Category Archives: Character

Some people are just rotten, you know that?

bikes 1

I was doing my steps on the USC campus today, and as I walked past the Russell House toward Thomas Cooper Library, something just… didn’t… look… right about the bikes parked at this rack.bike 3

There was something surreal going on, in the Dali sense. Several of the tires seemed to be… melting into the brick surface of the courtyard.

Note the rear tires of the first, third and farthest bikes on the right-hand side of the rack.

Then it registered on me: Someone had taken it on himself to deflate the tires. The first one, with a flayed strip of rubber dangling off it, seemed to have been slashed.

What kind of person does something like that to other people? It obviously wasn’t even a spiteful act aimed at one person, who may or may not have done the perp an ill turn. Everybody was a target…

bike 2

There is a moral hierarchy in human activity

stormy

First, I’m with Max Boot. Let’s turn away from the seamy Stormy Daniels saga and look at the real Trump scandals — the ones that, at least in some cases, we can discuss in front of our children.

But before we do…

A couple of days back, I read in The Washington Post the view that “the most radical” — and apparently most wonderful — part of Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels was that he opted to “refuse to treat Clifford as if she was irresponsible or immoral, or as if she were less than credible simply because of what she does for a living.” The piece elaborated that despite the mainstreaming of porn by the Internet, “working in adult films is not exactly regarded in the same neutral way as waiting tables or working at a law firm.”

It continued:

But, refreshingly, that’s exactly how Cooper and “60 Minutes” treated Clifford’s work. The narration in the segment noted that Clifford “has been acting in, directing and writing adult films for nearly 20 years” and that “she was one of the most popular actresses in the adult industry.”…

I harrumphed and moved on. It was hardly worth engaging, because my views are not substantively different. That is, I don’t consider this woman to be necessarily more or less credible because of what she does for a living. Also, I think Anderson Cooper or any other journalist, or any other person, should always interact with fellow humans respectfully.

My objection was to the suggestion that being a porn star should be regarded in the same “neutral way as waiting tables or working at a law firm.”

No. There is a moral hierarchy in human activity. Waiting tables, for instance, is better than being a bank robber. And working at a law firm, generally speaking, is at least a more tasteful, even nobler choice than performing in pornography. (I don’t care what Juan says.)

Or, to bring it back to the subject at hand, it is better for Anderson Cooper to speak respectfully to this woman than to call her a harlot and dismiss her.

So yeah, I’m with you on the treating people decently and respectfully. I’m just not with you on pretending there’s nothing morally objectionable in being engaged professionally — as “actor,” director, producer, distributor or whatever — in the business of pornography. Just because it’s the oldest profession doesn’t make it the most honorable.

Anyway, I had decided not to address this issue until I saw Kathleen Parker’s column today. As usual (she tends to approach issues as a parent, as do I), she’s of my way of thinking.

For her part, after bemoaning the mainstreaming of the phrase “the porn star and the president,” which she no more sees as a sign of social progress than I do, she rightly focuses her opprobrium on the sleazier of the two — and it’s not “Stormy Daniels:”

This president’s behavior is not up to the standards we have a right to expect from the man or woman we elect to lead the nation. This is the shame and the travesty Trump has perpetrated upon the office he holds. Who cares about Stephanie Clifford, really?…

Not I, except to say two things: Working in porn is not the moral equivalent of waiting tables. But this porn professional is not as morally objectionable as this man who uses other human beings — from Playboy bunnies to national security advisers — and throws them away according to what he sees as benefiting his own momentary, scatterbrained gratification.

Because there is a moral hierarchy to human activity…

McMaster knows all about ‘shameful political statements’

McMaster Twitter

Well, this was kind of disgusting:

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster wasn’t a supporter of National Walkout Day.

The Republican criticized the event, which involved schools across the Palmetto State and several in Columbia as well as the Midlands. He called it “shameful,” and something that was orchestrated by a “left-wing group.”

“It appears that these school children, innocent school children, are being used as a tool by left-wing group to further their own agenda,” McMaster told ETV….

“This is a tricky move, I believe, by a left-wing group, from the information I’ve seen, to use these children as a tool to further their own means,” McMaster said. “It sounds like a protest to me. It’s not a memorial, it’s certainly not a prayer service, it’s a political statement by a left-wing group and it’s shameful.”…

Really? What’s “shameful” about it? Mind you, I’m not a big believer in walkouts and other kinds of protests. I prefer for people to use their words rather than their feet (because, you know, I’m a word guy). And this is not the place to come to if you want to hear about how much wisdom we can learn from the children if only we’ll listen. You know me; I’m an “Alla you kids get offa my lawn” kind of guy, a believer in experience and the perspective that comes with it, the founder of the Grownup Party. I was born a crotchety old man, and thank goodness, I’m finally getting to the age where it doesn’t seem out of place.

