Category Archives: Legislature

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…

 

Speaker’s statement on other State House monuments

My attention is not focused on Tillman's statue at this time.

My attention is not focused on Tillman’s statue at this time.

I meant to post this yesterday when it came in, before it was in the paper:

Speaker Lucas Statement on Debate Over Public Monuments and Buildings

(Columbia, SC) – Today, House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement to reiterate his position surrounding future debate over public monuments and memorials.  In light of the recent tragedy, several South Carolina universities and colleges have formally asked or suggested the General Assembly address changes or exceptions to the South Carolina Heritage Act.  This law, which passed in 2000, protects all monuments, historical markers, street names, and buildings named for historical figures or events.

“The South Carolina House of Representatives will not engage in or debate the specifics of public monuments, memorials, state buildings, road names or any other historical markers. The General Assembly, the House in particular, made it abundantly clear during the debate of the confederate flag that the only issue they were willing to discuss was the placement of the battle flag on the north lawn of the State House. We reached a swift resolution last week and in doing so put an end to this discussion. Debate over this issue will not be expanded or entertained throughout the remainder of my time as Speaker.”

I’m satisfied with that, and I fully understand that the speaker, who just did yeoman’s work on getting the flag down, would be uninterested in any more battles over stuff on the State House grounds.

Before I move on, however, just to get certain points on the record, I wish to make these observations:

  • I have never promised NOT to advocate to remove other items from the State House grounds. What I have said (or at least what I thought) was that the Confederate flag that flew there until a week ago was in its own, special category, qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from anything else on the grounds in terms of its political significance. And that is why I have concerned myself with that and only that with regard to the grounds.
  • If I were ever to advocate to remove or amend (as Todd Rutherford suggests) anything on the grounds, it would be the Ben Tillman statue. My longtime newspaper was founded to fight the Tillman machine, and its first editor was murdered by one of its capos. My own ancestors, who actually lived next door to Tillman in Washington, took a very dim view of him. And my ancestors and newspaper were right: He may be the nastiest piece of work ever to wield political power in his state. Which puts him, rather like the flag, in a special category of his own.
  • I have NO interest in fighting such a battle at this time. I’m enjoying the reconciliation and togetherness that bringing down the flag has engendered in our state, and I intend to bask in it for the foreseeable future. I have NEVER been guilty of the kinds of intentions that neoConfederates ascribed to flag opponents — some sort of Orwellian desire to remove all reminders of the Confederate past. I’ve never been even slightly interested in that, and I would not want in any way to give them a reason to think their “slippery slope” argument was even vaguely justified. And even though Tillman is a separate issue from the Confederacy, I’m not interested in addressing him for now. And probably not for the rest of Lucas’ tenure as speaker, although I’m always open to a good argument.

Bernstein files bill to try to stop the next Dylann Roof

This just in from the House Democrats:

Rep. Beth Bernstein to Introduce Background Check Completion Act in SC House
 
Legislation will mirror Congressman Jim Clyburn’s bill in US House
 
Columbia, SC – Richland County State Representative Beth Bernstein announced Thursday that she will prefile the “Background Check Completion Act” in December. The same bill was filed earlier this week in the U.S. House of Representatives by South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn.
The bill will require licensed gun dealers in South Carolina to wait until a background check is completed before selling a firearm. Under current law, if the FBI does not approve or deny the background check within three days, the licensed dealer has the discretion to proceed with the sale of the firearm. The alleged shooter in the Charleston massacre used this loophole to purchase the weapon that was used to kill nine people last month. Bernstein’s bill will close that loophole and make sure all background checks are completed before a transaction can be made.
“This is one of the most dangerous loopholes we currently have in our gun laws,” said Representative Beth Bernstein, a mother of two young daughters. “Most law-abiding citizens who purchase firearms have their background checks approved within minutes. But when someone has a criminal record, or pending charge, it may take longer for the FBI to gather all the information to determine if that person is legally authorized to buy a gun. We shouldn’t put an arbitrary three day deadline on something that could result in a deranged individual or criminal purchasing a gun. If we’re going to require a background check, we should require the background check be completed.”
Representative Bernstein stressed that this bill is not a form of gun control.
“As a CWP holder, I’m a strong supporter of gun rights and the second amendment. And I can assure you this bill is not gun control. It simply makes sure that the background checks that are already taking place are completed. If this bill would have been in place earlier this year, the Charleston shooter would not have legally been sold a gun from a licensed dealer. If closing this loophole saves just one life, it is worth it.”

Rep. Bernstein commended Congressman Clyburn for proposing this legislation on a federal level and maintained that she will pre-file the same bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives in December.”

####

It’s a great day in South Carolina, and tomorrow will be even greater

I wasn't actually seeing this. My phone did, held high above my head.

I wasn’t actually seeing this. My phone, held high above my head, did.

It helps to make new friends at just the right moment.

As I arrived at the State House a few minutes before the appointed time for Gov. Nikki Haley to sign the bill removing the Confederate flag from the grounds, I realized I should have come a lot earlier. Anyone with a brain should have known this would not just attract media types and pols who want to get into the picture. I had to stand a couple of minutes in a queue of regular civilians before I could even get into the building. But it was a happy, friendly group to hang out with.

