Category Archives: Media

Wexit: George Will leaves Republican Party

Here’s how complicated the world is, how it resists pat explanations…

Every other pundit in the Anglosphere is writing about how Brexit is the result of the same political forces that gave us Trump. It’s widely accepted as axiomatic.

Meanwhile, George F. Will is writing about how wonderful, how salutary, Brexit is, calling it “Britain’s welcome revival of nationhood.”

And yet George Will has staged his own exit — from the Republican Party. Over Trump:

Conservative columnist George Will has left the Republican Party over its presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.George Will

Will, who writes a column for The Washington Post, spoke about his decision Friday at an event for the Federalist Society in Washington.

“This is not my party,” he told the audience, the news site PJ Media first reported.

Speaking with The Post, Will said that he changed his voter registration from “Republican” to “unaffiliated” several weeks ago, the day after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) endorsed Trump.

Will did not say which presidential candidate he will be supporting instead….

He added that it was too late for the GOP to nominate someone other than Trump. Instead, he said, Republican voters should just “make sure he loses,” then “grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

Cindi Scoppe’s Gonzales Award acceptance speech

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn't ideal...

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn’t ideal…

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was my day for awards ceremonies. The best, for me, was the one at The State at which Associate Editor Cindi Scoppe received the paper’s Gonzales Award (named for the paper’s first editor, who was shot and killed on Main Street by the lieutenant governor in 1903).

It was the second time she had received the award, having gotten it in 1999 as well.

Bud Ferillo, Bob McAlister and I had written letters supporting her nomination, which is why we were there.

The work for which Cindi was honored took place during her first months alone, as the last remaining member of the editorial department. (There were once nine of us.) I addressed the significance of that in my letter supporting her:

When it comes to cold, dispassionate, hard-eyed assessment of South Carolina government and politics, no one touches Cindi Scoppe. Not in 2014, and not in 2015, either.

But in 2015, she did something else as well. She grew. She still did everything she had always done, the stuff no one else could do, but she added a couple of new ingredients: Heart and Soul.

There was a time when she didn’t have to do that sort of writing, and that comforted her. She liked being, in her own assessment, the board’s “Designated Mean Bitch.” When empathy and violins were called for, she was more than happy to let other associate editors “resonate” with the proper emotion for the moment – and some of them were really good at it. She would stick to the hard stuff.

But by mid-2015, there were no other associate editors. Warren Bolton – an ordained minister who could speak to the heart as well as anyone who had ever served on the board – left in the spring, and by June, Cindi was alone….

That sort of sets up what Cindi had to say in her acceptance speech. Here it is, shorn of some personal acknowledgments at the beginning:

The day after Dylann Roof slaughtered those nine innocents, Bertram Rantin stopped by my office to chat. I probably said I knew I needed to write something about the massacre but I had no idea what to say. Because what our community needed, what our state needed was not policy prescriptions but emotion and understanding. What was needed was RESONATING. And I don’t do resonating.

And Bertram said, you know, we used to have two people who could speak to this sort of situation. And isn’t it ironic that this would happen just weeks after we lost both Warren Bolton and Carolyn Click.

We talked some more about other things, and he left, but his words stayed in my head. And at some point, I realized that I had to step up to the task. I realized, as Brad wrote in his letter supporting my nomination, that I had to grow. I had to become a writer I had not been willing to.

Three thousand years ago, when God wondered aloud who he could send to speak to his people, the prophet Isaiah answered saying “Here am I, send me.” I think that’s one of the coolest passages in the Bible. Christians and Jews see that as a great act of faith. But it could also be seen as an act of dedication, of commitment to a cause, to a calling.

And don’t we all have a calling? Isn’t that what journalism is?

Shouldn’t we all be willing to ask, in the secularized iteration of Isaiah’s response: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Isn’t that the commitment that all of us need to give to our craft, to our community?

Now, except for Paul, there’s no one on the second floor who should be doing what I do routinely – advocating for policy positions. It’s probably not often that you should be writing about your personal experiences. Certainly not about how your faith informs your life decisions, or how it relates to public policy.

But what I had to do last year – after the massacre and a few months later, after the flood – is something every one of us can and should be willing to do every day: Look for where we can make a difference, fill roles we might not be comfortable filling, grow, if necessary, into the bigger demands of our jobs.

In his supporting letter, Bob McAlister said this about our jobs:

“I have spent my professional life in South Carolina’s political/media axis and have seen the media, especially newspapers, evolve. Of this I am certain: Our citizens have never needed good journalism more to help them wade through the complexities of life and the chaos of the Internet.”

As newspaper staffs grow smaller and the cacophony of self-interested voices grows louder and objective truth becomes increasingly optional, what each one of us does becomes exponentially more critical.

I would urge all of us to focus on the critical nature of what we would do: Not duplicating what others are doing, but providing our readers with important information they can’t get anywhere else. I urge you all to be truth-tellers, not just stenographers.

Today people in public life just make stuff up..

