Category Archives: Character

I knew Strom Thurmond. And Joe Biden is no Strom Thurmond (yet)

Washington is abuzz with how Joe Biden has apparently devolved from good ol’ Uncle Joe to the “Creepy Uncle.”

The latest cause of these musings — and perhaps the last straw, some are indicating — is the incident in which the veep was all over the wife of Ashton Carter while the new SecDef was being sworn in:

This has led the media, both new and old, to recall similar incidents. New York magazine has put together a slideshow. Enjoy.

The Washington Post has run a fun piece imagining an intervention in which everyone Joe knows — “Jill, Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia, John (Kerry), John (McCain) and several women he recognizes only from having told them, once, in passing ‘No dates ’til you’re 30!'” stage an intervention to put an end to his pawing and whispering. An excerpt:

“Do any of these women look comfortable?” Sasha asks. She produces the most recent picture.

Joe squints at the picture. “Looks pretty comfortable to me,” he says. “Jill, that’s a comfortable face, right? That face says ‘I’m comfortable around this suave man.’”

“No,” Jill says….

Then there’s the Top Ten list of what Biden may have whispered to Stephanie Carter, courtesy of David Letterman:

10. “Let me know when this gets weird.”
9. “What is that, Pert Plus?”
8. “You have the clavicle of a much younger woman.”
7. “Have you seen ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?”
6. “Is that the necklace I gave you?”
5. “I haven’t heard a word your husband said.”
4. “You look like young Jeanne Kirkpatrick.”
3. “Ever heard of a second Second Lady?”
2. “I don’t have a time machine but I do have a hot tub.”
1. “In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ‘I’m not 100 percent sober.'”

Not everyone is taking it lightly, though. Here’s a more serious piece setting out why our gregarious vice president should “probably” cut it out.

Yet Joe is a piker, a paragon of 21st-century Proximity Correctness, compared to his old friend Strom Thurmond, whom he famously eulogized so eloquently right here in Columbia.

Just to give you an idea of the difference, let’s turn again to the pages of New York magazine, which, in a piece about Sally Quinn, quoted from a book about Strom by our own Jack Bass:

Washington writer Sally Quinn told of a 1950s reception where: “My mother and I headed for the buffet table. As we were reaching for the shrimp, both of us jumped and let out a shriek. Senator Strom Thurmond, grinning from ear to ear, had one hand on my behind and the other on my mother’s. As I recall, we were both quite flattered, and thought it terribly funny and wicked of Ol’ Strom.”…

Perhaps we should stage the actual intervention sometime before Joe reverts to that standard of groping…

 

I’m glad Obama picked Clancy to head Secret Service

It may seem counterintuitive to many, but I’m glad the president made this decision, and not just because the guy’s name is Clancy (I mean, could you find a better name for a top cop?):

President Obama has named his acting director and trusted former detail leader Joseph Clancy as the new permanent leader of the Secret Service, the White House said Wednesday.

Clancy, 59, has led the agency for the past four months since being asked by the president to replace Julia Pierson, who resigned Oct. 1 amid a series of major security lapses. He had emerged as the likely choice for the full-time role last week, when the administration officials informed candidates that the president had made a selection.

Among the challenges for Clancy will be to determine how to secure the perimeter of the White House complex, in the wake of an intruder bursting past several layers of security last fall and a small drone aircraft landing on the lawn last month. The new director also will be charged with overseeing the massive security operation of protecting the candidates in the 2016 presidential race, through the primaries and the general election…

His selection goes against the advice of an independent panel, appointed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson to examine the security failures, that recommended the agency name an outsider to the top job for the first time in the 150-year history of the Secret Service.

But Obama signaled to associates that his trust in Clancy trumped other concerns…

Why do I prefer Clancy to some outsider? I’ll offer four reasons:

  1. I think an insider who fully understands the challenges the service faces and is committed to overcoming them — assuming he is personally up to the job — is more likely to have the full, unhesitating cooperation of the rank and file in getting the job done. This is a demoralized agency, and being led by one of their own is better for morale than having some Pro from Dover come in and assume he knows it all.
  2. The president’s had experience with this particular guy, observing him in the job, and therefore he’s a known quantity — beyond the fact that the president is used to putting the lives of his family in his hands. POTUS is the boss, and it needs to be someone who has his confidence and full backing.
  3. I’ve just got a prejudice for hiring from within, of giving good people a chance to advance where they are. I’ve been the Pro from Dover myself a couple of times, and while I was qualified and had confidence in my own abilities, I fully understood the resistance I got from people who knew the place far better than I did and resented me as an outsider. Also, I’ve got this thing about trusting people to do their jobs unless they, personally, have demonstrated they’re not up to it. (The agency may have been falling down on the job, but I’ve heard of no indication that Clancy has.) For instance, I’ve got a thing against special prosecutors, who tend to be appointed for political reasons to do jobs that regular cops and prosecutors should be able to do if we just trust their professionalism — which we shouldn’t do if they’ve shown themselves unsuited, but if they haven’t, it’s wrong not to trust them.
  4. Finally, who you gonna trust — a guy named “Clancy,” or one named “Jeh?”

OK; I was kidding with that last one.

Did Obama undermine the dignity of the office on Buzzfeed?

Obama face

And, if so, is that a bad thing?

To see what I’m talking about, you’ll have to follow the link; I couldn’t find an embed code.

I thought about posting about this over the weekend, but didn’t. My mind was brought back to it by this piece in The Wall Street Journal this morning.

Bret Stephens harrumphed as follows:

George Washington did not shake hands as president and would grip the hilt of his sword to avoid having his flesh pressed. The founding father understood that leadership in a republic demanded a careful balance between low populism and aristocratic lordliness. Personal comportment, the choice of clothes and carriage, modes of address: these things mattered. And so we have “Mr. President” as opposed to “His Highness.” Or “George.”

With Barack Obama —you won’t mind, Señor Presidente, if we call you Barry?—it’s another story. Dignity of office? How quaint. In this most self-infatuated of presidencies, the D-word is at best an accessory and more often an impediment to everything Barry has ever wanted to be: Cool. Chill. Connected.

So it was that, hours after the U.S. confirmed the murder of Kayla Jean Mueller at the hands of Islamic State, Mr. Obama filmed a short video for BuzzFeed, striking poses in a mirror, donning aviator shades, filming himself with a selfie stick and otherwise inhabiting a role that a chaster version of Miley Cyrus might have played had Hannah Montana been stuck in the White House after a sleepover with the Obama girls.

Ostensibly, the point of the video was to alert BuzzFeed’s audience to the Feb. 15 deadline for ObamaCare enrollment. If communicating with 20-somethings as if they are 11-year-olds is a way to get them to behave like grown-ups, then maybe the White House has at last found a way to make good on its make-believe enrollment numbers….

Now, you know, I’m normally not one to be out-harrumphed. I can be as stuffy as the next guy; probably more so if he’s not quite the thing. Today at the board of governors meeting at my club we had a stimulating conversation about the dress code, and while I didn’t actually join in, it’s because I was too busy holding myself back from saying “Quite right!” and “Capital!” at all the more Tory comments from others.

But I don’t know about this. While I quite take Mr. Stephens’ point that it’s absurd to communicate “with 20-somethings as if they are 11-year-olds,” I also applaud pragmatism in a leader. And if this is the way you have to communicate with them — well, one does what one must.

Thoughts?

selfie stick

What happened to Mike Huckabee when I wasn’t looking?

Huckabee in 2007.

Huckabee in 2007.

