Category Archives: Character

‘Blue Bloods,’ a show that stands up for traditional values, such as… respecting each other


The Reagans, having another civil debate over Sunday dinner.

For years, my parents would ask me if I’d ever seen the cop drama “Blue Bloods,” and when I said I hadn’t, they urged me to check it out. They love it.

Eventually, in casting about this year for a new series to get hooked on after running out of “The West Wing,” I tried it. And I loved it, too, probably for a lot of the same reasons they do. And I’m kind of sad that this morning during my workout, I ran out, watching the last episode that is available so far on Netflix.

Maybe I had to get to be old enough to become a fan. At least back in 2010, “Blue Bloods” had the oldest audience on traditional broadcast television. And when you consider that traditional broadcast TV skews older anyway, that’s really saying something.

Part of it is probably that it bucks the trend, set by shows as varied as “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” — all of which lack so much as a single admirable character to root for. While every recurring character on “Blue Bloods” is human and fallible, each of them has enough to like and respect and even admire that you just want to spend more time with them. I mean, I loved “Breaking Bad,” but sometimes you want to see some people who might inspire you to break good for a change.

Another likely reason for the older audience is that everything about the show, from the central characters to the plots to the dialogue, fosters and celebrates traditional values such as family, loyalty, honor and duty. To some extent, these are the kinds of things I was talking about in 2008 in a column headlined “Give me that old-time conservatism” (as opposed to the kind that people like Mark Sanford and Rand Paul promote).

Oh, and there’s another traditional value the show celebrates: Respect for others, including those who don’t necessarily look at things the way you do.

That observation may be jarring to a lot of the people whose teeth are set on edge when you say “traditional values,” people who would define that as meaning some throwback to the bad old days (many seem to regard old days as bad by definition) when people who didn’t adhere to some norm were despised and put down.

But I don’t see it that way. I see a political environment today that has almost zero tolerance for varying opinions. Today, if you don’t agree with me, you are beyond the pale, a person without value, or worse, a person with negative value, one to be despised and condemned and reviled.

And I can remember when our politics weren’t quite that bad, when Democrats and Republicans were committed opponents, but more in the way fans of different football teams are, rather than as participants in a morality play in which there are only Good People and Bad People.

(Those earlier times had their own problems, of course. As I said on a previous post today, I don’t believe any previous generation was any better, or worse, than this one. People are always people, and each individual has his or her capacities for good and evil. We don’t have a moral advantage based on the time in which we are born.)

One of the ways “Blue Bloods” promotes this value is through the trope of the Sunday family dinner, as traditional an institution as one might find.

To back off and explain briefly — the show centers around the Reagan family. Not Ronald’s, but Frank’s. Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, is the New York city police commissioner. His father, who lives with him (both of their wives are deceased), is the former police commissioner. Frank’s two sons are both cops — Danny a veteran detective, younger Jamie a graduate of Harvard Law School who gave it up to become a beat cop. Another brother was also a cop, but was killed in the line of duty before the show began. Sister Erin is an assistant district attorney.

So, when this clan gathers for Sunday dinner at Frank’s house, with Erin’s daughter and Danny’s wife and two sons, there’s a lot of shop talk, and it tends to center around some ripped-from-the-headlines issues such as police use of force and the like. And there is always a fairly wide array of perspectives, from the cops and Erin, and from Erin’s daughter and Danny’s wife. Danny is the hard case; Jamie is more the bleeding heart and rights-of-the-accused guy and so forth.

And while it gets contentious — in fact, there are dinners when one or another member of the family is giving one or all the cold shoulder over some current issue (say, Erin is at odds with the cops on whether a certain suspect should be prosecuted) — ultimately everyone loves and respects everybody else, and at least gives them the benefit of the doubt enough to listen. Even Danny, the hothead — usually.

But the respect-other-views thing runs through the whole show. Paterfamilias Frank, the commissioner who models himself on predecessor Teddy Roosevelt (right down to the mustache) might have one firm opinion, but the views of others are fairly represented.

I’m far from the only person to notice this. I like the way Mark Blankenship, a blogger at HuffPost, wrote about it when the series was young in 2010. I found this by searching on “Blue Bloods conservative,” to see how others reacted to the series’ traditionalism:

And although it’s never been stated, I’d wager that Danny would identify himself as a political and social conservative. Almost every episode of the show features a dinner table debate among the extended Reagan clan, and Danny always comes down on the ostensibly Republican side. He gets heated when someone suggests that drugs should be legal or that criminals should have inclusive rights, and he often chastises his brother Jamie, who left Harvard Law School to become a beat cop, for being an elite, Ivy League softie who doesn’t know how the real world works. In moments like this, I almost expect Danny to quote Sarah Palin.

But here’s the thing: Unlike the people who bloviate on cable news about their so-called conservative values, I’m actually willing to listen to Danny. His character is written and played with nuance, with flaws, and with admirable traits… so even though I might disagree with some of the things he says or does, I can’t dismiss him as a jerk, a lunatic, or a man who would like to see my rights as a gay man obliterated in the name of what’s good for America.

Meanwhile, that’s almost always how I see conservative candidates and pundits. They play to their base by underlining their most radical views, and their opponents play to me by underlining them, too. I’m left inside a system that boils everyone down, asking me to make quick decisions about right, wrong, good, evil.

And the truth is, it works. I try my damndest to live a thoughtful life, but after years of exposure to Tea Party vitriol, Red State vitriol, and Evangelist vitriol, I almost always assume that Tea Partiers, Red Staters, and Evangelicals wish me harm.

I know this is unfair. I also know that other people jump the same unfair conclusions about me. But I’m a person, you know? I can be influenced.

