Category Archives: Republicans

Lee Bright’s Bizarro perspective on the Confederate flag

There are two measurements for how far we have so suddenly come on the Confederate flag issue.

The first is on the positive side — all the people who once would have opposed removing the flag, or ignored it, coming suddenly and dramatically to the point that they are convinced along with the rest of us that it must come down ASAP. Until just a few hours before that remarkable press conference on June 22, I would have counted this sudden shift as impossible, based on more than two decades of intimate acquaintance with the issue.

The second is on the other side — the tiny group of people still willing to defend the indefensible. They have become so marginalized that their rhetoric — which was always based in foolishness — has become so starkly absurd that people who once might have listened to them respectfully cannot fail to see how profoundly wrong they are.

You’ve heard the Bizarro-world incoherence of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, steadfastly holding their ground in a universe where up is down and down is up.

Now take a look at what Lee Bright, the one lawmaker who gladly embodies what resistance is left in the Legislature has to say. The irrationality and moral bankruptcy of his approach is underlined by the fact that he is using it to try to raise money.

Our own Doug Ross received one of these appeals, to which he simply responded, “Take it down.” Here it is:

 

Lee Bright

Hello Doug,

Is there any doubt that states’ rights are under attack more than ever before?

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the latest liberal hysteria surrounding the placement of the Confederate battle flag has swept the nation. And unfortunately, many of my conservative friends and colleagues have fallen prey to this radical, Big Government scheme.

With all the noise surrounding this issue, please allow me to be abundantly clear where I stand. It is my fervent belief that the Confederate flag is a proud symbol of the following:

  • Resistance against a federal, centralized power that FAR overreached its Constitutional limits.
  • States’ rights and Constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died protecting.
  • Southern heritage and a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.

It is certainly important for us to take steps that prevent future acts of violence. But in this pursuit of peace, should we also dismantle the historical symbols that memorialize states’ rights?

My answer is an emphatic “NO!”

The plain and simple truth is that the placement of this flag will not prevent future tragedies. It’s abundantly clear that the radical liberal agenda is behind this push to remove the flag, which raises the question: where does it all end?

Are we to also remove the names of Confederate officers from our roads? Should we crumble all the Civil War monuments that dot our nation’s landscape?

Doug, it’s time to take a stand. Right here. Right now.

Over 150 years ago, brave Confederates made a bold stand against an oppressive government that far overstepped its Constitutional limits. Will you please take a stand with me now by signing my online petition to keep the flag flying?

States all over the nation are giving ground to the radical liberals by removing the symbol of states’ rights from their historical monuments. But if we can make a stand here and now, we can send a strong message to the elites in DC that states’ rights are still alive and well.

Please click here now to sign my petition, which I will then present to my colleagues in the South Carolina legislature. Let’s show them how much we value our heritage!

Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,

P.S. Please stand with me in this fight to protect states’ rights by signing my petition today!

Can you believe this guy exists, other than as a figment of The Onion? Let’s dip into this remarkable document:

  • Taking down the flag — in other words, the government deciding to cease doing something it is doing now, is a “radical, Big Government scheme”? I knew that people like this are so wedded to their bumper-sticker phrases that they long ago ceased to be firmly rooted in reality, but to use them in a context to which they have NO conceivable connection is new to me. If we were under attack by aliens from another solar system, Sen. Bright would probably decry the invasion as another “radical, Big Government scheme”…
  • “Liberal hysteria?” This is akin to the SCV’s insistence that Dylann Roof got the race war he wanted, asserted in the face of this miraculous demonstration of reconciliation and unity of purpose. Hysteria? The calm dignity displayed by everyone from the families of the victims of the massacre to the lawmakers quietly accepting their responsibility is the very essence of steady resolve. And liberal? Nikki Haley, Mark Sanford, John Courson, Glenn McConnell, Tim Scott, etc., etc., etc.? Do words have no meaning on his planet?
  • Then there’s his utterly morally bankrupt defense of what the flag is a “proud symbol” of: “Resistance against a federal, centralized power that FAR overreached its Constitutional limits.” Um, let’s see… what had the big, bad federal government done when South Carolina seceded? Well, essentially nothing. A presidential election had simply had an outcome that the slaveholders who made up our state’s political leadership abhorred. “States’ rights and Constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died protecting.” Yes, states’ right to enslave people, I’m with you there. And I suppose the “Constitutional liberties” refers to the Framers’ compromise that allowed slavery to exist. Or perhaps you’re referring to Lincoln’s later suspension of habeas corpus, which was an extreme effect, not a cause, of the rebellion that Mr. Bright extolls. Finally, “Southern heritage and a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.” How could even a native of the Bizarro planet put “Southern heritage” and “a culture that values freedom” in the same sentence, within the context of the Confederacy? How does anyone live with himself after composing a sentence like that and sending it out for other humans to read?