But I certainly don’t doubt the sincerity of these kids. There’s a purity in it that experience tends to dilute, or at least temper. They may think and speak as children, but they really mean it.

And yeah, I know Henry means the — shall we use the phrase “outside agitators?” — who he claims put the kids up to it are the “shameful” ones rather than the kids themselves. But I see little indication that the kids have been manipulated. And if they had been, what’s “shameful” about persuading kids to stand up and say, “protect us?”

But Henry says that it is shameful, and sure, he’s a guy who knows all about doing and saying shameful things. Consider:

  • This is the guy who was the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Donald Trump for president, giving him a huge leap forward in viability. And he continues to stay attached at the hip, even as Trump daily demonstrates the madness of that endorsement.
  • This is the guy who vetoed the gas tax increase, without setting forth any viable alternative for fixing our roads — a contemptible act of political cowardice and opportunism that the lawmakers of his own party had no qualms about rising up and overriding.
  • This is the guy who’s going after sanctuary cities in South Carolina, even though there are no sanctuary cities in South Carolina. Given that inconvenience, which prevents him from going out and pummeling said cities, he’s demanded that they prove they’re not sanctuary cities.

All pretty shameful, right?

And now, he’s the guy impugning the integrity of the student movement against school shootings, calling it “shameful.”

Well, he should know…

Condon will now have plenty of power for his electric sofa

Y’all have probably already seen this:

Former S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condon has been appointed chairman of the Santee Cooper board of directors.

Gov. Henry McMaster made the appointment Wednesday. Condon will serve out the term ending in May left vacant when Leighton Lord resigned last December and then be appointed to a full seven-year term.

“I appreciate Gov. McMaster asking me to accept this important challenge,” Condon said in a statement. “As the future and mission of Santee Cooper is debated, my goal is to provide transparent and accountable leadership of the board, with the interests of ratepayers and customers my No. 1 priority.”…

Y’all remember Charlie, right? He was the AG who used to play pandering politics so strenuously that it was embarrassing — at least, it was embarrassing in the pre-Trump era, before standards were drastically lowered. After him, Henry McMaster’s sober stewardship in that office was a great relief.

Charlie Condon

Charlie Condon

Charlie’s probably most famous for saying he’d like South Carolina to replace its electric chair with an “electric sofa” so we could execute multiple prisoners at once.

Here’s the funny thing about Charlie, though — one on one, he was a personable and fairly reasonable guy. Sit down with him, and he seemed OK. Very likable. You just didn’t want him getting in front of a microphone, at which point he seemed to lose all restraint.

Anyway, here’s hoping that we’ll see the private, sensible, one-on-one Charles Condon at Santee Cooper, rather than Press-Release Charlie. We’ve got enough turmoil on the utility front already…

Arnie Vinick on what the presidency was about

This morning during my workout on the elliptical, I was watching “The West Wing” on the Roku, and saw the end of the penultimate episode in the penultimate season. It’s the one in which Arnie Vinick accepts the GOP nomination for president.

And even more than usual, I was made wistful by the evocation of what we once expected from the presidency — that the one who held it would at least do so with a modicum of honor and respect for the office. It was a great speech, especially when he was talking about the president he hoped to replace. He drew some boos from the partisan convention floor when he first mentioned the Democrat, but pushed past that to say:

It is with great humility that I accept your nomination for president of the United States.
Before I share with you my vision for America I want to say a few words about the man who I hope is my predecessor: President Josiah Bartlet.
He has graced and honored his office.
The highest in the land.
The most powerful in the world, some would say. Myself included.
He has served this country steadfastly and laudably and I say this despite our political and philosophical differences.
For in the end, a presidency is more than a simple catalogue of policies pursued, crises weathered, battles lost or won.
It’s a stewardship, a sacred trust, a commitment to sacrifice every fiber of your being — every thought, every moment, every — Every everything in service to your nation.
President Bartlet has done this well and ably and he deserves nothing less than our humble appreciation and heartfelt gratitude.
… my commitment to strive to be worthy of the example of the great men who have gone before.
Presidents walk in giant footsteps.
They have magnificent legacies to uphold.
I stand here on this day and put my name forth as one who aspires to their example, who will daily make that sacrifice.
Who will honor not just the office, but the people that office serves.
Their president of these United States of America…..

Imagine that. A president, or presidential nominee, who could say such words with conviction and not a trace of irony: “a stewardship, a sacred trust, a commitment to sacrifice… (a) commitment to strive to be worthy of the example of the great men who have gone before” — to honor the office and the trust invested by the people. To care about them, and about those things, more than about himself and his fragile ego.

Some of my friends understand this, but others don’t: The thing we have lost in the past year is the dignity of the office. That’s shattered, gone with the wind. And now I can only find it in TV fiction. Good TV fiction, but still make-believe.

