Author Archives: Brad Warthen

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

Wow, THAT was certainly a sorry spectacle…

Trump in Cola

This was the part when he was, seemingly without end, telling us how AWESOME his victory in the 2016 election was…

I was upstairs on the elliptical tonight, doing something constructive, when my wife called to tell me the Trump thing was on WIS live.

I went down to see, curious: Surely one of our local commercial TV stations wasn’t handing over a live prime-time feed of a McMaster rally on the eve of his runoff. And in fact, that was not the case: TWO local commercial TV stations were doing that.

I watched in fascination. I had never watched a Trump rally all the way to its ignominious end (and I betrayed my inexperience when I Tweeted my surprise that he ended it with the supremely ironic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Aren’t his supporters insulted by that? I thought).

It was one of those spectacles that kinda made me feel a little embarrassed to belong to the same species. But there’s no point trying to put together focused commentary on such random rambling. I give you my real-time Tweets instead:

Sorry about not knowing about the Stones thing. My bad.

What a mess we’re in, ladies and gentlemen…

Are you voting tomorrow? If so, for whom, and why?

Carrigan

Tomorrow is runoff day. If you voted in the Democratic primary on the 12th, you may or may not have any runoffs to decide. But if you voted in the Republican, you have quite a bit of unfinished business — to start with, picking nominees for governor and attorney general.

If you’re in that latter group, I don’t envy you your choice for governor. I’d have a hard time pulling the lever for either. (The choice for attorney general is more palatable — I like both of those guys, although if you take some of the attack ads out there to heart, you may wonder why.)

All I have on my plate is a choice between two people in the 2nd Congressional District — in other words, as conventional wisdom would hold, a choice as to who will lose to Joe Wilson in the fall. Sure, it’s always hypothetically possible that a Democrat could win, but the Republicans who have painstakingly drawn and redrawn that district over the last few decades have had no intention of letting it be likely.

Still, since I broke with usual pattern to vote in the Democratic primary this time — to help James Smith along on the road to becoming governor — I feel honor-bound to go vote in this runoff, as unlikely as it is that the winner will ever be going to Washington.

On the 12th I went with Sean Carrigan. That wasn’t based on a whole lot. Once upon a time, I would have had extensive endorsement interviews with these candidates. Now, I’m dependent on the folks who are still in the working media to tell me about these folks, and I ask you: How much coverage have you seen that helps you know and understand Carrigan and opponent Annabelle Robertson and what they stand for? Yeah. I haven’t seen much either.

So I was reduced to perusing their websites. In other words, to reading what they want me to think about them. Limited as it is, that does have value, I’ve always believed. Even if it’s not true, the fact that a candidate wants you to believe X or Y about him or her is in itself revealing.

At the time, I was put off by the tone of some of the stuff on Ms. Robertson’s website. For instance, there’s this, which I thought gave off kind of a Bernie Sanders/Occupy Wall Street kind of vibe, and y’all know I wouldn’t like that:

The problem is that the gap between the super-rich and working families is greater than it’s been since the Great Depression, with the top 10% controlling 76% of the wealth in America, while the rest of us fight for the crumbs they throw down from their five-star dining tables….

Whereas I felt like Carrigan, an Army retiree, had a more centrist feel about him, seeming more like the kind of Democrat FDR would have recognized. Here he is addressing the same issue:

We could spend all day talking about tax cuts and empty Republican economic promises, but at the end of the day, a well-educated workforce and an economic system that strives to provide increased opportunities for all is THE key to Economic Prosperity.
In South Carolina District 2, we need to decide what an Economic Win looks like. One thing is for sure: when Profit trumps People, the working families of Aiken County, Barnwell Country, Lexington Country, Orangeburg County and Richland County don’t win. Due to the failed policies and voting record of Joe Wilson, more than 70,000 children and 40,000 seniors reside in low-income families. That’s enough impoverished children and seniors to overflow Williams-Brice Stadium one and a half times!

