Category Archives: Nikki Haley

Good for Nikki, trying to stay out of the Kulturkampf (I think)

The governor prefers to wave this one off...

The governor prefers to wave this one off…

What the governor is saying about the Bathroom Wars is a bit oblique, and probably deliberately so:

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that a bill that would limit what bathrooms transgender people can choose is unnecessary because South Carolinians already are respectful to people from different backgrounds.

“When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious freedoms that are being violated,” she told reporters. “Like it or not, South Carolina is doing really well when it comes to respect and when it comes to kindness and when it comes to acceptance. For people to imply it’s not, I beg to differ.”…

The governor said South Carolina’s 17-year-old state law protecting religious freedoms already covers banning transgender men and women from using bathrooms of their choice.

“We don’t think we need to do anything further to require people to feel like their religious liberties are weakened at this point,” she said….

Whether the governor is saying we don’t need new bathroom laws, or that maybe we do need them but we’re covered on that point, I’m a little fuzzy on.

But I do get that she’s saying that there’s no need to follow Lee Bright down this rathole.

And that’s good, right?

South Carolina has enough on its plate wrestling with down-to-Earth, pragmatic matters that should be fairly easy to solve, but seem to be beyond us. Like funding roads. I have always felt that in South Carolina we needed to save up all the political capital we can muster to address those things, since they seem to be so hard for us and yet are so basic to keeping a state up and running.

We really don’t need to join the national shouting match over this. Which is where Sen. Bright would take us…

That’s no roads deal. It’s a cut-everything-else deal…

I’m running from meeting to meeting today, but here’s a topic to get y’all started:

The “good” news is that they don’t cut income taxes — which, of course, was always an insane, utterly irrelevant condition imposed by the governor.

So basically, it’s a wash. It’s a deal that does nothing to address the need for an adequate revenue stream for roads…

SC upside-down: Haley for Rubio, McMaster for Trump

Haley back in 2010, with Sarah Palin

Haley back in 2010, with Sarah Palin. She’s definitely grown in office.

Nikki Haley got off the fence today and backed Marco Rubio (and not poor ol’ Jeb!) in Saturday’s primary, which goes to show how weird and volatile the Republican Party is in South Carolina these days.

Let’s step back a bit…

In 2010, Henry McMaster was the perfect Establishment candidate for governor: A Reagan man through-and-through, former party chairman, loyal backer of John McCain in 2008. But he was running in the year of the Tea Party, and he got swept aside by an inconsequential junior House member who suddenly (I had not seen these tendencies in her before) seemed to speak Tea Party as her native language.

Now, we have Henry standing beside Donald Trump and praising him in Orwellian Ministry of Truth terms (up is down; black is white; Trump is not a “bomb-thrower” or “impulsive;” and we have always been at war with Eastasia).

And Nikki Haley, who rode anti-Establishment sentiment to power, is swooping in to help the Great Establishment Hope, Marco Rubio. Yeah, back in the day Rubio was nearly as Tea Party as she was, but that is not who he is this year.

And, of course, that’s the key to why Nikki is backing him. She’s not that wide-eyed insurgent, either — to her everlasting credit. She has grown in office, and governs more and more like someone who knows what she is about. Which is why you’ll see me saying more and more good things about her, and especially about her leadership last summer.

In an earlier time, an increasingly Establishment Republican governor in South Carolina would have been backing the guy whose last name is Bush.

Carroll Campbell jumped in early for George H.W. Bush in 1988, and played a huge role in Bush winning the S.C. primary, the nomination, and the White House. I called his former chief of staff, Bob McAlister, to check my memory on that. Bob noted that the Campbell-Bush connection continues to be strong: “Iris and the boys endorsed Jeb” just the other day.

But that was then and this is now, and Rubio seems a more attractive brand for a governor asserting her Establishment bona fides.

So given who Nikki Haley is now, the direction in which she has grown, this endorsement makes perfect sense.

But don’t ask me about the McMaster/Trump thing. That doesn’t begin to make any sense…

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.

 

Thoughts about the State of the Union, Haley’s response?

sotu

Y’all, I’ve really been backed up today and having technical problems and just haven’t been able to stop with day job stuff to reflect on last night’s State of the Union, or Nikki Haley’s response.

But what did y’all think? I’ll jump in there with you as I can…

haley vid

The Democrats’ response to Nikki Haley giving the GOP ‘response’ — and mine to theirs

From the governor's Facebook page.

From the governor’s Facebook page.

