Category Archives: South Carolina

I can’t bring myself to believe the charges against Courson

I’ve had a day and more to think about the news regarding John Courson, and it remains tough for me to come up with much to say about it, beyond this:

I can’t believe these charges.

I know Courson as a longtime source. We’re not close buddies or anything. I haven’t been on baseball road trips with him like Greg Gregory. All I can attest to is the impression I’ve formed dealing with him professionally over the course of decades.courson

And that impression is: John Courson is a gentleman, one who deeply values honor. Not only that, but he is a man to whom being a gentleman, in an old-school sense, is extremely important. He’d no more throw it away than he would tear down that Marine Corps banner he flies in front of his house and trample on it. He certainly wouldn’t do it in an underhanded scheme to obtain filthy lucre.

That’s just something I’m not able to imagine.

So there has to be some other explanation.

I just don’t know what that would be.

It seems unlikely that prosecutor David Pascoe would have stepped out on this without having what he believes to be solid evidence. After all this time, and all this expectation that’s been built up, and all the controversy infused with the ugly taint of partisanship, he’d be crazy to go after Courson unless he was sure he had him.

Even if you accept the notion — which I don’t — that this is all partisan politics, a desperate attempt by a Democrat to weaken the supremely dominant Republicans, Pascoe would be nuts to make a play like this without an ace in his hand. (And if it were a matter of a Democrat going after Republicans, why target Courson, who enjoys so much Democratic support?)

What might that ace be? One assumes he has, or would want to have, documents showing a money trail. And if that’s what he has, what explanation will Courson have to counter that?

In any case, I’m just not able to believe he’s guilty.

Yeah, it’s true: One can be fooled about someone. I’ll never forget my uncle’s reaction to Lost Trust. When the feds charged John I. Rogers, my uncle said no way. They’ve got the wrong man. No one in Bennettsville could believe that Rogers would do anything underhanded. If it had been the local senator, Jack Lindsey, no one would have raised an eyebrow. But John I. Rogers? No.

And then Rogers pleaded guilty.

But I don’t see that happening here.

We’ll see.

SC’s American Party has a candidate in the 5th, too

American Party

The American Party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace awhile back (not to be confused with the George Wallace version) is probably the closest organized group out there to the UnParty (a.k.a. the Grownup Party), even though I can’t bring myself to buy into some of its precepts.

So I’m going to run this release about their candidate for Mick Mulvaney’s 5th District congressional seat in its entirety, since you probably haven’t seen it:

The special election in South Carolina that will determine on June 20th who replaces Republican Mick Mulvaney in the US Congress is an early bellwether of the current sentiment in America.
Are South Carolina voters in the 5th Congressional District satisfied with our present political status quo, or are they ready to make another choice and pick a new, constructive approach to our many challenges?
The American Party candidate, Josh Thornton, provides that new choice – and direction!
Please take a minute to read his candidacy announcement below as well as the press release from a courageous Republican candidate in the race who acted on her convictions by withdrawing her candidacy and switching her support to Josh Thornton and the American Party.
Whether you live in the 5th District or not, please consider helping us send a message to Washington DC, and America, that we are tired of the gridlock and division constantly perpetuated by our present dominant parties. It is time to fix our broken politics – and, it can begin in this special election!


American Party Candidate Announces for the Fifth Congressional District Special Election to Fill Seat Vacated by the Trump Appointment of Mick Mulvaney

 

My name is Josh Thornton. I am a 41 year old educator from Rock Hill, SC. I have been a private and public school educator for 19 years. I have been happily married to my wife, April, for 16 years and we have a 10 year old son. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Math education from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

Josh Thornton

Josh Thornton

As a resident of York County for the past 13 years, I have voted in too many unopposed elections or elections with only two unacceptable choices. As a result, I am running for Congress in the 5th District of SC. The House of Representatives of the United States was formed to give voice to every man and woman in our country. When you look at past elections and the current list of announced candidates for the 5th District, most are established career politicians, party officials, long term insiders or party activists.
I am running for Congress for several reasons. One being that the people of SC need a candidate who is not just another political partisan, but instead is someone who represents a positive choice for badly needed progress. South Carolinians need to ask themselves if they were positively motivated during the last election cycle. Or, if they were instead, merely choosing between the “lesser of two evils”.
We need meaningful competition in our political races in SC. For example, we need competitive general elections, not just competitive Republican primaries. It is time that South Carolinians had a substantially different choice in our elections. That new choice is Josh Thornton of the American Party.
The 5th Congressional District’s special election is a unique opportunity for the voters of our district to send a message to Washington, and to our Nation. We can make it clear that we are tired of choosing between a partisan “warrior” with a “D” or with an “R” next to their name- a partisan who follows the mandates of their party, even when it inevitably leads to harming our nation and dividing our people.
Our two party system is a broken system that is causing unprecedented gridlock. Republicans feel forced to vote in favor of the President and Democrats feel forced to vote against the President. This is catastrophic for the American people, because they often vote according to their Party mandates and at the expense of their constituencies. An American Party Congressman will be able to vote in favor of a Presidential policy when it is positive for their district and their Nation and to vote against policies that would be detrimental. An American Party member of Congress will be able to function as an independent public servant whose only objective will be to benefit the majority of the citizens of their district and their nation.
Government should be by the people and for the people; not, by the rich and for the party. It is time to give the people of SC a new choice and a new approach to governing. We have never needed it more than now.

Republican Candidate for the Fifth Congressional District Race Decides to Support the American Party and Its Candidate

 

Penry Gustafson of Camden, SC has suspended her campaign to run for U.S. Congress. She had previously announced publicly she would be filing as a Republican in an already expansive race to fill Mick Mulvaney’s 5th Congressional District seat. This statement clarifies the reasons for her decision and the change in plans for her political future.

“Where and when one starts politically is essential. I want to make absolutely certain to choose the right place for my personal beliefs and political ideology. More importantly, my family has always come first before career, and at this moment, I am needed more there than anywhere else.”