Well, he just goes on and on in the same insurrectionist vein, proudly exhibiting his hostility toward the United States of America and the finest things that it stands for. He portrays himself as appalled that the United States prevailed in a struggle in which it purged itself of its own original sin.

This is the sad state to which the pro-flag camp has sunk. And as appalling as it can be to delve into the workings of such minds, we should take comfort from the fact that the vast majority of our political leadership has decided to stop honoring such nonsense.

The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

TAMA, Iowa — Lindsey Graham was in the full swing of his pitch to a group of potential voters gathered at a VFW hall in this small town an hour outside Des Moines on Saturday when, while he was talking about his relatively liberal stance on immigration, there came an unwelcome interruption.

“Towel heads,” grumbled a man sitting at the bar, sporting a denim shirt with the arms cut off. “Sand n*****s.”

Graham did what every candidate must in the age of smartphones and opposition trackers following a candidate anywhere he or she goes.

“I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” Graham said. “What I would say is that what he said is not who I am. I’m not running to be president to please this guy.” He then moved on and continued on taking questions from the other attendees.

At this early stage, running for president can be a weird thing — especially in these tiny, intimate gatherings where people are able to to speak their minds. In an earlier era, maybe before a woman once notoriously insisted to John McCain that Barack Obama was an Arab, Graham could probably have gotten away with ignoring the man; today, he had to act.

But Graham is also a long-shot candidate without much to lose, and his response ended up being different from the kind of tight-lipped, efficient shutdown one could imagine coming from someone for whom the stakes are higher. A few minutes after the exchange, Graham concluded his spiel to the 15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room by drawing a comparison between his own hardscrabble upbringing in a bar in small town South Carolina and people like the man who had issued the slurs.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I don’t believe. I changed a long time ago as a politician. I was scared to death of going into a room to be disagreed with. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel free. I feel able to tell you exactly what I believe and why I believe it,” Graham said….

I hope Buzzfeed doesn’t mind that long quote. I wanted you to have full context. But I urge you to go on and read the whole thing. It has a nice ending.

The event had been billed as “Politics and Pool,” and before leaving, Lindsey wanted to shoot pool with somebody. The only person willing to play was the blowhard. So our senior senator played him, and beat him.

Quoth Graham: “I wanted to beat him. I was going to beat him if it’s the last thing I did in Iowa.”

Mrs. Christie having an AWESOME time at announcement

I don’t have time to watch all of this right now, but maybe you will.

I’ve watched the beginning, and didn’t hear much because I was having fun watching his wife. She, and at least one of her daughters, kept doing that thing that some ladies do — I mean that thing where they apparently see a friend in the crowd, and they throw their mouths WAY open and their eyes pop really big, with the brows way up, displaying the very essence of almost maniacally delighted surprise, sending the pantomime message that it’s SO awesome to see you, but I can’t talk right now

She must have had a lot of friends in the crowd…

As for my observation that “some ladies” do this — I guess some guys, particularly politicians, do something like that, but the smile isn’t as big. They’re more like, well, the son in the picture below, sort of smiling at someone out there but not about to act like he’s thrilled by any of this.

Anyway, I enjoyed her.

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I'm missing...

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I’m missing…

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

nikki FB

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

An open letter to Glenn McConnell

I was looking around to see whether anyone had spoken to Glenn McConnell during the past week. It was interesting to see national media “discovering” the unique individual we have known for so long.

One such story noted that McConnell is declining interviews until after the funerals of the dead from Mother Emanuel. That’s what I would expect; it’s the sort of sense of propriety that characterizes him.

Then, I ran across this at the site Inside Higher Ed, and I thought I’d share:

An Open Letter to College of Charleston President Glenn F. McConnell

June 22, 2015 – 6:17pm

Dear President McConnell,

First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend and former colleague,Rev. Clementa Pinckney, as well as our mutual colleague, College of Charleston librarian Cynthia Hurd. Their deaths, and the deaths of Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson at the hands of a white supremacist terrorist are a tragedy that we can hardly imagine. These people were giants in our community, and we feel the collective pain of their absence, but I also know the loss is particularly personal to you.

I am writing to you because you are the leader of my college and one of the most influential people in the state of South Carolina.

I am asking you to support the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds.

I know that you are a student and practitioner of the principles of servant leadership, as demonstrated during your time in the legislature, and over the past year as you’ve guided College of Charleston. You’re well aware of the controversy surrounding your initial selection as our president, and yet, in a short time, by listening to others and meeting the needs of those you lead, you’ve convinced many that you were the right choice all along.

You are now serving a different constituency than in 2000, when, as a member of the state legislature, you helped broker the compromise that removed the flag from the capitol dome to the Confederate memorial on the grounds. Then, you were looking for a solution that would defuse a politically volatile situation. Even as you declared, “Many of us who love the flag would have preferred it stayed on the dome,” you recognized that its removal was necessary.

It is clear that the legislature will soon be tasked to consider the removal of the flag from the grounds entirely. A number of your Republican former colleagues have already expressed their desire to retain the flag in its place of honor. Many say they are “undecided” or have yet to commit to a position. A statement from you in support of removal may help prevent the kind of contentious battle we do not need at this time.

