Category Archives: Republicans

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.

George Will on Graham’s ‘fun factor’

I enjoyed George Will’s column about Lindsey Graham’s presidential bid over the weekend.

Others had written in recent days stories that made Graham’s motive for running more and more clear — to have someone vocally rebutting Rand Paul’s quirky (for a Republican) views on foreign affairs.

But Will summed it up nicely:

He has the normal senatorial tendency to see a president in the mirror and an ebullient enjoyment of campaigning’s rhetorical calisthenics. Another reason for him to run resembles one of Dwight Eisenhower’s reasons. Graham detects a revival of the Republicans’ isolationist temptation that has waned since Eisenhower defeated Ohio’s Sen. Robert Taft for the 1952 nomination.

Graham insists he is not running to stop a colleague: “The Republican Party will stop Rand Paul.” But Graham relishes disputation and brims with confidence. “I’m a lawyer. He’s a doctor. I argue for a living.” If Paul is nominated and elected, Graham will support him and then pester President Paul to wield a big stick.

Graham believes that events abroad are buttressing the case for his own candidacy. He says national security is the foremost concern of Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He sees the 17,000 members of the Iowa National Guard who were deployed overseas as the foundation of a Graham plurality among the 120,000 Iowans expected to participate in the caucuses.

He wants voters to ask each candidate: Are you ready to be commander in chief? Do you think America is merely “one nation among many”? Are you committed to putting radical Islam “back in the box” (whatever that means)? Do you understand that any Iranian nuclear capability “ will be shared with terrorists”? Do you realize that, if that had happened before 9/11, millions, not thousands, might have died?…

Will then went on to imply that Graham’s style of conservatism is “the no-country-left-unbombed style,” something of which Will, of course, would not approve. (When Will calls himself a conservative, there’s no “neo” in front of it.)

That admonition dutifully voiced, Will acknowledged that, at the least, a Graham candidacy should be fun:

“I’m somewhere between a policy geek and Shecky Greene,” the comedian. Campaigning, he says, “brings out the entertainer in you,” so his town hall meetings involve “15 minutes of standup, 15 minutes of how to save the world from doom, and then some questions.” He at least will enlarge the public stock of fun, which few, if any, of the other candidates will do.

Jeb Bush also seeking the Grownup Party nomination

In a headline today, The Washington Post posed the question, “Can Jeb Bush win the GOP nomination . . . by praising President Obama?

Here’s what they’re referring to:

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush supports President Obama’s trade deal, praises his management of the National Security Agency and agrees that Congress should have moved faster to hold a vote on new attorney general Loretta Lynch.

And that’s all since last week.

It’s an unusual approach for Bush to take in seeking the nomination of a conservative party that mostly loathes the current president. The former Florida governor has gone out of his way at times to chime in on issues where he agrees with Obama — bolstering his attempt to be a softer-toned kind of Republican focused on winning a majority of the vote in a general election.

But the strategy also carries grave risks for a likely candidate who is already viewed with deep suspicion by conservatives, many of whom have little desire to find common ground with Democrats. Tea party leaders are already warning that Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, is alienating conservatives….

There’s a flaw in the headline. He’s not praising the president. What he’s doing is addressing issues according to their merits, not according to who favors or opposes them.

Which means he’s thinking and acting like a grownup, rather than like a choleric child.

Too many in both parties, and particularly in the Tea Party fringe of the GOP, demand that candidates speak and act childishly. And if they don’t get what they demand, they throw tantrums.

In the GOP, those people call themselves “conservatives.” They are anything but. In this situation, Bush is the conservative, the person speaking thoughtfully and carefully about issues, with respect for the political institutions we have inherited from our forebears, rather than engaging in a competition to see who can denounce the other side more vehemently.

If, because of the tantrum-throwers, Bush fails to get the Republican nomination, I might have to give him the nod from my Grownup Party. But he’ll have to get past Lindsey Graham first…

Graham is Rubin’s kind of conservative (mine, too)

The Washington Post‘s house conservative, Jennifer Rubin, knows that Lindsey Graham has next to no chance of winning the GOP presidential nomination, but she’s a fan of our senior senator, and thinks he has some things to teach the more likely candidates.

