Category Archives: Civility

The vice-presidential debate last night

Still from NYT video feed.

Still from NYT video feed.

Yeah, I watched it until the end, although I want you to know I didn’t enjoy it.

I liked this Tweet:

… to which I responded by reTweeting, with the added comment, “Rephrase: ‘Please, be gentlemen!’…”

A few general observations:

  • If you have to pick a winner, it was Mike Pence. But it’s less that he won, and more that Tim Kaine lost it — threw it away, really. Yeah, I understand that the running mate is supposed to be the attack dog so that his principal seems more likable, but now we have a situation in which neither Hillary nor Kaine is seen as likable — which means, I don’t think we saw the real Tim Kaine. He was playing a different character last night, and it was awful.
  • When I say Kaine lost, we’re talking in terms of the impressions we got of the candidates’ characters, not about issues. I can’t begin to tell you who did better on issues, although I’ll say that with some exceptions, Kaine did better on facts, especially when the facts involved Donald Trump — which most did. Kaine would cite an incontrovertible fact, and Pence would look incredulous, pained, saddened that Kaine would say such awful things — when all Kaine was doing was quoting Trump. Since Pence stayed above the fray, but failed to offer any substantive defense of his principal, some analysts today are saying Pence won, but Trump did not. (The one way Trump would be a winner is if he did a credible impression of his running mate in the next debate. But is he capable of that?)
  • About that moderator… Last night, I saw something bizarre happening over on Facebook — a couple of Trump fans I’m friends with were protesting vehemently about how the moderator was biased against their guy. One said of Pence, ” Poor guy had to deal with PLANNED INTERRUPTIONS FROM TWO!” Another said, “Can you not see that the questions are biased?” Which kind of made me wonder what debate they were watching. The moderator was a cipher, a nonentity, utterly ineffectual. I know that she asked some questions, but I can’t remember any of them. She was like a substitute teacher in middle school, pathetically trying to keep order, completely in vain. The moments I came closest to turning the thing off was when all three of them were talking at once, and no one listening to anyone.
  • I started off praising them for their civility and maturity, and then having to quickly eat those words. Which were not tasty.
  • Civility returned at the end when both men talked about their faith, for which I was grateful. It caused me to Tweet that “At least they’re not shouting over each other over their religious beliefs. So our politics have made SOME progress since the 15th century.” Toward the end of that segment, Pence did get on Kaine’s case a bit over abortion, but then he was just saying what I was thinking — especially after having read this piece that morning in the WSJ. And it stayed civil.
  • I liked a point that Mark Shields made after the debate was over on PBS. He said yeah, the veep candidate is supposed to build up the head of the ticket, but Kaine was just too fawning when talking about Hillary. Absolutely. Yeah, she’s way, way better than Trump, but she’s not that awesome.

Shields also said this, which I appreciated: “This was supposed to be the nice guys.” Right. So the night was a great disappointment — especially Kaine. I still think he’s a guy I’d like in a quiet meeting in an editorial boardroom. But he did himself no favors last night…

For the next debate, instead of these media types, how about having a Marine drill sergeant 'moderate?'

For the next debate, instead of these media types, how about having a Marine drill sergeant ‘moderate?’

Graham: ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves’

Speaking of intemperate speech…

This is in The Washington Post today:

After long and arduous negotiations, Israel and the Obama administration have agreed on a landmark military aid package that would increase U.S. aid to Israel over the next 10 years. But the White House is reluctant to sign the deal because officials are upset one leading lawmaker won’t go along: Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

graham-mug

Lindsey Graham/File photo.

The new agreement, which officials say would raise Israel’s annual package of military aid from $3.1 billion to $3.3 billion starting in 2018, is a complicated deal that both the White House and the Israeli government badly want to announce before President Obama leaves office, and preferably much sooner. A senior administration official described the deal as “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history.” It’s Obama’s parting attempt to establish a legacy of strong U.S. support for Israel’s security. The negotiations on the memorandum of understanding (MOU), as it is known, have been finished for several weeks.

But before announcing it, the White House wants to make sure that Congress won’t undermine the deal by going its own way on aid to Israel. Graham, the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the foreign affairs budget, has already marked up a bill that would give Israel $3.4 billion next year, more than the number the White House negotiated.

The administration hasn’t complained to Graham directly; it told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about its problem, and he talked to Graham about it in a phone call last month. But in Graham’s view, Congress has no obligation to agree to the deal, given that it was not included in the negotiations….

I can understand Lindsey Graham being irritated at the Obama administration for enlisting Bibi to lobby him. He is right to say, “If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill.” I can also see his objection to the administration trying to steer the appropriations process, a legislative prerogative.