Yeah, I know — those messages aren’t all that far apart. But notice how the Carrigan one lacked that element of resenting the billionayuhs at their five-star table? Also, there’s the fact that Ms. Robertson calls herself a “Progressive Democrat.” Yeah, that’s all I need. I’m sick to death of Republicans talking about how “conservative” they are (which generally causes a sort of Inigo Montoya reaction in me). All I need to make my head explode completely is to hear the same kind of nonsense from the other side as well.

Also, she uses “fighting for you” language. Y’all know how I hate it when politicians use the “F” word.

Anyway, I grabbed at those straws, and voted for Carrigan. And I’ll probably back him again tomorrow.

No, I realize that’s not the most ringing endorsement you’ve ever heard, but I work with what the candidates give me to work with… And I’d love to hear it if you have a good argument for why I should back Ms. Robertson instead — whether I agree with you or not.

Anyway, how about you? How do you plan to vote, and why?

fighting

The ‘Famously Hot’ Trump protest

2017Portfolio-Fam-Hot-Logo

Doug thinks that if I’m truly opposed to Donald J. Trump, I would join protesters at today’s event at Airport High School. My response echoes that of Mr. Darcy when urged to dance: “At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable.” Mr. Darcy didn’t do country dances, and I don’t do street protests. They are to me at the very least insupportable, if not indeed anathema.

But at least I can feel some small kinship with the protesters, after reading this release from the state Democratic Party:

Columbia’s #FamouslyHot Trump Protest, 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Airport High School, 1315 Boston Ave, West Columbia, SC 29170. Indivisible Midlands has a protest permit that runs from 4:00 – 8:00 PM and they will be standing along the sidewalks on Boston Ave starting from the corner of Boston Ave and Greenwood Drive (between the high school and middle school) and stretching towards Airport High. Parking: Protest attendees will be allowed to park **directly across the street** in the parking lots of the SC Vocational Rehab buildings starting at 4:00 PM. The lots are large enough to fit buses if groups choose to organize them. As of writing this, Boston Ave will remain open to traffic flow, so you’ll be able to get to the lots easily. Our event plans are to demonstrate outside–even once the McMaster/Trump event begins at 6:00 PM.If you choose to leave our permitted area to venture elsewhere or choose to go inside the rally where the president will be speaking if you have tickets, Indivisible Midlands is not responsible for your safety and cannot be held liable for what occurs outside the bounds of our permit. The McMaster/Trump event won’t let you take signs or much of anything inside, so you’ll need to stow any of those in your vehicles before venturing in. Again, we aren’t necessarily encouraging or discouraging anyone from going to see the president speak if they wish–the event is open to the public if you reserved ticket online. We just have no plans as an organization to do so and any disruptions that may occur once inside should not be attributed to us as such. …

As you may or may not know, ADCO is the agency that came up with Columbia’s “Famously Hot” identity.

I suspect it will seem particularly apt at about 4 p.m. today in the vicinity of Airport High School. Yet another reason to leave the whole mess to other people. I assure you that at that hour, I will be congratulating myself on not being there

The fury directed toward migrants actually looks like ‘hate’

The "Two-Minutes Hate" in Orwell's 1984...

The “Two-Minutes Hate” in Orwell’s 1984…

A lot of the more strident folk on the left like to classify people with whom they disagree as “haters.” To disagree with them is to “hate.”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to be called a bigot. To see a human fetus as having moral value and a claim upon our consciences, for instance, can be classified as “hating women.” Which might be great for eliciting contributions from some quarters, but not so great for increasing understanding across the gulf of disagreement.

If we’re to have civil conversations in our society, conversations with some hope of leading toward synthesis, toward solutions, “hate” is a word we need to be careful with.

But in recent days, that word has seemed more and more like precisely the right one to explain the way some of our fellow citizens regard what is going on down on our border.

What we’re seeing now, and what we’re hearing from the people who defend Trump’s actions, pretty much does seem to be… hatred.

How else to label the FURY these people direct at poor folk trying to come here for a better life?

