but it’s impossible to predict anything with so many variables. But right now, at this moment, the race has taken on its proper shape, and I am hopeful.

Just a few thoughts before I sign off for the night:

  • Now, the only person who might be able to contest for the role of moderate savior of the party is Mike Bloomberg, who has been spending like crazy trying to win Super Tuesday while everyone else was campaigning. After Tuesday, we’ll know whether he’ll still be a factor or not. But even though he wasn’t on our ballot, South Carolina has passed judgment on him — only about a fourth of voters viewed him favorably in exit polls. Biden was favored by about three-fourths of respondents.
  • Tom Steyer, the guy who spent $23 million just on media trying to be a spoiler in South Carolina, has dropped out. I don’t know why he was disappointed at the result. He got third place. But he won’t be terribly missed as we go forward.
  • Will one of the other moderates — say Amy Klobuchar — drop out and throw her support to Joe? Or just drop out, in which case Joe is the most likely beneficiary anyway.
  • Pete Buttigieg will probably wait and see if he does better on Tuesday. If he doesn’t, he will likely quit. And when he does, he should leave the race feeling pretty good about how well he did. He made a tremendous, positive impression on the country, and has laid a good foundation for a stronger run when he has more life experience under his belt.
  • Thank you, Jim Clyburn. The country owes you one. I think Joe would have won without your endorsement, but he wouldn’t have won like THIS.
  • Joe got more votes than Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Warren combined. Just in case you didn’t notice…
  • Also, notice the map of South Carolina in the screenshot below. You can take a closer look here. Joe won every single county in the state.

That’s all for now.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see what happens next…

NYT SC

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

Inez Tenenbaum speaks up for Joe Biden

Joe Biden swears in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That's Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

Joe Biden swearing in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2009. That’s Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

My good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared with me a link to the radio ad Inez did for Joe.

It helps drive home my point in my previous post, about the folks Democrats have backed in the past pretty much all being for Joe — something I hope Democratic voters take to heart tomorrow.

Here’s the link, and here’s a transcript I just typed up, so blame any errors on me:

This is Inez Tenenbaum, your former state superintendent of education.

When I was chosen to lead the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the person who swore me into office was Joe Biden.

In the Obama-Biden administration, we worked together to keep our children safe, and Joe Biden was a champion for families all across our country, and South Carolina.

Joe Biden knows South Carolina. When our economy was in crisis, Joe Biden oversaw the Recovery Act, getting hundreds of millions of dollars for South Carolina schools.

For eight years, Joe Biden was loyal to President Obama. He had President Obama’s back, and stood by his side.

Now we have the opportunity to build on President Obama’s legacy, and beat Donald Trump. But that starts with nominating Joe Biden.

South Carolina, you can vote for Joe Biden on Saturday, February the 29th.

See you there!

[I’m Joe Biden, and I approved this message.”]

[Paid for by Biden for President.]

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts with us, Inez!

If you voted for James Smith — or any of these other top SC Democrats — then you should be voting for Joe Biden

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

In some very important ways, the Joe Biden campaign for president in South Carolina is, in my view, a continuation of the James Smith for governor campaign.

It’s not just that James himself is supporting Joe, as Joe supported him. At the recent Biden event at 701 Whaley, I was struck by how many of our key people from the 2018 campaign were continuing the mission by supporting Joe. It’s something I’d been aware of for some time, but hadn’t really thought about for a simple reason — it just seemed the most natural thing in the world.

At the top, you have Kendall Corley — who was our political director in 2018 — heading up Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. And Biden’s state political director is Scott Harriford, who was James’ driver and “body man” in 2018, and held the title of deputy political director. Scott was the first person James hired for the campaign, back in the summer of 2017, and was right there at his side from then through Election Day. (I thought I had an intense, whirlwind experience those last eight days on “the bus,” but Scott had been doing it for way over a year.)

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

At the 701 Whaley event I ran into Noah Barker, who assisted me with social media in 2018. Noah, who I think has reached the ripe old age of 19, is now working for the Biden campaign while attending college.

And while she’s not actually working in the Biden operation — she’s helping Jaime Harrison run against Lindsey Graham instead — Ashley Medbery Floyd, our finance directer in 2018, was at the 701 event, too. She and Noah and I marked the occasion with a selfie.

All this is natural because, well, there is such a bond between Joe and James. Their shared values are such that I don’t see how anyone who really believed in James in 2018 — and as his communications director, I certainly did and do — could possibly do anything but support Joe.

One of the things that drove me nuts back during the campaign was the way the political reporters went ape over anything having to do with 2020 presidential candidates coming through the state. They’d call me and ask what we’d be doing together with so-and-so on his or her swing through the state, or what we had to say about it, and it would put me in a bind. We didn’t want to say anything unkind about these national Democrats, but at the same time, we couldn’t have cared less about their visits. They were here for themselves, not for us.

