Category Archives: Democrats

Hillary now blows to wherever the wind may take her

Wow, Hillary Clinton is really getting desperate.

She is so anxious to placate the emotional left of her party that she has abandoned the Pacific trade agreement she promoted until recently. The WSJ summed up her conversion this way:

Mrs. Clinton was asked on PBS’s NewsHour whether the trade deal is “something you could support?”

Her reply: “What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. And there is one other element I want to make, because I think it’s important. Trade agreements don’t happen in a vacuum, and in order for us to have a competitive economy in the global marketplace, there are things we need to do here at home that help raise wages. And the Republicans have blocked everything President Obama tried to do on that front. So for the larger issues, and then what I know, and again, I don’t have the text, we don’t yet have all the details, I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

So she hasn’t seen the agreement’s text, and can’t speak to the details, but she’s against the deal because Republicans who haven’t held the White House in seven years haven’t raised wages.

Mrs. Clinton previously called the Pacific pact the “gold standard in trade agreements,” and as recently as her memoir in 2014 she praised it as “important for American workers who would benefit from competing on a more level playing field.” At State she took a leading role in promoting the pact and in January 2013 said that “I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one way that could really enhance our relationship” with Japan. She supported Nafta and she backed the trade deal with South Korea, but now she’s had a change of heart—or should we say soul….

Basically, she preemptively dropped this hot potato before she even had a good grip on it. But the fact that this agreement is a hot potato shows how far gone her party is.

People go on about how the Republicans have lost their way, being held hostage by the flakes on its fringe, and they’re absolutely right to do so.

Well, the Democrats have the same problem. They have their own Know-Nothings, with notions about trade and growth that seem to have been drafted by Occupy Wall Street, and leading candidates are in their thrall.

It’s been awhile since the party has had sensible Third Way leadership with names such as… Clinton.

‘Joe, Run.’ Draft Biden super-PAC releases video

Hey, it gives me goose bumps. Here’s a story about the video. Excerpt:

It comes from the “Yale Day” speech Biden delivered the day before the Ivy League school’s commencement, as he knew his son’s fight with cancer was unlikely to succeed. Beau Biden died two weeks after that speech.

Possibly because of that timing, or something, it reminds me of that famous recording of Bobby Kennedy announcing the death of Martin Luther King, just a month before his own death…

Bloomberg Poll: 1 in 4 Democrats favor Biden

And the guy’s not even running — yet.

Here’s the news from Bloomberg:

One quarter of Americans who are registered Democrats or lean that way say Vice President Joe Biden is now their top choice for president. The findings of a national Bloomberg Politics poll released Wednesday represent a notable achievement for an as-yet undeclared candidate, suggest concerns about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and raise the prospect of a competitive three-way race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton, once the prohibitive front-runner, is now the top choice of 33 percent of registered Democrats and those who lean Democrat, the poll shows. Biden places second with 25 percent and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is at 24 percent. The other three Democratic candidates combined are the top choice for less than 4 percent of that base….

Not only that, but almost half of respondents say they think the veep should get into it. Sounds like some of those still with Hillary want a backup plan…

Tenenbaum: Using private email account was clearly against federal rules

Another little contact report

Talking with Inez Tenenbaum this morning about her support of Joe Biden, I changed the subject to Hillary Clinton and asked, somewhat facetiously, whether Inez used two email accounts when she was in Washington as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“No,” she said. “I was told emphatically… that all federal business had to be conducted on federal email addresses.”inez-tenenbaum

“We had lawyers that did nothing but ethics” at her agency, and they let her know “we could not use our own private email.”

And if by any chance she did use private email for public business, it would be treated as public — she was told such communications would all be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

When I asked why she thought Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to have gotten the same message, she declined to go there.

I had called Inez because she has been named to co-chair (along with Sen. Gerald Malloy) the Draft Biden effort in South Carolina.

She had no news on that front. “I don’t know” whether he’s going to run or not. “It could go either way.”

But she’s ready to support him if he does. And in explaining why, she talks more about a personal connection than anything having to do with politics or policy. “He has been a friend of ours, and we have had a close relationship with him.”

While she cordially knows Hillary Clinton as well, she just has “a much closer relationship” with Biden. “And I just have so much respect for him” as someone who has “serve the country for 40 years.”

If you’ll recall, the last time around (in 2007) she came out early for Barack Obama, while her husband Samuel was backing Biden. Samuel is not in a position now to endorse candidates because of his job, but as an attorney in private practice, Inez has no such barriers to contend with.