I’ve been marveling over this for years. I guess it was the early 2000s when we started seeing this surge of anger toward people who came here to pick crops, do back-breaking construction, or work in the stench of a chicken-processing plant.

Then came the dehumanizing rhetoric — words such as “animals” and “infest” — and the jaw-dropping rationalizations: If they don’t like having their children torn from their arms, they should have thought of that before they tried to come here…

It’s the ANGER that amazes me. The folks who say those things are furious, apoplectic that these people from the South cross a line in the desert without the proper paperwork. What is it about that bureaucratic lapse, that misdemeanor committed by some migrants, that stirs such anger?

And I’m not even getting into the fact that this attitude goes beyond illegality, and has increasingly taken the form of wanting to decrease legal immigration.

I don’t know where the anger comes from. But the more I see of it, the more it seems to qualify as hatred…

Again, we see what should be obvious: Politicians are people

This is related to David Brooks’ “personalism” column I brought up the other day.

More than that, it’s an evocation of a theme I frequently bring up in my quixotic effort to foster a sort of politics that isn’t about the partisan lie that breaks everything down to an absolutist battle between angels and devils, black and white. You can find some of my future references to this by searching this blog for the phrase, “politicians are people.”hJIDR8t4_400x400

And yeah, I know it sounds dumb every time I say it, but try to bear with me anyway, because while I may seem to be saying something everybody knows, too few of us act like we know it.

I don’t know state Rep. Katie Arrington. If I’ve met her, I don’t recall. I haven’t had direct dealings with her — again, that I recall. I don’t seem to have mentioned her in the 13 years that I’ve been blogging. She follows me on Twitter, but I don’t follow her (something I may amend after I’ve posted this).

Before this morning, therefore, all I really knew about her was that she was the woman Donald Trump backed against Mark Sanford. Which was not exactly something to recommend her to me. Here was Sanford doing something I approved of for the first time in years — standing up to Trump — and she took him down for it.

In other words, I was aware of her about on the level of the description in this headline this morning on my Washington Post app:

Katie Arrington, GOP lawmaker who defeated Sanford, seriously injured in car accident

But now, suddenly, we are reminded that this symbol of the cause keeping the GOP in line behind Trump is a human being, and one whom people who know her care about. Not just her family or friends, not just Trump supporters and not just Republicans.

The first sign of this for me was from my own representative, Micah Caskey:

Now lest you think, aw, he’s a Republican and is kowtowing to the Trump crowd, note that his last Tweet before that was this:

No, no one should be surprised that Micah Caskey, whom I regard as an excellent representative in almost every way, would reach out with compassion to a colleague at such a time. It has nothing to do with political alliances.

That is supported by such tweets as these:

And finally:

Yeah, go ahead you scoffers and dismiss all that as empty, insincere posturing by politicians. But here’s the thing: I know these people, even though I don’t know Rep. Arrington. And here’s another thing: They didn’t have to do this on a Saturday morning. No one was sticking a microphone in their faces and demanding that they take a position.

And in their concern, I realize she’d not just a headline or a campaign or a position. She’s someone they’ve worked with face-to-face, day after day. She’s someone they’ve encountered as a real person.

And through the concern of people I do know as people, I am brought to a fuller understanding of Katie Arrington as a complete, three-dimensional human being, someone who exists fully and independently of the headlines about her.

And having my awareness of her thus deepened, I hope and pray for her full recovery, and that of her friend who was injured, and that the family of the driver who was killed be comforted in their loss.

Yeah, I know that on a certain level what I’m saying sounds idiotic. Of course people show their concern, sincerely or insincerely, when someone they know is seriously hurt. This proves nothing. But try to see what I’m trying to point out: that most of the time, most people don’t see these people as fully-realized human beings, but rather as caricatures. And if our system of deliberative democracy is ever to have a chance to recover and be functional, we have to see through that, and see people as whole, so we can deal with them effectively and constructively.

Dumb as it sounds, I’m going to keep saying it, because on a critical level where we need to be interacting productively, too few of us act as though we truly realize it: Politicians are people.