But I don’t appreciate him saying this to the prime minister of Israel: “Tell the administration to go F themselves.”

That’s uncalled-for, and I expect better from him.

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans

Khan

OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

Trigger warning: This may insult your intelligence

And it also might give you stressful flashbacks to some really maddening conversations you had during your college days.

So you are warned. This is not a safe space.

So much has been written about the newer sorts of ideological correctness on the campuses of American universities, mostly by haughty old white guys such as George Will and Bill Kristol, just harrumphing away.

51xdxNQIQ1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Or for that matter by Kim R. Holmes (don’t worry! even though the name is “Kim,” it’s another oppressor white guy, refusing to check his privilege!), the author of The Closing of the Liberal Mind, which was was reviewed this morning in The Wall Street Journal.

So unless academia is your milieu, you’ve probably only heard such terms as “trigger warnings,” “safe space,” “cultural appropriation” and “microaggressions” within a disapproving context.

So it was kind of a nice idea to give the kids themselves a say in the matter, and over the weekend The Washington Post did that with a story headlined, “The new vocabulary of protest: What students mean by terms like ‘safe space’.”

Trouble is, while I feel for the student who says she doesn’t think the desire for a “safe space” or concern about microaggressions “makes me a stupid, naive child,” most of the quotes in the piece… how shall I put this?…

Basically, they read like the quotes a satirist would construct in creating fictional students who espouse the notions that The Closing of the Liberal Mind criticizes. A satirist who know nothing about these terms other than what he read by the critics.

If you’re likely to harrumph along with Will, this piece isn’t going to change your mind a bit.

These kids are sensitive. Just ask them; they’ll tell you. Like hothouse flowers. And they talk just like people who have a worldview that is entirely rooted in that sort of sensitivity.

So, stereotypes are not dispelled. Some samples:

Fadumo Osman: When I wear my traditional clothing I’m a foreigner and I’m criminalized for it, but when you wear it you make money off of it, and it’s cute….

Liam Baronofsky: One microaggression is like one paper cut, so it’s something small but it hurts the person at the core of their identity level. But it happens so often, you come home every day with like 15 paper cuts … and it really hurts….

But perhaps you’ll disagree. Go read the story, and let me know what you think.

 

Um… N.H. people were actually SERIOUS when they told pollsters they would vote for Trump

For months, we’ve been hearing, “Yeah, people tell pollsters they’re going to vote for Trump, but there haven’t been any actual votes yet, and there’s no way that actual, normal people are going to go to the polls and vote for a guy like that.”

Well, yes, they are. Or somebody is.

The “don’t worry” crowd pointed to Iowa and said, “See? He didn’t win.” But you see, if you’re talking actual votes, Iowa shouldn’t count. A caucus is… weird. The only way to find out whether people were lying to pollsters is to have a real vote; it’s the only true test. People have to go into that booth alone, and with no one but God to witness what they really do, pick one candidate and no others.

And actual people who have enough on the ball to register to vote and find their way to a polling place on the right day showed up and really, truly voted for Trump. They weren’t lying to pollsters just to see if they were gullible enough to believe it! You might not find this amazing because you’ve been paying attention to the day-to-day, but I take the long view. Imagine someone telling you this would happen a year ago, or 10 years ago — after all, we’ve known Trump and what he was like for a long time.

Imagine, if you can, the Founding Fathers beholding this spectacle. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? Can you? See how they’re shuddering?

This is not just the guy who has been leading in the polls all along, which makes this result seem pretty anticlimactic. If you’re thinking of it that way, you’re not thinking hard enough. Think of it this way: This is the guy who parents don’t want their kids to see on television because they don’t want their kids to know that adults can act that way, and get away with it. At least, that’s the way I thought grownups were. I was pretty embarrassed over the weekend when one of my 8-year-old twin granddaughters, on her way to bed, stopped in front of the TV while the GOP debate was on and asked what those men were doing. There was an exchange going on that involved Trump.

“They’re um… they, uh… they want to be… well, president. Ummm… Have you brushed your teeth? Better get to it!” See, that’s the kind of thing that grownups say. Not stuff like this.

This isn’t about issues. It’s about basic social behavior. It’s about the foundation of civil society. We grownups tell kids not to boast, not to bully, not to tear other people down, not to lie, not to cuss, not to talk about themselves so much. Don’t we?

