Category Archives: Republicans

First, Vincent, you need a huge SC flag


Normally, I don’t go in for the big stage props in politics. I still recall the time, in a barn at the agricultural experiment station outside Jackson, TN, in the late ’70s (or was it early ’80s?), when some national political figure stood to make a speech in front of two symmetrically-stacked ziggurats of hay and a tractor. I also remember how hot it was, and how the runnels of sweat rolled off the beautiful young network camerawoman standing on a platform just above me, her thin garments saturated and clinging to her…

But that’s beside the point. The point is that I don’t usually go in for the big, fakey stage props in politics. I thought the hay and the tractor were kinda cheesy. It was the first of many experiences I would have with such cheesiness.

That said, Vincent Sheheen has little choice now. He must find a really, really big South Carolina state flag and launch his campaign standing in front of it. The opening handed him by his opponent is just too inviting.

With her announcement yesterday, Nikki Haley made it clear that if you thought she was running a cookie-cutter, national, ideological campaign with no bearing upon South Carolina at all back in 2010, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

First, she stands in front of a U.S. flag that must have been bought second-hand from the people who filmed “Patton.” (The State said it was “tennis court-sized.” I think maybe they were playing doubles.) Then, she stood not with South Carolinians, not with people who have anything at all to say about South Carolina or who care a fig about South Carolina, but with Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin (which the New York Daily News calls her “blue-shirted band of merry men.”)

Oh, wait, Tim Scott was there — you know, the guy she elevated to the Senate, and who therefore owes her big-time.

The other governors were there to back her up as she said things such as this:

“When it came to Obamacare, we didn’t just say ‘no.’ We said ‘never.’ We are not expanding Medicaid just because President Obama thinks we should.”

Because, you know, that’s what it’s all about — fighting the big, national ideological fight. By the way, to fully understand that second sentence, you put a comma after Medicaid. Because the reason she’s saying “no” to expanding Medicaid is, of course, “just because President Obama thinks we should.”

Maybe the governor should talk with her former employers over at Lexington Medical Center about the jobs that will be lost there because of her standing in the way of Medicaid expansion. Not to mention the impact on South Carolinians’ health. But she’s not going to do that, and not only because she didn’t leave her old job under the best of terms. She’s not going to do that because she doesn’t care about the impact on South Carolina. It’s all about the national, ideological fight.

Which is something that Vincent Sheheen should seize on as a way to contrast himself to the current governor. He’s done that already, of course. He just needs to drive the point home a bit more firmly.

The big SC flag would be a good start. Not necessarily tennis court-sized. Just big enough to make the point — tastefully, which would be a nice change in and of itself.


SC GOP chairman doing what party chairmen do


That’s Matt Moore, second from right, with some other modern SC politicos and some fugitive from the early 19th century, at a political forum last fall.

You’ve probably seen this silliness:

COLUMBIA, SC — The chairman of South Carolina’s Republican Party says he will not allow CNN or NBC to broadcast debates of Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina unless the networks refuse to air a documentary on Hilary Clinton, a possible Democratic nominee for president.

NBC plans to broadcast a miniseries starring Diane Lane as Clinton, the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. CNN has also announced plans for a feature-length documentary on Clinton’s career.

Monday, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent letters to NBC and CNN telling them he would ask the RNC to ban any Republican candidates from participating in presidential debates hosted by NBC or CNN unless the two networks agree to not air the programs.

Matt Moore, South Carolina’s newly elected Republican Party chairman, said he agreed with Priebus…

Matt Moore is doing what party chairmen do — inspiring ire toward the opposition (and, if you’re a Republican, toward media, which is perceived by the most ardent loyalists as the opposition), inspire the constituency to say “hell, yeah!,” and keep them giving money.

Making sense is not a job requirement.

It is extremely unlikely that I will watch either of those programs, mainly because the chief reason I have a TV is to have something to watch movies on. These programs do not seem to fit into the category of things I deem worth spending time on.

But it seems to me that given the far less interesting and compelling figures who have inspired docudramas in the past, Hillary Clinton certainly qualifies as legitimate fodder. I found it interesting to see what Emma Thompson did with the Hillary-inspired character in “Primary Colors” — a movie that, by the way, was far from laudatory.

People make too much of such things. And they ignore the fact that these things can do as much harm as good to candidates. I’m mindful of the how media overexposure (much of it on her terms) eliminated Sarah Palin from consideration for the presidential nomination in 2012, despite her popularity for a year or so after the 2008 contest.

People have always made too much of such things. I vividly recall the way full release of “The Right Stuff” was delayed to avoid charges that the filmmakers were boosting John Glenn’s chances in the 1984 Democratic nomination process.

If only they had been able to do so. If that awesome film (which never got the attention it should have, due in large part to its on-again, off-again release) could have gotten him elected or even nominated, I would have been much happier than I was with the choice available to us that November.

No, those House Republicans did NOT lose in 2012

It’s probably not fair to pick on this Andres Oppenheimer guy, because he’s just doing what political writers across the country do. But I’m going to anyway. He leads a recent column thusly:

Judging from Republican House leaders’ latest objections to an immigration bill that would legalize up to 11 million undocumented immigrants, it looks like the Republican Party has not learned the lesson from its 2012 electoral defeat — and that it won’t win a presidential election anytime soon.

Just as I forecast in this column early last year that Republicans would get clobbered in the November elections because of their anti-immigration, Hispanic-allergic rhetoric, it’s safe to predict that — once again — Republicans will kill their chances for the 2016 elections by continuing to sound like the “anti-Hispanic” party…

Yeah, OK — if you’re talking about the presidential election, failing to get on board with comprehensive immigration reform could hurt in 2016. Maybe.

What I object to, because it speaks with the central flaw in political coverage in this country, is when he asserts that “the Republican Party has not learned the lesson from its 2012 electoral defeat.”

To which I have to say, “What defeat?” We’re talking about House Republicans. Current House Republicans. Not people who used to be in the House, but were defeated, and therefore aren’t there anymore. Every current member of the House Republican Caucus is someone won election or re-election in 2012. I’m going to go out on a limb here (not knowing the details of each and every House member’s electoral strategy) and say that lots of them ran as the kind of guy (or gal) who would be against a path to citizenship for illegals. And I’ll go further and say that as they look forward to running for re-election from their gerrymandered districts (with minorities, including Hispanic minorities, carefully drawn out of them), their biggest worry is having a primary opponent who would come across as more against a path to citizenship than they are.

