Category Archives: Republicans

The most significant, positive thing you can do as a voter today is make sure Lindsey Graham wins outright

A still from a campaign video.

A still from a campaign video.

Where I live, I normally take a Republican primary ballot, because that’s the only way I get any choices, especially on local races.

But four years ago, I broke with that pattern because of one race: I wanted to vote for Vincent Sheheen. I was so disappointed by the whole Republican field for governor (even Henry McMaster, whom I had expected to like for the job, but hated the campaign he ran), and I wanted to have the positive experience of voting for somebody for governor, rather than trying to pick the least of evils on the GOP side. I did this even though it meant I was disenfranchised, unable to state a choice as a voter in several races in which the GOP primary was the election (and again, it is SO wrong that a voter has to make a choice like that — we should get a say on everyone who represents us).

Today, I went back to the GOP, so I didn’t have that problem. But still, as in 2010, my mind was on one race and one race only. Even if there had been compelling contests on the Democratic side that I wanted to weigh in on (there weren’t), I would have taken a GOP ballot simply to vote for Lindsey Graham. On this day, that was the best and highest use of my right and responsibility as a voter.

Totally apart from the fact that he deserves re-election and is a far better candidate than his challengers, the contest for his seat has much broader implications for our state.

The worst thing that can happen to South Carolina in today’s primaries would be for Graham to lose, and the second worst would be for him to get into a runoff.

If he loses (and a runoff makes it more likely that he might actually lose, if all the Graham haters unite behind one candidate), don’t ever expect to see a South Carolina Republican take a political risk in order to do the right thing for a long, long time. He would be the cautionary example of what happens if you think for yourself and stick your neck out.

Conversely, if he wins decisively today, it affirms the kind of thoughtful, principled representation of which we all know he, unlike his opponents, is capable.

The crowd of people running against him all smell blood in the water. Some are just dangerous extremists (Lee Bright) and others are opportunists willing to benefit from his vulnerability — and willing to cater to that same extremism in order to conquer. That must not be rewarded.

All sensible, moderate South Carolinians, regardless of party, should be asking for a GOP primary ballot today, and voting for Graham. And yet I know so many will find excuses not to.

One of my best friends, who for several years constituted the “liberal” wing of The State‘s editorial board (as he would tell you, though, more of a New Republic liberal than a Mother Jones liberal), wrote for a lot of Democrats and independents yesterday when he said:

“If those things happen, don’t EVER expect to see a South Carolina Republican take a political risk in order to do the right thing for a long, LONG time.”

When was the last time that actually happened? Has Lindsey Graham done anything in public during his current term that I actually am thankful for? I’d like to be wrong about this, but I can’t think of one thing in the last six years that I actually approve of. Anything?

It only took me a moment to come up with three good answers to that question:

1. He was the only Republican from SC to vote to reopen the government last fall — even as he was bracing himself for the current onslaught from the right.

2. Voting to confirm Kagan.

3. Voting to confirm Sotomayor.

The list of things that please me would be longer, but I was looking at it from Mike’s perspective. (The second and third points are particularly important, because they illustrate Graham living up to the principle he so often states — that elections have consequences, and unless a president’s nominees are simply unqualified, they should be confirmed. This is an incredibly important principle to the healthy functioning of our system of republican government, and all too rare today — it’s something that the ideologues of the left and right can’t even wrap their heads around. It’s the kind of thing that separates a statesman from a hack.)

It is SO easy for moderates (and the very few liberals in SC) to be turned off by Graham’s recent emphasis on messages that appeal to the hard right — opposition to Obamacare, going on and on about Benghazi, etc.

And of course, some of our friends — Bud and Doug come to mind — find that two-faced and deceptive. They’re wrong. And moderates (or liberals) who see only the things they don’t like, forgetting the things that they do like, are wrong as well.

There is absolutely nothing wrong, or deceptive, or duplicitous about stressing positions that you honestly hold that appeal to people who might vote for your opponents. An honest politician has not only a right, but an obligation to let voters who might be heavily critical of him know that he actually agrees with them on issues that are important to them. Graham has been a vocal opponent of Obamacare from the start; he and John McCain have been the main critics of the administration on Benghazi. And he is, just as he claims, a social conservative.

And moderates and those few liberals who may be turned off by this kind of campaign need to stop and think — this is the only way a guy like Lindsey Graham gets re-elected in this state. Your alternative is not Elizabeth Warren (God help us), or whoever you like out there. Your alternative is Lee Bright, or someone who in office would act like Lee Bright.

The kind of courage and thoughtfulness and sense of responsibility that Graham exhibits, at great political risk, on issues such as judicial confirmation, foreign aid, fiscal issues, immigration and energy are rare qualities. And no one else running for this office exhibits them.

For someone as high-profile as Graham to be brought low by the extreme Lilliputians of the Tea Party would be a tragedy for South Carolina, because nothing could be more guaranteed to make sure we don’t see his kind of courage in the future.

