Category Archives: Nikki Haley

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.”

They’re boxy, but they’re good: Welcome to Volvo!

At least, they used to be boxy, and that’s the way I still think of them. Lately, I’ve seen some Volvos that I could hardly tell from other cars, and they just don’t have the same cachet.

Here’s hoping they make some boxy ones here in SC:

Volvo announced Monday that it will build a $500 million factory in Berkeley County to produce 100,000 cars a year.

Construction on the Swedish automaker’s first U.S. plant will start this fall with the first cars produced in 2018. The South Carolina plant will add to four Volvo factories in Europe and China, where the automaker’s parent company is based.

Volvo usually makes two models of vehicles at its plants, company spokesman Jim Nichols said. but the automaker has not decided which models will be built in South Carolina.

Volvo could employ up to 2,000 workers in the decade after the plant opens and another 2,000 by 2030, the S.C. Department of Commerce said. The state employs 46,000 automotive-industry workers, including at hundreds of suppliers, according to the S.C. Automotive Council….

I only have one concern: These things last forever. My wife’s still driving the 1998 model she inherited from her Dad, and it’s going strong. How many of these cars are we going to be able to sell if they never break down?

But I kid. I’m a kidder. First BMW, then Boeing, now this. I love the image of South Carolina as a place that builds high-quality rides…

ICYMI: Our governor as the Khaleesi

Since most of y’all don’t follow my Twitter feed, I thought I’d share this one, which I put out while cooking out on the deck yesterday:


How else to describe a person who thinks it’s all about her, who stands up at a party convention to say most Republican officeholders are not real Republicans because they don’t do her bidding in all things?

“Where’s my army?” Wow. She really thinks the GOP is supposed to be her army. Like Lincoln and the others started this thing in the 1850s just so that Nikki could have an entourage.

Of course, now that she and her dragons can boast of having brought Volvo to Westeros, who’s complaining, right?

 

Katrina Shealy’s reaction to Haley tirade against GOP lawmakers

First, a heads-up — I’m unable to access my blog from the office today. Technical glitch. I’m writing this on my iPad, which itself is awkward. The iPad is connecting to the blog using my phone as a hotspot. Anyway, don’t expect to see much from me today, beyond short responses typed on my phone…

image

Sen. Katrina Shealy, who was elected 1st vice chair of the state GOP Saturday, got fairly ticked off over her governor’s tirade against most Republicans in the Legislature, and expressed her irritation on Facebook.

I was unable to find the original post, so she may have taken it down. But someone saved the screenshot you see above.

later in the day, she expressed her concerns somewhat more calmly, as follows:

Today I was very upset when I felt like Governor Haley called out the Legislature during her Speech at the 2015 SCGOP Convention. Because it is the right thing to do I will apologize for getting as angry as I did – I don’t apologize for feeling that this is a time when the Republican Party needs to be pulling together and finding common ground instead of finding ways to alienate each other. There are many serious issues before this state. We have 124 House Members, 46 Senators and 1 Governor – we needless to say do not all agree but that does not make us all wrong. As I have said before and I will say again if you expect people to agree with you all the time or not ever have an idea different from you, you need to talk to yourself. You are also going to eventually be very lonely! We have really tried over the last months to pull together and work out issues that are difficult and because of my way or no way attitudes in the House, Senate and yes the Governors Office we can’t. The word compromise isn’t a terrible word – really! I think Governor Jim Edwards used it very effectively. Maybe we need to take a page from his playbook!

Some Tweets, observations from the 2015 SC GOP convention

Jeb Bush

I always feel a bit ill-at-ease at political party gatherings. While there are always plenty of people I enjoy seeing and chatting with, the thing that they all have in common, that party thing, always makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land.

I spared myself the state Democratic convention a couple of weeks back. But when Jeff Mobley asked me via email yesterday whether I’d be attending the Republican one today, I decided that since there would be several actual, viable presidential candidates at this one, I should probably drag my lazy posterior out of bed this morning and go by for awhile.

Of course, the sense of alienation started immediately. Coincidentally, I ran into Jeff just as I arrived. A woman was exhorting him to join the movement to close SC primaries. As she was extolling the joys of barring Democrats from voting, I had to butt in and say, “What about us independents? You going to deny us the right to vote, too?” Her response was predictable: She said that if that was what I was, what was I doing there? “Covering it,” I said.