If the Confederate battle flag once symbolized “heritage, not hate,” the actions of the white supremacist terrorist who proudly posed with the flag, as well as symbols of Apartheid South Africa, before murdering nine Black people in the midst of a Bible study, have rendered this distinction meaningless.

Perhaps we can argue that the flag was misappropriated by the white supremacist terrorist, the same way it was misappropriated by those who originally hoisted the flag to the top of the S.C. Capital dome in defiance of the Civil Rights Movement and support of segregation in 1961.

I accept the private and deep feelings of pride and honor absent any racial animosity that many people associate with the flag. I can respect them even as I do not share them.

But those private feelings no longer outweigh the public symbolism of a flag that for many declares them as inherently unequal. It is a flag that has been adopted by an internal terrorist enemy that we must band together to defeat.

Sadly, President McConnell, the picture of you from 1999, showing you posing in front of the flag at your family’s old memorabilia store, for me, is now indelibly associated with this heinous act. I can no longer explain it to people who ask me about College of Charleston. It is inconsistent with the pride I feel for this place and my respect for your leadership this past year.

This is, in many ways, unfair. Signaling hate is obviously not your intention. You have declared yourself a champion of equality and diversity. In fact, one of your first acts as president was to take concrete steps to increase diversity at College of Charleston. You have been walking your talk as a leader.

I hope you agree it is time to take another step.

That which we could not imagine in 1999 or 2000 has now happened in 2015.

Though, if we really search our hearts, we know that these murders were not unimaginable at all, but rather wholly predictable, inevitable even, when we refuse to confront these wounds. The white supremacist terrorist spoke openly of his plans. In his twisted mind, these murders were justified.

He found comfort in this flag, and believed its public display meant that he spoke for many.

We’ve had so many powerful gestures of healing in our community over the last week, proving that the white supremacist terrorist does not speak for us, but we cannot let these moments of solidarity distract us from these larger issues.

Yes, the flag is “just” a symbol, but it is now an irrefutably toxic one. How could we conclude otherwise?

I understand that you believe discussion of the flag should wait until after the victims have been laid to rest. I disagree. While those services help us heal, the severity of the crime also demands justice, the swifter the better. Each day the flag flies on the capitol grounds it may give sustenance to others who share the white supremacist terrorist’s twisted ideology.

This is justice denied. In your most recent message to the college you said, “The College of Charleston will need to be the center for our collective healing.” Removing the flag is only one small step, but it is necessary.

President McConnell, you have the wisdom, and spirit, and influence to help heal your college community and your state.

Please support the removal of the flag from the S.C. State Capitol grounds.

Respectfully,

 

John Warner
Visiting Instructor
College of Charleston

Yes, it would be wonderful for McConnell to lend his support to getting the flag down. He may even do it. If so, the effect would electrifying, among all who know him.

But there’s no way to say now. In the meantime, I was impressed by the letter — respectful, conciliatory, collegial and with just the right tone to persuade. That’s just the kind of tone all of us should adopt as we engage this debate in the coming days.

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

the group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s just count a few:

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

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

I don’t know.

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

Graham to stand with Haley, call for flag to come down

As I hoped, it looks like Lindsey Graham will be there with Haley asking for the flag to come down:

(CNN)South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham will call Monday for the removal of the confederate flag from state grounds, a source familiar with the decision told CNN.

Graham, a 2016 presidential candidate, will make his announcement during a press conference with South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, at 4 p.m. Monday.

He will call for the flag to come down and be put in a museum….

Good.

Benjamin’s letter to Haley urging lowering of the flag

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

Dear Governor Haley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly with sincere personal and professional regards,

Sincerely,

Stephen K. Benjamin
Mayor
Columbia, SC

Here’s a PDF of the actual letter.

Reports: Nikki Haley to call for flag to come down

Gov. Nikki Haley's official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

It’s now being reported, without attribution so far, that at a 4 p.m. press conference today, Nikki Haley will reveal that she is working on a plan to bring down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds.

Her office, which announced the presser, is not confirming what it’s about.

If she does this, it will be a mountain-come-to-Mohammed moment. It will be the most sensational news conference in South Carolina since Mark Sanford returned from Argentina. But in a good way.

If Nikki Haley, of all people, steps out and leads on this, the chances of a real solution to this absurd five-decade-old insanity could finally be at hand. No, she has no power to do anything about the flag — directly. The Legislature, in its infinite foolishness, put the flying of the flag into law years ago, and only a two-thirds majority of both houses can bring it down.

But if the governor steps out and becomes the lightning rod on the issue, it will give the Republicans who run the State House the political cover to act. Very few of them seem to care about the flag one way or the other, but most of them live in fear of what could happen to them in a Republican primary if they step out and do the right thing.

The governor providing leadership on the flag would be just what they need to take the heat off them.