The SC Democrats put out this release today:

SCDP Chair Statement on Nikki Haley Delivering GOP SOTU Response
Columbia, SC –  South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison issued the following statement on the announcement of Governor Nikki Haley delivering the GOP response to the President’s State of the Union.
Next Tuesday, America will see a poised and confident speaker in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. But, what they won’t see, and what they certainly won’t hear about, is the despair that has plagued our state as a result of her leadership.”
“What Gov. Haley doesn’t want you to know is that South Carolina is hurting. While she’s smiling in front of the cameras, normal people in our state are struggling just to get by.
“The South Carolina we see is filled with roads and bridges in dire need of repair after recent flooding. Our schools, especially those in poor, rural communities, are without the funds they need to teach our children. Hard-working men and women are being forced to work two or three jobs to support their families because the wages they make at one job simply aren’t enough.
“The stakes are high. While Gov. Haley and Republicans are focused on driving a wedge between us, South Carolina Democrats are working to find common ground and common sense solutions. Because we see what South Carolina can be.
“Let’s make the game fair again—let’s take care of the many, not just the powerful and influential. Let’s create good paying jobs and make education affordable for the next generation of leaders. Let’s make healthcare accessible and repair our bridges and roads. And let’s do it together.
“If you work hard and play by the rules, you should feel good about your future and the future of your loved ones. That’s what South Carolina Democrats believe, and that’s the American Dream we’re defending.
###

I’d like to make a couple or three points about that:

  • Jaime HarrisonFirst, a modest attaboy: The tone of this is noticeably better than that in many such communiques, and I want to give Jaime Harrison credit for that. Seldom do see a statement from either party regarding a leader of the opposing party that says anything like this: “America will see a poised and confident speaker in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.” No, it’s not huge, but the bar is so very low when it comes to party rhetoric that I wanted to make positive note of that.
  • Next, as I’ve said many times before, I heartily disapprove of these “responses” from the party that does not occupy the White House. The president has a constitutional obligation to make these reports “from time to time” — not to the voters, but to Congress, although it is obviously a matter of concern to the whole country, and I applaud networks for airing it all these years now. The “response” has now become an informal institution, and an unfortunate one — it institutionalizes pure partisanship. There is no reason for it except to afford the opposition party a chance to say “Yeah? And your mama!” in response to the president’s performance of this constitutional duty, and to do so before a live television audience. It is one of the most visible expressions of pointless partisanship in a country in which many voters have forgotten that our founders despised parties (at least in theory; they were more fallible in practice).
  • Finally, I want to praise Gov. Haley for calling it an “address” rather than a response. After all, it never is a response, is it? It’s prepared in advance, before the president has spoken. It’s a pro forma “Is not!” that is offered regardless of what the president actually just said. I appreciate her frankness about that.

SC public backs leaders’ decision to bring down Confederate flag

THE moment -- the flag starts coming down.

THE moment — the flag starts coming down.

In case you had a creeping feeling at the back of your mind that were it not for the fact that we are, thank God, a republic instead of a direct democracy, the Confederate flag would still be flying…

I offer this reassuring news:

Two-thirds of South Carolinians agreed with the General Assembly’s decision in removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds this summer after the Charleston church shootings, a Winthrop University poll released Wednesday found.

Less than a year ago, just one-third of South Carolinians thought the Civil War icon should come down after flying at the state’s most prominent public building for five decades.

That was before an African-American pastor, who also was a state senator, and eight of his parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June. Authorities brought hate crime charges against the accused killer, who is white.

Slightly more than half of white respondents thought lawmakers made the right decision in taking down the Confederate flag, the Winthrop survey found. More than nine in 10 African-Americans backed the decision….

At least, I find it reassuring to know that, while I still praise our elected officials (starting with Nikki Haley) for courage and leadership in bringing the flag down without waiting around for polls, even if they had, the result would have been the same.

So South Carolina really has grown up, finally, and put the flag behind it.

That is wonderful news.

Growing South Carolina’s car-manufacturing industry

It occurs to me that I should make myself do more short contact-report-type posts, whenever I run into a newsmaker and pick up a tidbit.

So here’s one….

Yesterday, I ran into Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt (my long-ago managing editor) getting on the elevator heading up to his office. I expressed surprise that he wasn’t on his way to Germany with the governor.

He said he wasn’t needed on this trip. Anyway, he figures he’s done the trek to Germany enough, what with his years with BMW after he left the paper.

