Category Archives: South Carolina

Trey Gowdy for majority leader? Of the U.S. House? Really?

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot…

Trey Gowdy

Trey Gowdy

I almost ran off the road this morning when I heard someone on NPR saying that the crazies who ran John Boehner out of the House were wanting Trey Gowdy to be majority leader. Of the Unites States House of Representatives. And I don’t think they were joking.

Oh, I’m sure Mr. Gowdy is a fine fella, kind to children and dogs and so forth, but No. 2 man in the House?

Apparently, Boehner himself was also promoting this

This is a guy who:

  • Hasn’t even been in the House five years.
  • Was elected over Bob Inglis, one of the finest, most principled people to be elected from South Carolina in a generation, and one of the most sincerely and ostentatiously conservative, because Inglis wasn’t right-wing enough in the Year of the Tea Party.
  • Owes whatever national reputation he does possess entirely to chairing the House’s Benghazi sideshow. True, he’s in good company, in that Lindsey Graham also has a Benghazi obsession — but at least Graham is known for other stuff as well.
  • Is not, lest you be confused, Curt Gowdy. That would be pretty cool. But wrong Gowdy.

And don’t even get me started on the haircut, which makes him look like a cross between Stan Laurel. and Oswald Cobblepot on “Gotham.” Not that that sort of thing should matter.

Anyway, to put it more mildly, I was surprised…

SC public backs leaders’ decision to bring down Confederate flag

THE moment -- the flag starts coming down.

THE moment — the flag starts coming down.

In case you had a creeping feeling at the back of your mind that were it not for the fact that we are, thank God, a republic instead of a direct democracy, the Confederate flag would still be flying…

I offer this reassuring news:

Two-thirds of South Carolinians agreed with the General Assembly’s decision in removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds this summer after the Charleston church shootings, a Winthrop University poll released Wednesday found.

Less than a year ago, just one-third of South Carolinians thought the Civil War icon should come down after flying at the state’s most prominent public building for five decades.

That was before an African-American pastor, who also was a state senator, and eight of his parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June. Authorities brought hate crime charges against the accused killer, who is white.

Slightly more than half of white respondents thought lawmakers made the right decision in taking down the Confederate flag, the Winthrop survey found. More than nine in 10 African-Americans backed the decision….

At least, I find it reassuring to know that, while I still praise our elected officials (starting with Nikki Haley) for courage and leadership in bringing the flag down without waiting around for polls, even if they had, the result would have been the same.

So South Carolina really has grown up, finally, and put the flag behind it.

That is wonderful news.

I hope the court’s deadline doesn’t blow chance at education reform

I find myself in an unusual position.

Normally, I’d be cheering loudly for Cindi Scoppe’s column today lighting into legislative leaders for complaining that the state Supreme Court has given them a deadline for coming up with a plan to fix poor, rural schools in South Carolina. Excerpts:

Yet for 22 years, our legislators have done absolutely nothing to fix the problems raised in the Abbeville lawsuit.

No, worse than nothing.

They have spent more than two decades and God only knows how much of our tax money fighting that lawsuit — paying lawyers and experts to argue that everything in those plaintiff districts was just fine and dandy, when anyone with eyes could see that it was not.

The way forward was clear from the start: for legislators to make the lawsuit moot, by fixing the problems before the justices could get around to issuing an order. But they refused, and last fall the justices finally ruled that the state is failing its constitutional obligation to provide the children in our poorest school districts with an education they need to get good jobs and support their families and pay taxes and in other ways help make our state a better place for us all….

The court, inappropriately, it turns out, did not set a deadline. Until last week, by which time it had become painfully clear even to people who do not understand our Legislature that our Legislature does not do hard things until it has no choice. So the court set a Feb. 1 deadline for the defendants to present a plan to address the problems set forth in last year’s landmark ruling….

Were I still at the paper, I might be the one writing those words. In fact, I’d be using even stronger, more condemnatory language — and Cindi, ever pragmatic, would be the one doing her best to hold me back and telling me to recognize reality and not make perfect the enemy of the good.

But today, I’m sort of in the Cindi role, because of some unique circumstances. In fact, when I saw that the court had set a deadline for less than a month after the Legislature comes back into session, I worried, thinking, I hope this doesn’t foul up an historic opportunity.

I thought that because of what I’ve been hearing lately from my old friend Bud Ferillo.

Many of you may know Bud as the guy who made the documentary “Corridor of Shame,” which coined the phrase that all SC education reformers use to describe some of our most distressed rural schools. He’s also a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat from way back, and not one to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt.

And if there is an issue on which Republicans have earned doubt in South Carolina, it’s public education. Since they have assumed control of the Legislature, actual proposals to improve schools don’t even get a hearing in the State House, much less get approved. Say “school reform” to them, and as a group they will more than start talking about the latest plan to pay parents to abandon public schools — excuse me, “government schools,” government being by its nature a bad thing, you understand — altogether.

So I was struck when I heard Bud, as a participant in a panel sponsored by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council over the summer, start talking almost rhapsodically about school reform — real, systemic reform that would lift up rural districts — that was coming, that was just around the corner. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Bud after that event because I left early, but then I heard him saying it again on a forum on ETV.