My friend Valerie Bauerlein had joined the queue just as I made it through the metal detector, and I waited for her. But then we had trouble — both stairways up to the lobby were blocked by uniformed guards. They said the lobby was at capacity and nobody else could come up. I told them Valerie was from The Wall Street Journal and had come a long way, but no dice. Same story at the elevator.

So I went over toward the corridor to the governor’s office, where a bunch of dignitaries — also behind guards. I saw my representative, Kenny Bingham, and tried calling on his cell. He must have had it turned off. Then I saw Nathan Ballentine. “Nathan!” I called, to no avail. Just then, Rob Godfrey, the governor’s press guy, came over to tell me how much he had liked my column yesterday, in which I said nice things about the governor. (He had earlier said obliging things on Twitter.)

I thanked him, told him of our predicament, so he went and found a senior security guy, and suddenly it was OK for two more people to ascend the stairs.

So you see, sometimes it pays to make nice to the governor. You know, when it’s warranted. (Kidding aside, I’m as proud as I can be of her these last couple of weeks, as I’ve mentioned previously.)

At this point, you’re wondering when I’m going to get to the part about the signing ceremony. Well… here’s the thing… Once Valerie and I got up there, we found we couldn’t get within five or six people of the rope line around the spot where the signing would take place. Not only were there more media than I’ve ever seen at once in the State House (more than the presser a couple of weeks ago, WAY more than Mark Sanford’s confession in 2009), but there was an equal number of dignitaries crowding the place, plus a mixed concentration of lobbyists, staff people and the aforementioned regular citizens.

We all would have been better off watching it on a video feed, in terms of seeing or hearing anything. There was no P.A. system, and about the only things I heard the governor say was something about the flag coming down — which drew a cheer — and then her patented line about it being a great day in South Carolina, followed by more cheering, because this time, everybody agreed with her. In fact, I may start saying it when I answer my own phone.

But as little as I saw or heard, I wouldn’t have missed being there. So thanks, Rob. I mean, nobody could hear George Washington’s inaugural address, because he mumbled. But wouldn’t you like to have been there?

Beyond that, well, I’ll share the bits and pieces of what I was able to witness below:

Thank God. Good for them. Good for us all. Finally. Finally.

By Tim Dominick/The State -- I hope they don't mind my using it.

By Tim Dominick/The State — I hope they don’t mind my using it.

UPDATE: The governor will sign the bill today at 4 p.m. I understand that the flag will come down Friday morning at 10.

Let us celebrate:

The Confederate flag will leave the South Carolina State House grounds after five decades this week after the House overwhelmingly approved a bill to remove the Civil War icon early Thursday morning.

The House voted 94-20 to banish the flag from the Capitol after more than 12 hours of debate over the historic measure.

The bill now heads to Gov. Nikki Haley for her signature. Haley started the call for removing the flag in the days after nine African-Americans were shot and killed in a historic Charleston church last month.

“It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state,” Haley said in a Facebook post.

If Haley signs the bill Thursday, the flag could be taken down Friday….

No more flags, no more pole, no more ‘compromises’ that are anything but

Rep. Mike Pitts, speaking in the House this afternoon.

Rep. Mike Pitts, speaking in the House this afternoon.

This is a dangerous moment.

More than two weeks have passed since that magnificent moment of unity and purpose in the lobby of the State House. And after that moment of clarity and understanding about what the Confederate flag, flying in front of our seat of government, actually means, some House members have had time to revert to habitual modes of thinking.

And to start acting on them. Which is why there are proposals in the House to do things that would make removing the Confederate flag meaningless — by proposing to replace it with other symbols supposedly meant to honor their ancestors (or, to take this one and fly it at the State Museum). While, of course, giving everyone else’s ancestors the backs of their hands.

Worse, the state of South Carolina would be the entity giving the back of its hand to the rest of the world, and especially to those whose ancestors were slaves in this state.

What is it with these people that they can think, or even pretend to think, that a public space is meant for them to honor their personal family trees?

An approach like what they are talking about is in no way, shape or form a “compromise.” It would be their way of winning again, of continuing to have it all their way. Which is what they have so much trouble letting go of.

The “heritage” argument is so bogus that I feel foolish taking time to refute it — but it’s on my mind because a House member I don’t recognize is going on and on about that nonsense right now, on the video feed.

As I said in my column this morning, there is only one way to see that flag (or a substitute also meant to “honor” some people’s ancestors) flying in that place:

And what did the flag mean? We know. Oh, news reports will affect that priggish, pedantic neutrality peculiar to the trade: “Some people see the flag as meaning this; some see it as meaning that.” But we know, don’t we? It is a way white South Carolinians — some of us, anyway — have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement: We can do this. We don’t care about you or how you feel about it.

It was a way of telling the world whose state this is.

And any “solution” that continues to fly anything there to honor anyone’s ancestors at the cost of insulting other people’s is completely out of the question. If the House is going to do that, it should just adjourn and go home now.

