Category Archives: Elections

The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Christie having an AWESOME time at announcement

I don’t have time to watch all of this right now, but maybe you will.

I’ve watched the beginning, and didn’t hear much because I was having fun watching his wife. She, and at least one of her daughters, kept doing that thing that some ladies do — I mean that thing where they apparently see a friend in the crowd, and they throw their mouths WAY open and their eyes pop really big, with the brows way up, displaying the very essence of almost maniacally delighted surprise, sending the pantomime message that it’s SO awesome to see you, but I can’t talk right now

She must have had a lot of friends in the crowd…

As for my observation that “some ladies” do this — I guess some guys, particularly politicians, do something like that, but the smile isn’t as big. They’re more like, well, the son in the picture below, sort of smiling at someone out there but not about to act like he’s thrilled by any of this.

Anyway, I enjoyed her.

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I'm missing...

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I’m missing…

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…

There’s a good REASON why she’s not with you on trade, Bernie

Bernie Sanders is frustrated, or at least he’s letting on to be frustrated, that Hillary Clinton won’t join him and House Democrats in opposing free trade:

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday to say exactly where she stands on President Barack Obama’s trade agenda now that Congress is considering it.

“I think our trade policies have been disastrous,” Sanders said during a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “Secretary Clinton, if she’s against this, we need her to speak out right now. Right now. And I don’t understand how any candidate, Democrat or Republican, is not speaking out on this issue right now.”…

See, there’s a reason Hillary is fudging on the issue, Bernie — she actually has a realistic chance of becoming president, and no president would want to be hobbled with positions such as yours.

And yet, since a lot of people in her party are opposed to free trade, she’s not crazy about taking a bold stance that would make her as nonviable as you are.

Wanting to be president, and seeing the real possibility in front of you, can be a constricting thing…

That Policy Council debate from last month

The SC Policy Council now has the debate I participated in last month up on YouTube, in two parts, above and below.

So watch if you’re interested in whether those who spend to influence elections should have to disclose their sources of income. Which is what it was about — not, as the Policy Council would have it, “free speech.”

Lynn Teague was with me on the side of all that is right and true, Policy Council director Ashley Landess and Rep. Rick Quinn were our respected interlocutors on the other side.

Now that the video is available and I can share with you, I need to disclose a source of income myself.

When we arrived for the debate, there was at each of our places a little gift bag. I could see that the cellophane package contained a bag of Adluh grits, a tea towel with a Palmetto tree on it, and some black tissue paper. As I was leaving with mine — yes, I’m back on a paleo diet, but someone in the family could eat the grits, right? — the Policy Council’s Barton Swaim said to be careful with it, as there was “a card” inside. I said thanks, and to let me know any time they need me for something similar.

I thought he meant a thank-you card or something.

When I got it home and unwrapped the package, I unfolded the tissue paper to find what looked at first like a gift card. In fact, it said “gift card.” So I was thinking, “Oh, 10 bucks at Starbucks would be nice.”

scan0001Then I looked more closely, saw that it was a debit card with $100 on it, and immediately exclaimed, “I can’t keep this!” To which my wife replied, “And my wife said, “Why not? You don’t work for the newspaper any more.”

All those years working for newspapers, I could not have accepted any sort of stipend, and I gave up any honoraria — such as that $3,400 Presbyterian College wanted me to have for serving on a panel one evening — without a second thought. I would tell them to keep it, and if they wouldn’t, I’d turn and give it to charity.

But this time I kept it, after calculating in my head the number of hours I had spent on the debate (at least four), which actually made it seem less like a gift.

But I haven’t spent it yet. Have to activate it first. And before that, I wanted to disclose. Which I just did.

Oh, and I still disagree with the Policy Council on the same things I did before, and just as vehemently. I thought I’d say that for my readers who think money buys agreement.

Also, I did receive a thank-you card signed by everybody from the Policy Council, which was nice of them.

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.

Challenges from left give Hillary a chance to sew up the general election — if she plays it right

Now Hillary Clinton has another challenger from the left, Lincoln Chaffee, a guy whose campaign’s raisons seem to be a) we need to switch to the metric system; and b) Hillary Clinton voted to invade Iraq.