And this one is hurting right now…

Open Thread for the Longest Day: Thursday, June 21, 2018

gop debate last

  1. Thoughts on the last GOP gubernatorial debate? — Again, personal commitments kept me from catching all of it (7-8 hasn’t been a great time for me to drop everything lately), but my general impression is that while Henry often made sense, with the GOP electorate as it is currently constituted, Warren probably gained ground on him. What did you think?
  2. What did Hannah Arendt really mean by the banality of evil? — And was she being wise, or being glib and letting Eichmann and maybe other Nazis off the hook? I don’t recall why I ran across this, but it was interesting. A change of pace.
  3. Our Real Immigration Problem — Bret Stephens writes that we need more immigrants — a lot more — not fewer. This seems obvious to me, for the reasons he cites — our record low fertility rate, our aging population (in case this point isn’t as obvious to you as it is to me, think Who’s going to be out there working to pay for my Social Security?), the fact that there are now more jobs out there than we have people looking for jobs, that population is plunging in the heartland, and “Finally, immigrants — legal or otherwise — make better citizens than native-born Americans. More entrepreneurial. More church-going. Less likely to have kids out of wedlock. Far less likely to commit crime.” You should read this.
  4. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur dies at 68 — We’re talking about Charles Krauthammer. I knew this was coming and meant to write about it, and about my great respect for the man — but it happened quicker than I expected. But speaking of Bret Stephens, he did write about it, so I recommend that piece of his as well.
  5. Happy summer solstice, ya pagans — I don’t know whether you plan to celebrate or not, but here’s some Spinal Tap to help. All I can say is that the problem may have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. Alright?

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David Brooks’ excellent column advocating ‘personalism’

Cindi Scoppe and I used to go back and forth over the enduring value of op-ed columns.

Her view was that if they’re good, they’re good, and if she had to wait two or even three weeks to get a good column into the paper, she’d do it.

I saw them as far more perishable. With syndicated columns, I didn’t want our readers to see them more than a day after they were first published elsewhere. I had a prejudice in favor of columns from the Washington Post Writers Group, because they sent them out in real time, as soon as they went to the Post‘s own editors, so we were able to publish George Will, Kathleen Parker and Charles Krauthammer in the same day’s paper as the Post. The New York Times, by contrast, didn’t move their columns on the wire until after we were done with our opinion pages — so the best I could do was run Tom Friedman and David Brooks a day after they were in the Times.

Past that, even when a column was really good, it would tend to lose out to something fresher if I were picking the columns that week.

There are arguments for both points of view, of course, and the relative value of the opposing approaches could vary according the particular column. Today, I’m very happy that today The State ran a David Brooks column that first appeared on June 14, a whole week ago. (It was his column before the column that I mentioned in the Open Thread two days ago — therefore quite moldy by my usual standards.)

I had missed it when it first ran. And it wasn’t perishable at all.

The headline was “Personalism: The Philosophy We Need,” and it won me over from the start:

One of the lessons of a life in journalism is that people are always way more complicated than you think. We talk in shorthand about “Trump voters” or “social justice warriors,” but when you actually meet people they defy categories. Someone might be a Latina lesbian who loves the N.R.A. or a socialist Mormon cowboy from Arizona.Brooks_New-articleInline_400x400

Moreover, most actual human beings are filled with ambivalences. Most political activists I know love parts of their party and despise parts of their party. A whole lifetime of experience, joy and pain goes into that complexity, and it insults their lives to try to reduce them to a label that ignores that.

Yet our culture does a pretty good job of ignoring the uniqueness and depth of each person. Pollsters see in terms of broad demographic groups. Big data counts people as if it were counting apples. At the extreme, evolutionary psychology reduces people to biological drives, capitalism reduces people to economic self-interest, modern Marxism to their class position and multiculturalism to their racial one. Consumerism treats people as mere selves — as shallow creatures concerned merely with the experience of pleasure and the acquisition of stuff….