Because anything short of what the Senate has done — passing a bill that brings us together as ONE people, no longer dividing us by honoring some people’s separate version of reality — will accomplish anything.

All a “compromise” will do at this point is guarantee that we’ll still be arguing about this 15 years from now.

And no sane person wants that.

Don’t go by me, though. Read Cindi’s editorial on the subject today.

SC Chamber calls on House to follow Senate’s example

This came in earlier today from the SC Chamber of Commerce:

SENATE PASSES LEGISLATION TO REMOVE CONFEDERATE FLAG
ALL EYES NOW ON THE SC HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

The General Assembly returned Monday to take up the Confederate flag, and the South Carolina business community wants elected officials to know it appreciates their willingness to add this important issue to this week’s work. A month ago, none of us could have imagined the tragedy that took place in Charleston and the true love and unity South Carolinians have shown in response. On Wednesday, the Senate gave key approval to moving the Confederate flag from the State House grounds to a place of honor in the Confederate Relic Room at the South Carolina State Museum.

“The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the state’s business community applaud the Senate’s swift action to remove the Confederate flag from State House grounds to a place of honor in the Confederate Relic Room at the South Carolina State Museum,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber. “We now turn our eyes to the House and urge representatives to also address the issue in a timely fashion and pass a bill that removes the Confederate flag and its 15-year-old flag pole from the State House grounds.”

The business community feels strongly that the time has come to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. The Chamber has also been asked our opinion on a second compromise involving another flag at the Confederate monument or if we would support moving or removing monuments located on the State House grounds. We support neither. The South Carolina business community requests that the House pass a bill that removes the Confederate flag and its 15-year-old flag pole from the State House grounds.

Good for Alan Wilson (actually, good for the law)

Our regular contributor Pat shared with me this email received from Rep. Eddie Tallon, a Republican from Spartanburg:

As you all know, we are debating the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the Confederate Memorial on the State House grounds and moving it to the State Museum. On Monday, the Senate voted 37-3 to move it to take it down and move it to the State Museum. Accordingly, there have been a number of requests for us to have a referendum put to the voters.

We received an opinion from Attorney General Alan Wilson that the Supreme Court of South Carolina has previously held that the General Assembly cannot delegate its duties to make laws to the general public through referendum votes, be they binding or non-binding referendum votes. The purpose of any such vote would be to have the general public make a decision reserved under the S.C. Constitution for the General Assembly.

Therefore, having a referendum on this issue is unconstitutional.

Yes, that’s a pretty important principle. In a republic, the Legislature should never be allowed to abdicate its responsibility and dodge hard issues by submitting them to plebiscite.

I didn’t realize that question had been posed to Alan Wilson, but I’m pleased at the reply.

So that’s one delaying tactic not available to the House. Now if the leadership can brush past the amendments that are also aimed at stopping or postponing this final disposition of the issue, and do what the Senate did, we can all finally celebrate.

SC Senate votes 37-3, without hesitation, to remove Confederate flag — no amendments, no conditions

Bill sponsor Vincent Sheheen fields media questions after the vote while the Rev. Jesse Jackson looks on. Jackson is much more pleased than he looks; I had just spoken with him.

Bill sponsor Vincent Sheheen fields media questions after the vote while the Rev. Jesse Jackson looks on. Jackson is much more pleased than he looks; I had just spoken with him.

And I’m so glad I got over there just in time to see it. Of course, that made it seem even more quick and painless to me — I didn’t have to sit through any of Lee Bright’s nonsense before being treated to the payoff.

I’m so proud of my state today, and I’m not alone. I spoke with my fellow native South Carolinian Jesse Jackson, and he was proud, too — of the Senate our governor, of everybody. So were retired Sens. Kay Patterson and McKinley Washington. I spoke with Vincent Sheheen, and told him I was proud of him, since it was his bill — although with more than half the body joining him in sponsoring it, that’s a lot of other people to be proud of, too.

But I doubt anyone is prouder than the senator’s themselves, who managed to perform this miracle after a session in which their body’s own particular flaws were on display more than usual.

Yep, I’m a little giddy. I’ve only been arguing that we should arrive at this point for 21 years. Rather, at the point we’ll be at after perfunctory third reading in the Senate tomorrow, and then the much-anticipated House approval.

So… I hope I’m not jinxing it, but I can’t help being excited. I mean, the Senate is the hard part, because it’s so easy for a single determined opponent to gum up the works, even on a bill with broad support.

I’m going to hit PUBLISH now, and come back and finish writing…

I’m back! The three “no” votes were Lee Bright (of course), Danny Verdin (no surprise) and Harvey Peeler. Everybody else present voted “aye.” I was surprised by Peeler. I think after this vote, his time as a power that might challenge Hugh Leatherman’s leadership and be listened to may be over. We’ll see. But to be so out of step with the very caucus that he nominally leads at such a historic moment… He was odd man out today.