Of course, as a red-blooded son of the Anglosphere, I utterly reject his first point, and as for the second, I appreciate his reminding me of one of the things that I like about HIllary Clinton. (Actually, it’s more like something I don’t dislike about her. She doesn’t get all that much cred from me for voting as she did, because most people did. But if she had gone against everything that was in front of her and voted the other way on Iraq, it would be a count against her.)

So there’s him and Bernie Sanders, who answers to “socialist.

What a gift. What a pair of gifts.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Hillary Clinton — to stick to her more centrist positions, using her challengers as Exhibits A and B showing what she’s not. Thereby giving swing voters, who decide elections, reasons to like her for November 2016. Sure, the Republican nominee (if they ever settle on one) will be trying to paint her as a leftie, but voters will have the recent experience of seeing her next to the real thing. (Want a laugh? Check out Bill Moyers’ piece saying Bernie Sanders is NOT left-wing. Well, Bill, he ain’t a moderate, and he ain’t right-wing, so…)

But I suspect that she will not embrace the opportunity as enthusiastically as she should. She’ll listen to her advisers, who are Democrats rather than swing voters, who will counsel her to throw sops to the left.

Or maybe they’ll be smart. I kind of doubt it, but we’ll see.

Ted Cruz doing his JFK impersonation

The WashPost brought this to my attention today. But don’t go by the Vine version they posted. Go to the 14:32 point in the above video. You’ll hear not only the impression — which is not bad, coming from a Texan (not great, but not bad) — but Cruz somewhat less impressive argument that had JFK been around today, he’d be a Republican.

Also, it’s odd that he chose that particular George Bernard Shaw line, which is better identified with brother Bobby.

But I’ve got to hand it to Cruz — it takes a lot of nerve to go to Massachusetts and do that impression.

I can do some fairly decent British accents, given a little practice. (During rehearsals for “Pride and Prejudice,” our dialect coach praised me and asked where I was from when I was doing an extended reading taking the Mr. Collins part — my own role didn’t have enough lines to show off that way.) But while I was tempted to slide into one when I was in England a couple of weeks, I didn’t dare. I’d have been way too embarrassed had someone said, “Who do you think you’re fooling, Yank?”

The original guys who said that, that way...

The original guys who said that, that way…

Will SC Republicans go rogue again this year?

In January 2012, I was invited to speak to the Senate Presidents’ Forum, a national gathering of state senate leaders, in Key West. I was on a panel with several others who were there to talk about that year’s presidential politics. They had the legendary David Yepsen from Iowa, and I was the putative South Carolina “expert.” This was just days before our GOP presidential primary.

But this was a situation in which experience and expertise counted for little, as the usual dynamics weren’t doing what they usually do.

The textbook answer on South Carolina, based on all the primaries I had covered back into the ’80s, was that the establishment candidate would win here. Oh, our Republicans might flirt with bomb-throwers from the fringe, but in the end they’d settle down and choose the safe, conservative (in the real sense of the word, not the bizarre ways that it’s flung about these days) candidate.

Which that year meant Mitt Romney. He was the perfect country-club Republican, and it was his turn.

But ever since 2010 — really, ever since the defeat of 2008 — the party had been going a little nuts, and wasn’t acting itself. The SC GOP of old would, for instance, have gone with Henry McMaster or maybe Gresham Barrett, for governor. But the Tea Party swept Nikki Haley in from the back of the pack. Yeah, the Tea Party was a national phenomenon, but if there’s some crazy going on, white South Carolinians have a history of wanting to get out in front of it — a history that reached much farther back than its history as an endorser of establishment Republicans.

But surely SC Republicans would settle down on their presidential preference, cherishing their role as the ones who point the rest of the country toward the strongest, safest choice. Well… maybe. But I saw some poll numbers that worried me. And I saw lists of solid establishment Republicans getting behind Newt Gingrich.

This worried me, a lot. I made phone calls from my hotel room in Key West to some key Republicans to try to gauge just how hard that wind was blowing.

