Category Archives: Elections

Is ‘populist’ sometimes a euphemism for ‘stupid?’

I sort of felt like Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington bureau chief, was tiptoeing around something in this political analysis, which seems to go nowhere really, reaching no coherent conclusion (it read less like something a senior political writer is inspired to write than a reply dragged from a schoolboy by the question, “Compare and contrast these two politicians…”):

Could the nascent 2016 campaign turn into one of those elections that shakes up the system?

The question arises most obviously because of the summer sensation of Donald Trump, billionaire populist with a long history of giving to Democrats who has somehow tapped into a deep vein of working-class anger to become a current (though temporary) leader in the Republican presidential field. There are enough mind-bending contradictions in that sentence alone to at least raise the question of whether something broader is going on. The thought is only enhanced by the fact that the single hottest political draw right now is Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 73-year-old socialist who favors a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the breakup of big banks….

In fact, those are just two forces at work suggesting the system is straining to break loose from some of its traditional moorings. The combination of a wide-open race, populist strains at the base of both parties and big demographic changes all open the doors to destabilizing forces.

Polls suggest Mr. Trump’s resonance is greatest with disillusioned lower-income voters, illustrating that Republicans are trying to come to terms with a party that has grown more blue-collar, working-class and antiestablishment as it has grown….

Seems to me like he’s straining with that “populist” label in an effort to come up with a word that describes the appeal of both Trump and Sanders. With Sanders, I can see it, but with Trump? Really? A populist billionaire who revels into  his own excess? How can a guy who’s best-known catchphrase is “You’re fired!” be any kind of a populist?

Seib describes the GOP as “a party that has grown more blue-collar, working-class and antiestablishment,” but is that really who is applauding Trump right now? There’s a word that seems to be missing, and it describes a long-standing tradition in American politics: anti-intellectual.

I wouldn’t apply that label to the GOP in general. But it’s definitely the impulse that Trump is tapping into.

From the election of flat-Earther Andrew Jackson over the supremely qualified John Quincy Adams to the present day, there has been a perverse streak in the electorate that causes significant numbers to go for whoever is dumbing down politics the most.

I’m not saying the voters themselves are stupid (that would be anathema in American politics, right?), I’m just saying that sometimes, some voters have a sort of fit that causes them to convulsively embrace whoever is making the biggest jackass of himself on the political stage.

And at the moment, that is unquestionably Trump.

And yeah, there is a disturbing simplicity to Bernie Sanders’ vision of how to build a more perfect union. But to the extent that the two share a trait, is “populist” really the word for it?

Howard Duvall, opposing Cameron Runyan for city council

Howard Duvall

Howard Duvall

Y’all remember several months ago when I interviewed Tige Watts, who was running against Cameron Runyan in this year’s election for at-large Columbia City Council member?

Well, if you’ll recall, a couple of months later Tige dropped out, to be replaced by his political ally Howard Duvall, whom most folks know as the longtime director of the South Carolina municipal association, now retired.

Well, here’s how all that happened, according to Howard, whom I interviewed this morning:

Howard and Tige are both involved with a group that concerns itself with good local government as they see it, along with Kit Smith, Candy Waites, Ginny Grose and several others.

Back last November, they decided to do a poll to examine the feasibility of one of them challenging Cameron Runyan for his at-large seat on City Council. This was close to the time when the incumbent was taking his lonesome stance against benefits for same-sex partners of city employees. And sure, there was a good bit of bitterness out there on account of his having been elected with gay community help, before his big conversion experience.

But Howard says that was not the impetus. The members of his Good Government Group were united in opposing him because he supported the deal for the baseball park at the Bull Street development. The Triple-G had thought he was on their side after they had presented him with facts and figures that they thought made an overwhelming case against the deal, and when he voted the other way, giving the proposal a 4-3 victory, they decided they had had enough of Cameron Runyan.

They did ask a question on their poll as to whether voters could support an openly gay candidate, and 70 percent responded affirmatively. That and the rest of the poll persuaded Tige Watts, a political consultant, that he should be the one to run. The rest of the group agreed, and he started talking up his candidacy.

But as time passed, others in the group began to have their doubts. They were worried that Tige wasn’t raising enough money, and that he was having trouble balancing his work with the time that such a candidacy demanded. Other members of the group got together and decided that Mr. Duvall, who is retired, would be able to commit the kind of time and effort that success would demand.