Her desire to bring back decency and common sense to public office is what drove her to enter the race. “I could not turn away from this wonderful opportunity to prove that the average citizen can seek public office along with the career politicians that seem to drive every single election.” Her slogan “Voice for All” refers to all citizens, all voters, all potential voters. She claims “Open, balanced solutions to complex problems is what is needed right now to calm the rocky waters.”

Her platform issues included bringing back trust, respect, and honor to our publicly held positions; providing an alternative choice for voters outside establishment candidates; supporting and implementing term limit legislation for all publicly held positions; working toward racial reconciliation; and using a fiscally responsible approach towards a workable balanced budget.

Having never run for office, Gustafson naturally decided that the Republican Party would be her best chance at winning any future elections in South Carolina and was advised that doing otherwise would be “political suicide.” She has been a voting Republican since 1988. However, after intense review and consideration, Gustafson is now supporting and plans to represent the third largest certified party in the state, the American Party. A modern and moderate party founded in 2014 in SC, The American Party, addresses our growing political dysfunction and offers more choices for the voting public.

Jim Rex, American Party Chairman says, “The American Party welcomes the involvement and support of Penry Gustafson!The Party was created by former Republicans, Democrats,and Independents who believe we need a new choice and approach to politics in our State and Nation. Penry Gustafson’s considerable talents and attributes-along with her unselfish patriotism-will be animportant addition to our efforts to fix a broken system.”

Gustafson intends to support Josh Thornton, a Rock Hill educator and American Party candidate. Finally, Penry proclaims, “We need viable candidates not beholding to special interests, lobbyists, or the two-party system, who can truly represent everyone.”

Please check out: thornton4congress or, call 803-360-4417 to talk about how you can help.

Mulvaney shows he’s ready to play in the biglys; bats 4 Pinocchios his first time out

Mick_Mulvaney,_Official_Portrait,_113th_Congress_(cropped)

Some of you may have doubted that Mick Mulvaney, swept into Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010, was ready for the majors.

Well, he’s doing great by the standards of the Trump era. The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker gave him Four Pinocchios in his first at bat!

White House budget director’s false claims about the Obamacare legislative process

When I Tweeted about that this morning, former S.C. Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler responded, “He probably believes it. Those same false claims/lies got him elected to Congress the first time.”

Well, yeah, since he was elected by the “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” crowd. But it matters more now, given his position.

So, welcome to the majors, Mr. Mulvaney…

pinocchio_4

If GOP candidates are talking this way, it’s going to be a long time before things start getting better

connelly

I see that Rep. Jeff Duncan has given Chad Connelly a boost — at least, I assume it constitutes a boost — in his efforts to differentiate himself from the crowd seeking the GOP nomination for Mick Mulvaney’s seat.

But that endorsement isn’t what interests me. What interests me is this language that Duncan used in making the endorsement:

Duncan believes Connelly, a former chairman of the state GOP, would work with him and President Donald Trump to “drain the swamp, secure our borders, and limit government.”

There’s nothing terribly surprising that one Tea Party Class Republican would use those terms in speaking of another of his party.

I just think it’s worth noting that this is where we are now. Which means we’re a long, long way from the Trump nightmare being over.

It won’t be over, of course, until he is gone from office, and gone in a way that even his supporters are glad to see him go.

That won’t happen as long as Republicans are invoking his name and using his talking points to praise each other. (At least, the first two are Trumpisms. The third point, “limit government,” is just one of those things some Republicans say the way other people clear their throats.)

They won’t go immediately from this point to denouncing him, mind you. If and when things start to get better, the first sign will be simply tactfully neglecting to mention him. That will be promising. Then they will mildly demur. Then they will hesitantly denounce, and so forth.

The White House currently is a raging cauldron, a place that emits chaos the way a volcano emits lave. At any time, it is likely to generate the Tweet or other eruption that will be the beginning of the end.

But obviously, it’s going to be a long journey…

Congressman Jeff Duncan Endorses Chad Connelly from UTPL on Vimeo.

You know what’s ‘not what elected office should look like?’ Coronor, that’s what

Probably the dumbest headline I’ve seen this week was this one: “House panel moves to scrap education, experience requirements for coroners.”

Riiihhhgt… because that’s just what we need in the official who investigates unattended deaths in our counties — less expertise.

And the body of the story didn’t make a better impression than the headline:

Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford

An S.C. House panel Wednesday unanimously OK’d a proposal to scrap state laws requiring that county coroners meet education and experience standards.

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, says his bill strips “onerous” state laws that ensure only a handful of people in each county can run for the position.

“That’s not what elected office should look like,” Rutherford said, adding more qualifications are required of county coroners than U.S. presidents….

Let’s set aside the fact that this moment, when we’ve just elected the most outrageously unfit president in history, is not the best moment to tout the presidency’s lack of prerequisites… and move on to my point.

Which is this: The office of coroner is itself precisely “not what elected office should look like.” Coroner, a strictly technical, magisterial position that has nothing to do with politics, is precisely the kind of office that it is idiotic to fill by popular election.

If you want the job done right, you have the county administrator interview qualified candidates, and hire the person with the best experience and credentials.

You want to amend the law in a way that makes sense? Don’t dumb down the office in some misguided nod to democracy. Go the other way. Start by taking “coroner” off the ballot.

Any Democrats wanna run? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

As you probably know, everybody and his sister has lined up to run for the GOP nomination for Mick Mulvaney’s congressional seat in the 5th District. As of last week:

So far, six candidates have declared on the GOP side of the race: former state party chairman Chad Connelly; anti-Common Core activist Sheri Few; Camden attorney Tom Mullikin; Norman; Pope; and Indian Land attorney Kris Wampler….

(Yes, Sheri Few is running again! If at first you don’t succeed…)

It’s a mad scramble; you can’t hold ’em back! I read that story at breakfast at the Capital City Club one day last week, then folded my iPad and stood up to turn to leave — and there was Chad Connelly sitting at a table yards away with four or five other people, already having a campaign meeting. Time’s a wastin’!