In which case, of course, I should have just kept my mouth shut. But I can’t suppress my indignation when people try to disenfranchise me, whether it’s this woman, or Don Fowler trying to get people to swear they were Democrats before they could vote in that party’s presidential primary back in 2004.

Anyway, I behaved myself after that, more or less. And I got to hear an extraordinary address from our governor, who lambasted most Republicans in the Legislature — remember, if you’ve forgotten, that this is the Republican convention — for not slavishly following her agenda. She rattled off her short list of REAL Republicans, thereby condemning the rest to the outer reaches. Then, a few minutes later, she asked to be allowed to speak again — and even party Chairman Matt Moore noted that the request was unconventional — and told the gathering that she had forgotten to name Sen. Tom Davis among the Elect. Thereby driving home the point that anyone she did not name should be regarded as persona non grata by all right-thinking Republicans.

I guess she’s kind of young to remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment. Whatever the explanation, it was something. And not a good something, I would imagine, if you’re a mainstream Republican.

In between her “heart-to-heart” spiels, we heard from Lindsey Graham, who demonstrated his usual unflappability at the coolness of his reception. I particularly liked it when only a few people stood to applaud as he took the podium, and with good humor he invited the rest to stand up a stretch a bit — which some did. Then he took off, telling me as he walked out that he was on the way to New Hampshire.

I missed a pre-convention talk that Rick Santorum gave, and apparently it was interesting:

But I did hear Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Rick Perry. No bombshells there. All were respectfully received. My two youngest grandchildren are about to come hang out with me, so I’ll sign off with some of my Tweets from during the convention:

I Tweeted a couple of times during the Bush and Perry addresses, but did so from my phone (instead of iPad), and both of them failed. Oh, well…

Rick Perry

Wait a second — why was the GOVERNOR announcing that Paul McCartney was coming?

11205109_10152897355723226_1442532704891595751_n

I saw the news today, and oh, boy was I puzzled. I got the part about the lucky man who made the grade, but…

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one wondering this this morning:


In response, several people said they were wondering the same thing. Debbie McDaniel did. Don McCallister said he had left the same question as a comment on the story in The State.

Susan Corbett said:

Because in case you haven’t realized it she is the biggest opportunist around and will take credit for anything she can and deny everything else

And my old colleague Dave Moniz said, “I love Paul McCartney… But it seems like just fell off the turnip truck stuff for a governor or politician to announce…. drum roll.. a rock concert…”

So, if others were thinking the same thing, maybe I don’t have to explain that it would have made more sense for someone, say, associated with the University to announce it. Or better, the promoter. Or if a politician, maybe Steve Benjamin. A big draw coming to your town sort of fits within the realm of things that mayors get excited about. Of course, people would be somewhat justified in seeing it as cheesy, a pol trying to get some Beatles magic to rub off on him.

When I initially heard that the governor had announced it, I thought I had heard it wrong. But I had not. There she was in the paper. And there she was getting all excited on Facebook:

So excited to announce rock n roll royalty, Sir Paul McCartney will be gracing us in South Carolina for his “Out There” tour at Colonial Life Arena June 25! Thanks to AEG Live and Marshal Arts and the rest of the team for making this happen. Tickets go on sale May 4. #GetExcited

So… did the Commerce Department arrange this or something? How did the gov get involved?

By the way, the governor sort of betrayed that she’s way too young to be this excited about a Beatle with that “rock ‘n’ roll royalty” thing. Those of us who were listening at the time called it “rock” — at least, we did toward the end of the era. “Rock ‘n’ roll” referred in the ’60s to stuff that had been big in the ’50s. The Beatles were solidly rooted in “rock ‘n’ roll,” but from the time Beatlemania hit until the news came in early 1970 that they were breaking up, that term had an anachronistic connotation to it. (To simplify: When they looked like this, they were still rock ‘n’ roll. When they looked like this, they were more or less mod, and people weren’t yet sure what to call their sound. When they looked like this, they were at the apex of rock.)

A hasty shot of the former Honolulu International Center, taken while stopped at a traffic light.

A hasty shot of the former Honolulu International Center, taken while stopped at a traffic light.