We can’t afford to lose this one guy who puts his country before party doctrine. We can’t afford to lose Lindsey Graham.

Another still from the same campaign video.

Another still from the same campaign video.

Tom Ervin says he’ll be on November ballot

Tom Ervin, the third-wheel candidate for governor, had a presser this morning over at the state election commission. I did not make it, but this apparently is what he said:

Ervin Campaign Assures Spot on November Ballot 
Tom Ervin, the Independent Republican candidate for Governor, assured himself a spot on the November general election ballot when he and his campaign submitted 20,137 petition signatures of registered voters today to the South Carolina State Election Commission.unnamed
The legal requirement of 10,000 valid signatures was easily swamped by Ervin, reporting signatures from every county in South Carolina.
“Today we are simply grateful that by the hard work of so many, we have given voice to the thousands of South Carolinians who say enough is enough, it is time to put South Carolina first,” Ervin, of Greenville, said in a press conference outside the State Election Commission in Columbia.
Ervin promised a series of education, economic and political reforms to shake up the race for governor.
“We intend to shape this campaign — and to win it — by offering a different vision for our great state,” Ervin said. “We must improve our education system — from Pre-K through college — so that we are competitive for the jobs of the future and that all of our citizens — all of our citizens — have access to the same quality education.
“We must have a bold economic plan — one that includes all South Carolinians, not just those lucky few who receive support from crony capitalism practiced here in Columbia. And we must restore trust in the state government by our citizens.
“For too long, Columbia has been controlled by professional politicians and their patron lobbyists, looking after one another, surviving — no thriving — after yet another embarrassing scandal. The self serving and political back scratching will come to an end when I am governor.”
Ervin will deliver a series of major policy speeches in the coming days, outlining in detail his three major areas of reform.

###

Now what in the world this means for November, I have no idea. Can he be a factor in the election? Can he actually pull enough GOP votes to put Vincent Sheheen within striking distance (something he’s not likely to achieve on his own the way things are going)? Or, conversely, will he split the anti-Haley vote with Sheheen, thereby giving the incumbent a bigger margin of victory than she could have achieved on her own.

If so, then this is significant. Otherwise, not.

Make no mistake, independents (and Democrats, of COURSE): Lee Bright does NOT want you to vote for him

Not that you would likely make that mistake, but just as a reminder, I pass on his release from this morning:

Establishment Republican Trying to Seduce Obama Voters

On the eve of Lindsey Graham having to face his top challenger, Lee Bright, at the polls, Team Graham is running a quiet campaign to woo Democrats. Publicly, Graham’s Campaign is saturating South Carolina TV stations touting his supposed “conservative credentials” – yet he is simultaneously using web ads and social media to target Democrats and to remind them they can vote for him in the Republican Primary.

“Well, he’s the liberals’ favorite Republican in Washington, so he is simply following form by trying to sneak past 50 per cent with some Democrat voters,” said Bright, who added, “This is really so predictable. In fact, we predicted it. This is the guy who voted for ObamaCare before he voted against it, and who is very close to John Kerry. He’s obviously reaching out to his true base.”

Edmund Wright, Bright’s Communications Director, said, “This is quintessential political cross dressing. It’s quite a little paradox too, targeting Democrats with web ads while using his lobbying money to spread the fabricated rumor that he’s a conservative on television.”

###

And did you like the oh-so-subtle cross-dressing reference? That Lee Bright, he’s such a smoothie…

Pope running for governor — in 2018. Thanks for the heads-up there, Tommy

His eyes are focused on the future -- the far, far future...

His eyes are focused on the future — the far, far future…

The campaigns just keep getting started earlier and earlier. But I think this is a first for me:

— Republican state Rep. Tommy Pope said Tuesday he plans to run for governor in 2018, calling the job an opportunity to advocate for statewide needs such as improving roads and bridges.

The 51-year-old York representative and former prosecutor said he made the decision after praying about it with his wife, adding that a formal announcement is likely two years away.

State leaders “need to focus on something larger than ourselves. The governor’s office gives the opportunity to lead in that direction on issues that are important to everybody, like state infrastructure,” he said. “We need to come up with a way to fund it, and we need to come up with a means of fairly distributing it.”

Pope’s comments come five months before voters decide who will be governor for the next four years. He is running for a third term in the House in November….

I really don’t remember when I’ve heard a prospective candidate state his intentions so definitely before the election before the one he intends to run in. It may not be the first time it’s happened, it’s just a first in my memory.

I mean, the guy just lapped the electoral cycle.

That said, I like that he’s talking about leading on infrastructure. Although I’m a little disappointed when he says, further down in the story, that “he stopped short of advocating for a gas tax increase statewide.”

If you’re getting such a long running start like this, it seems it would be because you were bursting to share some great new idea that no one else has had the brains and/or guts to put forth. Perhaps he’ll get back to us when he has one. No rush; there’s plenty of time…

The ads with Lindsey Graham’s little sister

I’ve always known that after their parents died when they were both still young, Lindsey Graham took over raising his younger sister.