And on the Democratic side…

I received this today, about an hour ago, from Clay Middleton with the SC Democratic Party:

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It is my privilege to lead the SCDP’s candidate recruitment efforts for the 2018 cycle.  The cycle is off to an early start with the upcoming special election in the 5th Congressional District.  After conversations with many great Democrats throughout the district, we expect a candidate to announce their candidacy next week.  The filing deadline is March 13th.  To receive regular updates on this special election campaign,sign up here.
While things are moving quickest in the 5th, it is not too early to start planning for a 2018 run for office!  If you are potentially interested, or know someone else who would be a strong candidate, please email me at plan2run@scdp.org.    
Throughout the country, Democratic energy is higher than ever before.  Earlier this week, in a special election in the reddest State Senate district in Connecticut, Democrats improved by 25 points over the 2016 general election result.  South Carolinians are just as fired up, organized, and ready to vote.  We just need great Democratic candidates to harness and capitalize on this energy.

Yeah, y’all are moving mighty quick in the 5th! You’re already up to the crucial, Let’s look and see if we can find somebody willing to run stage. You might even have one next week! The Republicans are probably wrenching their necks looking back at you! Or would be, if they gave you a thought.

And to think, this is the seat held by Democrat John Spratt for a generation before Mulvaney replaced him in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

If you’re a Democrat, and even if you aren’t, this is sad, folks…

Thank for the leadership, Speaker Lucas

If seems that Grover Norquist no longer runs the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Jay Lucas does. And he’s doing a good job. Along with Rep. Gary Simrill and everybody who voted for his bill yesterday.

It shouldn’t be remarkable that the House just voted to increase the state gasoline tax by (eventually) 10 cents a gallon. After all, everything about the situation would tend to lead any reasonable person to take that action:

  • We need road repairs.
  • We lack money for road repairs.
  • We have a tax that is dedicated to paying for road needs.
  • That tax is among the lowest in the country.
  • It hadn’t been raised for 30 years.

But as we know, our Legislature hasn’t been inclined to make calm, objective decisions with regard to taxes since the GOP took over in 1995. Since then, taxes have been for cutting, no matter the situation — because ideology rather than real-life conditions have ruled. And that approach, as the Speaker says, “simply places politics above responsible public policy.”

Speaker Jay Lucas

Speaker Jay Lucas

Of course, you don’t have to be an anti-government ideologue to have reservations about a tax increase. And in this instance, it would have been wrong to give DOT more money without reforming the governance of the agency. But this bill takes care of that, too.

Is this a done deal? Nope, because it still has to get through the Senate, which unlike the House isn’t run by anybody. As a body, it has been as allergic to DOT reform as the House used to be to tax increases. And that’s not the whole story. There’s also Sen. Tom Davis, whom The State today described as “libertarian-leaning,” which made me smile. Tom leans toward libertarianism the way Donald Trump leans toward self-aggrandizement.

But I want to praise Speaker Lucas and the House for getting us this far.

As far as we know, the Palmetto tree hasn’t offended anyone

Blue Palmetto

We haven’t had a discussion about this, have we?

The Democrats in South Carolina are fixin’ (I’m trying to be folksy in keeping with the national party’s cornball televised response last night from the diner) to have their first Blue Palmetto Dinner in late April:

It is my great pleasure to announce the upcoming release of tickets to the inaugural Blue Palmetto Dinner, which will take place on the evening of Friday, April 28 in Columbia at the Medallion Conference Center, located at 7309 Garners Ferry Rd, Columbia, SC 29209.
The Blue Palmetto Dinner, with its name derived from the flag that unites us as South Carolinians, will showcase a party that fights for all of us. As our premier fundraising event of the year,  we encourage everyone to attend. 
Tickets will be made available on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22ND, at 10:00AM EST.
There will be special pricing and early notice given to our County Parties, and additional benefits will be made available for SCDP Members (Yellow Dog Democrats) and Committee of 100 Members. Finally, hotel blocks will be announced and made available in the coming days as well. 
The 2018 Elections are crucial for the direction of our party and the proceeds for our dinner will help us launch a coordinated field effort this year! We can’t afford to wait until next year to organize, recruit and prepare for these elections.
STAY TUNED for our official ticket release, and we look forward to seeing you in Columbia for the Blue Palmetto Dinner and SCDP Convention on April 28-29 at the Medallion Center. 
Sincerely,
Jaime Harrison
Chair, South Carolina Democratic Party

Of course, there’s nothing new about it but the name. Your Daddy — who was almost certainly a Democrat, if he was from around here — knew it as the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. (At least, it was known as that in most parts of the country. In SC, I see references without the “Day.”) So did everyone else, until last year, when Democrats decided the writer of the Declaration and the hero of New Orleans weren’t quite impeccable enough for their tastes. Because slavery. And the Trail of Tears.

I suppose they could have gone with a Roosevelt-Kennedy Dinner, but probably didn’t because Japanese Internment and Marilyn Monroe. Or something. The flesh being weak, sooner or later something bad is bound to come out about anybody who ever lived. I suppose they could have gone with Jesus, but there are doubts as to whether He actually voted Democratic.

And no, I’m not making light of slavery; I’m just saying that pretty much anybody who ever did anything really great probably did some stuff that we wouldn’t be proud of, if we chose to focus on that.

People are problematic.

So they went with a tree, one that near as we can tell never offended anybody. So they’re probably safe.

But time will tell.

The Boeing vote against unionization

787

I used to work for a publisher who had come up through the newsroom, and he used to say that if a company’s employees vote to unionize, that’s the CEO’s fault: He had failed to run the company so that employees didn’t feel the need for a union.

If his rule holds, apparently Boeing is doing something right:

Production workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted Wednesday not to join the Machinists, maintaining southern reluctance toward unionization.

Vote totals weren’t immediately available. Under NLRB rules, workers must wait a year before another union vote.

In a statement, Machinists organizer Mike Evans said the union was disappointed with the vote but vowed to stay in close touch with Boeing workers to figure out next steps.