Who gets elected president in 2016 is not their problem. Who gets elected to their congressional seats in 2014 is. The Framers designed it this way — the House is set up to be concerned with narrower time frames and narrower constituencies, which of course have become even narrower as lines have been drawn according to ethnic and ideological considerations.

Too much political coverage and commentary is written as though each political party is some amorphous mass which the entire country is either for or against at a given moment. But the world isn’t that way. Each candidate may get some help from his party, perhaps a lot of help, but each race — whether it’s a House election or for the presidency — is decided based upon factors specific to the candidates, what happens during the time in which they are running, the way the district is drawn (in the case of district elections), who can raise the most money, who gets his message across most forcefully, and a lot of silly things such as who has the most name recognition, or who says the stupidest thing that gets reported on.

It would be nice if those House Republicans did look at a bigger picture. It would actually be good for the country. But if they don’t, don’t say they failed to learn the lesson from their 2012 defeat, because they did just fine in 2012.

I help shut down Pub Politics


Phil, me and Wesley — closing out the final show.

Last night, I was the very last guest on the very last show of Pub Politics. I was the big finale.

And that was fitting, since it was my ninth appearance on the show, and no one else has even come close to that record. For those of you struggling with the math, that’s almost twice the standard for SNL’s Five-Timers Club.

The show isn’t yet available for watching online, but I’ll give you a heads-up when it’s up.

The first guest was Matt Moore, the new chairman of the SC Republican Party. He was followed by Joel Sawyer (sometime host of the show) and Amanda Alpert Loveday, executive director of the SC Democratic Party.

At the very end, Wesley asked me whether I had any final words with which to close the show. I told him that I wanted to thank him and his Democratic opposite number (Wesley Donehue does work for the Senate Republicans, Phil Bailey for the Senate Democrats) for providing a forum in which people from the two camps can sit down, have a beer, and discuss politics in a lively, frank manner with (relative) civility. It may not sound like much, but there aren’t that many such forums these days.

I had no idea Boehner was such a jerk

There was an interesting piece yesterday in The Washington Post about how divided the House Republicans are these days, headlined, “House Republicans broken into fighting factions.”

It provided an in-the-room perspective of recent battles within the caucus, such as the meeting on New Year’s Day in which Speaker Boehner told the caucus he was going to vote for the tax deal with the Democrats, and his two top lieutenants said they would vote against it, and a representative from Tennessee shouted, “If you’re for this and they’re against, we’ve got problems.”

As I said, interesting piece. I’ve felt a good bit of sympathy for Mr. Boehner over the last couple of years as he has tried to lead the House despite the open opposition of the Tea Party faction. But I lost all sympathy when I got to this part of the story:

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans filed into the same Capitol basement room, HC5, where they fought on New Year’s Day. They filtered past clearly marked NO SMOKING signs — which, as always, the Camel-smoking Boehner ignored — and settled into the same hard plastic chairs that have served as Washington’s toughest ideological fault line of the past 30 months.

OK, maybe I’m the last person in America to know this about Boehner, but I find that shocking.

I would think any member of the Congress who so blatantly ignored a rule in place for the health of other people to be beyond the pale. But for a leader to do it — for someone in chargeto demonstrate that he is entitled to indulge his own noxious habit to the detriment of the health of everyone around him, even though others have to follow the rules…

That’s just breathtaking. So to speak. I’m stunned.

No wonder nobody wants to follow that guy.

Jeff Duncan gets it caught in a big, fat wringer


One of our readers shared a link to the above in the comments thread of last night’s Virtual Front Page. I didn’t click on it until today, and lest you miss out entirely, here’s what she linked to.

(And yes, my headline is based on the famous John Mitchell quote about another powerful woman in Washington.)

You should follow the link yourself to check out the comments, some of which are pictured below:

duncan 2


Ethics, schmethics — what on Earth is really going on?

First, the good news is that maybe, just maybe, ethics reform did NOT die in the SC Senate yesterday.

And, on the whole, that’s a good thing. Because while the bill is far from perfect, it’s better than no ethics reform at all.

Vincent Sheheen and Wes Hayes made the bipartisan case for ethics reform in an op-ed today. It was more in the vein of why we need reform, period, than why we need this particular bill. For more of a breakdown on the good and bad qualities of both the House and Senate bills, see this piece by Cindi Scoppe from Sunday before last. After discussing inadequacies in the Senate bill, it concluded:

The good news is that there’s still a chance to add the missing provisions to the bill and shore up the shortcomings, and at least give us a fighting chance of a strong bill coming out of the final conference committee. But there’s a lot of work to be done. And the clock is ticking.

Oh, if only senators were as conscientious as Cindi, and I, and most sensible people, would like them to be.

Rather than worrying about whether the ethics bill had everything in it that it should have, half of the Senate (which is all it took) engaged yesterday in a bipartisan effort to kill such legislation altogether.

I had a terrible time figuring out why they were doing this, from the story in the paper this morning. This was not the reporter’s fault. The problem was that the senators had no reasons that made sense.

The Republicans of the Tea Party wing who voted against putting the bill on special order had a stated reason. But it was just “reason” as motive, not “reason” as logic. It was, in fact, completely batty. They said they didn’t want to spend the time on ethics reform because they wanted to spend it on their 1830s-style bill to nullify Obamacare. Really.

A big reason the bill WAS put on special order today, reversing yesterday’s vote, was because the more sensible Republicans agreed to go along with the demand that the nullification bill be considered, too. Again, really.

But at least there was a certain clarity to the Republicans’ lunacy. Here are the stated Democratic “reasons”:

State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said there is no urgency in passing the bill, adding its passage by the GOP-controlled House, only four weeks ago, left the Senate with too little time to consider ethics reform.

State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said Democrats still have concerns about the proposal that need to be worked out, including the composition of the committee that would oversee ethics complaints against lawmakers. Hutto held up getting to the ethics bill Wednesday by debating a bill that would direct money left over from the state’s budget year that ends June 30 to different projects.