On both occasions, no one took him up on what he said. They just sort of nodded and moved on. So I asked Bud to breakfast one morning recently. He had an appointment he had to leave for so we didn’t get into what he was talking about as deeply as I would have liked, which is why I haven’t written about our conversation.

But here are the bare bones (and if I’m getting any of this wrong, Bud, correct me): When he became Speaker last year, Jay Lucas appointed a panel to start working on a plan to address what the court has instructed the Legislature to do about poor, rural schools. I had been vaguely aware that Lucas had such a committee holding hearings around the state. From early in the last legislative session, I had seen releases such as this one:

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Education Task Force to Host Public Hearing/Meeting in Dillon

Will receive testimony and valuable input from education leaders

(Columbia, SC) – The Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force that House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) appointed in January will hold a public hearing/meeting on Monday, March 23, 2015.Jay Lucas
WHO: The Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force – a group comprised of elected officials, educators, plaintiff representatives fromAbbeville v. State, and private sector job creators who are tasked with laying the groundwork for comprehensive education reform
WHAT: Task Force members will receive testimony and valuable input form invited school superintendents, retired educators, nonprofiteducation groups, and other involved members within the education community.  After the invited guests have concluded, concerned citizens will also be given the opportunity to address the group (see additional information).
WHEN: Monday, March 23, 2015 at 4:00PM
WHERE: Dillon Middle School – 1803 Joan Drive, Dillon, SC
WHY: South Carolina’s education system needs significant reform so that every child in every part of our state has access to a 21st centuryeducation. This Task Force is responsible for putting together a report with their findings and must be submitted to Speaker Lucas before the beginning of next year’s legislative session.

But I hadn’t seen any coverage of these hearings, or read or heard anything about what the committee was doing. Were I still at the paper, and still had such people at my disposal, I would have assigned a reporter or (later) an editorial writer to look into what was going on. But I’m not, and such people are thin on the ground these days, and having one spend a day running up to Dillon for a hearing is probably not high on many editors’ priority lists.

(Actually, in defense of my friends who still have newspaper jobs, I do find some coverage when I go look for it now. I just missed it at the time.)

And since I don’t get paid to do this blog, I was in no position to undertake such legwork. So I remained in the dark, until I started getting these inklings from Bud. Bud has stayed in close touch with the process, and he says this is a great panel, largely stocked with real reformers, and they’re pulling together a lot of great ideas that are to go into legislation that we’ll be seeing in the coming session, blessed by the speaker.

But, skeptical based on decades of disappointment, I said A panel with a plan is all very well and good, but how will this fare, say, on the floor of the House? Is the speaker truly committed to push this reform you speak of when the inevitable pushback comes? I mean, he has the reputation of a reformer and he’s actually from a small town and knows about the needs in rural areas, but is he committed? Bud assured me that yes, he was — and then he had to run.

That was a couple of weeks ago.

So I’m short on details, and I really need to find some time to talk to legislative leaders about all this, and I’ve been meaning to, but haven’t. And now the court has laid down this deadline, which you know is going to get the GOP caucus all ticked off and resistant (that is, even more resistant) about doing something they don’t want to do anyway, much less do it right.

So when Speaker Lucas said, in reaction to the court’s new deadline, “Because of your actions, months and months of hard work has been potentially placed in jeopardy,” I got worried. Because I don’t think he’d say that lightly.

I got to worrying that maybe the deadline might be tossing a hand grenade into delicate preparations at precisely the wrong moment. I mean, this House coming up with real, substantive education reform is such a stretch, and would take such heavy lifting, and everything would have to go just right for it to actually happen. The forces against reform would seize on anything that might help them stop it, and the petty resentments caused by an arbitrary court deadline could give them aid and comfort.

But you know what? Cindi usually knows way more about what she’s talking about than I do. I hope that, as usual, that is the case in this instance…


Fiorina won the JV debate last time. This time, it was Graham

JV debate

Yeah, Santorum — we caught you smiling…

Actually, I have only partial knowledge of how he did, because all I’ve seen is a few clips from the not-ready-for-prime-time debate.

What I’m talking about is how it played, which is of course of tremendous importance in politics. And it played like this:

And then there was this:

Lindsey Graham tops the undercard debate, but Donald Trump dominates

The most memorable performance in the undercard Republican presidential debate came from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina.

Serving his third term in the Senate and now one of the party’s leading lights on foreign policy, Graham still found himself at the trailers’ table Wednesday night. But he was easily the funniest of the four early-evening debaters and offered something of a split-personality vision: half gloom and war, half cornball humor.

In an otherwise humorless foursome, Graham delivered the jokes that were the night’s most repeated lines. In explaining his call for more bipartisan cooperation, for instance, he harkened back to deals that President Ronald Reagan and Democrats struck over a drink: “That’s the first thing I’m gonna do as president. We’re gonna drink more.”

In explaining his position that more legal immigrants were needed to pay into the retirement system as baby boomers retire, Graham used a one-liner about a famous — and infamous — senator from his home state.

“Strom Thurmond had four kids after he was 67. If you’re not willing to do that, maybe we need a better legal immigration system,” Graham said….