That’s why I find it almost spiritually refreshing to be presented with a character like Danny Regan, who is so different from me, but who still seems human. I see Danny sit at dinner with his family — some of whom are his political opposites — and I see him, I see all of them, talk to each other and listen to each other. Thus far, no one has changed anyone’s mind, but no one has been shamed away from the table, either.

Blue Bloods, then, has created a world where different points of view can coexist in the same family. How nice to imagine that metaphor spun outward, to imagine different Americans allowing each other space at the table. How nice to imagine people with wildly different views still finding ways to care for each other….

Yes, it is a nice thing to imagine, and I thank “Blue Bloods” for helping us imagine it. I’m sorry I’m out of episodes, and look forward to the most recent season being posted on Netflix as well…

Traditional values: The Reagans, in keeping with the cop stereotype, are Irish Catholic. Interestingly, in early episodes they got the words to the Catholic grace wrong. It was corrected in later episodes.

Traditional values: The Reagans, in keeping with the cop stereotype, are Irish Catholic. Oddly, in early episodes they got the words to the Catholic grace slightly wrong. It was corrected in later episodes.

My second favorite moment on ‘The Wire’

I loved the look on Terry D'Agostino's face as McNulty explains that he couldn't be bothered to vote in the presidential election between Bush and what's-his-name. ("Kerry," she says helpfully.)

I love the look on Terry D’Agostino’s face as McNulty explains that he couldn’t be bothered to vote in the presidential election between Bush and what’s-his-name. (“Kerry,” she says helpfully.)

Sorry, but I couldn’t find video to embed of this one.

Previously, I shared my delight at the scene from the first season in which Rawls tries to comfort McNulty, whom he hates, while cussing him out. Wonderful device for deepening the viewer’s sense of these characters. (Later, there is further cause to be sympathetic to Rawls’ dislike of McNulty, as the latter repeatedly shows his disregard for the opinions and prerogatives of other bosses and colleagues.)

I’m in the third season now, and my fave so far is the one in which McNulty and Terry D’Agostino are for once having dinner together before jumping into the sack, and she learns how apathetic he is about politics — which means there will be no jumping into sacks tonight.

As the scene was summarized by HBO:

McNulty, slightly intimidated, has dinner with Theresa D’Agostino in a fancy D.C. restaurant. The more she learns about him — that he only has a year of college under his belt, that he is essentially an apolitical being who doesn’t know the difference between a red state and a blue state and who didn’t even bother to vote in the presidential election — the less interested she is in him. When McNulty takes her home, she doesn’t invite him in…

Yeah, there was some class stuff going on there. But I think she liked his rough edges. The deal-killer, the anti-aphrodisiac for her seemed to be the moment he said he couldn’t be bothered to vote.

I was watching her face, and that was when he lost her. Up to that point, he thought he had a really hot borderline nymphomaniac eating from his hand. As from that instant, I knew Jimmy was out of luck.

I’ve heard SO many people say the dismissive things McNulty was saying about politics. It was refreshing and fun to see such a person pay for his apathy, in terms he could appreciate…


Linking the flag and Atticus Finch

Samuel Tenenbaum — who goes to Publix each morning to by The New York Times because they refuse to deliver it in Lexington County, where he and I live — brought to my attention this piece from that paper, which notes the parallels between the Confederate flag we just got off our lawn and Atticus Finch:

FOR as long as many Americans have been alive, the Confederate flag stood watch at the South Carolina capitol, and Atticus Finch, moral guardian-father-redeemer, was arguably the most beloved hero in American literature.

The two symbols took their places in our culture within months of each other. The flag was hoisted above the capitol dome in April 1961, on the centennial of the Civil War during upheavals over civil rights. Atticus Finch debuted in July 1960 in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel that British librarians would later declare the one book, even before the Bible, that everyone should read. Given life by Gregory Peck in the 1962 Oscar-winning film, Atticus Finch would go on to be named the top movie hero of the 20th century.

Nearly at once, both icons have fallen from grace in ways that were unimaginable just months ago…

I just pass it on in case you’re interested. I’m not crazy about the way it ends up — suggesting that we should embrace this “new” Atticus as a way of coming more truly to grips with who we are and have been. I’m of the “Atticus is still a hero” school. But I pass it on nonetheless…

As the governor says, ‘Be kinder than necessary’

Nikki Haley posted this on her Facebook page this morning:

Cynthia HurdToday the legislature will come back in to take up our vetoes. We will report the votes on the many pork projects that we struck and let you know how legislators voted. They will also take up the removal of the Confederate flag. We ask everyone to remember the importance of respect during this debate. There are no winners or losers with this vote. Passions are running high but in the words of Cynthia Hurd “Be kinder than necessary.”

OK, she tarnished the shine on the message a bit by unnecessarily referring to things that a majority of lawmakers thought worthy of funding as “pork,” but this is a Facebook message, not a major policy address. Old habits die hard. But the rest of the message is something we should all heed.

I posted, in response to that, my thanks (again) for the governor’s leadership on this, and urged her to do what she can to prevent any effort to delay or to weaken the power of what we are about to do with any “compromise.”

You can be kind, and still insist upon doing the right thing.

But the being kind is important. In fact, it’s the main point here.

As I’ve said so often before, getting the flag down isn’t the goal in itself. When it comes down, if it comes down the right way — not in conflict, but in a consensus of unity — then it will show us that our state has come an amazingly long way in terms of our ability to respect each other and work together to accomplish things that up to this point, thanks to a lot of nasty impulses that have held our state back for its entire history, have proved intractable.