In the end, I told the assembled state senators that if you forced me to make a prediction, I’d still say that South Carolina would be South Carolina and go with Romney — but that there were indications that it could be Gingrich.

Of course, it was Gingrich. South Carolina Republicans threw away the rule book. And the Senate Presidents’ Forum hasn’t asked me back to any of its confabs, possibly because I got it wrong. I keep telling y’all, you can’t trust political parties. They really shafted me on that one (and the governor, too — some of those establishment Republicans who went with Gingrich did so, at least in part, to undermine Nikki Haley, who was backing Romney).

Anyway, I was reading this piece in The Washington Post this morning, talking about how you can’t go by history to predict Rick Santorum’s chances this year:

Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to figuring out who will get the Republican presidential nomination: The guy who didn’t get it the last time will get it the next time. Ronald Reagan lost the nomination to President Gerald Ford in 1976 and won it in 1980. George H. W. Bush lost it to Reagan in 1980 and won it in 1988. Sen. Bob Dole lost it 1988 and won it in 1996. Then there was a break. In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush won the nomination against Sen. John McCain, who then won it in 2008. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney lost it in 2008 and won it in 2012.

And that brings me to Rick Santorum. The former senator from Pennsylvania won 11 states in the 2012 nomination contest, “coming in a respectable second in the GOP presidential primary season,” as The Post’s Karen Tumultyreported late last year. Santorum is so far back in the very crowded 2016 Republican field that he doesn’t even register on the latest Quinnipiac poll. But that doesn’t mean anything at this point. McCain’s campaign was on life support in July 2007. By March 2008, he clinched the nomination

In other words, you can no longer rely on Republicans to do the traditional thing. Although you never know; maybe they’ll surprise you and do so.

And of course this gets me to wondering what SC Republicans will do this time. Who can say? This time, there are more wild cards than usual.

If this were 1988, or 1996, or 2000, or even 2008, Jeb Bush would be the winner of the SC Republican presidential primary, hand down. But not only is the party way less predictable now than it was then, there’s an extra complication: Lindsey Graham.

It’s very difficult to predict. Lindsey Graham is the Republican whom Republicans love to hate — particularly those of the newer, fringe variety. That’s why he often fails to get a warm reception at party functions, and also why he had so many primary opponents last year. But then, he walked all over those primary opponents, and on to easy re-election.

I’m not saying he wins the primary here. There’s an outside chance that he could, but at this point I’m saying he doesn’t. He doesn’t get crushed, either — he places, if he’s still in the mix at that point.

What Graham definitely does, though, is complicate things. For instance, he’s got some of the establishment types who might normally go for a Bush backing our senior senator instead — David Wilkins, for one. He also has some of the McCain organization working for him, such as Richard Quinn. (For a list of people helping the Graham campaign, click here.)

Meanwhile, we see another establishment type — Warren Tompkins — at the core of a strong Marco Rubio organization in our state. Another complication.

Set that against the fact that South Carolina Republicans have this thing for Bushes, and the fact they went last time for a guy who at this point no one would have predicted, and no one knows what’s going to happen here come February.

538: Lindsey Graham may have already ‘won’

Graham announce

As Lindsey Graham was announcing his candidacy for the presidency this morning in his hometown of Central, I was reading this piece from FiveThirtyEightPolitics, which suggests that our senior senator may already have achieved his goal in running:

In presidential politics, there are two main ways a candidate can succeed: He or she can win the nomination. Or, he or she can highlight a specific policy or set of policies that otherwise might get ignored or marginalized.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s expected to officially announce he’s running for president Monday, is unlikely to join the first group, as I’ve explained previously. But he appears to fit nicely into the second category, as an advocate for an interventionist foreign policy and prioritizing national security.

But here’s the thing: A couple of years ago, it looked like the 2016 Republican field might need just such an advocate — the field was looking like it might be less hawkish than it had been in a long time. Now, even without Graham, the GOP field has plenty of hawks.

You might remember that the relatively dovish Sen. Rand Paul was leadingprimary polls in 2013. Part of that advantage was due to an isolationist shift among Republican rank and file….