When I interviewed Mike Huckabee in 2007, I was fairly impressed. He stood out among self-styled conservatives of the day by speaking of the obligation to govern when in office, rather than merely rip and tear at the very idea of government:

    Mike Huckabee, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, made reference to this principle when he met with our editorial board Thursday:
One of the tough jobs of governing is, you actually have to do it.” That may sound so obvious that it’s foolish, like “One thing about water is, it’s wet.” But it can come as a cold shock.
Think of the congressional class of 1994. Newt Gingrich’s bomb-throwers were full of radical notions when they gained power. But once they had it, and used it, however briefly, to shut down the government, they quickly realized that was not what they were elected to do.
Or some of them realized it. More about that in a moment. Back to Mr. Huckabee.
Mr. Huckabee is a conservative — the old-fashioned kind that believes in traditional values, and wants strong, effective institutions in our society to support and promote those values.
Many newfangled “conservatives” seem just as likely to want to tear down as build up.
If Mr. Huckabee was ever that way, being the governor of Arkansas made him less so. “As a governor, I’ve seen a different level of human life, maybe, than the folks who live in the protected bubble of Washington see,” he said. And as a governor who believed he must govern, he was appalled when he saw government fail to do its job. He points to the aftermath of Katrina: “It was one of the more, to me, disgusting moments of American history…. It made my blood boil….

Of course, I was comparing him to Mark Sanford. Among other things, the Club for Growth — which has always adored Mark Sanford — hated Huckabee. And he wore that as a badge of honor.

He said he was “a conservative that’s not mad at anybody over it.” (Here’s video in which he said that.) And his demeanor, and the way he spoke about issues bore that out.

So it is that I was surprised at this statement from him, which Jennifer Rubin, the duty conservative blogger at the WashPost, passed on:

On the other side of the religious debate, Mike Huckabee opined: “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.” Yikes. Not helpful and only designed to provoke Christians and Jews….

Now, the president deserves criticism for what he said, and I plan to get into that in a separate post when I get my head above water for an hour or so. But this was really over the top, and off the mark.

I was sort of vaguely aware, in the background somewhere, that Huckabee had changed somewhat. I don’t know what caused that. Maybe it happened while he had that TV show, which I never saw because I have a TV for watching movies and “West Wing” and “Better Call Saul,” and not much else (and don’t tell me what happened in last night’s episode, because I haven’t seen it!).

But this really brought it home. What happened to not being mad at anybody about it?

I had forgotten about Rep. Funderburk voting against Haley on ethics charge

Funderburk,Laurie

Rep. Funderburk

There are good reasons for us to change our way of choosing judges in SC. Stronger ones than the fact that the husband of a legislator was elected to the bench the other day.

I briefly wondered why Nikki Haley seized on that incident to push for reform — after all, such a situation didn’t bother her in 2009 (although she hates to be reminded of the fact) — but then I set it aside. Different people are motivated by different things at different times. I suppose a lot of folks agree with the governor on this reason. So I set it aside.

And frankly, I’m still inclined to think the governor actually wants reform. But I did find this interesting:

Rutherford: Haley attack on Funderburk ‘Political Payback’ for Ethics Committee Vote
 
Calls on Haley to apologize to members of the General Assembly and come clean about her previous vote
Columbia, SC – House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford released a statement in response to The State article revealing Governor Haley’s previous support for a Republican legislator’s spouse running for the Supreme Court in 2009 after criticizing the legislature this week for electing a highly-qualified Democratic member’s husband to be an Administration Law judge. Rutherford suggested Haley’s criticism of the legislature’s support for Judge Bill Funderburk was simply payback for his wife’s, Rep. Laurie Funderburk, vote to not dismiss ethics charges against Haley in 2012.
“Representative Laurie Funderburk had the courage and integrity to stand up three years ago and call a crook a crook, and now Governor Haley wants payback,” said House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Richland County. “When Governor Haley was in the House, she clearly voted to elect spouses of Republican legislators to judicial posts. Her new-found outrage can only be attributed to Rep. Funderburk’s vote to not dismiss charges against Haley for illegally hiding income she received from a company that did business with the state. We’ve always known Haley was a hypocrite, but she continues to prove it on an astonishingly frequent basis.”
Rutherford also blasted Haley for lying to a reporter on Thursday about her vote to elect Kaye Hearn to the South Carolina Supreme Court while her husband, George Hearn, was a member of the State House of Representatives.
Jamie Self of The State reported in Friday’s newspaper that Haley denied voting for Hearn after the House journal from May 13, 2009 clearly shows Haley casting an ‘aye’ vote in favor of tabling a motion that would reject Hearn from consideration.
“It isn’t often that you see a politician blatantly lie about a previous vote when roll-call votes are public record,” said Rep. Rutherford. “I was flabbergasted when I saw Governor Haley try to rewrite history and then call it ‘offensive’ that the reporter would even bring it up. But people often act erratic when they’ve been caught in a lie. Governor Haley owes the entire General Assembly an apology for this unbelievable display of hypocrisy.”
####

You know I had forgotten about that — Laurie Funderburk being the only one on the ethics committee who voted against the governor that time. But that’s what happened:

The committee voted unanimously to dismiss three charges against Ms. Haley. On the fourth charge, accusing the governor of failing to properly disclose her payment by the engineering firm, one member, Representative Laurie Slade Funderburk, a Democrat, voted against Ms. Haley….

By all means, let’s change the system, as long as it’s to something better. And to me, something better means something like the federal system, through which both political branches get a measure of control over who becomes a judge. There are systems that are worse than what we have in South Carolina, and I wouldn’t want to switch to one of those.

But this incident is an interesting thing to remember at this time…

It’s not ‘rewriting history;’ it’s paying ATTENTION to history

Cindi Scoppe had a good piece on the issue of unnaming Tillman Hall at Clemson today.

Basically, she took apart the silly argument from certain quarters that changing such a name constitutes “rewriting history.” A salient passage:

The comparison to slave owners might work if this debate were simply about someone who owned slaves. That is, someone who was simply following the accepted norms of his day. That is not what Benjamin Tillman was.

Tillman, sans patch

Tillman, sans patch

Benjamin Tillman was an outlier, an extremist, a brutal racist even by the standards of his time. Many of his contemporaries considered him a dangerous man who wanted to push our state and nation in a dangerous direction — among them the men who founded my newspaper in 1891, for the primary purpose of opposing the new governor’s policies.

Many white people in post-Reconstruction South Carolina disliked black people, even considered them inferior. Most did not collude with lynch mobs and defend murdering black people, as Gov. Benjamin Tillman did. Most did not threaten to kill black people who tried to vote, as Mr. Tillman did in 1876. Most did not lead a militia that terrorized and killed former slaves in the Hamburg Massacre, about which Mr. Tillman frequently bragged that “we shot negroes and stuffed ballot boxes.” Most did not give speeches urging white people to prepare to respond with violence if black people tried to claim the rights promised us all under the U.S. Constitution, as U.S. Sen. Tillman did.

Sen. Tillman earned the name “Pitchfork Ben” when he threatened to impale President Grover Cleveland on a pitchfork. He was censured by the Senate for assaulting another senator on the Senate floor. Such brutality alone should have been reason not to name things after him….

Amen to that.

If one must honor Ben Tillman in order to respect history, then I will henceforth abandon my lifelong love of the subject. I not only have the prejudice here of a former editor of The State, which as Cindi says was founded to fight Tillman and all he stood for (which is why his nephew murdered our first editor). It’s my personal heritage. My ancestors despised him.

I’ve told you before the anecdote about my grandmother, as a child, living next door to Tillman in Washington, a state of affairs which appalled her parents (they later moved out to Kensington, Md.). She remembered sitting on his lap and asking what was under his eyepatch.

Her family provides the very contrast that Cindi points to. My grandmother’s family — my family — had owned slaves, long before she was born. They were of that time and that class (other ancestors of mine, however, were far poorer and therefore innocent of slaveholding). Her grandfather had served in the Legislature both before and after the War, and that was what that demographic did in South Carolina.

As uncomfortable as that personal history makes me, my family by contrast looks great next to Tillman, who was a monstrous figure.

Cindi’s piece mentions the decision to strip ex-Sheriff James Metts’ name from a boat landing. That was a perfectly appropriate thing to do, after the sheriff’s disgrace. But I tell you, I’d name the whole state for Jimmy Metts before I’d name a mad dog after Tillman. Metts is not 1,000th the malevolent figure that Tillman was.