So it is that she has posted “Eight things to learn from Lindsey Graham.” Here are three of the items:

4. He is living proof that a conservative in a deep red state can win reelection while supporting immigration reform. He knows that an arduous path to citizenship or to legalization with penalties, payment of back taxes and other requirements is not “amnesty” and will be necessary unless we create a police state to round up 11 million to 12 million people….

7.  He knows that the NSA is not reading the content of your e-mails or listening to your phone calls without individualized suspicion and the 4th Amendment does not apply to the data on calls equivalent to that which appears on your phone bill. He can also speak to the necessity of the program.

8. He knows precisely the state in which President George W. Bush left Iraq, the recommendations at the time, the Obama-Clinton determination to remove all troops and the consequences on our ability to maintain stability and redirect then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki away from sectarian activities (suppression of the Sunni) and toward inclusive government.

Hillary Clinton (yawn) and Marco Rubio (yawn) join the fray

Just in case y’all had anything to say about these nonevents.

Above is her announcement video, below is his (which he released in advance of his announcement). Thoughts?

This morning, I was reading commentary on the Clinton announcement from yesterday, and the word was that she had learned that it wasn’t all about Hillary, that it was about us regular folks out here, which is why her video doesn’t show her until near the end — you know, when she says, Oh, yeah, all you little people? Well I’m getting ready to run for president… Or something to that effect.

My reaction to that is… no, it’s about you, Hillary. So don’t waste my time with touchy-feely stuff that reminds me of the recent gag video that contains Everything You Hate About Advertising in One Fake Video That’s Almost Too Real. You’re the one running. You’re the one who needs to explain yourself. Don’t try to distract me, especially not with faux populism.

As for Marco Rubio…

At least he spends the time explaining himself and his concept of the country. But then, he’s got more ‘splainin’ to do. I’m sorry, explaining. The Ricky Ricardo thing is probably uncool in this case. My point being that he’s less well known.

In any case, I got more meaning, more relevance from his than from hers. What did y’all think?

The unraveling of Todd Kincannon

I’ve never known quite what to think, much less say, about local attorney, former state GOP director and social media provocateur Todd Kincannon.

Some of his detractors on the Web have less trouble labeling him, although they sometimes seem to be trying too hard, I suppose in an effort to match his own vitriol. The characterizations come across as strained: “chinless monster,” “Tea Party troll,” “‘Family Values’ Lunatic,” “‘Pro-Life’ Sociopath,” and so forth.

Not that he hasn’t asked for it (in fact, he has seemed to relish the attention).

The couple or three times I’ve met him, he’s seemed a contained, respectful young man, although eager to be heard — not very different from most ambitious young white men one finds in the background of the GOP these days. Of course, I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time was when we appeared together on Cynthia Hardy’s talk show on WACH-Fox, and that was several years back.

But the Todd Kincannon who has roamed the internet with marked aggression in recent years has been something else — a disturbing figure, a sort of poster boy for the phenomenon whereby social media bring out the very worst in some people.

He’s been banned from Twitter, his weapon of choice, twice for such eruptions as:

zulus ebola

And, if you’ll forgive me for repeating it, his most infamous utterance:

todd1

This seems a good time to make a point about words and the way they are abused in our political discourse…

A lot of people, particularly on the left, have a penchant for calling people they disagree with “hateful.” I’ll see the word “hate” used, and I’ll compare it to the comment or position that it’s applied to, and it just doesn’t match up.

Those Tweets from Todd Kincannon? Now those are hateful, even if he’s only doing it to get attention. Just for future reference, this is the standard for the word.

Back to our topic…

Todd is in the news again:

A former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party arrested Monday for charge of criminal domestic violence has been released on a $5,000 bond.JJTKINCANNONMUG

James John Todd Kincannon, 33, who is also an attorney, was arrested in connection with an earlier incident that caused his wife to tell deputies she was fearful for her life, Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said in a statement released Monday.

Ashley Griffith stated to deputies that on March 26 she was involved in an altercation with her husband who became angry with her after the two left an event, an arrest warrant alleges. According to the warrant, Griffith told deputies that Kincannon yelled at her and used profanity while driving near Irmo. Griffith also said that she lowered her window and yelled at passing motorists to help her while she pleaded with Kincannon to stop the car.

