Category Archives: Elections

Catherine Templeton’s gun problem

Conservative Outsider and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton (which I’ve come to think of as her full legal name, based on her campaign’s releases) is talking tough on guns again:

Yeah, those darned kids, lacking the gumption to stand up for their God-given right to get gunned down in geometry class…

Anyway, guns are kind of a theme for her at the moment.

Over at the Greenville paper’s website, you can find video of her squeezing off a few rounds at a local range.

She’d better hope folks only watch the video, and don’t read the story that goes with it. An excerpt:

SLED disputes Catherine Templeton’s claims…

In a campaign ad posted online last week, Republican candidate for governor Catherine Templeton said she “ruffled so many feathers” after starting work for former Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011 that state law-enforcement officials grew concerned for her safety.

“The State Law Enforcement Division actually called and said, ‘Catherine, we need you to get a concealed weapons permit; we need you to start carrying, and we need you to protect yourself because of you’ve made a lot of people mad,'” Templeton says in the ad.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry said he could find no evidence that his agency told Templeton to obtain a concealed-weapons permit or carry a gun.

“It is not our practice to tell, instruct or order a person to obtain a concealed-weapons permit,” Berry said in response to questions from The Greenville News and Independent Mail….

Both SLED Chief Mark Keel (through Berry) and his predecessor Reggie Lloyd deny having made such a recommendation to her.

Berry confirms that she did take a concealed-weapons class organized by SLED in 2011, along with some court officials.

Which makes this part even more embarrassing:

Before Monday’s interview, Templeton took a .38-caliber handgun that belonged to her grandfather out of her purse at the gun range. As two campaign aides, a photographer and a reporter watched, Templeton tried to fire the weapon several times but it repeatedly malfunctioned…

But there’s a happy ending for this campaign’s pistol-packin’ mama:

Using another .38-caliber handgun provided by an employee at the business, Templeton struck a body-shaped target in the head and chest with several shots.

That’s in the video. After which, she says of the man-shaped target, “Yeah, he’s done…”

No, it’s not Ted Cruz makin’ machine-gun bacon, but she does what she can…

"Yeah, he's done," she says of the target.

“Yeah, he’s done,” she says of the target.

I thought Templeton had one good idea. I was wrong…

When I saw that Catherine Templeton had put out a “Conservatives Issues platform” on Monday, I assumed it would be more of the same. Which is to say, another instance of an intelligent woman trying to appeal to the most atavistic blood-and-soil reflexes of a traumatized Republican Party, in keeping with her strategy of trying to out-Bannon Henry McMaster.



But then I was delighted to see one good idea — or at least, to see what I initially thought was a good idea: The State reported that she wanted to protect “Home Rule.”

I was impressed. Too few people understand the problem of the Legislature’s utter failure to fully implement the Home Rule Act of 1975, maintaining its feeble influence over local matters and keeping local governments weak.

If she was standing up for Home Rule in South Carolina, it would be the second time in a week that someone had stood up for a long-overdue “Power Failure” reform — the other time being the freshmen’s proposal for a constitutional convention to address fundamental structural problems in our state government.

But I was wrong, as I realized when I saw a release in which Jim DeMint (remember that guy?) was praising her position. This was NOT a case of someone standing up for fixing an actual problem that plagues South Carolina (and which far too few people understand). Nope. She was just touching another far-right base, trying to get the ganglia to twitch.

She was sticking up for “Home Rule” in a way that only makes sense to people who keep up with the latest fetishes of the far right. She, too was seeking a constitutional convention — only in her case on the federal level, and to address nonexistent problems:

  • Make South Carolina a signatory of the Convention of States movement.

“Our Founding Fathers intended for this government to be of the people, by the people, for the people,” Templeton explained. “The U. S. Constitution gives South Carolina the right and duty to make sure the federal government doesn’t interfere where it is not welcome. Today, the federal government exercises control over our very livelihood.  Every day Congress takes more and gives us less. As governor, I will support the current push by conservatives in South Carolina’s General Assembly who are fighting to take back states’ rights from a bloated, bureaucratic, overbearing federal government. While the President fights top down, I join him in our fight from the states up.”

Today, former United States Senator Jim DeMint commended Catherine Templeton’s courage in fighting for conservative values.

“States must do more to chart their own course for the future and reign in the out-of-control federal government.  I commend Catherine Templeton for her wisdom and courage to support the Article V Convention of States Project.  It is the only constitutional way to save our country and our state.”
-Jim DeMint, March 5, 2018

Remember the recent resurrection of Nullification? Well, it receded for awhile, but apparently it’s back. You just can’t keep a bad idea down in South Carolina.

What does it tell us that a bunch of House freshmen can take a bold and risky stand in favor of a sweeping, needed and too-little-understood reform, but a viable candidate for governor of the whole state sketches out a vision that is nothing but one knee-jerk pander after another?

Anyway, she got my hopes up for a second, but then crushed them…

A word from this blog’s Shameless Commerce Division…

From Anne Marie Eckstorm Green's Twitter feed.

From Anne Marie Eckstorm Green’s Twitter feed.

As y’all know, I don’t have a lot of ads on this blog because I hate the very idea of trying to sell anything to anyone at any time. For me, approaching a potential customer is like having an out-of-body experience. It feels most unnatural.

So generally, I don’t do it.

For the past month, I had this vague idea that since there was a special election to fill Rick Quinn’s seat, in the district right next to mine (in fact, my house was in that district back when Ted Pitts had it, but I got drawn out), I should probably find out who was running and give them my usual pitch (which isn’t exactly, “You don’t want to buy a campaign ad, do you?,” but it’s close).

But the date snuck up on me and I missed it. But now there are two people in a runoff, so I thought, here’s an opportunity. But I had no contact info. So I sent this to Anne Marie Eckstorm Green via Twitter. She doesn’t follow me (and why not?), so I couldn’t DM her, and now all the world can see my unabashed hucksterism:

The other candidate, Chris Wooten, doesn’t have a Twitter feed, near as I can tell. So, if any of y’all know him, tell him he can buy an ad here. If he, you know, really wants one….