We are experiencing a moment that I did not expect, did not dare to dream of, in which the broad-based willingness to put all that stuff behind us and move forward finally exists. So be kind. And get it done.

You MUST watch this video, in which Lindsey Graham gets choked up talking about his friend Joe Biden


This is an extraordinary clip, which I thank Norm Ivey for bringing to my attention. HuffPost sets it up this way:

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) celebrated his retirement from the Air National Guard last week after 33 years of military service, he was greeted at the ceremony by an unexpected guest: Vice President Joe Biden.

Though they hail from opposing parties, Graham and Biden have long had a close friendship, going back to their years serving together in the Senate. The South Carolina senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate was particularly touched that the vice president attended his military sendoff.

Over the weekend, The Huffington Post spent a day with Graham on the campaign trail in Iowa for the latest installment of our original series, ’16 And President. We’ll have the full episode up next week, but the above clip is a short preview of what’s to come….

In it, our senior senator chokes up talking about Joe Biden, about whom Graham says:

If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, then it’s probably… you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation. What’s not to like?… He’s THE nicest person I think that I’ve ever met in politics. He is as good a man as God ever created…

This is one of the more touching illustrations I’ve seen of my oft-stated thesis that politicians — despite what you may firmly believe — are people, and not monolithic representations of good and evil, as most partisan rhetoric would have it.

Graham Biden

The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

TAMA, Iowa — Lindsey Graham was in the full swing of his pitch to a group of potential voters gathered at a VFW hall in this small town an hour outside Des Moines on Saturday when, while he was talking about his relatively liberal stance on immigration, there came an unwelcome interruption.

“Towel heads,” grumbled a man sitting at the bar, sporting a denim shirt with the arms cut off. “Sand n*****s.”

Graham did what every candidate must in the age of smartphones and opposition trackers following a candidate anywhere he or she goes.

“I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” Graham said. “What I would say is that what he said is not who I am. I’m not running to be president to please this guy.” He then moved on and continued on taking questions from the other attendees.

At this early stage, running for president can be a weird thing — especially in these tiny, intimate gatherings where people are able to to speak their minds. In an earlier era, maybe before a woman once notoriously insisted to John McCain that Barack Obama was an Arab, Graham could probably have gotten away with ignoring the man; today, he had to act.

But Graham is also a long-shot candidate without much to lose, and his response ended up being different from the kind of tight-lipped, efficient shutdown one could imagine coming from someone for whom the stakes are higher. A few minutes after the exchange, Graham concluded his spiel to the 15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room by drawing a comparison between his own hardscrabble upbringing in a bar in small town South Carolina and people like the man who had issued the slurs.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I don’t believe. I changed a long time ago as a politician. I was scared to death of going into a room to be disagreed with. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel free. I feel able to tell you exactly what I believe and why I believe it,” Graham said….

I hope Buzzfeed doesn’t mind that long quote. I wanted you to have full context. But I urge you to go on and read the whole thing. It has a nice ending.

The event had been billed as “Politics and Pool,” and before leaving, Lindsey wanted to shoot pool with somebody. The only person willing to play was the blowhard. So our senior senator played him, and beat him.

Quoth Graham: “I wanted to beat him. I was going to beat him if it’s the last thing I did in Iowa.”

Glenn McConnell sends out College of Charleston resolution urging removal of the Confederate flag

Now there’s something I never thought I’d type. But then, I never expected anything like what I saw on Monday.

Here’s what McConnell sent out to alumni (and here’s a link):

Alumni:Today, the College of Charleston Board of Trustees approved two resolutions, one regarding the renaming of a Colonial Scholarship as the Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Scholarship and the other concerning the Confederate battle flag.
Please see the resolutions below.


Glenn McConnell ’69
College of Charleston
66 George Street Charleston, SC 29424

Resolution Concerning Renaming One of the Colonial Scholarships the Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Scholarship 
Whereas, Cynthia Graham Hurd was a member of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and was a victim in the tragic events of June 17, 2015;
Whereas, Cynthia Graham Hurd was the College’s longest-serving part-time librarian, having been at the College since the 1990s;
Whereas, Cynthia Graham Hurd worked full time for the Charleston County Library system as a librarian and branch manager for more than three decades;
Whereas, Cynthia Graham Hurd was known for her quick wit, sense of humor and optimism;
Whereas, Cynthia Graham Hurd, during her life and through her work, represented the very best of our College and our beloved Charleston community;
Be it resolved, the College of Charleston Board of Trustees now and forever designates one of its most prestigious academic scholarships for South Carolinians as the Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Scholarship.

Resolution Concerning the Confederate Battle Flag on State House Grounds 
Whereas, the tragic events of June 17, 2015, occurred in Charleston, our beloved home city, and near our campus footprint;
Whereas, the city of Charleston lost nine pillars of our community, including Cynthia Graham Hurd, a longtime librarian and exceptional educator at the College of Charleston;
Whereas, the College of Charleston has and continues to play an integral role in the healing process of our city, our region and our state;
Whereas, members of the General Assembly have passed a concurrent resolution “concerning the South Carolina Infantry Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America and surrounding arrangement located at the Confederate Soldier Monument on the grounds of the State Capitol Complex”;
Whereas, the Board of Trustees is the governing body of the College of Charleston and represents the institution;
Be it resolved, the College of Charleston Board of Trustees supports the efforts of the state’s many political, civic and business leaders in urging for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds.
Yes, that Glenn McConnell. While it was the board of trustees that acted, for him to be the messenger is extraordinary.

An open letter to Glenn McConnell

I was looking around to see whether anyone had spoken to Glenn McConnell during the past week. It was interesting to see national media “discovering” the unique individual we have known for so long.