If the reports are true, this will be HUGE, and a wonderful moment in SC history.

As sudden and surprising as this will be, there would be good reasons for her to do this, from a pragmatic political position. Her electoral career in SC is over. If she has ambitions on the national level, this would be THE most powerful selling point she could have. As for her job right here and now, as a governor who has built her rep on economic development, there is no single thing she could do more likely to shout to business, “Locate HERE!”

But as easy as it is for me to say all that, for her it’s bound to be a hugely scary moment. So IF she’s really going to do this, she deserves full credit for stepping out.

We’ll see at 4…

Noticing the way Graham stands out from the crowd

This is less of a revelation to SC media -- or should be.

This is less of a revelation to SC media — or should be.

Some national writers are taking greater notice of some of the reasons why I’ve always been happy to endorse him.

In a piece headlined “The most interesting presidential candidate you’re not paying any attention to,” Chris Cillizza of The Fix noted that Graham stands out in ways other than the fact that he’s never been married (which has also been getting him some ink).

After noting all the usual horse-race stuff that has Graham well out of the running, Cillizza shares a reason why he should be a contender:

Okay, fine.  But if you stop and actually listen to some of what Graham is saying — particularly on the subject of bipartisanship — you realize that he’s one of the most interesting candidates in the field and one of the few who can genuinely sell himself as a change agent.

Here’s Graham answering a question from “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd about how he would address political polarization in Washington:

I think there’s a market for a better way. When I talked to that young guy there, I said, you’re going to have to work a little longer, pal. If I’m president, I’m going to ask you to work a little bit longer. What do people do between 65 and 67, they work two years longer. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil showed us what to do. I’m making a bet here. I’m making a bet that you can talk about problem-solving in a Republican primary and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that you can openly embrace working with Democrats and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that with a war-weary public, you can rally them to go over there and keep the fight over there before it comes here. Now, if I lose those bets it doesn’t mean America is lost, it just means I fell short. To a young person in politics, listen to what I’m doing here and see if it makes sense to you. There is a growing desire by the public at large to stop the B.S. I feel it, I sense it, and I’m running on the idea that if you elect me, I’ll do whatever is necessary to defend the nation. I’m running not as a candidate for a single party but for a great nation.

If you believe the American people when they say they want leaders who are willing to work with one another and take positions because they believe in them not because the policies are popular, it’s hard for me to imagine a better message than that paragraph from Graham above…

Yep. We know that about him. And some of us like that about him, and count ourselves lucky to have him representing us in Washington.

After pausing to recite yet again how slim our senior senator’s chances are, the piece concludes:

To me, though, Graham’s candidacy is a sort of campaign thought experiment: What if politics produced a candidate that had lots and lots of what the public said it wanted but in a somewhat unlikely package (a Southern-drawling lifetime politician) and without the buzz and fanfare that surrounds the so-called “top tier”?

Could a candidate like that possibly hope to break through?

It would be nice to think so.

Ted Cruz doing his JFK impersonation

The WashPost brought this to my attention today. But don’t go by the Vine version they posted. Go to the 14:32 point in the above video. You’ll hear not only the impression — which is not bad, coming from a Texan (not great, but not bad) — but Cruz somewhat less impressive argument that had JFK been around today, he’d be a Republican.

Also, it’s odd that he chose that particular George Bernard Shaw line, which is better identified with brother Bobby.

But I’ve got to hand it to Cruz — it takes a lot of nerve to go to Massachusetts and do that impression.

I can do some fairly decent British accents, given a little practice. (During rehearsals for “Pride and Prejudice,” our dialect coach praised me and asked where I was from when I was doing an extended reading taking the Mr. Collins part — my own role didn’t have enough lines to show off that way.) But while I was tempted to slide into one when I was in England a couple of weeks, I didn’t dare. I’d have been way too embarrassed had someone said, “Who do you think you’re fooling, Yank?”

The original guys who said that, that way...

The original guys who said that, that way…

Will SC Republicans go rogue again this year?

In January 2012, I was invited to speak to the Senate Presidents’ Forum, a national gathering of state senate leaders, in Key West. I was on a panel with several others who were there to talk about that year’s presidential politics. They had the legendary David Yepsen from Iowa, and I was the putative South Carolina “expert.” This was just days before our GOP presidential primary.

But this was a situation in which experience and expertise counted for little, as the usual dynamics weren’t doing what they usually do.

The textbook answer on South Carolina, based on all the primaries I had covered back into the ’80s, was that the establishment candidate would win here. Oh, our Republicans might flirt with bomb-throwers from the fringe, but in the end they’d settle down and choose the safe, conservative (in the real sense of the word, not the bizarre ways that it’s flung about these days) candidate.

Which that year meant Mitt Romney. He was the perfect country-club Republican, and it was his turn.