Oh, and speaking of shameless — yeah, I stole the name of my sales department from Click and Clack. What, you think I’m going to make the effort to come up with something original?…

From Chris Wooten's FB page. Dude, where's your Twitter feed?

From Chris Wooten’s FB page. Dude, where’s your Twitter feed?

Not that I told you so, but… No, scratch that: I TOLD you so!


Remember when Catherine Templeton suggested (but didn’t actually say, mind you) that her pride in the Confederacy was OK because her ancestors didn’t own slaves?

And remember that I said, based upon my obsessive research of my own family tree, that that is virtually impossible? As I put it, “If you’re a white Southerner and you think your ancestors owned no slaves, you should probably dig a little deeper.”

You shouldn’t make that claim because the math is against you, if your ancestors were white Southerners — and especially if they lived in South Carolina. You had dozens of direct ancestors in the first half of the 19th century alone (16 great-great grandparents, 32 great-great-greats, 64 the generation before that) — loads and loads of people who didn’t know each other, and most of whom you probably don’t know about. And in those days, almost half of white South Carolinians (46 percent) owned slaves. It’s really unlikely that a diligent genealogical searcher makes it through that minefield without his self-righteous notion that his ancestors were innocent of owning other people being blown to smithereens.

And now, there’s this:

South Carolina governor candidate says she was unaware her ancestor owned dozens of slaves

The story is actually not as clear as I’d like it to be as to how Ms. Templeton is related to Hiram Clark Brawley, the owner of those 66 slaves. He’s the father of Judge William Brawley, after whom she has said her father is named (Brawley is her maiden name). But that doesn’t say he was a direct ancestor, or anything, really. (When I read stories this vague on essential details, I want to grab the editor responsible and shake him.)

But it would appear that the Templeton campaign isn’t denying he was an ancestor. The candidate’s response is to try to move on: “This campaign is about the future, not about the past.” Which I suppose means we won’t be hearing any more about how proud she is of the Confederacy.

Anyway, I don’t point this out to give Ms. Templeton a hard time for what her ancestors did. If we bear responsibility for the sins of our ancestors, I might have more mea culpas to intone than she does.

No , my point, as always on this subject, is that no white Southerner should claim his or her ancestors didn’t own slaves. It almost certainly isn’t true. (And a bigger point is that even if it were true, that’s a ridiculous reason to be proud of the Confederacy.)

And yeah, I told you so…

Gun control rally at the State House

Feeling the need to show the flag a bit, and finding myself wearing a tie for once, I decided to drop by the State House and see what was up.

The first thing I saw was this gun control rally, sponsored — I’m just going by the T-shirts here — by Moms Demand Action – SC. Here’s their Facebook page. It was a modest-sized crown (click here to see), but passionate.

I listened for awhile, went inside to see what the House was doing (not much), then came back out. When I got back, Sen. Greg Gregory was speaking. He was (to my knowledge) the only Republican to speak. He and Marlon Kimpson are sponsoring a bill to close the “Charleston loophole.”

He was saying various things the crowd applauded — such as noting that if his father had seen a “hunter” show up with a 30-round magazine, he’d have laughed him off the field. Then he talked about how hard the issue was on his side of the aisle. He noted that too many Republicans feared that any concession on gun control would send us down the slippery slope to eliminating all guns.

At that point, one or two people started to cheer, and I thought, No, folks, that’s not an applause line. You’re not helping your cause there… But they seemed to think better of it right away; it wasn’t taken up. And maybe they just weren’t listening. It was a very encouraging, applauding kind of crowd, which I guess is what you get when you have “Moms” in your name.

The speeches kept coming. There was a preacher, a teacher, and a couple of high school students. Then, with exacting neutrality, the mistress of ceremonies introduced “two candidates for governor,” with the first being James Smith. You can hear most of his speech above — I started shooting the video about a minute in.

Then came Phil Noble, and he said the usual things Phil Noble says. I’ll say this for him, though — he was more self-restrained than usual. He carefully explained that the NRA was pure evil, and that evil had agents in the Legislature, and some of them were Democrats and some of them were Republicans. I didn’t hear all of it, but I’m pretty sure he held back from actually saying “James Smith.” But I wasn’t always looking right at him, so he could have been jerking his head in that direction.

One of the speakers used the occasion to encourage those present to elect more Democrats — which didn’t seem terribly polite to Sen. Gregory, but he’s probably used to it.

Joe Cranney of the Charleston paper reports that earlier, the group had been present at a hearing in which consideration of S. 516 — Gregory’s and Kimpson’s bill — was postponed….

Phil Noble speaks to the rally. That's James Smith with Mandy Powers Norrell to the right.

Phil Noble speaks to the rally. That’s James Smith with Mandy Powers Norrell to the right.




If I go back to school, I want Noble to fill out MY report card


This is a followup on a topic from yesterday — the one about Phil Noble’s attempts to hang the NRA around James Smith’s neck in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida.

Have you seen the bogus “NRA Report Card” Noble’s campaign created for Smith? It’s above. Phil tweeted it out with a volley of the angry, chip-on-the-shoulder, self-righteous rhetoric that has become the calling card of South Carolina’s own Bernie Sanders: “I’m dismayed by hollow, hypocritical words of condolences by politicians like James Smith. Smith has voted over and over again with the NRA, getting A ratings and now tries to fool people that he is on the right side….” And so forth.

Yep, James Smith has gotten good ratings from the NRA a couple or three times, generally because of voting on a noncontroversial bill along with pretty much everyone else in the Legislature, including Democrats Noble has supported in the past. One such item he mentioned when I asked him about it yesterday was a bill (I think it was this one) that said it you build a house way out in the country next to an existing shooting range, you can’t bring a nuisance action for noise against the owners and operators. That sort of thing.