One such story noted that McConnell is declining interviews until after the funerals of the dead from Mother Emanuel. That’s what I would expect; it’s the sort of sense of propriety that characterizes him.

Then, I ran across this at the site Inside Higher Ed, and I thought I’d share:

An Open Letter to College of Charleston President Glenn F. McConnell

June 22, 2015 – 6:17pm

Dear President McConnell,

First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend and former colleague,Rev. Clementa Pinckney, as well as our mutual colleague, College of Charleston librarian Cynthia Hurd. Their deaths, and the deaths of Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson at the hands of a white supremacist terrorist are a tragedy that we can hardly imagine. These people were giants in our community, and we feel the collective pain of their absence, but I also know the loss is particularly personal to you.

I am writing to you because you are the leader of my college and one of the most influential people in the state of South Carolina.

I am asking you to support the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds.

I know that you are a student and practitioner of the principles of servant leadership, as demonstrated during your time in the legislature, and over the past year as you’ve guided College of Charleston. You’re well aware of the controversy surrounding your initial selection as our president, and yet, in a short time, by listening to others and meeting the needs of those you lead, you’ve convinced many that you were the right choice all along.

You are now serving a different constituency than in 2000, when, as a member of the state legislature, you helped broker the compromise that removed the flag from the capitol dome to the Confederate memorial on the grounds. Then, you were looking for a solution that would defuse a politically volatile situation. Even as you declared, “Many of us who love the flag would have preferred it stayed on the dome,” you recognized that its removal was necessary.

It is clear that the legislature will soon be tasked to consider the removal of the flag from the grounds entirely. A number of your Republican former colleagues have already expressed their desire to retain the flag in its place of honor. Many say they are “undecided” or have yet to commit to a position. A statement from you in support of removal may help prevent the kind of contentious battle we do not need at this time.

If the Confederate battle flag once symbolized “heritage, not hate,” the actions of the white supremacist terrorist who proudly posed with the flag, as well as symbols of Apartheid South Africa, before murdering nine Black people in the midst of a Bible study, have rendered this distinction meaningless.

Perhaps we can argue that the flag was misappropriated by the white supremacist terrorist, the same way it was misappropriated by those who originally hoisted the flag to the top of the S.C. Capital dome in defiance of the Civil Rights Movement and support of segregation in 1961.

I accept the private and deep feelings of pride and honor absent any racial animosity that many people associate with the flag. I can respect them even as I do not share them.

But those private feelings no longer outweigh the public symbolism of a flag that for many declares them as inherently unequal. It is a flag that has been adopted by an internal terrorist enemy that we must band together to defeat.

Sadly, President McConnell, the picture of you from 1999, showing you posing in front of the flag at your family’s old memorabilia store, for me, is now indelibly associated with this heinous act. I can no longer explain it to people who ask me about College of Charleston. It is inconsistent with the pride I feel for this place and my respect for your leadership this past year.

This is, in many ways, unfair. Signaling hate is obviously not your intention. You have declared yourself a champion of equality and diversity. In fact, one of your first acts as president was to take concrete steps to increase diversity at College of Charleston. You have been walking your talk as a leader.

I hope you agree it is time to take another step.

That which we could not imagine in 1999 or 2000 has now happened in 2015.

Though, if we really search our hearts, we know that these murders were not unimaginable at all, but rather wholly predictable, inevitable even, when we refuse to confront these wounds. The white supremacist terrorist spoke openly of his plans. In his twisted mind, these murders were justified.

He found comfort in this flag, and believed its public display meant that he spoke for many.

We’ve had so many powerful gestures of healing in our community over the last week, proving that the white supremacist terrorist does not speak for us, but we cannot let these moments of solidarity distract us from these larger issues.

Yes, the flag is “just” a symbol, but it is now an irrefutably toxic one. How could we conclude otherwise?

I understand that you believe discussion of the flag should wait until after the victims have been laid to rest. I disagree. While those services help us heal, the severity of the crime also demands justice, the swifter the better. Each day the flag flies on the capitol grounds it may give sustenance to others who share the white supremacist terrorist’s twisted ideology.

This is justice denied. In your most recent message to the college you said, “The College of Charleston will need to be the center for our collective healing.” Removing the flag is only one small step, but it is necessary.

President McConnell, you have the wisdom, and spirit, and influence to help heal your college community and your state.

Please support the removal of the flag from the S.C. State Capitol grounds.



John Warner
Visiting Instructor
College of Charleston

Yes, it would be wonderful for McConnell to lend his support to getting the flag down. He may even do it. If so, the effect would electrifying, among all who know him.

But there’s no way to say now. In the meantime, I was impressed by the letter — respectful, conciliatory, collegial and with just the right tone to persuade. That’s just the kind of tone all of us should adopt as we engage this debate in the coming days.

Today finally IS ‘a great day in South Carolina,’ as we witness a host of miracles in the State House, of all places

the group

Today, the state of South Carolina leaped out into uncharted territory, launching itself from the 19th century right over the troubled 20th, and into the 21st. And it wasn’t even kicking and screaming.

It is, without a doubt, a miracle that today, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to come off the State House grounds ASAP.

That is HUGE. That alone would have me walking around the State House (as I was just moments ago) saying, “What state am I in? Really, help me: Where am I?”

Today truly IS “a great day in South Carolina.”

NOTHING like this has ever happened in the 28 years that I’ve covered politics and government in South Carolina. Nothing even close to it. What happened today broke all of the rules of what does and does not happen in South Carolina.

Today, the state’s political leadership got together and said, “Hey, let’s just stop all the usual b.s.” Just like THAT (imagine me snapping my fingers)!