But ever since 2010 — really, ever since the defeat of 2008 — the party had been going a little nuts, and wasn’t acting itself. The SC GOP of old would, for instance, have gone with Henry McMaster or maybe Gresham Barrett, for governor. But the Tea Party swept Nikki Haley in from the back of the pack. Yeah, the Tea Party was a national phenomenon, but if there’s some crazy going on, white South Carolinians have a history of wanting to get out in front of it — a history that reached much farther back than its history as an endorser of establishment Republicans.

But surely SC Republicans would settle down on their presidential preference, cherishing their role as the ones who point the rest of the country toward the strongest, safest choice. Well… maybe. But I saw some poll numbers that worried me. And I saw lists of solid establishment Republicans getting behind Newt Gingrich.

This worried me, a lot. I made phone calls from my hotel room in Key West to some key Republicans to try to gauge just how hard that wind was blowing.

In the end, I told the assembled state senators that if you forced me to make a prediction, I’d still say that South Carolina would be South Carolina and go with Romney — but that there were indications that it could be Gingrich.

Of course, it was Gingrich. South Carolina Republicans threw away the rule book. And the Senate Presidents’ Forum hasn’t asked me back to any of its confabs, possibly because I got it wrong. I keep telling y’all, you can’t trust political parties. They really shafted me on that one (and the governor, too — some of those establishment Republicans who went with Gingrich did so, at least in part, to undermine Nikki Haley, who was backing Romney).

Anyway, I was reading this piece in The Washington Post this morning, talking about how you can’t go by history to predict Rick Santorum’s chances this year:

Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to figuring out who will get the Republican presidential nomination: The guy who didn’t get it the last time will get it the next time. Ronald Reagan lost the nomination to President Gerald Ford in 1976 and won it in 1980. George H. W. Bush lost it to Reagan in 1980 and won it in 1988. Sen. Bob Dole lost it 1988 and won it in 1996. Then there was a break. In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush won the nomination against Sen. John McCain, who then won it in 2008. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney lost it in 2008 and won it in 2012.

And that brings me to Rick Santorum. The former senator from Pennsylvania won 11 states in the 2012 nomination contest, “coming in a respectable second in the GOP presidential primary season,” as The Post’s Karen Tumultyreported late last year. Santorum is so far back in the very crowded 2016 Republican field that he doesn’t even register on the latest Quinnipiac poll. But that doesn’t mean anything at this point. McCain’s campaign was on life support in July 2007. By March 2008, he clinched the nomination

In other words, you can no longer rely on Republicans to do the traditional thing. Although you never know; maybe they’ll surprise you and do so.

And of course this gets me to wondering what SC Republicans will do this time. Who can say? This time, there are more wild cards than usual.

If this were 1988, or 1996, or 2000, or even 2008, Jeb Bush would be the winner of the SC Republican presidential primary, hand down. But not only is the party way less predictable now than it was then, there’s an extra complication: Lindsey Graham.

It’s very difficult to predict. Lindsey Graham is the Republican whom Republicans love to hate — particularly those of the newer, fringe variety. That’s why he often fails to get a warm reception at party functions, and also why he had so many primary opponents last year. But then, he walked all over those primary opponents, and on to easy re-election.

I’m not saying he wins the primary here. There’s an outside chance that he could, but at this point I’m saying he doesn’t. He doesn’t get crushed, either — he places, if he’s still in the mix at that point.

What Graham definitely does, though, is complicate things. For instance, he’s got some of the establishment types who might normally go for a Bush backing our senior senator instead — David Wilkins, for one. He also has some of the McCain organization working for him, such as Richard Quinn. (For a list of people helping the Graham campaign, click here.)

Meanwhile, we see another establishment type — Warren Tompkins — at the core of a strong Marco Rubio organization in our state. Another complication.

Set that against the fact that South Carolina Republicans have this thing for Bushes, and the fact they went last time for a guy who at this point no one would have predicted, and no one knows what’s going to happen here come February.

538: Lindsey Graham may have already ‘won’

Graham announce

As Lindsey Graham was announcing his candidacy for the presidency this morning in his hometown of Central, I was reading this piece from FiveThirtyEightPolitics, which suggests that our senior senator may already have achieved his goal in running:

In presidential politics, there are two main ways a candidate can succeed: He or she can win the nomination. Or, he or she can highlight a specific policy or set of policies that otherwise might get ignored or marginalized.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s expected to officially announce he’s running for president Monday, is unlikely to join the first group, as I’ve explained previously. But he appears to fit nicely into the second category, as an advocate for an interventionist foreign policy and prioritizing national security.

But here’s the thing: A couple of years ago, it looked like the 2016 Republican field might need just such an advocate — the field was looking like it might be less hawkish than it had been in a long time. Now, even without Graham, the GOP field has plenty of hawks.

You might remember that the relatively dovish Sen. Rand Paul was leadingprimary polls in 2013. Part of that advantage was due to an isolationist shift among Republican rank and file….