The thing is, James Smith isn’t someone who blanches at the site of a firearm. He knows exponentially more about assault rifles with large magazines than most of the people who own AR-15s because he’s used them himself — in combat (you know, for the purpose for which such weapons were intended). The Democratic Party used to be full of guys like him. Not so much anymore. And no, the GOP doesn’t have a lot of room to brag on that score, either.

But still, there was something fishy about that “report card.” Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, a Smith ally (which is to say, a normal, mainstream Democrat) decided to dig into those “grades.”

The phony report card cited two sources. One was the NRA itself, and since you had to be a member to look up the scores, she turned to the other source, There, on the James Smith ratings page under the “Guns” heading, you’ll find the apparent source material for Noble’s “report card.”

The site said that in 2012, the NRA gave Smith a rating of 79 percent — which Noble recorded as an “A-minus.” I know South Carolina recently watered down the values of letter grades, but I hadn’t seen anything this lenient.

But that was nothing compared to Noble’s generosity in 2016. That year, the NRA rated Smith at 43 percent. Noble called that a “C.”

Rep. Norrell tweeted, “My kids would love it if those were C’s and A-‘s, but I know of nowhere that that’s the case.”

Yeah… I don’t know of any place like that, either…


THIS is what political exploitation of gun tragedies looks like

Twitter home

I get up in the morning, I work out, I skim Twitter, I peruse several newspapers, and I get ideas that could be blog posts, but I fritter them away in Tweets before breakfast is over, and the blog lies fallow for much of the day.

So I’m going to start turning more Tweets into posts, so the conversation can occur here as well as there.

Let’s start with this one:

In case the Tweet I was retweeting doesn’t show up, here’s what I was talking about:

Of course, I was far from the only one to react this way. A couple of other Tweets on the subject:

To which Tyler Jones responded, “Egg, meet Phil Noble’s face.”

And an American Party candidate for the House had this to say:

OK, that should be enough to get y’all started…

My connection to the guy Catherine Templeton mentioned

Following up on my post about our ancestors owning slaves… I ran across something else interesting. To me, anyway. You know what a geek I am about this stuff.

As native South Carolinians know in their bones, and as interlopers from elsewhere (just kidding! y’all are welcome!) soon find out, we’re all related one way or another.

Here’s an illustration of that…

In the story cited previously, Catherine Templeton mentioned someone who I suppose is one of her forebears, since he had the same surname and her father is named for him. The story wasn’t specific, though:

Templeton said her family arrived in South Carolina in the late 1700s, adding her father was named after Judge William Brawley, “who fought for this state, fought in the Battle of Seven Pines, even lost an arm for this state.”..

Anyway, whatever her connection is to Judge Brawley, it’s apparently one of the things that makes her proud of the Confederacy.

So I looked up Judge Brawley, and found this:

William Hiram Brawley (incorrectly reported in some works as William Huggins Brawley; May 13, 1841 – November 15, 1916) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina and later a United States federal judge. He was the cousin of John James Hemphill and great-uncle of Robert Witherspoon Hemphill….

And the light flashed in my head: Hemphill! So I clicked on John James Hemphill and found this:

John James Hemphill (August 25, 1849 – May 11, 1912) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina, cousin of William Huggins Brawley, nephew of John Hemphill and great-uncle of Robert Witherspoon Hemphill.

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I then clicked on this guy’s uncle John Hemphill and found what I suspected:

John Hemphill (December 18, 1803 – January 4, 1862) was Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and a United States Senator.

Sen. John Hemphill

Sen. John Hemphill

The picture was familiar, because it appears on my family tree. That John Hemphill is my fourth-great uncle. He was the brother of my great-great-great grandmother Margaret Hemphill — my Dad’s mother’s mother’s father’s mother.

He was an interesting guy, playing a prominent role in the early history of the state of Texas. A while back, someone told me that he was interesting in another way.

I don’t know whether the story is true or not, but it made an impression at the time, and it’s why his name rang a bell.

A couple of years ago, having run across my tree, a woman wrote to me to ask me what I knew about Sen. Hemphill. I didn’t know much — for instance, I’d never found the name of his wife if he had one — but she said she knew why I hadn’t found a wife:

John Harrison Hemphill is my maternal 2nd-great grandfather. The Senator never married, although he had 2 daughters by his female slave, Sabina. Their names were Theodora and Henrietta. I know Theodora was born in Austin, but I’m not sure if Henrietta was. Hope that helps….

I wrote back and forth with this lady, and she shared what she had, but she wasn’t sure of all the precise connections. And I’ve looked at her tree since then, and I don’t find Theodora or Henrietta or Sabina. So maybe she’s decided she isn’t as sure about being descended from Hemphill that way.

And she might even be wrong about being related to Hemphill at all — which wouldn’t be a shock, given the circumstances and the lack of the normal confirming sources, forcing her I suppose to rely on family anecdote. I’ve come to doubt it because she mentioned doing the Ancestry DNA test, but she doesn’t show up in my DNA results as related.

But it was a fascinating story, and the main reason why his name rang a bell.

Anyway, maybe I’m related, distantly, to Catherine Templeton. Which would make another fairly common Southern story…

If you’re a white Southerner and you think your ancestors owned no slaves, you should probably dig a little deeper

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a correction that proves the point of this post. While I knew I had quite a few ancestors who owned slaves, just for contrast I mentioned one great-great grandfather (Henry Waller) who did NOT. I was wrong. A first cousin has written to let me know Henry owned at least one slave, whom he mentioned in letters home. I hope to get copies of those letters soon. So even I am guilty of falsely believing that one ancestor owned no slaves…

Last week, Catherine Templeton used the standard cliche rationalization for why she’s proud of her Confederate heritage:

“It’s important to note that my family didn’t fight because we had slaves,” Templeton said to a room mostly filled with university students. “My family fought because the federal government was trying to tell us how to live.”