But I didn’t witness just one miracle today beneath the dome, with a storm raging outside and thunder crashing. Really, it’s impossible to count how many I saw. I’ll use a biblical accounting method and say seventy times seven. Or more than the stars in the sky…

Let’s just count a few:

  • Nikki Haley, elected as the darling of the Tea Party, standing there and saying “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” and saying that if the Legislature doesn’t do it while it’s already here in town (through a proviso, or somehow amending the sine die resolution), she’s going to call them right back to deal with it. And meaning it. Wow. God bless her.
  • Joe Riley, freighted with grief as mayor of a Holy City in mourning, standing there right with her and not having to say a thing because Nikki Haley is saying what needs to be said. So that second march won’t be necessary, Mr. Mayor.
  • Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, the regular folks who pulled together the impromptu, haphazard rally Saturday, standing there witnessing it. Afterwards, I had to go over to Ms. Borghini, a recent immigrant from Argentina, and say, “You know, you don’t normally get what you ask for this fast in South Carolina.” But… maybe you do, now. Who knows? Everything we all knew about SC politics just went out the window. And you know that second rally they’re planning on the flag for July 4th? It just turned into a celebration, instead of another small step on a long, sweaty road.
  • Jim Clyburn standing at her right hand, in total agreement with her on the most divisive issue that I’ve dealt with in my decades in South Carolina.
  • Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, who within the last few days was mouthing the usual stuff about how we had to understand that for some folks it’s about heritage, standing there on her other side. Mark Sanford, who was saying the same stuff a couple of days back, standing behind them.
  • Sen. John Courson, long the Confederate flag’s best friend in the Senate (except when Glenn McConnell was around), standing there with all of them. (Mind you, John has always been the most reasonable voice of that caucus, but he’s still the guy with multiple Confederate flags in his office, and is sort of the embodiment — the sincere embodiment — of the “honor the war dead” argument that has kept the flag up.)
  • South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore and Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison — one white, the other black, sort of like their parties — standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder and grinning without reservation, in complete agreement with each other on the issue that has most surely divided them since we turned into a two-party state, since long, long before either of these young men even knew what Democrats and Republicans were. Moore, who was mouthing the usual “it’s not the time” stuff a couple of days ago, now saying, “We can’t change our past, but we can heal our future.” And Harrison, who can usually be counted on for the usual “if it’s Republican, it’s bad” stuff, telling me “I have nothing but respect for Gov. Haley. She’s doing the right thing, and she’s doing it for the right reasons.”
  • Mind you, Haley and Sanford and Graham and Scott and Courson and Matt Moore all represent the Republican Party that essentially came to power on the issue of keeping the flag up. The GOP took over the House after the 1994 election. The party got an unprecedented turnout in its primary that year in part by, in the national year of the Angry White Male, putting a mock “referendum” question on the primary ballot asking whether the flag should stay up. One of the very first things the party caucus pushed through after assuming control of the House was legislation that put the flying of the flag into law, so that no governor or anyone else but the Legislature could ever take it down. (You might say, why bring that up at such a wonderful moment. Here’s why: To let you know how big a miracle this is.)
  • Democrats and Republicans who have spent the day working sincerely together in multiple meetings today, not to posture and get the other side to vote against something so it can be used in the next election or to raise money, but to solve an issue that cuts right through the heart of South Carolina, and defines the differences between them. I asked House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford whether he has EVER been in such extraordinary meetings as he has been in today, with leaders of both parties determined to reach agreement on such a heavy, politically impossible issue and put it behind us for good. For a second, he almost reverted to the usual, starting to say, not while this governor has been in office… But I said, no, I mean EVER. And he said, no. He has never experienced anything like this on any issue.
  • Drivers going past the flag on Gervais and not just honking their horns in celebration at the flag coming down, but playing monotonal tunes on their horns, a regular symphony of honking. Such giddiness is as unprecedented as all the rest of us. It’s almost like our local version of the Berlin Wall coming down.
  • J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League, telling me, “Things can change in a moment.” Meaning ANYTHING, no matter how intractable, no matter how long-lived. In South Carolina, the most change-resistant state in the union.
  • The way the sentiment that it was too soon to talk about such a hairy political issue, when we haven’t buried the first victim of the Charleston massacre, had just evaporated. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, told me that Clem Pinckney “himself would say, ‘Do not lose this moment.'” This was, as the governor had said, the way to “honor the nine blessed souls that are now in heaven.”
  • The way the entire world was there to see it and hear it. And yeah, I’m sure that’s one huge reason we’re seeing this happen so quickly — was best to come out and say this now, while the world was watching, so that everyone would know of the miracle that had happened in South Carolina. But it was still something to see. I estimate this media crowd was about twice the size of the one that witnessed Mark Sanford’s public confession upon his return from Argentina six years ago this month.
  • To hear the booming voices of people spontaneously crying out, “Thank you, governor!” as she left the podium. (Presumably, those were the non-media types, and there were a lot of them on hand.) And no, I don’t think that was planned. It sounded heartfelt to me. Just like the applause that interrupted the governor, and which she had to wait for the end of, after she spoke the fateful words, “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.”
  • The way nobody was hedging, or qualifying, or talking about half-measures. In the state that normally doesn’t change, and when it does it does so in the tiniest, hesitating, gradualistic baby steps, the governor was like, Let’s just go ahead and take it down, and lawmakers of both parties were like, Yeah, let’s, and the rest of us were like Keanu Reeves, going whoaaaa

How did we get here, and so fast? I don’t think we can explain it in earthly terms. A friend who gave me a ride back to the office after the miracle said she felt like maybe, just maybe, it started when those family members stood in that courtroom the other day, looked at the (alleged) brutal killer of their precious loved ones, and forgave him. I nodded. Maybe so. Maybe that was the beginning of some sort of chain reaction of grace, which led to this.