I asked whether she’s gotten any pushback from the Clinton campaign. No, she said. “I got lots of calls from the Hillary people early on” seeking her support. But even though there was no serious anticipation at that point that Biden would get in, she said she felt an obligation to him to wait until he said definitively whether he was running or not.

As to whether he should, “One part of me wants him to get into it… one part of me understands” why he might decide not to go through that grinder.

I asked her to keep me in mind if she hears anything…

OK, there’s ONE reason I might prefer Hillary to Joe Biden


Generally, I’ve been happy, even a little excited, to hear that Joe Biden might challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Part of it is the unsavory side of the presumed front-runner that her email mess reveals, day after day. Actually, not so much “reveals” as “reminds us of.” We are reminded of the control freak, the Nixonian figure who can’t see legitimate criticism as anything other than another attempt by her enemies in the “vast right-wing conspiracy” to trump up a way to do her in.

Whereas I’ve always liked Joe. He was my fave on the Democratic side in the 2008 campaign until he dropped out. It’s hard not to like Biden; he’s just so chock-full of the best kind of Joe-ness. (What is Joe-ness? Oh, it’s many things. One example: Earlier this morning I was talking to Samuel Tenenbaum, and told him to say hi to Inez and tell her I want to talk with her about Biden. That caused Samuel to tell me about Biden calling him to wish him a happy birthday a couple of weeks back. They got to talking about books they had read recently. Samuel, who loves to share books with friends, mentioned he had wanted to send a book to the veep but couldn’t get past his staff. According to Samuel, Biden said, “My staff and the Secret Service can be a pain in the ass.” That’s one type of Joe-ness.)

However it turns out, I’ll be happy to see him get into it, if he does.

But… all of that said, I read a column this morning in The State that reminds me of at least one reason I might prefer Hillary as a commander-in-chief.

It was by Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times. In part, it said:

Biden and Clinton aren’t far apart when it comes to domestic issues, but that’s decidedly not true when it comes to international affairs.

Clinton was on the hawkish side of Obama’s team. She supported a big surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009; Obama opted for a smaller surge, with a time limit. In 2011, she called for U.S. military intervention in Libya; Obama went along. In 2012, she urged him to send military aid to Syrian rebels; Obama resisted (after Clinton left office, he changed his mind).

Biden was on the opposite end of all three debates. He didn’t think adding U.S. military force in Afghanistan would solve the country’s problems. He didn’t think Libya was central enough to U.S. interests to justify airstrikes. And he was skeptical about the idea of arming Syrian rebels.

The two even disagreed over whether the president should launch the secret 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton “concluded that this was a rare opportunity and believed we should seize it,” then-CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in his memoir. “Biden argued that we still did not have enough confidence that Bin Laden was in the compound [where the CIA believed he was living], and he came out firmly in favor of waiting for more information.”

There’s a clear pattern here. Each time, Clinton argued in favor of U.S. intervention. Each time, Biden was a skeptic, warning Obama that the risks outweighed the potential gains….

This piece reminds me that one of the thing I’ve always liked about Hillary is that she is on “the hawkish side of Obama’s team.” It’s not that I’m such a hawk, as many of you believe. It’s just that I’m definitely, without question, to the hawkish side of the current POTUS. More than that, she understands America’s role in the world, that the United States is, as Madeleine Albright used to say, “the indispensable nation.”

And Joe even tried to put the brakes on the Abbottabad operation? OK, it wasn’t unreasonable to want to be more certain about Osama bin Laden being in that compound. Anyone would. Certainty is a nice thing to have. But as it turned out, Obama made the right call in going ahead, and it stands as one of the wisest decisions of his presidency.

So where do we stand here? Definitely, I prefer Joe on a personal level — he passes the “would you want to have a beer with him” test with flying colors. But there’s a lot to be said for Hillary’s approach to national and collective security — which is, you know, kinda important when picking a POTUS.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

Hillary, you should get to know who your SC supporters are

Just got around to looking at this release from yesterday:

Richland County Officials Announce Support for Clinton Following Launch of Hillary for Richland 

Columbia, SC — Following a successful “Hillary for Richland” kickoff with James Carville, 12 new local officials in Richland County announced their support for Hillary Clinton. Citing Hillary Clinton’s vision to boost middle class incomes to help South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead, the following local officials are joining the campaign and supporting Hillary Clinton:

  • City of Columbia Mayor Pro Tem Sam Davis
  • Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine
  • Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres 
  • Mayor Geraldine Robinson of Eastover
  • Richland County Treasurer David Adams
  • Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson
  • Richland County Councilman Jim Manning 
  • Richland County Councilman Kelvin E. Washington Sr.
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Kit Smith
  • Richland School District 1 Commissioner Aaron Bishop
  • Richland School District 2 Commissioner Dr. Monica Elkin-Johnson

Last week, Hillary for America Chair John Podesta visited Columbia to outline Clinton’s plans on issues like income inequality, health care, Social Security, climate change and college affordability.  In addition, former Governors Jim Hodges and Dick Riley announced their endorsements of Clinton.

A few weeks ago, Hillary for South Carolina kicked off “Mayors for Hillary” with the endorsements of Mayor Steve Benjamin and former Mayor Bob Coble following Clinton’s Mayors Summit in Columbia. During the summit, mayors and Clinton discussed education and infrastructure investments in cities along with plans to fight systemic racism and fight for criminal justice reform.

“Hillary acts like a good mayor – she innovates, improvises and solves problems. As a friend and partner to our nation’s Mayors, Hillary will work closely with our cities to tackle tough issues. She will fight everyday to listen and come up with solutions for our cities and states on issues like raising wages for working Americans, reducing racial disparities in our prisons, and providing quality, affordable health care to our residents,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia and President of the African American Mayors Association. 

“As we’ve seen in Columbia, good things happen when government and business collaborate, which is why we need an ally in the White House that will keep a laser focus on jobs, small businesses and economic development. In partnership with our Mayors, Hillary Clinton will work with cities both large and small to innovate and grow our economy,” said former Mayor Bob Coble of Columbia. 

“There are a lot of people who aren’t making ends meet, which is why we need Hillary Clinton’s tenacity to even the playing field and help hardworking South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead. It is far past time for us to embrace full diversity in our elected offices and I can’t wait to see Hillary in the Oval Office,” said Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine.

“Hillary Clinton listens to local leaders, which is why she’s the partner we need in the White House. She’ll work to make government efficient and find solutions to the problems facing local communities across the country,” said Richland County Treasurer David Adams. 

“Hillary Clinton is a champion for women and girls, and her leadership will help bring women into the 21st century on issues like equal pay and paid family leave” said Richland County Councilwoman and former Senate candidate Joyce Dickerson. “At a time our country faces new and emerging threats and challenges both at home and abroad, our country needs a strong leader. Hillary has a proven record of bold leadership as Secretary of State and a long record of providing support to our veterans and military families.”

“If we want to tackle tough issues facing women, children and families, we need a tenacious and courageous woman like Hillary Clinton in the White House. Hillary has spent her career standing up for what’s right whether it was advocating for children incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina or helping create the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott. 


Now, I don’t have time to go down the list and check each and every one of these, but one of them jumped out at me.

I am not familiar with a “Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres.”

Could they have meant Mayor Mark Huguley, not “Hugely,” of Arcadia Lakes — you know, the former SLED agent who is married to my old newspaper colleague Sally Huguley?

I don’t know. (I’ve emailed Mark to find out.) But the mayor of Forest Acres is named Frank Brunson.

That’s just Hugely embarrassing…

James Smith is among those waiting for Joe Biden to run

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

Bryan was dismissing the idea that a South Carolina Democrat endorsing Hillary Clinton was news, and I begged to differ — in South Carolina, there are a number of prominent Democrats waiting for Joe Biden to get into it.

After that exchange with Bryan, I picked up the phone to talk with one: Rep. James Smith.

James was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as someone urging the Veep to run just the other day, which was a change of pace, as it seems to me that the person most quoted on the subject by national media has been Dick Harpootlian. And of course, South Carolina was where Biden chose to get away from it all last week and ponder the matter. His ties to South Carolina, and not just to SC Democrats, are noteworthy.

As James told me, it’s not just about him and Dick. “We have a long list of Biden supporters… community faith leaders, business leaders and elected leaders.” And he said “We’re building an organization, on the chance” that he’ll jump into the race.

Why Biden? Smith starts with his broad experience, with issues both foreign and domestic. He said Biden is “the leader we need for these times,” someone “respected across the spectrum,” particularly in the Senate.

“The rest are just very polarizing figures, like something from a bad reality TV show.”