Hutto criticized Haley and other lawmakers for saying that protecting taxpayers against the theft of their personal information — such as the hacking incident that happened last year at the state Department of Revenue — was a top priority when little, he said, has been done to address the problem…

Also, they don’t like the way Nikki Haley spells her name. And they don’t like to put bills on special order on days of the week that start with “W.” OK, I made those last two up, but they make about as much sense, in terms of relevance.

This caused me to dream up reasons. I thought that maybe this was some of the Democrats’ way of hurting Nikki Haley and helping Vincent Sheheen, whether he wants such help or not. (Sheheen was one of the four Democrats voting for special order yesterday.) The idea being to block Nikki Haley’s bid to get credit for ethics reform (in spite of, or perhaps because of, being a poster child for why we need ethics reform), while Vincent’s out there voting for it and writing op-eds in favor of it.

But that theory is a little over-elaborate. It requires voters to blame Nikki for something Democrats did. And even if that worked, they’d have to kill the bill next year, too.

I’m afraid the more likely explanation is simply that these guys are opposed to ethics reform. That’s the Occam’s razor version, and probably the right one.

Anyway, today’s action offers reform a chance this year. We’ll see.

Michele writes once more to me, her “cherished friend”

Not to mention, “immensely loyal supporter.” Which would come as a surprise to a lot of people.

I received this this morning from Michele Bachmann:

Dear Friend,

As a most cherished friend and an immensely loyal supporter, I’m writing you today to say THANK YOU for all you have done both for me and my campaigns.

As a special thank you, I have prepared a personal video just for you that I hope you will view right now. I’m excited to share this important breaking news about a decision I have made with you first.

After watching the video, I hope you will provide me your feedback or leave a comment.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your continued support. I look forward to working with you in my future endeavors.


As I’ve mentioned in the past, Rep. Bachmann has for some time assumed a certain intimacy with me. I was particularly disturbed when I would get those “Are you free to talk tonight?” emails. It was like she thought we were married, or at least seriously dating.

I suppose I got on the list from my contacts with Wesley Donehue’s outfit, since they worked with her presidential campaign.

Maybe it’s over now. Do you think? Surely I won’t hear from her any more. Will I?

Have you heard the one about McCain and the Syrian rebels?

I wasn’t watching the news all that closely yesterday, so, as sometimes happens with Twitter, I saw the jokes about John McCain sneaking into Syria to talk to the rebels before I knew he had gone. Here’s the first I saw:

Syrian rebels with McCain, probably: “I want to trust your judgment, but go over again why you thought she was qualified to be president.”

Later, someone brought my attention to this one from McCain pal Lindsey Graham:

Best wishes to @SenJohnMcCain in Syria today. If he doesn’t make it back calling dibs on his office.

Anyway, no doubt to Graham’s chagrin, McCain apparently made it back out of Syria OK (at least, that’s how I read this reference to Yemen). The White House has said today that yeah, they knew he was going, and no, they don’t have anything else to say about it, but look forward to hearing from the senator about his trip.

A few words about that landmark immigration bill

Yesterday, Bryan complained that I didn’t put the IRS official taking the Fifth on my Virtual Front Page. I explained that that had been big news the night before, not on Wednesday.

Which reminds me… There’s something else that sort of fell between the cracks — the Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage Tuesday night of the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill:

A Senate committee approved a sweeping immigration reform bill Tuesday that would provide a path to citizenship for up to 11 million illegal immigrants, setting the stage for the full Senate to consider the landmark legislation next month.

After five days of debate over dozens of amendments, the Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 5 in support of the bill, with three Republicans joining the committee’s 10 Democrats. The legislation emerged with its core provisions largely intact, including new visa programs for high-tech and low-skilled workers and new investments in strengthening border control…

Late as this is, I wanted to take note of it. Because it’s what Joe Biden would call a BFD. Or, in more polite language, “sweeping” and “landmark.”

Some notes about developments since Tuesday night:

  • John Boehner, with zampolit Eric Cantor’s concurrence, said today the House isn’t just going to pass the Senate bill, whatever emerges from the Senate. Because, you know, his caucus is et up with Tea Party types these days, which means the speaker can’t just say he’ll do the reasonable thing on immigration.
  •  Further complicating Boehner’s life is the fact that, according to a new poll, 58 percent of Americans favor a “path to citizenship” for current illegals. Of course, his Tea Party members couldn’t care less about what America as a whole wants; they only have to please the portions of their gerrymandered districts who vote in GOP primaries. This could present problems down the line for the Republican Party, if the Senate passes something like the current bill and the House doesn’t also pass something very like it.
  • Here’s a quick overview of the bill, from The Washington Post.

By the way, I should probably share with you this release that I got from Lindsey Graham a few hours before the bill passed Judiciary:

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed three amendments introduced by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).


The Graham Amendments to the bipartisan Senate immigration bill would:


  • ·         Require Extra Background Checks for Aliens from Dangerous Countries.  The Graham Amendment requires additional background checks be performed on aliens petitioning for legalization that come from countries or regions the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State determine represent a threat to the national security of the United States.


  • ·         Close a Potentially Dangerous Loophole in our Asylum and Refugee Program.  Another Graham Amendment would terminate an individual’s asylum or refugee status in most cases where the person returns to his or her home country.  The amendment would limit the ability of those seeking asylum in the United States to travel back to their home country without approval from the Secretary of Homeland Security or Attorney General.


  • ·         Toughen Up on Visa Overstays.  About 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants did not illegally come across the border but simply overstayed their legal visas.  A third Graham Amendment requires visa overstay information collected under a new integrated mandatory exit system be shared with federal law enforcement, intelligence, and national security agencies and that the Secretary of DHS use that information to locate and remove aliens unlawfully present.




Lindsey is working hard to simultaneously accomplish his two conflicting purposes:

  1. To pass a rational comprehensive immigration bill.
  2. To persuade portions of his base that even though he is pushing a rational immigration bill, he’s still being really, really tough on them furriners.