Anyway, at this point, as I make my way through the series yet again each morning in the coming days, Vinick has my vote. Matt Santos is going to have to work to change my mind…

westwing_vinick1

Pick out the Trump quote about Billy Graham

Trump twitter

Chris Cillizza posted this:

Here are five from well-known Republican politicians. See if you can pick out the one from President Donald Trump:

1. “Dr. Graham was a counselor to presidents, a pastor to the masses, and most of all — a loving, caring, husband, father, and grandfather. May he Rest In Peace.”

2. “We send our deepest condolences to the Graham family. Billy Graham’s ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions. We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Thank you Billy Graham. God bless you.”

3. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend.”

4. “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

5. “Billy Graham lifted eyes toward heaven and instilled heaven’s values in hearts. The world mourns this man of character, this man of God.”

Not much of a challenge, is it? You just pick the one that reads like it came from a child who’s trying to sound grownup but not succeeding. Or perhaps from someone whose first language is not English, and who knows next to nothing about religion or Western culture in general.

The others, the ones that sound like they came from articulate grownups, are from Lindsey Graham, Mike Pence, former George H.W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

Who are your All-Time, Top Five Presidents?

Rushmore

I started to do this yesterday and then forgot. The piece in The New York Times in which political scholars rank all the presidents — brought to my attention by both Bud and Norm — has reminded me.

In that survey, of course, Donald Trump comes in dead last. There’s no other place to put him. He has rescued Buchanan from holding that spot permanently. Even among Republicans, he’s in the bottom five. That’s the thing about being a scholar — whatever your inclinations, you know certain things.

But other than that, there’s plenty of room for debate — although everybody has the same top three that I have.

Here’s my list:

  1. Lincoln — There’s just no contest. We wouldn’t have or country today if not for Abe. He was such a perfect match for what the nation had to have at that moment that it’s the strongest suggestion in our history that God has a special place in His heart for America. Whether from divine cause or not, his appearance at that time was miraculous. His unmatched wisdom, his stunning eloquence, his almost superhuman political skills — even his sense of humor — all combined not only to keep the country together, but to address head-on the central political problem of our history. For four score and nine years (I’m counting to the 13th Amendment), the best minds in the country had been unable to deal with slavery. Lincoln got it done, decisively.
  2. Roosevelt — For some of the same reasons Lincoln is No. 1 — he came along at just the right time, with just the right skills. His brilliance, his courage, his confidence, his ebullience, his ability as a patrician to connect with and inspire the poor and downcast, got us through not only the Depression but the worst, most destructive war in human history. A few months ago, I visited Warm Springs, and to think the way the man kept the nation’s spirits up while every day was such a physical struggle for him fills me with awe.
  3. Washington — His time as president isn’t necessarily what impresses us most — his own particular talents may have been more clearly on display as a general. In the political sphere, Madison and Hamilton were proving moving and shaking things more. But given what we have today, the dignity he brought to the office, the bearing, is truly something to be appreciated. And he quit rather than run again after his second term, he relinquished power rather than become the monarch he might have been. We owe a lot to the American Cincinnatus.
  4. Johnson — Here’s where I break with the experts. Even the Democrats among the scholars place him no higher than 8th. But considering how little the federal government has done since then, I remain amazed at the things he pushed through in 1964-65, the sweeping civil rights legislation, the significant steps in the direction of single-payer health care (alas, the last big steps we took.) Yep, everybody blames him for how he handled Vietnam — but he didn’t set out to do that; he just badly mishandled what he had inherited. He wanted to concentrate on his domestic programs. And we’d probably all be better off today if he had manage to do that.
  5. Truman — OK, this was kind of a tossup among several people. I wanted to name my favorite Founder, John Adams — but he wasn’t all that distinguished as president, and there was the matter of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Teddy Roosevelt looms large, and he did a lot — in his own ways, he was as energetic a leader as his kinsman Franklin and LBJ. But I don’t want to get into a big argument defending the imperialism (and here we’re talking real imperialism, instead of the imaginary kind people have fantasized about in modern times). So let’s go with the unassuming guy whom everyone underestimated, but who got us through the end of the war that FDR had almost won, then won the peace, shaping America’s leadership role in building the postwar world order. And don’t forget the way he integrated the military, one of the first big steps toward desegregation. We could really use a man like him again.

So… whom would y’all pick?

A guy who knew where the buck stopped.

A guy who knew where the buck stopped.

I miss our two former party chairmen, Matt & Jaime

In reaction to disclosures regarding Rick Quinn’s case, former state GOP Chairman Matt Moore Tweeted this:

I retweeted it, and former state Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison responded:

Always a class act!

Yes, Jaime, and so are you.

I normally don’t care much for parties, as y’all know, but I often approve of some of their members. And Matt and Jaime were unusual party chairs. They were friends rather than enemies, and worked together when they could for the betterment of South Carolina. For instance, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Later, they both came out for reforming two of the greatest scourges of partisanship: gerrymandering and straight-ticket voting.