But then:

Republican voters (and the majority of candidates) returned in 2014 to their hawkish roots. This shift coincided with the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State, which took control of a quarter of Iraq and a third of Syria last year and released widely circulated videos of beheadings, with victims including U.S. citizens. Republican lawmakers criticized President Obama for, among other things, referring to Islamic State as the “JV team” and not responding more forcefully to the threat.

And so Republican attitudes have flipped since 2013….

Actually the headline on the piece is misleading. It’s thesis is not so much that Graham has triumphed in bringing the GOP back to the hawkish fold. It actually reads more like, As Graham announces, the raison for his campaign has flown.

But it was still interesting, if only for the way it documents the way the GOP field has shifted away from Paulist isolationism.

Yep, Paul is still out there making headlines doing his thing, but it’s not exactly enchanting the GOP electorate

National Journal: Rubio’s strategy depends heavily on SC

When I ran into Valerie Bauerlein of the WSJ at the Hillary Clinton thing, she asked me whether I’d read this piece in National Journal about how Marco Rubio is sort of pinning everything on South Carolina.

I had not. She sent me the link. It’s very interesting. Excerpt:

In the six years since launching his Florida Senate campaign, Rubio has become an adopted prince of South Carolina’s political royalty. And not by chance. Rubio, whose national ambitions became apparent even before he was sworn into the Senate, quickly identified South Carolina as the home base for his eventual presidential effort, seeing this early-primary state as a more natural fit—culturally, ideologically, geographically—than either Iowa or New Hampshire. He has acted accordingly in the years since—snatching up the state’s top talent for his political operation, cultivating personal relationships with influential people on the ground, and making repeated trips to keep tabs on his burgeoning circuit of supporters in the state.

As a result, Rubio has quietly achieved something in South Carolina that no Republican candidate can claim in Iowa or New Hampshire: an organizational lock on one of the most important states en route to the GOP nomination.

The senator’s inner circle is stacked with South Carolina veterans. His super PAC is headquartered in Columbia and run by the capital’s most experienced strategist. And Rubio has secured the support of major players in the state’s business community.

In fact, according to multiple Republicans not affiliated with any candidate, several of the state’s most prominent and politically active businessmen have made it known they will support Rubio. This includes Chalmers Carr, president and CEO of Titan Farms; Dan Adams, president and CEO of the Capital Corporation; Hank Scott, CEO of Collum’s Lumber Products; and, most notably, Mikee Johnson, president and CEO of Cox Industries, who is chairman of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Johnson, sources say, flew with his wife to Miami last month for Rubio’s campaign launch….

That “most experienced strategist” running his PAC is Warren Tompkins, by the way. And it’s an apt description. Another excerpt:

“Marco matches up very well with this state,” Tompkins says. “The candidate who wins South Carolina is the one with a broad enough appeal across the spectrum of the party.”

But make no mistake: Rubio’s compatibility with South Carolina is a necessity, not a luxury. No candidate in the modern history of the Republican Party has captured the nomination without winning one of the first three states, and Rubio’s two chief rivals, Walker and Bush, are focusing their resources on Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. Rubio will surely be competitive in both of those states and would not shock anyone by winning either of them. But if he doesn’t, Rubio’s aspirations of running a 50-state delegate-gathering operation and becoming the Republican nominee will hinge on his ability to first protect a place that has begun to look like his home turf….

Do YOU hear Hillary using a Southern accent?

Ever since yesterday, I’ve been scoffing at reports from national press that Hillary Clinton slipped into a Southern drawl while in Columbia yesterday — supposedly an acquired skill from her time in Arkansas.

Watch some of the clip above, which was the end of her speech over at the Marriott, and tell me: Do you hear a Southern accent? I do not.

Of course, since I myself have picked up a mild accent over the years (having lived in either Tennessee or South Carolina since 1971, except for two years in Kansas in the mid-80s), maybe my ear isn’t as sensitive as it should be.

Anyway, since I can slip in or out of that accent if I stop and think about it, I wouldn’t be shocked if she could. I’m just not hearing it.

Except… I can just barely here it in this loop that someone posted on The Vine. I’ll give them that

And I’ll also say that at least it’s reasonably natural-sounding, as opposed to a bogus Hollywood Southern accent.