But then:

Republican voters (and the majority of candidates) returned in 2014 to their hawkish roots. This shift coincided with the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State, which took control of a quarter of Iraq and a third of Syria last year and released widely circulated videos of beheadings, with victims including U.S. citizens. Republican lawmakers criticized President Obama for, among other things, referring to Islamic State as the “JV team” and not responding more forcefully to the threat.

And so Republican attitudes have flipped since 2013….

Actually the headline on the piece is misleading. It’s thesis is not so much that Graham has triumphed in bringing the GOP back to the hawkish fold. It actually reads more like, As Graham announces, the raison for his campaign has flown.

But it was still interesting, if only for the way it documents the way the GOP field has shifted away from Paulist isolationism.

Yep, Paul is still out there making headlines doing his thing, but it’s not exactly enchanting the GOP electorate

National Journal: Rubio’s strategy depends heavily on SC

When I ran into Valerie Bauerlein of the WSJ at the Hillary Clinton thing, she asked me whether I’d read this piece in National Journal about how Marco Rubio is sort of pinning everything on South Carolina.

I had not. She sent me the link. It’s very interesting. Excerpt:

In the six years since launching his Florida Senate campaign, Rubio has become an adopted prince of South Carolina’s political royalty. And not by chance. Rubio, whose national ambitions became apparent even before he was sworn into the Senate, quickly identified South Carolina as the home base for his eventual presidential effort, seeing this early-primary state as a more natural fit—culturally, ideologically, geographically—than either Iowa or New Hampshire. He has acted accordingly in the years since—snatching up the state’s top talent for his political operation, cultivating personal relationships with influential people on the ground, and making repeated trips to keep tabs on his burgeoning circuit of supporters in the state.

As a result, Rubio has quietly achieved something in South Carolina that no Republican candidate can claim in Iowa or New Hampshire: an organizational lock on one of the most important states en route to the GOP nomination.

The senator’s inner circle is stacked with South Carolina veterans. His super PAC is headquartered in Columbia and run by the capital’s most experienced strategist. And Rubio has secured the support of major players in the state’s business community.

In fact, according to multiple Republicans not affiliated with any candidate, several of the state’s most prominent and politically active businessmen have made it known they will support Rubio. This includes Chalmers Carr, president and CEO of Titan Farms; Dan Adams, president and CEO of the Capital Corporation; Hank Scott, CEO of Collum’s Lumber Products; and, most notably, Mikee Johnson, president and CEO of Cox Industries, who is chairman of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Johnson, sources say, flew with his wife to Miami last month for Rubio’s campaign launch….

That “most experienced strategist” running his PAC is Warren Tompkins, by the way. And it’s an apt description. Another excerpt:

“Marco matches up very well with this state,” Tompkins says. “The candidate who wins South Carolina is the one with a broad enough appeal across the spectrum of the party.”

But make no mistake: Rubio’s compatibility with South Carolina is a necessity, not a luxury. No candidate in the modern history of the Republican Party has captured the nomination without winning one of the first three states, and Rubio’s two chief rivals, Walker and Bush, are focusing their resources on Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. Rubio will surely be competitive in both of those states and would not shock anyone by winning either of them. But if he doesn’t, Rubio’s aspirations of running a 50-state delegate-gathering operation and becoming the Republican nominee will hinge on his ability to first protect a place that has begun to look like his home turf….

Lindsey Graham to hang up the Air Force uniform

This came in this morning:

Graham Announces Retirement from United States Air Force

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is retiring after more than three decades of service to the United States Air Force. 

“I’ll turn 60 this summer which is the mandatory retirement age for the Air Force Reserves,” said Graham, who holds the rank of Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves and is assigned as Senior Individual Mobilization Augmentee to The Judge Advocate General.  “Although I would cherish the opportunity to continue to serve, I know that the time has come for me to end my service and transfer to the retired reserves.”

Lt. Gen. Jack L. Rives, Air Force judge advocate general, pins the Meritorious Service Medal on Col. Lindsey Graham in a Pentagon ceremony April 28, 2009. In addition to being a U.S. senator from South Carolina, Colonel Graham is an individual mobilization augmentee and the senior instructor at the Air Force JAG School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Gen. Jack L. Rives, Air Force judge advocate general, pins the Meritorious Service Medal on Col. Lindsey Graham in a Pentagon ceremony April 28, 2009. In addition to being a U.S. senator from South Carolina, Colonel Graham is an individual mobilization augmentee and the senior instructor at the Air Force JAG School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“It’s been one of the great honors of my life to serve in the Air Force in some capacity for more than three decades,” continued Graham, who just completed another short tour of duty in Afghanistan over the Memorial Day recess.  “The Air Force has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  It identified and developed my talent, and helped me become useful to my country.  It offered me adventure and showed me the world.  It gave me a purpose bigger than myself.  It put me in the company of patriots.  It’s been almost like family to me.  I’m going to miss it an awful lot, and I wouldn’t leave if they weren’t making me.”

Graham compiled a long and distinguished career in the Air Force.  He served on active duty for six and a half years (1982-1988), including four years in Europe.  Graham also served in the South Carolina Air National Guard (1989-1995) before joining the U.S. Air Force Reserves (1995-present).