Our politics needs more guys like these two…

Matt, Yours Truly and Jaime celebrating the removal of the flag.

Matt, Yours Truly and Jaime celebrating the removal of the flag.

Trump backers fear he might talk like a grownup. They need not worry…

energy-and-environment

Get a load of this:

Some Supporters Fear Trump Will Lose Hard Edge in State of Union Speech

WASHINGTON — “American carnage” appears to be out. Bipartisanship is in. And not everyone is happy about it. When President Trump delivers his first State of the Union address on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, his most fervent supporters are anxious that he will squander the most high-profile moment of his presidency with a soft speech that bends more to the predilections of the political establishment in Washington and less to the populist army that sent him there to drain the swamp….

Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser, is in charge of writing this year’s address, which could foreshadow the inclusion of the kind of hard-edge, anti-immigrant language that was a hallmark of Mr. Miller’s speeches for Mr. Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But even so, the hard-line nationalist wing of Mr. Trump’s coalition is worried that he is about to go soft again — to reach for bipartisanship instead of ideological purity and talk about cooperation with Democrats when he should be attacking the corruption of Washington, especially in the immigration battle brewing in Congress….

Imagine that. They’re afraid he’s going to speak like a rational, informed grownup.

Well, they shouldn’t worry. This is Donald Trump. He might stick to a script for about five minutes, but he’ll be back in babbling tantrum mode soon enough. Whatever he says tonight, tomorrow he’ll wake up as the same vulgar ignoramus they elected.

If my happiness depended on Trump continuing to rant and rave, I’d be the least worried person on the planet…

OK, Trav, this is kind of silly

This came in from SC Democrats over the weekend:

A PORNSTAR, THE PRESIDENT, AND HENRY MCMASTER
Henry McMaster rolled out the red carpet for President Trump, will he do the same for the president’s mistress this weekend?330px-Stormy_Daniels_2010
Columbia, SC — Over the last several days, the Wall Street Journal revealed that President Trump’s lawyer used a Delaware corporation to pay hush money to pornstar Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 election to keep her from revealing an affair she had with the president while he was married to his third wife, First Lady Melania Trump. This weekend, Stormy Daniels will be visiting Greenville for a public appearance in which she will certainly talk about the president.
“Henry McMaster and Catherine Templeton have gone above and beyond to associate themselves with everything related to President Trump,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. “From what we know about the president, Stormy is bound to be his fourth wife and I can’t believe that Henry and Catherine would miss the opportunity to seek her endorsement. It’s the perfect time for them to talk about their South Carolina values as she kicks off what she is calling her ‘Make America Horny Again’ tour in Greenville.”
###

Yes, the thing about the porn star is a part of the general pattern of sleaze (along with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the multiple allegations of sexual assault, the behavior running beauty pageants, the casinos, professional wrestling and reality TV) of the most unfit man ever to hold our highest office.

And yes, wrapping yourself in the Trump mantle means wrapping yourself in sleaze. It’s a legitimate point, as far as it goes.

But this effort to be cute kind of misses the mark. Perhaps it’s the “Stormy is bound to be his fourth wife” part that throws it off….

White House shocker: Trump passes cognitive test!

crazy

Reading this, I couldn’t help think of a recurring joke from “The Big Bang Theory.” The character Sheldon Cooper defends himself by saying, “I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.”

Here’s what I refer to:

President Trump’s official doctor, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, told reporters Tuesday that the president’s “overall health is excellent.”

Jackson said Trump, 71, requested a cognitive test and did well on it. Jackson said he would not have administered a cognitive test if Trump had not asked for one, saying he interacts with the president daily and saw no reason for such an exam.

The test includes asking a patient to name several animals, draw a clock with the hands at a certain time, copy a cube and recall a short list of words, among others.

Jackson said Trump is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 239 pounds. The doctor said he recommended the president lose weight and commit to a regular exercise routine. A realistic goal for Trump, according to Jackson, is to lose 10 to 15 pounds over the next year…

Of course, that’s not quite the same as being a “very stable genius.” And the finding doesn’t seem entirely consistent with a patient who calls himself that

Graham should be more specific about what he heard

You were there, Senator. So what did the president say, and how did he say it?

You were there, Senator. So what did the president say, and how did he say it?

Since some Republicans, after a day or two of thinking about it, started claiming Trump didn’t really say “s___hole” (hilariously, one of the lines of defense has been to claim he really said “s___house“) it’s refreshing that Lindsey Graham has stuck to his original version of the story, as Andy Shain reports:

Trouble is, his original story remains vague and indirect. He seems to want to have his cake and eat it, too — to call the president out for his racist assertions without quite, you know, calling him out.

We know from colleague Tim Scott that Graham told him the media reports of what Trump said were “basically correct.”

And Graham has made sure that we know that he gave Trump a piece of his mind in response to, you know, whatever he said:

When Trump made the incendiary remark, Graham spoke up, telling the president that “America is an idea, not a race.”