The contemptible SC Senate kills Medicaid expansion

Of course, in the Senate’s defense, it is merely doing what the contemptible SC House and our contemptible governor did before them:

COLUMBIA, SC — The state Senate killed Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, the last hope for supporters who wanted to extend health insurance benefits to South Carolina’s working poor.

The vote was 23-19, with two Republicans – Ray Cleary of Georgetown and Paul Campbell of Berkeley County – joining all of the Senate’s 17 Democrats present in voting for the expansion. Four senators, one Democrat and three Republicans, were absent.

The proposal would have accepted $795.8 million in federal money to pay for health insurance for about 320,000 South Carolinians beginning Jan. 1. There would have been no direct cost to the state. Because the proposed Medicaid expansion was an amendment to the state budget, it would have expired after one year. Lawmakers would have had to vote to expand coverage again next year…

Congratulations to Sens. Ray Cleary and Paul Campbell for doing what is unquestionably, indubitably the right thing. I can’t say I know either of them, really, but I’ve heard Paul Campbell speak, and suspect that he’s one of the brightest people in the Legislature. The retired regional president of Alcoa, he’s a man of accomplishment who seems to have a good grasp of how the world actually works. This vote is consistent with that impression.

As for the rest, particularly those who voted against this for no better reason than the fact that it has the name “Obama” attached to it, and that’s what you’re expected to do if you’re a Republican in South Carolina… well, you’ve just demonstrated once again why I hold partythink in such low regard.

Yes, one can rationalize all day and all night about how there are better ways to achieve the goals of Obamacare, but when you’re all done, you haven’t changed the fact that this is the only plan in effect, or likely to come into effect. This is it. You either do it, or give the idea of significantly broadening access to health care the back of your hand.

An insider’s perspective on the Sanford campaign, Part II

Clare with Karen Tumulty.

Clare with Karen Tumulty.

Here’s the second installment of Clare Morris’ report on her brief stint working on the Mark Sanford campaign for the 1st Congressional District:

How I Spent the Fin­­al Days of Mark Sanford’s Congressional Campaign – Part Two

By Clare Morris

Monday Evening, May 6

That Monday evening, the campaign had a volunteer-appreciation cookout behind the raggedy headquarters for everyone, and media were invited. I was super stoked because I was hoping to meet some national reporters.

Well, I got to meet Karen Tumulty (see pic) who was with Time for many years and now is with The Washington Post. I’ve always been a big fan of Karen’s because she is so not shrill. Her low-key and measured manner is such a welcome addition to the Sunday morning news show clamor. I told her as much and she seemed pleased in her modest way. My friend Lauren FitzHugh and I chatted her up and complimented Karen on her sassy red jacket and found out that she’d gotten it on sale at Talbot’s.

Late in the afternoon before the reporters arrived, Joel Sawyer, Mark’s campaign spokesperson, pulled all the volunteers together and gave them the 411 about the festivities. He let everyone know that reporters were invited and that they might be asked to give comments. He told them that it was up to them if they felt comfortable doing interviews. Again, with more campaign Zen – Joel told them that under no circumstances should they say anything bad about the opponent.

That evening was a really fun time! Although I’m busting on the headquarters for being raggedy, the burgers and dogs at the cookout were really yummy. The atmosphere, which was the same the short time I was in Charleston, was one of youthful optimism.

One of the most fun things about my little stint at the end of the campaign was seeing old friends from my time in Washington in the mid-‘90’s. What a great surprise to see April [Derr], Paige [Herrin Stowell], and Marie [Dupree] when I walked into campaign headquarters on that Monday! Back in the day, April was Mark’s district director and then chief of staff and Paige and Marie shared his scheduling responsibilities. It was so fun to see them all seamlessly slip back into their old roles and hear their perky chatter as they worked on stuff together.

It’s no understatement to say that Mark has more than his share of detractors.

However, it’s a special person who evokes such loyalty in former staff and friends.

These former staffers of twenty-plus years rearranged their lives and in some instances, made sacrifices to come and support him. Now, that says something.

Tuesday, May 7 – Election Day!

There was a subdued sense of excitement at the campaign headquarters on Election Day. Game Day, right? Mark had a very aggressive schedule, just like he’d had all during the campaign. I’d heard that he had eleven different places to be that day, while his opponent had four.

More former staffers and volunteers kept streaming in. The atmosphere continued to be cautiously optimistic.

The Charleston Post and Courier did not endorse Mark, but no one seemed particularly surprised by that. In fact, no one on the campaign ever mentioned it to me. I just know because I read the paper one morning at breakfast. It makes me wonder whether newspaper endorsements are as important as they used to be.

Again, I wore a dress and heels so that no one would ask me to hold up signs. Ten years ago, I helped with the last days of his gubernatorial campaign and did more than my share of sign-holding.

This Election Day was so different for me than the one ten years ago. For one thing, then I’d drawn the short straw and had to help Jenny get ready for the victory party.

That consisted of Jenny sending me into different party stores to pick things up and then telling me that I wasn’t doing it right.

More to come…the results coming in, the victory party, and meeting Maria.

An insider’s perspective on the Sanford campaign, Part I

The author with the candidate.

The author with the candidate.

Several weeks ago, my friend Clare Morris said she planned to go down to Charleston and volunteer in Mark Sanford’s campaign sometime before the 1st Congressional District special election was over. Knowing that she went to college with the guy, and worked for him in his congressional office and later in his Commerce Department, I did not react with shock or horror. At least, not outwardly. I flatter myself that I’m good at the deadpan reaction.

When I ran into her at the benefit for Boston bombing victims Tuesday evening at the Capital City Club, she started telling me about working in the campaign. I asked her to write a guest piece about the experience. She jumped at the opportunity. In fact, she got into it enough that she’s giving it to me in a couple (or maybe even three) installments. This is the first.

So never let it be said that nothing sympathetic to Mark Sanford runs in this bit of the blogosphere. Enjoy Clare’s report:

How I Spent the Final Days of Mark Sanford’s Congressional Campaign

By Clare Morris

I’ve known Mark Sanford since I was 17 years old. We met during Orientation Week for Furman’s Class of ’83.

I’ve always liked Mark – he was an easygoing and fun guy in college.