Graham first rose to prominence when he uncovered and exposed major problems with the Air Force drug testing procedures at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  The mishandling of samples had led to false positives and the dismissal from the Air Force of service members who had not used drugs. 

His work was later showcased in a 1984 60 Minutes piece and he was also awarded The Air Force Commendation Medal for his work in uncovering problems with the program.

“Of all the Area Defense Counsel within the USAF Judiciary, Captain Graham deserves recognition as having made the most significant, overwhelming and positive impact upon the administrative and judicial due process entitlements afforded to Air Force military members,” wrote Lt. Colonel Robert E. Reed of the US Air Force of Graham in February 1984.  “He coupled tireless efforts and unparalleled knowledge while investigating and litigating the various procedures and scientific methodologies involved in the DOD Drug Urinalysis Program.  The fruits of his labor caught the attention of officials within the highest echelons of the Department of Defense, Air Force and the Judge Advocate General.” 

From 1984-1988, Graham was assigned overseas and served at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany.

“During this period, Captain Graham’s professional skill and unrivaled ability to turn conflict and friction into agreement and cooperation resulted in major contributions to the state of discipline in the United States Air Forces in Europe,” according to the citation accompanying the Meritorious Service Medal awarded to Graham. “The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Captain Graham while serving his country reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

In 1989, Graham joined and served in the South Carolina Air National Guard.  During the first Gulf War in the early 90’s, Graham was called to active duty and served state-side at McEntire Air National Guard Base as Staff Judge Advocate where he prepared members for deployment to the Gulf region.

“Major Graham is truly an outstanding officer and career professional,” wrote Colonel Jerry H. Risher, of the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) in Graham’s 1992 performance report.  “His untiring efforts during the Desert Storm mobilization provided expert advice and guidance on legal affairs for approximately 800 personnel.  His exceptional ability and energetic approach to accomplish each task inspires all who work with him.” 

As senator, Graham continued to serve in uniform.  During congressional and holiday breaks, Graham often pulled short-term reserve duty in Iraq and Afghanistan where he worked on Rule of Law issues.

Last summer while serving another stint on reserve duty in Afghanistan, Graham was presented with the Bronze Star Medal for his “exceptionally meritorious service.”  The commendation covered the period of August 2009 to July 2014 for his service as Senior Legal Advisor during Operation Enduring Freedom.  

According to the commendation, “During his active duty training periods, he provided expert advice and a long term perspective about rule of law development and detention operations.  He participated in 60 missions in a combat environment advising six general and flag officers during engagements with key members of the Afghan Criminal Justice Sector. ….Colonel Graham’s distinctive accomplishments are in keeping with the highest honors and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, and the United States Air Force.”

#####

So you have to retire at 60? Well, I guess that’s out for me as a second career…

I was thinking that I knew of a couple of Navy people who served well past that — Grace Hopper and Hyman Rickover. But Adm. Hopper DID retire at 60, only to be called back to active duty a couple of times over the next few years. Rickover just refused to retire, until he was forced out at 82. Up until then, he ignored all hints, such as when they put his office in a converted ladies restroom.

Rickover was the Father of the Nuclear Navy, and Jimmy Carter’s mentor during his naval career.

Grace Hopper was the legendary computer pioneer; she’s famous for, among other things, coining the term “bug” for a computer problem — inspired by a moth found in one of the early machines. My Dad once took a class taught by her, back in the ’50s. He had no idea WHY the Navy wanted him to learn about computers, as he could not imagine what he would ever use one for. He knew how to navigate without electronic help, after all.

But I digress. Anyway, I’m sure Graham will miss putting on the blue suit. Or BDUs, or whatever they wear now. He was proud of being one of the few in Congress currently serving. But now, he can be among the few who are veterans…

Ex-Rep. Nelson Hardwick just became an unperson

Wow, that was quick.

This was just reported:

Hardwick-NelsonState Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Horry, resigned Tuesday evening in the middle of his sixth term after an investigation by the House Speaker’s office.

Hardwick was accused to sexually harassing a female House staff member, accorrding to four lawmakers who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation….

Not knowing him, I went to look him up… and he had already been removed from the list of members on the legislative website.

Winston Smith moved quickly on this one. One day a lawmaker, the next day… you are an unperson.

Speaker Lucas had this to say:

“I received Representative Hardwick’s resignation letter and accepted his decision to step down from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Speaker Lucas stated. “As Speaker, maintaining the integrity and public trust of this Body is my highest priority.  Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women, and staff that serve in the House Chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously.  Each of us have been entrusted with the opportunity to serve the public and that trust must never be called into question.”

GOP hopefuls come to SC, and tread all over Graham’s turf

Hey, Lindsey Graham’s supposed to be the tough-on-terrorism candidate, people! That’s (kind of) why he’s running! (Or thinking about it, anyway.)