I could see why he’d say that about some of the GOP candidates, but Hillary Clinton, who will likely head up his party’s ticket next November? “She can be a very polarizing figure,” he insisted.

Smith said the time at Kiawah was “a very important week” for Biden, and he seemed hopeful.

But isn’t it too late for anyone to mount a serious challenge to Hillary’s inevitability? That’s what The Fix said yesterday, in a piece headlined, “It’s too late for Democrats to start rethinking Clinton’s 2016 viability.” Aren’t the important fund-raisers and others are taken now?

“I promise you that is not the case,” Rep. Smith said. He didn’t get into specifics, but implied that some fund-raisers have indicated their enthusiasm for a Biden candidacy.

So, there you have it — a South Carolina Democrat who is definitely not endorsing Hillary Clinton at this time. And he is not alone…

Dick Riley endorses Hillary Clinton

This endorsement from such a respected quarter comes at a good time for the Clinton campaign (a time when some other South Carolinians, such as Dick Harpootlian, are hoping to see Joe Biden run). Of course, it’s no surprise: Gov. Riley, who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of education, backed her in 2008 as well, unless my memory fails me:

Former Governor and Former Secretary of Education Dick Riley Endorses Clinton

Greenville, SC – Citing Hillary Clinton’s record as a tenacious fighter for hard-working Americans, former South Carolina Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley announced his endorsement for Clinton for President.  Riley praised Clinton’s newly released higher education plan – the New College Compact – in a letter this morning.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime getting results for women, children and families.  She will spend every day as President working to help hard-working South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead.

“Hillary is smart, grounded and focused on the issues that matter most to South Carolinians.  Back in the 1970s, she came to South Carolina to help children.  As first lady of Arkansas, she and I worked together to reduce infant mortality rates in Southern states.  She wants to get things done and will fight for the underdogs – that’s the way she’s always been.”

Riley was Governor of South Carolina from 1979-1987 and U.S. Secretary of Education from 1993-2001.



Video illustrates why Clinton team is nervous

End of last week, The Washington Post had a story headlined, “Clinton’s team went from nonchalant to nervous over e-mail controversy.”

An anti-Clinton video from the America Rising PAC helps illustrate, in a visceral way, why that might be. Imagine you’re a Clinton campaign staffer, and feel your guts tighten up as you watch.

The video was brought to my attention by Jennifer Rubin, who described it this way:

Hillary screengrab

Rep. Beth Bernstein won’t run for Lourie’s Senate seat

Beth Bernstein at her campaign kickoff last year, with the back of Joel Lourie's head in the foreground at right.

Beth Bernstein at her campaign kickoff last year, with the back of Joel Lourie’s head in the foreground at right.

Well, it looks like Joel Lourie’s departure from the S.C. Senate won’t produce a Democratic primary contest between two House incumbents. Mia McLeod is going to run, but Beth Bernstein is not:

Bernstein: How I Can Best Serve 
Columbia, SC – State Representative Beth Bernstein released the following statement in regards to a possible bid for Senate District 22, currently held by Joel Lourie, who announced last week that he won’t run for re-election.
“Leadership.  An interesting concept and one not easily grasped.  In fact, I just concluded a 2 year-long course on this same topic through the Aspen Institute’s prestigious Liberty Fellowship Program.  In this program, we studied different leadership styles, philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Hobbes, and instrumental leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, and Margaret Thatcher, among others.  What I learned and what I am still learning is a good leader has to make tough decisions, not rash decisions but well studied and thought out decisions.

Last week, my state Senator Joel Lourie announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2016.  For our community and state, he has exemplified the qualities of a great leader.  He will be sorely missed and we will suffer a great void without him, but while I know this decision must have been a difficult one, it was one that was not made in haste.  And I thank him for the incredible sacrifices that he has made for our community.

With his departure came the likely inquisition on whether I would seek to run for his vacant seat.  While I wish he was given at least one day before any announcement was made to replace him, allowing him the respect and deference deserved for a career of public service coming to an end, I felt pressure to quickly make a decision.  Although, I personally needed time to study and determine if filing for Senate District 22 would be the best decision for my family and me and the community that I love and cherish.

After much prayer and personal reflection, my conclusion is that while serving in the Senate would be an exciting opportunity, I believe my recent appointments to the House Judiciary and Ethics Committees allow me to be more effective in representing this community in the House of Representatives. Therefore, at this time, I do not intend to file for Senator Lourie’s vacant Senate seat.