We won’t get into the fact that the one thing white Southerners — the ones in charge — were afraid the federal government would make them do was stop owning slaves. And I’ll point out only in passing that if your ancestors owned no slaves and took up arms for the Confederacy, then they were victims of a major con job. Some of my own ancestors were duped in the same manner.

But not all of them. I’ve long known that some of my ancestors were slaveowners. But it wasn’t until I started seriously building out my family tree that I realized how many of them fit that description.

As much as I love talking genealogy — as y’all know, to your sorrow — I hesitated to post this. But my tree is the only one I know this well, and I think what I have found argues against the claims that all too many white Southerners make. And I think people should know that. So here goes…

Patrick Henry Bradley

Patrick Henry Bradley

At first, I had thought that slaveholding was limited to my paternal grandmother’s people, the Bradleys (for whom I’m named). Patrick Henry Bradley, her grandfather, was one of the leading citizens in his part of Abbeville County. When the War came, he raised his own company and led it in the field, but soon returned home to serve out the rest of the war in the Legislature. His eldest son stayed at the front, and was killed at Trevillian Station in 1864.

I would have assumed that the Bradleys were slaveholders just because of Patrick Henry’s service in the Legislature, which was largely made up of the slaveholding class. But I don’t have to assume; I have documentary and anecdotal evidence to that effect. I don’t know whether he had a lot of slaves, but he had some.

James Chesnut Jr.

James Chesnut Jr.

I had accepted this as fact long ago, but I had assumed that my ancestors in other branches of the family were generally innocent of having owned other humans. Not based on anything, really, beyond the fact that none of them were quite as upscale as the Bradleys. Of course, when I say “Bradleys,” I’m lumping in a lot of folks who bore different surnames — pretty much that whole quarter of my tree. For instance, James Chesnut — husband of famous diarist Mary Boykin and one of the leading men in Confederate South Carolina — is a 3rd cousin four times removed. (That means my 6th-great grandfather, Alexander Samuel Chesnut, was his great-great grandfather.) He was in that Bradley fourth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following paragraph is dead wrong. Henry Waller DID own at least one slave, I am reliably informed. I hope to have evidence of that soon…)

But I had liked to think that another great-great grandfather, William Henry Waller, was more typical of the rest of my tree — just an ordinary soldier who got caught up in forces bigger than he was. I’ve never seen or heard anything to indicate Henry owned slaves, or money or much else. But admittedly, I don’t know a lot about him. He went AWOL to visit the family farm in Marion County when his unit was marching north toward Virginia. My great-grandmother — who died when I was 4 years old (yep, that’s how recent that war was: someone who lived then overlapped with my life) — was born nine months later. She, my mother’s father’s mother, never knew her father, because Henry died of disease at the siege of Petersburg. Consequently, I know practically nothing about him. I don’t even know who his parents were, or whether he had siblings. That line is the shortest on my tree, because of that break.

The old lady is the daughter of Henry Waller. The big-headed kid on her lap is me.

The old lady is my great-grandmother, the daughter of Henry Waller, who died at Petersburg. The big-headed kid on her lap, grooving on the apples, is me. This was 1957.

I picture Henry as being one of those guys like Virgil Caine in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” A sympathetic character caught up in events and trying to get by the best he could. And I tended to lump others from the non-Bradley portions of the family into that category.

But I was wrong, as I learned from early census records after I finally paid to join Ancestry and gained access to that site’s documentary “hints” about my forebears. Later census records name everyone in a household (although their names are often spelled wrong). But in the early decades of the 19th century, the records would just name the “head of household,” and then give a demographic breakdown of the rest of the household — X number of “Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25,” and Y number of “Free White Persons – Under 16.”

But the really revelatory data comes under such headings as “Slaves – Males – 26 thru 44.” I assume the records were kept that way so each slave could be counted as three-fifths of a person for the sake of electoral apportionment.

Perusing these records can be a real eye-opener. While Henry Waller may not have owned slaves, others on my mother’s side did. Take, for instance, my 4th-great grandfather Henry C. Foxworth, also of Marion County: There were six slaves in his household in 1820. This sort of thing will pop up again and again in a white Southern family. However humble and righteous you may think your ancestors were, a family tree is likely far more diverse — here I mean economically diverse in particular — than you give it credit for being. And the people who bore your surname are only a tiny fraction of the people from whom you are descended who lived during the centuries of slavery. Until I really got into building my tree, I had no idea I was descended from anyone named “Foxworth.”

Wesley Samuel Foxworth marker(By the way, like Patrick Henry Bradley, Henry Foxworth also lost a son in the war. My great-great-great grandfather Wesley Samuel Foxworth was also killed during that Petersburg campaign. Fortunately for me, his daughter from whom I am descended had been born 12 years earlier.)

I am three-fourths South Carolinian, but hey, at least I won’t find any of that slavery stuff among the Warthens up in Maryland, right? So I thought — somewhat irrationally, since Maryland (although it stayed in the Union) was a slave state.

My great-grandmother Rebecca Jane Rabbitt — who married my great-grandfather Warthen — died in 1898, two days after the birth of her sixth child. She was 35. But I’ve been a lot luckier tracing her tree than poor Henry Waller’s, taking it back to the Middle Ages. (Through her, I’m a Tudor, making Henry VIII a cousin.)

But one of the more interesting things I’ve found on that line is much more recent — it involves her grandfather, John Thomas Rabbitt Jr., 1779-1863. It’s an indenture contract. One William Frumfree, described as “a colored man,” owed $40 to the state of Maryland, and was in jail in 1829 because he couldn’t pay it. My ancestor paid it for him, in exchange for which… well, here’s a quote from the document Mr. Frumfree signed:

… I do hereby bind myself to the service of said Rabbitt in any manner in which he may chose to use me for and during the term of one year from the date hereof to be considered and treated as the slave of said Rabbitt during my term of service as contracted by this paper…

Oh, and just in case you thought that would be lighter service than being a permanent slave, there’s this language:

… the said Rabbitt is to be subject to no liability for his treatment or chastisement of me which he would not own in the case of one of his own slaves for life…

But hey, don’t think the only thing Mr. Frumfree got was out of the jail. He was also paid “the sum of one cent.” No, really. It’s all in the document signed on May 13, 1829.