But not Joe. Joe was our guy, and we couldn’t wait to see him. We knew he was coming, and we were really disappointed when he had to postpone his initially planned event because of complications related to the hurricane. But finally, on Oct. 13, he came down to Charleston to do a fund-raiser for us, and it was possibly the best day of my time on the campaign. And I could tell it was a high point for everyone else. (It was such a big deal that upon arriving in Charleston, Campaign Manager Scott Hogan went to a shop on King Street and bought himself a suit, and wore it to the event. You have to know Hogan to get what a big deal that was. He normally dressed like a guy about to go out and mow the lawn.)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the way one campaign flows into the other, but I have a point to make here, and it is this: If you voted for James, if you believed in James, you should believe in Joe Biden, and vote for him. I don’t see how you work it out any other way.

James is not authorizing me to say this (I haven’t asked him). I’m saying it myself.

As communications director, I think I have as good a grasp of what the Smith campaign was about as anyone does. It was a campaign for all the people of South Carolina — black, white, old young, male, female, Democratic, Republican and independent. It was a campaign that would Leave No One Behind.

And Joe is running the exact same kind of campaign for the soul of the nation.

One more point, an elaboration on that one: Maybe James Smith isn’t your favorite Democrat. He should be, but maybe he isn’t.

Still, if you are a Democrat, or someone who frequently votes for Democrats, you should take note that pretty much every Democrat you have nominated and/or voted into statewide office in the past 20 years and more is supporting Joe Biden for president. And for good reason.

I’m talking not just James, but Vincent Sheheen, who was your standard-bearer twice.

And Jim Hodges, our state’s last Democratic governor.

And Dick Riley, the last Democratic governor before Hodges. (And speaking of great public servants with that name, the greatest mayor of his generation in the country, Joe Riley.)

And Inez Tenenbaum, the last superintendent of education who was (and still is) a Democrat.

Now, Jim Clyburn — the current highest-ranking Democrat in the state, and one of the most powerful in the country — has joined that list. And it’s a long list. The Post and Courier put most of it together a few weeks ago, before Hodges had come out for Joe.

These are people who embody the heart, the core, of what it means to be a Democrat in South Carolina. No one could be more in touch with what South Carolina Democrats care about.

Still speaking to Democrats and people who sometimes vote for them here (let’s call you DAPWSVFTs for short)… These are all people you have believed in in the past, in whom you have placed your trust. Scoff at endorsements all you like, but I’m telling you these are smart people who know these candidates, who know the country and its needs, who know South Carolina, and they are for Joe. They’re putting their reputations out there in support of him, and you might think that’s a small thing, but it isn’t.

These people know what they’re about, and they’re for Joe. And most of you DAPWSVFTs have indicated your respect and support for these people in the past. These are people who share your values.

So it makes all the sense in the world that you would join them in voting for Joe Biden for POTUS on Saturday.

That's Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe's ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

That’s Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe’s ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

Friedman idea no. 2: The GOP died last week

Here’s the less pleasant item from that Friedman column I liked this morning.

I mentioned in my last post his idea that the Democrats should band together in a Team of Rivals that would defeat Trump in a landslide, and I think they would — if they could put aside their differences and do it.

Friedman even spelled out who should play what position on that team. When he was done, he set out another idea. He cited something John Boehner said back in 2018: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Taking off on that, Friedman wrote:

Friedman

Friedman

It’s actually not napping anymore. It’s dead.

And I will tell you the day it died. It was just last week, when Trump sacked [Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe] Maguire for advancing the truth and replaced him with a loyalist, an incompetent political hack, Richard Grenell. Grenell is the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Germany, a post for which he is also unfit. Grenell is now purging the intelligence service of Trump critics. How are we going to get unvarnished, nonpolitical intelligence analysis when the message goes out that if your expert conclusions disagree with Trump’s wishes, you’re gone?

I don’t accept, but can vaguely understand, Republicans’ rallying around Trump on impeachment. But when Republicans, the self-proclaimed national security party — folks like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — don’t lift a finger to stop Trump’s politicization of our first line of defense — the national intelligence directorate set up after 9/11 — then the Republican Party is not asleep. It’s dead and buried.

He’s right. If the party of principled men from Lincoln to John McCain hadn’t died already — when Trump became its standard-bearer, or when the Republican Senate rolled over for him on impeachment — this latest outraged surely would have marked the end.

As we mourn it, I’d like to raise another alarm: If the Democratic Party allows the same thing to happen to it that happened to the GOP in 2016 — letting an extremist with minority support gain its nomination because the majority couldn’t line up behind a single more moderate candidate — it’s going to be on its last legs, too.

If our nation is faced with the horrific choice “between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath,” as Friedman describes it, both parties will have failed the country.