“Ultimately it will be the workers who dictate what happens next,” Evans said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to talk with hundreds of Boeing workers over the past few years. Nearly every one of them, whether they support the union or not, have improvements they want to see at Boeing. Frankly, they deserve better.”…

Since you have the union’s response, I’ll also give you this one from Lindsey Graham:

“Boeing’s South Carolina workforce is second to none.  As South Carolinians, these employees make us proud each day with every 787 Dreamliner that rolls off the assembly line.  They have earned every accolade that comes their way.   

“I was pleased to hear the results of yesterday’s election.  The employees’ decision will keep in place a business model that attracted Boeing to South Carolina in the first place.  Their vote is a strong signal to other businesses that South Carolina is a great place to call home. 

“Boeing is a valued community leader, an admirable employer, and a staple of the South Carolina business community.  We are proud they decided to call South Carolina home years ago and I continue to look forward to a beneficial relationship for the employees, community, and company in the years to come.”

As for what I think, well, I’m not a big union guy. I tend to think like Reid Ashe, my old publisher: It’s up to the employees, and I see no point in a union getting between employer and employed if they have a good, healthy relationship. (In other words, Bryan, if it’s a “happy ship.”)

Of course, as you know, I’m philosophically opposed to public employee unions. But in the private sector, it all depends…

Did y’all watch Nikki’s State of the State? Thoughts?

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File photo from the governor’s Facebook page.

CAVEAT: When I wrote this post I had missed something important in the governor’s speech, something that had come during the part I missed. It has bearing on the points I make in the post, and here it is.

I had a Community Relations Council meeting last night, so I only heard the very last part of Nikki Haley’s last State of the State on the radio driving home.

It sounded fine, as fond farewells go. I was a little disappointed by one thing. I heard her talking in a roundabout, indirect way about getting the Confederate flag down:

But above all, I will remember how the good people of South Carolina responded to those tragedies, with love and generosity and compassion, and what that has meant for our state.

I spoke earlier of my dear desire to see the image of South Carolina changed for the better. Standing here tonight, I can say with every confidence that it has happened, that that desire has been fulfilled.

But not because of me. The people of South Carolina accomplished the highest aspiration I had for our state all on their own.

They did it by showing the entire world what love and acceptance looks like. They did it by displaying for all to see the power of faith, of kindness, and of forgiveness. They did it by stepping up to every challenge, through every tragedy, every time.

But I wish she’d spoken about it more directly. When I got a copy of her speech later, I found that it only contained the word “flag” once, and that was in reference to the Clemson flag she and her daughter had hoisted over the State House earlier this week. (NOTE: This counts officially as a sports reference, and fulfills the weekly quota! So if y’all want to talk about that football game the other night, here’s a place for you to do it.)

Which disappointed me. Why? Because I think getting that other flag down was her defining moment, the one when she became the leader of South Carolina, and led us to where our lawmakers had refused for too long to go.

Did you see Obama’s farewell speech the other night? He mentioned getting bin Laden, didn’t he? Of course he did. That’s when he made his bones as commander-in-chief. Well, the flag was when Nikki made hers, only as leader of a mature, rational state where people may not forget, but they forgive, and care about each other.

Yeah, I get that she wanted her speech to be sweetness and light, and didn’t want to say anything that stirred ill feeling — and there are those who resent taking down the flag, although they’ve mostly been fairly quiet. And it seems safe to assume there’s a bit of a correlation between those folks and the set that voted for her soon-to-be boss.

But that was her proudest moment. I think it’s easy for people to downplay her role, but I’m telling you, I’ve known too many governors who didn’t want to touch that flag, or even talk about it. And I’ve known others who started to do something, but backed away, or accepted a “compromise” that settled nothing — because they saw that as the best they could get out of our Legislature. And maybe they were right, at the time.

But the thing that Nikki did was recognize the moment when it came, and seize it without hesitation. (That’s a huge part of leadership — recognizing when people are ready to be led. One of the secrets of Lincoln’s extraordinary achievements was his uncanny ability to see exactly when he could lead the country to do things it had always refused to do before.)

It was a moment in which the whole state was in shock and morning. And there were those who protested that this wasn’t the time to act, before the dead had even been buried. But sometimes that exactly when one must act, because later would be much too late.

When she stood up and said, essentially, Let’s not let this summer pass without getting that flag down for good — no fooling around, no compromises, that made all the difference. It made what had been impossible possible, and made it happen.

So if she’d wanted to speak to that directly, I’d have applauded. Because I’m proud of her for that.

She didn’t have to brag or anything. She could have stuck to her theme of “I didn’t do it; y’all did.” And that’s true, in the sense that our state was ready to be led there. But without someone strenuously pushing it through the Legislature, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’ll close with that video my son did after the first anti-flag rally after the shootings, the one I did the voiceover on. It testifies to a mood sweeping through our state. But I still said, it took what Nikki did to translate that into action…

Tim Scott’s celebrated one-word burn

I read about this in The State this morning, but it really didn’t make any sense without the original Tweet:

Tim Scott is the first black Republican U.S. senator from the South since Reconstruction and the only black Republican in the Senate at the moment. He also has announced he will vote for Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to become the next attorney general.IPwQ2WC9

Given the allegations of racism that have followed Sessions since he was denied a federal judgeship in 1986, Scott’s decision to support him has been met with plenty of criticism.

And lots of that criticism has come online, especially on Twitter, where Scott has 162,000 followers. But one tweet in particular annoyed Scott. User @Simonalisa blasted Scott and former Sessions aide William Smith by referring to them using a racial slur….

“So I thought it was a good time to tell people what I thought.”…

The original Tweet and the account that produced it had been deleted, but I found a reTweet that reproduced it:

OK, now I get it.

Well played, senator.

Just to get us in the right mood for the snow…

I’ve got to stop by the Food Lion to make some routine purchases for the weekend, and I’m already dreading having to fight the “Oh, my God; we’re all gonna die!” crowd stocking up on bread and such because the world will be coming to an end with a few flakes of snow.