For John McCain, it’s the story about his time at the Hanoi Hilton. For Graham, the personal anecdote that illuminates character to the candidate’s advantage is the one about him taking care of his sister at an age when most of us shouldered no responsibilities.

I’ve never heard the story told by the sister herself. So these ads are still something of a revelation.

The one above is the 60-second version. I actually think maybe the 30-second one is more effective.

And here’s a link to a radio ad that complements the TV spots.

You may say it has little to do with being senator, but I’d sure rather see these than more ads about how much the candidate hates Obamacare. That gets old.

Does it matter that Harrell’s PAC contributed to ethics panel members? Uh, yeah, I think so…

While I believe Kenny Bingham is saying what he truly believes when he says he would not be swayed by past contributions from a PAC associated with Speaker Bobby Harrell, I’m gonna have to come down on the side of those who would say that this means the House Ethics Committee should in no way be passing judgment on their boss:

The five Republican members of the 10-member House Ethics Committee — which House Speaker Bobby Harrell wants to decide allegations against him — have received some $13,000 in campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with the Charleston Republican.

Those committee members, who have received contributions from the Palmetto Leadership Council PAC, include Ethics Committee chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington. In 2008, 2010 and 2012, Bingham received $1,000 contributions each election cycle from the Palmetto Leadership Council….

Actually… I would question the impartiality of the panel even if no one on it had received a dime from the PAC. But the money raises sufficient additional questions that the House ethics cops should leap to recuse themselves and let other competent authorities deal with this matter. Such as, you know, the attorney general

Oh, and on a related matter…

It looks like whoever did the coding on John Monk’s story had a bit of a Freudian slip. The story appears on the website under “Crime” instead of under “SC Politics.” Very interesting…

crime

Maybe Gowdy can help me understand the ‘why’ on Benghazi

Alternate headline: “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!”

You’ve no doubt seen the news by now that 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy (you know him — he’s the guy who defeated Bob Inglis because Inglis, of all people, wasn’t “conservative” enough in the Tea Party year) will pitch for the GOP in the big game — that is, he’ll chair the select committee to investigate Benghazi, which a former White House staffer characterized recently with the immortal words, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”

As this was all breaking, I happened to watch the third season episode of “The West Wing,” “Ways and Means,” in which C.J. said:

Leo, we need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious, and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy, or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?

I don’t know what about this situation made me mention that. Unless the White House deliberately manipulated the House into doing this by releasing those emails.

Anyway, now that this is back before us, we ask the eternal question: Why?

Rep. Gowdy puts it this way:

“Twenty months after the Benghazi attacks, there remain unresolved questions about why the security was inadequate, our response during the siege itself, and our government’s interaction with the public after the attack. All of those lines of inquiry are legitimate and should be apolitical. Facts are neither red nor blue.

“While people are free to draw different conclusions from the facts, there should be no debate over whether the American public is entitled to have all of the facts. In a courtroom, juries are free to believe one witness over a hundred witnesses. But you cannot make that or any other credibility determination if you do not have access to all relevant witnesses, documents and other tangible evidence.

“Four of our fellow citizens were murdered, and a facility emblematic and representative of our country was attacked and burned on the anniversary of 9-11. Our fellow citizens are full well capable of processing the truth about the attacks and aftermath, and most assuredly entitled to hear it.”…

OK. If the hearings are going to focus on “why the security was inadequate” and “our response during the siege itself,” so that we might avoid such tragedies in the future, and make our embassies and consulates secure, let’s get started.

But where Republicans lose me is on the third thing, the thing they go on and on and on about: “our government’s interaction with the public after the attack.”

Frankly, I decided a long time ago that Susan Rice wasn’t the sharpest knife in the Obama administration’s cutlery drawer (although she looks awesome next to the kid who made the “Dude” crack). I was relieved when she didn’t become secretary of state, and disappointed when she became National Security Advisor. (As Sonny Corleone would say, “Nixon had Kissinger; look what I got.“)

I decided even longer ago than that that I had no interest in watching the Sunday morning political talk shows, and not just because I was busy going to Mass then. I figured out that if they made news, it would be on the wires (the Sunday shift has to write about something).

So what Susan Rice said on Sunday political talk shows doesn’t exactly rock my world.

Earlier in the week, I had seen reports that the administration had amended its initial assessment that the attacks were just about that horrendous anti-Muslim video. (Scout, I lost my link to that story, and you helped me find it, but I lost it again, so help!) I heard that within 24 hours of learning of the attack in Benghazi itself. I was satisfied.

If Susan Rice said something else, I’m not terribly surprised. But I’m not up in arms.

I find myself asking, “so what?” So Susan Rice tried to make the administration look good (if what Republicans keep saying is true). That seems to be pretty much in character for her.