Speaking of which, this Tweet really did crack me up (not the first part; the last part):

Hillary Clinton’s first visit to SC since 2008 campaign

Hillary Clinton

The presumptive Democratic nominee came back to South Carolina today wielding a middle-class-populist message (is it populist if it’s middle-class, or merely “popular”?).

She kept telling us besieged members of the bourgeoisie that she was going to “go to bat” for us. She used other metaphors for what she would do, but I’m very happy to report that I didn’t hear her say that she would “fight” for us. She may have and I missed it, but I was listening for it, because I hate it so.

So I guess that’s one way in which she’s distinguishing herself from the populism of Elizabeth Warren, while still trying to go after the same segment of the party — so as to, you know, keep what’s-her-name out of it.

Maggie Haberman of the NYT reported that Hillary’s “southern twang is back,” but I certainly didn’t hear it. Maybe you had to be from New York to pick up on it. Nevertheless, the candidate traced her experience with SC back to when she worked for Bennettsville’s Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund, and later attended Linda and Phil Lader’s Renaissance Weekends down in the Lowcountry.

The candidate’s best-received line was when she said, after noting how much the White House ages presidents, “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I have one big advantage… I’ve been coloring my hair for years.” She promised we wouldn’t see her go gray in the job.

Beyond that, here are most of my Tweets from the event:

The Jack Kuenzie thing was out of sync. It was before the event, but got held up for some reason.

By the way, you know that item where I said “Weird situation after speech. Her people won’t let us near her, and won’t let us leave…”? Twitter kinda went ape about it. It went in a modest way. There were 33 direct reTweets and 11 favorites, and lots of reTweets of reTweets. I lost count.

Which made me kind of insecure. I had not tried to leave the hall at that point; I had just heard we couldn’t from another media type. Specifically, on the first of three times I got pushed back by Clinton staff, I told Dianne Gallagher, who was headed toward the candidate, that they weren’t letting us near her. Dianne said something to the effect of that put is in a fix, because they weren’t letting us leave the room, either.

After people made such a big deal about that Tweet, I wrote to Dianne to make sure I had heard her right. She replied, “Oh yeah. They said we had to wait. Wouldn’t open the door for us.”

I was relieved to have heard her right the first time.

It was no big deal, as one Tweeter had the good sense to note. But a lot of people seemed to think it was a metaphor for something…

You’ve Got Mail: ‘Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!’

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Well, some of her emails have been released:

The State Department on Friday released nearly 900 pages of e-mails on Libya and the Benghazi attacks from the private account Hillary Rodham Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

The messages have been turned over to a select House committee investigating the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, in which the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed.

Few of the e-mails deal directly with events leading up to the attacks or their aftermath, according to those who have seen them. Many contain administrative details, press accounts, speech drafts and other information exchanged between Clinton and her senior aides.

But the messages, some of which were published this week by the New York Times, capture the concerns of Clinton and other officials about the political chaos that engulfed Libya during and following the 2011 NATO air attacks that facilitated the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi later that year….

If you want to read them instead of just read about them, click here.

Hillary: ‘I want those emails out!’ I’ll bet she DOES…

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Hillary Clinton has broken a month’s media silence with a brief, but testy, exchange of questions with reporters that saw her demand the swift release of her personal emails and defend money received by her family.

The former secretary of state called on the department to “expedite” the release of the records from her time in office after news that it might take until January to publish the cache recently turned over by her office….

Now, before you scoff, let me say that I take her at her word. When I read that the State Department was planning on dragging its feet until at least January, my very first thought was that this was very bad news for Hillary.

Think about it: If you’re she, would you rather have it all come out now, when there’s time to explain and then let people forget, or right as the primaries are starting?

So I believe her.

Come see me make a fool of myself tonight

Repeating what I said in a comment a few days ago:

By the way, y’all…

Next week at Capstone, we’ll have a debate on issues related to my Brookings piece, sponsored by the Policy Council. I’m on the panel along with our own Lynn Teague, Rick Quinn and Ashley Landess. Charles Bierbauer will moderate.