I don’t know.

Yeah, a lot has to happen before this thing is done. But I think it’s going to happen. I asked James Smith whether he thought, based on his interactions with those involved, the consensus to act was solid. He nodded: “Rock solid,” he said. I believe him.

Graham to stand with Haley, call for flag to come down

As I hoped, it looks like Lindsey Graham will be there with Haley asking for the flag to come down:

(CNN)South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham will call Monday for the removal of the confederate flag from state grounds, a source familiar with the decision told CNN.

Graham, a 2016 presidential candidate, will make his announcement during a press conference with South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, at 4 p.m. Monday.

He will call for the flag to come down and be put in a museum….


Benjamin’s letter to Haley urging lowering of the flag

Since this letter acknowledges that he knows what’s up today, this probably goes sort of in the category of giving her support at a critical moment. The mayor already called for the flag to come down a couple of days back:

Dear Governor Haley:

On Wednesday, June 17th, a long time and dear friend of mine, Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, was murdered.

He was leading a bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston when a young man opened fire and killed him and eight others: the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson.

Now, as we mourn this loss, we must also recognize it for what it is. This wasn’t a crime of revenge, passion or greed. These nine men and women were not killed for their faith or their politics or out of revenge for some past deed. They were murdered in cold blood because of their race.

That may be difficult or even painful for us to admit, but it’s true. And while we may never fully comprehend how that kind of hate can exist in this age of discovery and wonder, we know that it does. We see its banner flying before our Statehouse every single day.

So I write to you today to call on you as Governor of South Carolina, in the memory of Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Myra Thompson and the Honorable Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, to retire the Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America once and for all and remove it from the Statehouse grounds.

I understand that you may be meeting with some of our legislative leaders today and I want to plead with you to not let another generation of South Carolinians grow in the shadow of the degradation, oppression and violence this flag represents. Do not let another generation live with the complacency of hate that killed our fellow South Carolinians.

Heal this wound. Honor their loss. Together let’s take down the flag.

Yours truly with sincere personal and professional regards,


Stephen K. Benjamin
Columbia, SC

Here’s a PDF of the actual letter.

Speaker Lucas calls for ‘swift resolution’ on flag

I was so excited about the reports of what Nikki Haley might do today that initially I didn’t see this:

As the ever-growing chorus of South Carolina and United States citizens calling for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds gets louder, one of the state’s top legislators has called for “swift resolution” on the issue.

House Speaker Jay Lucas in a statement released Monday morning said the 2000 compromise that removed the flag from atop the State House dome and raised it in front of the Confederate Memorial on Gervais Street was “ultimately solved by compromise.”

“Wednesday’s unspeakable tragedy has reignited a discussion on this sensitive issue that holds a long and complicated history in the Palmetto State,” Lucas said. “Moving South Carolina forward from this terrible tragedy requires a swift resolution of this issue.”

Legislators are boxed in currently due to parliamentary procedure, so introducing a bill to remove the flag is not currently possible unless a special session is called….

Whatever these state leaders do going forward on this, let’s not forget the courage of Republican Reps. Doug Brannon and Gary Clary, who stepped out on this first.

What Brannon said as to why he plans to file a bill to lower the flag bears repeating:

“I just didn’t have the balls for five years to do it,” Brannon said. “But when my friend was assassinated for being nothing more than a black man, I decided it was time for that thing to be off the State House grounds,”

Reports: Nikki Haley to call for flag to come down

Gov. Nikki Haley's official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

It’s now being reported, without attribution so far, that at a 4 p.m. press conference today, Nikki Haley will reveal that she is working on a plan to bring down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds.

Her office, which announced the presser, is not confirming what it’s about.

If she does this, it will be a mountain-come-to-Mohammed moment. It will be the most sensational news conference in South Carolina since Mark Sanford returned from Argentina. But in a good way.

If Nikki Haley, of all people, steps out and leads on this, the chances of a real solution to this absurd five-decade-old insanity could finally be at hand. No, she has no power to do anything about the flag — directly. The Legislature, in its infinite foolishness, put the flying of the flag into law years ago, and only a two-thirds majority of both houses can bring it down.

But if the governor steps out and becomes the lightning rod on the issue, it will give the Republicans who run the State House the political cover to act. Very few of them seem to care about the flag one way or the other, but most of them live in fear of what could happen to them in a Republican primary if they step out and do the right thing.

The governor providing leadership on the flag would be just what they need to take the heat off them.

If the reports are true, this will be HUGE, and a wonderful moment in SC history.

As sudden and surprising as this will be, there would be good reasons for her to do this, from a pragmatic political position. Her electoral career in SC is over. If she has ambitions on the national level, this would be THE most powerful selling point she could have. As for her job right here and now, as a governor who has built her rep on economic development, there is no single thing she could do more likely to shout to business, “Locate HERE!”

But as easy as it is for me to say all that, for her it’s bound to be a hugely scary moment. So IF she’s really going to do this, she deserves full credit for stepping out.

We’ll see at 4…

Noticing the way Graham stands out from the crowd

This is less of a revelation to SC media -- or should be.

This is less of a revelation to SC media — or should be.

Some national writers are taking greater notice of some of the reasons why I’ve always been happy to endorse him.

In a piece headlined “The most interesting presidential candidate you’re not paying any attention to,” Chris Cillizza of The Fix noted that Graham stands out in ways other than the fact that he’s never been married (which has also been getting him some ink).