“Rock ‘n’ roll” returned to favor, as a term to describe the whole realm of pop music including what we regarded as serious “rock,” in the early ’70s, with a wave of nostalgia about the ’50s. That’s when Chuck Berry made his big comeback. I was privileged to see him shortly before he became big again, as the warm-up act in front of a one-hit wonder at the Honolulu International Center in 1971. He was amazing. All I had known about him before that was that he was this old guy who had inspired the Beatles and the Stones, et al. We booed the headliner off the stage and chanted for Chuck to come back. I took a driveby picture of the HIC, now called something else, when we were in Hawaii last month. That’s also where Burl and I and the other 600 in our class had our high school reunion.

But I digress.

Bottom line, why did we hear about this from the governor?

 

At long last, the House stands up to the governor on roads

Finally, the House has done what it always had to do if it were to act rationally on financing road construction — raise the tax designed for that purpose, which had been kept ridiculously low:

The South Carolina House passed a bill Wednesday to pay to repair the state’s crumbling roads by increasing the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.

The proposal, which would raise roughly $427 million a year, passed 87-20, a large enough margin in the GOP-dominated House to survive a veto threat by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said the “strong vote” shows House members are serious about fixing S.C. roads….

Here’s hoping House members continue to stand up against the governor’s nonsensical stance, and that the Senate acts reasonably as well.

So far, the governor has reacted in a predictable manner, demagoguing on Facebook rather than engaging lawmakers.

The governor has really crossed a line when she’s managed to provoke Lucas to this extent

middle school

When I saw the above headline this morning, I immediately assumed that the quote came from a Democrat.

Not that most Republicans in the Legislature wouldn’t have been peeved at the governor over her latest outburst. In fact, privately, they would probably be more perturbed than the Dems.

But there’s a protocol to these kinds of things. Most lawmakers of both parties may be ticked off, but the Republican response to their own governor will normally be more muted, in terms of on-the-record comments, while the Democrats will say the over-the-top stuff in an effort to, well, get quoted in a headline. Because there’s no political cost for them in doing so.

So my eyebrows rose considerably when I read this part of the story:

Speaker Lucas took to the House floor Wednesday — flanked by House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland — and called the governor’s remarks unwarranted and unprovoked.

The speaker said the governor’s comments were inappropriate when speaking of lawmakers who include military veterans and working mothers.

“I believe the comments of the governor were below (her) office,” Lucas said. “I believe these are serious times with serious issues, and they demand serious people with serious answers — not name calling, not middle-school insults that serve no purpose but to poison the well.”…

The governor has really outdone herself this time.

We know she never had a good relationship with the former speaker. But he’s gone now, and good riddance. And he’s been replaced by a guy with a reputation for trying hard to work constructively with everyone, including Democrats, and especially with the governor of his own party.

Given Lucas’ reputation, he must have reached the point of thinking things are pretty far gone to have gotten up and said something like that.

Not that he’s wrong. “Middle school insults” is pretty much dead-on. I was thinking just this morning that the way our governor uses social media reminds me of the “slam books” that used to get passed around campus when I was in junior high in New Orleans all those years ago. If you don’t know what a slam book is, boys and girls, it’s like a particularly virulent form of low-tech Facebook. It was a notebook that got passed around, and kids would write things “slamming” their classmates, competing with each other to see who could be the most insulting.

But he must have concluded that things could not be improved by walking down to the governor’s office and having a chat with her. And that, as I say, indicates a pretty bad situation, the kind Strother Martin would decry as “a failure to communicate.”

Which is bad in terms of our chances for sound policy to come out of the State House.

After a couple of years in which not much got done while Bobby Harrell underwent his political Götterdämmerung, I had hoped for a more productive atmosphere in the State House. This does not bode well…

Below you can see and hear the governor making the remarks in question:

Tony Keck: The pro from Dover who turned out just to be another hired gun

Just want to make sure you don’t miss Cindi Scoppe’s column today. The headline in the paper was “The anti-Medicaid argument unmasked.” It’s a bit more descriptive online: “What does it mean that SC Gov Nikki Haley’s chief anti-Medicaid lobbyist has changed his tune to match his new job?” (Which, of course, would not have fit in the paper.)

An excerpt:

THE POST and Courier had an article the other day about the conversion of Tony Keck, who served as Gov. Nikki Haley’s chief Medicaid-expansion opponent before he left last year to take a job with a Tennessee hospital system that, like pretty much any hospital system in the country, supports the Medicaid expansion that he worked so hard to block on this side of the border.