So he approached Mr. Watts, who initially responded by proposing that both run, and promise each other that if either got into a runoff, the other would endorse him. That was on a Monday. By Friday, he had thought better of that, and said he would drop out and endorse Howard.

Since then, the Duvall campaign has been fairly active, with the candidate spending several hours a day on the phone either raising money (he’s shooting for $100,000) or seeking other forms of support. And yet the campaign hasn’t been officially launched. That is set to happen on September 9. Tonight, one of the Republican members of Duvall’s backer group is hosting him at a reception at which about 100 Republicans — not the usual allies for him, or for Kit or Candy — are expected.

With Duvall, you have a great believer in professionalism in local government, and someone who could reasonably claim to be as well qualified as anyone you can imagine. He was a several-term councilman and then mayor of Cheraw, his hometown, before he become head of the Municipal Association in 1987. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from USC.

In other words, he’s a pretty logical replacement for Tige Watts, who is a national leader in neighborhood associations.

I have a lot of respect for Howard, and for the folks in his group, even though they were the cabal behind defeating the strong-mayor initiative, with Howard being the guy who managed to get the vote separated from the mayoral election, which is what did the proposal in.

See, that’s what Howard means by professionalism in government — that it should be run by an unelected, professional manager instead of an elected mayor.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons he’s wrong about that at the moment. For now, I’ll just say that his long experience and dedication to municipal government in this state makes him a very strong candidate.

He’s running on a platform of improving public safety and updating infrastructure, by which he means water and sewer.

Meanwhile it appears that Runyan is still in it, based on an email I got today inviting me to this Rally.org page.

And I believe John Adams, son of ex-mayor Patton, is still in it as well — although I haven’t heard anything about it since March, which was back before Tige Watts dropped out.

I guess I’ll need to run him down next.

Meanwhile, dig Howard’s wild campaign poster and logo. He says it’s Ginny Grose’s design. The little triangle in the D is supposed to look like a fast-forward button, he says. Some GOP allies thought it looked too much like the arrow in Hillary Clinton’s logo, but they went with it anyway.

It looks to me like a title page for a cartoon — more like Howard the Duck (who, you will recall, ran for office on the ticket of the All-Night Party in 1976 — campaign slogan, “Get Down, America!”) than Howard the Duvall. But I’ve got to say, it’s distinctive.

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My second favorite moment on ‘The Wire’

I loved the look on Terry D'Agostino's face as McNulty explains that he couldn't be bothered to vote in the presidential election between Bush and what's-his-name. ("Kerry," she says helpfully.)

I love the look on Terry D’Agostino’s face as McNulty explains that he couldn’t be bothered to vote in the presidential election between Bush and what’s-his-name. (“Kerry,” she says helpfully.)

Sorry, but I couldn’t find video to embed of this one.

Previously, I shared my delight at the scene from the first season in which Rawls tries to comfort McNulty, whom he hates, while cussing him out. Wonderful device for deepening the viewer’s sense of these characters. (Later, there is further cause to be sympathetic to Rawls’ dislike of McNulty, as the latter repeatedly shows his disregard for the opinions and prerogatives of other bosses and colleagues.)

I’m in the third season now, and my fave so far is the one in which McNulty and Terry D’Agostino are for once having dinner together before jumping into the sack, and she learns how apathetic he is about politics — which means there will be no jumping into sacks tonight.

As the scene was summarized by HBO:

McNulty, slightly intimidated, has dinner with Theresa D’Agostino in a fancy D.C. restaurant. The more she learns about him — that he only has a year of college under his belt, that he is essentially an apolitical being who doesn’t know the difference between a red state and a blue state and who didn’t even bother to vote in the presidential election — the less interested she is in him. When McNulty takes her home, she doesn’t invite him in…

Yeah, there was some class stuff going on there. But I think she liked his rough edges. The deal-killer, the anti-aphrodisiac for her seemed to be the moment he said he couldn’t be bothered to vote.

I was watching her face, and that was when he lost her. Up to that point, he thought he had a really hot borderline nymphomaniac eating from his hand. As from that instant, I knew Jimmy was out of luck.