I say that not because I want to rewrite history. I say it because I know my history (although still not nearly as well as I should, and my education continues), and choose to learn from it.

A defense of the sniper on moral grounds

Oh, not from me — I’m still as conflicted as ever about the role of the sniper. As you’ll recall, in my first of several posts about “American Sniper” (one before I saw the movie, explaining why I was eager to see it), I wrote:

I know y’all all think I’m an incorrigible warmonger and all, but I’m someone who does not blink at the dark thicket of morally impossible choices and ethical quicksand into which war leads us. And I’ve always marveled that anyone can live with himself after having killed as a sniper. Yeah, I know; a sniper can save a lot of his comrades’ lives and perform a useful function in a just cause. But a sniper isn’t running and firing at people firing at him, with his blood pounding in his ears and adrenaline drowning his senses. He calmly, analytically, scientifically, artistically, with great care, observes his magnified victim close-up through his scope for much, much longer than any other soldier ever has an enemy in his sights. And the target is unsuspecting. He has no idea that his death is coolly studying him for long minutes, and then choosing the instant to calmly blow his head apart.

A sniper can be a hero. Everyone he knows may praise him for his skill and devotion to duty. But how do you live with yourself after that?

And I still wonder about that. And I’m not sure the film gave me a satisfactory answer (which was perhaps too much to expect of a movie anyway). And maybe that’s because of the subject. I’ve started reading the autobiography upon which the film is based, and it seems fairly clear already that Chris Kyle was not the most introspective of men.

And while my uncertainty is not quenched by this either, I did get a little grist for my mill from a piece in the WSJ this morning. It’s by a comrade of Chris Kyle’s, defending the role of a sniper as in some ways more moral than what others do in war:

Snipers engage individual threats. Rarely, if ever, do their actions cause collateral damage. Snipers may be the most humane of weapons in the military arsenal. The job also takes a huge emotional toll on the man behind the scope. The intimate connection between the shooter and the target can be hard to overcome for even the most emotionally mature warrior. The value of a sniper in warfare is beyond calculation.

I witnessed the exceptional performance of SEAL, Army and Marine snipers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They struck psychological fear in our enemies and protected countless lives. Chris Kyle and the sniper teams I led made a habit of infiltrating dangerous areas of enemy-controlled ground, established shooting positions and coordinated security for large conventional-unit movement.

More than half the time, the snipers didn’t need to shoot; over-watch and guidance to the ground troops was enough. But when called upon, snipers like Chris Kyle engaged enemy combatants and “cleared the path” for exposed troops to move effectively and safely in their arduous ground missions. These small sniper teams pulled the trigger at their own risk. If their position was discovered, they had little backup or support….

He makes some good points, specifically about the fact that the sniper is the least discriminate killer on the battlefield. But as the writer acknowledges, that very specificity, that relationship between the sniper and the clearly observed individual he kills, is what would haunt me, on moral (or at least empathetic) grounds, were I ever tasked with such an assignment.

Of course, this takes us to the old question of whether it is more moral to assassinate a problematic foreign leader than to engage in open warfare with his armed forces. If you look at it coldly, you say of course it is better to kill one bad (in your definition) guy than to take action that will almost certainly lead to the deaths of innocents. But then my inner Victorian Gent harrumphs loudly, horrified at the idea of specifically, deliberately, murdering a particular human being whose name you know. I feel a sort of atavistic aversion to regicide, I suppose.

Then there’s the problem that it’s almost impossible to deliberately take out an individual, as President Obama does with drones, without also killing innocents, or regular innocents.

There are no easy answers where war, or the semblance of war, is concerned.

Origins of the term, ‘sniper’

sniper

I think this is an actual photo of ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle in action. I found it at a webpage dedicated to him, which you can see by clicking on the image. I hope it’s OK that I used it…

 

Since I’m a subscriber, I can’t tell whether y’all would be able to read this WSJ piece or not, but in case you can, I thought I’d share this link to a piece that was in the paper over the weekend headlined, “Hero or Killer? The Ambivalence of the Word ‘Sniper’.” It’s something I’d been wondering about, and I might not be the only one.

The hed is a bit misleading. The piece doesn’t really meaningfully get into the deeper moral implications of the word. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what we call it, in terms of that. There’s no doubt that there’s a great deal of moral ambiguity attaching to the sniper’s role. As I’ve written before, I don’t see how a sniper ever justifies his job to his own conscience, however many comrades’ lives he saves. As for the false dichotomy offered in the hed, well, I don’t see why a sniper (or any soldier) can’t be both hero and killer, whether deeply conflicted or cold-blooded about it.

Whether you can read the piece or not, here’s an excerpt:

The word has its roots in “snipe,” the name for a family of wading birds….

Game lovers found the bird notoriously hard to hunt, thanks to its erratic flight pattern….

In the 18th century, hunters with an accurate shot pursued “snipe-shooting.” Shortened to “sniping,” it took on a military meaning among British soldiers in colonial India.

In 1773, newspapers in England carried a “Letter From Bombay” about the previous year’s siege of Broach (now known as Bharuch) on India’s west coast. The letter-writer described how native combatants were skilled with a long musket that would allow “a man to hit an orange at the distance of 150 yards four times out of six.” The letter also told how soldiers, when erecting a battery, would draw fire from these sharpshooters by putting a ribboned hat on the end of a staff. “The soldiery,” the correspondent said, “humorously call it sniping.”…

Back in India, harassing shooters came to be known as “snipers.” An 1807 report by Major Jasper Nicolls, which was used in a court-martial trial, told of clearing out an area of soldiers, “though much annoyed at times by snipers.” For another century, press accounts of “snipers” in India and elsewhere invariably described such “annoyances” from enemy lines. That began to change with World War I, when the “sniper” became a military specialist trained on high-value targets….

Le Pape n’est pas Charlie, soit.

As you know, Je ne suis pas Charlie. Well, as it turns out, if Google Translate is right, Le Pape n’est pas Charlie, soit.

And not only that, but watch what you say about his Mama.

I learned all this from this Tweet from Bryan:

My initial reaction was, “Whad’ya mean, ‘start’?” But then I went to find out what he meant, and found this:

Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But, he said, there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”…

Now, just watch people across the planet completely misconstrue what he said, claiming he’s “blaming the victim” or “excusing terrorists for murder,” when he is obviously doing no such thing. But he is saying what I’ve said before, which is this:

One’s right to free expression is a sacred thing, just like one’s right to freely practice one’s religion. The Pope said that clearly. And no sane person, least of all the Pope, believes anyone should be killed or threatened with death for expressing himself honestly.

But, there is a difference between what you have a sacred right to do and what you ought to do. And if you want to live in a civil society, in which other people have some basic modicum of respect for you, you have a moral obligation to show at least some minimal respect for others.

This is not a terribly hard thing for most experienced editors to understand, because they live in that space between what one has a right to publish and what one publishes if one has any respect at all for one’s readers.

And folks, you don’t have to be an editor or the Pope or somebody with an advanced degree in ethics to know where the lines are. That’s what the Pontiff was getting at with the mock punch. He was saying, we all know where the limits are: Insult my mother, I’ll smack you down. It’s not complicated.

I mentioned the other day that I’ve heard my good friend Samuel Tenenbaum state clearly, on many occasions, where the line is. Samuel takes a back seat to no one in defending civil liberties. But he makes no bones about the fact that you’ve crossed the line with him, and made an enemy, when you insult “my wife, my Mama or my faith.”

Does that mean Samuel would be justified in coming into your office and blowing you away for insulting Judaism? No, of course not. But he’s describing where the boundaries lie in civil society. He’s telling you what is beyond the pale, in case you missed that class in kindergarten.

Charlie Hebdo is wrong to publish childishly obscene (and not even funny, to an adult eye) cartoons that deliberately slap Muslims in the face, that insult them in the most obnoxious possible manner. Millions of those Muslims are people who mean Charlie no harm, and would never resort to violence against them. But they are deeply insulted, and now, with nonMuslims around them all saying “Je suis Charlie,” they feel more marginalized and looked-down-upon than ever. These people don’t deserve such treatment.