So I rewatched the video above, to get me into a mood for laughing at the situation…

Dylann Roof found guilty

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… which in a way isn’t news, since it was a foregone conclusion. But it’s a tribute to the fact that we still live under a system of laws and not of men — innocent until proven guilty, etc. — which is reassuring in this post-election world in which so much that our Founders bequeathed us seems threatened.

Of the seven news outlets I just glanced at, five led with it, including both British outlets I looked at:

  1. The State — Dylann Roof found guilty
  2. NPR — Jury Finds Dylann Roof Guilty In S.C. Church Shooting
  3. BBC — Supremacist guilty of US church killings
  4. The Washington Post — Dylann Roof found guilty of all charges in Charleston church massacre
  5. The Guardian — Dylann Roof found guilty in Charleston church shooting

Only The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times led with other things. The Journal, true to its calling went with an item about the dollar hitting new heights, while the Times touted the latest in its series about the Russians tampering with our election.

In other South Carolina news, Steve Benjamin — of all people — had a meeting with Donald Trump. He says he thinks it went well. Sure — that’s what people say just before Trump gives them the Mitt Romney treatment…

Let’s clarify the Gov Lite succession, but I wouldn’t blame Leatherman for trying to dodge it

Tom Davis

Tom Davis

I’ve been getting Tom Davis‘ highly involved emails about the uncertainty surrounding what will happen with the lieutenant governor position if Henry McMaster becomes governor, but I confess I found them a bit dense and confusing, and didn’t read them all the way through.

So I didn’t fully focus on what he was on about until today, when Cindi Scoppe wrote about the issue, and ran excerpts from Tom’s recent speech on the matter.

Really, really simplifying it, Tom has two issues:

  1. He wants the Supreme Court to clarify a mess created by the General Assembly. Voters wisely decided several years back that we would, starting in 2018, elect the governor and lieutenant governor together. In the past, if there’s a vacancy in the lt. gov. position between elections, the president pro tem of the Senate becomes Gov Lite. After 2018, if there’s a sudden vacancy, the governor will be empowered to appoint a new lt. Unfortunately, the language lawmakers passed to go into the state constitution after the vote failed to specify that the governor wouldn’t have that appointive power until 2018, leaving it open to the interpretation that the governor has that power now.
  2. He wants Hugh Leatherman, who as Senate president pro tem is arguably the most powerful person in state government, to take the gov lite job, which is worth even less than the bucket of warm spit at which vice presidency is valued. Leatherman, quite understandably, isn’t even slightly interested in giving up the Senate post he’s spent his political career rising to.

I’m with Sen. Davis on the first point — the succession needs to be cleared up. Trying to follow what the law exactly is at this moment sort of makes my head hurt.

Leatherman

Leatherman

I’m not with him on the second. If the succession is done the old way, and Leatherman resigns temporarily from the pro tem position so someone else can have it long enough to become lieutenant governor, and he can then summon the votes to become pro tem again, well, more power to him. (Too much power, Sen. Shane Massey would say, but I say it’s up to the senators to decide whether they want their Finance chairman to be pro tem.)

Yeah, if the Court says it still works that way, the pro tem must become gov lite. But that doesn’t specify which pro tem. As we saw just a couple of years back, even if one just became pro tem five minutes ago, you’re the one who becomes lt. gov.

That time around, John Courson didn’t have the votes to quit for a few minutes and be re-elected. From what I hear, Leatherman does.

Yes, technically — if the Court rules that way — being pro tem entails becoming lt. gov. if there’s a vacancy. And Tom Davis seems to believe — as did Glenn McConnell — that this is some sort of sacred covenant that is somehow central to being pro tem. That seems a bit … off to me. I honor McConnell for following his conscience on that, but I’m just not entirely sure that he had the deep, moral obligation that he thought he did.

The voters of Florence County elected Leatherman to be their senator, not to be the lieutenant governor. His Senate colleagues chose him to be their leader, not to be lieutenant governor.

That the job of pro tem contains this condition of suddenly being demoted from the sublime heights to the lower depths of state officialdom, due to circumstances beyond one’s control, seems like a goofy, arbitrary penalty in a particularly capricious game. It’s like landing on Community Chest in Monopoly and getting a card that sends you straight to jail. It’s like an American-Ninja-style reality TV show in which, due to no failing on your part, a trap door suddenly opens under you and you fall into a vat of ice water. It does NOT seem like a provision drafted because it’s a sensible way to run a government. (I think succession laws make eminent sense — when it’s a matter of a promotion, like vice president to president. But this sudden penalty provision seems goofy.)

To respond to something Cindi suggested in her column: It would not be at all OK if the law were found to require the pro tem to become gov lite and Leatherman simply said, “I refuse.” That would be inexcusable, and then we’d have a real crisis on our hands. But if he’s willing to step down and run for the office again after some other poor soul becomes lieutenant governor, I say let him take his chances.

As one of his fellow senators, Tom Davis will then have not only the right, but the duty (since that’s what his conscience dictates) to vote against him, and try to persuade his colleagues to do likewise.

I don’t think this is an open-and-shut thing, and I can think of good reasons to take Tom’s position. But he doesn’t quite persuade me. Maybe some of you can….

The bad news: Our $206 Trillion Fiscal Gap

Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Von Nessen and Doug Woodward.

Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Von Nessen and Doug Woodward.

There was good news and bad news today at USC’s 36th Annual Economic Conference.

To be more specific, there was mildly, moderately good news, and really Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad news.

I’ll start with the good, which is on the local level. USC economists Doug Woodward and Joseph Von Nessen said that while growth has sort of leveled off in South Carolina, we’re in for a fairly good 2017. Advanced manufacturing remains strong, and things are going really well in construction — particularly along the coast — and retail. Merchants should have a good Christmas. If there’s a concern, it’s that employers are now having trouble finding qualified employees, particularly ones who are up to the challenges of automation — humans who can work with robots, basically.

On the other hand, we’re basically doomed.