I’ve heard SO many people say the dismissive things McNulty was saying about politics. It was refreshing and fun to see such a person pay for his apathy, in terms he could appreciate…

 

‘How to Destroy Your Cell Phone, with Lindsey Graham’

Not to be outdone by Rand Paul’s video showing him destroying the tax code in various ways (including with a chainsaw), Lindsey Graham is capitalizing on Donald Trump’s having given out his cell phone number with the above clip, in which he shows a number of ways to destroy a flip phone.

The video is produced by IJ Review — the same website that used that flag video my son produced and I narrated…

destroy phone

 

Lee Bright draws primary challenger

The shenanigans of state Sen. Lee Bright have attracted a primary challenger for next year:

Greer businessman David McCraw is challenging state Sen. Lee Bright for the Republican nomination next year for Senate District 12, pointing to Bright’s support of the Confederate flag and his failure to back a GOP roads plan.McCraw

McCraw, 48, said “while our roads were crumbling,” Bright worked on legislation for an independent currency and supported the flag when most senators voted to remove it from the Statehouse grounds.

“Lee Bright has done an awful lot of talking, but very little doing,” McCraw said. “This month the General Assembly concluded their work for the year with very little to show for it. Partisan bickering and an attitude of self-promotion and political grandstanding instead of cooperation means that we still do not have a plan to improve our roads; it means that you will not see any decrease in your tax bills this year; and it means another year will go by without any real ethics reform. We deserve better from our elected officials. That is why I am running for Senate.”…

Interestingly, the Spartanburg paper’s report on this development didn’t mention the flag a single time. Which was odd. But it did mention another of Bright’s more notorious stands:

“It really shocked me when (Bright) suggested an independent currency for South Carolina,” McCraw said. “It’s one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve ever heard. We are a global economy.”

Yep, that one was a doozy, too…

 

What kind of a world is it, when a creep like Trump feels free to fling such trash at honorable men?

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

After posting that Open Thread with the item about what Trump said about John McCain, I went to the movies with my son to see “Ant Man.” Pretty good flick.

But while there, I missed a call from my friend Jack Van Loan. When I saw he’d called, I had a pretty good idea why.

And it made me feel sick to know that when Trump attempted to besmirch the honor of McCain, he was also throwing his trash at Jack. Which is beyond disgusting.

Jack left this message, obviously choosing his words carefully:

Brad, this is Jack Van Loan, calling you at 6:25 on Sunday. I’m terribly disappointed in my friend, uh… (long pause) that shot his mouth off about John McCain. John served awfully, awfully well, did a hell of a good job under terrific pressure – torture, etc., etc. — and I’m very disappointed that anybody would pick on him.

I’ve tried to get hold of your editor, and evidently I don’t have the right number. But if you would call me…, I would appreciate you telling him what I really think, OK.

Give me a call; thank you.

I tried to call him back, but missed him. Since he wanted to talk to someone at the paper, I called Executive Editor Mark Lett and left both of the numbers I had for Jack. I hope they have better luck reaching him than I did.

I didn’t reach Jack, but I’ll share with you a column I wrote when someone else attacked his friend John’s record, in January 2008 — the month of the South Carolina primary:

By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
ON MAY 20, 1967, Air Force pilot Jack Van Loan was shot down over North Vietnam. His parachute carried him to Earth well enough, but he landed all wrong.
“I hit the ground, and I slid, and I hit a tree,” he said. This provided an opportunity for his captors at the prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton.”
“My knee was kind of screwed up and they … any time they found you with some problems, then they would, they would bear down on the problems,” he said. “I mean, they worked on my knee pretty good … and, you know, just torturing me.”
In October of Jack’s first year in Hanoi, a new prisoner came in, a naval aviator named John McCain. He was in really bad shape. He had ejected over Hanoi, and had landed in a lake right in the middle of the city. He suffered two broken arms and a broken leg ejecting. He nearly drowned in the lake before a mob pulled him out, and then set upon him. They spat on him, kicked him and stripped his clothes off. Then they crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt, and bayoneted him in his left foot and his groin.
That gave the enemy something to “bear down on.” Lt. Cmdr. McCain would be strung up tight by his unhealed arms, hog-tied and left that way for the night.
“John was no different than anyone else, except that he was so badly hurt,” said Jack. “He was really badly, badly hurt.”
Jack and I got to talking about all this when he called me Wednesday morning, outraged over a story that had appeared in that morning’s paper, headlined “McCain’s war record attacked.” A flier put out by an anti-McCain group was claiming the candidate had given up military information in return for medical treatment as a POW in Vietnam.
This was the kind of thing the McCain campaign had been watching out for. The Arizona senator came into South Carolina off a New Hampshire win back in 2000, but lost to George W. Bush after voters received anonymous phone calls telling particularly nasty lies about his private life. So the campaign has been on hair-trigger alert in these last days before the 2008 primary on Saturday.
Jack, a retired colonel whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing for more than a decade, believes his old comrade would make the best president “because of all the stressful situations that he’s been under, and the way he’s responded.” But he had called me about something more important than that. It was a matter of honor.
Jack was incredulous: “To say that John would ask for medical treatment in return for military information is just preposterous. He turned down an opportunity to go home early, and that was right in front of all of us.”
“I mean, he was yelling it. I couldn’t repeat the language he used, and I wouldn’t repeat the language he used, but boy, it was really something. I turned to my cellmate … who heard it all also loud and clear; I said, ‘My God, they’re gonna kill him for that.’”
The North Vietnamese by this time had stopped the torture — even taken McCain to the hospital, which almost certainly saved his life — and now they wanted just one thing: They wanted him to agree to go home, ahead of other prisoners. They saw in him an opportunity for a propaganda coup, because of something they’d figured out about him.
“They found out rather quick that John’s father was (Admiral) John Sidney McCain II,” who was soon to be named commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, Jack said. “And they came in and said, ‘Your father big man, and blah-blah-blah,’ and John gave ’em name, rank and serial number and date of birth.”
But McCain refused to accept early release, and Jack says he never acknowledged that his Dad was CINCPAC.
Jack tries hard to help people who weren’t there understand what it was like. He gave a speech right after he finally was freed and went home. His father, a community college president in Oregon and “a consummate public speaker,” told him “That was the best talk I’ve ever heard you give.”
But, his father added: “‘They didn’t believe you.’
“It just stopped me cold. ‘What do you mean, they didn’t believe me?’ He said, ‘They didn’t understand what you were talking about; you’ve got to learn to relate to them.’”
“And I’ve worked hard on that,” he told me. “But it’s hard as hell…. You might be talking to an audience of two or three hundred people; there might be one or two guys that spent a night in a drunk tank. Trying to tell ‘em what solitary confinement is all about, most people … they don’t even relate to it.”
Jack went home in the second large group of POWs to be freed in connection with the Paris Peace Talks, on March 4, 1973. “I was in for 70 months. Seven-zero — seventy months.” Doctors told him that if he lived long enough, he’d have trouble with that knee. He eventually got orthoscopic surgery right here in Columbia, where he is an active community leader — the current president of the Columbia Rotary.
John McCain, who to this day is unable to raise his hands above his head — an aide has to comb his hair for him before campaign appearances — was released in the third group. He could have gone home long, long before that, but he wasn’t going to let his country or his comrades down.
The reason Jack called me Wednesday was to make sure I knew that.

Campaigning with McCain in 2007.

Campaigning with McCain in 2007.

The majority isn’t always wrong, but it isn’t always right, either

With Scott Walker in town today, I took a moment to read a letter that some New Hampshire Democrats wrote to him upon his visit to that state. An excerpt:

We wanted to welcome you to the First in the Nation Primary. You are a little late to the game, so we decided to help you out with some information about New Hampshire.

Last night, you said that raising the minimum wage was a “lame idea.” Lame idea? Really? Well, it’s an idea that 76% of Granite Staters support

Which got me to thinking about Henrik Ibsen.

That letter — a good example of the kind of letters that partisans send, not meant to communicate with the purported recipient privately, but to taunt him publicly (or in this case, to tell the 76 percent what an awful person Scott Walker is) — got me to thinking of some of my favorite Ibsen quotes back when I was 17, from “An Enemy of the People:”

“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools?”…

“Oh, yes — you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The majority has
might on its side–unfortunately; but right it has not.”…

“What sort of truths are they that the majority usually supports? They are truths that are of such advanced age that they are beginning to break up. And if a truth is as old as that, it is also in a fair way to become a lie, gentlemen.”…

I fear that I’m giving you a rather ugly picture of myself when I was 17. Well, I had my share of youthful arrogance and alienation, a bit of a Raskolnikov complex, which is common enough. Some of us outgrow it. Others among us end up like Edward Snowden, convinced that we know better than everyone else, especially established institutions.