Under the headline “Former Haley health care adviser says Medicaid expansion might work elsewhere,” the article noted that Mr. Keck’s new employer supported the recent attempt to expand the program in Tennessee, and it quoted Mr. Keck as saying that expanding Medicaid to cover more people under Obamacare “might be the best choice for some states, and it might not be in other states.”

And you could just feel Medicaid supporters in our state rising up in smug unison to cry out “Hypocrite!” Sort of like they did when he first landed his new gig, only louder…

You have to understand that Keck was important to selling the completely bankrupt notion that South Carolina shouldn’t expand Medicaid, and get a huge windfall from the feds to provide medical care to South Carolinians — not to mention providing a lot of good jobs at hospitals.

Keck was portrayed as this whiz kid who could back up the Tea Party article of blind faith (and blind hostility to anything branded “Obama”) with what sounded to a lot of people like compelling fact.

But now that his bread is buttered on the other side, he has discovered that Medicaid expansion is a good thing for “some states.” Such as the one where he’s working now.

Yep, it’s a good thing for “some states,” all right. Such as South Carolina, and the other 49. And it always was.

“Some states” and not others? Really? What a bunch of hooey. Another excerpt:

… Mr. Keck was the respectable face of Gov. Nikki Haley’s purely partisan, and tea-partian, opposition to a program that, by any honest analysis, would be good for our state. Maybe not for our nation — and maybe that’s how we ought to look at it — but clearly good for our state, which is how our legislators normally look at such things.

Mr. Keck was the outside expert, the wunderkind our governor wooed away from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, who understood public health and public-health finances. The person who could make a respectable argument that didn’t sound like warmed-over talking points from the National Republican Committee or FOX News. Certainly that’s why I always liked and respected him, even though I disagreed with him.

But it turns out that for all of his expertise, he was, first and foremost, a hired hand. The guy hawking Big Macs not because he liked them best but because he worked for McDonalds. The guy waving the pom-poms for Medicaid rejection not because that was what was best for our state — or at least not primarily because of that — but because that’s what the boss was selling….

But that’s not the bad part. You know what the bad part is? That now that there is no pretense about the fact that the anti-Medicaid emperor never had on a stitch of clothing, we are still stuck with no Medicaid expansion.

Why? Because Nikki Haley, and too many of her allies, don’t care what the facts are. They don’t want South Carolinians receiving this benefit, and that’s that.

Would a Haley endorsement be helpful in 2016?

Forgot to pass this on yesterday…

The Washington Post writes that Nikki Haley, while committing to no one, seems likely to support Jeb Bush in 2016:

Back in 2010, when the governor of South Carolina was merely “Nikki Who?,” running behind in a four-person Republican primary with her top supporter mired in scandal, Jeb Bush gave her some advice.

“Everything had blown up and I was trying to figure out what to do,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in an interview Saturday with reporters from The Washington Post. “I just asked what he thought I should do, and he said, ‘You know, consultants are going to tell you to stay on the phone and raise money. But what I’ll tell you is go out and touch every hand you can.'”

Haley followed Bush’s counsel, and the rest is history. Later that year, after she was elected, she called Bush, a former Florida governor, for advice on setting up an administration. Then when she tackled education reform, she called again. “Can you save me a couple of steps?” Haley recalled asking Bush. “He said, ‘If you do anything, make sure your kids can read.'”

Now it’s Bush who will be seeking Haley’s help. As he weighs a run for president in 2016, South Carolina is poised to again be the first primary in the South, and Haley figures to be one of the state’s prized endorsers.

In the interview, Haley said she has no plans yet to back any candidate. “I think what I’ll do is watch,” she said. But Haley was particularly complimentary of the governors in the emerging field, including Bush….

Our governor backed the Establishment candidate last time around, and it didn’t turn out so well — which MAY have had something to do with her support.

While I was worried that something weird was in the air, when I had to get up in front of a bunch of people in Key West and predict what was going to happen in the 2012 SC primary, I said SC would do what it always does, and back Mitt Romney (the closest thing we had to a Bush in that contest).

Well, I missed it, which may be why I haven’t been invited back to speak to that particular group since then.

South Carolina did something I had not seen it do in the past six election cycles, that is to say, the ones I had been in position to observe closely: It went with a red-meat-throwing insurgent rather than the Establishment guy.