That’s the message I got from the conference’s keynote speaker, Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University, who started out noting that few Americans seem to have a clue what a fiscal hole we’re really in. Political leaders don’t speak of it, he said, pausing to complain about the “content-free election season” we just experienced. (Of course, you’d expect him to be dissatisfied with that, since he actually ran for president — unsuccessfully, he added dryly.) Oh, sure, they might speak of the $20 trillion national debt — which he noted isn’t really that, since the Fed has bought back $5 or 6 trillion of it — but they ignore the bigger problem.

That’s the true Fiscal Gap, as he calls it, which includes the liabilities that have been kept off the books. You know, Social Security, Medicare and the like — liabilities that aren’t acknowledged in the federal budget, but which are obligations every bit as binding as if the future recipients held Treasury bonds.

That adds up to $206 trillion.

There’s more bad news.

If we think in terms of what it would take for the nation to deal with that liability, our government is currently 53 percent underfinanced. That means that to meet these obligations, we’d have to have 53 percent across-the-board tax increases.

It gets worse.

If we don’t raise taxes by 53 percent now (or make drastic cuts to current and future spending that might somewhat reduce that need), then they’ll have to be raised a lot more on our children and grandchildren.

Dr. Kotlikoff has been raising the alarm about this for years. Here’s an oped piece he wrote for The New York Times in 2014. As he concluded that piece:

What we confront is not just an economics problem. It’s a moral issue. Will we continue to hide most of the bills we are bequeathing our children? Or will we, at long last, systematically measure all the bills and set about reducing them?

For now, we blithely sail on. But prospects aren’t good. None of the three economists, who spoke at a press conference before the event, had anything good to say about incoming political leadership on the national level. In fact, quite a bit of concern was expressed about 3 a.m. Tweets, any one of which could trigger a trade war with China before the day is out.

I came away feeling a bit like Damocles — or rather, like the nation is Damocles, since the sword fell on my head sometime back. And we just elected a guy who thinks he’s a national hero because he interfered with one business that was going to send some jobs out of the country (an interference in the market that none of the economists think was a good idea).

I’m not holding my breath for any leadership on closing the Fiscal Gap. (Nor would I be had the Democrats swept the elections.) Are you?

"What's THAT hanging up there?" "Oh, that? I call it the Fiscal Gap..."

“What’s THAT hanging up there?” “Oh, that? I call it the Fiscal Gap…”

An invitation to sign a petition for safer roads

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There’s this petition website I receive frequent invitations from called change.org. You may have encountered it. I think I may have signed one of their petitions for something one of my daughters was pressing for, so I keep getting the pleas to throw in with this or that cause, most of which I delete.

I thought I’d share this one since it has such a strong South Carolina angle.

The petition, by Emily Rabon, is addressed to Robby Robbins, Mike Wooten, Mark Sanford, Jenny Horne, Christopher Murphy, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott.

But in any case, here’s her plea:

South Carolina roads are literally killing people. No more meetings, audits, reports, or studies—it’s time to take action. No matter where you live, will you please join us in our fight for justice and safety for all?

A quick visit to the official South Carolina Tourism website paints a picture perfect image of South Carolina. The simple slogan, “South Carolina—Just Right” is displayed prominently in the upper left hand corner of the website for all visitors to clearly see. What isn’t “Just Right” about South Carolina, however, is the condition of many  roads across the state.

On December 23, 2015, Glenn Forrest Rabon, Jr., better known as Tripp, was killed suddenly in a car accident ultimately caused by a flooded roadway on Highway 64 (SR 64) in Colleton County. The condition of the road was known and reported on multiple occasions, yet neglected countless times by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). Tripp was a senior in high school. He was an honor student and athlete with plans to attend Clemson University in the fall of 2016; but above all, he was a beloved son, brother, and a friend to all he encountered. His time on Earth was cut short due to no fault of his own—only the hazardous conditions of the South Carolina roads were to blame.

Sadly, South Carolina is among the top 5 states in the nation for car crash fatalities due to unsafe conditions on the road. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a report (July 2016) illustrating that traffic deaths in 2015 were at an all-time high—a shocking 7.7 percent nationwide. Furthermore, there were 154 more fatal car crashes in 2015 than there were in 2014; that’s 977 fatalities total. Let that sink in for a moment—977 car crash fatalities in 2015. That’s an increase of 16 percent, or in other words, a fact that shows driving has proved to be almost twice as deadly for South Carolina drivers as opposed to drivers throughout the rest of the country.

Interestingly, SCDOT is currently advertising and advocating for “a vision to zero traffic fatalities”, echoing the idea that “the road to zero starts with you [the driver]”. While safe driving is a responsibility that should be respected and practiced by all participants, the “Target Zero” safety initiative fails to address what the driver cannot control—the physical condition of the road itself. But together, as one voice, we can change this unsettling fact.

Fatal traffic accidents, like the one that took Tripp’s precious life, can realistically be avoided. The goal of this movement is to enact legislation to implement a way to prioritize projects that promote transportation safety across the state. It is notable that only months ago (September 2016), the SCDOT Commissioners approved $23,000,000 to be used for beautification projects across the state instead of allotting the money to roadways in dire need of repair. It is the hope of Tripp’s family and friends that passing TRIPP’s Law will ultimately make South Carolina safer, and thus, save the lives of others before it is too late. TRIPP’s Law will require SCDOT to make use of advanced technology to create an online, up-to-the-minute-report, which will utilize both public and government input of reported, unsafe road conditions. The law will require a prioritized repair report called, TRIPP’s Report, which similarly will use past and present road conditions. It will likewise include recent repairs (completed or pending) and show statistics (such as accidents, fatalities, 911 calls, public repair requests, etc.) in real time.

Anyone that knew Tripp would say, without a shadow of a doubt, Tripp was put on this Earth to make the lives of others better. Please help us continue to promote Tripp’s legacy of kindness and his willingness to help others by both signing and sharing this petition to protect and inform drivers who travel in South Carolina about crash and repair reports for SC roadways. Together, we can come together to advocate for safer South Carolina roadways so we can save lives!