After noting all the usual horse-race stuff that has Graham well out of the running, Cillizza shares a reason why he should be a contender:

Okay, fine.  But if you stop and actually listen to some of what Graham is saying — particularly on the subject of bipartisanship — you realize that he’s one of the most interesting candidates in the field and one of the few who can genuinely sell himself as a change agent.

Here’s Graham answering a question from “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd about how he would address political polarization in Washington:

I think there’s a market for a better way. When I talked to that young guy there, I said, you’re going to have to work a little longer, pal. If I’m president, I’m going to ask you to work a little bit longer. What do people do between 65 and 67, they work two years longer. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil showed us what to do. I’m making a bet here. I’m making a bet that you can talk about problem-solving in a Republican primary and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that you can openly embrace working with Democrats and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that with a war-weary public, you can rally them to go over there and keep the fight over there before it comes here. Now, if I lose those bets it doesn’t mean America is lost, it just means I fell short. To a young person in politics, listen to what I’m doing here and see if it makes sense to you. There is a growing desire by the public at large to stop the B.S. I feel it, I sense it, and I’m running on the idea that if you elect me, I’ll do whatever is necessary to defend the nation. I’m running not as a candidate for a single party but for a great nation.

If you believe the American people when they say they want leaders who are willing to work with one another and take positions because they believe in them not because the policies are popular, it’s hard for me to imagine a better message than that paragraph from Graham above…

Yep. We know that about him. And some of us like that about him, and count ourselves lucky to have him representing us in Washington.

After pausing to recite yet again how slim our senior senator’s chances are, the piece concludes:

To me, though, Graham’s candidacy is a sort of campaign thought experiment: What if politics produced a candidate that had lots and lots of what the public said it wanted but in a somewhat unlikely package (a Southern-drawling lifetime politician) and without the buzz and fanfare that surrounds the so-called “top tier”?

Could a candidate like that possibly hope to break through?

It would be nice to think so.

Best scene from ‘The Wire’ (so far in my watching)

Rawls McNulty

Excuse me for writing about another show that’s been off the air for years (like “The West Wing”), but hey, we’re in a new TV world, in which when something was on the air is pretty much irrelevant. Today, you see a show for the first time when you see it.

And I just wanted to share the best scene I’ve encountered on “The Wire.” It was in episode 11 of the first season, titled “The Hunt.” (I’m now on the second episode of the second season.) YouTube won’t let me embed it, but you can see it here.

Even if you haven’t watched the show at all, you can sort of appreciate it with a little setup, if you can abide the intense, concentrated, rapid-fire use of cusswords — which is so over the top that it adds a slightly comic touch to this deadly serious scene. But you don’t want your kids hearing it. Or your parents.

Anyway, the anguished guy in the muted red polo shirt with blood on his face is Jimmy McNulty, the protagonist — a singularly insubordinate, know-it-all cop who is extremely upset because a colleague and friend just got shot. This is the first time you’ve ever seen McNulty at a loss, doubting himself. The guy in the suit “consoling” him is his erstwhile boss, the head of homicide, who — as you may notice — hates McNulty’s guts. And not just in the usual, cliched, “I’m tired of defending your shenanigans to the commissioner” way that we’re accustomed to in ranking cops on TV.

And yet, in his own furious, about-to-blow-his-stack way, he’s trying to make McNulty feel better. And does so pretty effectively.

Interesting leadership style. Impressive, yet… do you really want this guy as your boss?

Capt. Furillo

Capt. Furillo

In the early 80s, when I was in my first management position, running the news coverage of a small daily in Tennessee, I used to watch Captain Frank Furillo on “Hill Street Blues” and aspire to be exactly that kind of firm-but-fair, graceful-under-fire boss that he was.

But Capt. Furillo was a Sunday-School teacher compared to this guy, who makes you re-evaluate the whole tough-but-fair thing.

Anyway, I love it when a scene tells you something new and unexpected about a character in a way that is completely believable (instead of the contrived way that is too common on most TV shows — see “24”).

Good writing, good direction, great acting.

Ex-Rep. Nelson Hardwick just became an unperson

Wow, that was quick.

This was just reported:

Hardwick-NelsonState Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Horry, resigned Tuesday evening in the middle of his sixth term after an investigation by the House Speaker’s office.

Hardwick was accused to sexually harassing a female House staff member, accorrding to four lawmakers who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation….

Not knowing him, I went to look him up… and he had already been removed from the list of members on the legislative website.

Winston Smith moved quickly on this one. One day a lawmaker, the next day… you are an unperson.

Speaker Lucas had this to say:

“I received Representative Hardwick’s resignation letter and accepted his decision to step down from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Speaker Lucas stated. “As Speaker, maintaining the integrity and public trust of this Body is my highest priority.  Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women, and staff that serve in the House Chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously.  Each of us have been entrusted with the opportunity to serve the public and that trust must never be called into question.”

Katrina Shealy’s reaction to Haley tirade against GOP lawmakers

First, a heads-up — I’m unable to access my blog from the office today. Technical glitch. I’m writing this on my iPad, which itself is awkward. The iPad is connecting to the blog using my phone as a hotspot. Anyway, don’t expect to see much from me today, beyond short responses typed on my phone…


Sen. Katrina Shealy, who was elected 1st vice chair of the state GOP Saturday, got fairly ticked off over her governor’s tirade against most Republicans in the Legislature, and expressed her irritation on Facebook.