So go ahead. Heap the usual pile of scorn, abuse and calumny on our senior senator. It’s what y’all always do. I expect you’ll start with something like, “Maybe he should run for court jester instead of president. He’s already the biggest joke on the national stage.”

It’s easy to be scornful. It’s hard to put yourself out there and do your best, especially when all you get is ridicule and abuse…

Growing South Carolina’s car-manufacturing industry

It occurs to me that I should make myself do more short contact-report-type posts, whenever I run into a newsmaker and pick up a tidbit.

So here’s one….

Yesterday, I ran into Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt (my long-ago managing editor) getting on the elevator heading up to his office. I expressed surprise that he wasn’t on his way to Germany with the governor.

He said he wasn’t needed on this trip. Anyway, he figures he’s done the trek to Germany enough, what with his years with BMW after he left the paper.

Noting that the trip is about building relationships with automobile manufacturing suppliers, he gave me his elevator speech on that topic before he got out on the 16th floor: South Carolina is now home to 250 such suppliers — 80 of them added since he’s been at Commerce.

I stuck out my hand and congratulated him on that. After all, one wants to encourage that kind of success.

One revolution at a time: Let’s reform redistricting

Sue and Jim Rex at the American Party booth at the State Fair last year.

Sue and Jim Rex at the American Party booth at the State Fair last year.

I got this release from the new party that Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace started here in South Carolina, and it points a way to profound political reform in our state — and then takes its eye off the ball:

The Supreme Court struck a blow against gerrymandering this summer,but the voters in our state (like most) will have to wrestle the power away from the Legislature if we are going to stop them from drawing their own districts once again in 2021 ! Since we have no ballot initiative option in South Carolina, we will need to elect members of the SC House and Senate ( they must all run in 2016 ) who will introduce and pass legislation enabling an Independent Commission to perform this important task .
The article below persuasively points out ,however, that the ultimate remedy to our dysfunctional Congress must also include doing away with single district winner take all elections. It may sound complicated and even a little ” revolutionary “, but it really is neither .
Take a minute to read . You may actually begin to feel optimistic !

Set aside the fact that the release says “we have no ballot initiative option in South Carolina” as though that were a bad thing. (The American Party is much given to populism, and does not share my horror of government by plebiscite.) My objection is that the release mentions one fantastic reform — wresting control of districting from lawmakers, which would accomplish more than anything I can think of to fix our ailing political system. And then it blows right past it and goes on to another, more revolutionary, harder-to-understand “reform,” like a kid who can’t spare the time to play with one shiny toy before being beguiled by another.

The reason this is a problem (after all, you think, aren’t two reforms better than one) is that the first reform, which I know could have a dramatic, positive effect on our state and nation, is practically impossible to achieve. Most sensible people would even say it is impossible. But don’t say that to me in the same summer when we got the Confederate flag down.

It might, just might, be possible, if there is a huge push for it, and those pushing never let up or get distracted, and everything, but everything, breaks the right way. It would require every ounce of passion, attention and commitment that every true reformer in the state possesses, and then some. And the odds would still be way against it.

Gerrymandering is something that not everyone understands, but it can be explained to most people that lawmakers having the power to draw districts to ensure their own re-election (or the election of people of their own party) is a bad thing. Explain a little more, and they might understand that such redistricting is probably the one factor that does the most to drive hyperpartisanship, and to drive both parties away from the sensible center toward extremes. They might also pick up on the fact that drawing districts primarily by the race of voters is merely a milder version of the ethnic cleansing we disapproved of so strongly in the Balkans.

And if you can get the people behind it, and make it clear that this is of the utmost importance to a significant number of their constituents — a big, big, if — you might have a chance of turning redistricting over to an independent commission. (Then, of course, there’s another minefield in making sure the commission is both truly independent and has the savvy to draw better lines than we have now.)

Since we know this would be of the utmost benefit to the republic, why not start a movement that concentrates on redistricting? Then, when you accomplish that miracle, you can get fancy and talk about ranked choice voting.


Obviously, the failure to welcome refugees is NOT just a European problem

Samuel Tenenbaum (who led our community’s admirable operation to welcome refugees from Katrina 10 years ago) shared this piece from the NYT with me and others over the weekend:

The Refugee Crisis Isn’t a ‘European Problem’

THOSE of us outside Europe are watching the unbelievable images of the Keleti train station in Budapest, the corpse of a toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, the desperate Syrian families chancing their lives on the night trip to the Greek islands — and we keep being told this is a European problem….

It’s not just the United States that keeps pretending the refugee catastrophe is a European problem. Look at countries that pride themselves on being havens for the homeless. Canada, where I come from? As few as 1,074 Syrians, as of August. Australia? No more than 2,200. Brazil? Fewer than 2,000, as of May….

The brunt of the crisis has fallen on the Turks, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Iraqis and the Lebanese. Funding appeals by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have failed to meet their targets. The squalor in the refugee camps has become unendurable. Now the refugees have decided, en masse, that if the international community won’t help them, if neither Russia nor the United States is going to force the war to an end, they won’t wait any longer. They are coming our way. And we are surprised?