Everybody’s hopeful about the House, although no one I’ve spoke to seems to be able to adequately explain why Speaker Jay Lucas is playing things so close to the vest. He had started discussions in the House about the flag before the governor’s historic press conference two weeks ago — which he did not attend, after sending out a release calling for “swift resolution.” Since then, he has declined to say even how he will vote — but it’s difficult to imagine him in any way bucking what happened in the Senate today, especially after all of that (well-justified) bragging recently about his chamber getting things done while the Senate dawdles.

We live in a new South Carolina, in which the normal, default position even among conservative Republicans is to get the Confederate flag off the State House grounds ASAP, with no ifs, ands or quibbling amendments.

Surely, surely, surely the House will at least try to match the speed and purity of message that the Senate displayed today.

Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

As the governor says, ‘Be kinder than necessary’

Nikki Haley posted this on her Facebook page this morning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images from the Unity Festival at the State House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee Bright’s Bizarro perspective on the Confederate flag

There are two measurements for how far we have so suddenly come on the Confederate flag issue.

The first is on the positive side — all the people who once would have opposed removing the flag, or ignored it, coming suddenly and dramatically to the point that they are convinced along with the rest of us that it must come down ASAP. Until just a few hours before that remarkable press conference on June 22, I would have counted this sudden shift as impossible, based on more than two decades of intimate acquaintance with the issue.

The second is on the other side — the tiny group of people still willing to defend the indefensible. They have become so marginalized that their rhetoric — which was always based in foolishness — has become so starkly absurd that people who once might have listened to them respectfully cannot fail to see how profoundly wrong they are.

You’ve heard the Bizarro-world incoherence of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, steadfastly holding their ground in a universe where up is down and down is up.

Now take a look at what Lee Bright, the one lawmaker who gladly embodies what resistance is left in the Legislature has to say. The irrationality and moral bankruptcy of his approach is underlined by the fact that he is using it to try to raise money.

Our own Doug Ross received one of these appeals, to which he simply responded, “Take it down.” Here it is:

 

Lee Bright

Hello Doug,

Is there any doubt that states’ rights are under attack more than ever before?

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the latest liberal hysteria surrounding the placement of the Confederate battle flag has swept the nation. And unfortunately, many of my conservative friends and colleagues have fallen prey to this radical, Big Government scheme.

With all the noise surrounding this issue, please allow me to be abundantly clear where I stand. It is my fervent belief that the Confederate flag is a proud symbol of the following:

  • Resistance against a federal, centralized power that FAR overreached its Constitutional limits.
  • States’ rights and Constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died protecting.
  • Southern heritage and a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.

It is certainly important for us to take steps that prevent future acts of violence. But in this pursuit of peace, should we also dismantle the historical symbols that memorialize states’ rights?

My answer is an emphatic “NO!”

The plain and simple truth is that the placement of this flag will not prevent future tragedies. It’s abundantly clear that the radical liberal agenda is behind this push to remove the flag, which raises the question: where does it all end?

Are we to also remove the names of Confederate officers from our roads? Should we crumble all the Civil War monuments that dot our nation’s landscape?

Doug, it’s time to take a stand. Right here. Right now.

Over 150 years ago, brave Confederates made a bold stand against an oppressive government that far overstepped its Constitutional limits. Will you please take a stand with me now by signing my online petition to keep the flag flying?

States all over the nation are giving ground to the radical liberals by removing the symbol of states’ rights from their historical monuments. But if we can make a stand here and now, we can send a strong message to the elites in DC that states’ rights are still alive and well.

Please click here now to sign my petition, which I will then present to my colleagues in the South Carolina legislature. Let’s show them how much we value our heritage!

Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,

P.S. Please stand with me in this fight to protect states’ rights by signing my petition today!

Can you believe this guy exists, other than as a figment of The Onion? Let’s dip into this remarkable document:

  • Taking down the flag — in other words, the government deciding to cease doing something it is doing now, is a “radical, Big Government scheme”? I knew that people like this are so wedded to their bumper-sticker phrases that they long ago ceased to be firmly rooted in reality, but to use them in a context to which they have NO conceivable connection is new to me. If we were under attack by aliens from another solar system, Sen. Bright would probably decry the invasion as another “radical, Big Government scheme”…
  • “Liberal hysteria?” This is akin to the SCV’s insistence that Dylann Roof got the race war he wanted, asserted in the face of this miraculous demonstration of reconciliation and unity of purpose. Hysteria? The calm dignity displayed by everyone from the families of the victims of the massacre to the lawmakers quietly accepting their responsibility is the very essence of steady resolve. And liberal? Nikki Haley, Mark Sanford, John Courson, Glenn McConnell, Tim Scott, etc., etc., etc.? Do words have no meaning on his planet?
  • Then there’s his utterly morally bankrupt defense of what the flag is a “proud symbol” of: “Resistance against a federal, centralized power that FAR overreached its Constitutional limits.” Um, let’s see… what had the big, bad federal government done when South Carolina seceded? Well, essentially nothing. A presidential election had simply had an outcome that the slaveholders who made up our state’s political leadership abhorred. “States’ rights and Constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died protecting.” Yes, states’ right to enslave people, I’m with you there. And I suppose the “Constitutional liberties” refers to the Framers’ compromise that allowed slavery to exist. Or perhaps you’re referring to Lincoln’s later suspension of habeas corpus, which was an extreme effect, not a cause, of the rebellion that Mr. Bright extolls. Finally, “Southern heritage and a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.” How could even a native of the Bizarro planet put “Southern heritage” and “a culture that values freedom” in the same sentence, within the context of the Confederacy? How does anyone live with himself after composing a sentence like that and sending it out for other humans to read?

