Category Archives: Nikki Haley

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?

You want to REOPEN the epic school-equity case? Really?

I was a bit surprised that this was played at the bottom of The State‘s front page today. Back in my front-page-editor days, I would have found a way to get it above the fold along with the Metts plea deal — to the right of it, in the traditional lede position.

We spend two decades trying a case in which the poor, rural school districts of our state petition for an equal chance for the children in their charge. Finally, finally, the state Supreme Court issues its ruling — that the state is indeed not providing an equal chance for all its pupils, and must remedy the situation.

And now, this:

Gov. Nikki Haley and state lawmakers are fighting a court order aimed at improving the state’s school system in rural, poor districts.

In two petitions filed with the S.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, attorneys representing Haley and lawmakers asked the justices to rehear a landmark school equity lawsuit that rural school districts, including Abbeville, brought against the state more than 20 years ago…

The court ruled 3-2 in November that the state failed to provide children in poor, rural districts with an adequate public education as required by the S.C. Constitution.

Without recommending specific policies or actions, the court ordered lawmakers and the school districts to devise a plan to address the problems the court identified, including weak rural tax bases, aging facilities and the difficulty of recruiting quality teachers to rural areas. The court also said the state’s method of paying for schools was unfair and needs to be updated, and hinted some small school districts may need to be merged.

However, Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson’s petition for a rehearing says the Supreme Court’s majority “overlooked recent education initiatives put in place by (Haley’s administration) and the General Assembly that will directly affect rural school districts in South Carolina.”…

Really? You want to reopen a case that took this long, rather than go ahead and do what you should have done without a lawsuit?

What — do you think the court didn’t spend enough time pondering it before?

Look, I appreciate that the governor and lawmakers took steps in this past session to do more to help the poorer schools out. I’ve praised them for it. But that improvement is the sort of thing you would hold up to show, as we go forward, that you’re trying to implement the ruling — not used as an excuse to ask the court to reconsider.

But going back and trying to drag this thing out further is no way to follow up that good first step. The governor and lawmakers should instead be competing with one another to come up with the best ideas to improve the rural schools, starting perhaps with something that most politicians at least give lip service to — consolidating districts, to eliminate duplication in administration and give the poorest districts access to the tax base in the more affluent districts in their counties.

Or something. Show some leadership, folks. Instead of what I can only categorize as sullen foot-dragging.

How much weight should we give to bad jobs news in SC?

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The state Democratic Party has been sending out a steady stream of bad SC jobs news as a way of undercutting Nikki Haley’s big strength — the narrative that, whatever else you think of her, she’s done a good job of recruiting jobs for the state.

I’ve been inclined to ignore these, because, let’s face it — companies are always going as well as coming, or shrinking as well as growing, and you can’t disprove a trend with anecdotal evidence.

Also, you have to wonder how seriously the party takes these bad-news announcements, since on the “Haley’s Smoke and Mirrors” website, they accompany each one with a cutesy GIF, like the one above. As a guy who’s spent a good bit of time unemployed after being laid off, I find myself wondering what’s so funny about these situations. Even if the overall trend in SC is good, each of these items is very bad news for some individual South Carolinians.

But in the last few days, the sheer volume of these news items has worn away my doubts to the point that I’m wondering whether this is an unusually bad streak of developments.

I don’t know. But you can peruse them at the website. And here are the headlines of the last 11 such releases I’ve received, over just the second half of this month:

  1. PTR Announces Layoffs One Week After Haley Visit
  2. SC’s economy slows, jobless rate jumps
  3. S.C. foreclosure filings above national average despite 11% decrease
  4. Jobless rate now highest in state
  5. S.C.jobless rate up to 6.6 percent in September
  6. Bi-Lo to cut jobs at former Mauldin headquarters
  7. Heinz to close Florence facility employing 200 workers
  8. Truth Check: Is SC’s economy ‘one of fastest growing on East Coast’?
  9. 200 to lose jobs as Orangeburg plant closes
  10. Major Upstate employer announces relocation to NC
  11. GE Prepares Global Layoffs, Some Greenville Jobs Affected

OK, one of those is out of place — Jobless rate now highest in state — since some part of the state will always be the highest in the state, regardless of how good things are. But the other 10 provide a fairly steady drumbeat of actual bad news.

Now, here’s a HUGE grain of salt: These were not real-time announcements. They were from over a much-longer period of time than the dates of the releases would indicate. Some weren’t even from this year. So consider that.