The fact that there are a few murderous jerks who will kill you for publishing such cartoons does not make you right for publishing them. If something is wrong, it is wrong whether people shoot you for it, or give you a big, wet kiss for it.

And that’s what the Pope was trying to say…

Oh, and by the way, he also said global climate change is real, and man-caused. That kind of got downplayed….

Guess I’ll have to go see ‘American Sniper’

american_sniper_still

Has anyone seen “The Master,” one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last films? I saw it last night on Netflix (still fighting a cold, I’ve been vegging out in front of the tube a lot in my off hours) and was impressed. Not that it seemed to have much meaning, but it was interesting and well done, and had a couple of roles in it that actors would understandably kill for. Anyway, I was curious as to whether any of y’all had any thoughts about it.

I got up this morning thinking about that, but now, I think I may have to make one of my rare trips to the actual cinema to check out the subject of this Tweet from this morning:

Yes, that’s the kind of post that makes you give a second glance to see whose feed this is, and then you say, “The Guardian, of course.”

This particular writer was bending over backward to defend Clint Eastwood, saying that however much “we diverge politically… he is not a black-and-white ideologue.”

No, the problem that the writer decries is that “much of the US right wing” has failed to appreciate that this is a “morally ambiguous, emotionally complex film,” and regard it “with the same unconsidered, rah-rah reverence that they would the national anthem or the flag itself.”

This is supported with examples from some extreme trolls who wish that critics of the film would eat s__t, be raped and die. The usual sick puppies who, I guess we are supposed to assume, represent “much of the US right wing.” Trolls. Really nasty ones.

And of course, you have to be a pretty sick puppy, or challenged in the reading-comprehension department, if you can read the movie’s subtitle — “The Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. History” — and not pick up on the idea that there’s a pickup truckload of moral ambiguity churning about here.

I know y’all all think I’m an incorrigible warmonger and all, but I’m someone who does not blink at the dark thicket of morally impossible choices and ethical quicksand into which war leads us. And I’ve always marveled that anyone can live with himself after having killed as a sniper. Yeah, I know; a sniper can save a lot of his comrades’ lives and perform a useful function in a just cause. But a sniper isn’t running and firing at people firing at him, with his blood pounding in his ears and adrenaline drowning his senses. He calmly, analytically, scientifically, artistically, with great care, observes his magnified victim close-up through his scope for much, much longer than any other soldier ever has an enemy in his sights. And the target is unsuspecting. He has no idea that his death is coolly studying him for long minutes, and then choosing the instant to calmly blow his head apart.

A sniper can be a hero. Everyone he knows may praise him for his skill and devotion to duty. But how do you live with yourself after that?

I wonder at such things. So I wanted to see the movie anyway. But I wanted to see it twice as much after reading this actual review of it, also in The Guardian. This writer doesn’t bother making excuses for Mr. Eastwood, basically lumping him in with the rest of those thoughtless rah-rah American nutters. “American Sniper is so conditioned by its first-person shooter aesthetic that it never widens its focus or pans left or right… while the war on Iraq is a just, noble cause.”

Did you catch that? War on Iraq? This, apparently, is what passes as cool, analytical rhetoric in The Guardian, distinguishing right-thinking people from the “black-and-white ideologues,” all of whom, evidently, are neoconservatives.

Anyway, I was grabbed by this passage from the review:

In one early scene, Kyle’s father tells him that the world is divided into three types: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Kyle sees himself as a sheepdog, a noble protector of the weak and the innocent, and it is clear that Eastwood does too. But is the world that simple? A different film (a better film) might have asked the wolves what they think, or at least wondered why the sheep behave as they do….

This grabbed me because that sheep/wolf/sheepdog model is central to Dave Grossman’s study of what he terms “killology,” a field of inquiry he has invented and generally has to himself. Lt. Col. Grossman is the author of that book I’m always going on about, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. It demonstrates, through statistical analyses of battles and other means, that through most of human history, most soldiers have not fired their weapons in combat, and most who did fired over their enemies’ heads, for the simple fact that however they may have been trained, the training failed to overcome their profound aversion to killing fellow human beings. (Actually, in the past generation, U.S. and other advanced armies have overcome that reluctance through conditioning, which has led to more PTSD, which is a reason why Grossman wrote the book.)

That vast majority that doesn’t want to kill, and which suffers tremendous psychological damage when forced to do so, makes up the “sheep” category — not meant as a pejorative, but simply denoting normal, peaceful men.

I’m sometimes unclear as to who, exactly, makes up the “sheepdog” category. Sometimes, Grossman indicates it’s anyone who willingly dons the uniform — of the cop, the soldier, the sailor — and defends his or her society. Other times, though, he seems to be referring to a much rarer breed — the 2 percent of combat soldiers (according to a study from World War II, when there was such a vast cross-section of the male population to study) who “if pushed or given a legitimate reason, will kill without regret or remorse.”

The WWII study found these men to have a tendency to be “aggressive psychopaths.” But Grossman defends them from that damning term, explaining that they are just natural-born soldiers who “apparently do not experience the normal resistance to killing and the resultant psychiatric casualties associated with extended periods of combat.”

In that set of competing definitions, you’ve got enough ambiguity to employ an army of moral philosophers for a century.

Their the sort whose comrades might see as heroes, while those who have no military experience and look askance at those who do view as, well, psychopaths, in keeping with the time-honored tradition:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot…

This 2 percent cadre of men tends to gravitate toward the special forces — toward jobs such as that of the subject of “American Sniper,” who was a SEAL.

Anyway, I need to see the movie, and see what I can learn from it. As should anyone who wants to take some responsibility for what we send other men to do for us.

SC House Dems announce priorities, lose me on the 1st one

This just in from SC House Democrats:

SC House Democrats Announce Priorities for 2015-16 Legislative Session

Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their legislative priorities for the 121st South Carolina General Assembly. Caucus priorities are centered on “Modernizing South Carolina for the 21st Century.” Over the next two years, House Democrats will focus on finding adequate and stable sources of revenue to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, reform the state’s K-12 Public Education funding system, providing affordable and accessible health care options, establishing a state minimum wage, increasing teacher pay, strengthening the state’s ethics laws, and a host of other challenges and issues important to all South Carolinians.

“House Republicans have now been in charge for twenty years; and on almost every single issue – employment, education, roads, healthcare – things have gotten demonstrably worse in South Carolina,” said House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Columbia. “At some point Republicans have to realize that their agenda of abandoning our public schools, putting government in our bedrooms and doctor’s offices, and completely ignoring our state’s roads, simply isn’t working. House Democrats are prepared to make this session about new, innovative ways to specifically address our state’s problems and modernize South Carolina for the 21st Century.”

House Democrats have already pre-filed several pieces of legislation that address a number of our most critical challenges including:

  1. 3127 – Allow gaming referendum to pay for roads (Rutherford)
  2. 3110 – High Quality Education for public schools (W. McLeod)
  3. 3140 – Legalization of Medical Marijuana for Patients (Rutherford)
  4. 3031 – Establish a state minimum wage (Cobb-Hunter)
  5. 3253 – Establish an equal pay law in South Carolina (Stavrinakis)
  6. 3174 – Comprehensive Ethics Reform (Tinkler)

“House Republicans have spent three decades digging a very deep hole with their negligence and extreme ideology,” said Rutherford. “Now it’s time for them to stop digging. We must try something new, and we must do it quickly.”

House Democrats plan to unveil their legislative agenda the second week of the 2015 Session.

####

Of course, they lose me immediately on the very first proposal listed.

Really, Democrats? This is what you want the party of FDR and JFK to be known for in SC? A plan to introduce ANOTHER scheme to exploit human weakness, as an alternative to simply raising the tax that we already have in place to pay for roads? Really?