I am able to effect positive change for my constituency through the legislative process, and I believe I can make a bigger impact for our community by continuing to serve in the House.  Many of the bills that I have co-sponsored this year have passed, including the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act, of which I was the primary sponsor.

I feel so privileged and honored to be able to serve our community at the Statehouse and intend to file for re-election for House District 78 in March.  I want to continue advocating for our public schools, road funding and ethics reform, as well as fighting for women’s health issues, the elderly, and children’s issues.  I hope you will continue to support me.”


So, was that a dig at Mia? I refer to the part that said, “I wish he was given at least one day before any announcement was made to replace him.” Yeah, that was kind of a dig at Mia. I think…

Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, we’re a better, fairer country — no matter what the Democrats say

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Within the past two or three hours, I’ve received three releases marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act — from Jim Clyburn, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the S.C. Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, none of these communications are as celebratory as they should be. They’re all, “the Voting Rights Act is great, but our rights are in terrible danger.”

Which is a shame, because the Act deserves an unqualified hurrah.

Clyburn’s release is typical:


WASHINGTON – U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (SC) released the following statement on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

“On this day fifty years ago, surrounded by leaders of both political parties, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. It was a moment worthy of both celebration and reflection. Today, we stand at a similar crossroads.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy and the foundation upon which all other rights are built. Nearly a century after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which protected the franchise in theory but not in fact, the world watched as peaceful protesters were brutally attacked and beaten by police while marching for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Just five months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, and millions of African Americans were finally able to exercise their right to vote.

“Sadly, in 2015, this fundamental right is under threat yet again. Two years ago, the Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act and made it easier for states to discriminate against minority, elderly and disabled Americans by deliberately making it harder for them to exercise their right to vote. Republican leaders in Congress have thus far refused to take up bipartisan legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, as states continue to erect new barriers to the ballot box.

“Today, as we celebrate the proud legacy of the Voting Rights Act and reflect on symbolic victories like the furling of the Confederate battle flag in my home state of South Carolina, we must also take substantive action to restore the Voting Rights Act. I call on my Republican colleagues in Congress to do more than issue statements celebrating the past—I urge them to look to the future and work with us to protect the voting rights of all Americans for the next fifty years and beyond.”

– 30 –

No Democrat, it seems, can mention the Act without also bemoaning either of the following, or both: The first is the Supreme Court opinion that lifted the onerous burden from some jurisdictions (and not others, which is key) to get advance approval from the Justice Department before proceeding with any change to its local laws bearing on voting. The second is the ongoing efforts by Republicans to require picture IDs to vote.

What the Supreme Court did was rule on the constitutionality of two provisions in the Act:

Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.[3][4]

On June 25, 2013, the Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on data over 40 years old, making it no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states.[3][4] The Court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula.[5]

… which makes sense to me. What did NOT make sense, what was unfair, was the presumption of guilt of anyone residing within particular geographical areas, based on what other people did or did not do 40 years previously.

Why should these jurisdictions not be governed by the law in the same way that all the other jurisdictions in the country were: by getting in trouble if they actually violated the law, rather than having to get advance permission to act based on a presumption of guilt?

As for the Voter ID laws: As I’ve expressed many times before, I find the positions of both the Republicans and Democrats unpersuasive. The Republicans fail to convince me that there’s this huge fraud problem that we need such laws to address, and the Democrats fail to persuade me that the ID requirement is an onerous burden.

I’ll say this for the Democrats: Between the two positions, theirs (that barriers to voting should be low) sounds way nobler than the Republicans’ (that certain people — a category Republicans would describe, unconvincingly, as people trying to vote fraudulently — should be prevented from voting).

But the bottom line, of course, is that one strongly suspects that on a certain level Republicans want these laws because they think they will increase their chances of winning elections, and Democrats oppose them because they think the Republicans are right about that.

In any case, couldn’t we have just one day in which we celebrate a good thing without adulterating the celebration with another reminder of how awful we think those OTHER people are?

So let’s hear it for the Voting Rights Act: Hip-hip…

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Barack Obama turns 54 today. A mere pup.

This was brought to my attention by Nancy Pelosi, who wanted me to celebrate by participating in one of the DCCC’s cheesy fund-raising schemes.

I prefer to just share the above video, which says “Happy Birthday” far better than I could.

FYI, for you young folks, the person doing the singing self-identified as a woman, and everyone agreed with her.