I was invited to this by Barton Swaim, thusly:

Did you happen to see Ashley’s op-ed in the WSJ on Saturday? If not, here it is: http://on.wsj.com/1DDDHDS

I’m hoping you vehemently disagree with it, because we’re holding a public debate on the topic of whether 501c3 groups like ours should have to disclose their donors and I’m looking for something to take the YES ABSOLUTELY position. You’re the first person I’ve asked, because you take contrary positions on just about everything!

It’s moderated by Charles Bierbauer, and it’s happening on Tuesday, May 19, from 6 to 8 p.m.

I hope some of y’all can come…

Here’s the Eventbrite info on it.

Actually, it turns out that Charles Bierbauer will not be moderating. Bill Rogers of the SC Press Association will take his place.

I agreed to do this even though I don’t have strong opinions on campaign finance law in general. But I do not believe, as the Policy Council appears to do, that spending equals speech. I do not believe that, as Ashley Landess says, it is “burdensome” for an advocacy group to have to disclose where its money comes from if it hopes to affect elections or policy.

And with me, that’s about as far as it goes. I’ve devoted basically no time to studying individual bills addressing the subject, or court cases on related issues. Because, you know, it’s all about money, and you know how money bores me.

But fortunately, I’ll have our own Lynn Teague on my team. The other “side” will be represented by Ms. Landess and Rep. Rick Quinn.

I’m assuming that all three of them know far more about this than I do (I know Lynn does), and will do the heavy lifting when it comes to filling those two hours.

Lynn and I talked the debate over at breakfast this morning. That’s the extent of my preparation, aside from a few emails back and forth with Barton Swaim, who got me into this.

So if you’re interested, come on out, because I’m sure the other three will have interesting things to say. And if I see the opportunity to make one of my 30,000-foot-view points, I will. Of course, I’m likely to misspeak in my ignorance of the minutiae on this issue. Which you might find entertaining, but I won’t…

‘Hillary’ campaign gets a home in SC

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Hillary Clinton hasn’t been to South Carolina since 2008, but her campaign is about to have a home, right here in river city:

Hillary for South Carolina Announces First South Carolina Office in Columbia
Opens Office with Wednesday Phone Bank  

Columbia, SC — The Hillary for South Carolina campaign announced that its first office in the state will open with a grassroots phone bank on Wednesday, May 20th at 6:00 PM. The office is located in Columbia at 1529 Richland Street in the historic Robert Mills District. Clinton will be visiting South Carolina on Wednesday, May 27th.

The campaign will hold a formal open house reception with supporters and neighbors on June 2nd at 6 PM.

“Hillary will work hard to earn every vote in the First in the South primary and not take anything for granted. Our growing grassroots campaign will continue sharing her vision and tell their stories on why Hillary is the right champion to help South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead,” said Clay Middleton, South Carolina State Director for Hillary for America.

Since Clinton announced, there have been thousands of pledges to volunteer as part of this grassroots campaign. In the coming weeks, the campaign will hold a dozen neigborhood parties from the Lowcountry to the Upstate, the Pee Dee region through the Midlands. Neighborhood parties will happen in Charleston, Spartanburg, Columbia, and Rock Hill this upcoming week.

Supporters can sign up at hillaryclinton.com/volunteer/south-carolina/ to receive more information on and other events happening in South Carolina.

WHAT:        Grassroots Phone Bank at New Columbia Office
WHEN:       Wednesday, May 20th at 6 PM
WHERE:     Clinton campaign office at 1529 Richland Street in Columbia, SC

On an unrelated, or very tangentially related, note…

It’s sort of a relief, and makes life simpler, that her campaign is formalizing the process of referring to the candidate by the very informal “Hillary.”

That’s the easiest way to refer to her and make one’s meaning clear. You say “Clinton” to me without context, and I think “Bill.” Or the town where Presbyterian College is located. But Hillary is quick, economical, and states the case.

It’s good to know that no one’s going to get offended (or at least, if they do, I have a great defense) if I refer to the candidate merely by her first name in headlines — either Hillary defenders, who would object to the one woman in the race being thus designated, or Hillary detractors who think it sounds too chummy.