Blaming the Europeans is an alibi and the rest of our excuses — like the refugees don’t have the right papers — are sickening….

But I didn’t need to read that to bring the problem home, because by the time I saw his email, I had already read this in The State:

A Duncan resident is seeking a court order to stop refugees from resettling in Spartanburg County.

The action comes about a week after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard visited Spartanburg to answer questions about the refugee resettlement program. Lauren Martel, a Hilton Head-based attorney, sent Richard a letter demanding a halt to the program in its entirety.

Martel is representing Michelle Wiles, of Duncan, who has “already suffered potential damages as a result of this unilateral premature action,” Martel states in the letter.

Wiles said the refugee program is an unnecessary burden on the Spartanburg County taxpayers and believes the refugees who are resettling in Spartanburg have not been properly vetted.

“People are being brought here and we have no database to know even who they are,” Wiles said. “We’re supposed to just trust that their story checks out.”…

From the terrible moment years ago when Cayce said “no” to the Somali Bantu to this, we have plenty of evidence that whatever it is in people that causes them to turn refugees away, we are afflicted with it here in South Carolina.

Scoppe: Lawmakers have more constructive things to do than go off on Kulturkampf chase

And she’s right. From her column today:

Last week, the committee voted to distract itself from the intensive reviews it has pledged to complete this year of the huge Transportation Department and nine other state agencies, adding an investigation into the relationship between Planned Parenthood and four state agencies.

Now, there are circumstances under which it might be a good use of the panel’s time (or at least not a bad use) to jump into the political firestorm that has been raging nationally since the release of secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking cavalierly about harvesting and selling aborted fetal tissue to medical researchers.

It certainly would make sense, for instance, to add that line of questioning if the panel already were reviewing the agencies it plans to call in for questioning: the Medical University of South Carolina and the departments of Health and Environmental Control, Health and Human Services and Social Services. But it’s not.

It might even be a worthwhile question for the panel to pursue if no one else was examining whether any fetal tissue was being harvested in South Carolina, and whether any state funds were supporting that. And if there were anything to suggest that what we know has happened in California and Oregon might be happening here. And if the committee weren’t already overloaded.

But none of that is the case….

Cindi and I disagree on the abortion issue, if I remember correctly. But I could be wrong about that; we never really got into it, as an issue for the board to address. Why? For the same reason I moan when I see our public conversations careening off into Culture War territory: At least here on the state level, such issues do little beyond dividing us into irreconcilable camps. Nothing is resolved, and everyone is so embittered that there is no appetite for seeking consensus on other issues that we could, conceivably, agree on.

For similar reasons, we stayed away from such things as the same-sex marriage debate (and of course, when I was on the board, so did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.) Now some would say that issue has been resolved, this latest mini-drama in Kentucky notwithstanding. Of course, a lot of folks think Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue. It did not. But I do think the gay-marriage issue is different. We’ve moved much closer to consensus on that, and the issue is not the sure-fire source of pointless division that it was not long ago.

Abortion, of course, is as divisive as ever.

And it’s distressing to see our lawmakers, who have only recently started getting serious about providing oversight of state agencies, to waste energy on something that accomplishes nothing beyond giving members a chance to signal on which side of the irreconcilable divide they stand.

The death penalty for Roof?

Thoughts on this?

A South Carolina prosecutor says she will seek the death penalty for an alleged white supremacist, Dylann Roof of Columbia, who is charged with killing nine black churchgoers in June in Charleston.

“This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate penalty,” 9th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson told a group of reporters shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday….

To state what I’ve stated many times before, if I thought the death penalty was right, this would certainly be a case in which I would apply it.

But I don’t, so I wouldn’t.

I found this particularly intriguing:

In recent weeks, Wilson has met with families of the nine victims. At her Thursday press conference, she told reporters that some family members agreed with her decision and others did not. But in the end the decision was hers, she said….

Often, prosecutors will cite the wishes of victims’ families as reasons to pursue a particular charge or penalty. Which is, of course, wrong in a nation of laws and not of men. The prosecutor is right: It is her decision to make.

That said, do you think she has made the right one? Particularly in this case, when our state was pulled together so dramatically by the gestures of forgiveness by the families.

(I had breakfast this morning with Mark Lett, executive editor at The State. As we were leaving, he asked whether I had ever thought South Carolina could come together like that, so quickly, to remove the flag. I said I certainly had not imagined such a thing. I told him that when I ran into Aaron Sheinin at that first flag rally after the shootings, he and I got to talking about how the very earliest anything could happen would be January. And then I said, “Of course, our governor could call on lawmakers to come back into session especially to take the flag down,” and we both laughed in the cynical way that ink-stained wretches of the press tend to do. And then, two days later, it actually happened. It was a miracle — it was a whole raft of miracles to see those people standing together for such a purpose — and it was brought about by those exhibitions of forgiveness. Which gives us additional reason to regard what the families did with awe and reverence.)

Of course, I suppose there’s a school of thought that you can personally forgive someone, but still believe that person should face the consequences of his actions. And this is a consequence for which our laws provide.

I would say that death is not the right way to go. But that’s what I always say. You?