I can remember a time when it simply didn’t occur to journalists that we needed to verify basic facts from someone in a position of authority. Oh, we needed to watch for spin. We needed to make sure they weren’t manipulating numbers or not quite telling the whole story. But if a governor said half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests, it was safe to assume that was true. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way we can fact-check every single thing that public figures say. We can’t even fact-check every single thing a governor says.

But at the very least, we can do this: When people say things we know are not accurate, and we report what they say, we can point out the facts. We can say this is what the law actually says. This is what was actually spent. Or this is what the audit actually recommended.

This isn’t being an editorial writer. This is being an authoritative voice. This is being a journalist. This is something I did as a reporter. It’s something y’all do sometimes as reporters. It’s something we all need to do more of. We need to help our readers understand what is true and what is not. We need to give our readers the facts and the context they need to make informed decisions. It doesn’t matter whether we agree with those choices or not; it matters that they are informed.

Of course, as Jeff will remind us, we need to write things that people will read. And this is the hardest part. It’s never been easy to get people to read the stuff they need to know, and now we have metrics that show, at least in the online world, how little they read it. So it’s very tempting to just give up and give people what they want. That’s the easy way to drive up our unique visitor numbers.

It is not the right way.

The right way is keep trying to figure out how to turn what people need into what they want.

It is a daily battle. It is a battle that I often lose.

But it is a battle that I absolutely must keep fighting.

It’s a battle that you absolutely must keep fighting.

We have big and difficult jobs, and they are getting bigger and more difficult every day. And we have to stretch and grow to fill those jobs.

We have a calling. We work for our community.

Not to entertain our community. To inform our community. To give our readers the tools they need to be active citizens.

It is not an overstatement to say that our system of self-governance depends on our willingness to fulfill our calling.

Amen to that.

WSJ still fantasizes about stopping Trump at convention

WSJ

Every morning, I read three newspapers (or rather, their associated apps), just for starters. That is, I read the portions that interest me (mostly politics and opinion) in the three papers I subscribe to — The State, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Beyond that, I’ll check out individual items from other sources as they are brought to my attention by Twitter.

I know that makes me seem like the least sociable member of the Capital City Club, sitting there alone at my table with my nose in my iPad (someone remarked on it just today). But it’s the only way I can keep up. That’s my main reading time.

Anyway, yesterday I had on my mind several things I’d read in the Post. Today, the Journal made more of an impression.

For awhile there, you may recall, I was frequently praising the editorial board of the WSJ because they were trying so hard to get the GOP to wake up and back John Kasich.

Lately, since Kasich dropped out, I’ve been more and more disturbed by what I’ve read there. In keeping with the general partisan tendency toward acting like this is just another election in which it matters which party wins, I’ve actually seen the editors start offering Trump advice, saying such things as If he wants to improve his chances in November, he needs to do thus-and-so…

As though improving his chances were desirable. Which makes me want to retch, particularly because I know they know better.

There was even some of that today

The polls show the economy is Mr. Trump’s chief advantage over Hillary Clinton, but he was too busy claiming Hispanics can’t be fair judges to showcase Friday’s dispiriting jobs report. He also allowed the State Department investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s private email practices to tumble down the memory hole, and he made little effort to counterpunch her speech on his temperament and foreign policy—aside from tweets about her appearance. Unanswered attacks usually succeed….

But what stood out to me, in that editorial and in a couple of other places, was the repeated mention of the possibility, however slim, of still stopping Trump at the convention. I was at first startled by it, then increasingly intrigued by the way they kept mentioning it.

What brought this on was the widespread consternation among Republicans about Trump’s unprovoked comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Personally, I’m still trying to figure out why this abomination is so much more shocking than all his previous ones. Maybe the GOP really had hypnotized itself into thinking there was a “new Trump,” as unlikely as that seems. Whatever.

From the above-referenced editorial, headlined “High Trump Anxiety,” ended with these words:

If Mr. Trump doesn’t start to act like a political leader, and his poll numbers collapse between now and the July convention, he may start to hear rumblings that delegates are looking for someone else to nominate. As traumatic as that would be, the Republican desire to avoid a landslide defeat that costs the House and Senate might be stronger.

Another editorial above it, which I enjoyed for the headline alone (“Saving Speaker Ryan“), ended with this:

The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.

The “(see below)” referred to other editorial, “High Trump Anxiety.” Again, the possibility of stopping him at the convention was only mentioned at the very end, but it’s interesting that the editors chose to conclude two editorials that way, and to call our attention to the fact.

Then there was the column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr., which said in part:

Happily, there’s still time for Republicans, at their convention, to replace Mr. Trump with someone else, though this will require continued help from Mr. Trump. But he’s working on it. On Monday, he ordered his staff to double-down on vilifying Judge Curiel. He said on TV that a hypothetical Muslim judge might also be unfit to preside. And when and if the Trump U cases proceed to trial before a jury, whole voting blocs (women) will be on the edge of their seats to find out if they’re disqualified because Mr. Trump previously insulted them.

All this offers a second chance for those prominent Republicans who, from party loyalty, misborn hopes for Mr. Trump’s transformation or a mistaken idea of their own populist bona fides, clambered aboard the Trump express….

Echoing the two editorials, he returned to that theme at the very end:

The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.