I also find myself wondering why Republicans get so offended at the idea that the Muslim video triggered these attacks. It was causing demonstrations elsewhere. It just wasn’t crazy to think at first, however erroneously, it might have had something to do with Benghazi.

We know that expressions of disrespect toward the prophet on the part of private parties in the West had triggered violence in the Muslim world before. Why not now?

There’s some kind of dog whistle this issue blows on the right that is just inaudible to me.

But anyway, let’s collect those facts that are neither red nor blue, and figure out how to avoid this kind of deadly debacle in the future. But let’s not go on and on about irrelevancies that happen to scratch the itch of one end or the other of the partisan spectrum.

No decision in Harrell/Wilson case

QOfGr.AuSt.74

Three things to note from hearing this morning in Speaker Bobby Harrell’s effort to keep Attorney General Alan Wilson from prosecuting him:

  1. John Monk is making good use of Twitter today in covering this. For a blow-by-blow account, check his feed — including photos.
  2. As pictured above, the state’s last three AGs are standing behind Wilson in defense of his obvious constitutional authority in this matter. I hope The State doesn’t mind my showing this to you, seeing as how I’m urging you to go read their coverage and all. (And if they do, I’ll take it down immediately.)
  3. The judge put off a decision for a week. What Judge Manning is finding so tough about this bewilders me. Harrell hasn’t a leg to stand on.

Aw, Jeez, Edith! Not with the Culture Wars again…

Corey Hutchins must have seen my post a couple of days ago worrying that we’re getting cranked up again on the Kulturkampf stuff two years ahead of the presidential election.

Or maybe he just remembers me bemoaning the use of issues that serve only to divide us, to separate us into camps of “us” versus “them,” back in 2012.

In any case, he tormented me today by sending a link to this item:

Speaking to GOP gatherings in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina this week, Rick Santorum had a message for Republicans running this year: the culture wars still work as a message….

“Folks, the economy is important, but you know what’s more important? The culture. Look at the culture in America. Look at what’s happening to families in America. Look at what’s happening to marriage, to children. Look at the culture. It’s disintegrating in front of us. And as a result people are insecure….”

All I could say in response was to quote Archie Bunker: “Aw, Jeez, Edith!”

But on second thought, I did like the rest of that quote:

“…And as a result people are insecure. They’re afraid … and when people are afraid, the last thing they want to hear is ‘And we’re going to cut this, and we’re going to cut that, and we’re going to take them away from these people who don’t want to work.’ Not the kind of message that’s going to win you a lot of folks who are a little nervous — I’m not talking about the 47 percent —I’m talking about all of their friends and neighbors who feel that they are close to being part of that 47 percent.”

If he’s saying that maybe Republicans should give all the “shrink government to a size that you can drown it in a bathtub” stuff a rest, and stop demonizing people who actually depend on the “safety net” that Reagan used to speak of… well, that would be a positive thing.’

But must it come at the cost of more Kulturkampf?

Doug forms impression of Haley strength, Sheheen weakness

summit

Our own Doug Ross attended IT-ology’s Summit on Information Technology today, and this is his report:

Nikki Haley did the quick welcome speech to the crowd this morning.  Never had seen her before in person…   I was impressed with her energy and her ability to speak without notes.  She laid out what will probably be a theme for the next few months:  a growing economy built on encouragingcompanies to come to South Carolina.    What was more indicative of what’s in store for Vincent Sheheen was when Ed Sellers (Chairman BCBS – you probably knew that) got up after Nikki left and said that Haley and her team (Bobby Hitt and others) were the best administration  he had worked with in 25 years in terms of economic development.   Otis Rawl followed Sellers with more praise for Nikki.    If I were Vincent Sheheen, I’d drop out now… I don’t think he’s going to come as close as last time.
The mayor also spoke briefly and did a good job of selling Columbia as a place to grow technology business.   He was late so he wasn’t in the room when Haley was there.    My cynical self wonders if that was on purpose.

As I’ve said many times, Nikki makes a great first impression, and connects really well with a group of people.

I agree that Vincent’s in trouble, and not only because he’s not as good at connecting with a crowd. Four years ago, the state chamber (Otis Rawl’s organization) backed him, which was extraordinary for a Democrat. I had already seen indications that wasn’t going to happen again. This is another indication of that.

And when a guy like Ed Sellers goes that far in his praise, it’s important. But I suspect he really mostly appreciates Bobby Hitt.

Something is going to have to change for Vincent Sheheen to be as competitive as he was last time around, much less win. The incumbent has positioned herself well for another four years, even without the Year-Of-The-Tea-Party advantage she enjoyed in 2010.

College of Charleston play flap draws national attention

Washpost

At this moment, the centerpiece story at the WashPost site is this one:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — More than 750 people packed into a city auditorium here this week for a sold-out production of “Fun Home,” a musical by a New York-based troupe about a woman coming to terms with her closeted gay father’s suicide. The crowd rose in a standing ovation before the show even began.