At that point, instead of having two near-center parties that have the potential to govern with something approaching consensus — or at least acceptance by the people — we’ll have zero.

Friedman idea no. 1: the Team of Rivals

It worked for Lincoln.

It worked for Lincoln.

Earlier today I mentioned that Tom Friedman had a really good column today in The New York Times.

I noted that he said that if we are forced to choose “between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country.”

Very true. The nice thing is, he offered a way out of that.

It’s far-fetched — it would require a very diverse groups egos to set aside their personal ambitions for the good of the country — but at least it’s an idea that would work if they did. And I think Friedman’s not exaggerating when he says, “Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide.

Basically, it’s this: form a Team of Rivals, as Lincoln did in a previous time of national crisis. Put all those Democratic candidates, those still running and some of those who have dropped out, on the team. Bring all their strengths together and let them compensate for each others’ weaknesses.

It’s a great idea now as it was in Lincoln’s day (although when I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, I kept wishing for a time machine so I could go back in time and slap Salmon Chase upside the head — that guy was a major pain).

Friedman got one thing wrong: He supposes the head guy would be either Sanders or Bloomberg. I’m still holding out for Joe. But he also assigned Cabinet positions to Sanders and Bloomberg, since he hadn’t made his mind up on which is president.

And he made a call that supports my position: He picked Joe for secretary of state, because “No one in our party knows the world better or has more credibility with our allies than Joe.” Absolutely, which is why he needs to be president — because nothing in the POTUS job description is more important than dealing with the rest of the world.

This is a variation, and elaboration, on an idea I put forward several months ago: I suggested that Joe persuade Barack Obama to be his secretary of state, and tell the country that right away. It would clarify things in Democrats’ minds — and in other people’s as well.

But yeah — if you couldn’t have Joe as president, then secstate would be the job for him.

Anyway, the overall idea is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

That’s one idea from the Friedman column. The other is less uplifting, but must be faced. And it’s important enough that I’m writing a separate post about it.

Clyburn stands up for America, backs Joe Biden

Still from a video posted on Biden's Twitter feed today.

Still from a video posted on Biden’s Twitter feed today.

You think I’m being overly dramatic there? I’m not. This is a dangerous moment for our country, and only thing that will save us from it will be Joe Biden winning on Saturday, and going on to do well on Super Tuesday.

And this is now about much more than me liking Joe Biden. It’s now increasingly about the alternative.

I thought Tom Friedman put it well in his column today (more about that column later; it was a really good piece):

If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now…

Me too, Tom. Me too.

So it matters that Clyburn stepped up at long last today and endorsed Joe. By the way, I’m not complaining when I say “at long last.” I really think his endorsement came at the best possible time. If he had given it months ago when everyone else (and I mean everyone else who’s anyone among S.C. Democrats) was endorsing Joe, it would have been forgotten by now. Now, whatever effect it will have is amplified.

Before we get into a big debate about whether endorsements matter, let me just head that off with this observation: If endorsements matter at all, can you imagine anyone’s mattering more than Clyburn’s at this moment? I can’t.

The AP story today claimed that “It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden.” Really? Then how come I didn’t know it? If you’d made me bet, sure, I would have said Jim would back Joe. But I also would have said we wouldn’t be calling Bernie Sanders a front-runner at this point, and that Donald Trump wouldn’t have been the GOP nominee in 2016.

So I don’t rest easy with conventional wisdom these days. And as an American and a South Carolinian, I’m very grateful to Jim Clyburn for what he has done this day.

There was some suspense over this, at least for me. Just a couple of days ago, The New York Times had a prominently-played story that suggested Clyburn might have a liking for Tom Steyer. It was another one of those stories about Steyer’s efforts to buy the black vote here (something I remain very concerned about). It quoted Clyburn as telling CNN, “I think Steyer is doing an incredible job.” Which is far short of an endorsement, but it still made me nervous.

Anyway, Jim Clyburn has done a fine thing today — for Joe Biden, for the Democratic Party, for South Carolina, and for America. And I appreciate it.

Your thoughts on the last debate likely to count?

hands up

It was the 10th debate, which is about nine more than I wanted to watch. Except for Bloomberg, I feel like I got what I was going to get out of these events loooong ago. And seeing Bloomberg in the last two wasn’t all that edifying, either.

You?

Anyway, that’s that. We vote here in South Carolina on Saturday, and practically everyone else does (or so it seems) a week from now.

So how did you think it went?

You can see what I had to say on my Twitter feed. But I’ll use this ranking from Chris Cillizza just as a conversation-starter, not that I necessarily agree with it entirely:

So what did you think?

Oh, and here’s where I put my bumper sticker

truck Biden

Having shown you my yard signs, I figured I’d show you one of my bumper stickers… especially since I know y’all have been breathless with anticipation ever since I wrote this post.