Note that the Journal isn’t going out on a limb and trying to predict that something so unlikely might actually happen. But they keep mentioning it, just in case there’s someone out there (actually, it would take quite a few someones) with the guts to take the idea and act upon it…

Response to Post series from James Flowers

I got this comment over the weekend from James Flowers, Leon Lott’s opponent for the Democratic nomination for Richland County sheriff:

Brad Warthen. You should have reached out to me before writing this article so that you would have actual facts instead of what is written in this article by the civil attorney. First of all, as a SLED agent we investigate CRIMINAL actions. This was a CIVIL deposition. My only purpose is to gather the facts and provide them to the James FlowersSolicitor. What you obviously don’t know is that the Solicitor’s office, the FBI, and the US Attorney’s office reviewed my report and had ZERO issues with the work. The Solicitor’s office made the determination that there was no criminal action on the part of the law enforcement officers not Me or SLED. Also, when 3 certified law enforcement officers that are serving 2 valid warrants have any sort of weapon pointed at them, they should by all means respond with deadly force. A real law enforcement leader stands behind and supports law enforcement officers 100% when they are right. Even if he has to be arrogant to do it. This article is nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by an overzealous civil attorney who has a different legal standard than law enforcement does in reviewing shootings. I also noticed that you didn’t mention the unflattering second article about your friend Lott. So please do some due diligence prior to your next blog. Thank you. James Flowers.

As it happens, the last person to get on my case for not having contacted him before posting something was… Leon Lott. And he kind of had a point, from his perspective, since the point of the post he called about was to wonder aloud why the sheriff hadn’t done a certain thing. Turns out that he had an answer to the question that he wanted to share.

I will always, always be on the defensive when people say I should have contacted them before posting something. But here’s the thing, folks: This is  a commentary blog, not a primary news source. I read things, and I react to them. And invite you to react to my reactions. On the rare occasions that I have time to go out and cover an event myself, I do so. Look back — you’ll see that’s my M.O. It’s not optimal; I wish I could afford to blog full-time. But WYSIWYG.

As it is, I don’t find time to comment on as many things as I’d like to — not even close to it. I’m very straightforward with you about the basis of my comments, so you can look at what I’m looking at and challenge my conclusions. And your comments, like Mr. Flowers’, get posted as well.

In this case, I spent way more time than I usually spend on a single post because it took so long for me to read that 7,000-word Washington Post article on which it was based. As I said, I’d read that one story and the fourth piece from the series by Radley Balko (more accurately, I skimmed the fourth piece). Now that Mr. Flowers has said Lott looks bad in the second installment of the series, I’ll go read that, and share what I find. I probably won’t have time to read the third piece today, but if you get there ahead of me, please share what you find.

Oh, and I don’t plan to call Leon before sharing what I find in that second installment. The story says what it says, and that’s what I’ll be reacting to — as per usual.

Although if I can find the time later, this subject is interesting enough that I might go above and beyond (in other words, take the kind of time I did back when I got paid to do this) and give both Lott and Flowers a call. But it remains to be seen whether that will be possible between now and next Tuesday’s primary.

Maybe some of my colleagues out there in the community who still get paid to do such reporting will get to it ahead of me. Let’s hope so.

Anyway, I welcome Mr. Flowers to the conversation.

One of Robert’s best cartoons EVER

stain on a dress

It’s been interesting to watch the writers at The Wall Street Journal begin their shift from fighting the Trump juggernaut with all their might (standing alongside me in pushing for Kasich), to getting back into their comfort zone by going after Hillary.

This column today, reminding us of all the Clinton scandals, is a case in point.

As if people who know better have an alternative to Hillary, not matter how many unpleasant memories she represents.

I’m not joining that trend, but it reminds me of something, so I thought I’d share this, one of Robert Ariail’s best ever. Bill Clinton was a huge inspiration to Robert, which is one reason why he was a Pulitzer finalist twice during that era.

This one, from 1998 I believe, exhibits one of Robert’s signature strengths — his inspired use of language as well as his drawing ability.

I was looking for this cartoon yesterday to stick into a comment, but since Robert went to the trouble to dig it up for me, I thought I’d give it better play than that.

Just the facts, ma’am — please

Cindi Scoppe’s picking on my girl Nikki again, and unfortunately, she deserves it. Did you see Cindi’s column Thursday?

FOR ALL THE good she has done on several issues, Gov. Haley retains two deeply troubling flaws: her disregard for the rule of law and her disinterest in the truth….

During a visit to a Columbia prison, Gov. Haley assured an inmate that police officers aren’t “out to get you.” Because of the state’s new body camera law, she said, “every one of those officers has to wear a body camera, and the reason is, that way it’s fair to them and it’s fair to you. So if something happens, we can see it.”

That sounds like a great law. But it’s not the law the governor signed, as The Associated Press’ Seanna Adcox pointed out — and bless her for recognizing that one of the most important things a reporter can do is to tell us what the facts actually are rather than simply regurgitating what public figures say the facts are.

The law does not actually require “every one of those officers” to wear a body camera; each department gets to decide which officers wear body cameras, and it won’t necessarily be every uniformed officer who wears a gun.