Yes! And going back up to his mention of journalism at the top…. most news coverage is as guilty as any of these other culprits of trying to cram people into boxes that aren’t made to fit them. As I’ve said many times, too many journalists write about politics the way they would about sports: There are only two teams, and you have to subscribe to one or the other — Democrat or Republican, left or right, black or white. And one is always winning, which means the other is losing — you’re up or you’re down.

Which I hate. One of my motives for blogging is the same as my aims when I was editorial page editor: to provide a forum where we could talk about the world and public policy in different, fairer, less polarized and more accurate terms. The truth is that almost nothing about human affairs is black or white. And I’ve always wanted to provide a forum where that aspect of truth could reign, and lead to more productive conversations.

In this column, Brooks is talking about the same thing I’m talking about when I say “people are people.” Which sounds vaguely stupid, I know, but I mean they’re not just “liberals” or “conservatives” or members of this team or that team, or predictable because of some demographic accident — they’re complicated.

And I think the only way we can write and talk about people and public affairs is to acknowledge that complexity at all times — to get past the black and white and not only deal with the gray, but with the full range of color and combinations of colors.

Anyway, you should read the full column. It’s full of good bits on the meaning of life and other things that are hard to squeeze into so few words. It’s so good I suspect the Brooks haters have been out in force trying to tear it apart over the past week. I’ll close with the ending:

The big point is that today’s social fragmentation didn’t spring from shallow roots. It sprang from worldviews that amputated people from their own depths and divided them into simplistic, flattened identities. That has to change. As Charles Péguy said, “The revolution is moral or not at all.”

Amen.

Trump miraculously discovers he has power to stop doing the horrible thing he’s been doing

That is, one of the horrible things he’s been doing…

This just in:

Trump, in reversal, says he will sign order to end family separations at border

But… but… but… How can that be? His peeps have been telling us it’s not up to him! That it’s Congress’ fault, or the fault of previous presidents who never did such a horrible thing!

He must be a magic man, Mama!

Oh, and South Carolinians… Don’t forget that, only hours before the world magically changed just now, our governor was standing foursquare behind Trump’s (Trump’s and no one’s but Trump’s) policy of separating families at the border:

“I agree with the president 100 percent. If we don’t have secure borders, if a country doesn’t have borders, you don’t have a country, so we must secure the borders,” McMaster said in Spartanburg, goupstate.com reported. “Now the President is determined to see that it’s done in the right way, what he’s doing right now is he’s following the law, unlike some other chief executives who did not follow the law.”

And he was so very proud to do so…

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Open Thread for Tuesday, June 19, 2018

photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows the interior of a CBP facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday...

photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows the interior of a CBP facility in Texas on Sunday…

Several potential topics for discussion:

  1. Trump, defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP — As Republican leaders pledge to end Trump’s practice of separating children from their parents at the border legislatively, the president’s behavior is getting increasingly wild and out of control.
  2. Trump could end policy of separating children ‘with a phone call,’ Graham says — Lindsey’s having one of his lucid days today.
  3. How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects in the U.S. — I’ve heard Democrats gripe about these guys for years, and have generally thought, Whatever… But now they’ve gone to messin’. Like Clint Eastwood’s character in “In the Line of Fire,” I love me some public transportation.
  4. Judge dismisses Emanuel lawsuits, says FBI can fix gun checks — Richard Gergel’s not buying the government’s excuses about how Roof got his gun.
  5. David Brooks: The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs — Its not just about families separated at the border, Brooks writes. “What’s most significant is this: The Trump administration immigration officials have become exactly the kind of monsters that conservatism has always warned against.”
  6. There are more guns than people in the US, according to new study — This is according to something called the Small Arms Survey. The story says “With an estimated 120.5 guns for every 100 residents, the firearm ownership rate in the United States is twice that of the next-highest nation, Yemen, with just 52.8 guns per 100 residents. In raw number terms, the closest country to the United States is India, with 71.1 million firearms in circulation.”