Yet another reminder politicians are people

Two quick contact reports:

  • Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed a cup of coffee with Mike Cakora, who recently returned to the blog as a regular commenter after a five-year absence. It was great to have him back, and I was happy to get to catch up with him. I knew Mike from before I started blogging. He was one of the guest columnists we recruited at The State, back in the days when we had the money and staff time for such things. We’d have these column-writing contests, and I was always gratified to see the hundreds of entries that would come in (considering that the rules required submitting three columns with little hope of their being published). Then we’d pick 8 for a year, and they’d each write a column a month, and we’d pay them a nominal amount for the columns. Mike was one of our winners one year. Anyway, we had a wide-ranging conversation about politics, working for a living in the New Normal, espionage (specifically, the TV show “The Assets”), and the social alienation that forms people like Edward Snowden. Mike and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but not everything.
  • Earlier, I’d had breakfast with Rep. James Smith. We talked about a number of things, too, such as whether he might run for governor in four years (he doesn’t know) and if he did, what lessons he might have learned from his friend Vincent Sheheen’s failed campaigns. (As it happened, Sheheen texted James while we were eating. He was in a deposition, and trying to adjust to getting back to earning a living with the campaign over.) At one point in the meal, Attorney General Alan Wilson came over to say hey. Any casual observer could see he and James get along well. But then, I’ve noticed Alan gets along well with a lot of Democrats, and James does so with a lot of Republicans. Alan turned to me, pointed to James and said, “This is my lawyer!” Rep. Smith represented his re-election campaign. After Wilson left, James said he has a lot of clients in the Legislature, including a number of Republicans. (So obviously, Kevin Hall and Butch Bowers don’t have all of them.) I noted that if he did run for governor, he might find a formidable opponent in his client Alan Wilson. He agreed. He said the same might be true of Tommy Pope (whose Twitter feed says he’s “working toward sc governor in 2018“).

Anyway, it was a perfectly ordinary slice of life, illustrating gently the point I try to make so often, because so many voters don’t seem to understand. Politicians aren’t just Democrats or Republicans. They’re not monolithic. At least, the good ones aren’t. They’re many-faceted. They’re actual, complete, three-dimensional people, who are capable of interacting with each other in normal, human ways, instead of as partisan automatons.

But y’all probably get tired of me making that point. Which I know sounds like such a stupid point: Of course they’re people, right? Well… I often think we don’t get that, going by what I see written and hear said about politics.

And maybe I do it in part because, after another election season in which most elections are foregone conclusions because of the way we’re separated into districts in which one or the other party dominates, I need to remind myself…

 

Dems seem desperate, clutching at Graham’s out-of-bounds joke about himself, the GOP and other white men

I initially learned of the incident from the Brad Hutto campaign, which has skewed my reaction:

Hutto Blasts Graham for ‘white male only’ Comments

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show”

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic candidate for US Senate Brad Hutto spoke out this evening in response to news reports regarding Lindsey Graham’s leaked comments at an exclusive all-male private club. Graham told the group members he was helping them with their tax status and that “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/29/politics/lindsey-graham-private-club/index.html?hpt=po_c1

Hutto made the following statement:

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show. He is only interested in his own ambitions and the best interests of the wealthy donors he hopes will fund his possible presidential campaign.  Women, people of color, and middle class and working families have no part in Lindsey Graham’s plans.  But, we shouldn’t be surprised. Lindsey Graham voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against equal pay for women, against raising the minimum wage and against the level of support our veterans have earned and deserve. He’s consistently supported tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans and corporations while trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare. We already knew where Lindsey Graham stood. Now, he’s just confirmed it.”

###

And the thing that put me off right away was the dead earnestness of the reaction. I read that quote, “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” And without any explanation or context, I knew that it was a joke. Because, you know, I’m not dense. It reads like a joke, without knowing anything at all about who said it. Knowing that it’s Graham, it obviously couldn’t be anything else.

And of course, when you follow the link — or look at any of the coverage of the incident after Peter Hamby reported it — the fact that it’s a joke is reported at the top, and accepted without question. Everyone understands that this was the Hibernian Society, and the drill is that you stand up there and make fun of yourself.

And yet, there’s not one word in this release that acknowledges that. It’s treated as though Graham were making a straightforward, naked, campaign promise to this group he was speaking to. Which is absurd on its face, but the absurdity doesn’t seem to register on Hutto or his campaign. The release seems to expect the voters to believe that Graham was dead serious, as though he were Ben Tillman or something.

Now if Hutto had acknowledge the joke and said it was a bad joke, in terrible taste, it would be a different matter. The assertion might be debatable — a good argument might tip me either way on the point — but it would at least be respectable.

He could legitimately get on a pretty high horse about it. He could say that it says terrible things about Graham that he could even conceive of such a joke, and think it was funny. He could say it would be unseemly to joke like that with an all-white-male crowd even if he knew it would never leave the room — or especially if he knew it would never leave the room.

As a joke, it’s pretty edgy stuff. Like, almost “Family Guy” edgy (which is to say, “OhmyGod, why am I laughing at this?” edgy). A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, says something that both mocks himself as a GOP politician (and mocks the idea of himself as a presidential candidate along the way) and digs at the audience itself. It was pretty nervy. It was the kind of thing I might say to such a group in spoofing a GOP politician, while being pretty nervous about whether they would laugh or not.

On the one hand, you can argue that it shows a pretty finely developed sense of both social conscience and irony to want to mock a crowd like that, and oneself, that way. Like, look at all us white guys schmoozing; aren’t we ridiculous?

But a very good case could be made that a politician who represents an entire state in the South should never, ever make such a joke — particularly if, you know, he belongs to the official party of the Southern white man. There’s really nothing funny about living in a state in which the racial division between the parties is so clearly understood by all, Tim Scott notwithstanding.

So make that case. But don’t give me this nonsense like you think he was being serious. Like you think it’s a statement of policy when a politician tells an all-male group, “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up.”

I mean, have a little respect for me. Give me a f—ing break, as a U.S. senator might say.

This may be the most intellectually insulting thing I’ve seen from the Democratic Party since all the “War on Women” nonsense. It’s an appeal that assumes appalling degrees of emotionalism and gullibility on the part of its audience.

After the Hutto release, the state party doubled-down on this meme that Graham was baring his soul:

BREAKING: Lindsey Graham makes offensive comments at male-only club. We’ve had enough of this. Add your name now to send a message: It’s time for South Carolina to move beyond this kind of behavior!

As if we couldn’t add more to the list of reasons why we need to get Lindsey Graham out of office, this happens:

While at an event at a males-only club in Charleston last month, Graham – who’s toying with the idea of a run for the presidency — charmed his friends with blatant bigotry: “white men who are in male-only clubs would do great in my presidency.”

A couple moments later, he insulted Baptists. “They’re the ones who drink and don’t admit it!”

These offensive comments are NOT okay – and absolutely unbecoming of a United States Senator.

Will you click here and send a message that it’s past time for South Carolina to move on from this kind of behavior?

Thanks,

Breaking News @ South Carolina Democratic Party

If you can take that seriously, by all means click on the links and give some money. Which is the point.

The fact is, if Hutto and his party just left this alone, the half-perceived news coverage would cause a lot of their constituents to leap to the very response that they wish to see them leap to: “Lindsey Graham said WHAT?” But to take them by the hand and misrepresent the situation so as to lead them there is something else altogether.

The difference here is that — appropriately or not (and personally, if I were his campaign manager, I’d probably be giving him hell right now for f—ing up) — Graham was kidding, but the Democrats are not. They really want people to believe that they’ve caught Graham being genuine. As though this were a “47 percent” moment. Which it plainly is not.

Wow. NOW Mia McLeod is attacking Carolyn Click

Here’s the latest escalation from Rep. Mia McLeod, who really seems to be going around the bend on this thing:

Okay, Ms. Click, so you write front-page fabrications about race in Richland Two on Sunday and then again on Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week? Guess The State must be hard-pressed for real news…and real journalists.