“I tried to make it very clear to the president that when you say ‘I’m an American,’ what does that mean?” Graham said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re black or white, rich or poor. It means that you buy into an ideal of self-representation, compassion, tolerance, the ability to practice one’s religion without interference and the acceptance of those who are different.

“So at the end of the day, an American is a person who believes in ideals that have stood the test of time,” Graham added. “It’s not where you come from that matters, it’s what you’re willing to do once you get here.”…

Agreed, senator. But since people are standing up and saying Trump didn’t say what he said, it would be helpful if you’d be the truthteller and give us a precise account of what you heard.

As the late Howard Baker might have said, What did the president say, and how did he say it?

Yes, Trump violated this blog’s standards today

Yesterday, Trump welcomed the prime minister of Norway which, as he explained today, is NOT a "s__thole country." I'll bet she's relieved to know that.

Yesterday, Trump welcomed the prime minister of Norway which, as he explained today, is NOT a “s__thole country.” I’ll bet she’s relieved to know that.

I’ve been so busy today doing actual work, I didn’t know what Bryan was talking about when he texted, “Would the president’s comment today violate your blog’s civility standard? Assume he was posting under his own name.”

So I went and looked, and the answer is “yes,” of course it would. It also poses a problem to newspapers across the country that normally don’t allow such language to foul their pages. The Gray Lady, The New York Times, refused to use it in a headline. The breaking bulletin on their site said ” Using vulgar language, President Trump said the U.S. should welcome immigrants from Norway, not places like Haiti or Africa.” And the headline after you get to the story said “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

But the president of the United States said it, and it’s a newspaper’s job to report, so they held their noses and quoted him directly in the body of the story:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and African countries, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Mr. Trump’s remarks left members of Congress attending the meeting in the Cabinet Room alarmed and mystified. They were there discussing an emerging bipartisan deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity without authorization to discuss the explosive proceedings of the private meeting.

When Mr. Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit, he asked if they could be left out of the plan, according to the people familiar with the conversation, asking, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”…

So I just violated my own policy, which is not to allow words that are unsuitable in a family newspaper. I didn’t like doing it. But then, I don’t like having this crude ignoramus as president of the United States, and stuff like this is one of the reasons why.

Being less prim, The Washington Post went ahead and used the word in their headline, since the word itself was half the story. That’s defensible, perhaps even laudable in these crass times in which we live.

The Guardian used it in the headline, but the Brits are less puritanical about words than we are.

The State used it in the headline, but good luck finding the story on the website — it’s not on the home page. (The Post and The Guardian are both leading with the story.)

There is something truly unAmerican in the way Pence prostrated himself before Trump

I’d been hearing about the way the veep prostrated himself before Trump in the Cabinet meeting Wednesday, lavishing treacly praise upon him, slathering it shamelessly.

I just watched it, and I’m sorry I did. It’s bad enough having this man who demeans our country every moment that he holds the presidency. It’s even more depressing to see the man who would replace him, if we could rid ourselves of him, abase himself in such a orgy of sycophancy.

He lowers himself so, I hear overtones of something that doesn’t belong in America, or anywhere else in the West. I hear an Eastern potentate being addressed as the “Flower of Courtesy, Nutmeg of Consolation, Rose of Delight,” by a 19th-century supplicant begging forgiveness for imposing his miserable self upon the time of such a glorious personage.

Not to cast aspersions on other cultures or anything, but we just don’t talk to anyone this way in this country. At least, not before now.

The fact that we can’t see Pence’s face offers me a sliver of hope: Perhaps his eyes are blinking Morse Code: “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”…

toady

Hate to say it, but I don’t see this Trump thing ending well

It's not easy to keep a republic going. Ask the French -- they're on their Fifth, in less time than we've had one.

It’s not easy to keep a republic going. Ask the French — they’re on their Fifth, in less time than we’ve had one.

Some good people who place their faith in the rule of law may have gained encouragement from the guilty plea of Michael Flynn. After all, this is the case that Trump tried to get Comey to back off on, before firing the FBI director. Time to start up the impeachment apparatus!

Others will cite the continuing stream of evidence that the president is not right in the head, from making “Pocahontas” jokes when he’s supposed to be honoring the Navajo Code Talkers to telling people that he doubts that was him on the “Access Hollywood” tape — more than a year after admitting that it was. Obviously, a case for the 25th Amendment!

But setting aside the facts that a) Republicans would have to initiate and drive either of those processes for removing a grossly unfit president, and b) Republicans have shown us time and time again that they are too terrified of Trump’s supporters even to mutter a word against him, I don’t think it’s time to get optimistic that this madness will end soon.

Even if Republicans were ready, willing and able to take those steps, I’m pretty sure the original problem would remain: Trump’s fans would go ballistic.