About all I can say for John Thomas is that as of the 1820 and the 1840 censuses, he didn’t own any slaves. So, there’s that.

Why do I tell you all of this? To shame myself, or to perversely brag about what wheeler-dealers my ancestors were? No. Of course I’m uncomfortable with this topic and these details, but my point is that I highly doubt that my tree is unusual. Note that these slaveowners I’ve mentioned had nothing to do with each other. They never met. They were from very different families living in different places under different circumstances. In other words, these incidences of slaveholding were independent of each other.

And it crops up often enough that I can’t believe I’m anywhere near alone in this. Almost half of white South Carolina families (46 percent) owned slaves. What do you think the chances are that none of the many families that led do you owned human property?

If other white Southerners really knew who their ancestors were, you’d seldom hear a proud neoConfederate say, ever-so-self-righteously, that his (or her) ancestors didn’t own slaves. The odds are against it being a fact.

It is a wise child that knows his own father, and a wiser one who knows even more of his forebears, and faces up to reality.

A brief, belated report on the Democratic debate


I went to the debate between the Democratic candidates for governor sponsored by Progress South Carolina Friday night, intending to blog about it. But the sound was so bad, and my notes therefore so incomplete and uncertain, that I blew it off.

But looking back, I think I can make a couple of observations. If you want more, or if you want to check my impressions, here’s a video of the whole thing. Bryan tried watching it in real time, and reported that “It sounds like they are underwater.” Which is the way it sounded in the Convention Center — loud enough, but mumbly. The good news is that the video available now sounds pretty good, especially with earbuds.

Here’s my main observation: I still don’t know why Phil Noble or Marguerite Willis is running, or what they hope to achieve. Oh, I can write down the words they say as to why they’re running, but I have trouble connecting those words to anything out there in the actual world.

The two of them seem locked in a bitter battle to see which one can be less likable. You’d think this campaign had been going on for years and they were sick to death of each other and of James Smith, to the point that they could hardly stand to be on the stage with each other.

Smith comes across as a guy focused on winning the election — the one in November, which hardly seems to be on the radar screens of the other two. He started his opening remarks with an upbeat, “Who here is ready to win an election? How about it?” Which prompted cheers, because that would indeed be a novel, exciting experience to this crowd.

tick offAfter a weird 12-second pause after moderator Bakari Sellers introduced him, Noble started off with a rambling, ticked-off, populist-tinged diatribe about South Carolina, starting in 1756, when his ancestors arrived. You can hear his tone on the video. At right you see his expression as he was telling this story. I got pretty lost in the story, along about the point where he went into detail about the curriculum of a school that folks like his ancestors started soon after their arrival. Lots of Greek and Latin, apparently.

In Noble’s world, our elected leaders haven’t failed to do what he wants because they disagree with him, but because they’re all “bought and paid for.” (Which is what I meant on a previous occasion when I said Phil is styling himself as this election’s Bernie Sanders.)

Ms. Willis, who had just gotten into the race that day, set her own tone by saying, “OK, let’s get right down to it. I’ve asked Phil Noble to drop out of this race.”

Noble’s response was along the lines of “Perhaps she oughta withdraw from the race!”

It was a “Yeah? And so’s yer mother!” moment that exemplified a tone that ran through the whole event. There have been times in the past when I have faulted my home state for being too polite. On Friday night, I was missing that politeness a bit.

The snapping wasn’t just between the two of them. For instance, after James Smith said some perfectly harmless things about how humbled and grateful he was for all the support he was getting from women across South Carolina, Ms. Willis replied with a sarcastic, “Well, let’s see how many of those eleven thousand women will still be with him when I tell you what I’m gonna do.”

Noble’s main shot at Smith came when he accused him of getting rating of 100 from the NRA, which Smith dismissed, defending his record of trying to reduce gun violence.

That moment sort of crystallized the point I mentioned earlier. Here we have a Democrat running with what would be an asset in the general election — a respect for gun rights, if Noble’s accusation were true — and that’s the beef his opponent has with him. From the start, Noble has seemed to justify his candidacy by accusing Smith of not being enough of a doctrinaire Democrat. He seems bent on making sure that the party nominates someone who can’t possibly win in the fall,

As for Ms. Willis… it will be interesting to see how many of those 11,000 women she can peel away from Smith in the coming weeks. That would seem critical to her chances, as she seemed to repeatedly put her self forward as the candidate for women. I don’t think she made a really strong start on that Friday night.

But y’all go watch it — you should be able to hear it better than I did at the time — and let me know what you think….

Democratic race for governor just got even more surprising

Phil Noble's 'response to the response' last week was... eccentric...

Phil Noble’s ‘response to the response’ last week was… eccentric…

I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with the race among Democrats for governor.

Once James Smith made up his mind to go for it, it had looked like that was that. After all, Democrats had been urging him to run ever since he came back from Afghanistan, several election cycles ago.

Everybody who was anybody in the party was lining up behind him, and has continue to do so — Joe Riley from the Lowcountry and Dick Riley from the Upstate (my two favorite SC Dems), along with Jim Hodges and Steve Benjamin. He’s very popular among Democratic women, as evidenced by this list and this Facebook page. He seems pretty well-liked all around.

Yet Phil Noble came forth with his lonely quest. He has been endorsed by… Doug Jones of Alabama. (It seems I’ve heard of a list of actual South Carolinians supporting him, but haven’t found it. If you know where it is, I’ll link to it.) Jones is a pretty big name nationally right now; no doubt about it — but Smith more than cancels that out with Joe Biden.