Hillary, you should get to know who your SC supporters are

Just got around to looking at this release from yesterday:

Richland County Officials Announce Support for Clinton Following Launch of Hillary for Richland 

Columbia, SC — Following a successful “Hillary for Richland” kickoff with James Carville, 12 new local officials in Richland County announced their support for Hillary Clinton. Citing Hillary Clinton’s vision to boost middle class incomes to help South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead, the following local officials are joining the campaign and supporting Hillary Clinton:

  • City of Columbia Mayor Pro Tem Sam Davis
  • Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine
  • Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres 
  • Mayor Geraldine Robinson of Eastover
  • Richland County Treasurer David Adams
  • Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson
  • Richland County Councilman Jim Manning 
  • Richland County Councilman Kelvin E. Washington Sr.
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Kit Smith
  • Richland School District 1 Commissioner Aaron Bishop
  • Richland School District 2 Commissioner Dr. Monica Elkin-Johnson

Last week, Hillary for America Chair John Podesta visited Columbia to outline Clinton’s plans on issues like income inequality, health care, Social Security, climate change and college affordability.  In addition, former Governors Jim Hodges and Dick Riley announced their endorsements of Clinton.

A few weeks ago, Hillary for South Carolina kicked off “Mayors for Hillary” with the endorsements of Mayor Steve Benjamin and former Mayor Bob Coble following Clinton’s Mayors Summit in Columbia. During the summit, mayors and Clinton discussed education and infrastructure investments in cities along with plans to fight systemic racism and fight for criminal justice reform.

“Hillary acts like a good mayor – she innovates, improvises and solves problems. As a friend and partner to our nation’s Mayors, Hillary will work closely with our cities to tackle tough issues. She will fight everyday to listen and come up with solutions for our cities and states on issues like raising wages for working Americans, reducing racial disparities in our prisons, and providing quality, affordable health care to our residents,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia and President of the African American Mayors Association. 

“As we’ve seen in Columbia, good things happen when government and business collaborate, which is why we need an ally in the White House that will keep a laser focus on jobs, small businesses and economic development. In partnership with our Mayors, Hillary Clinton will work with cities both large and small to innovate and grow our economy,” said former Mayor Bob Coble of Columbia. 

“There are a lot of people who aren’t making ends meet, which is why we need Hillary Clinton’s tenacity to even the playing field and help hardworking South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead. It is far past time for us to embrace full diversity in our elected offices and I can’t wait to see Hillary in the Oval Office,” said Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine.

“Hillary Clinton listens to local leaders, which is why she’s the partner we need in the White House. She’ll work to make government efficient and find solutions to the problems facing local communities across the country,” said Richland County Treasurer David Adams. 

“Hillary Clinton is a champion for women and girls, and her leadership will help bring women into the 21st century on issues like equal pay and paid family leave” said Richland County Councilwoman and former Senate candidate Joyce Dickerson. “At a time our country faces new and emerging threats and challenges both at home and abroad, our country needs a strong leader. Hillary has a proven record of bold leadership as Secretary of State and a long record of providing support to our veterans and military families.”

“If we want to tackle tough issues facing women, children and families, we need a tenacious and courageous woman like Hillary Clinton in the White House. Hillary has spent her career standing up for what’s right whether it was advocating for children incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina or helping create the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott. 


Now, I don’t have time to go down the list and check each and every one of these, but one of them jumped out at me.

I am not familiar with a “Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres.”

Could they have meant Mayor Mark Huguley, not “Hugely,” of Arcadia Lakes — you know, the former SLED agent who is married to my old newspaper colleague Sally Huguley?

I don’t know. (I’ve emailed Mark to find out.) But the mayor of Forest Acres is named Frank Brunson.

That’s just Hugely embarrassing…

Are national media losing their respect for SC Republican voters’ ability to pick winners?

NBC's Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

NBC’s Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

I alluded to this in my last post, but decided this point was worth a separate headline…

By this time four years ago, NBC’s Ali Weinberg (daughter of the famous Max) was already a fixture in the local media scene. She was here for the duration to cover the SC primary.

Week before last, I got an email from Alexandra Jaffe of NBC that began: “I cover politics for NBC News here in Washington and I’m emailing because I’ll be heading down to South Carolina in December or January to cover the primary there, and was hoping to connect with you because I’m a fan of your blog…”

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

In December or January

When we spoke later on the phone, she confirmed that her bosses figured that, since SC blew the call in 2012, it wasn’t worth the resources expended on it last time around.

Four years ago, SC Republicans were still known nationally for their habit of always (at least, for a generation) picking the eventual nominee in their presidential preference primaries. That’s why we’ve grown accustomed to seeing so many national candidates — and so much media — trooping through here every four years. South Carolina picks winners. Or at least, it did.

But after SC Republicans had a fit and picked Newt Gingrich in 2012, some of the gloss went off the reputation.

And now, at least one major news organization is making real, dollars-and-cents decisions based on that one primary. Of course, with Trump leading a poll with 30 percent of the vote here, the Gingrich victory is looking less like a one-off…

Has SC gone mad? Trump at 30 percent? Really?

