Category Archives: South Carolina

‘The Nation’ on politics and race in South Carolina

My headline might make you cringe a bit, but the piece isn’t bad. It doesn’t really say anything about us that I haven’t said, or that you don’t already know.

After all, we are the state that seceded first, and some of us would do it again with just a modest amount of encouragement.

It’s tone-deaf in a couple of spots, though. For instance, it equates Strom Thurmond, the segregationist, with Ben Tillman, the advocate of lynching. Most of us can see the gradations of wrongness there rather clearly. And speaking of Thurmond — the writer either doesn’t know or has forgotten that the senator cleaned up his act in the last few decades of his career. In other words, he spent far more years in the Senate NOT being a segregationist than most people spend in the Senate.

That leads to confusion. After noting approvingly that Paul Thurmond says a lot of enlightened things — which he does; he’s a fine young man — the writer observes,

I leave Thurmond’s office wondering whether what I’ve just heard can be real. He seemed like a sincere man, but he, too, was eager to get beyond race. “My generation has not been taught to hate people based on the color of their skin,” the son of South Carolina’s most notorious segregationist told me.

Yet someone taught Dylann Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who shot Walter Scott in the back. The Confederate flag may finally be on its way to a museum, but the attitude of racial arrogance that the flag represented is very far from being a mere artifact. That’s a fundamental truth of our national life—though not one that’s easy to see from Iowa or New Hampshire. Perhaps South Carolina’s role in our politics is to remind us of all those parallel universes—not just Republican and Democratic, or rich and poor, but yes, still black and white—we work so hard to ignore. We always have a choice. We can carry on pretending that it’s still morning in America, that we’re all in this together. Or we can take a good hard look in the mirror.

Yep, Strom was a notorious segregationist, before he wasn’t. (Oh, and do I think it’s because he had some road-to-Damascus transformation, like Tom Turnipseed, the opponent of integration who did a 180 to become possibly the most ardent, sincerest progressive in South Carolina? No. The world changed, and Thurmond adapted. Early in his career, it was helpful to be a segregationist, so he was one. Later it was not, so he wasn’t. But it’s still true that he wasn’t.)

And the fact that Dylann Roof is a racist does in no way demonstrates that Paul Thurmond is lying when he says he wasn’t brought up that way. Possibly, Dylann Roof wasn’t brought up that way, either. I have my doubts about the old saw that children have to be taught to hate. I strongly suspect that people are capable of getting there on their own. Anyway, almost no one Paul Thurmond’s age was brought up that way, although his father certainly was. We live in subtler, politer times.

But there is no doubt that, decades after the Southern Strategy transferred the Solid South from the Democrats to the Republicans, race is always, always on the table. The article gets that right. It just misses some of the nuances…

Things seem to be lining up to create Mo for Marco in SC

The Rubio camp released the above video today.

It’s kind of minimalist — doesn’t say a lot. But then, TV ads tend to be that way; this one just seems more that way than most.

But it brings up the subject of… Things are building a bit for Marco Rubio in South Carolina, a state that he had always planned to do well in.

He won the Mainstream Republican race in Iowa… Tim Scott endorsed him… now Rick Santorum has done the same

… which national observers think won’t mean much in New Hampshire, but could mean a good bit here in the Bible Belt — specifically, in South Carolina.

Are they right? I don’t know. But I’m sensing some Mo for Marco.

No, I take that back. I’m not actually feeling the Mo yet. It’s like surfing — when you feel your board rising, it’s a bit late to start paddling to catch it. This is more like when you’re looking over your shoulder and seeing what could turn into a righteous wave by the time it gets to you…

Legislature elects to Supreme Court the guy who indicated how he might have ruled

Shortly after noon today, John Monk reported this:

To which I responded incredulously, “You mean, the guy who signaled how he would RULE?” John answered, “Yes that is who.”

Did you read John’s previous report about this?

Under questioning in a November hearing by Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, John Few, who is now chief judge of the S.C. Court of Appeals, compared the majority’s 3-2 opinion in what’s known as the Abbeville case with a newspaper editorial.

Although Few told Martin he might personally be “appalled” that children in rural schools aren’t getting a proper public school education, according to recently released transcripts, he elaborated, “If I were writing an editorial on the subject, I might say some of the very same things the Supreme Court said in their majority opinion.”