Marguerite Willis

Marguerite Willis

Digression: Reading some of his Tweets the night of the State of the State, I reached a conclusion — Phil is aiming to be the Bernie Sanders of South Carolina, the spoiler who hobbles the obvious choice for the nomination. You know, the ideologue whose chief beef about the heir apparent is that he’s too moderate and sensible. It seems to really bug Phil that the Democrats might nominate a candidate that someone other than Democrats might vote for. His… eccentric (the videography reminded me of “Wayne’s World,” before Rob Lowe’s slick villain character took it over)… “response to the response” that streamed online that night confirmed it. You should watch it, especially if you already viewed the official Democratic response given by James. Phil kept talking about wanting to “break the back of the good ol’ boy system” in the State House. Which might be understandable if he meant the Republicans who run the place — but he was saying it about the Democrats.

And now, on the eve of the first Democratic debate, another candidate is jumping into it. And her reasons so far seem… unclear. Marguerite Willis says “I just thought, ‘If I don’t, who will?'” To which the obvious answer would be, James Smith and Phil Noble. So she must have a problem with those guys; she must see them as inadequate somehow. But her only complaint so far (that I’ve seen) is, “When I listen to both candidates, I don’t feel a dedication to immediacy.”

Which I must confess goes right over my head. But let’s give her a chance. Perhaps she’ll clarify when she actually announces, on Friday.

This is getting as crowded and active as the Republican race. And, you know, this is South Carolina. So what gives?


Does that mean I’d actually have to WATCH the Super Bowl? Henry, you ask too much…


And the silly beat goes on…

Yesterday, we had Catherine Templeton actually seizing upon that silly mistake in The State and spinning it into a tale of deliberate persecution — of herself, of course. (Politicians these days are so whiny, and take things so personally. Someone is always being mean to them.)

On the same day, we had this foolishness from Henry McMaster:

On Tuesday, McMaster issued a statewide proclamation designating Sunday as “Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday.”

The governor’s proclamation encourages all South Carolinians to stand for the playing of the national anthem before the Super Bowl LII matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, according to a news release from McMaster’s office.

“Standing for the national anthem recognizes and honors the sacrifice of generations of men and women who have chosen to serve in the United States Armed Forces,” McMaster said in the news release. “I ask that all South Carolinians show the world our state’s resolute commitment to supporting our troops by standing for the national anthem wherever you watch the Super Bowl with your loved ones this Sunday.”…

All I could say to that was this:

As y’all know, I’m sympathetic to veterans who are sincerely affronted by this particular form of protest by football players. But I can’t for a moment feel sympathy for this kind of shallow, calculated manipulation…


Latest Templeton releases have a déjà vu quality

Templeton 1

Apparently, Catherine Templeton has changed her name.

It’s now “Conservative Outsider Catherine Templeton.” I know this because headlines on releases from her campaign start out that way. (Or at least, two in row did. One more, and we’ll call it a trend and send it to Lifestyles.)

Which is weird. I mean, once you say all that mouthful, you’re about out of room for a normal headline, and you still haven’t gotten to a verb.

Consequently, when I see a release from her, I think I’m seeing the same one — but no, eventually I get to a word that’s different. It just takes patience.

Actually, I just looked again and realized the part that doesn’t vary a whit is longer than I initially thought. With these two examples, the release starts “Conservative Outsider Catherine Templeton Issues Statement” before it gets to a single word that varies.

This is an odd communication style. Usually, writers of releases seek to engage your attention way sooner. But the campaign seems to have decided that positioning her as “Conservative Outsider” is more important than actually saying something — more important even than her name.

Maybe going forward, they could abbreviate it to something like “ConOut Templeton…,” in the interest of moving things along and getting to the point.


Templeton 3

Nancy Mace easily wins Jim Merrill’s former seat

Nancy Mace

Drinking game video or no, Nancy Mace did what she was expected to do yesterday, which was easily win a legislative seat drawn for a Republican.

Here’s part of what she had to say about that:

Thank You Is Not Enough
Dear Friends,

I don’t look at this as a win for me. I look at this as a win for Berkeley and Charleston counties, for the Lowcountry and for the taxpayers of South Carolina. More importantly, it’s a win for substantive solutions aimed at fixing our most pressing issues – infrastructure, the nuclear power plant mess, education and the sustainability and safety of our communities.

We got here – together – because we believe our state can do better. Because we know new perspectives are long overdue in Columbia. And because we can see that the old way of doing things in state government keeps coming up short on so many levels….

So far I haven’t seen a statement from the loser, Democrat Cindy Boatwright. In fact, her last Tweet was at 11:15 a.m. yesterday. I see that one of her friends posted this, though:

Cindy, this was only Round 1, and you fought a GREAT 1st Round. Round 2 starts tomorrow. So, take heart, stay strong, keep the faith and know that we believe that you not only can win but, in November when it will count for the full term, you WILL win.

May God bless you! You have much to be proud of. And I, for one, am very proud of you.

Really? The folks in that district have to turn right around and do this again this year? Sheesh…

Remembering a better time, just 10 years ago

That's me interviewing Obama on MLK Day 2008 -- taking notes with my right hand, shooting video with my left. With my Initech mug: "Is This Good for the COMPANY?"

That’s me interviewing Obama on MLK Day 2008 — taking notes with my right hand, shooting video with my left. With my Initech mug: “Is This Good for the COMPANY?”

I retweeted this today…

I passed it on not because it was particularly profound or unique or even one of our former president’s better Tweets, but because it reminded me of a better time for our country.

As it happens, I met Barack Obama 10 years ago, on MLK Day.

That was such a better time for our country.

McCain in the same seat, not long before.

McCain in the same seat, not long before.

A week before, we had endorsed John McCain in the SC Republican Primary, and he had won. We knew, when Barack Obama came in, that we liked him for the Democratic Primary in a few days. But this interview, at 8 a.m. on that holiday, cinched it. We were all very impressed. And since Hillary Clinton declined even to come in for an endorsement interview (I would learn why sometime later) and Joe Biden had dropped out much earlier, that was pretty much it.