For some time, I’ve been assuring people of what I regard as a verity: Yes, Donald Trump is leading in polls. But you can dominate a poll with 20 percent support when there are 16 or 17 candidates. When it gets down to two or three candidates, 20 percent isn’t so great. And surely, surely, surely 20 percent is Trump’s ceiling.

That 20-percent assumption would seem consistent, for instance, with this bit of data that George Will cited in his Sunday column headlined “Trump’s immigration plan could spell doom for the GOP:”

A substantial majority of Americans — majorities in all states — and, in some polls, a narrow majority of Republicans favor a path for illegal immigrants not just to legal status but to citizenship. Less than 20 percent of Americans favor comprehensive deportation….

Yep. Makes all the sense in the world, except for this:

The 2016 Donald Trump phenomenon is not going away.

The New York real estate mogul holds a commanding lead in a poll released Tuesday of likely S.C. GOP presidential primary voters.

Trump received 30 percent support — doubling the second-place contender, retired surgeon Ben Carson, according to the poll from Monmouth University in New Jersey.

They are followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 9 percent, former executive Carly Fiorina at 6 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at 6 percent and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 5 percent.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina each received 4 percent. The two had been vying for second place in spring polls….

Thirty percent. With 30 percent, Trump could still be in the running in a three-way race, much less with 17.

So, the question is: Has South Carolina gone mad? Was the fit of irrationality that led to Newt Gingrich winning the 2012 primary here more than a one-time thing?

This is a question with national implications. Already some of the gloss has worn off the reputation that the SC GOP had been earning for a generation, the one that has enabled Republican leaders to boast,: “We pick presidents (or at least, eventual nominees).”

Some in the national media have practically written off South Carolina as worth covering, based on that one slip…

Something like this latest poll showing Trump at 30 percent is not likely to restore our rep as a state that knows how to pick ’em…

Cindi’s good idea for Greenwood monument could be applied in a lot of areas

Cindi Scoppe had a good column about the absurd problem that the town of Greenwood faces. The town decided some time back that it wanted to revise the lists of dead from the world wars on local monuments so that they were no longer separated into “white” and “colored.”

But the Legislature’s execrable Heritage Act, which was passed years ago for the now-irrelevant purpose of protecting the unlamented Confederate flag on the State House grounds, forbids the town from doing so. Which is absurd and wrong on several levels.

And unfortunately, Speaker Jay Lucas’ Shermanesque statement that while he is speaker, no more exceptions will be made to the Act, period, means there’s no hope for what the town wants to do. (I can appreciate Lucas’ pragmatic desire, once the good work of lowering the flag was done, to get onto other issues without distractions, but this is a particularly unfortunate effect of his declaration.)

Anyway, I like Cindi’s solution:

We should all hope that once cooler heads prevail, the speaker will walk back his Shermanesque statement, and the Legislature will give the American Legion and the city of Greenwood control over their own property — and give all local governments and private entities control over their property as well, for that matter.

If that doesn’t happen, there’s a better solution than a lawsuit: The folks in Greenwood should take up a collection for a new sign, to erect next to the monument, that says: “These lists of Americans who gave their lives for our nation remain segregated in the 21st century because the S.C. General Assembly either opposes integration or refuses to let local governments make their own decisions or both.”

That idea could be applied in a lot of situations where the Legislative State ties the hands of local governments. For instance, signs could be posted at Richland County polling places saying, “You are waiting in such long lines because the Legislature, in its ‘wisdom,’ gives control of the voting process to the local legislative delegation.”

Given the many ways the Legislature reaches down to meddle in local affairs, the possibilities for applying this idea are practically endless…


Jeb Bush on the Veterans Administration

This release from SC Democrats reminded me of the Jeb Bush event I attended Monday evening:

SC Dems: “Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Veterans Health Care Services Would Be a Disaster
Columbia, SC—The South Carolina Democratic Party released a statement from Beaufort County Democratic Party Chair and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Blaine Lotz regarding former Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush campaigning in the Palmetto State today.
“Jeb Bush’s plan to privatize veterans’ health care services would be a disaster for South Carolina veterans. As Governor of Florida, Bush proposed a similar plan that was so disastrous, it was replaced shortly after he left office. Jeb Bush continues to support outdated policies that prove as President, he would look out for his wealthy donors and special interests over our veterans and military families.”



What are they talking about?

Well, Bush had released several proposals with regard to veterans’ benefits on Monday, in advance of the Concerned Veterans for America event I attended over at Seawell’s. (I went basically to take my Dad there, who as a veteran was invited. We didn’t stay for all of it, which is one reason I didn’t write about it before now.) Here’s how Military Times described the proposals, in part:

Bush’s VA reform plan, to be unveiled later today in advance of an appearance with Concerned Veterans for America in South Carolina tonight, includes expanding “choice” options for care outside the department without cutting funding for VA hospitals and medical staff.

Instead, he promises that extra funds can be found through “cutting excess administrators (not caregivers)” and eliminating “billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse.” That includes more competitive bidding for department contracts and firing poorly performing employees.