Before that happened, I had noticed that an unusually large number of leading GOP figures had been lining up behind Newt Gingrich. When I asked one of them, after the vote, how that happened, he gave me a number of reasons for it. And one of them was that a number of top Republicans didn’t want to see the governor be “queen of the May,” reflecting in glory from having her guy win.

All of that said, I think the ground has shifted since then. More Republicans than ever seem reconciled to having Nikki Haley as their leader, and most profess to like the situation. And some of her greatest detractors — think Bobby Harrell — are gone from the scene.

So I’m thinking the Haley endorsement might be a good thing to have this time…

Eleanor Kitzman out; the Senate played its proper role

We seldom find startling state political news in the paper on a Monday, because things don’t work that way in South Carolina. (Actually, not all that much happens on Sundays in Washington, either, although the Sunday talking-head shows sometimes create an illusion of activity.)

So it was a pleasant surprise to see this on the front page of The State today:

Eleanor Kitzman withdraws her name as DHEC agency head candidate

sfretwell@thestate.comFebruary 22, 2015 Updated 14 hours ago

The search for a new S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control director will be reopened now that Eleanor Kitzman has chosen not to seek the position.

Kitzman withdrew her name Sunday from consideration as DHEC director, just three days after being grilled by Democratic state senators about her lack of experience and conflicting statements they said she had made….

Actually, in a sense, the search won’t be “reopened.” It will begin for the first time, since the DHEC board conducted no search — it simply went with the governor’s pal without seeking other resumes.

It will be interesting to see whether the board does its job this time. And of course, I’m defining “do its job” as something other than saying “how high?” when the governor says “Jump!”

Oh, and I’m also anxious to find out the answer to this lingering question:

It was not clear Sunday night whether Kitzman would keep a temporary $74-per-hour job given to her by the agency’s acting director until the confirmation process was completed…

There were a number of weird things about this situation, and that was one of the weirdest. Or “is” one of the weirdest, if she doesn’t quit that job…

I had forgotten about Rep. Funderburk voting against Haley on ethics charge

Funderburk,Laurie

Rep. Funderburk

There are good reasons for us to change our way of choosing judges in SC. Stronger ones than the fact that the husband of a legislator was elected to the bench the other day.

I briefly wondered why Nikki Haley seized on that incident to push for reform — after all, such a situation didn’t bother her in 2009 (although she hates to be reminded of the fact) — but then I set it aside. Different people are motivated by different things at different times. I suppose a lot of folks agree with the governor on this reason. So I set it aside.

And frankly, I’m still inclined to think the governor actually wants reform. But I did find this interesting:

Rutherford: Haley attack on Funderburk ‘Political Payback’ for Ethics Committee Vote
 
Calls on Haley to apologize to members of the General Assembly and come clean about her previous vote
Columbia, SC – House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford released a statement in response to The State article revealing Governor Haley’s previous support for a Republican legislator’s spouse running for the Supreme Court in 2009 after criticizing the legislature this week for electing a highly-qualified Democratic member’s husband to be an Administration Law judge. Rutherford suggested Haley’s criticism of the legislature’s support for Judge Bill Funderburk was simply payback for his wife’s, Rep. Laurie Funderburk, vote to not dismiss ethics charges against Haley in 2012.
“Representative Laurie Funderburk had the courage and integrity to stand up three years ago and call a crook a crook, and now Governor Haley wants payback,” said House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Richland County. “When Governor Haley was in the House, she clearly voted to elect spouses of Republican legislators to judicial posts. Her new-found outrage can only be attributed to Rep. Funderburk’s vote to not dismiss charges against Haley for illegally hiding income she received from a company that did business with the state. We’ve always known Haley was a hypocrite, but she continues to prove it on an astonishingly frequent basis.”
Rutherford also blasted Haley for lying to a reporter on Thursday about her vote to elect Kaye Hearn to the South Carolina Supreme Court while her husband, George Hearn, was a member of the State House of Representatives.
Jamie Self of The State reported in Friday’s newspaper that Haley denied voting for Hearn after the House journal from May 13, 2009 clearly shows Haley casting an ‘aye’ vote in favor of tabling a motion that would reject Hearn from consideration.
“It isn’t often that you see a politician blatantly lie about a previous vote when roll-call votes are public record,” said Rep. Rutherford. “I was flabbergasted when I saw Governor Haley try to rewrite history and then call it ‘offensive’ that the reporter would even bring it up. But people often act erratic when they’ve been caught in a lie. Governor Haley owes the entire General Assembly an apology for this unbelievable display of hypocrisy.”
####

You know I had forgotten about that — Laurie Funderburk being the only one on the ethics committee who voted against the governor that time. But that’s what happened:

The committee voted unanimously to dismiss three charges against Ms. Haley. On the fourth charge, accusing the governor of failing to properly disclose her payment by the engineering firm, one member, Representative Laurie Slade Funderburk, a Democrat, voted against Ms. Haley….