We endorsed Obama, and he won the primary a few days later.

As a result, I’ve never felt better about a presidential election than I did about that one — my last in newspaper journalism, although I didn’t know it at the time.

From the time McCain and Obama won their respective nominations, I referred to it as the win-win election. Whichever one won, I felt good about our countries future.

We endorsed McCain in the fall — I’d wanted him to be president since long before I’d heard of Barack Obama, and I was concerned about the Democrat’s lack of experience. But it was OK by me when the latter won. It was the win-win election.

Fast-forward eight years, and we find the Democrat we rejected then running against the worst candidate ever to capture a major-party nomination in our nation’s history — and as if that weren’t bad enough, the worst man won. And we are reminded of that daily, as he goes from outrage to outrage.

So it’s good, if only for a day, to look back and remember a time, not so long ago, when all our prospects seemed good.

Would you vote for Oprah?

Liz Lemon hallucinating about Oprah.

Liz Lemon hallucinating about Oprah.

Sources say Oprah Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president. Of the United States.

Not long after that broke, former Nikki Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey tweeted this question:

Remind me to ask Rob sometime how you set up a tweet like that. Now, back to the topic…

I answered “wut idk,” because I really don’t know. It would depend on the office she was running for (since Rob said “any”), who was running against her, and on me learning a lot more about her.

Having never watched her show (beyond that clip of Tom Cruise going nuts, which I think all America has seen) or read her magazine, and having certainly never heard her political views, I just don’t know. The longest exposure I’ve ever had to her was that episode of “30 Rock” when Liz Lemon took a tranquilizer before flying and hallucinated that Oprah was in the seat next to her.

I do assume (unless I learn some really bad stuff about her) that I would vote for her over Donald Trump for pretty much anything. That’s because while I don’t know of any great positive qualifications she has for the presidency, I’m also ignorant of any negatives. Whereas I’ve never seen a person in high office with more negatives than Trump.

Last time I looked, one person had answered Rob in the affirmative, three of us had answered idk, and the rest were negative. I wonder what makes those five people so sure they would never vote for this woman, for any office? Maybe they know of huge negatives I don’t know about, but I sort of doubt that…

No, Democrats: Alabama doesn’t mean you’re on a roll…

And congrats to the winner. We don't have to look at the #fakecowboy any more...

And congrats to the winner. We don’t have to look at the #fakecowboy any more…

An old colleague who now works in Washington, John O’Connor, reported this this morning:

I couldn’t help replying, “Well, yeah… if the other guy is a child molester…”

John followed that up with:

And here’s what I had to say to that…

Yeah, but we’re extrapolating from a sample of two, and the circumstances of the two are miles apart. Show me a few more Virginias, and you have a trend…

Democrats like Schumer are desperate for good news. They want the augurs to tell them that they’re going to win big in 2018. This grasping at hope can be seen in SC as well:

And while Democrats are looking to win, the rest of us — independents, and rational, normal Republicans — are hoping to see the national nightmare of Trump come to an end.

So there’s satisfaction, relief, in the Alabama results. But cause for celebration? No. The nation dodged a bullet. A terrible thing did not happen.

But just barely. Good Lord, look at what lost: Trump’s man was an absolute nightmare of a candidate, regardless of your political implications. We have good reason to believe he’s a child molester. He wants to do away with every amendment after the 10th, which means (and he knows this is what it means — he’s a lawyer, and a former judge, as incredible as it may be that he ever passed a course in law school) doing away with the amendments that freed the slaves and guaranteed equal treatment before the law. He seems incapable of opening his mouth without saying something shockingly idiotic.

In a sane world, he should have been creamed; he shouldn’t have received 10 percent of the vote. But he almost got 50.

It’s a bit early to say Trumpism is dead. Yes, we should all be happy that a horrible candidate lost. And to be a little more upbeat, we can even take comfort from the fact that a decent guy seems to have won (I liked that Joe Biden chose to focus on the positive, without making too much of it.)

But the country’s not out of the woods. All we’re seeing is flickers of light through the trees…

That other Alabama senator ALMOST did the right thing

But he only went halfway in the honorable cause of trying to stop Roy Moore.

At first blush, one is inclined to pen a latter-day profile in courage at this news:

Shelby bucks his party and president to oppose Moore for Senate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In his sternest rebuke yet, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said repeatedly Sunday his state can “do better” than electing fellow Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, making clear that a write-in candidate was far preferable to a man accused of sexual misconduct….

“The state of Alabama deserves better,” he said….

That’s fine as far as it goes, and can be described as real leadership — assuming anyone follows.

But the gesture is revealed as a halfway one when we look more closely at what he said:

“I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could do that,” Shelby told CNN’s “State of the Union.”…

Here’s a clue for anyone who doesn’t get my point: Writing in “a distinguished Republican name” shows Shelby isn’t entirely serious about stopping Moore. I don’t care how distinguished the name is. If it was Abraham Lincoln, he still wouldn’t have a prayer of beating Moore. Being dead and all. (And this being Alabama.)

Sure, the senator has seen to it that Moore doesn’t get his vote. But that only does exactly as much good as if the senator had simply not voted.

Someone has to beat Moore in order to prevent him from going to Washington. And there’s only one person on the planet in a position to do that: Democrat Doug Jones.

That Shelby cannot bring himself to vote for a Democrat even to stop his party from being shamed by Moore shows that he’s not quite the high-minded, above-the-fray statesman the headlines would suggest.

We’ve been here before, of course, and on a much larger scale. The nation is now reaping the bitter harvest of such thinking last year, when the woods were full of Republicans who knew it would be insane to elect Trump, and held back from doing so — but considered voting for Hillary Clinton to be so completely, absolutely unthinkable that they could not entertain the notion for a moment.