When he was elected to Congress in the mid-‘90’s, I worked as his press secretary. We kept in touch over the years, and when he became governor of South Carolina, I was the spokesperson for the SC Department of Commerce.

This gives a little context to what I’m about to describe.

I went to Charleston the last few days before the 1st Congressional District special election and volunteered for Mark’s campaign.

When I told people that was what I was planning to do, the answer was pretty much, “Are you crazy???” I was like, “He’s an old friend from college, and I want to be there to support him.”

So, here’s a little timeline of what it was like:


Sunday, May 5th

I wind around East Bay Street in Charleston until I finally find the campaign headquarters. It’s in this small kind of dirty old building across from the Harris Teeter.

I get there and Mark is chatting with a couple who have driven all the way up from Fort Lauderdale to help with his campaign – Laura and Paul. When I noticed that Paul had on a jacket that had a Cato Institute logo on it, I thought, well, this guy is a true believer.

It had been years since Mark and I had seen each other – I’d left Commerce in 2006 to start my own company – and he seemed so tickled to see me. He gave me a big hug, thanked me for coming, introduced me to Paul and Laura, and made me promise that we’d have a “visit.”

What was so interesting about seeing him after all these years is that he seemed so comfortable in his own skin and genuinely happy. You’ve heard in press reports that he’s humbled and appreciative of the support he’s received from former staffers and volunteers, and that’s absolutely how his demeanor seemed.

The campaign headquarters was filled with former staffers (folks I’d worked with back in the mid-‘90’s) and volunteers from all over. The atmosphere was unbridled optimism.

The volunteer coordinator needed us to make calls to get people out to vote and to encourage them to support Mark. The phones were pretty complicated, and the Florida couple and I needed a little orientation to figure out how to work them.

They had phone numbers of likely Mark supporters queued up, and also a script to follow. It was something like this:

“Hi! My name is Clare (no last name) and I’m a friend of Mark Sanford.  I’m just calling to remind you that the special congressional election is coming up on Tuesday. Are you planning to vote?”

At this point, you would document their answer directly into the phone. The next part was:

“Great! Do you think Mark can count on your support?”

Again, you document their answer and thank them for their time.

I have very limited campaign experience. What was really notable about this campaign, however, was that volunteers were instructed to absolutely not say anything bad about the opponent. I was told, “We’re really not into that.”

I made 100 calls that afternoon. It was pretty even between Mark and his opponent. However, one kind of crazy old irate guy said, “If I were you, I wouldn’t say that I’m a friend of Mark Sanford’s!”

I said, “Well, actually, I am. We went to college together.”

He hung up on me.


Monday, May 6th

I purposely wore a dress and heels that day so that I wouldn’t have to hold up campaign signs out by the street.

I was back on phone duty and this time the folks I called could not tell me soon enough that they were voting for Mark and they were taking several of their friends to the polls. They actually interrupted my spiel to tell me that.

Also, interestingly enough, several folks I spoke to said that they were praying for him. One lady actually said that she and her friends were going to hold a prayer vigil for him that night. I made sure to tell him that and he seemed really touched by that.

Not all of the volunteers were human. There was this one lady who dressed up her dachshund and rolled him around in a stroller that had “Mark Sanford for Congress” stickers all over it. She talked to Mark every time he came in the room. I asked him at a volunteer appreciation cookout that night how he knew her, and he said that he didn’t.

At that party, the lady was taking pictures and suddenly put her little dog on my lap. I was sitting by Mark and he started making fun of me. A little while later, she put the dog on his lap. All of a sudden, it wasn’t that funny after all.

More to come…Election Day, the victory party, and meeting Maria.

With the dog...

With the dog…

What Charles Ramsey did — now THAT’S redemptive (as opposed to what Mark Sanford did the next day)

My initial purpose in writing this is to second what Joan Walsh says on Slate — that despite very bad things in Charles Ramsey’s past, including domestic violence, what he did the other day still makes him a hero:

In hindsight, maybe Charles Ramsey was trying to tell us something when he insisted to Anderson Cooper Tuesday night that he’s not a hero. “No, no, no. Bro, I’m a Christian, an American. I’m just like you,” he told the news anchor.

Maybe he knew the whole hero story line would come with an unhappy ending: Now we’ve learned, via the Smoking Gun, that Ramsey was charged with and served time for multiple domestic violence counts. He was also convicted and imprisoned on drug charges and receiving stolen property.

All of that is awful, particularly for his ex-wife and daughter. But it doesn’t change the fact that Ramsey was a hero when he helped Amanda Berry escape Monday night. It may make him even more admirable, if he had an inkling that his sudden fame might expose his troubled past…

Of course he’s a hero — one with deep flaws. But all heroes are flawed. That Mr. Ramsey’s are what they are makes what he did this week, if anything, more laudatory.

I’m not dismissing his past offenses as some sort of colorful details. To me, there is no crime more contemptible than domestic violence, except the abuse of children — which is its close relative. Wife-beaters are right down there among the lowest of the low.

But what he did Monday was a redemptive act. One more excerpt from the piece:

To dismiss the character Ramsey showed in rescuing Berry is to suggest that nobody who’s ever done something bad should try to do something good, because the bad will always matter more. It would be a shame if Ramsey’s exposure, and the cackling about his past from some quarters, served to discourage other ex-convicts from helping others for fear that their pasts will come back to haunt them.

What Mr. Ramsey did on Monday didn’t erase his past offenses. Those are still on his ledger. But it was still heroic, and it has redemptive value.

This brings us to Mark Sanford.

I was pretty upset with the news headlines I saw in a couple of SC newspapers saying that Sanford had achieved “redemption” through his victory. Note again, these were news stories about the election, not opinion pieces, expressing a highly debatable opinion about the meaning of his win. More offensively, they were using the language of faith, of theology, making an assertion about the salvation of a man’s soul. Unless they were talking about trading in pop bottles for the deposit — the only other common use of the word “redeem” I can think of — and we don’t do that in South Carolina.

They had no business doing that. Especially since Mr. Sanford presumes to speak for the Almighty a lot, with his line about the God of… what’s he up to now, by his own count… eighth chances? (As I said in a comment yesterday, I think God should get a good lawyer and seek an injunction to stop Sanford from going around blaming the election result on Him.)