Noting that the trip is about building relationships with automobile manufacturing suppliers, he gave me his elevator speech on that topic before he got out on the 16th floor: South Carolina is now home to 250 such suppliers — 80 of them added since he’s been at Commerce.

I stuck out my hand and congratulated him on that. After all, one wants to encourage that kind of success.

Governor, you should have hired ME to be your chief of staff. I am, after all, Leo McGarry

No, really, I am. I’ve been tested and everything.

I could have been the perfect chief of staff for our governor — the gruff, avuncular, no-nonsense guy who could look at the big picture and speak truth to power.

I suppose this Patel woman will do a fine job and all, but if only the governor had thought of me and known of my impeccable credentials, surely she’d have asked me to do it.

Don’t you think?

LM1

Sorry, governor: It wasn’t me; it was Facebook

One of the things I hate about Facebook is the way it will randomly grab an image from my blog to go with a post that has no image.

People think I spend a lot of time on Facebook every day. I don’t. When I post something on my blog, the headline and link automatically post to Twitter. All of those Tweets — plus all of the Tweets I compose directly in Twitter itself — automatically post to Facebook. It’s not me; it’s the algorithms.photo (14)

If there was a picture in the post, that also shows up in the Facebook post (which up to a point is cool — I wish Twitter would do that, too).

But when there isn’t a picture in the post, Facebook goes and finds one. As often as not, it grabs one of the scores of header images that are generated randomly from my image library to display at the top of each page on the blog.

This makes for some picture appearing with posts that are wildly unconnected to the subject matter. Which is frustrating.

I particularly hate what it did last night — pairing the header image below, from Nikki Haley’s campaign appearance with Sarah Palin in 2010, with the headline “These are some bad guys. Some really, truly bad guys,” and the link to my post about ISIL.

Please allow me to apologize to Gov. Haley (and to ex-Gov. Palin, although you couldn’t really see her). I know I’ve been critical at times in the past, but I did NOT mean to say that about you.

And I wish to set the record straight with everyone else. I was not saying that about our governor.

The only good news in all this is that to the best of my knowledge, you could only see the governor in the phone version of Facebook (the iPhone app version, anyway). The iPad version and the browser version randomly cropped the image so that you couldn’t see anything but some of the granite steps. Which looks stupid, but at least doesn’t seem to say something I don’t mean to say.

Facebook can be such a pain…

cropped-HaleyPalinheader

To see ourselves as others see us can be… disconcerting

I was kind of puzzled by a piece in The Washington Post over the weekend describing the ceremony Friday taking down the flag. An excerpt:

The elaborate ceremony Friday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse threatened to overshadow the very act of removing a symbol that had caused so much tension and testimony over the state of race relations in recent weeks.

The color guard, the phalanx of elected officials, and the cheering — and sometimes jeering — crowd of spectators all made the event feel at turns like both a state funeral and a pep rally. Neither seemed an entirely appropriate tone for the occasion, given the horrifying circumstances that led South Carolina lawmakers to finally retire the banner that, in spite of controversy, had defiantly held an official place of honor for more than 50 years.

Huh? The nature of the event felt perfect to me: A combination of the pomp that is sort of reflexive to Southerners and the bubbling, giddy joy at something many of us thought would never, ever happen.

Since I’m a South Carolinian, and I knew how I felt on the issue, and how lots of my fellow citizens felt, the event felt just right to me.

So I decided, as I read, that the problem was that Vanessa Williams must not be from around here. That seemed confirmed by this passage:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has been widely praised for leading the charge to take down the flag, even after she balked at doing so last year…

Say what? “Even after she balked last year?” Even after? That’s inside-out thinking. She was widely and happily congratulated because she hadn’t been for it before. And I’m not picking on Nikki in saying that; I am currently running for president of her fan club! No, she was never for it (as opposed to merely “balking” on one occasion) because she was a South Carolina Republican.

Which made her normal. The only South Carolina Republican I had ever heard express an interest, even halfheartedly, in getting the flag moved was Ted Pitts, years before he was the governor’s chief of staff, and he walked it back really, really quickly once the backlash hit him.

Not having been for bringing the flag down before doesn’t say anything about Nikki Haley as an individual, but the fact that she got out front on it this time very much counts to her credit — and to the credit of the great majority of Republicans who rose up and decided to do the right thing, without amendments, qualifications, ifs, ands or buts.

That’s the news here, folks. Republicans not being interested in getting the flag down has always been a dog-bites-man thing. This astounding conversion is man-bites-dog. It’s an amazing thing. And Jenny Horne’s raging speech was an amazing thing, and wonderful. This is not the kind of thing that happens to us every week.