The emotional reaction was part of a worsening political battle between South Carolina’s public universities and conservative Republican lawmakers, who argue that campus culture should reflect the socially conservative views of the state.

The state’s House of Representatives recently voted to cut $52,000 in funding for the College of Charleston as punishment for assigning students to read “Fun Home,” the graphic novel that formed the basis for the play. House lawmakers endorsed a similar budget cut for the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg for using a different book with gay themes in its reading program.

Republican lawmakers also helped pave the way for the appointment of a controversial GOP state official as the College of Charleston’s next president, sparking campus protests.

The fights serve as a reminder that rapid national shifts on social issues — particularly gay rights — are hardly universal and remain hotly contested across much of the Deep South. The views of people in South Carolina carry particular weight given the state’s early presidential primary, which gives voters here the power to help shape the GOP ticket every four years….

You had probably heard about most of this. I hadn’t heard about the play angle.

It seems like WashPost regards this as a pretty big deal, on account of our early primary. I hadn’t thought of it that way until now.

Remember how, early in 2012, I worried about the way Kulturkampf issues were being used to divide us in that election? Here we go again, y’all — two years early…

The Republican take on the same education bill

Sen. Peeler, in a 'man of action' photo from his website.

Sen. Peeler, in a ‘man of action’ photo from his website.

OK, now Sen. Harvey Peeler has put out a release touting his portion of the combined bill that included Vincent Sheheen’s 4K expansion proposal:

Read to Succeed legislation clears Senate

PEELER PLAN WOULD ENSURE EARLY READING PROFICIENCY

Columbia, SC – April 10, 2014 – The state Senate today passed on third reading the Read to Succeed bill, a plan introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler to help ensure South Carolina’s children are reading on grade level.

Read to Succeed is the first substantive piece of education reform passed by either chamber of the General Assembly in several years, and is premised upon the idea that proficient reading is the foundation of all future learning in school. Peeler’s plan recognizes this, and starts by ending social promotion for third graders who are not yet reading on grade level.

“There’s a reason that the old song about the three R’s puts reading first,” Peeler said. “Children across the state are making it way too far in our school system without having this building block for success in place. It’s time we fix that, so we’re not setting these kids up for failure later in their educational journey.”

Peeler also noted, “I want to specifically thank Governor Haley for efforts to support and promote this initiative. The Governor’s Executive Budget funded $29.5 million for reading coaches, which was a tremendous catalyst to get things clicking this year. By providing a dedicated funding source, she brought focus to the Read to Succeed proposal, and led the House to adopt it in its budget.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

• beginning in 2017-2018 – a 3rd grader not reading on a 3rd grade level will be retained

• there will be a state reading plan and a district reading plan (to be approved by the State Department of Education)

• beginning with school year 2014-2015, provides a readiness assessment for 4K and 5K, as teachers need to know how far along a child is when they first come to school

• gives school districts flexibility to provide summer reading camps, with a minimum of 6 weeks, 4 days per week, and 4 hours per day

• transportation to summer reading camps will be provided at no cost to the parents

• districts who have trouble finding summer reading camp teachers will be allowed to work with other districts – or contact for services

• if a child has been found to need the summer reading camp — at any grade level —  there will be no cost

The legislation also creates a statutory phase-in of a statewide 4-year-old Kindergarten program, which will be implemented based upon availability of funding.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

###

This is confusing, having these two proposals jammed into one bill. But maybe having the Republican leader’s strong advocacy will help both proposals in the House. Maybe. I haven’t followed this closely enough to know…

Jeb Bush, GOP Establishment Man

I missed coverage of this over the weekend, but learned about it via a WSJ column this morning.

Jeb Bush really poked the Tea Party interlopers (you know, the ones who call real Republicans RINOs) in the eye. He called illegal immigration, at least in some circumstances, “an act of love.” The Fix quoted at greater length:

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law. But the way I look at this — and I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.

He’s also going after the folks who are so worked up about Common Core:

He said those who oppose the standards support the “status quo,” oppose testing and are worried too much about children’s self-esteem.

“Let me tell you something. In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem. They care about math, whether they can read – in English – whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful,” Bush said.

“You tell me which society is going to be the winner in this 21st Century: The one that worries about how they feel, or the one that worries about making sure the next generation has the capacity to eat everybody’s lunch?”

See what he did there? He defined the Common Core opponents as touchy-feely types worried about self-esteem — one of those qualities conservatives traditionally despise in liberals.

I like this approach. If he runs, he’ll be offering his party a clear choice between spinning off into the fringes (or at least into a demographic dead end), or remaining a party that can muster majorities across the nation. He seems to think there are enough real Republicans left for the party to choose the latter.

I think Ainsley may become my favorite ‘West Wing’ character

I never saw “The West Wing” when it was on the air, for a number of reasons, not the least of which the fact that I wasn’t watching all that much television in those days. I basically had a TV for watching movies, and didn’t get into watching actual TV programming regularly until AMC started its string of must-watch shows (“Mad Men,” the first few episodes of “Rubicon,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead”…).