Managing to con a Republican district into voting for you with a campaign that consists of frightening them with a big picture of Nancy Pelosi — a cheap, generic, off-the-shelf, appeal to visceral partisanship — does not constitute “redemption.” Showing Nancy Pelosi and saying “Boo!” is like striking Republicans on the patellar ligament with a rubber hammer — you get a reflexive response. Earlier, when he was talking about himself, he was losing.

So don’t talk to me about redemption.

“Oh, but that’s just your opinion, Brad,” you say. Absolutely. It’s a carefully considered, supportable opinion that I think a lot of people would share. Which is why that word shouldn’t have appeared in those headlines.

I’m about to get back to Charles Ramsey, in just a moment…

For close to four years now, Mark Sanford has been going around asking us to forgive him, being careful to mention that God has forgiven him — the heavy implication being, so what are you people, better than God? He does this in that casual, unconcerned way that he has of expressing himself. Within the context of his other actions — such as his repeated violations of the terms of his divorce decree — it all comes across as just another element in his powerful sense of self-entitlement. Mark Sanford does whatever he wants — ditch the job to run off to Argentina, abandon his boys on Father’s Day weekend, lie to his staff about where he’s going, veto the entire state budget, block stimulus money that his state needs so he can posture on FoxNews about it 46 times, carry defecating piglets into the State House to make a cheap political point and leave others to clean up the mess, use state funds to visit his mistress in the Southern Hemisphere when he’s making state employees on state business double up in hotel rooms (because he’s such a fiscal conservative), enter his ex-wife’s house without permission repeatedly, because he feels like it. Because he’s Mark Sanford, and he’s entitled. And if any of it gets him into trouble, then we’re supposed to forgive him.

Meanwhile, Charles Ramsey is a sinner who’s done jail time for his crimes. He doesn’t ask us to forgive him, much less expect us to forgive him. He doesn’t ask anything of us. He exhibits no sense of entitlement. He’s just this dude who, when a woman cried for help while he was eating his McDonald’s, went out of his way to help her. A guy with a low-enough opinion of himself that when a pretty young white girl comes and hugs him, he knows something is wrong.

What he did doesn’t erase what he’s done in the past, and he doesn’t go around telling us that it should. But it was a redemptive act, and it was heroic.

Missing the point about the wicked Lowcountry

Last night before the results were in, a friend shared with me this Facebook update from John Dickerson of CBS and Slate:

If Mark Sanford wins tonight it will mark a real evolution for South Carolina as a state where values voters play a big role. Sanford, Gingrich’s win in the SC GOP primary. This is not the state where George Bush spoke at Bob Jones in 2000.

No, no, no. Apples and oranges. As I responded:

It’s the Lowcountry. Stuff like that never mattered as much in the Lowcountry. Bob Jones is in the part of the state where they think Charlestonians are all heathens.

I could have added, “drinking, swearing, gambling, fornicating heathens,” but it was a text, so I kept it short.

The Calvinist/fundamentalist part of the state, where Bob Jones is, is the Upstate. It’s like confusing Maine and Florida, only on a smaller scale. Charleston is where the hell-raisers live, and let live. It has always been thus.

Mr. Dickerson compounded his error with a piece in Slate this morning headlined, “Paris, South Carolina:”

South Carolina conservatives may still say a candidate’s sins matter, but they aren’t voting that way. In fact, if you weren’t privy to the state’s strong social conservative history, you could almost mistake South Carolinians for city folk—people who vote for experience, policy, and political leanings and show a sophisticate’s relativism toward personal moral failings. These days, South Carolinians seem almost Parisian when they enter the voting booth.

It’s a clever angle. And accurate, in that Charleston is, indeed the Paris of South Carolina. The difference is that South Carolina isn’t France.

It’s true that the values voters don’t have the impact statewide that they did back in the early 90s. The two strains of libertarianism (economic, not cultural) — the Club for Growth types who love Sanford, and the more populist Tea Party types who love Nikki Haley — have crowded them out to a great extent.

But they’re still here. And just because Sanford won in the Lowcountry doesn’t mean their influence isn’t still felt. Maybe he would have won in another part of the state. But winning down there doesn’t prove it.

The Gingrich angle that Dickerson brings up is indeed intriguing. But I don’t think that’s a good example. South Carolinians had a fit and broke with their history of choosing the eventual nominee because Gingrich at that moment was coming across as the guy who most wanted to rip out Barack Obama’s throat with his teeth. It was a weird moment. He appealed to something dark and visceral and atavistic in the SC electorate, something that for me hearkened back to Tillmanism. There was that, and the fact that a lot of establishment Republicans didn’t want Nikki Haley’s candidate to win.

I don’t think the two instances mark a trend away from family values. But yeah, Charleston is Paris if you like…

Mark Sanford’s utter contempt for the Republican Party

Mark Sanford on the last night of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Mark Sanford on the last night of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I don’t have much time for blogging today — I was sick all weekend (ran a fever over 100, which for me is high, since I’m normally about 97 degrees) and couldn’t get to some things I wanted to get ahead on, so now I’m way behind.

But since the special election in the 1st Congressional District is tomorrow, and since Mark Sanford is again what he was at the beginning — the front-runner — I thought I’d share an observation.

Over the weekend, in a story about the state Republican Convention Saturday, Andy Shain wrote:

The mixed feelings of party faithful over former Gov. Mark Sanford’s return to politics also were on display.

Sanford did not attend the convention, spending the day campaigning in the Lowcountry ahead of his Tuesday contest against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the 1st District congressional special election. However, Sanford’s campaign had a phone bank operating in the coliseum lobby that was sparsely attended, even after a plea for volunteers…

Sanford wasn’t there. No big deal. After all, he’s busy, right? His political comeback is in the balance, and he’s on an upswing, so he just couldn’t take time out for the convention, as much as he wanted to be there, right?

Wrong. Even in the best of circumstances, Mark Sanford would as soon have a root canal as attend a state GOP convention — especially since he already has the party’s nomination, meaning that there’s nothing more the party can do for Mark Sanford.