The terrible truth that faces us is that no amount of evidence of Trump’s unfitness is likely to ever persuade these folks of the truth. They are inoculated against evidence. If the truth makes Trump look bad (and it most assuredly does), then to them it’s not the truth; it’s “fake news.” As unlikely as it would seem to most rational people, they actually seem to believe that. But whether they believe it or not, they act as though they do, which is what matters.

But so what? Most of the country can’t stand Trump, so those people can’t control what happens! Right?

Wrong, at least so far. Remember, most of the country held Trump in contempt at the time of the election, and yet here we are. More importantly, since the early 90s Republicans have been enormously successful at drawing electoral districts so that most of them are safe for Republicans. This, however, instead of empowering the people who drew those lines, has undermined them. It has caused them to walk in fear of someone running to the right of them in their next primary. Consequently, as a result both the election of a lot of those extremists and the fear of such occurrences on the part of more moderate Republicans, the party has moved farther and farther out onto its own fringe.

Even if the current GOP House got up the nerve to impeach Trump, it’s highly likely that what they fear would occur: They would be replaced by others who are more extreme than they are.

But forget the insidious effects of gerrymandering. The fact is that the nation can ill afford to have the Trump bloc, minority though it is, believing they were cheated out of having their guy in the White House. I’m not talking about armed insurrection here, although we can’t totally rule that out. I’m saying our system of government would have its greatest crisis of legitimacy it has ever faced. (At least, since 1860-65.)

Remember the snit fit Democrats had after Gore was found to be the loser in Florida (and he was the loser in Florida)? It went on for eight years, and many of them still believe the U.S. Supreme Court “stole” the election and “gave it” to Bush. And these were relatively sensible people, not a cult that worships at the altar of “alternative facts.” (In fact, there was one way you could have counted the votes so that Gore won — just not the way Gore had demanded they be counted. That way, and most ways, he lost.)

There is already ample evidence that the common vision of what America is all about has largely been lost, and not only among Trump voters who think “liberal democracy” means a democracy run by Nancy Pelosi. David Brooks had a good piece on that a couple of weeks ago.

As divided as we are, can you imagine what it would be like if some 30 percent of the electorate — a bloc utterly immune to contrary evidence — was convinced that it had been robbed?

How would we ever get back on an even keel? And even if the next occupant of the Oval Office is the best president we’ve had in 50 years, how would he or she lead us?

There was a thoughtful piece in The Washington Post today arguing that the only good way to get rid of Trump will be at the ballot box in 2020. But given the facts on the ground at this moment, can we even be confident that that would happen?

(Get back to me in a few days. I’m still reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon, and I’ve finally gotten up to the events of 49 B.C., and steeping oneself in that era is not a thing likely to inspire confidence in the staying power of republics…)

To cross or not to cross?

To cross or not to cross? Either way, the Republic’s pretty messed up…

Would the real Lindsey Graham please stand up?

Who is this man, and what has he done with Lindsey Graham?

Who is this man, and what has he done with Lindsey Graham?

I’ve called Lindsey Graham a stand-up guy here before, and I’d really like to have reason to do so again. After all, we’re talking about the Republican most likely to speak truth about the madness during the long nightmare of the 2016 election.

But it has come to this:

I don’t understand it. I really don’t. Yeah, I know a lot of GOP pols have concluded that they can’t be themselves and get their party’s nomination in this environment. But he doesn’t face re-election for another three years! By that time, will the Republican Party even exist anymore? Not at the rate it’s going…

Finally looked at the Nancy Mace video. Wish I hadn’t…

Nancy Mace, in a photo from her campaign website.

Nancy Mace, in a photo from her campaign website.

Somebody brought this to my attention on Twitter last week. Seeing it was video, I didn’t click on it (I frequently check Twitter in places where that would be annoying to other people), and soon forgot about it.

That is, I forgot about it until Nancy Mace, as expected, won her runoff last night for the GOP nomination for Jim Merrill’s old House seat, District 99. Suddenly more people were mentioning the video.

So I went and found it.

First, for those who need reminding, Nancy is known for three things, mostly for the first:

  1. She was the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel, back in 1999.
  2. She was Will Folks’ partner for a time in the FITSNews blog. Will handled the content, she dealt with the technical side. (At one point I met with her to ask how they worked that out, looking for ideas for turning this blog more into a business. I tried setting up something similar, but it didn’t work out.) Here’s Will’s coverage of her win last night.
  3. She was one of the crowd of folks who ran against Lindsey Graham in the primary last time around.

Now, conventional wisdom would have it that she’s positioned to cruise into the House. Because, you know, it’s a GOP seat, and they don’t draw them for Democrats to win.

There are only a couple of factors that might stand in the way of that. First, Democrats seem pretty enthusiastic about their candidate, Cindy Boatwright. Second, there’s that video, which has been mentioned quite a few times on social media since last night.

So I went back and looked at it. The first person you see is Nancy Mace:

Perhaps not wishing to share the part about “that’s not her husband… or a man,” a number of Democrats have Tweeted about it separately, especially in recent hours, now that they know whom they’re facing.