There was one reason, though, that I particularly avoided “The West Wing.” I had heard, I suppose from a Republican, that it was a fantasy show for liberal Democrats, a picture of the way they would want the world to be. I was finding Democrats particularly tiresome — that is to say, more tiresome than usual — when the show went on the air in 1999. Most of the angry readers I was dealing with in that period were Democrats, between admirers of Bill Clinton (we were tied, I think, for being the first newspaper in the country to urge him to resign) and of Jim Hodges (the show premiered at a moment right in between his election, which we opposed, and our all-out fight against his signature issue, the lottery).

I just didn’t need to hear any more about how members of that party thought the world ought to be.

But I started watching it on Netlflix during my nightly workouts on the elliptical trainer (they’re almost the perfect length for a 40-minute workout), and the first thing I have to tell you is that what I had heard was a most unfair description of the show. Sure, there will occasionally be an instance in which the liberal position is treated briefly as the only one that’s right and true. For instance, as I mentioned the other day, I was pretty irritated when all the main characters acted like a potential judicial nominee who said there is no blanket right to privacy in the Constitution (there is none, whatever the Supremes may say) had said the Earth was flat.

But you’re just as likely to hear characters ably represent other points of view — such as the early episode in which several staffers point out why “hate-crime” laws are inconsistent with liberal democracy. For every red-meat moment such as the one in which President Bartlet humiliates a thinly disguised Dr. Laura using a rather trite liberal device (asking whether she was for literally applying everything in Leviticus), there’s one in which a conservative view wins out, or is at least fairly considered.

The best example of that so far was the episode I watched last night, the fourth in the second season, titled “In This White House.”

It started with an obnoxiously overconfident Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) going on a political talk show to push an education bill. He is demolished on the air by a little blonde girl with a deferential Southern manner who looks to be about 16.

This causes a sensation in the White House. A delighted Josh runs to tell Toby, “Sam’s getting his ass kicked by a girl!” Toby — the Eeyore of the executive branch, a guy who is thrilled by nothing — comes running, saying breathlessly, “Ginger, get the popcorn!” (The good part of the above clip starts at about 2:20.)

But things really get interesting when the president — and Jed Bartlet really is everyone’s idea of a perfect president: wise, fatherly, kind, thoughtful, fair, idealistic, practical and always human — decides to hire Ainsley Hayes.

Enjoying Sam discomfiture at being humiliated by Ms. Hayes is one thing. Bringing the conservative Republican on board is another, and the idea causes much consternation on the staff.

But I think she’s going to be a great addition. As she goes through the throes of deciding whether to take the job, she becomes, if not exactly the voice of the UnParty, a lens for focusing on everything that is wrong in modern partisanship. She reprimands both sides for their destructive habit of demonizing their opponents. When Sam (his ego still bruised from his first encounter with her — he keeps thinking women on the staff are mocking him when they’re not) says defenders of the Second Amendment aren’t about freedom and protection; they’re just people who like guns… she settles his hash yet again by saying:

Yes, they do. But you know what’s more insidious than that? Your gun control position doesn’t have anything to do with public safety, and it’s certainly not about personal freedom. It’s about you don’t like people who do like guns. You don’t like the people. Think about that, the next time you make a joke about the South.

(I remembered what she said when I saw this predictable Tweet from Slate today saying “This is what gun ownership looks like in America.” Be sure to check the picture.)

Then, in the episode’s penultimate scene, Ainsley meets two of her GOP friends in a restaurant. They think she has turned the job down, and they can’t wait to hear about the look on Chief of Staff Leo McGarry’s face. As she sits there looking thoughtful, her friends engage in the sort of rant that we hear too often from both sides.

“I hate these people,” says her friend Harriet.

“Did you meet anyone there who isn’t worthless?” adds Bruce.

“Don’t say that,” Ainsley says softly.

Bruce continues, “Did you meet anyone there who has any-?”

Ainsley lights into him:

I said don’t say that. Say they’re smug and superior, say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders, but don’t call them worthless. At least don’t do it in front of me.

Her friends look stunned. She chokes up as she continues:

The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified, their intent is good.
Their commitment is true, they are righteous, and they are patriots.

And I’m their lawyer.

And she walks out.

Wow. If she didn’t look so extremely young, I’d be in love at this point. I think I’m really going to enjoy this character….

That’s not the first example I think of, Henry

I was just now looking back at the press release from yesterday announcing Henry McMaster’s entry into the contest for lieutenant governor:

McMaster Files for Lt. Gov.
For Immediate Release                                                                           March 27, 2014
Contact:  Adam Fogle @ 803-394-3006
 
COLUMBIA, SC — Former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster officially filed Thursday as a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor.  In an online video announcement McMaster said, “For this job, experience really does matter.”
 