Race wasn’t an issue in Richland Two until you and your White Citizens Council (WCC) buddies made it one.Mia leopard jacket

The illusion of racial tension and animosity you guys have created continues to reveal your true colors. In fact, the same WCC spokesperson quoted in Sunday’s story, had this to add today,

“These people are playing hardball—if they get control they will drive off all the competent people…”

Funny thing is…”these people” kinda reminds me of “those people” and “you people.”

Clearly these are “your people,” Ms. Click, since you’re working overtime to help disseminate and lend credibility to their racist chatter.

Thankfully, somebody at The State had the good sense (not you, of course) to remove his racist rant from “the story” you originally posted online last night, as well as the printed version today.

More proof that “control”—not race, is the real issue. “If they get it,” means we’ve never had it. Guess that’s what scares y’all so much.

And you so desperately want the few readers you do have, to believe that I’m Amelia McKie’s biggest supporter. Guess that’s why you’ve conveniently omitted thousands of dollars in contributions and a diverse cross-section of her contributors from your “story.”

Too bad that while you’re working hard to undermine and discredit Mrs. McKie, the front-runner in this school board race, you’ve actually disclosed even more “evidence” of the collaboration between the current Administration and the WCC.

Obviously, the campaign contributions of current R2 Administrators to some of the WCC’s “chosen four” is evidence of collaboration and conflict—not to mention, impropriety. But I’m sure that’s well above your pay grade, Ms. Click, since The State must not require you to check the rules or the facts before you print your fabrications.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t compare Debbie Hamm to Lillian McBride in my blog. I simply referenced incompetence as their common denominator.

Even my Senator chimed in to “reaffirm” his support for Debbie Hamm. But, this isn’t about her. Or is it?

Anyone who thinks she’s “building morale” in R2, is out of touch with everybody but the DO. For her loyal supporters, friendship trumps everything.

What a sobering reality check for the rest of us in Richland Two.

Let’s channel our energy and efforts towards a true commitment to excellence in education, for the benefit of all Richland Two students.

For those who are afraid of losing it, it’s clearly about control. For the rest of us, it’s truly about moving our students, communities and District forward, in a better direction.

It’s time to silence the rhetoric, the rancor and the manufactured issues of race. Next Tuesday, November 4, I’m counting on voters to do just that.

Maybe then, Ms. Click, you can focus your attention on real news, for a change.

Quote that….

Speaking as a 35-year newspaper veteran, I can tell you with authority that this is real news, and Carolyn Click is a real journalist. A good one. I’ve known her for a couple of decades, and I think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone call her professionalism into question.

And you can quote that….

The issue her opponents inexplicably leave on the table: Nikki Haley’s disregard for the rule of law

I don’t suppose we should be surprised that Nikki Haley treats “lawyer” as some sort of cussword, because she’s shown time and again that she has little regard for the law itself.

Cindi Scoppe detailed, in her column yesterday, the known instances in which our governor has acted as a law unto herself since taking office. Here’s the list:

Gov. Haley first overstepped her authority at the end of her first legislative session, when she ordered the Legislature back into “extraordinary” session because it failed to pass a bill that she supported. (It was a bill I supported as well.) That would have been counterproductive even if she had the constitutional authority to do it, because it angered the legislators whose votes were needed to pass the bill. But she did not have the constitutional authority to do it. Legislative leaders sued, and the Supreme Court overturned her order.

Before that first year ended, she had assumed police powers, unilaterally imposing a curfew on Occupy Columbia protesters who had camped out on the State House grounds, and then having them arrested when they refused to comply with her unlawful order. (I think camping out on the grounds should have been illegal, but at the time it simply was not.) In issuing a restraining order, a federal judge noted that the governor was “making up” the rules as she went along. Our bill for that incident alone was more than a half million dollars.

In early 2012, when the state Supreme Court ordered party and election officials to obey a ridiculous but valid state law, Gov. Haley marched over to the state Republican Party headquarters and persuaded the GOP executive committee to ignore that order and put her favorite candidate back on the ballot. The Election Commission refused to acknowledge that lawless action, saving the governor and the party the ignominy of being found in contempt of court.

Later that year, the Legislature passed a budget that fully covered the increased cost of health-insurance premiums for state employees and retirees. Gov. Haley could have vetoed the funding but chose not to. Instead, when the perfunctory matter of approving insurance rates came before the Budget and Control Board, she persuaded the treasurer and comptroller general to join her in requiring state employees and retirees to pay part of the increase themselves. And again, I agree with her policy preference, but she simply did not have the authority to act. State employees sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the governor and her co-conspirators had violated the constitution by usurping the Legislature’s power to write the law.

As far as I know, Gov. Haley has not directly overstepped her authority since then. But her fingerprints were all over her DHEC director’s decision last year to tell hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers that they could ignore a state law that required them to get a certificate of need before making large purchases, after the Legislature failed to override her veto of the funding for the program. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that this was completely lawless — but not before Lexington Medical Center and several other health providers spent huge amounts of money on expansion projects that they might have to abandon. And we’ll pay for that as well, through our medical insurance.

We are supposed to be a state of laws and not of men — or women, either. But our governor doesn’t get that.

Yesterday, at a lunch in connection with the Bernardin Lecture at USC (I’m on the committee; last night we hosted Sister Joan Chittister as our guest lecturer), the philosophy professor next to me got to talking first about Heidegger, then about the rise of the Nazis. At one point, he said something like (I wasn’t taking notes), “It’s a terrible thing when leaders see themselves as no longer bound by law.” He wasn’t talking about the Holocaust, or dragging the world into war. He was simply bemoaning the loss of the rule of law, as Hitler transitioned from chancellor to Führer.

Being very careful to say that we were talking about something several degrees of magnitude less evil or severe, I noted that we were seeing the same sad principle at work here in SC.

But Nikki Haley is no Hitler, not even a minor-league one. In fact, it’s not even a “degrees of magnitude” thing. I don’t see any evil at all in her. What I see is a terrible naivete, of a sort that you don’t ever want in someone in charge.

I think that at every stage in the incidents Cindi detailed, our governor meant well — by her lights. She meant no harm to anyone. As Cindi noted, in some instances she was trying to do something good. The restructuring measure she wanted lawmakers to come back and pass was something our state needed (and eventually got, largely thanks to Vincent Sheheen). And no, people shouldn’t be allowed to camp on the State House grounds. Trouble was, there was no law saying so at the time. The shenanigans she got up to with the state party were far less benign, but I think she honestly believed it was good for her chosen candidates to win.

No, the problem with Nikki Haley is that she simply doesn’t get something fundamental about the concept of the rule of law.

This is of a piece with her cluelessness on other things that an educated person who understands how the world works would get. If you’ll recall, back in the days that I was still endorsing her for legislative office, I found disturbing her unquestioning faith in such simplistic and erroneous nostrums as “I want to run government like a business.” Yes, a lot of people say that, but not people who understand government and business, and how they are not only different but supposed to be different. (You might call this, with apologies to Hannah Arendt, a case of being banal without being evil.)

She is innocent of such understanding. That doesn’t make her a bad person. But it makes her unqualified to govern.

As Cindi ended her column:

That is not just notable. That is frightening. That is the stuff of dictators and tyrants. That, more than policy or personal characteristics, is reason to replace her.

It’s frustrating that neither Vincent Sheheen nor Tom Ervin has pointed out this glaring abuse of power on the governor’s part. Perhaps they think voters wouldn’t get it, or wouldn’t care. And indeed, a lot of people — especially those who find the governor’s chip-on-the-shoulder, anti-intellectual populism appealing — would not. They’d dismiss talk of the rule of law as “lawyer double-talk” or some such, I suppose.

Perhaps such ignorance can be excused in a voter, if you’re really inclined to be forgiving. But not in one who would govern.