By the way, did you make the connection on that first one? That’s the gun manufacturer that caused our governor’s eyes to light up so…

Nikki gun

The issue her opponents inexplicably leave on the table: Nikki Haley’s disregard for the rule of law

I don’t suppose we should be surprised that Nikki Haley treats “lawyer” as some sort of cussword, because she’s shown time and again that she has little regard for the law itself.

Cindi Scoppe detailed, in her column yesterday, the known instances in which our governor has acted as a law unto herself since taking office. Here’s the list:

Gov. Haley first overstepped her authority at the end of her first legislative session, when she ordered the Legislature back into “extraordinary” session because it failed to pass a bill that she supported. (It was a bill I supported as well.) That would have been counterproductive even if she had the constitutional authority to do it, because it angered the legislators whose votes were needed to pass the bill. But she did not have the constitutional authority to do it. Legislative leaders sued, and the Supreme Court overturned her order.

Before that first year ended, she had assumed police powers, unilaterally imposing a curfew on Occupy Columbia protesters who had camped out on the State House grounds, and then having them arrested when they refused to comply with her unlawful order. (I think camping out on the grounds should have been illegal, but at the time it simply was not.) In issuing a restraining order, a federal judge noted that the governor was “making up” the rules as she went along. Our bill for that incident alone was more than a half million dollars.

In early 2012, when the state Supreme Court ordered party and election officials to obey a ridiculous but valid state law, Gov. Haley marched over to the state Republican Party headquarters and persuaded the GOP executive committee to ignore that order and put her favorite candidate back on the ballot. The Election Commission refused to acknowledge that lawless action, saving the governor and the party the ignominy of being found in contempt of court.

Later that year, the Legislature passed a budget that fully covered the increased cost of health-insurance premiums for state employees and retirees. Gov. Haley could have vetoed the funding but chose not to. Instead, when the perfunctory matter of approving insurance rates came before the Budget and Control Board, she persuaded the treasurer and comptroller general to join her in requiring state employees and retirees to pay part of the increase themselves. And again, I agree with her policy preference, but she simply did not have the authority to act. State employees sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the governor and her co-conspirators had violated the constitution by usurping the Legislature’s power to write the law.

As far as I know, Gov. Haley has not directly overstepped her authority since then. But her fingerprints were all over her DHEC director’s decision last year to tell hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers that they could ignore a state law that required them to get a certificate of need before making large purchases, after the Legislature failed to override her veto of the funding for the program. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that this was completely lawless — but not before Lexington Medical Center and several other health providers spent huge amounts of money on expansion projects that they might have to abandon. And we’ll pay for that as well, through our medical insurance.

We are supposed to be a state of laws and not of men — or women, either. But our governor doesn’t get that.

Yesterday, at a lunch in connection with the Bernardin Lecture at USC (I’m on the committee; last night we hosted Sister Joan Chittister as our guest lecturer), the philosophy professor next to me got to talking first about Heidegger, then about the rise of the Nazis. At one point, he said something like (I wasn’t taking notes), “It’s a terrible thing when leaders see themselves as no longer bound by law.” He wasn’t talking about the Holocaust, or dragging the world into war. He was simply bemoaning the loss of the rule of law, as Hitler transitioned from chancellor to Führer.

Being very careful to say that we were talking about something several degrees of magnitude less evil or severe, I noted that we were seeing the same sad principle at work here in SC.

But Nikki Haley is no Hitler, not even a minor-league one. In fact, it’s not even a “degrees of magnitude” thing. I don’t see any evil at all in her. What I see is a terrible naivete, of a sort that you don’t ever want in someone in charge.

I think that at every stage in the incidents Cindi detailed, our governor meant well — by her lights. She meant no harm to anyone. As Cindi noted, in some instances she was trying to do something good. The restructuring measure she wanted lawmakers to come back and pass was something our state needed (and eventually got, largely thanks to Vincent Sheheen). And no, people shouldn’t be allowed to camp on the State House grounds. Trouble was, there was no law saying so at the time. The shenanigans she got up to with the state party were far less benign, but I think she honestly believed it was good for her chosen candidates to win.

No, the problem with Nikki Haley is that she simply doesn’t get something fundamental about the concept of the rule of law.

This is of a piece with her cluelessness on other things that an educated person who understands how the world works would get. If you’ll recall, back in the days that I was still endorsing her for legislative office, I found disturbing her unquestioning faith in such simplistic and erroneous nostrums as “I want to run government like a business.” Yes, a lot of people say that, but not people who understand government and business, and how they are not only different but supposed to be different. (You might call this, with apologies to Hannah Arendt, a case of being banal without being evil.)