SCDP interviews Hillary Clinton in rocking chair

Clinton rocking chair

Here’s an interesting series that the South Carolina Democratic Party is offering — half-hour interviews with presidential candidates, sitting in rocking chairs.

Why, Hillary looks so natural there, I could swear she was sittin’ out on the porch of the family home in Bennettsville, shelling butter beans with my grandmother.

Or not. In any case, I couldn’t help making that connection since Jaime Harrison’s first question to the candidate is about how she feels about being a grandmother. The interview is about eight minutes in before it moves past the subject of relearning how to change diapers.

So yeah, it’s kinda softball. But hey, take a look and toss whatever you learn from it into the hopper with the rest of what you know about the candidate.

And then check out the “chair chats” with Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chaffee and others.

The embed is below:

Mia says ‘I’m all in,’ running for Lourie’s Senate seat

Well, that didn’t take long.

The news that Sen. Joel Lourie was not running for re-election in 2016 was only a few hours old when Rep. Mia McLeod said she was definitely running for the job:

I’m all in…

Sen. Joel Lourie has announced he won’t seek reelection in 2016. I hope you’ll join me in thanking him for his service to our state.Since I was first elected to the SC House in 2010, you’ve never had to wonder where I stand on the issues.From day one, I’ve been fighting the status quo…standing up for what’s right, fair and equitable–regardless of party, race or gender…working across party lines for stronger public schools, more jobs, better roads, and greater access to quality, affordable healthcare…advocating for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, as well as comprehensive domestic violence reforms and better race relations.
From the Richland County Elections Commission to the Governor’s Office, I’ve led the charge to demand transparency and accountability from every elected and appointed official at every level of government.I don’t shy away from the tough issues. Never have. Never will.NOW is the time for bold, new leadership. With my family’s support and encouragement, we ask that you continue to pray for God’s guidance as we prepare for this next phase of our journey.Let’s take our fight for a better, stronger South Carolina to the Senate!

With your prayers and support, I plan to file to run for Senate District 22 next year because I’m confident that together, there’s so much more we can do!

I’m all in! Hope you are too…

As reported over the weekend, Rep. Beth Bernstein was also considering running for the seat. If she is “all in,” too, you’ll have two incumbent female House members running to be the second woman in the Senate.

That will be an unusual sort of race — two actual incumbent Democrats (which are kind of thin on the ground) vying for the same job.

Bernstein files bill to try to stop the next Dylann Roof

This just in from the House Democrats:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the right thing: A party release I can get behind

Jaime Harrison, right, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the GOP's Matt Moore.

Jaime Harrison, right, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the GOP’s Matt Moore.

No, this is not a Spike Lee joint.

Y’all know I give the parties a lot of grief and love to pick apart their press releases, but I want to give Jaime Harrison props for this one:

SCDP Chairman Call On State Legislature To “Do What’s Right”

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison issued the following statement on the South Carolina state legislature’s confederate flag debate this week.

“South Carolinians are ready to move forward and put what has divided our state behind us for good.  That is why we are thankful Governor Haley has joined the Democratic Party’s call to do what’s right: to remove the confederate flag, the pole, the fence and all it’s remaining remnants.

I’m so proud so see Republicans working with Democrats and demonstrating what can happen when leaders come together for something bigger and better than politics.
We are also very proud of all of the efforts and support of our friends across the nation, but ultimately resolution of this issue will come down to South Carolinians, particularly our representatives in the SC House of Representatives.
Dr. Martin Luther King once stated ‘Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right?  And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.’

It is time for South Carolinians and our representatives to stand together and do what is right.”

# # # # #

It’s got one tiny thing I would change to make it perfect: I’d praise the governor without having to congratulate my own side by saying, “Governor Haley has joined the Democratic Party’s call to do what’s right.” I sincerely doubt the governor did it because Democrats won her over; she did it because she realized on her own it was the right thing to do.

But ignore my quibble. The spirit behind this is laudatory — doing what’s right, working with whoever you have to work with, for the betterment of South Carolina, instead of for the advantage of a party.

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

the group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s just count a few:

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

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

I don’t know.

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

Benjamin’s letter to Haley urging lowering of the flag

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

Dear Governor Haley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly with sincere personal and professional regards,


Stephen K. Benjamin
Columbia, SC

Here’s a PDF of the actual letter.

Joel Lourie on the ‘toxic’ atmosphere in the Senate

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

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

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

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

So here ya go.

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

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

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