In addition to serving eight years as Attorney General, McMaster gained national attention when President Ronald Reagan chose him as his first U.S. Attorney.  In that job, McMaster led a crackdown on corruption and drug trafficking.  He later became State Republican Party Chairman and led the SCGOP through a period of historic growth.
 
With a strong record in both the public and private sectors, McMaster said he brings to the race “a unique mix of experience and proven results.”  In announcing his decision to offer as a candidate for Lt. Governor, McMaster issued the following statement:
 

Experience Matters

“The next four years will be critical to our state’s political, economic and cultural future.  I love South Carolina and I want to help create a future of progress and prosperity.
 
“As Lt. Governor, I plan to be a strong voice for conservative reform in State government.  I’ll be ready on day one to preside over the work of the State Senate.  It takes experience in State government and knowledge of the law to do a good job.
 
“After four years of Barack Obama, I think we’ve learned that on-the-job-training is not always a good idea.  For the job of Lt. Governor, qualifications really matter.
 
“I’m also ready to address the growing challenges faced by our state’s seniors and adults with disabilities.  At the present rate, South Carolina’s senior population will double by the year 2030.
 
“I’ve discussed this issue in detail with my friend Glenn McConnell, our current Lt. Governor.  He is making wonderful progress in developing plans and strategies to deal with the aging crisis.  And I am prepared to follow in his footsteps.
 
“Finally, I’m ready to work with Governor Haley and the conservative leaders of the State Legislature to protect taxpayers, grow our economy, create new jobs and build a tomorrow we can all be proud of.
 
“That’s why I’m running as a conservative Republican for Lt. Governor and I ask for your support.”
 
The Republican Primary will be held Tuesday, June 10.  Learn more about Henry McMaster atHenryMcMaster.com.  View the entire video announcement on YouTube.
-30-

Did you catch that non sequitur about the president? “After four years of Barack Obama…” (On his website, by the way, he says somewhat more accurately, “After nearly six years of Barack Obama…)

As criticism of POTUS goes, of course, that’s fairly mild stuff. His inexperience was one of the things that kept me in the John McCain camp in our 2008 endorsement. So, fair observation there.

But hey — what does it have to do with running for lieutenant governor? You’d think he’d compare himself to his opponents for the nomination, not to Republicans’ favorite national whipping boy. (Yeah, I know how this plays in the GOP base. But I have to wonder: Doesn’t anyone in that base ever go, “Hey, wait a minute. What does this have to do with Obama?”)

Here we go again, y’all. I thought Henry was easily the best of the GOP field for governor last time around. But one thing kept me from feeling good about his candidacy: His over-the-top — I mean, “over-the-top” by the standards of reasonable folk; not “over-the-top” by, say, Tea Party standards — attempts to nationalize the campaign. Remember the ad in which he promised to protect us from Obama and his Washington “vultures”?

Speaking of Tea Party standards…

If he were really concerned about on-the-job training, don’t you think the first politician who would come to mind would be someone closer to home — say, our governor, who had three terms as a House backbencher and no known managerial experience before becoming our chief executive?

But Henry would never do that. Henry has been remarkably loyal in his support of the governor ever since she beat him for the nomination in 2010. The State today talked about how Henry is one of three candidates for Gov Lite who have “ties” to the governor. But Henry is the one she owes, the one who has swallowed every ounce of pride to be her cheerleader, and give her countenance among business types and party regulars.

Glenn McConnell, president-elect of College of Charleston

MoncksCorner

The trustees of the College of Charleston went for political clout over the weekend, unanimously electing Glenn McConnell to be their new president.

It was the smart move, and the best for the public college’s future, to pick the longtime parliamentary master of the State House.

Yes, he has an affinity for all things Confederate. There’s the flag, which still flies in front of the State House because of the “compromise” he and a few other senators crafted when it became inevitable that it would no longer stay up on the dome. There’s the Hunley, the raising and preservation and study of which has been a pet project of his. There’s the memorabilia shop he owned (I don’t think he owns it anymore, but I could be wrong about that). There’s the 17 or 18 re-enactor uniforms he has in his closet.

Then there’s the fact that, as the most powerful and knowledgeable defender of the Legislative State, he has resisted substantive reform for decades.

That’s the bad stuff, which is all detractors have focused on. And you can see how they would.

But those who have worked with him in the State House mostly just respect the guy — and not just because he understands how the system works better than they do. He’s a hard worker who can be relied upon to do what he says he will do. And that has benefited South Carolina, from the judicial selection reforms (keeping selection in the hands of the Legislature, but making it much more merit-based) of the ’90s to his conscientious efforts on behalf of the elderly as lieutenant governor.

He earned a huge amount of that respect with the way he gave up his Senate power to accept the lowly job of lieutenant governor when that seemed to him the most honorable course, and rather than mope in the corner, got out and took his responsibility as head of the Office on Aging (lawmakers had put a former lieutenant governor in charge of the office just to give him something to do) seriously.