I outgrew it, thank God. Which is to say that I’ve come to disagree with almost everything Ibsen seemed to be on about.

All that remains of it, with me, is a belief that the majority is not always right. It can be right, and I think it probably is considerably more often than the proverbial stopped clock. I think there’s really something to the notion of “the wisdom of crowds.” Or as Stephen Maturin said in The Mauritius Command, “whoever heard of the long-matured judgment of a village being wrong?”

Yes, and no. It is very often right, but it can be wrong, I fear.

In any case, it seems unreliable as an indicator of whether an increase in the minimum wage is a good idea, or a “lame” one.

I’ve heard the arguments for and against, and I just don’t know. If anything, I may lean toward the against — the assertions that a mandatory increase in wages could lead to fewer jobs, particularly for the poor, seems to make some sense.

But I don’t know, regardless of what 76 percent of Granite Staters may say…

Looking toward the post-Joe Riley era in Charleston

I hadn’t focused, until Bud Ferillo reminded me the other day, that the Joe Riley era in Charleston is about to end: There’s a mayoral election this year, and he’s not running.

Which means he’s now available to run for governor!

No, alas — I fear he’s actually retiring from politics.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this release from someone running to take his place:

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Brad —

The tragedies of this past month will forever be in our memories.  Our hearts are with the families of the nine worshippers whose lives were taken in a premeditated rage.  In spite of this horrific crime of hate, love has overcome these horrible moments, and, once again, the Charleston community has shown the world how a God-loving community can and should act under the most awful circumstances.

The families of the victims, choosing to forgive rather than condemn, demonstrated the very essence of Christianity. The way in which they, Mayor Riley, Chief Mullins, Governor Haley, and the African Methodist Episcopal leadership have dealt with the tragic loss of their loved ones, have given us all reasons to be proud of them and thankful of the role that they are playing in helping our community, state, and country heal.  So, for now, let us continue to keep the main focus on:

  • Our fellow citizens who have lost their lives while rendering service to God;
  • Their families, friends, and the citizens of Charleston who are still trying to deal with the horror of their tragic deaths; and
  • Initiatives that unite us rather than divide us.

While the healing process has begun, we are also reminded that unless actions are taken to eradicate the attitudes, beliefs, and practices that allow hate to fester in our community, we may have a repeat of such senseless acts of hate. As Charlestonians, we cannot allow the continued racism embedded in the ways we treat people; we cannot return to polite, benign neglect and avoidance of the sometimes difficult actions necessary for true change.

Instead, as Charlestonians, we need to abandon the processes that isolate people from equal access to the things that allow them to actualize their fullest potential. Specifically, we need to seize this incredible display of unity as an opportunity to begin discussing ways to:

  • Create an economy that provides opportunities for all of our citizens;
  • Ensure that every child receives a first class education;
  • Strengthen the ties that bind our neighborhoods;
  • Provide affordable housing within the various neighborhoods so that families have an opportunity to live together in peace and harmony;
  • Redefine gentrification to be inclusive of all people of diverse economic and racial backgrounds; and
  • Remove, by way of inclusive and respectful dialogue, the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds to really show solidarity as a state.

As Charlestonians, let us not lose the momentum of “oneness.” Let us commit to treating all people with mutual respect, a sense of fair play, and equal access to all people.  Let us show the now and next generations that diversity and inclusion are strengths… not weaknesses.  Let us remember the words of James Weldon Johnson in the Negro Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

“… Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.“

Let us instead focus on actions, which will influence the future quality of life for all citizens of our beloved city.  How will you spend the next several months?  What will you do to move forward the equity issues of economics, shared power, and inclusion in planning the future? To avoid such discussions may imply that we lack faith and confidence in one another as Charlestonians.

Get Involved! Join Our Team Today (Click to visit website).

Thank you and God bless!
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Maurice Washington
Candidate for Mayor

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):