Heroes who don’t want to make a fuss about it

hero

E.J. Dionne begins today’s column thusly:

Seth Moulton, an Iraq veteran and Democratic congressional candidate on Massachusetts’s North Shore, has done something with little precedent in political campaigning: He was caught underplaying his war record.

You read that right: An investigation by the Boston Globe found that, unlike politicians who go to great lengths to puff up their military backgrounds, Moulton, as the paper’s Walter Robinson wrote, “chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.”

It took Robinson’s reporting to discover that Moulton had won the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for valor during the battles for control of Najaf and Nasiriyah.

In a telephone interview, Moulton said his reluctance reflected a “healthy disrespect” among his comrades-in-arms for boasting about citations…

And that reminds me of this other hero who prefers to remain unsung, which Dave Crockett called to our attention on an earlier post — the one who rescued a sick old man from a burning house, then melted away and did his best to remain anonymous:

Tom Artiaga groaned as the reporters starting banging on his door.

“I didn’t want the glory,” he says sheepishly, wearing the same blue Dodgers cap he had on as he walked calmly towards Wells’ burning home. “I don’t want it.”

Artiaga can barely look at me as I prod him, so uncomfortable is he talking about himself.

Artiaga says he was driving by when he saw the fire and heard the screaming about the trapped man inside. He parked his white truck and walked slowly towards the fire. The 49-year-old devoted husband, father of three and grandfather of five didn’t think about what he had to lose. A man who spends his free time helping out elderly people in his neighborhood with their gardens naturally thought about what he could do to help….

Artiaga saw his picture in the paper and the video on the local news. He couldn’t escape the video that was flying across Facebook and Twitter. He hoped his wife wouldn’t find out because he didn’t tell her. He hoped the story would fade and he could go back to his job as a delivery man for a liquor company, without anyone connecting the video to him.

“Why,” I ask. “Most of us liked to be thanked.”

Artiaga’s eyes begin to fill with emotion. “We have to help each other out. We kill each other. We fight. We gotta help each other out. I don’t feel like a hero. If it was someone else, I’d help them, too.”

A small reminder of why I like Lamar Alexander

As if I needed further evidence of the fact that Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is the kind of guy we need a LOT more of in Washington, there’s this from a story today about how President Obama doesn’t delegate much to his Cabinet:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in an interview Tuesday that Obama has not followed the lesson Alexander learned as an aide to President Richard M. Nixon in 1969: Presidents do best when they delegate most issues to their Cabinet members and empower their subordinates. By taking on so much itself, Alexander said, the White House has not invested enough in making sure agencies run smoothly and provide critical input for policy decisions.

“You get the impression that everything is run out of the White House, and that’s an understandable urge, to trust only the people 10 to 15 feet away from you. But if you want to be successful, you have to delegate,” Alexander said. “He’s often the smartest guy in the room,” he added, referring to Obama, “but the wisest guy in the room will only reserve the biggest problems for himself, and push out the other problems to members of the Cabinet.”…

It’s a small thing, but a telling one. Just try to imagine, if you can, another Republican uttering the words, “He’s often the smartest guy in the room” about the president, even in the process of criticizing him.

Alexander harks back to a day in which politicians disagreed and criticized their opposition while being able to appreciate each others’ good qualities.

I’m very glad he handily survived his primary challenge from one of those hordes of people in politics now who believe it’s all about demonization.

In praise of Ebola heroes

As one who never had the opportunity to serve in the military, much less in a combat capacity, I really identified with the opening of Richard Cohen’s column today:

A man my age grows up wondering: Could I have hit the beach at Normandy? How would I have handled being trapped near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, thousands of Chinese pouring over the border and a bitter winter coming on fast? What about Vietnam, or later Iraq and then Afghanistan and Iraq again? I come not from the Greatest Generation but the Wondering One — lucky, a reaper of what others have sown…

By the way, I suspect that the answer for me to the first question is, Yes, I could have hit the beach at Normandy, although I don’t know that. I like to think I could work up the momentary physical courage to do that, just running on pure adrenaline. I might have even made it to the top of the bluff, assuming I survived and could keep the presence of mind to remember why I was there. What I very much doubt I could have done was get through the whole Normandy campaign — much less the fighting across Europe, especially the frozen siege of Bastogne — without cracking. The living-in-foxholes thing would have done me in.

Of course, I don’t know, do I? I might have shot myself in the foot on the day before D-Day.

But that’s not the point of his column. He was leading up to this:

…and now, jaw agape, I wonder about health workers who leave the comforts and certainties of the United States and go to Africa to treat Ebola patients. Who are these people?

Some of them, it seems, are deeply religious. Certainly this is the case with Kent Brantly, who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was flown back to the United States for treatment. He survived, testified before Congress, waswelcomed to the White House by President Obama and aw-shucked his considerable courage by invoking God. I envy his faith. I am in awe of his courage….

The piece ended:

“Giving back” has become a trite cliche, uttered by celebrities coached by their PR aides. But there are people who actually do it — not just with money or a photo op playing ball with some kids but by giving their time and, even, their very lives. I want all of them assembled at the White House, as is done for the Super Bowl champs, or marched down Broadway in a blizzard of ticker tape, or merely remanded to our individual places of honor — nagging consciences asking nagging questions: Why them? Why not us?

Amen to that. I’m reminded of this passage from Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court:

There was a slight noise from the direction of the dim corner where the ladder was.  It was the king descending.  I could see that he was bearing something in one arm, and assisting himself with the other.  He came forward into the light; upon his breast lay a slender girl of fifteen.  She was but half conscious; she was dying of smallpox.  Here was heroism at its last and loftiest possibility, its utmost summit; this was challenging death in the open field unarmed, with all the odds against the challenger, no reward set upon the contest, and no admiring world in silks and cloth of gold to gaze and applaud; and yet the king’s bearing was as serenely brave as it had always been in those cheaper contests where knight meets knight in equal fight and clothed in protecting steel.  He was great now; sublimely great.  The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition—I would see to that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon, like the rest, it would be a king in commoner’s garb bearing death in his arms that a peasant mother might look her last upon her child and be comforted…

 

Sheheen’s bold stand is the ONLY way the flag will come down

Vincent Sheheen’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds isn’t some here-today, forgotten-tomorrow campaign gimmick.

It’s a game-changer. But only if he somehow manages to win the election.

Sheheen was paraphrased in The State today as saying that this is an issue best addressed by a governor. Sure, he could have introduced a resolution to have it removed every session, only to have it die in committee, as did Cleveland Sellers’ one such attempt as a freshman House member. One or two lawmakers might be willing to stick their necks out, but there aren’t enough others willing to go along with them to make the effort viable. Knowing that, lawmakers see little point in making enemies over a lost cause — they have other things they want to accomplish.

But a governor has the bully pulpit to raise the issue so it can’t be buried or ignored.

That said, not just any governor would have the political leverage to overcome the General Assembly’s profound inertia on the issue. It would take a governor who campaigned on the issue, and got elected. A governor who does that would have political juice, and moral authority, unlike any we’ve seen in our poor state, which has been so sadly short on political courage for the generation that I’ve covered it.

So that raises the issue, does this move hurt or help Sheheen’s chances of getting elected? I truly don’t know. His chances were slim as it stood, barring something to shake up the equation. And I’d rather see it shaken this way — by Sheheen doing something right and good and visionary and courageous — than by some new scandal or other disaster befalling Nikki Haley.

Some think it’s automatic political death for a governor or gubernatorial candidate to embrace this issue. They’re wrong. They point to what happened to David Beasley, who stirred up the Angry White Men of his party with his abortive, half-hearted attempt to take action on the flag. Yeah, a few more neoConfederates may have voted against him. But Beasley had also alienated those of us on the other side of the issue, by so quickly reversing himself and giving up on the issue when he experienced the white backlash. Even to people who, unlike me, didn’t care about the flag, it made him look weak, wishy-washy and ineffective.