By all means, let’s change the system, as long as it’s to something better. And to me, something better means something like the federal system, through which both political branches get a measure of control over who becomes a judge. There are systems that are worse than what we have in South Carolina, and I wouldn’t want to switch to one of those.

But this incident is an interesting thing to remember at this time…

Both ends of the political spectrum attacking the GOOD part of Haley’s tax-swap plan

This does not bode well for responsible policy-making in South Carolina. (Now, if there’s an “Understatement of the Year” contest somewhere, and there’s a cash prize, I want one of y’all to enter that statement for me, on account of the fact that I’m too modest to do it myself. If there’s more than one such contest, enter it in the one with the biggest cash prize. I mean, duh.)

I had an oh-so-brief, and oh-so-ill-founded, moment of optimism last week when I read this:

Competing state roads-funding plans from the GOP-controlled S.C. House and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appear to be on a collision course unless a compromise can be reached by next week….

Because I thought, for that brief second, contrary to all past experience, that maybe it means they’re willing to raise the gas tax without a much-bigger cut in the income tax that would more than wipe out any overall advantage to the gas tax.

Silly me. I have these Panglossian moments from time to time, but they pass quickly enough when I run head-on into reality. This particular fit was fully over by the time I was done reading this bit:

Some GOP lawmakers, wary of opposition to Haley’s plan by the limited government Americans for Prosperity group, are hesitant to back a direct gas-tax increase….

Because, you know, that’s what’s important: Slavish devotion to the agendas of out-of-state groups that don’t give a tinker’s dam about South Carolina, rather than whether our state’s needs are attended to.

So basically, the problem with Haley’s “roads” plan isn’t the much-greater tax cut that has nothing to do with paying for roads. The problem, for our solons, is the very modest part that would benefit roads.

But surely, surely, there are some lawmakers who are neither automatons for Washington interest groups nor sensible folks who fear meeting such automatons in a primary.

Which is to say, there still ARE some Democrats in the Legislature, right? I mean, they’re too few to be effective or anything, but at least they can stand up for a needed, sensible tax increase when no one else will, just so somebody is standing up for wise policy. Right?

Wrong. Here’s what the Democrats are saying:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Democratic legislators say Gov. Nikki Haley’s plan to cut income taxes by $9 billion over the next decade is nothing but a tax hike for more than a million South Carolinians….

Haley announced last month she’s willing to support increasing the gas tax by 10 cents over three years to pay for road and bridge work, but only if legislators cut income taxes by 2 percentage points over 10 years….

The office’s economic advisers project that 1.1 million people who file income tax returns – or 46 percent of filers – would see no benefit because they would pay no personal income taxes anyway, due to previous cuts to the bottom brackets.

Democrats note those taxpayers would, however, pay the gas increase.

“One million people will only see a tax increase,” said Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia….

So basically, no one is articulating the case for what actually ought to happen. Which is that we should increase the tax (the ridiculously low tax) that already exists specifically for the purpose of paying for roads, since we don’t have enough money to fix and build roads. We can’t even get folks to stand up for it at a moment when it would cost so little politically, because gasoline prices are so low that no one would notice the increase.

Welcome to the State House.

How many more ways can this Kitzman thing get weird?

OK, we already knew that Eleanor Kitzman’s main qualification for the job of DHEC director was that she’s a passionately loyal Nikki Haley supporter.

And we’ve seen her be handed another job at the agency so she doesn’t have to wait around on Senate confirmation to start collecting a paycheck. (Admittedly, it’s as a mere hourly employee — one who makes $74 an hour, that is.)