Mark Sanford’s contempt for the Republican Party is a palpable thing. Back in the days when I was supporting his candidacy for governor, and for perhaps a year or two after, I used to find it an endearing, although somewhat odd, trait. Because, as you know, I hold the parties in contempt myself.

A couple of incidents from that period:

  1. Right after the bitterly-fought primary and runoff against Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler in 2002 — in which what essentially amounted to the party establishment had done everything it could think of to stop Sanford — the party bigwigs staged a big reconciliation event out in front of state party headquarters. Not only were all of Bob Peelers’ key backers there, but even people who usually took little interest in gubernatorial politics, by which I mean Glenn McConnell (who as senator had little time to spare on such lesser offices as governor). It was quite the lovefest. Sanford showed up for it, but when I tried to grab him afterwards to see how he felt about this show of support after the bitter primary, he was gone. I found Jenny, and she urged me to call him on his cell, as he was on the way back to Charleston. So I did, when I got back to the office, and when I asked what he thought of all those people who had so recently opposed him bowing down and offering their wholehearted fealty, he said something like (I don’t have the exact words in front of me now), “Yes, well… I suppose people do those things.” Which sort of communicates the degree to which he didn’t care about those people, but not quite — you had to hear his tone to get the full effect. Wow, I thought. Even though I have no fondness for parties or respect for party loyalty, I was impressed by his insouciance. Those people had done all that for him, had gathered from across the state to show how much they cared, and he really could not give a flip. I tried to think of it in positive terms, but it was weird.
  2. The next incident that stands out most in my mind occurred at the climax of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. This is a story I’ve told before. George W. Bush was giving his acceptance speech, and partisan passion in the room was at that fever pitch that it only achieves about once every four years. For people who are into the party, this is the supreme moment, so every square inch of the floor and risers of Madison Square Garden was packed. I was standing in the aisle next to the South Carolina delegation, and had other standing people pressing against me on all sides. Even those who had seats were standing, some of them on their chairs. When he bent over to say something to me, I realized that the person pressing against my left shoulder was Mark Sanford. I forget most of what he said, but I made note of what he said, in that usual bored, lollygaggin’ voice, at the moment when the excitement all around us was at its peak: “I don’t know if you’ve read that book, Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds….” I laughed, and said no, I hadn’t. But the overwhelming impression I had at the moment was that there was one person, among all those thousands, who felt even less connected to the pulsating sense of unity in that enormous room than I did, and that was Mark Sanford.

Oh, a word about why Sanford was standing there in the aisle to begin with. He wasn’t an actual delegate. When I said something about his not having a seat, he indicated — I forget the exact words — that no one had offered him one. After the president’s speech, as things were breaking up, I joshingly asked Speaker David Wilkins why nobody had seen fit to offer their governor a seat, and he suddenly looked very serious, and not a little put-upon. He said he had personally offered the governor his seat, but had been refused.

This was Mark Sanford’s relationship with his party in a nutshell. From the moment he became his party’s nominee, through his entire time in office, he gave loyal, dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, people ready to bend over backwards for their governor, the back of his hand.

Given my own disdain for parties, it took me awhile to connect his lack of caring about other Republicans with what I came to know as his utter lack of concern for anyone other than himself. I didn’t realize what a narcissist Sanford was until June 2009; that came as a shock. Why was it such a shock? Because Mark Sanford was always so different from any other politician I had ever encountered that it was hard to know what to think of his actions.

Once I did, his contempt for his party seemed itself contemptible, and I actually had some sympathy for the party loyalists whom he had repeatedly dissed.

Usually, people who go into politics are to some extent people people. With Sanford, that’s just not the case. He basically has no use for people other than himself, and that included Republicans.

What is bitterly ironic about this is that he is likely to win tomorrow for one reason: That district was drawn to elect a Republican, any Republican, and there are thousands of voters who will pull the lever because Sanford has “Republican” after his name. Because they think he is one of them. When in actuality, he would probably be amused by their assumption, by their unthinking loyalty, if he bothered to care about them at all…

Dueling videos, opening shots in 2014 campaign

James Smith’s comments about Nikki Haley and “corruption” should also be taken within the context of the above ad from the Democratic Governor’s Association.

Meanwhile, with the video below, Haley supporters show that they want to run against Barack Obama again. But at least this ad mentions Sheheen, which is something.

How do the ads strike me? As I indicated earlier, I’m a little leery of the word “corruption.” Yeah, Nikki Haley has a serious transparency problem, she’s not very good at paying her taxes on time, and that $40k she got from Wilbur Smith when she was in the House raises a questions that have not yet been answered. But “corruption” is a word I tend to use for something more overt, more red-handed. Early in my career, back in Tennessee, I saw out-and-out corruption — Gov. Ray Blanton selling pardons. He went to prison for it. Maybe that made me overly fussy. The things the DGA are citing here are real problems, and they provide us with plenty of reason not to vote for Nikki Haley; I’m just quibbling over the word.

The Sheheen/Obamacare ad is just disgraceful. But then, so is the governor’s position of refusing to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, so I see it entirely in that context. For me, her position is indefensible, so the ad is as well. Then there’s that additional ugliness of playing to the fact that “Obama” is the boogeyman to so many white voters in South Carolina. “Obamacare” is used as an incantation, with the operative ingredient being “Obama,” not the “care.” The issue is secondary to the fact that that awful Obama person is associated with it.

Larry Flynt endorses ‘America’s great sex pioneer,’ Mark Sanford

Gina Smith really buried the lede in that story.

I read this morning her account of Mark Sanford’s visage being used by a website that promotes extramarital affairs (she also mentioned his endorsement by Rand Paul, which is about as startling as the fact that the Club for Growth still loves him).

That was interesting, but I didn’t get to the jump page. So I missed this news:

Today, the endorsements have been rolling in. The National Republican Congressional Committee has pulled its support for Sanford but, this morning, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., offered his backing, and the conservative group FreedomWorks followed suit this afternoon.

So did Larry Flynt.