Well, he just goes on and on in the same insurrectionist vein, proudly exhibiting his hostility toward the United States of America and the finest things that it stands for. He portrays himself as appalled that the United States prevailed in a struggle in which it purged itself of its own original sin.

This is the sad state to which the pro-flag camp has sunk. And as appalling as it can be to delve into the workings of such minds, we should take comfort from the fact that the vast majority of our political leadership has decided to stop honoring such nonsense.

Not only was the flag not always there; neither was the monument

monument

I say that not to suggest moving the monument. I just want to emphasize that the folks out there muttering darkly about how we’re trying to “erase history” by moving that flag that was put up in 1962 generally don’t know a lot about our postwar history.

I wrote this column to run on July 2, 2000 — one day after the old naval jack was removed from the dome, and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia was placed behind the Confederate flag monument.

My purpose in writing it was to let it be known from the very moment of the compromise, that I was not satisfied with it, and saw it as by no means a permanent solution. There was very little appetite for continued debate on the subject at this moment, and I was acutely aware of that. People were flag-weary. But while most folks were celebrating, I wanted to signal that this wasn’t settled, and foreshadow the debate to come…

Here’s the column:

MONUMENT WASN’T ALWAYS IN CURRENT PROMINENT LOCATION

State, The (Columbia, SC) – Sunday, July 2, 2000

Author: BRAD WARTHEN , Editorial Page Editor

An important thing to remember about monuments: They aren’t set in stone.

OK, bad choice of words. They are set in stone, or concrete, or something along those lines. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be modified or moved.

Take, for instance, the Confederate Soldier Monument on the State House grounds. For many of us who wanted the Confederate flag moved off the dome, that was probably the least desirable place of all to put its replacement. Unfortunately, if the flag or one like it was going to fly anywhere, that was probably the most logical location.

Why? Because so many groups that advocated moving the flag said to put it instead in a more historically appropriate setting. And what more appropriate place could there be to put a soldier’s flag than alongside the monument to the soldiers who served under it? It’s just too bad that that monument is in the most visible location on the grounds. There’s nothing we can do about that, is there?

Well, here’s a fun fact to know and tell: The state’s official monument to Confederate soldiers was not always in that location. In fact, that isn’t even the original monument.

I had heard this in the past but just read some confirmation of it this past week, in a column written in 1971 by a former State editor. When I called Charles Wickenberg, who is now retired, to ask where he got his facts, he wasn’t sure after all these years. But the folks at the S.C. Department of Archives and History were able to confirm the story for me. It goes like this:

The original monument, in fact, wasn’t even on the State House grounds. It was initially erected on Arsenal Hill, but a problem developed – it was sitting on quicksand. So it was moved to the top of a hill at the entrance of Elmwood cemetery.

The monument finally made it to the State House grounds in 1879. But it didn’t go where it is now. It was placed instead “near the eastern end of the building, about 60 feet from the front wall and 100 feet from the present site,” Mr. Wickenberg wrote.

But another problem developed: The monument kept getting struck by lightning. “The last stroke” hit on June 22, 1882, and demolished the stone figure.

At this point, if I were one of the folks in charge of this monument, I might have started to wonder about the whole enterprise. But folks back then were made of sterner stuff, and they soldiered on, so to speak.

At this point a new base was obtained, with stirring words inscribed upon it, and “a new statue, chiseled in Italy,” placed at the top. On May 9, 1884, the new monument was unveiled and dedicated in the same location in which we find it today.

So we see that the folks who lived in a time when “the Recent Unpleasantness” was actually recent – and burning in their personal memories – had to try four times before they came up with a way that suited them and their times to honor Confederate sacrifice.

In light of that, why should anyone assume that we’re finished deciding how to remember the Confederacy in our time?

Am I suggesting that we move the monument yet again? Not necessarily. I don’t think anybody’s ready for that battle yet. (Anyway, the Legislature doesn’t meet again until January.)

But I am saying that alternatives to the present arrangement exist. For instance. . . .

Remember the proposal that came up in the heat of the House debate to put the new Army of Northern Virginia battle flag within the context of a group of flags honoring S.C. veterans of other wars? The plan died partly because the details were sketchy and partly because House leaders didn’t want to consider anything new at that point.

Well after the present arrangement was safely passed and signed, that plan was resurrected – in an improved form – by Sen. John Courson, who had already done so much to bring the compromise to fruition over the past six years.