Anyway, that’s one result of today’s voting. Some others:

  • John Kasich is running second, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. Maybe he’ll get some respect now, and I think he deserves some.
  • Ted Cruz (who won Iowa), Marco Rubio (who won the “normal candidate” contest in Iowa) and Jeb Bush are all clumped up together — with Bush slightly in the lede as I type this! That’s with only about a quarter of the vote counted, so who knows who will really come in third? But that sets up a real contest for the non-Trump, non-Cruz field coming in to South Carolina, which is exciting. Not terribly good for Rubio, but at least Bush can feel like he managed to achieve something with all that money.
  • Oh, yeah: Bernie Sanders won on the Democratic side, soundly beating Hillary Clinton, who managed to beat Barack Obama there in 2008. So, he’s for real, too. But we kinda knew that already. Hillary still has South Carolina, and if she loses here, well, she really, truly is jinxed. (Either that, or we men, determined to deny her and all those women who see themselves in her, really plotted and schemed well to keep them down. I just mention this to keep it in the mix, since some will believe it.)

And… well, that’s about it for now. In fact, I’ve probably said things there is not yet enough data to support, and I’ll look like an idiot in the morning. But this is the way it’s looking now.

Thoughts?

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

In the studio with Todd and Joel on Cynthia Hardy’s show

Studio

Just sharing this shot of Rep. Todd Atwater, Sen. Joel Lourie and me in the studio during Cynthia Hardy’s On Point radio show on the Big DM this evening.

Note that Todd is alert and looking around, Joel is playing the nerd studying the notes he had brought with him about the SOTU and Gov. Haley’s response, and I’m staring at my phone, probably writing this Tweet:

Which prompted Rob Godfrey from the governor’s office to respond:

Yes, this is a very self-referential blog post. But then, blogs tend to be that way as a medium — they are to journalism what selfies are to photography.

We had a good discussion, with everyone on board with agreeing with both the president and the governor in their calls for greater civility and less negativity. In fact, if our Legislature consisted entirely of Joel Louries and Todd Atwaters, we’d get a lot more done at the State House.

Not that there wasn’t sincere disagreement. Todd and Joel had a pretty good back-and-forth about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. At one point I almost jumped in on Joel’s side, when Todd said it was a shame the president didn’t meet Republicans halfway on the issue.

Hey, I was about to say, the president and the Democrats did meet Republicans halfway and more from the get-go — before the debate on the Act was joined, before the president was even elected.

That happened when Obama didn’t run advocating for single-payer, which is the one really rational approach to healthcare. And he backed away from that in deference to the wall of Republican resistance that already existed against it. So he and the other Dems started out with a compromise position.

But then the subject changed, and we didn’t return to it. Just as well. I was being presented to listeners as the guy in the middle between Joel the Democrat and Todd the Republican, and it would have just confused everybody if I had jumped out on the one issue where I’m to the left of Bernie Sanders. That is, that’s where my position has been cast popularly — mostly by Republican resistance that has made Democrats afraid to embrace it. I don’t consider it to be to the left of anything. To me, it’s the commonsense, nonideological, pragmatic option. And a lot simpler than the ACA.

Speaking of Bernie… He and the author of Hillarycare will be on the tube in awhile, so I think I’ll stop and rest up to get ready to Tweet during that. Join me @BradWarthen if you’re so inclined.

 

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

reagans

The Reagans, having another civil debate over Sunday dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie Hebdo grows up, just a little bit — maybe

Bryan brings this to my attention:

The top editor and publisher of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French newspaper that suffered a deadly terrorist attack in January, said the publication would no longer draw the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have garnered it worldwide notoriety.

“We have drawn Muhammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever one wants,” said Laurent Sourisseau, in an interview this week with Stern, a German magazine.

But Sourisseau, who goes by the cartoonist nickname “Riss,” said that it was not Charlie Hebdo’s intent to be “possessed” by its critique of Islam. “The mistakes you could blame Islam for can be found in other religions,” he said….

Interesting. I’d like to say that Charlie Hebdo has grown up, and is no longer interested in offending just for the sake of offending. But that crack about “other religions” suggests we’ll still see trashy scribbles about the Pope, et al.

Or maybe not. Or maybe — and this would be wonderful — Charlie will satirize Islam and Christianity only when they have a point to make, rather than just being offensive for the hell of it.

As you know, I have never been Charlie. I would be happy to say that now Charlie is trying to be me, but that remains to be seen. I see no particular indication that they’re making this move for the right reasons.

It WILL take more than goodwill, Will. But goodwill is a prerequisite

There are those who refuse to participate in celebrating the spirit of unity over bringing down the Confederate flag. One of those, unfortunately, is my former colleague Will Moredock:

It will take more than goodwill to heal this state

After the Flag

by

“To use Gov. Nikki Haley’s words, it truly is a great day in South Carolina” — that was the text message that awakened me at 7:15 Thursday morning from my cell phone by the bedside. It was followed immediately by other messages from friends near and far who wanted to check in and see what I had to say about the end of the Confederate flag debate and — let us hope — the end of an era.