The requirement does not actually kick in until the state pays for the program — projected to cost up to $21 million, or about $18 million more than it has provided so far. (Ms. Adcox noted that the Legislature passed a law 18 years ago requiring all drunken-driving arrests to be videotaped, but the state still hasn’t provided cameras for all police cars.)…

Thanks, Cindi. And thanks, Seanna. But you know, it would be nice if governor would just state the facts so that journalists don’t have to run around behind her setting things straight. I mean, they have their hands full without that.

It gets worse, by the way:

Most significantly, the law the governor signed will not actually let us see the video. The law the governor signed says body-cam videos aren’t even public records. It does require police to turn over the video to people who are arrested or who file a civil suit involving the incident recorded, but the only mechanism for obtaining that video is filing a lawsuit — or being charged with a crime. Otherwise, it’s entirely up to police to decide whether we get to see the video when an officer shoots someone….

The initial error is probably innocent enough (I suspect it felt true to the governor), although disturbing — we’d really like our governors to know what they’re signing.

But the worst part of this tale is that when given a chance to set things straight, the governor’s office did not. And about that, Cindi said:

When someone says, “The law the governor described is not the law she signed,” the correct response is not, “She’s so proud of that law.” The correct response is: “Oh, my goodness; you’re right. She is so sorry about that.”

By refusing to let her spokeswoman say that, the governor continues to make herself un-credible. And in this case, she is doing something worse: She is reducing the chance that we’ll ever get the law she told that inmate we have. The law that would be something to be really proud of.

The way to get that law is not to say it exists when it doesn’t. It’s to acknowledge that it does not exist, and to work to convince the Legislature to pass it.

Yep.

The Don, unlike The Donald, did not utter threats

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

Don’t you hate it when people use pop-culture analogies and get them wrong? Check out this one, from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

But the Republican Party is not one of his golf courses for which he can determine who has what tee times. A political party is an alliance of people who share enough principles to unite to win elections and run the government. They can’t be ordered around by Don Corleone-style threats. They have to be persuaded and mobilized. Are Mr. Trump and his campaign going to require loyalty oaths of every Republican officeholder who wants to attend the convention?…

No, no, no! It most assuredly was not the Don’s style to make threats! He was way too cool, too smart, too self-contained — and therefore dangerous — for that.

Sonny made threats. Neither the Don, nor Michael, ever would. Some screenshots from the book, in case your memory is flawed:

threat 1

threat 2

threat 3

See what I mean? Case closed. Be more careful in the future, WSJ.

Yeah, there was that time he was rumored to have threatened the bandleader on his godson’s behalf. But even if that was true and not just a story people told about him, it’s the exception that proves the rule.,,,

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

Charleston Post & Courier buys Free Times

freetimes

I heard the rumor a couple of weeks ago and started poking around, and just now got confirmation from the most reliable of sources:

Brad,

Yes, we just closed on the Free Times in Columbia!  We are putting out a press release as I am sending this.  We are super excited about the acquisition and look forward to growing in the Columbia market!

Thanks,

P.J. Browning

Publisher

The Post and Courier

This is good news, following on the most terrible of news. In the wake of Charlie Nutt’s shocking death, I had worried about what would become of the alternative weekly and my friends who work there.

It’s good to know that an outfit as steady and successful as the P&C will now be publishing the paper.

The editorial consensus for Kasich

Real Clear Politics

I’ve mentioned a number of times, approvingly, the way the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal keeps trying to wake up Republicans and make them see that their only hope out of their current mess is John Kasich.

They’re not alone in this. The New York Times — while it cares far less about the fate of the GOP — is equally bemused at the way Republicans seem determined to charge off a cliff:

At a televised Republican town hall on Tuesday, it was painful to watch farmers, students and a man whose son died of a drug overdose pose earnest questions to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, who were more interested in attacking each other. Only John Kasich connected with these voters.

Despite its noble aim and big budget, “Never Trump” has become a panicky reaction in search of a strategy. In Wisconsin, “Never Trump” means “How About Cruz?” as self-interested leaders like Gov. Scott Walker try to sell Republicans on a dangerously reactionary senator as an improvement over a dangerously ignorant businessman. But for the state’s — and the nation’s — moderate conservatives, “Never Trump” should more logically mean “Maybe Kasich.”…

That’s less significant, of course. Republicans historically run from advice from that quarter, while some of them — the kinds of people who used to run the GOP — at least still care somewhat about what the Journal says.

But I find the NYT‘s chiming in interesting, because it points to something common to editorial board members, regardless of whether they lean left or right or neither: If you make your living studying current events and issues and thinking carefully about them — very carefully, because you know the words you write about them will be picked apart by thousands of people — you tend to see certain things, whether they are what you want to see or not. And you tend to marvel at people who are swept along by half-thoughts and emotions and seem to willfully refuse to see those things.

(Even if you’re an editorial writer at the NYT who actively wants to see Republicans lose, you’ve got to wonder, What are those guys thinking?)

You really don’t have to think all that hard to see that Kasich is the only rational choice at this point for Republicans. You really don’t have to go beyond all those poll numbers at the Real Clear Politics site. (Although if you do go beyond that, you can make other arguments.)