Anyone who is willing and feels he or she would be of substantial help to the cause, TRIPP’s Law, is encouraged to contact Tripp’s sister, Emily, at TrippRabonsLaw@gmail.com

I certainly feel for Ms. Rabon’s loss, and Lord knows our roads are underfunded, but I would need to know more before signing the petition. I’m not entirely clear on how the law would help, since it seems focused on new reporting requirements, rather than changing priorities or finding new funding sources. She says “No more meetings, audits, reports, or studies,” but this does seem to be about reports.

It might help if I could see the bill.

Changing the subject slightly, my greatest hope for safer roads is that Gov. Henry McMaster will show some actual leadership on the issue, abandoning Nikki Haley’s opposition to raising the gas tax without cutting another tax by a larger amount, which frankly is one of the craziest ideas to emerge on the state scene in the last several years.

The State wrote on that subject today, by the way. There’s still no indication which way Henry will go. But putting forward a rational road-funding plan would be a great start toward being a better governor than his predecessor…

‘Ridiculously loyal’ Clyburn re-elected, in case you were in suspense

I’m looking at this release from Jim Cyburn yesterday:

CLYBURN RE-ELECTED ASSISTANT DEMOCRATIC LEADER

Congressman James E. Clyburn released the following statement after the House Democratic Caucus elected him by acclamation to another term as Assistant Democratic Leader:

“I thank all my House Democratic colleagues for the faith and confidence they have expressed in me to serve as Assistant Democratic Leader in the 115th Congress. I am deeply honored to have the unanimous support of our Caucus and humbly accept this Leadership position with clear eyes and understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead.clyburn

“As I said to my colleagues today, our experiences are what make us who and what we are. Our diversity – of experiences, backgrounds, ethnicities and constituencies – remains our greatest strength. As the only Member of elected Leadership from a deep red state and largely rural district, I will work tirelessly to stay connected to all of our Caucuses and regions and to give voice to the concerns of our diverse communities.

“Looking forward, I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where they do not have to fear the next decision of the Supreme Court of the United States for the impact it could have on their lives and communities. I want them to grow up where people in elected office are people they can look up to and emulate. Together, we can do something about that.”

Clyburn was nominated to be the Assistant Democratic Leader by Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) and seconded by Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA-31) and Congressman Peter Welch (VT-At Large).

– 30 –

… and I find myself wondering to whom it matters, other than Clyburn himself.

To the extent that I give any thought whatsoever to the House Democrats’ re-election of the usual suspects — which is practically not at all — it seems to me that the minority are saying they don’t care much one way or the other.

They have no intention of changing anything, and they intend to go on their merry way, congratulating themselves on how “diverse” they are, patting each other on the backs for being right-thinking, and just continuing blithely down the road to irrelevance.

Or am I missing something here?

If I were a Democrat, I’d be really ticked off at the spectacle of complacency that the House caucus seems to represent. I’d demand to know what these people planned to do about translating our shared ideology into action. But since I’m not, I’m even less interested than these members themselves seem to be.

Oh, but wait! The State reports that there were “whispers” about replacing Clyburn and the rest. But before you get all excited, let me tell you that they came to nothing. Why? Because Clyburn is “ridiculously loyal,” as one member put it.

Now there’s an accolade for you…

Nothing against Clyburn personally, mind you. No one else seems to have any great ideas for changing their party’s fortunes, either. Or for doing much of anything. I just find that whole crowd rather underwhelming, don’t you?

Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations

haley-waving

Late on election night, the folks on PBS (Judy Woodruff, David Brooks, Mark Shields, and others), utterly flabbergasted and in desperate search for something to say, somehow got on the subject of “Whither the Republican Party?” Or something like that. I forget exactly how they got on the topic, but they got to talking about who might be waiting in the wings in the party — which is odd; it seems more like they’d have been asking that about the Democrats.

And maybe they did. My memory is cloudy because I was in shock, too. But here’s my point: Somehow the name that came up — and I think it was the first name, perhaps the only one — was that of Nikki Haley.

Which was… surprising. But national media have long thought a lot of her. As a young, presentable, female, nonwhite Republican, she plays well nationally, certainly in the Identity Politics sense. And she is very personable. She makes a great first, second and third impression. And her time in office has brought her greater poise, while she has moved somewhat away from the Tea Party fringe that elected her. And she truly became the leader of this state when she stepped out on the flag last year.

So now, after she had the good sense to distance herself from him during the primaries, she is Donald Trump’s choice to be U.N. ambassador. And it’s playing as a good decision in national coverage.

First let me say, I’m far happier with her as U.N. ambassador than I am with Donald Trump as president — no question. But let’s just say that’s not a high bar.

And… we can discuss this more later… I feel pretty good about Henry McMaster as governor. He was the best candidate for that office in the GOP primary in 2010, and the only thing I can think of to say against him is that he backed Trump in the primary.

But let’s discuss that later. Back to Nikki Haley…

I just have to say this, as a guy who cares deeply about this country’s dealings with the rest of the world: What qualifications does she have for the position? Aside from being as I said personable, which can be helpful in diplomacy, I cannot think of any at all.

Today, The Washington Post is saying:

Haley, a former Trump rival, is generally considered a mainstream Republican, with views on military and national security matters that fall within the GOP’s hawkish mainstream. She has little foreign policy experience.

First, let’s correct the second sentence — to my knowledge, she does not have ANY foreign policy experience. (And no, a few industrial recruitment trips selling South Carolina abroad do not count as foreign policy experience of the U.N. Security Council sort.)

As for the first experience — where are they getting that? Yeah, she has gravitated from a Tea Party candidate who couldn’t wait to make the Establishment miserable to a more neutral position (where I frankly think she is more comfortable). And bless her, she went with Rubio on the primary. But what “views on military and national security matters” are they referring to? Aside from being proud of her husband’s service in the National Guard, I cannot think of any that she has expressed. Not that she needed to; she’s never had a job that called upon her to do so.

(And is the GOP mainstream still hawkish? Are Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who well represent where the party has mostly been since 1945, still the gravitational center? We can discuss that another time, too.)