I was unable to find the original post, so she may have taken it down. But someone saved the screenshot you see above.

later in the day, she expressed her concerns somewhat more calmly, as follows:

Today I was very upset when I felt like Governor Haley called out the Legislature during her Speech at the 2015 SCGOP Convention. Because it is the right thing to do I will apologize for getting as angry as I did – I don’t apologize for feeling that this is a time when the Republican Party needs to be pulling together and finding common ground instead of finding ways to alienate each other. There are many serious issues before this state. We have 124 House Members, 46 Senators and 1 Governor – we needless to say do not all agree but that does not make us all wrong. As I have said before and I will say again if you expect people to agree with you all the time or not ever have an idea different from you, you need to talk to yourself. You are also going to eventually be very lonely! We have really tried over the last months to pull together and work out issues that are difficult and because of my way or no way attitudes in the House, Senate and yes the Governors Office we can’t. The word compromise isn’t a terrible word – really! I think Governor Jim Edwards used it very effectively. Maybe we need to take a page from his playbook!

Jeb Bush also seeking the Grownup Party nomination

In a headline today, The Washington Post posed the question, “Can Jeb Bush win the GOP nomination . . . by praising President Obama?

Here’s what they’re referring to:

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush supports President Obama’s trade deal, praises his management of the National Security Agency and agrees that Congress should have moved faster to hold a vote on new attorney general Loretta Lynch.

And that’s all since last week.

It’s an unusual approach for Bush to take in seeking the nomination of a conservative party that mostly loathes the current president. The former Florida governor has gone out of his way at times to chime in on issues where he agrees with Obama — bolstering his attempt to be a softer-toned kind of Republican focused on winning a majority of the vote in a general election.

But the strategy also carries grave risks for a likely candidate who is already viewed with deep suspicion by conservatives, many of whom have little desire to find common ground with Democrats. Tea party leaders are already warning that Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, is alienating conservatives….

There’s a flaw in the headline. He’s not praising the president. What he’s doing is addressing issues according to their merits, not according to who favors or opposes them.

Which means he’s thinking and acting like a grownup, rather than like a choleric child.

Too many in both parties, and particularly in the Tea Party fringe of the GOP, demand that candidates speak and act childishly. And if they don’t get what they demand, they throw tantrums.

In the GOP, those people call themselves “conservatives.” They are anything but. In this situation, Bush is the conservative, the person speaking thoughtfully and carefully about issues, with respect for the political institutions we have inherited from our forebears, rather than engaging in a competition to see who can denounce the other side more vehemently.

If, because of the tantrum-throwers, Bush fails to get the Republican nomination, I might have to give him the nod from my Grownup Party. But he’ll have to get past Lindsey Graham first…

Of course Graham voted for Lynch, and good for him

When I saw the Post and Courier headline, “Loretta Lynch confirmed as attorney general today; S.C. senators split,” I didn’t have to read further to know that Graham had voted “aye,” and the other guy did the knee-jerk GOP thing and voted against.

That’s because of what Lindsey Graham says, believes and lives by — the principle that elections have consequences. A president gets elected, he should get to pick his team. The Senate should only refuse to confirm if the nominees is obviously, clearly unqualified — not just because the nominee might not share the senators’ respective political views.

As he said following the vote:

I also believe presidents should have latitude in picking nominees for their Cabinet, and Ms. Lynch is well-qualified for the job. My goal is to have a Republican president nominate the next Attorney General so we will not be forced to choose between Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.

He’s not the only one who says this. John McCain says the same. But Graham practices the principle more consistently. (Graham voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court; McCain voted against.)

And of course, he’s right to do this. It shows he understands the proper roles of the president and the Senate under the Constitution.

If you want someone else for the job, work to elect someone else president. But if your candidate loses, you don’t spend the next four or eight years sulking and obstructing the process of governing.

We’re lucky that one of our senators understands that, and in fact understands it more thoroughly than most people in Washington.

NYT: ‘You Don’t Have to Tell a Clinton Twice’

Interesting piece in The New York Times, about the Clintons, and specifically about a certain pattern that has become familiar in their long political career: “what their admirers call grit and critics deem shamelessness can overshadow another essential element of the Clinton school: a willingness to put on the hair shirt of humility to regain power.”

When he tried to regain the governor’s office in Arkansas in 1982, Bill told voters, “My daddy never had to whip me twice for the same thing.” Hillary has never been as folksy, but this story goes into the ways she determinedly puts her mistakes behind her:

When she used a video message to enter the Democratic presidential race in early 2007, she sat alone on a couch, used some variation of “I” no fewer than 11 times and proclaimed an uninspired theme: “I’m in it to win it.” This time, she started with a film featuring miniature portraits of an array of voters, appeared on-screen only after 1 minute 18 seconds, and emphasized “your vote” and “your time.”

In 2008, she was at times criticized for being detached from voters, insulated in a bubble of staff and security and avoiding spontaneity. She began her 2016 campaign by riding 16 hours in a van from New York to Iowa, making unannounced stops at gas stations and fast-food restaurants, before arriving for what were billed as a series of low-key conversations with a handful of voters.

Her first campaign was characterized by a contentious relationship with the news media; she recently spoke at a banquet celebrating political journalism and brought on a new cadre of news-media-friendly aides who held olive-branch get-togethers for reporters days before Mrs. Clinton declared her candidacy….

And so forth.

Still… the recent contretemps about her email illustrates that there are some lessons she does have to get whipped for more than once, such as the need to be transparent.

And while it’s convenient to lump them together as “the Clintons,” I don’t know that she has quite the capacity that is second nature to her husband, the quality that makes him willing to do anything to get folks to love him.

As I said in a comment yesterday, Bill will go into a restaurant and shake hands with everybody in the place because he wants to, because it scratches an itch deep within him. Hillary will go in and shakes hands with everybody because someone has persuaded her that she has to….