See, Republicans? If you go with Trump, you lose. If you go with Cruz, you lose. If you go with Kasich, you win. See? Was that so hard?

Not that there’s a guarantee that you win — there are too many variables for that. But at least you go into the fall with a chance to win, instead of having everything stacked against you.

Why doesn’t everyone see that? Oh, I don’t expect Trump supporters to see it — they’re too invested in their guy, and they seem to be allergic to facts and such. But the Grahams and Romneys of the world certain should see it. And you know what is really puzzling? I think they do see it; they’ve just made a very cynical calculation that they can’t make their fellow Republicans see it, too…

Scoppe: The law tends to support AG Wilson’s position

Wilson presser

I was glad to see Cindi Scoppe’s column Sunday, in which she spelled out more clearly what I thought I knew about the Wilson/Pascoe contretemps: That as hard as it might be for the casual observer to see (particularly given Wilson’s emotional presser), the attorney general seems to be on the right side of the law in this.

As Cindi wrote:

Cindi croppedThere are three major issues here: Did Mr. Pascoe have the legal authority to initiate a State Grand Jury investigation, or did he need Mr. Wilson’s authorization? Did Mr. Wilson have the legal authority to remove Mr. Pascoe from the case? And was Mr. Wilson justified in removing Mr. Pascoe? That last question is entirely different from whether it was legal…

And as you find from reading the rest of her piece, her answers are:

  1. No, Pascoe did not have that authority; Wilson has to sign off on a State Grand Jury initiation. The law doesn’t allow the AG to delegate that, however he may recuse himself from any other involvement in a case.
  2. Yes, of course Wilson has the authority to remove Pascoe and assign someone else. The attorney general is the boss of the solicitors. As Cindi notes, “recusal is a voluntary thing, left entirely to the discretion of the prosecutor. In fact, when judges recuse themselves, it’s not uncommon for them to later unrecuse themselves.” When it comes to appointing and firing special prosecutors, recusal is neither here nor there; it does not vacate the AG’s constitutional authority.
  3. Finally, on the judgment call of removing Pascoe, Cindi is less certain — but she doesn’t doubt the purity of Wilson’s intentions: “In his mind, he had to remove Mr. Pascoe — not to stymie the investigation but to salvage it. I’m not certain that was necessary, but I believe that he believed it was.”

Personally, on that last point, it seems that Pascoe’s insubordination demanded his removal — if Wilson’s account is accurate. That is, if Pascoe did indeed refuse to meet with the AG’s office to get proper authorization for a State Grand Jury investigation, choosing instead to launch an attack on the attorney general.

But then, we’ve yet to hear Pascoe’s defense of his actions on Good Friday…

Shocking news about Charlie Nutt of Free Times

Sorry not to post all day. I was in an all-morning meeting and have been rushing to catch up since then.

In the midst of it, I received a phone call with shocking news:

The 67-year-old owner and publisher of the Free Times alternative weekly newspaper in Columbia was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in an Augusta, Ga., hotel Wednesday afternoon.Charlie Nutt

Charles Nutt, of Elgin, was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen confirmed. Nutt was found in the bathroom of a hotel room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Augusta.

Richmond County sheriff’s deputies went to the hotel after the department received a call from Columbia police saying that Nutt had taken a gun from his residence and had suicidal thoughts, according to an incident report.

Nutt’s Resort Media company purchased Free Times, an alternative weekly, from Portico Media of Charlottesville, Va., in 2012…..

I just can’t believe it. You see that picture above? There’s something missing. Charlie usually had a modest, friendly smile when saw him.

I had coffee with Charlie Nutt at Drip on Main exactly two weeks ago.

He. Was. Fine.

I mean, as well as one man can tell about another.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Charlie Nutt. He was a fellow member of the Capital City Club, and we had breakfast there together once or twice. I’d see him around town, and I’d always ask him how his business was going.

The answer, always, was that it was going great. The paper was healthy, and developing a fine journalistic reputation extending beyond its traditional base of covering entertainment and nightlife. He had people coming up to him all the time and saying, “Now I get my news from Free Times,” rather than, you know, certain other papers.

He mentioned that when we met on March 3, and I told him I heard similar things. His folks were doing a good job.

And he was comparing himself to the competition. Every time we met, he’d share with me just how low The State‘s circulation figures had fallen — something I don’t really keep up with. He said it with a certain satisfaction, like a guy keeping score, but without any malice. Of course, his own paper is distributed free so it’s like apples to oranges, but it was being widely picked up and the return rate was gratifying.

He also had a growing number of specialty pubs adding to his bottom line — the kinds of things that might be distributed in hotels, about local places to eat and such.

Things were going well. As he expected.

Charlie was a thoroughgoing newspaper man. He started his career a little before me, but we were both part of that last generation before the crash — inspired by Woodward and Bernstein (their book came out when I was a copy boy at The Commercial Appeal), and enjoying the very last decades when owning a printing press was like a license to spend money.

He was editor at several papers, and then publisher of some others. He managed to sock away enough money to achieve his dream of buying his own paper. He didn’t leap into it carelessly. From his New Jersey base, he did his research, and he decided that Free Times would be just right.