And I hereby grant Hillary permission to call me “Brad” if she so chooses. I won’t harrumph or anything…

Hillary Rodham (not yet ‘Clinton’) in 1979

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Buzzfeed posted these clips (you’ll have to follow the link; the embed code isn’t working) from an interview with Arkansas First Lady Hillary Rodham (she had not yet taken Bill’s name). Buzzfeed notes:

In 1979, a month into her tenure as Arkansas first lady, Rodham sat down for an interview with the Arkansas public affairs program In Focus. The interview, available on BuzzFeed News for the first time in decades, is among the earliest, and most open, glimpses of Clinton’s efforts to balance public and private life, a theme that has followed her long career. Archived in the special collections at the University of Arkansas, the nearly half-hour-long interview offers an insight into the future Hillary Clinton and her early attempts to navigate the tough waters as the wife of a political figure — while keeping her own identity and privacy.

As for the video — yeah, we looked funny back then.

In the interests of fairness — that is, embarrassing a Republican equally — I went out and dug up this image of Marco Rubio at around that same time.

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Atlanta preparing to cover our primaries

Aaron Sheinin and Daniel Malloy at M Vista today.

Aaron Sheinin and Daniel Malloy at M Vista today.

Had lunch today with my friend Aaron Sheinin of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You may remember him from when he worked at The State.

Aaron wanted me to meet Daniel Malloy of the AJC’s Washington Bureau. Daniel’s going to be in SC a good bit over the next few months covering our presidential primaries.

Back in 1987, right after I arrived at The State as governmental affairs editor, we brought Jeff Miller in from our Newberry bureau to cover the 1988 presidential primaries full-time. Or rather, the Republican primary and the Democratic caucuses. We had other people writing about the campaign off and on, but Jeff’s job was to stay out on the hustings and cover as much of it as possible in person.

Of course, that was back when The State had five times the staff it does now. I’m sure it will be working hard to cover the 2016 contests, but it’s good to know that we can also rely on the small army of out-of-state people who will also be on the job in SC. Once, that would have done us little good, but with the Web, we can follow it all with relative ease.

I didn’t have a whole lot to share with Aaron and Daniel today. I did tell them that I think the current, early GOP field offers more palatable choices than we saw in 2012, when the selection was just awful.

And on the Democratic side… well, at this point eight years ago Hillary Clinton seemed to have SC almost sewn up. This time, I’m fairly confident she DOES have it cinched — although Dick Harpootlian, a Biden man, has been telling Aaron and Daniel otherwise.

The difference is that there’s nobody even remotely like Barack Obama on the horizon this time.

But we’ll see, won’t we? Secretary Clinton does have a talent for undermining herself…

GOP hopefuls come to SC, and tread all over Graham’s turf

Hey, Lindsey Graham’s supposed to be the tough-on-terrorism candidate, people! That’s (kind of) why he’s running! (Or thinking about it, anyway.)

And yet, all these out-of-staters came to SC and had a contest seeing who could talk the toughest over the weekend. I wasn’t there, but The Washington Post wrote about it in a piece headlined, “South Carolina was the center of the GOP presidential universe this weekend. Here are the five biggest takeaways.” An excerpt:

Who is running as the most aggressive foreign policy hawk? Pretty much everyone.

The dominant theme of the summit was national security and combating terrorism, which made sense in a military-centric state such as South Carolina. The rhetoric was especially sharp — even for a conservative confab — and appears to be intensifying, a sign that the candidates desperately want to be seen as the tough enforcer in the field. Many of the candidates hold similar views on matters such as Iran, the Islamic State militant group and preventing domestic acts of terrorism. That’s probably why they tried to use memorable lines to leave an impression. Sen. Marco Rubio quoted from the movie “Taken.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joked that gun control means “hitting your target.” Sen. Ted Cruz said an officer who killed two gunmen who were probably inspired by the Islamic State helped them “meet their virgins.”

Oh, and if you’re wondering what it meant about Rubio’s “Taken” line, check his Tweet:

And what did Graham himself say? Well, he wasn’t there. Nor was Rand Paul, Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.