(I had only contempt for his surprised, shocked and weak reaction to the angry calls and letters. I, and to an even greater extent my colleague Warren Bolton — flag defenders got especially angry at a black man who dared to say the same things I was saying — had experienced the same phenomenon every single time we published another editorial or column on the subject. That means we had experienced it hundreds of times since I had joined the editorial board and started writing on the subject in 1994. Beasley couldn’t take a few days of it.)

And there were other reasons for Beasley’s loss.

In Sheheen’s case, not only is this likely to galvanize voters who would likely have supported him anyway — motivating them to get out and vote and urge their friends and neighbors to do so — it elevates him as someone willing to lead among many who might have been on the fence. Say, business leaders. If you’ll recall, the state Chamber backed Sheheen last time, and this time (thanks in large part to the rise of some Haley allies on the Chamber’s board), it went for Nicky. Business people can be favorably impressed by someone who is willing to lead, and to lead us in a direction that sweeps away such atavistic nonsense, such unnecessary barriers to progress, as flying that flag.

People who were dispirited by Sheheen’s lackluster, take-no-chances campaign thus far will be willing to step forward and put out some effort to get him elected.

I believe it’s at best a wash, and could be helpful to his chances.

But win or lose, he’s doing the right thing. And it’s been far too long since we’ve seen anyone who would lead us do that.

Sheheen calls Haley some more names

The drumbeat is pretty steady from the Sheheen campaign, calling Nikki Haley all kinda mean, nasty, ugly things.

One wonders when he’ll use some of these ads to push what he will do if elected. He has plenty of proposals, as well as accomplishments to tout. It would be nice to see him emphasize some of them.

Even in an ad when he does talk about his plans, he can hardly get to them for complaining about Haley. In this one last week about education policy, he spends more time complaining about what the governor has or has not done than saying what he would do. In the whole 31 seconds, these are the only words he speaks that describe his plans:

As governor, I’ll restore school funding and raise teacher pay….

It takes him 3 seconds to say them.

Anyway, here’s the release that went with this new video:

NEW TV AD: “Unethical” Calls Out Nikki Haley’s Repeated Ethics Violations
“No wonder, Nikki Haley has been called ‘unethical, perhaps even corrupt.’ We just can’t trust Nikki Haley.”
Camden, SC – Sheheen for South Carolina today released a new television ad addressing Nikki Haley’s repeated ethical violations and her secretive, dishonest behavior. The spot, “Unethical” is part of a substantial six-figure statewide TV buy which began last night. “Unethical” is the fifth television ad Sheheen for South Carolina has run in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
“From using the state plane for political events to taking the state car to pick up campaign cash, Nikki Haley has repeatedly violated ethical standards for her own personal benefit and then covered up her bad behavior,” said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager.  “South Carolinians deserve honest leadership and real accountability from a governor they can trust. With all her unethical behavior, it’s clear we just can’t trust Nikki Haley.”

AD BACKUP:

Ad Backup
The South Carolina State Ethics Commission has opened an inquiry into the campaign finances of Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News, 4/10/2012
We thought we could trust Nikki Haley to look out for us.
But Haley used the state plane to fly to political events – and was forced to repay taxpayers. 

CG: Used State Plane for Political Events

 

CG: Forced to Repay Tax Payers

 

“Gov. Nikki Haley reimburses state for plane usage,” Seanna Adcox, Associated Press, 10/8/2012COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has repaid about $10,000 for using state planes to attend news conferences and bill-signings, after The Associated Press informed her of a rule against that.

 

Haley’s spokesman said her office was unaware legislators put a clause in the budget last year that added the restrictions. She returned $9,590 on Friday to the state Aeronautics Commission, which operates the state’s two taxpayer-funded planes. The reimbursement covers flights taken across the state over seven days since last July.

Nikki Haley used an official state car to get to an out-of-state political fundraiser… 

CG: Used State Car for Political Fundraiser

“SC Gov. Haley unhurt in previously undisclosed June wreck,” Andrew Shain, The State, 8/27/2013:Haley, her political adviser Tim Pearson and political fundraiser Marissa Crawford were riding in a state-issued Chevrolet Suburban driven by SLED agent Kenneth Williamson to a political event at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro on June 27, according to an incident report from the N.C. State Highway Patrol….

 

Haley was visiting Greensboro to attend a retreat for a political group run by backers of Republican N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.

 

“Unreported fender-bender involving Nikki Haley leads to questions about her ethics,” Paul Bowers, Charleston City Paper, 8/30/2013:

But as the governor gears up for a 2014 re-election campaign against likely Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen, the previously unreported car accident raised questions about whether Haley uses state-owned vehicles to travel to campaign fundraising events. The vehicle and the driver are provided to the governor through the Executive Protection Unit, which according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry includes “a number of different vehicles from a number of different agencies.” According to a spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety, which owns the SUV, the repair expenses were paid from the state Highway Patrol budget.

 

The accident took place just outside the Grandover Resort, a conference center and golf resort in Greensboro, N.C. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, supporters of N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory hosted a $5,000-per-person retreat at Grandover on June 27 and 28, and Gov. Haley was scheduled to appear on the 27th for a reception, dinner, and forum. The article noted that the event was “expected to draw 100 to 150 corporate representatives and wealthy donors.”

 

“SC Gov. Haley agrees to pay state for campaign expenses,” Andrew Shain, The State, 10/8/2013:

More than a week after the wreck was revealed, the governor’s campaign announced it would start paying mileage for state-owned vehicles taken to campaign events.

 

The campaign has reimbursed the S.C. Department of Public Safety and SLED $1,178 for mileage dating back to Haley’s start in office in January 2011, spokesman Rob Godfrey said. The campaign already has reimbursed the state $7,610 for out-of-state travel.

And then she didn’t tell us when the car was wrecked.  “SC Gov. Haley unhurt in previously undisclosed June wreck,” Andrew Shain, The State, 8/27/2013:SLED did not report the accident when it happened because it was minor, agency Chief Mark Keel said Tuesday.

 

“Unreported fender-bender involving Nikki Haley leads to questions about her ethics,” Paul Bowers, Charleston City Paper, 8/30/2013:

But as the governor gears up for a 2014 re-election campaign against likely Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen, the previously unreported car accident raised questions about whether Haley uses state-owned vehicles to travel to campaign fundraising events. The vehicle and the driver are provided to the governor through the Executive Protection Unit, which according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry includes “a number of different vehicles from a number of different agencies.” According to a spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety, which owns the SUV, the repair expenses were paid from the state Highway Patrol budget.

 

The accident took place just outside the Grandover Resort, a conference center and golf resort in Greensboro, N.C. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, supporters of N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory hosted a $5,000-per-person retreat at Grandover on June 27 and 28, and Gov. Haley was scheduled to appear on the 27th for a reception, dinner, and forum. The article noted that the event was “expected to draw 100 to 150 corporate representatives and wealthy donors.”

 

“SC Gov. Haley agrees to pay state for campaign expenses,” Andrew Shain, The State, 10/8/2013:

More than a week after the wreck was revealed, the governor’s campaign announced it would start paying mileage for state-owned vehicles taken to campaign events.

 

The campaign has reimbursed the S.C. Department of Public Safety and SLED $1,178 for mileage dating back to Haley’s start in office in January 2011, spokesman Rob Godfrey said. The campaign already has reimbursed the state $7,610 for out-of-state travel.

 

 

No wonder, Nikki Haley has been  called “unethical….Perhaps even corrupt.” 

CG: The State 8/10/2014

CG: “…her actions were unethical. Perhaps even corrupt.”

 

 

“Scoppe: There were signs then; there are signs now,” Cindi Ross Scoppe, The State, 8/10/2014 

Even if then-Rep. Nikki Haley was acting within the confines of the law when she tried to turn votes at the State House and turn around the bureaucrats at DHEC on behalf of the hospital that was paying her a six-figure salary for a job for which she had no apparent qualifications, her actions were unethical. Perhaps even corrupt. Ditto accepting more than $40,000 in consulting fees from a government contractor who hired her for her “good contacts.”

We just can’t trust Nikki Haley.

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