Sen. Courson’s resolution, co-sponsored by the 19 senators who, like him, are military veterans, would create a commission to “design and establish an appropriate monument to be placed on the grounds of the Capitol Complex to recognize and honor the accomplishments of South Carolina veterans who have served honorably, in peace or war, in any of the five branches of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”

The monument would consist mainly of the official flags of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Thereby all who served our nation – black and white, from the Revolution to Kosovo – would be honored the same way we are honoring those who served the Confederacy.

The plan leaves site selection to the new commission, but Sen. Courson says there is only one place left on the grounds that could easily accommodate such an addition – the same grassy area where the ANV battle flag was raised on Saturday.

The resolution was filed at the last minute and automatically died at the end of the session. But Sen. Courson introduced it anyway to give lawmakers something to think about between now and next January.

So you see, the present arrangement – with the Confederate banner sticking out so conspicuously by itself in a prominent place – really isn’t set in stone, in the metaphorical sense.

Sen. Courson has presented one viable alternative. There are no doubt others.

I was being generous there suggesting Courson’s idea.

The best proposal to emerge from the debates of that year came from Bob Sheheen — the former speaker, and Vincent’s uncle.

He suggested doing away with the physical, cloth flag altogether, and placing a modest bronze monument somewhere on the grounds to say that the flag once flew here over the dome, and giving some historical perspective.

Unfortunately, that proposal was never really given a chance. The infamous compromise came out of the Senate and then-Speaker David Wilkins allowed only one day — one day — for debate, thereby ensuring that no other proposal would have a chance to catch on and win support. Pressed for time, the House just passed the Senate plan, and moved on.

That day was one of the most frustrating of my professional life. This was before blogging, and The State’s online presence was pretty rudimentary. All day, I kept writing different versions of an editorial based on what was happening in the debate, hoping that Wilkins would allow the debate to continue another day, hoping to have some influence on the outcome — hoping for the chance to push for the Sheheen plan or something like it.

But they pushed on late into the evening, and I had to let the page go without any editorial on the subject, since I didn’t know what the facts would be when readers saw the paper in the morning.

So frustrating. Such a missed opportunity…

Those who voted ‘aye,’ and those who voted ‘nay’ on flag

Y’all can get this from various other sources, but it took me a few minutes, so for your convenience, here’s who voted “aye” in the S.C. House on moving toward taking the flag down:

house yea

And here are those who voted “nay,” those who were absent, and those who just did not vote:

house nay

The Senate pass the amendment by a voice vote. The only ones making a point of registering their dissent were:

  1. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg
  2. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville
  3. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens

People used to say of the eccentricities of the Lowcountry that “there’s something in the water” down there in Charleston. I wonder what they’re drinking in the Upstate…

Today finally IS ‘a great day in South Carolina,’ as we witness a host of miracles in the State House, of all places

the group

Today, the state of South Carolina leaped out into uncharted territory, launching itself from the 19th century right over the troubled 20th, and into the 21st. And it wasn’t even kicking and screaming.

It is, without a doubt, a miracle that today, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to come off the State House grounds ASAP.

That is HUGE. That alone would have me walking around the State House (as I was just moments ago) saying, “What state am I in? Really, help me: Where am I?”

Today truly IS “a great day in South Carolina.”

NOTHING like this has ever happened in the 28 years that I’ve covered politics and government in South Carolina. Nothing even close to it. What happened today broke all of the rules of what does and does not happen in South Carolina.

Today, the state’s political leadership got together and said, “Hey, let’s just stop all the usual b.s.” Just like THAT (imagine me snapping my fingers)!

But I didn’t witness just one miracle today beneath the dome, with a storm raging outside and thunder crashing. Really, it’s impossible to count how many I saw. I’ll use a biblical accounting method and say seventy times seven. Or more than the stars in the sky…

Let’s just count a few:

  • Nikki Haley, elected as the darling of the Tea Party, standing there and saying “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” and saying that if the Legislature doesn’t do it while it’s already here in town (through a proviso, or somehow amending the sine die resolution), she’s going to call them right back to deal with it. And meaning it. Wow. God bless her.
  • Joe Riley, freighted with grief as mayor of a Holy City in mourning, standing there right with her and not having to say a thing because Nikki Haley is saying what needs to be said. So that second march won’t be necessary, Mr. Mayor.
  • Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, the regular folks who pulled together the impromptu, haphazard rally Saturday, standing there witnessing it. Afterwards, I had to go over to Ms. Borghini, a recent immigrant from Argentina, and say, “You know, you don’t normally get what you ask for this fast in South Carolina.” But… maybe you do, now. Who knows? Everything we all knew about SC politics just went out the window. And you know that second rally they’re planning on the flag for July 4th? It just turned into a celebration, instead of another small step on a long, sweaty road.
  • Jim Clyburn standing at her right hand, in total agreement with her on the most divisive issue that I’ve dealt with in my decades in South Carolina.
  • Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, who within the last few days was mouthing the usual stuff about how we had to understand that for some folks it’s about heritage, standing there on her other side. Mark Sanford, who was saying the same stuff a couple of days back, standing behind them.
  • Sen. John Courson, long the Confederate flag’s best friend in the Senate (except when Glenn McConnell was around), standing there with all of them. (Mind you, John has always been the most reasonable voice of that caucus, but he’s still the guy with multiple Confederate flags in his office, and is sort of the embodiment — the sincere embodiment — of the “honor the war dead” argument that has kept the flag up.)
  • South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore and Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison — one white, the other black, sort of like their parties — standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder and grinning without reservation, in complete agreement with each other on the issue that has most surely divided them since we turned into a two-party state, since long, long before either of these young men even knew what Democrats and Republicans were. Moore, who was mouthing the usual “it’s not the time” stuff a couple of days ago, now saying, “We can’t change our past, but we can heal our future.” And Harrison, who can usually be counted on for the usual “if it’s Republican, it’s bad” stuff, telling me “I have nothing but respect for Gov. Haley. She’s doing the right thing, and she’s doing it for the right reasons.”
  • Mind you, Haley and Sanford and Graham and Scott and Courson and Matt Moore all represent the Republican Party that essentially came to power on the issue of keeping the flag up. The GOP took over the House after the 1994 election. The party got an unprecedented turnout in its primary that year in part by, in the national year of the Angry White Male, putting a mock “referendum” question on the primary ballot asking whether the flag should stay up. One of the very first things the party caucus pushed through after assuming control of the House was legislation that put the flying of the flag into law, so that no governor or anyone else but the Legislature could ever take it down. (You might say, why bring that up at such a wonderful moment. Here’s why: To let you know how big a miracle this is.)
  • Democrats and Republicans who have spent the day working sincerely together in multiple meetings today, not to posture and get the other side to vote against something so it can be used in the next election or to raise money, but to solve an issue that cuts right through the heart of South Carolina, and defines the differences between them. I asked House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford whether he has EVER been in such extraordinary meetings as he has been in today, with leaders of both parties determined to reach agreement on such a heavy, politically impossible issue and put it behind us for good. For a second, he almost reverted to the usual, starting to say, not while this governor has been in office… But I said, no, I mean EVER. And he said, no. He has never experienced anything like this on any issue.
  • Drivers going past the flag on Gervais and not just honking their horns in celebration at the flag coming down, but playing monotonal tunes on their horns, a regular symphony of honking. Such giddiness is as unprecedented as all the rest of us. It’s almost like our local version of the Berlin Wall coming down.
  • J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League, telling me, “Things can change in a moment.” Meaning ANYTHING, no matter how intractable, no matter how long-lived. In South Carolina, the most change-resistant state in the union.
  • The way the sentiment that it was too soon to talk about such a hairy political issue, when we haven’t buried the first victim of the Charleston massacre, had just evaporated. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, told me that Clem Pinckney “himself would say, ‘Do not lose this moment.'” This was, as the governor had said, the way to “honor the nine blessed souls that are now in heaven.”
  • The way the entire world was there to see it and hear it. And yeah, I’m sure that’s one huge reason we’re seeing this happen so quickly — was best to come out and say this now, while the world was watching, so that everyone would know of the miracle that had happened in South Carolina. But it was still something to see. I estimate this media crowd was about twice the size of the one that witnessed Mark Sanford’s public confession upon his return from Argentina six years ago this month.
  • To hear the booming voices of people spontaneously crying out, “Thank you, governor!” as she left the podium. (Presumably, those were the non-media types, and there were a lot of them on hand.) And no, I don’t think that was planned. It sounded heartfelt to me. Just like the applause that interrupted the governor, and which she had to wait for the end of, after she spoke the fateful words, “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.”
  • The way nobody was hedging, or qualifying, or talking about half-measures. In the state that normally doesn’t change, and when it does it does so in the tiniest, hesitating, gradualistic baby steps, the governor was like, Let’s just go ahead and take it down, and lawmakers of both parties were like, Yeah, let’s, and the rest of us were like Keanu Reeves, going whoaaaa

How did we get here, and so fast? I don’t think we can explain it in earthly terms. A friend who gave me a ride back to the office after the miracle said she felt like maybe, just maybe, it started when those family members stood in that courtroom the other day, looked at the (alleged) brutal killer of their precious loved ones, and forgave him. I nodded. Maybe so. Maybe that was the beginning of some sort of chain reaction of grace, which led to this.

I don’t know.

Yeah, a lot has to happen before this thing is done. But I think it’s going to happen. I asked James Smith whether he thought, based on his interactions with those involved, the consensus to act was solid. He nodded: “Rock solid,” he said. I believe him.

Graham to stand with Haley, call for flag to come down

As I hoped, it looks like Lindsey Graham will be there with Haley asking for the flag to come down:

(CNN)South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham will call Monday for the removal of the confederate flag from state grounds, a source familiar with the decision told CNN.

Graham, a 2016 presidential candidate, will make his announcement during a press conference with South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, at 4 p.m. Monday.

He will call for the flag to come down and be put in a museum….

Good.