And now there’s this:

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board did not seek applications from anyone to fill the agency director’s job before voting to hire former state insurance chief Eleanor Kitzman, a campaign contributor to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

In response to an open records request from The State newspaper, DHEC said Thursday that while the board talked about several potential candidates, “no applications were requested or submitted.” The department thought Kitzman was the best person for the position, an agency statement said.

The State newspaper’s request, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, sought copies of job applications for the post vacated Jan. 8 by Catherine Templeton.

But agency spokeswoman Cassandra Harris and Freedom of Information Office director Karla York said they did not have any to provide. Only Kitzman’s resume was provided to the newspaper….

How many more ways can this nomination get weird?

What Haley proposed isn’t a ‘road plan.’ It’s a tax cut plan

In the sake of clarity, The State‘s editorial Sunday about Nikki Haley’s “Let’s Make A Deal” proposal on paying for roads maybe what should have been an obvious point, although I had not yet thought of it this way:

WHEN MARK Sanford ran for governor in 2002, he proposed to increase our tax on gasoline and eliminate the state income tax. He didn’t claim it was a plan to save our roads. It was a plan to cut our taxes, plain and simple.

And that’s what Gov. Nikki Haley offered us in her State of the State address on Wednesday: a plan to cut taxes. Oh, she called it a plan to address what most businesses and lawmakers and many citizens consider our most urgent problem: our crumbling roads and bridges.

But it would cover barely a fifth of the need, and in reality it was just a warmed-over version of the Sanford plan. It should meet the same fate as the Sanford plan, which the Republican Legislature rejected, because lawmakers knew we could not afford a massive reduction in the money available to pay for schools and prisons and industrial recruitment and mental health and other basic services.

Gov. Haley did propose to spend the new gas tax revenue on roads: $3.5 billion over the next decade. But she also proposed to steal $8.5 billion from those core functions of government over that same period.

The governor says she’s making roads a priority (although really she’s making tax cuts the priority), and it’s true that we can fix a big problem in government by making it a priority. But if we aren’t careful, we create other problems, as we saw most recently with the cuts to our child-protection program that Gov. Haley now wants to reverse…

Yup. Instead of focusing on the problem under discussion, something of importance to everyone who cares about the state’s actual needs — the lack of funding for roads — the governor is really using that as a smokescreen to achieve an ideological goal that doesn’t address any actual problem.

That wasn’t fully clear to me until I saw the numbers: $3.5 billion for roads, but $8.5 billion for tax cuts…

Haley’s ‘solution’ for roads: Rob the general fund

On my way home last night, listening on the radio, I heard some things from our governor that sounded pretty good to me, including her continuing initiatives to try to help out poor, rural schools. It was refreshing to hear a South Carolina Republican say, in such a prominent venue, “for the first time in our history, we acknowledged that it costs more to teach those children mired in poverty than those born into a secure economic situation.”

I was less enchanted a moment later, when she announced, “And all of this will be done without spending a single new tax dollar.” In other words, any gains we make in education will be accomplished by cutting back on something else that state government does.

And that brings us to her proposal on paying for roads, which is essentially to take the money out of the general fund, underfunding some other state function.

She says she can go for doing the right and logical thing, the obvious thing we should do without any conditions or contortions — raise the gas tax. But only if we cut the unrelated income tax. (And restructure the transportation agency, which of course is fine — I’ve advocated it for more than two decades — although not necessarily a thing we should hold our breath on while roads and bridges fall apart.)

The foolishness of this would be immediately apparent to everyone if it were a one-to-one swap. If the income tax was dedicated to paying for roads, then no one could miss the idiocy of raising revenues for roads with the left hand while lowering them with the right.

But the income tax doesn’t pay for roads; it goes into the general fund to pay for the rest of government. And among the hate-the-government crowd, the Haley proposal will make sense. How do they get there? By clinging to the belief that most government spending is waste anyway. And to the even more absurd belief that if you just cut off the money tap, efficiencies will magically appear, and only the “waste” will be cut.

I’ll say to this what I always say to such proposals: If you believe the general fund can do without those revenues, then tell us what you want to cut. Make the cuts first, and then reduce the no-longer-needed revenues.

But they won’t do that. That would be hard. They prefer the magical-thinking approach — just cut off the money, and everything will work out OK.

The honest thing would be to say, here is the thing that I think is less important than funding roads. But that would incur a political cost. The governor, and those who will support her idea, just want the warm-and-fuzzy credit that comes from cutting a tax, any tax.