(Hey, at least y’all took an interest in that one. It got more than 50 comments, and I can’t scare up an audience this week for love or money. Where’d y’all all go?)

As I wondered what to do several months ago, I wrote:

Anyway, now I have to figure out where to put my Biden sticker. My first thought is to put it right in the middle, but then my tailgate will be 2/3 Democratic. Which is not the effect I’m going for. But then, does that matter, since Joe is running in the Democratic Primary? I mean, what do I care what Republicans think in this context? Worrying about being perfectly bipartisan is more about worrying about what people think of ME, isn’t it? And that shouldn’t be a factor.

I could put it over the Smith sticker, since the campaign’s over and all, but I won’t do that. My experience last year is something I’m proud of, and I’m going to continue to wear it on my sleeve. Or tailgate.

Anyway, look how shiny and new it still is. It looks good. By contrast, Micah’s sticker has faded considerably…

I saw Micah this morning, and I guess I should have asked him for a fresh one to replace that one. You can’t see the red strip where it says, “Republican.”

You see that I did what I was thinking about back then — put Joe right in the middle.

I think it looks good there…

 

Look who I ran into! Harris and Patricia, and they’re doing great!

Harris and Patricia

In recent months, I’ve done more and more of my 11,000 steps a day walking around downtown during the day, and less on the elliptical in the morning.

One of the great things about that is running into friends.

Today, as I was walking along the edge of the USC campus — heading east on Pendleton Street — I encountered Harris and Patricia Moore Pastides!

As you can see, they’re looking great, and I can also report that they’re doing great. In fact, I should be doing so great.

Patricia admired the Irishness of the cap I was wearing, and I thanked her and told her I’d bought it outside Killarney last year. Then I learned that they’re about to go to Ireland, too, and they’re going to do it right. They’re not going to hustle about the country the way we did, but stay in one place — I think they said Dingle, which like Killarney is in County Kerry, right on the coast — and just go out hiking about from there!

Which is exactly what I’m going to do when I die and go to heaven. Or at least, when I wear out the two hats I bought and need another.

Anyway, it was great to see them, and I hope they have a trip that’s just as great as it sounds like….

A.I. is still really stupid, or it’s gotten pretty crafty

howdoyoufigure

This is why I’m not worried about Artificial Intelligence taking over the planet any time soon.

As you see, Artificial Intelligence remains pretty stupid.

Why would following Joe Biden make me “like” Elizabeth Warren?

OK, granted — since I’m a blogger, I have interest in seeing what all the candidates are doing. But certainly that wouldn’t be true of most people who follow this candidate or that? Would it? If so, tell me where I’m wrong. And if you make a good case, then I’ll start worrying about A.I., because that would mean it’s gotten crafty.

Oh, and then you can tell me when I started following Biden on Instagram, for that matter. Generally speaking, I don’t do Instagram…

The Great Yard Sign War (or at least, a skirmish) begins

My two signs, well spaced, to promote the bandwagon effect.

My two signs, well spaced, to promote the bandwagon effect.

Girding for the primary that is finally about to occur, I went to Biden HQ and picked me up a couple of yard signs, and put them up over the weekend.

And in my Republican neighborhood, I felt very smug and secure in my belief that my message would dominate, because I had not yet seen a single other sign for a primary candidate in the whole subdivision. And we walk about the neighborhood a lot (still maintaining an average of more than 11,000 steps a day).

But then on Sunday, on a whim, I decided to take a different course — I proposed we cut through this little park we have that’s way down at the base of the dam for one of the neighborhood’s two lakes, then climb up the other side of the park to a street we haven’t walked on in years, on the opposite side of the other lake from where we normally walk.Warren sign

And there, I saw it. An enemy sign. So now, the battle has been joined. I’m using these war metaphors, of course, because this was an Elizabeth Warren sign, and you know how she’s all about fighting. Fight, fight, fight

But fear not! We’re still in the lead, because I’ve got two signs. I live on a huge lot on a corner, so I put one of them along the main drag in front of the house, and the other facing the side street. They’re far enough apart that even if you’re at an angle where you can see both (above), it’s kind of like they’re in two separate yards next to each other. (Were this Shandon, they’d seem to be at least two yards apart.)

This promotes the bandwagon effect: Dang, it looks like everybody around here’s for Joe! I’d better get on board! Sneaky, huh?

Of course, truth be told, you can’t tell all that much from signs in this neighborhood. Before the 2016 GOP primary, there was one Trump sign in the neighborhood. It was several blocks away, and every time I saw it, I thought something like, I guess there’s one in every neighborhood. (Kind of like what my Republican neighbors are thinking about me about now.)

But Trump won my precinct, so…

Anyway, I can’t control all that. I can just do my bit for Joe, and let the chips fall…

Biden sign