So you bet the governor is being widely praised, and she deserves it. As do all of those Republicans who responded to her call to get this done. And if you don’t think they’re going to pay a price for it back home, and therefore don’t realize that they can use all the encouragement we can give them, then you haven’t read the comments on this Meet the Press item yesterday.

It worries me when people write about stuff, and they don’t get what’s going on, on a fundamental level…

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:

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.

Arts advocates gear up to fight veto yet again

Back in the dark ages when The State and other papers were produced on a mainframe computer, the Atex system I used both here and in Wichita had something called “SAVE/GET” buttons. They enabled you to store simple, repetitive bits of copy — say, your byline — and insert them into a story with just one keystroke.

So whenever someone felt like he was having to write the same story over and over (a common feeling in the news biz), he’d say, “I need to put this on a SAVE/GET key.”

Well, I’m guessing that by now, the folks over at the Arts Alliance feel that way about their annual appeals to override Gov. Haley’s vetoes:

Miss Mona at the Statehouse

“ART WORKS in South Carolina”

REMINDER!

ARTS ADVOCACY CALL TO ACTION!

The vote takes place Monday, July 6.

Take a few minutes now to contact your legislators 

and ask them to override veto # 21.

 

The Governor has issued a veto eliminating 

$1 MILLION for Arts Education.

The House and Senate included $1 million in the S.C. Department of Education’s budget for a partnership with the S.C. Arts Commission. These funds are intended to provide more arts education for more children in more ways, including in-school, after-school and summer programs. These new efforts grew out of a long-term collaboration between the Dept. of Education and the Arts Commission.

TAKE ACTION NOW! The Legislature returns July 6 to take up vetoes. Email or call your House and Senate members and ask that they vote to override Veto # 21 to ensure that S.C. children, especially those in underserved, high poverty areas, have access to additional arts education opportunities.

Feel free to use the SCAA’s 2015 General Assembly Contact List by clicking HERE or at the SCAA’s websiteYou can also use these links: 

House

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/member.php?chamber=H

Senate

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/member.php?chamber=S

Please feel free to share this Call to Action with your friends and colleagues and through social media. Keep up with the latest budget activity and other important arts news by following the SCAA on Facebook and Twitter — just click our icons below!  Thank you!

SUPPORT THE SOUTH CAROLINA ARTS ALLIANCE!

Please take the time now to support the important work of the South Carolina arts Alliance as the only statewide advocacy organization that advocates for ALL the ARTS and we have a proven record of success!

Just go to:

www.scartsalliance.net and click the “Donate” button. You can pay on line at our secure web form or use it to indicate other forms of payment.  Your contribution is 100% tax deductible.   

 

Thank YOU for your support!

Betty Plumb, Executive Director
South Carolina Arts  Alliance

Y’all go over to Facebook and give our governor some love

nikki FB

Phillip Bush brought it to my attention that Nikki Haley was getting some predictable criticism over on Facebook. You know, the usual stuff like:

I hope you never plan on running for any other political office as I, along with many others, will never vote for you again. You caved to liberal pressure and have disrespected this state’s heritage.

And:

The Confederate Flag is the Heritage of South Carolina, never thought I would see you cave to radical pressure! Very sad day, death of the 10th Amendment and freedom of thought!

Well, we know our governor sets a lot of store by Facebook and relies on it for communicating with the public, and I’d hate for her to have second thoughts about the courageous stand she’s taken as a result of anything she reads there.

I don’t think she will — she seemed really determined the other day. And besides, most of the comments I saw are praising and encouraging her.

Well, let’s make that a tidal wave of love and support. if you haven’t gone over there and left an encouraging message, please do so now.

For my part, I wrote this to her, and I mean it:

God bless you, Nikki! And hang in there — don’t let the haters get you down. You’re going to hear from a lot of them, just as everyone who has the courage to act on this does. If there is ANYTHING I can do to help you as you lead us into a better future together, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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.

Benjamin’s letter to Haley urging lowering of the flag

Since this letter acknowledges that he knows what’s up today, this probably goes sort of in the category of giving her support at a critical moment. The mayor already called for the flag to come down a couple of days back:

Dear Governor Haley:

On Wednesday, June 17th, a long time and dear friend of mine, Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, was murdered.

He was leading a bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston when a young man opened fire and killed him and eight others: the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson.