“Ample resources exist within the VA budget to improve the quality and scope of care,” Bush’s policy paper states. “In other government agencies, common-sense reforms have saved billions. The VA must get its house in order and send savings into improving veteran choice and veteran care.”

He’s also promising better online health care access systems for veterans, calling existing offerings too cumbersome and outdated….

The video clip above shows him talking about his proposals — not in any detail. I just share it to give you some flavor of the event…

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don't know where Courson stands.

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the Marine Corps red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don’t know where Courson stands.

James Smith is among those waiting for Joe Biden to run

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

Bryan was dismissing the idea that a South Carolina Democrat endorsing Hillary Clinton was news, and I begged to differ — in South Carolina, there are a number of prominent Democrats waiting for Joe Biden to get into it.

After that exchange with Bryan, I picked up the phone to talk with one: Rep. James Smith.

James was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as someone urging the Veep to run just the other day, which was a change of pace, as it seems to me that the person most quoted on the subject by national media has been Dick Harpootlian. And of course, South Carolina was where Biden chose to get away from it all last week and ponder the matter. His ties to South Carolina, and not just to SC Democrats, are noteworthy.

As James told me, it’s not just about him and Dick. “We have a long list of Biden supporters… community faith leaders, business leaders and elected leaders.” And he said “We’re building an organization, on the chance” that he’ll jump into the race.

Why Biden? Smith starts with his broad experience, with issues both foreign and domestic. He said Biden is “the leader we need for these times,” someone “respected across the spectrum,” particularly in the Senate.

“The rest are just very polarizing figures, like something from a bad reality TV show.”

I could see why he’d say that about some of the GOP candidates, but Hillary Clinton, who will likely head up his party’s ticket next November? “She can be a very polarizing figure,” he insisted.

Smith said the time at Kiawah was “a very important week” for Biden, and he seemed hopeful.

But isn’t it too late for anyone to mount a serious challenge to Hillary’s inevitability? That’s what The Fix said yesterday, in a piece headlined, “It’s too late for Democrats to start rethinking Clinton’s 2016 viability.” Aren’t the important fund-raisers and others are taken now?

“I promise you that is not the case,” Rep. Smith said. He didn’t get into specifics, but implied that some fund-raisers have indicated their enthusiasm for a Biden candidacy.

So, there you have it — a South Carolina Democrat who is definitely not endorsing Hillary Clinton at this time. And he is not alone…

Dick Riley endorses Hillary Clinton

This endorsement from such a respected quarter comes at a good time for the Clinton campaign (a time when some other South Carolinians, such as Dick Harpootlian, are hoping to see Joe Biden run). Of course, it’s no surprise: Gov. Riley, who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of education, backed her in 2008 as well, unless my memory fails me:

Former Governor and Former Secretary of Education Dick Riley Endorses Clinton

Greenville, SC – Citing Hillary Clinton’s record as a tenacious fighter for hard-working Americans, former South Carolina Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley announced his endorsement for Clinton for President.  Riley praised Clinton’s newly released higher education plan – the New College Compact – in a letter this morning.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime getting results for women, children and families.  She will spend every day as President working to help hard-working South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead.

“Hillary is smart, grounded and focused on the issues that matter most to South Carolinians.  Back in the 1970s, she came to South Carolina to help children.  As first lady of Arkansas, she and I worked together to reduce infant mortality rates in Southern states.  She wants to get things done and will fight for the underdogs – that’s the way she’s always been.”

Riley was Governor of South Carolina from 1979-1987 and U.S. Secretary of Education from 1993-2001.



Rep. Beth Bernstein won’t run for Lourie’s Senate seat

Beth Bernstein at her campaign kickoff last year, with the back of Joel Lourie's head in the foreground at right.

Beth Bernstein at her campaign kickoff last year, with the back of Joel Lourie’s head in the foreground at right.

Well, it looks like Joel Lourie’s departure from the S.C. Senate won’t produce a Democratic primary contest between two House incumbents. Mia McLeod is going to run, but Beth Bernstein is not:

Bernstein: How I Can Best Serve 
Columbia, SC – State Representative Beth Bernstein released the following statement in regards to a possible bid for Senate District 22, currently held by Joel Lourie, who announced last week that he won’t run for re-election.
“Leadership.  An interesting concept and one not easily grasped.  In fact, I just concluded a 2 year-long course on this same topic through the Aspen Institute’s prestigious Liberty Fellowship Program.  In this program, we studied different leadership styles, philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Hobbes, and instrumental leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, and Margaret Thatcher, among others.  What I learned and what I am still learning is a good leader has to make tough decisions, not rash decisions but well studied and thought out decisions.

Last week, my state Senator Joel Lourie announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2016.  For our community and state, he has exemplified the qualities of a great leader.  He will be sorely missed and we will suffer a great void without him, but while I know this decision must have been a difficult one, it was one that was not made in haste.  And I thank him for the incredible sacrifices that he has made for our community.

With his departure came the likely inquisition on whether I would seek to run for his vacant seat.  While I wish he was given at least one day before any announcement was made to replace him, allowing him the respect and deference deserved for a career of public service coming to an end, I felt pressure to quickly make a decision.  Although, I personally needed time to study and determine if filing for Senate District 22 would be the best decision for my family and me and the community that I love and cherish.