In the days after the lowering of the Confederate flag in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, much will be written and said about the courage of Gov. Haley and the Republican General Assembly in taking that measure, to which I say, “Bullshit!”

Why did it take the killing of nine good people by a Confederate flag-waving bigot at Emanuel AME Church to open the eyes of these GOPers to what millions of South Carolinians and Americans have known for generations?…

Yes, it will take more than goodwill for our state to progress.

But the thing is, goodwill is a necessary ingredient.

And celebrating when people who have long disagreed with you decide to agree — rather than kicking them — is kind of an obvious first step.

Asking South Carolina style, bless her heart

IMG_3157 (2)

I love this.

My friend Justin Young, whom I see most mornings at the club at breakfast — he’s the one guy who shows up even later than I do — showed me something pretty awesome this morning.

As you know if you’ve been to the State House grounds during all this, the moveon.org placards that say, “#TAKE DOWN THE FLAG” are pretty ubiquitous.

And yesterday, apparently, they had boxes of them that said, “571,000+ DEMAND TAKE DOWN THE FLAG.” I guess they thought the others weren’t insistent enough.

Well, I’m not going to get into my thoughts about moveon.org’s involvement in all this, but you know that I’m really only interested in what South Carolinians think about it, particularly those 124 in the House who are deciding as we speak.

Which is why I love the one humble, hand-drawn sign held by the lady in the straw hat that expresses the same thing in more of a South Carolina style:

PLEASE TAKE DOWN THE FLAG.

Please. Bless her heart. She does us all credit.

I’ll bet if the governor saw her, she’d be proud of her (“Be kinder than necessary.”) . I know I am.

Raw video of the Confederate flag being raised in 2000

“Raw” in more ways than one.

Bill Castronuovo, also a former editor at The State, shared with me this video that he shot on July 1, 2000, the day that the Confederate flag atop the dome was lowered, and the new one raised behind the soldier monument on the State House grounds.

As you can see, it was not the most dignified of occasions. A lot of rebel yells: Including, oddly enough, when the one on the dome came down. Was that flag opponents cheering, paradoxically, in a Confederate fashion, or the neoConfederates cheering because they knew another one was about to go up, in a more visible location? Or maybe they liked seeing the American and state flags lowered with it. I don’t know, and there’s no way to tell.

Anyway, I think that anyone in the House who wants to replace the current flag with another one in this location, or to fly this flag at the museum, should watch this and contemplate it — and ask, “Do I really want another 15 years of this?”

There’s only one way to put this all behind us: Pass the Senate bill as is. And let’s move on.

video still from 2000

As the governor says, ‘Be kinder than necessary’

Nikki Haley posted this on her Facebook page this morning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images from the Unity Festival at the State House

The above video gives you a small taste of what the Unity Festival at the State House was like yesterday, July 4, 2015.

It was different from the urgent, earnest gathering of two weeks earlier. That one was more intensely pitched at urging our state’s leaders to take down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds. It was a cry from the heart, and at the same time one with relatively little hope for quick action. Folks were mostly there, I believe, to bear witness by their presence that the flag didn’t represent them, whatever our elected leaders did.

But two days later, the event’s three main organizers were present at the miraculous presser at which Gov. Nikki Haley and an extraordinary gathering of other state leaders (including Sen. John Courson!) called for the flag to come down.

As a result, this second demonstration changed focus, and became an occasion for people to celebrate, in a fairly laid-back way, the way black and white, Democrat and Republican have mostly come together on the issue — even though, let me emphasize, it hasn’t happened yet (although we’re moving that way with extraordinary speed, for the SC Legislature).

Basically, the program was half live music, half speakers. In the clip above, I particularly enjoyed that the band was covering Link Wray’s classic “Rumble,” the 1958 guitar instrumental piece that had such huge influence on the guitarists of the ’60s. You’ve heard it a hundred times, probably, as background in a film about surfing, or really almost anything. But few know the name of the piece, or its author. Anyway, it felt just right as background for a pan around the scene. I’m sorry the sound isn’t better.

The crowd was smaller than two weeks earlier, although still respectable for a holiday when so many are out of town or gathering with family (I slipped away before it was over because we were having dinner with my parents and all five of our grandchildren). Estimating it was complicated by the fact that a lot of people were off to the sides, in the shade of trees. The weather wasn’t as hot and humid this time, but there was more direct sun, and it was uncomfortable. Lynn Teague estimated it at 800-1,000. If the first one was indeed 1,500, that sounds about right.