So he bought it, and never looked back. He just really seemed like a guy who had it together and whose plan was working out.

As compared, you know, to me — a guy who had the job he’d always wanted until the day the job ceased to exist, and did not have the funds to go out and buy his own paper.

Charlie knew exactly what he was doing, and it was working out so well.

When a friend from The State called to tell me — he had run into Charlie and me having coffee at Drip, and thought I might like to know — my first reaction was to say they needed to do a deeper investigation. Charlie wouldn’t shoot himself.

My next reaction was to remember Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s musical adaptation. You never know, even with the guy you admire and respect, the guy who has all that you don’t, who you think has it all together.

All I can do now is ask God for mercy upon him, and upon his family and friends.

Six newspapers run the same editorial calling for Christie to resign, which is kind of creepy in its own right

While researching that last post about Chris Christie’s stare, I ran across the fact that “six newspapers” in New Jersey called on the governor to resign after his Trump endorsement.

And then, I saw that all six apparently ran the same editorial. And I thought, “Huh. How does that happen?”

And then, I saw that all six papers are owned by Gannett. And I got a sort of creepy feeling down my spine.

Once, six separate editorial boards all deciding to call for their governor to resign would have been a very remarkable thing. Traditionally, getting one editorial board to a consensus on such a thing would have taken some heavy lifting by a very determined editorial page editor. But I have to wonder, to what extent were six separate decisions made? To what extent do these papers even have editorial boards as I think of them? To what extent are they, editorially speaking, even separate newspapers in 2016?

For instance, I go to the contacts page of the Asbury Park Press, and see that the opinion staff consists of one person called the “community content editor” — which sounds like someone who shovels input from readers into the paper, rather than expressing opinions himself — and a “news assistant” to handle letters.

I’m curious about the mechanics: Who was involved in the decision to run this in six papers? Who wrote it? Who signed off on it? If one of the papers said, “No, we can’t run that,” would its editors have been heeded? When an editorial says “we” at those papers, to whom does the pronoun refer?

It’s just… weird. And more than a little creepy…

All through my career in editorial, I had to deal with people who thought editorial decisions were made by corporate. They refused to believe me when I said they were not. I couldn’t even imagine by what sort of mechanism such a thing would be brought about — because such mechanisms did not exist.

The closest I ever came to experiencing something dictated by corporate was when corporate president Tony Ridder, speaking at a conference of EPEs, urged us all to stop endorsing in presidential elections. (To him, it did no good. It royally ticked off about half of readers and was a distraction from our true calling, which was local opinion.) I don’t think anyone took his advice, although I didn’t bother to check. I certainly didn’t.

But now, I see this, which flies in the face of everything I ever experienced as an editor….

The man who was once Chris Christie stares out from the heart of darkness. The horror… the horror…

Christie 3

On the day after Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved huge strides toward victory, those who beheld the scene seem transfixed by the eloquence of Chris Christie’s eyes as he contemplated what had come to pass.Christie 1

In various forms, the image of Christie standing, horror-struck, behind Trump in his moment of victory appeared with no fewer than five separate stories about Super Tuesday in my Washington Post app this morning. Two Post writers — Janell Ross and Alexandra Petri — devoted entire columns to the sight.

The Ross piece, actually, was less a column and more a recitation of ways that Twitter reacted to Christie’s silent performance.Christie 5

Ms. Petri, as is her wont, got more creative, employing a battalion of pop-culture references to explain the look on the New Jersey governor’s face. I definitely recommend you go read it:

Chris Christie spent the entire speech screaming wordlessly. I have never seen someone scream so loudly without using his mouth before. It would have been remarkable if it had not been so terrifying.Christie 2

Sometimes, at night, do you still hear them, Clarice? The screaming of the Christies?

His were the eyes of a man who has gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back, and then he endorsed the abyss.

It was not a thousand-yard stare. That would understate the vast and impenetrable distance it encompassed.

He looked as if he had seen a ghost and the ghost had made him watch Mufasa die again….

“When are they coming to airlift me out?” Chris Christie’s eyes are pleading. “Please tell me that they are coming and that it is soon.” But then his expression hardens. Chris Christie knows that they are not coming back for him.

This is his life now.

Soon he must return to the plane onto which Trump humiliatingly sent him before. Soon he must return to the small cupboard under the stairs where he is kept and occasionally thrown small slivers of metaphorical raw meat. When he asked to be part of Trump’s cabinet he never thought to specify “presidential cabinet, of course, not a literal cabinet underground where the ventilation is poor and there is no light.” It just did not occur to him. Why would it?…

And so forth. As I said, go read the whole thing — I’ve probably exceeded the fuzzy bounds of Fair Use already. And I hope I’ll be forgiven for the image screengrabs. I just wanted to illustrate my point about how many times the image was repeated — all five came from the WashPost app this morning.