This is the kind of proposal you make when you’re more interested in staying in the good graces of the Grover Norquists than you are in governing.

I think our governor has matured in office in a number of ways. She used to call the discomfort of mainstream Republicans over her sudden rise “a beautiful thing,” with a twinkle of malice in her eye. Now, she uses that phrase in a more positive way:

Whether I’m in California or Connecticut, Montreal or Minnesota, the story of South Carolina’s success is front and center. Everywhere we go there is excitement – and frankly, not a small amount of envy – over who we are and what we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s a beautiful thing….

But the deal she is proffering on roads is a dereliction of responsibility.

Again, if we want better roads, we should dig into our pockets (and into the pockets of visitors who use our roads) and pay for them. Magic beans are not a solution.

Ummm… It hadn’t occurred to me that Graham would NOT be ‘honored’ to be part of Haley inauguration

Scratching my head a bit at this Lindsey Graham release:

Graham ‘Honored’ to Be Part of Gov. Haley’s Inauguration

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement to celebrate South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s inauguration for a second term.

“I’m honored and excited to be part of Governor Haley’s inauguration,” said Graham.  “It’s a big day for the state of South Carolina, Governor Haley, her family, and her many supporters.  I look forward to continue working with Governor Haley to get things done as she continues to recruit new businesses and high-paying jobs to our state.  South Carolina is in good hands under her leadership.”

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Yeah, I get it — the senator felt that he should say something about the inauguration, and this was the something he came up with, so don’t read too much into it. I know what it’s like to feel like you have to come up with something when you’re not inspired. (It doesn’t happen to me too often, but it happens.)

But taking the words he did choose at face value, it makes me wonder — had anyone been speculating that Graham was somehow less than pleased that she got re-elected, or that there was something else unpleasant between them?

Nah. I’m just overthinking it…

The absence of SC’s poet laureate from inaugural

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Sorry to repeat myself, but I find this digression from a previous thread sufficiently interesting for its own post.

M. Prince brought this story to my attention, asking, “Was it really a matter of too little time?”

Marjory Wentworth expected to read a poem Wednesday at her fourth gubernatorial inaugural, but South Carolina’s poet laureate has been silenced.

Marjory Wentworth

Marjory Wentworth

Gov. Nikki Haley’s inaugural committee turned down Wentworth’s words, saying there wasn’t time enough to read a poem during the inaugural. Wentworth was told she did not have a spot at the State House ceremony before her poem was finished and submitted to the governor’s office.

“While we appreciate Ms. Wentworth’s long service to South Carolina, the inaugural committee told her the 96th S.C. inaugural program — which, in part, celebrates our state’s rich culture — has been full for weeks,” Haley spokeswoman Chaney Adams said. “Scheduling constraints simply wouldn’t allow a poem to be read.”…

One doubts that it was just a lack of time. But if the organizers were trying to make a point by leaving her out, I don’t know what the point was.

Unless, even though they hadn’t seen her finished poem (which you can read here), they knew she was someone who might write:

Here, where the Confederate flag still flies
beside the Statehouse, haunted by our past,
conflicted about the future; at the heart
of it, we are at war with ourselves

Not very “It’s a great day in South Carolina!,” is it?

M. said maybe it was those lines. But he thought it was more likely these:

“at Gadsden’s Wharf, where 100,000
Africans were imprisoned within brick walls
awaiting auction, death, or worse.
Where the dead were thrown into the water,

and the river clogged with corpses
has kept centuries of silence.
It is time to gather at the water’s edge,
and toss wreaths into this watery grave.”

M. thought that maybe “somebody considered that sort of imagery too much a downer” for “the governor’s own great day in South Carolina.”

I responded that maybe we could persuade the organizers to invite Randy Newman to sing this at the inaugural.

Of course, that would depend on them completely missing the irony.

M. loved that idea, which shows we can agree on something.

On another subject, I had forgotten that we HAD a poet laureate. How does one run for that?

What do y’all think of her poem? It occurs to me that maybe the organizers are poetry snobs, the sort who sneer at Poe (not likely, but possible). Even to me, Ms. Wentworth’s imagery and messages seem too plain and obvious — too… prosaic — and lacking a bit in pretentious profundity. And I’m no poetry snob. I love Poe’s driving rhythm and rhyme.

But what do y’all think?