Griffith said Kincannon began driving the motor vehicle erratically and avoiding traffic lights while driving at a high rate of speed, the arrest warrant alleges. Griffith then tried to exit the car but Kincannon grabbed her arm in order to stop her…

For his part, Kincannon blames his behavior on the prescription, non-narcotic antitussive benzonatate: “I’d never taken it before, and took it for the first time last night. Basically, I went completely crazy after taking it.”

Folks, I’ve taken benzonatate. I took a LOT of it early this year, when I was having trouble functioning because of a cough I couldn’t get rid of. For a couple of weeks, I took it every eight hours. It helped some. It did not make me violent, or lead to any sort of out-of-control behavior. Yes, drugs affect different people different ways — the old prescription asthma medication Tedral used to make me paranoid if I took it with caffeine. I really thought people around me were deliberately trying to upset me. But I didn’t do anything about it, because I knew the reaction was irrational.

Benzonatate

Benzonatate

Of course, he does claim that he did the ONE thing you are never supposed to do with benzonatate: bite down on the capsule and break it before swallowing it. As Wikipedia warns, “Excessive absorption of benzonatate will occur if the gelcaps are chewed or allowed to dissolve in the mouth. This may lead to an overdose of the drug. Overdose of benzonatate may manifest as central nervous system side effects, such as mental confusion and hallucination, restlessness and tremors.”

Still, I don’t find benzonatate to be a persuasive explanation. It seems a bit too neat. It suggests that he’ll be fine if you keep him away from cough suppressants. And social media (was he on benzonatate when he posted those Tweets? no, because he said this was the first time he’d had it). And, I suppose, red kryptonite.

Here’s hoping Todd Kincannon gets it together, and soon. What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the spectacle of a man unraveling. Now that it’s gotten to the point of violence, it’s pretty scary…

Former lawmaker McMaster charged with burglary

I’m seeing several news reports out there about Joe McMaster, brother of Henry, being arrested and charged with burglary.

Joe McMaster

Joe McMaster

Here’s The State‘s version.

I was struck by the fact that none of the reports so far have mentioned that Joe is not just the brother of a politician. Joe himself served in the Legislature a few years back. He briefly held a House seat — I want to say just one term — before being defeated for re-election by Joel Lourie in 1998.

He represented District 78, the same seat held today by Beth Bernstein.

I wasn’t positive at first that he was the McMaster brother who held the House seat until I saw the mug shot released by the county jail, and thought, yep, that’s Joe. A little worse for wear, mind you, but that’s Joe. (In his defense, I should probably say what the character Ives said when a German remarked negatively on a POW ID photo of him: “I’d like to see one of you under similar circumstances.”)

Anyway, I thought that detail was worth taking note of…

The whole ‘red state/blue state’ thing is backwards

"Red state, blue state" by Angr - self-made; base map is Image:Blank US Map.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg#/media/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg

“Red state, blue state” by Angr – self-made; base map is Image:Blank US Map.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg#/media/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg

While I was gone, one of my ADCO colleagues pinned this item on Pinterest, and my attention was drawn to it today when I saw it had gotten some repins.

It was a fun graphic from Digital Information World about all the associations we have with various colors. But what grabbed my attention was the observations about the political meanings of two colors in particular:

red

blue

Indeed, I have found this whole business of calling conservative states “red” and liberal states “blue” confusing ever since it got started.

Red has always been the color of revolution, of overturning the status quo, of charging the ramparts in the cause of radical change. Blue is the natural color of conservativism, as in blueblood, or the blue associated with royalty. Red is hot and dynamic, while blue is cool, sedate, satisfied with the status quo.

So why have we so widely accepted the opposite in recent years? Well, it was pretty random. Here’s Wikipedia’s account:

This terminology came into use in the United States presidential election of 2000 on an episode of the Today show on October 30, 2000. According to AlterNet and The Washington Post, the terms were coined by journalist Tim Russert, during his televised coverage of the 2000 presidential election.[1] That was not the first election during which the news media used colored maps to depict voter preferences in the various states, but it was the first time a standard color scheme took hold; the colors were often reversed or different colors used before the 2000 election.

It was just that random. Whoever made up the graphic just happened to use those colors that day, and it stuck, contrary to all reason.

And in the very next graf, Wikipedia acknowledges the contradiction:

This reverses a long-standing convention ofpolitical colors where red symbols (such as the Red Flag or Red Star) are associated with revolutionary movements, and conservative movements often choose blue as a contrasting color.[2]

That’s right. Anyway, it still bugs me…