Somehow, she managed to avoid Heart of Darkness. Perhaps that’s because she wasn’t born yet when “Apocalypse Now” came out — in fact, it preceded her by about nine years. I had to look up “watch Mufasa die” to realize it was from “The Lion King,” whereas it came out when she was about 6, and therefore made a big impression.Christie 4

Looking at him, I was reminded of something I learned from my spotty career as an amateur actor — that the hardest thing for an actor is figuring out what to do on stage when someone else is speaking lines. What do you do with your hands? What should your face be doing? You need to keep acting, but not upstage the person speaking. It’s hard.

But you know what? It was worse than that. In the video below, you see and hear what Christie said to the crowd before Trump came out. And it’s incredible. Here he is speaking the lines, but doing so like a man with a gun to his head, like a POW blinking Morse code in the video, imploring the folks on the homefront to realize he doesn’t mean a word of what he’s saying.

He doesn’t even try to look happy. Which, of course, he isn’t…

Newspaper admits how wrong it was to endorse Christie

You may or may not recall that I Tweeted this Friday, when the N.J. governor abased himself before The Donald:

Well, I was not alone with the mea culpas. Of course, others had more to atone for:

Newspaper that endorsed Christie: ‘Boy, were we wrong’

The New Hampshire Union Leader backed the wrong presidential candidate, the paper said in an editorial posted online Monday evening.

The influential newspaper endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last November, but his endorsement of Donald Trump is apparently a bridge too far.

“Despite his baggage, we thought that as a Republican governor in a Democratic-leading state he had the skills and experience the presidency needs (and hasn’t had of late),” publisher Joseph McQuaid wrote. “We also thought he had the best chance to take on and face down Donald Trump.”

“Boy, were we wrong,” McQuaid added….

I mean, at least I never endorsed the guy, unlike those pathetic losers in New Hampshire…

Marco’s ‘media maestro,’ our own Wesley Donehue

Meet Marco’s digital media maestro: Wesley Donehue

You may have thought Wesley Donehue had already had his one and only brush with fame when he had yours truly on his show, Pub Politics, nine times.

You could be forgiven for thinking so.

But these days, he’s going great guns acting as Marco Rubio’s digital maestro, as CNN puts it. This is evidently a wild ride, and Wesley seems to be thoroughly enjoying it — as would I, in his place.

Watch the video above…

Wesley

‘The Nation’ on politics and race in South Carolina

My headline might make you cringe a bit, but the piece isn’t bad. It doesn’t really say anything about us that I haven’t said, or that you don’t already know.

After all, we are the state that seceded first, and some of us would do it again with just a modest amount of encouragement.

It’s tone-deaf in a couple of spots, though. For instance, it equates Strom Thurmond, the segregationist, with Ben Tillman, the advocate of lynching. Most of us can see the gradations of wrongness there rather clearly. And speaking of Thurmond — the writer either doesn’t know or has forgotten that the senator cleaned up his act in the last few decades of his career. In other words, he spent far more years in the Senate NOT being a segregationist than most people spend in the Senate.

That leads to confusion. After noting approvingly that Paul Thurmond says a lot of enlightened things — which he does; he’s a fine young man — the writer observes,

I leave Thurmond’s office wondering whether what I’ve just heard can be real. He seemed like a sincere man, but he, too, was eager to get beyond race. “My generation has not been taught to hate people based on the color of their skin,” the son of South Carolina’s most notorious segregationist told me.

Yet someone taught Dylann Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who shot Walter Scott in the back. The Confederate flag may finally be on its way to a museum, but the attitude of racial arrogance that the flag represented is very far from being a mere artifact. That’s a fundamental truth of our national life—though not one that’s easy to see from Iowa or New Hampshire. Perhaps South Carolina’s role in our politics is to remind us of all those parallel universes—not just Republican and Democratic, or rich and poor, but yes, still black and white—we work so hard to ignore. We always have a choice. We can carry on pretending that it’s still morning in America, that we’re all in this together. Or we can take a good hard look in the mirror.

Yep, Strom was a notorious segregationist, before he wasn’t. (Oh, and do I think it’s because he had some road-to-Damascus transformation, like Tom Turnipseed, the opponent of integration who did a 180 to become possibly the most ardent, sincerest progressive in South Carolina? No. The world changed, and Thurmond adapted. Early in his career, it was helpful to be a segregationist, so he was one. Later it was not, so he wasn’t. But it’s still true that he wasn’t.)

And the fact that Dylann Roof is a racist does in no way demonstrates that Paul Thurmond is lying when he says he wasn’t brought up that way. Possibly, Dylann Roof wasn’t brought up that way, either. I have my doubts about the old saw that children have to be taught to hate. I strongly suspect that people are capable of getting there on their own. Anyway, almost no one Paul Thurmond’s age was brought up that way, although his father certainly was. We live in subtler, politer times.

But there is no doubt that, decades after the Southern Strategy transferred the Solid South from the Democrats to the Republicans, race is always, always on the table. The article gets that right. It just misses some of the nuances…

Kristof posts his Tweets on HIS blog, too. So there.

Admittedly, his are often more thoughtful and substantial, such as:

I had that very same thought when Cruz said that, but didn’t think to Tweet it. I don’t know why. Instead, I Tweeted this within one minute of what Kristof said:

Which is OK, but not as pointed, not as helpful, as what Kristof posted. Dang. And in retrospect, it was too soft on Cruz. What Rubio said a moment later, that not only had Cruz not helped the Navy; he was part of the problem, was way better. As were Kristof’s Tweets.