So they threw their votes away, rather than give them to the only person on the planet in a position to stop Trump.

This partisan mindlessness must stop if we are to save this republic. It just has to…


A man does not need a game to drink, if he is a man

A man does not need company to drink. Nor does he need games...

A man does not need company to drink. Nor does he need games…

I noticed the other day that the MSM (the Charleston paper) had reported on the Nancy Mace video (yeah, that one). This part of the story, relating the reaction of Mace opponent Cindy Boatwright, jumped out at me:

Boatwright, a mental health counselor making her first bid for office, confirmed she has played beverage games in the past.

“Yup, I have,” she told Palmetto Politics. “However, not last year. I went to college. There was beer pongs.”…

First, I think it’s beer pong, not “pongs,” but I could be wrong, having never played. (Weirder was the paper’s description of the Mace video: “In the clip, Mace, who won the House District 99 GOP runoff Tuesday, is seen drinking a beverage and then pouring the liquid from her mouth into the mouth of another person at a table.” Don’t know about you, but “pouring” seems the wrong verb. Whatever.)

But here’s my question: Who needs a game in order to drink? I mean, I went to college, and I drank my share of beer and wine (and maybe someone else’s when he wasn’t looking). I don’t remember having to play games as an excuse to imbibe.

Is it a woman thing? I ask because another thing I did in college was read a lot of Hemingway, which is why I know that a man does not need a game to drink like a man. A man need only get up in the morning. First, he will do some work, which he will do cleanly and well. He might do some journalism to pay the bills, and then work on the next chapter of the book, the one about the war. Then he will stop while the work is still good, and when he knows what comes next.

Then he will go to the cafe and he will drink. He will do so deliberately and with purpose, as a man does. He will read the Herald-Tribune while he drinks. He may start with one of those Dutch beers that are so cool and so clean in the green bottles. Then the man will proceed to another cafe, where he will read the letters from his publisher while having an aperitif. He will then eat his lunch with a bottle of rioja alta, which is an honest wine and red, like the red that spills from the bull at the end of the corrida . He will take satisfaction in this because the work he has done this day was right and true, so that he knows he has deserved the wine.

He will not speak during any of this. If Brett starts to speak, he will say, “Don’t talk about it. If we talk about it, we will lose it…”

OK, I forget now where I was going with this…

Trump and Clinton were the two most-despised nominees ever. How do we avoid that in the future?


The election that made Donald Trump president was an unmitigated disaster for America and for the world it has led since 1945. And it’s hard to see how the nation is going to extricate itself and recover.

But things would not have been a bed of roses had Hillary Clinton won the election as well as the popular vote. You think Congress has been feckless and obnoxious this year (it’s great achievement passing an unneeded, execrable tax bill)? In the event of a Clinton victory, Congress would have spent all its time launching attacks and investigations against the woman many of the GOP members have hated with every fiber of their beings almost (and with some you could leave off the “almost”) since they were children. The nasty partisanship of the Bush and Obama years would be looked back on fondly as a golden age of harmony.

It was a no-win proposition. Of course, a voter with judgment and a conscience had to vote for Clinton because Trump had to be stopped and she was the only person in a position to stop him. But still, things would have been pretty bad had she won — just not as bad.

The country couldn’t win in 2016, because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the two least-appealing nominees in the memory of pollsters. As FiveThirtyEight proclaimed in May 2016, “Americans’ Distaste For Both Trump And Clinton Is Record-Breaking.”

How did this happen? Of course, in part it can be explained as simply a function of our partisan polarization: The candidate who appeals most to one side is the most hated by the other. But it’s way more complicated than that. These people were little liked among us independents, either. And these candidates were unique. Never before has a party nominated someone who was in the White House 25 years earlier, and started being despised by a large portion of the electorate way back then. Nor has a party picked a famously sleazy businessman with zero relevant experience, knowledge, understanding, or principles. So no, it was not politics as usual.

This predicament was in no way inevitable. As recently as 2008, both parties had opted for their most broadly appealing candidates, leading to what I, as an independent who (like so many) liked them both, saw as a win-win proposition. I regretted that I couldn’t vote for both McCain and Obama.

So how do we avoid this in the future? Well, the dream option would be for both parties to fall apart and to have some better system of winnowing the field suddenly and magically replace them. Do you see that happening? I don’t. Or rather, I see the falling-apart part happening, but not the replacing-with-something-better part.

Another option would be for the parties to stick around, but clean up their act to where they can put forth candidates who appeal to someone outside their most-committed respective bases.

I’m not seeing this happening so far. I heard on the radio the other day (but for some reason am having trouble finding it now) that Democrats have been working on “reforming” (Democrats sometimes use “reform” loosely, the way Republicans do with regard to taxes) their nomination process. I can’t give you specifics since I can’t find it now, but it sounded to me like they wanted to make the process more democratic, so that party elites can’t stack things in favor of their preferred candidates. This to me sounds like the opposite of reform. The insurgencies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the best argument I’ve ever seen for smoke-filled rooms. But then I have to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that Hillary Clinton was the choice of party elites this time. So what that tells me is that they need new elites.

(OK, I found something about the Democratic reform process. But it’s not what I was looking for.)

Meanwhile, the Republicans are cursed with power, and obviously haven’t a clue what to do with it. All of their pathological dysfunction has been nakedly on display this year, which is why the party has accomplished nothing but a tax bill that looks like a parody of everything the populists who voted for both Sanders and Trump despise about the GOP. Really, fellas? This is the big achievement that you think will save you? Basically, the GOP has spent the year staggering from disaster to embarrassment and back again. And hey, in a few days the Republicans in the Senate will likely be welcoming Roy Moore, the ugliest baby yet produced by the polygamous marriage of incompatible factions that is currently the Republican “big tent.”

I don’t have a magic wand or I’d be waving it like crazy to prevent 2020 from being like 2016, which would be more than either party seems to be doing so far.

Perhaps you have some ideas…