She is innocent of such understanding. That doesn’t make her a bad person. But it makes her unqualified to govern.

As Cindi ended her column:

That is not just notable. That is frightening. That is the stuff of dictators and tyrants. That, more than policy or personal characteristics, is reason to replace her.

It’s frustrating that neither Vincent Sheheen nor Tom Ervin has pointed out this glaring abuse of power on the governor’s part. Perhaps they think voters wouldn’t get it, or wouldn’t care. And indeed, a lot of people — especially those who find the governor’s chip-on-the-shoulder, anti-intellectual populism appealing — would not. They’d dismiss talk of the rule of law as “lawyer double-talk” or some such, I suppose.

Perhaps such ignorance can be excused in a voter, if you’re really inclined to be forgiving. But not in one who would govern.

Ervin endorsement reduces Haley camp to incoherence (which is kind of weird, since they’re ahead and all)

Ervin campaigning with Sheheen in Charleston this morning. Photo is from Sheheen's Twitter feed.

Ervin campaigning with Sheheen in Charleston this morning. Photo is from Sheheen’s Twitter feed.

But then, I’ve noticed that a lot of things have that effect.

So, when Tom Ervin, after spending $2.5 million of his own money on a fairly sophisticated and well-run campaign, drops out endorses Vincent Sheheen at the last minute — and does so in sober, coherent, mature language — we get this kind of grade-school-taunt-level bluster from our governor’s campaign:

Haley’s campaign said Ervin and Sheheen, both attorneys, shared the same agenda with “their liberal trial lawyer cronies.”

“They have spent millions on false and shameful attacks, and gotten nowhere with South Carolina voters,” Haley deputy campaign manager Rob Godfrey said. “It’s no surprise that two pro-Obamacare trial lawyers would officially tie the knot at the end of the race.”…

Oh yeah? Oh yeah?!? Well, you’re… you’re a TRIAL LAWYER, that’s what YOU are…

I guess he told them.

And yet, she’s the one leading in the polls — which would make you expect her to be the calmer party in the equation.

Anyway, thoughts on this? Frankly, I don’t expect it to change anything, in terms of the electoral outcome. But I could be wrong…

Haley, Sheheen SHOULD join together to call for a ‘yes’ vote on adjutant general reform

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On Nov. 4, South Carolina voters have the chance to put an end to an embarrassing anomaly — we have the power to cease to be the only state in the union that elects its adjutant general, the leader of the state’s National Guard.

The reasons why it’s a horrible idea to have a popularly elected general are many; Cindi Scoppe goes over some of them in her column today. It’s something I’ve never had to think about very hard, because when I was a kid, I lived in a place where it was accepted that that military officers got mixed up in politics.

In fact, it was far from an abstraction to me. We lived in the upstairs of a large house that was owned by a captain in the Ecuadorean Navy. One day, the captain asked if he could borrow our part of the duplex. My parents went out, and my brothers and I went downstairs to stay in the captain’s part of the house, while the captain and an Ecuadorean admiral met upstairs in our home. The next day, the president of the country had been put on a plane to Panama, the admiral was the head of the new military junta running the country, and our landlord was the minister of agriculture.

Actually, given what a disaster el presidente had been, Ecuador was no worse off. But in a country such as hours, with it’s deeply treasured culture of constitutional government and subservience of the military to legal authority, such a development would be catastrophic. Fortunately in our national history, such events have remained the stuff of political fiction such as “Seven Days in May.”

Except in South Carolina, where we require our top general to be a politician first (and really don’t even require him to have any military background at all).

Fortunately, our current adjutant general, Bob Livingston, is a well-qualified officer who also understands that we need to do away with this anomaly. That’s a very good thing, since his predecessors resisted reform, and the Guard followed their lead, and the electorate followed the Guard.

But now we have the opportunity to change the situation. We also have two people running for governor — the incumbent, Nikki Haley, and Sen. Vincent Sheheen — who are both known for advocating this reform (as well as doing away with other unnecessarily elected constitutional officers). In her column today, Cindi put forth a great idea:

Most of all, we need to hear from the most visible advocates of empowering governors to act like governors: Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Vincent Sheheen. This is a signature issue for both of them. It’s not too much to ask them to set aside their bickering for long enough to make a joint appearance — or to cut a TV ad together — asking voters to vote yes for the military meritocracy.

If they’re not willing to put some skin in the game, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame if we keep electing the adjutant general — and all of those other constitutional officers who ought to be appointed.

That would be wonderful on so many levels — including the first level, which is that it would make this long-awaited reform all that much more likely to occure.