Those are the kinds of factors that led a couple of young Democrats to issue glowing praise of him on Twitter in response to the news over the weekend.

  • Sen. Thomas McElveen Tweeted, “Congrats to Glenn McConnell on being named @CofC ‘s 22nd president. His statesmanship, pragmatism & steady hand will be missed in the Senate.”
  • Former Rep. Boyd Brown wrote, “Very proud of Glenn McConnell and CofC, and wish both great success. Any entity should hope to have such an honorable and fair leader.”

Brown went further, arguing with the critics in two subsequent Tweets:

  • “Some of the folks manufacturing outrage over Glenn McConnell being tapped to lead CofC have clearly never met the man…”
  • “…Sure, McConnell is an easy target if all you know about him is ‘Civil War buff/politician.’ But as a leader, he’s in a class all his own.”

I’ve spent a lot of time on the opposite side — the losing side, of course — from Glenn McConnell on important state issues. I could get pretty indignant about it. But that has generated respect, and I know what these guys are on about.

As I said, the trustees made the right call. The smart call, certainly. But near as I can tell thus far, the right one, as well.

John Monk’s scoop about Harrell, Wilson, and secrecy

Corey Hutchins has written a piece in Columbia Journalism Review about John Monk’s investigative scoop last week, revealing that Speaker Bobby Harrell has sought a secret court hearing on his proposal to remove Attorney General Alan Wilson from Harrell’s ethics case:

The people’s court?

Will a lone South Carolina judge make a secret decision this week in a closed court? The State leads the push for transparency

CHARLESTON, SC — An investigation of one of the most powerful politicians in this state has turned into a key test of how open the courts here are, with media organizations arguing in print and—they hope—in the courtroom that key legal decisions shouldn’t be made behind closed doors. For more than a year, the state’s Republican House Speaker, Bobby Harrell, has been under investigation for possible misuse of campaign funds and abuse of his public office, though Harrell maintains he has done nothing wrong. In January, South Carolina’s Republican Attorney General, Alan Wilson, sent the case to a state grand jury. Wilson’s office would prosecute the case should it end up at trial, and the situation has been prickly for the two Republicans, with Harrell accusing Wilson of trying to damage him politically. The political intrigue blew up into an open-government concern a week ago, when John Monk of The State newspaper in Columbia, citing unnamed sources, reported that Harrell’s attorneys were secretly seeking a closed-door hearing before a state judge to argue that Wilson should be removed as the prosecutor. The substantive argument for disqualifying Wilson was unclear, Monk reported…

Which reminds me that I meant to say last week, when John’s story appeared, that it’s nice to see the paper allow him the time to do what he’s best at. Instead of routine crime stories, and other general assignment-type stuff.

I say that not to be critical of the newspaper. When your staff has shrunk to the size The State‘s has, due to financial pressures beyond editors’ control, you need every hand you’ve got on the routine stuff. And John pulls his weight on the bread-and-butter stories that must get covered each day.

Which makes it particularly great that he was able to find the time to get this story, which reveals an attempt at secret dealing that John said would be “unprecedented.”

Corey quoted press association attorney Jay Bender as saying:

What happens to our democratic society if newspapers go away? Who’s going to be out there asking these crucial questions and trying to push people in public positions to conduct public business in public view?

What happens, indeed?

So are you truly, unambiguously going to support this guy?

This is a good day to be Nancy Mace or Det Bowers. Because they are the only two of the crowd of people running against Lindsey Graham in the GOP primary who did not just sign a pledge to support the guy who called the senator “ambiguously gay.”

Here’s the money quote, which caused enough of a splash that Chris Cillizza of The Fix retweeted me when I mentioned it yesterday, leading to 17 other retweets and 8 favorites:

Feliciano said, “It’s about time that South Carolina (says) hey, We’re tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina. We’re ready for a new leader to merge the Republican Party. We’re done with this. This is what it’s about, all of us coming together and saying, one way or the other, one of us is going to be on that ballot in November.”

It was said by the (formerly) most obscure of the candidates, the suddenly-famous Dave Feliciano of Spartanburg, at a presser in which he and three others — Bill Connor, Lee Bright and Richard Cash — signed a pledge promising to support any one of their number who gets into a runoff with Graham.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Put another way, Bill Connor, Lee Bright and Richard Cash just pledged to support Dave Feliciano over Lindsey Graham.

Just when you thought they couldn’t take ideology far enough…

After the presser, Connor and Cash both denounced Feliciano’s characterization of the senator, but both confirmed they would still stick to the pledge, according to The State. Bright reportedly left the event before Feliciano spoke, which shows he’s not named “Bright” for nothing.

I wrote to Bill Connor via Facebook a few minutes ago to ask him again, “would you really support this Feliciano guy over Sen. Graham?” Because I still find that hard to believe. But then, I find the attitude of the kinds of Republicans who would oppose Graham sort of hard to believe, so this is not surprising.