Speaker Lucas calls for ‘swift resolution’ on flag

I was so excited about the reports of what Nikki Haley might do today that initially I didn’t see this:

As the ever-growing chorus of South Carolina and United States citizens calling for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds gets louder, one of the state’s top legislators has called for “swift resolution” on the issue.

House Speaker Jay Lucas in a statement released Monday morning said the 2000 compromise that removed the flag from atop the State House dome and raised it in front of the Confederate Memorial on Gervais Street was “ultimately solved by compromise.”

“Wednesday’s unspeakable tragedy has reignited a discussion on this sensitive issue that holds a long and complicated history in the Palmetto State,” Lucas said. “Moving South Carolina forward from this terrible tragedy requires a swift resolution of this issue.”

Legislators are boxed in currently due to parliamentary procedure, so introducing a bill to remove the flag is not currently possible unless a special session is called….

Whatever these state leaders do going forward on this, let’s not forget the courage of Republican Reps. Doug Brannon and Gary Clary, who stepped out on this first.

What Brannon said as to why he plans to file a bill to lower the flag bears repeating:

“I just didn’t have the balls for five years to do it,” Brannon said. “But when my friend was assassinated for being nothing more than a black man, I decided it was time for that thing to be off the State House grounds,”

Reports: Nikki Haley to call for flag to come down

Gov. Nikki Haley's official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

It’s now being reported, without attribution so far, that at a 4 p.m. press conference today, Nikki Haley will reveal that she is working on a plan to bring down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds.

Her office, which announced the presser, is not confirming what it’s about.

If she does this, it will be a mountain-come-to-Mohammed moment. It will be the most sensational news conference in South Carolina since Mark Sanford returned from Argentina. But in a good way.

If Nikki Haley, of all people, steps out and leads on this, the chances of a real solution to this absurd five-decade-old insanity could finally be at hand. No, she has no power to do anything about the flag — directly. The Legislature, in its infinite foolishness, put the flying of the flag into law years ago, and only a two-thirds majority of both houses can bring it down.

But if the governor steps out and becomes the lightning rod on the issue, it will give the Republicans who run the State House the political cover to act. Very few of them seem to care about the flag one way or the other, but most of them live in fear of what could happen to them in a Republican primary if they step out and do the right thing.

The governor providing leadership on the flag would be just what they need to take the heat off them.

If the reports are true, this will be HUGE, and a wonderful moment in SC history.

As sudden and surprising as this will be, there would be good reasons for her to do this, from a pragmatic political position. Her electoral career in SC is over. If she has ambitions on the national level, this would be THE most powerful selling point she could have. As for her job right here and now, as a governor who has built her rep on economic development, there is no single thing she could do more likely to shout to business, “Locate HERE!”

But as easy as it is for me to say all that, for her it’s bound to be a hugely scary moment. So IF she’s really going to do this, she deserves full credit for stepping out.

We’ll see at 4…

A monster is on the loose in South Carolina

CHyZB8PXAAAMcFo

UPDATE: Suspect has been captured.

Again, South Carolina is leading national news for a horrible reason, and this time it’s even worse than the Walter Scott shooting. In fact, it’s nine times as bad.

1434637774430.cached

Dylann Storm Roof

Police are giving the monster a name: Dylann Storm Roof. They say he sat with people engaged in prayer for an hour before announcing that people like them had to go, and opened fire.

This time, one of the dead had a familiar name: Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor. And the church where the shooting occurred, Emanuel AME, looms large in our history, both proudly and tragically.

There is so much that we have yet to learn about what happened exactly, but I thought I’d best go ahead and put up this post for your comments as we await more…

Joel Lourie on the ‘toxic’ atmosphere in the Senate

You know, I quit doing “The Brad Show” — thereby devastating my millions of fans, who had to console themselves with “Game of Thrones” instead — because it just got to be too much of a physical hassle to produce, especially after the guys who used to shoot it for me moved out of the ADCO building.

But lately I’ve been thinking… I still have my iPhone. Why not go back to the kind of guerrilla video reportage for which this blog was once famous — quick-hitting, spur-of-the-moment clips on the news of the day?

So today, I was talking with Sen. Joel Lourie after a Community Relations Council luncheon at which he and Sen. Katrina Shealy had just been honored with CRC’s annual Hyman Rubin Distinguished Service Award, and he happened to mention that the atmosphere in the Senate chamber was as toxic as at any time he could remember. Here’s what he was referring to.

So, thinking with the blinding speed to which my readers are accustomed, I asked whether he wanted to say that on video. He said no. Then he said yes.

So here ya go.

Since we spoke briefly about roads, I thought I’d call your attention to Cindi Scoppe’s piece today describing what real roads reform would look like. And of course, it’s a classic with its roots deep in the Power Failure series: Turn the roads over to local governments, and leave the local governments alone to fund them as they see fit. A solution that, of course, strikes right at the heart of the Legislative State, which is why nothing like this has ever come close to happening.

If we’re gonna dream about what really ought to happen, we might as well dream big.

Oh, and on the subject of the budget, which Sen. Lourie also mentioned, here’s another good column from Cindi casting doubt on Joel’s man Hugh Leatherman to deliver on that…