And yet, all these out-of-staters came to SC and had a contest seeing who could talk the toughest over the weekend. I wasn’t there, but The Washington Post wrote about it in a piece headlined, “South Carolina was the center of the GOP presidential universe this weekend. Here are the five biggest takeaways.” An excerpt:

Who is running as the most aggressive foreign policy hawk? Pretty much everyone.

The dominant theme of the summit was national security and combating terrorism, which made sense in a military-centric state such as South Carolina. The rhetoric was especially sharp — even for a conservative confab — and appears to be intensifying, a sign that the candidates desperately want to be seen as the tough enforcer in the field. Many of the candidates hold similar views on matters such as Iran, the Islamic State militant group and preventing domestic acts of terrorism. That’s probably why they tried to use memorable lines to leave an impression. Sen. Marco Rubio quoted from the movie “Taken.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joked that gun control means “hitting your target.” Sen. Ted Cruz said an officer who killed two gunmen who were probably inspired by the Islamic State helped them “meet their virgins.”

Oh, and if you’re wondering what it meant about Rubio’s “Taken” line, check his Tweet:

And what did Graham himself say? Well, he wasn’t there. Nor was Rand Paul, Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

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

George Will seems to be taking Graham candidacy seriously

At least, that’s the implication.

How else to explain the fact that, when most are writing about the other 19 or so Republicans believed to be pursuing the presidency, Will has now written two columns in a row about our own Lindsey Graham’s candidacy?

I wasn’t at all surprised at Will’s Sunday column, which I addressed earlier. I figured that Will found something sort of charmingly quirky about this quixotic campaign, enough so to make writing a column about it enjoyable. And indeed, the column has that tone to it.

But then, his Wednesday column was also about Graham and his chances. And this one was more about buckling down to business, cutting into and examining what, in Will’s estimation, are two big Graham flaws (which is to say, two issues on which he has disagreed with George Will). It’s also as though, after writing the first column, Will had thought, But this guy’s no joke. He could have a chance, and I’d better get serious and tell people what’s wrong with him.

Or something like that. Of course, maybe he just got so much inspiration out of one Graham interview that he couldn’t get it all into one column.

In any case, he said Graham’s two big flaws are that he has agreed too much with Hillary Clinton on two issues:

Lindsey Graham once said his road to Congress ran through a coronary clinic because it involved so many South Carolina barbecues. Today, as a senator, he thinks he sees a path to the Republican presidential nomination. He has many strengths but two substantial problems.

Two clarifying issues efficiently reveal who actually is conservative and underscore two of Hillary Clinton’s vulnerabilities. They are the U.S. attack on Libya and her attack on freedom of political speech….

Ironically, he notes that while Lindsey agrees somewhat with Hillary on campaign finance reform, his strategy for getting the nomination is dependent on the current system:

The infancy of super PACs is, Graham says, over. “They are full-blown teenagers” who in this cycle could, he thinks, produce a brokered nominating convention. A super PAC devoted to helping a particular candidate can “create viability beyond winning.” Usually, he says, candidacies are ended by a scarcity of money or a surfeit of embarrassment, or both. Suppose, however, that super PACs enable, say, five 2016 candidates to survive until July, losing often but winning here and there, particularly in states that allocate their delegates not winner-take-all but proportionally. Suppose the five reach the convention with a combined total of delegates larger than the 1,236 (this might change) needed for a nominating majority. What fun….

And that’s really the most interesting part of the column — this glimpse of a path to the nomination that Graham sees, but others do not.

I’m not even sure I fully understand it, but it intrigues me…

Oh, no! Am I now in charge of Donald Trump? No way!

My mind is still staggering over the implications of this Tweet:


Several thoughts occur to me all at once:

  • Is that really from him? Can I trust that little blue check mark as confirmation? Could this actually be from someone who actual Americans have actually considered for president — a fact which continues to amaze me, but which is undeniably true? And they’re not that rare! I even met one of them once, a young man who said he liked The Donald’s “commonsense philosophy.”
  • Boy, Richard Cohen really nailed it this morning when he said that the GOP needs Trump to run, to make the other candidates look good.
  • Nice of him to call the president “great.” Or did he just mean, you know, “great for an African-American?”
  • How is Barack Obama responsible for the actions of African-Americans when, according to Trump, he’s not one of them? He’s from Kenya, right?
  • Finally — and this is the one that worries me — is this the new standard? Is this a rule now? Because if Obama is responsible for the behavior of all black people, that means the world is going to start looking to me… to do something about Donald Trump! I mean, not only am I white, but my first name is Donald! And Obama’s responsible for everybody named “Hussein,” right?

I can’t handle that kind of responsibility. How do I opt out?

By the way, this Tweet was brought to my attention by Bakari Sellers, who said, “Somebody is back to trying to be like George Wallace again.”

No, now see, that’s not fair — to George Wallace. He did a lot of bad stuff, but did he ever Tweet anything that dumb? No, he did not. Technically.