Now, as we mourn this loss, we must also recognize it for what it is. This wasn’t a crime of revenge, passion or greed. These nine men and women were not killed for their faith or their politics or out of revenge for some past deed. They were murdered in cold blood because of their race.

That may be difficult or even painful for us to admit, but it’s true. And while we may never fully comprehend how that kind of hate can exist in this age of discovery and wonder, we know that it does. We see its banner flying before our Statehouse every single day.

So I write to you today to call on you as Governor of South Carolina, in the memory of Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Myra Thompson and the Honorable Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, to retire the Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America once and for all and remove it from the Statehouse grounds.

I understand that you may be meeting with some of our legislative leaders today and I want to plead with you to not let another generation of South Carolinians grow in the shadow of the degradation, oppression and violence this flag represents. Do not let another generation live with the complacency of hate that killed our fellow South Carolinians.

Heal this wound. Honor their loss. Together let’s take down the flag.

Yours truly with sincere personal and professional regards,

Sincerely,

Stephen K. Benjamin
Mayor
Columbia, SC

Here’s a PDF of the actual letter.

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…

There is no ‘wall’ between church and state

First, I agree with Unitarian Rev. Neal Jones that if our governor is going to invite us to a day of prayer, she ought to invite everybody, and not just Christians.

And in the video above from the website of the upcoming event, she does seem to invite everybody. Unfortunately, Rev. Jones received a letter from the governor that seemed to imply a more restricted invitation, in that it said “this is a time for Christians to come together to call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.”

Rev. Jones felt left out because Unitarian-Universalists are not what you would call Christians. Instead, they firmly believe that… um… ah…. Well, they’re not, strictly speaking, what you would call Christians.

So if the governor meant to stiff-arm his congregation, and Jews, and the Sikhs in her own family, then that’s not good. If she really meant to do that.

But… I have to object to the fact that in making the argument that Nikki Haley should not have done such a thing, Rev. Jones repeated a popular misconception, and I feel the need to correct him:

So I will not be attending the governor’s day of prayer, because she didn’t actually mean to invite me, as I am the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. But even if she had, I would not attend. I am not against prayer, but I am for the Constitution, the First Amendment of which establishes a “wall of separation between church and state,” to use Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase. That wall protects the integrity of both government and religion. It prevents religious zealots from using the power and purse of the government to force their beliefs and practices on the rest of us, and it prevents overreaching politicians from intruding into religious affairs. Each institution does better when it minds its own business — when ministers pray and politicians pave roads….

You see the error, right?

The First Amendment does not establish a “wall of separation between church and state.” That oft-repeated quote was Thomas Jefferson — who was not involved in drafting the Constitution or the Bill of Rights — expressing his opinion regarding the effect of the actual amendment. It was in a letter he wrote as president to the Danbury Baptist Association explaining why he, unlike his predecessors and some who followed him, refused to proclaim days of fasting and thanksgiving. The operative passage:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state…

Jefferson was on solid ground when he said the amendment provided that the Congress “should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But he ventured into opinion, and for his part wishful thinking, when he added “thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

(Interestingly, after rhetorically erecting this wall and standing firmly on the secular side of it, he closed his letter with these pious words: “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man…”)

By the way, I place more store on the opinion of James Madison that there should be a “total separation of the church from the state.” But it must be noted that Madison did not insert such language into the amendment itself, and no amendment with that wording was ever ratified or adopted.

Too many folks continue to believe that what Jefferson chose to believe the amendment said is actually what the amendment says.

When it isn’t.

We are not to have an established church, and the government may not interfere with anyone’s particular religious beliefs or practices. This is not the same as having a wall of separation; it’s not even close.

In Jefferson’s day, a lot of folks wanted there to be such a wall, and he was among them. A lot of folks want there to be such a wall today, and furthermore sincerely believe the Constitution provides for one.

But, again, it does not.

Rev. Jones concludes:

I realize that in South Carolina, indeed across the South, it is tempting for politicians to overstep their civil authority and meddle in religious matters. Southern politicians win lots of votes by making a public display of their piety. The next time Gov. Haley prays, she might consider praying for the strength to resist that temptation … for her own spiritual health and for the health of our constitutional democracy….

Rev. Jones may find it distasteful when “Southern politicians win lots of votes by making a public display of their piety.” I might, too, depending on the circumstances and the nature of that display. Not because the civic realm is damaged by mentions of God, but because God is blasphemed by having His name yoked to an individual politician’s aims.

Many of my readers might be offended in far more instances than I would. But when politicians thus offend, they generally do not “overstep their civil authority.”