After much prayer and personal reflection, my conclusion is that while serving in the Senate would be an exciting opportunity, I believe my recent appointments to the House Judiciary and Ethics Committees allow me to be more effective in representing this community in the House of Representatives. Therefore, at this time, I do not intend to file for Senator Lourie’s vacant Senate seat.

I am able to effect positive change for my constituency through the legislative process, and I believe I can make a bigger impact for our community by continuing to serve in the House.  Many of the bills that I have co-sponsored this year have passed, including the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act, of which I was the primary sponsor.

I feel so privileged and honored to be able to serve our community at the Statehouse and intend to file for re-election for House District 78 in March.  I want to continue advocating for our public schools, road funding and ethics reform, as well as fighting for women’s health issues, the elderly, and children’s issues.  I hope you will continue to support me.”


So, was that a dig at Mia? I refer to the part that said, “I wish he was given at least one day before any announcement was made to replace him.” Yeah, that was kind of a dig at Mia. I think…

In what universe is there a South Carolina where Graham is considered ‘long-serving?’

A mere pup, a novice, a tenderfoot, a tyro...

A mere pup, a novice, a tenderfoot, a tyro…

These Yankees do have some fanciful notions about time. First, there was their confusing insistence that “dinner” was to be eaten at suppertime. (Thanks to Yankee control of mass media, we’ve all been conditioned to accept that now, but I can remember finding it confusing as a child.)

And now this…

Over the weekend, The Washington Post had a story about our own Lindsey Graham warning that Donald Trump poses a serious threat to the Republican Party, as long as he is in any way associated with the brand (once, we would have said “the name,” as in family name, but Don Draper and the rest of those mercantilists from up North now have us all saying “brand.”)

A fine story, and worth reading (he says of Trump that the point has passed “where his behavior becomes about us, not just him”), but you’ll do a double-take when you read this part:

Graham, a long-serving senator from South Carolina, was relegated to the undercard debate on Thursday because of his poor standing in national polls….

Did that jar you as much as it did me? I assumed it was a typo. In what universe does there exist a South Carolina in which Lindsey Graham would be regarded as “a long-serving senator?”

The boy just finished his sophomore term! He’s a novice, a mere pup, a tenderfoot, a tyro!

Just to state the painfully obvious: His predecessor in that seat held it for 47 years. (Fritz Hollings only served 38 years — which is why, until the very end, he was our junior senator.)

Only three senators held Graham’s seat between Ben Tillman (1895-1918 — but give him a break; he would have served longer had he not died in office) and Strom Thurmond, as long as you don’t count three or four fellas who were placeholders, just keeping the seat warm for a few months each here and there.

Anyway, I thought that was an odd choice of words, given the state that Graham represents.

Is it time for dinner yet? I’m hungry…

SCDP interviews Hillary Clinton in rocking chair

Clinton rocking chair

Here’s an interesting series that the South Carolina Democratic Party is offering — half-hour interviews with presidential candidates, sitting in rocking chairs.

Why, Hillary looks so natural there, I could swear she was sittin’ out on the porch of the family home in Bennettsville, shelling butter beans with my grandmother.

Or not. In any case, I couldn’t help making that connection since Jaime Harrison’s first question to the candidate is about how she feels about being a grandmother. The interview is about eight minutes in before it moves past the subject of relearning how to change diapers.

So yeah, it’s kinda softball. But hey, take a look and toss whatever you learn from it into the hopper with the rest of what you know about the candidate.

And then check out the “chair chats” with Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chaffee and others.

The embed is below:

Dang! Apparently, I JUST missed seeing Lizard Man

WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 – Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Over the weekend, while still at Surfside, I started telling my youngest granddaughter about the Lizard Man legend. I don’t remember why. Anyway, driving home the next day with the kids in the car, I had just passed the Bishopville exit from which you can see the woods where he supposedly dwells, and I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I forgot to point out where they say Lizard Man lives!”

Apparently, if I’d been just a bit more attentive, I might have seen him:

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) — The fabled Bishopville swamp creature known as Lizard Man appears to have surfaced again Sunday afternoon.

Sarah, a Sumter woman who says she went to church with a friend Sunday morning, stepped out of the sanctuary to see the Lizard Man running along the tree line.

So she did what anyone else would do — took a picture with her phone.

“My hand to God, I am not making this up,” she wrote in an email to the ABC News 4 newsroom. “So excited!”

She says they were just a mile or so from Scape Ore Swamp, the site of a similar spotting of what may also be the Lizard Man in May.

A man who asked not to be identified submitted a short video of what he thought was the Lizard Man Monday morning. He said he took the video in May while coon hunting but kept its existence quiet — until he saw the reports of Lizard Man outside a church.

“I saw your lizard man story and it’s given me the courage to send you a video I took in early May,” the man wrote. “Though my wife believes me that it’s real, she said she would be embarrassed that everyone would think I was a loon so I kept it a secret.”…

Above is the video. Below is the picture taken by “Sarah.” As you can see, Lizard Man looks uncannily like a man wearing a cheap rubber costume. Isn’t nature amazing?

Lizard Man