The noted porn king, candidate and political agitator released a sarcastic YouTube endorsement of Sanford as “America’s great sex pioneer,” announced a donation of a legal-maximum $2,600 to Sanford’s campaign, and invited Sanford to “meet with me, man to man, for a photo opportunity and to shake my hand in gratitude for my endorsement.”…

Either falsely or earnestly, Flynt praised Sanford for exposing the “sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today” – and praised pro-Sanford voters for their willingness to allegedly reject those values in favor of Sanford’s candidacy…

First, I didn’t know Larry Flynt had a sense of irony, much less one that extended to self-deprecation. He sort of has to know he’s a sleazeball, and mock himself for it, in order to mock Sanford.

To be called a “pioneer” by the guy who made his rep publishing pictures too dirty for Penthouse (which made its rep publishing pictures too dirty for Playboy) is indeed a rare honor.

Sanford loyalists — and I know they are out there, such as the guy in the audience who kept going “Whoo!” to every other thing his candidate said in the debate Monday night — will say it is unfair for such distractions as this to prevent people from focusing on their man’s good qualities.

And in one sense it is a distraction. All this focus on Sanford’s continuing relationship with his soulmate from Argentina distracts us from the stark truth that well before he slipped away from his post in June 2009, Mark Sanford had demonstrated amply that he should never again hold public office, by all he had done and all he had failed to do, as congressman and especially as governor.

But in another sense, it’s perfectly relevant. It’s just another foretaste of the mockery to which South Carolina will subject itself if its 1st District voters elect this man again.


Sanford’s continuing with the Nancy Pelosi shtick

Sanford cash

You would think that, after standing on a public street pretending to “debate” a life-sized photograph of Nancy Pelosi, Mark Sanford would realize that he had embarrassed himself in three ways:

  1. By making Rep. Pelosi his target, he’s doing exactly the same thing that he’s accusing Elizabeth Colbert Busch of doing — failing to confront his actual opponent. This “run against the national boogeyman (or woman)” shtick is the last resort of the desperate. It cries out that he has nothing relevant to say to the 1st District. It’s like the political equivalent of how the Tsarnaevs learned to be terrorists — they just got it from the Internet. It’s garden-variety, off-the-shelf, inside-the-Beltway partisan nonsense.
  2. By choosing MUSC as his background, he unnecessarily calls attention to the fact that he has always been hostile to the very idea of public research universities in South Carolina. If Mark Sanford had his way, institutions such as MUSC would not exist. It’s just not a good idea, for him, to remind voters of that.
  3. By standing specifically in front of a building named for Dr. James Colbert — the father of his opponent — he not only demonstrates a shocking cluelessness of landmarks in the main city in his district, but underlines the contributions that his opponent’s family have made to the community in which they are so strongly rooted.

After so thoroughly striking out with this shtick yesterday, you’d think Sanford would abandon it. But above you see a picture of him Tweeted by Stacy Jacobson with the ABC affiliate in Charleston. Her explanation of the picture:

Sanford holds up $1,000. Says Pelosi spent $600k to campaign against him

Sheesh. Never mind that, as an image, it evokes the photo that so embarrassed Mitt Romney.

That’s our former governor. When he finds a way to make himself look silly, he shticks with it…

Kathleen Parker writes as though Sanford were toast

The State today ran this column by Kathleen Parker, which doesn’t come right out and say “Mark Sanford’s gonna lose,” but seems to assume that to be the case throughout. Here’s how the piece ends:

Sanford didn’t even have the decency to resign from office but rather finished his term and vanished for a couple of years only to re-emerge in pursuit of a fresh legacy. He recently won the Republican primary for an open congressional seat and faces Elizabeth Colbert Busch (sister of TV’s Stephen Colbert) in a special election May 7.

To many South Carolinians, especially women, Sanford’s candidacy is an embarrassment of Weiner­esque proportions. But if history is any guide, his candidacy is on life support. Not only did his former wife, Jenny Sanford, not stand by her man, she also wrote a book, went on TV and recently took him to court for trespassing. This in the wake of his fiancee showing up at his primary victory party and appearing onstage with him and two of his sons, one of whom had not previously met his future stepmother.

Sanford’s lack of empathy for his family, not to mention his impeachable judgment, should disqualify him from further public service, an opinion apparently shared by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which recently withdrew support for his candidacy.

Where the wife goes, so go the people…

An interesting detail to note is that this piece is several days old. It’s dated for April 19, which was three days before the PPP poll showed Elizabeth Colbert Busch leading by 9 points. So Kathleen was just sort of going on gut on this — assuming that her theory, that if the wife doesn’t forgive the voters won’t, would apply.

I think it’s premature to count Mark Sanford out. That district is so Republican, and he won the crowded GOP primary. The same people who voted for him all those times before seem poised to do it again. Relying on those voters not to show up on election day seems like a thin premise.

I now think he may lose. I’d very much like to see him lose, because it would go a long way toward bolstering my faith in democracy in South Carolina, which frankly has been repeatedly bruised over the last few years. It would show that voters in that district have some sense.

But I’m not counting on it, not on the basis of information currently available to me.

And I don’t think you can predict it based on any generalizations about sex scandals elsewhere in the country. National media (and I know Kathleen isn’t like other national media, since she lives in SC, but the audience she’s writing for is national) keep making the mistake of lumping Sanford in with Weiner and others, as though there were a connection. When there isn’t.

This is related to another fallacy that national media treat as gospel — that you can make generalizations about individual congressional elections based on party. As though a Democratic or Republican victory at one end of the country indicates a trend that will bear out at the other end of the country. Which utterly ignores the fact that every candidate is different, and is running under different conditions, in a different venue with different voters.

And just as with Tolstoy’s observation that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” every sex scandal is different. And one involving Mark Sanford is necessarily more different than others, because Mark Sanford is utterly unlike any politician I’ve ever encountered in my long career. The odd ways that he relates, or doesn’t relate, to other human beings (including, and perhaps especially, member of his own party) is just unique. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Therefore the psychology of what motivates people to vote for him is also unique. His political appeal is a strange animal, hard to understand and harder to predict.

So I would not dismiss him yet, as much as I may want to. But to do so, I’d have to be more certain that I am that voters who show up on May 7 in that district will act sensibly, rather than embarrass our state. And there are just too many quirky variables to predict with confidence.