As U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley is a tabula rasa, as she was when she first ran for the House. The best thing that can be said is that she has no bad foreign policy habits to unlearn. If everyone in the GOP who knows anything about geopolitics had not run screaming from Donald Trump and all who sail in him, I suppose we could hope for her to be strenuously tutored — but who’s going to do it now? Trump?

And is U.N. ambassador actually the place where you go to get your feet wet in international relations? No. It does not come with training wheels, to the best of my knowledge. Of course, I’m a child of the Cold War, and grew up on such cultural references as “Failsafe” (and now, with Trump as president-elect, feel like I’m living in “Dr. Strangelove”). I see the U.N. Security Council as a deadly serious, high-stakes kind of thing, to say the least. Growing up with those references, I took what comfort I could from the notion that the people representing us around those conference tables in a crisis knew a lot more about this stuff than I did. And I wonder — back when Trump was asked about the nuclear triad and found wanting, how would our governor have answered the same question?

As y’all know, I’ve had frequent occasions to praise Gov. Haley in the last year or so; I’ve really felt that she was growing in the job, and I will always praise her to the skies for her leadership on getting the Confederate flag down. That was amazing, and wonderful, and stunning. It made her a heroine in my eyes.

But does any of that, or her calm, visible leadership during weather crises — for which I also honor her — qualify her for this?

Please tell me it does, and explain why, because I really want to feel better about this…

SC Democrats celebrate the thinnest of silver linings

This is one of those posts that makes Jaime Harrison think about taking me off his mailing list — and makes Matt Moore feel smug for having never put me on his (despite my request).

SC Democrats are doing their very best to put a brave face on the recent election. It took them a couple of weeks, but they’ve managed to come up with three whole victories in partisan races, statewide, to celebrate:

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My Fellow Democrats,
As we prepare for the Trump Administration, Democrats are fortunate to have a strong contingent of leaders to lead the fight, both here in South Carolina and throughout the country.  We are particularly excited for those who were elected to new positions in our state to take office and get to work for all South Carolinians.  From school board to SC Senate, there are newly elected Democrats across the state.  These Democrats will play important roles in the coming struggle.  Some of these Democrats with important new positions include:
– Mia McLeod won the SC Senate election in District 22, which includes parts of Richland and Kershaw Counties.  Her victory keeps the seat in Democratic hands following the distinguished tenure of retiring Senator Joel Lourie.  The passionate and effective advocacy Sen.-elect McLeod displayed in the SC House will be a great asset in the Senate.
– Mike Fanning was elected to the SC Senate from District 17, which includes all of Fairfield and Chester Counties and part of York County.  He is committed to shaking up status quo in Columbia so that our state government serves the people, not special interests.
– Mary Tinkler defeated a 20-year Republican incumbent to be Charleston County Treasurer.  She will continue the important work she has done in the SC House looking out for all taxpayers.
In addition to these impressive Democratic victories, we would also like to congratulate Alfred Mae Drakeford on her election as Mayor of Camden in a nonpartisan race.  She will be the first African American to serve in that position.
With great public servants like these taking office, we can be confident that our values and priorities will be defended in the halls of power.  And with sustained effort from all of us in support of them and their colleagues, our future will be bright.
Sincerely,
Jaime Harrison

Yeah… that’s, you know, kinda sad, guys…

Not that I agree with that silly letter in The State today. I think Jaime does a fine job. He just doesn’t have a great situation to work with, to engage in British-class understatement…

Is Graham trying to out-Trump Trump on Clinton?

graham-clinton

I thought this was an odd response from Lindsey Graham to the news that Trump was dropping the idea of prosecuting Hillary Clinton:

On Reports President-elect Trump Will Not Pursue Clinton Investigation:

“Well so much for ‘Locking Her Up’ I guess. The bottom line is that I think the Clinton Foundation, the whole mess, should be looked at with an independent view, not a political agenda. I never believed Obama’s Justice Department would seriously look at what she may have done. I can understand wanting to put the election behind us and heal the nation, but I do hope all the things President-elect Trump said about how crooked she was – well, we just don’t let it go without some serious effort to see if the law was truly violated.  I think that would be a mistake.”

I find it odd for several reasons, including:

  • Graham is not a guy who has been shy about holding Trump accountable, as demonstrated anew with his comments after the president-elect chatted with his would-be buddy Putin.
  • Possibly the most egregious moment in the campaign was when Trump threatened — in a nationally televised, live debate — to turn the United States into a banana republic by locking up his political opposition.
  • Graham is a big advocate for the rule of law, and an intelligent politician, and I can’t believe that he doesn’t see it would be impossible for Trump to pursue a prosecution against Hillary Clinton after having said what he said and have that be seen as anything other than abuse of power.
  • He certainly understands that any prosecutorial moves on her would be a judgment call — it’s not like she clearly and with malice aforethought went out a committed a major crime, something that couldn’t be overlooked no matter the political and constitutional ramifications.
  • Graham isn’t one of these guys with a 20-plus-year record of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. He got along pretty well with her when she served in the Senate, so it’s out of character for him to express reluctance to let go of this bone.

All of that adds up to it being weird for him to go “Are you sure you want to do that?” when Trump, of all people, is willing to let it go — possibly at the price of loss of favor among a lot of the folks who voted for him.

Oh, and as long as I’ve got you, I should share the other topic he addressed — Jeff Sessions. Here’s a quote, and it’s all on the video below, two-and-a-half minutes in:

On the Nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General:

“I’ve known Jeff for twenty years. I think he’s a principled conservative. I’ll have some questions for him before the Judiciary Committee. These attacks on his personal character, about him being some kind of closet racist or what he may have said thirty or forty years ago is complete garbage. Jeff Sessions is one of the finest people I have ever known. I don’t think there is a hateful bone in his body. We have some policy differences so I’ll be glad to challenge Jeff where we disagree, but support him in terms of him being a good, decent man. And to my Democratic colleagues, you better watch what you do here.”