Here’s Cindy Boatwright’s statement:

I hope they can get to the point of discussing factors other than this between now and election day Jan. 16. But whether they do or not, this is likely to get interesting…

boatwright twitter

Rep. Caskey in May on the governor’s lack of leadership

With next year’s race for governor beginning to take shape in recent days, I got to thinking back to the moment when Henry McMaster lost me.

Speaker Jay Lucas and the rest of the GOP leadership in the House, eventually joined by the GOP-led Senate, had shown courage in stepping up to pass a bill that reformed our Highway department and, for the first time in 30 years, raised the tax on gasoline in order to pay for road repairs.

Lawmakers had hoped, after two governors in a row who were more about anti-government posturing than governing, that they would have a pragmatic partner in McMaster, someone who was serious about South Carolina’s needs and how to address them.

They were wrong. And they were bitterly disappointed.

I remembered reading at the time that that disappointment was eloquently expressed in a floor speech by an unlikely spokesman — my own rookie representative, Republican Micah Caskey. I missed his speech at the time. But I went back and watched it this week. Here it is. If you watch it, you can see why one observer responded this way, according to a reporter with The State:

Freshmen just don’t say things like this to their own party’s governor. But Micah did.

The relevant part of the speech — after Micah pays his respects to his new colleagues and notes this is his first time to take the podium — starts at 5:50.

His one prop, and the object of his scorn, was a copy of McMaster’s veto message, delivered the night before. Some excerpts:

“What this is,” he says of the letter, “is not leadership.”

“Its intellectual dishonesty is only outweighed by its intellectual bankruptcy.”

“The governor surely had an opportunity to lead on this issue. He knew there was a problem. He could have done it…. He didn’t do it.”

“He chose to remain silent. He chose not to act. He chose not to lead.”

“Had he put forth an idea, we could have gone from there…”

“I don’t like raising taxes… I didn’t want to have to vote ‘yes’ for this bill… but I did, because that’s what leadership requires: Admitting reality and stepping forward and addressing it.”

“What it is not is cowering below, hiding behind political pablum, waiting on somebody else to fix it because you were worried about your own career.”

Waving the letter aloft, he said “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a serious message. This is not a serious proposal. This is not a serious alternative to what it is that ails South Carolina today. It is not. It is not.”

“What this is… this… is politics. South Carolina doesn’t need more politics. South Carolina needs serious answers to serious problems.”

Of the alternative the governor suggested, Caskey said: “We’re gonna bond out road paving over 20 years for something that’ll depreciate in 10. That’s his idea.”

“That’s not a serious answer.”

“What I am saying in my vote to override the veto is that this (holds up the letter), this is not good enough. We need more leadership.”

He tells his colleagues that however they vote, “I know you’ve been engaged. You led.” Unlike the governor.

He concluded by saying that a vote to override would say, “We deserve better. We deserve leadership. And you can take this message…”

(He crumples it and tosses it aside.)

… and keep it.”

After Micah’s speech, the House voted 95-18 to override the veto. The Senate followed suit, 32-12.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m proud to have Mr. Caskey as my representative. This video helps illustrate why.

tossRep. Micah Caskey throwing away the governor’s letter at the end of his speech.

 

Sen. Graham, please stop pushing this awful plan

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia. FILE PHOTO

If Lindsey Graham succeeds in selling the Graham-Cassidy proposal for repealing Obamacare, it is what he will be remembered for.

At the moment, to watch him as bounces about on an apparent high because of the way Republicans are lining up behind his plan, that’s a thought that would please him.

But it ought to chill his heart.

Sen. Graham is a man who has courageously stood for wise policies at great political risk — immigration comes to mind, as does his efforts over the years to break partisan gridlock over judicial nominations. But with this, he is completely on the wrong track, poised to make health care less available — especially to the poor and vulnerable — than it was before the Affordable Care Act.

As The Los Angeles Times notes:

Not content just to roll back the expansion of Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act, it would cap funding in a way that would threaten services for Medicaid’s core beneficiaries, including impoverished disabled people and families….

Graham likes to talk about federalism — normally a word that pleases me, invoking the principle of subsidiarity — in selling his idea of taking federal money for healthcare coverage and handing it out to the states as block grants.

Since I (just like Lindsey) live in a state that has bullheadedly refused to expand healthcare coverage even when the feds were almost entirely paying for it, that idea is a nonstarter. Worse, it would take funding away from wiser states that have tried to cover more uninsured people.

Do you trust South Carolina’s current leadership to actually expand access to healthcare with such a block grant? I do not.

But perhaps the worst thing about the proposal is the way Graham — and other Republicans desperate to do something, anything to “repeal Obamacare” before the end of this month — are rushing pell-mell to push it through, absent careful consideration and without a CBO assessment.