But even if they were better, he WAS using up a blog post to call attention to his Tweets — something I’ve been criticized for doing.

Of course, he wasn’t doing it instead of his thoughtful, well-crafted columns. It was in addition to. And yeah, I sometimes post Tweets as a substitute for extended commentary, when I don’t have time to write a real post. Under the theory that something is better than nothing.

But in my defense, I’ll say this: Kristof still gets paid to write those thoughtful columns. I do not. He doesn’t have to find time around his job to write them; they are his job.

And though I’m envious of that, I do appreciate his commentary on all levels, from Tweet to blog post to column.

Of course, there are people who won’t pay attention to what he says because he’s a liberal, and they think they are conservatives, and they’re thick enough to think that means they should not be exposed to his views. Such as the Trump supporter and member of Congress who wrote, “We could have written them for you before you started, my friend. The bias is simply that intense and unchangeable.” (At least he said “my friend.”)

Yep, Kristof is a pretty consistent liberal, which means I disagree with him frequently. But he’s the kind of liberal who posts such things as this:

… which means he is not only a talented observer, but an intellectually honest man who doesn’t reflexively dismiss what those on the “other side” have to contribute. And we should all listen to such people more.

“Bloggers are we, born to be free…”

Did you see Rep. Mike Pitts’ proposal that journalists be registered?

To his credit, Mr. Pitts apparently did this ironically. The intention, apparently, is to mount a facetious attack on the First Amendment to make a point about the Second, which doesn’t really make sense, but don’t stop him; he’s on a roll.

Anyway, last night Bryan asked, via Twitter, whether this would also apply to bloggers.

No way, I responded defiantly:

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

Studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lindsey Graham, back from the campaign trail

Graham availability

You may already have read Andy Shain’s piece on Lindsey Graham’s press availability in Columbia yesterday. It began:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he quit the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination last month because he saw no clear path to the upper tier of candidates, some of whom — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — he sees as toxic to the GOP.

The Seneca Republican regularly was named the winner of the GOP race’s “undercard” debates, which featured lower-polling candidates. But not getting on the main debate stage killed his chances to win greater support, Graham said.

Graham thought that if he could make the top three in the New Hampshire primary polls, he could have won the next GOP contest, in his home state of South Carolina….

And so forth. I won’t repeat anything Andy already said. But here are a few points Graham made that Andy didn’t touch on:

  • Asked whether he was interested in serving in the Cabinet of the eventual winner, he said he didn’t think so. He sees it as too important to stay in the Senate. He’s one of the few who can work across the aisle, and he’s convinced that none of the actual challenges that face the country — dealing with entitlement reform, dealing comprehensively with immigration — can be dealt with by one party or the other. It’s going to take coalition-building. It’s going to take people who can “get to ‘yes’.”
  • “This is a religious war” that the West is engaged in, and winning will require working with Muslims — the 99 percent who “are non-radical Islamists.” That’s why the approach of a Trump will never work.
  • Is Christianity under attack in this country — with laws forcing employers to provide birth control, or a court ruling creating the institution of same-sex marriage? No, he says. Not in this country. Democracy has outlets for people to express their views, and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. There is a war against Christianity, though, and everything else about Western culture — but it’s happening in the Mideast.
  • Did he like running for president enough to do it again? As Andy wrote, he’d consider it. And the reason why is that he thinks there’s a market for what he offers. “I think people are looking around for somebody like me,” if not actually him. Somebody who will be “tough on our enemies,” but who believes in pluralism, in the principles of a liberal democracy and land of opportunity.
  • On the campaign trail, John McCain “worked harder for me than he did for himself,” and Graham deeply appreciates it. Noting that politicians are a little too quick to call everyone their friend, but in this case, it applies: “John McCain is my friend.”
  • Reminiscing about the campaign trail, he asked whether anyone had heard the story of his encounter with an out-and-out racist in a pool hall. No one said yes, so he told the story, which recognized before he was done. The voter in question muttered some ethnic slurs, including the “N-word.” Graham said “I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” and answered a few more questions before taking the bigot on in a game of pool — and winning. “It was fun to beat his ass,” Graham said Friday.
  • Speaking of pool halls, Graham said anyone who grew up in a bar — as Graham did, the one his parents owned — is very familiar with people like Donald Trump, and knows how to deal with them.
  • Touching on fellow South Carolina Republicans, he said Nikki Haley being chosen to deliver the GOP response to the State of the Union is “a big honor” for our state, Tim Scott is “a rock star,” and Trey Gowdy has done well with the tough hand he was dealt. “South Carolina is hitting above her weight” on the national political scene.

Earlier, I had asked him another SC question. I wondered whether, with Newt Gingrich having won here in 2012 and Trump and Cruz doing so well here this time, South Carolina’s losing its touch on picking eventual nominees, and presidents. In other words, is South Carolina becoming irrelevant?

He didn’t think so. His answer is on the video clip that follows…