The speakers were… generally not as impressive as at the first rally. And they lacked focus. The Rev. Neal Jones of the Unitarian-Universalist congregation was the first speaker, and he went beyond the flag to call for a litany of lefty causes, such as an increase in the minimum wage. I couldn’t resist saying, via Twitter, that “I guess no Southern Baptists were available.” And indeed, that was the disappointing thing. The consensus in this state to get the flag down — as represented by that group standing with the governor at the aforementioned press conference — is so much broader than this roster of speakers would indicate. I mean, there was no Brett Bursey this time, but Kevin Gray spoke. Enough said.

I had broached this subject with one of the organizers earlier in the week, and the problem largely is that these folks, who are not political consultants, simply didn’t have the contacts for the kinds of speakers that I hoped for — say, Paul Thurmond or the governor herself. (Confession time: I stepped out of my role as journalist so far as to give the organizer the phone number of Matt Moore, chairman of the state GOP. But apparently nothing came of it. I had thought that since Democratic Chair Jaime Harrison had spoken at the first rally, either Matt or some designee would provide balance — and I knew they were both on board on the flag.)

By the way, I had been concerned when I heard that the NAACP was taking over the logistics of the event, even being called the sponsor. You know, on account of its confrontational style, especially the attempt to coerce the state to do the right thing via a boycott, which has done so much over the years to keep lawmakers from wanting to address the issue. But it was cool. Sure, you had the NAACP signage, but aside from a brief address from Lonnie Randolph, the group was cool and low-key, in no way disturbing the whole “Shiny, Happy People” tone of the event.

The best speaker by far was Rep. James Smith. And though as a Democrat he couldn’t symbolically balance the event the way a Paul Thurmond could, he centered the issue nicely, because he was the one speaker focused on the debate coming this week in the real world. He said a lot of things that would never occur to the other speakers — such as noting, as I have done (and as organizer Tom Hall had done two weeks earlier) that it is a gross dishonor to the soldiers who represented South Carolina in the Civil War to fly that flag after they surrendered.

But the most important thing he said, and something we all need to keep in mind and insist upon this week, is this: There must be no compromise this time. As he said, “No flag and no flag pole!” In a shouted conversation before he went on, while one of the bands was playing, he told me he was optimistic, but worried by all the talk of compromises that were swirling around — such as leaving the pole and flying some other flag there.

Absolutely not. This absolutely must be the end to it. Nothing else will answer at this historic moment. The governor, with all those people standing with her, said it was time for the flag to be removed, and that’s it. Get it down, put it in a museum. Period. Otherwise, we’ll be talking about it for another 15 years.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham Biden

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

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

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

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

Glenn

Glenn McConnell ’69
President
College of Charleston
66 George Street Charleston, SC 29424
843-953-5500

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

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

An open letter to Glenn McConnell

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

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

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

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

June 22, 2015 – 6:17pm

Dear President McConnell,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

 

John Warner
Visiting Instructor
College of Charleston

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

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

Oh, please spare us the ‘fighting’ words, Hillary…

I mentioned favorably the fact that on her visit to Columbia recently, I did not hear Hillary Clinton use the “fight” language she has resorted to in the past. I wrote about how nuts that makes me back in 2008.

Actually, she did promise to “fight” for us once (“You’re not gonna see me turn white in the White House, and you’re also not gonna see me shrink from a fight”), but it slipped by me. Apparently, that was a harbinger.

The last few days, I’ve been hearing the “fight” hyperbole invoked again and again by her campaign. For instance, there’s this video that came out three days ago, titled “Fighter.”

Oh, please, spare us. Use tempered, sensible words to appeal to our minds rather than our emotions. It would be so refreshing.

Interestingly, this surge of “fight” talk coincides with her almost complete turn away from the world and to domestic issues. Which is downright weird, considering that she’s not more foreign policy experience than any of the Republicans who are going on and on about national security.

But Democrats, like Republicans in the 1930s, like to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist, and obsess inward. They want to talk about something they call “kitchen-table” issues. And THAT is where they like to use “fight” language, ironically. Apparently, the only enemies that need to be “fought” are right here at home.

Which, of course, leads in turn to more political polarization, which means actual progress on the issues they care about becomes less and less likely.

Representative democracy works when we deliberate with our fellow citizens, not when we see them as our enemies. So the more I hear that “fight” stuff, the more I despair for the country…

Noticing the way Graham stands out from the crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could a candidate like that possibly hope to break through?

It would be nice to think so.

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

Rawls McNulty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Furillo

Capt. Furillo

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

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

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

Good writing, good direction, great acting.