Most of them, I gather, could not care less about the impact of this proposal on actual Americans, as long as they pass something they can toss as anti-Obama red meat to their base.

The American people do not want this bill:

The block-grant proposal at the center of Cassidy-Graham is astoundingly unpopular, with just 26 percent of all voters and 48 percent of Republicans telling pollsters that they favor it….

Frankly, I’m confident that it would be less popular if people knew more about it — which they don’t, because of the way this is being jammed through.

“Success” in passing this abomination could prove disastrous for Republicans — not only on the national level, but in the state legislatures they so overwhelmingly control, since blame for the mess it would create would be in the states’ laps.

Some speculate that in the long run it would make Bernie Sanders’ single-payer pipe dream viable, such would be the backlash it would cause. This is ironic, given the mean-spirited way Graham taunts Bernie in trying to sell his plan to the right: ““Bernie, this ends your dream.”

I’ve never been a Bernie Sanders fan, but that Trumpist applause line of Graham’s makes me more sympathetic to the cranky old socialist than I have ever been. After all, health care is the one issue on which Bernie is actually right.

Wiser Republicans, such as my man John Kasich, are trying their best to pull their party back from this precipice:

In a letter to Senate leaders, the group of 10 governors argued against the Graham-Cassidy bill and wrote that they prefer the bipartisan push to stabilize the insurance marketplaces that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had been negotiating before talks stalled Tuesday evening.

As I’ve said before, that’s what Graham and other more-or-less centrist Republicans should be doing — backing the far more sensible Alexander approach. Instead, our senior senator is rushing madly toward a disastrous policy.

Sen. Graham’s senses have deserted him on this matter, even to the point that he seems to exult that the Trump administration is backing his plan. That fact alone should sober him up and cause him to realize he’s on the wrong path, but it’s having the opposite effect.

And Lindsey Graham knows better. Or he used to…

‘The Vietnam War,’ Episode Two: ‘Riding the Tiger’

As yesterday, I’m not going to try to review or summarize the entire episode. You can go watch it any time at the website.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to concentrate on it straight through. For whatever reason, the AT&T Uverse listing had the wrong time, and it was halfway over before I knew it was on. So I watched the second half, then the first. During it all, my real focus was on what was happening in Dominica, as you might imagine. So I went back after — we were up anyway, hoping for news out of the Caribbean — and watched some parts a third time.

But as I did yesterday, I’ll mention one thing that sort of blew me away.

It was that little voice memo that JFK left to posterity a few days after the coup in Saigon that resulted in the deaths of South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm and his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu.

Make no mistake, Diem was bad news. When the U.S. leaned on him to get him to stop oppressing the Buddhist majority in the country, and Kennedy decided to send heavyweight Henry Cabot Lodge as his new ambassador to emphasize the point, Diem waited until the old ambassador left and Lodge had not yet arrived, cut all wires leading to U.S. offices in Saigon, and rounded up thousands of monks and others across the country.

Diem

Diem

Like I say, bad news.

But the coup was badly botched form its inception. A memo was sent by a junior state department official to the generals plotting against Diem that urged them to go ahead. He ran it by JFK — over the phone, while Kennedy was on vacation at Hyannis Port. Kennedy didn’t hear the entire contents of the memo, and OKed it thinking his senior policy advisers were on board. They were not, and many would not have been.

A total clusteryouknowwhat.

But that’s not what impressed me. What impressed me was this a historical footnote that sent shivers down my spine. You might think it a small thing.

When narrator Peter Coyote says, “Three days later, he dictated his own rueful account of the coup, and his concerns for the future,” I thought to myself, It would be amazing if we could hear that account in his own voice, but I assumed that was impossible.

So I was amazed when I actually did hear Kennedy himself expressing his regret and self-blame. Apparently he said it into a Dictaphone or some other recording technology of the time.

You can hear it above. The most powerful part of it:

I, uh, feel that uh we must bear a good deal of responsibility for it, beginning with our cable of August in which we suggested the coup.

I, uh, should not have given my consent to it without a roundtable conference.

I was, uh, shocked by the death of Diem and Nhu… the way he was killed made it particularly abhorrent.

I found what Kennedy said to be stunningly frank. He took responsibility and analyzed his own failings as dispassionately as though he were examining an ant under a magnifying glass. Beyond his trademark “uhs,” which always punctuated his speech, there is no hesitation.

It was even more striking to me giving our current maddening experience with a president who is never at fault, who owns up to nothing, who lashes out childishly at anyone who might suggest that he could be. A man whose grasp of world affairs… well, go listen to his appalling speech at the U.N. today.

Knowing it was to be left to posterity, Kennedy could have tried to burnish his reputation, fix blame elsewhere, obfuscate. After all, it was a complicated situation, and very smart people in his administration were saying the development was on the whole a positive one. But he didn’t. His honesty, and the clarity of his thinking amid such shocking events, is startling.

Three weeks later, he was dead….

jfk consent