Few continued, “But when I’m writing a judicial opinion, I’m going to center my thinking on my role as a judge within the confines that are laid out for me in the constitution of South Carolina.”

At one point, Few told Martin he wanted to “tread carefully here … because this is a hot conversation here.”

In general, judges are not supposed to say how they would rule on a given case, and Few appeared to tip-toe through Martin’s questions, avoiding giving an obviously specific answer….

And well he might. Tip-toe, I mean.

So now, the guy who indicated — not said, but indicated — to lawmakers that he’s not the kind of guy to force them to do what so many really don’t want to do (give a fair shake to kids in poor, rural districts) will be our newest Supreme Court justice.

To bend way over and be charitable, we should consider that Mr. Few seems to be widely regarded as an able jurist, and perhaps lawmakers were simply more impressed by his credentials than those of his one remaining opponent.

But in a contest that was described as “a nail-biter until the final minutes,” after which “(s)ome lawmakers who voted for Few said they did so because they perceived he was the more conservative of the two,” one can be forgiven for wondering whether their motives were… less than pure…

Henry McMaster’s shocking endorsement of Trump. Yeah, DONALD Trump…

OK, this is a stunner.

Henry McMaster — former state Republican Party chairman, moderate and modest soul, the guy who stuck by John McCain in 2007 when everybody said he had no chance at the nomination, and who is therefore not a guy to jump onto any bandwagon that comes along — has just endorsed Donald Trump.

And not in an “I surrender; we might as well cooperate with the inevitable” way, either. He used language he might well have used to describe McCain, or George H.W. Bush, or Mitt Romney:

He’s not a bomb thrower, not an impulsive man. He thinks things through. He’s very careful. He takes advice. He listens. He seeks advice. He’s very gentle, fine manners, very courteous.

Um, Henry… Could you step over here a second? I want you to meet somebody…. Henry, meet Donald Trump… Because I don’t know who it was you were talking to and thinking it was Donald Trump.

Wow. Just wow…

I mean, Bob Dole trying to talk himself into settling for Trump was bad enough, but this

Chris Christie touts tenuous link to Lindsey Graham

Some of y’all who are always belittling my main senator, Lindsey Graham, may think he gets no respect on the national scene, given how poorly his erstwhile presidential campaign did.

But you’re all wrong, as evidenced by Chris Christie’s eagerness to connect himself to the South Carolinian, even at second hand:

 

 

Former McCain NH Chairman and Lindsey Graham Supporter Peter Spaulding Endorses Chris Christie for President

 

For Immediate Release:                                                 Contact: press@chrischristie.com

Monday, January 25, 2016

MORRISTOWN, NJ – At a press conference in Concord today flanked by several additional members of Senator McCain’s former New Hampshire leadership teams, Peter Spaulding announced his support for Governor Christie. Spaulding was chairman of Senator McCain’s successful 2000 and 2008 bids for president in New Hampshire. He had previously endorsed Senator Graham in the 2016 race.

Spaulding was joined at the press conference by Wayne MacDonald, Paul Chevalier, Sheriff Scott Hilliard, Richard Brothers, Jim Burke, Bernie Streeter, and Dan St. Hilaire who were members of Senator McCain’s 2000 or 2008 New Hampshire leadership teams.

“Chris Christie has the extensive executive and leadership experience that our country needs in these very difficult times. He is also the only candidate who has a proven record of meeting the terrorist threat to our nation head on,” said Peter Spaulding. “I am proud to support him.”

“As we get closer to the primary and we continue to see the growing momentum on the ground in New Hampshire, I am honored to receive Peter’s endorsement,” said Governor Christie. “Peter has a deep understanding of the Granite State and the qualities voters here are looking for in their next president. His support in the coming weeks will be incredibly helpful.”

Peter Spaulding was New Hampshire Chairman of US Senator John McCain’s successful presidential primary campaigns in the first-in-the-nation primary. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1988, 1996, 2000 & 2008. He was Chair of the New Hampshire Delegation in 2000 and 2008.

Spaulding, currently Chairman of the Merrimack County Board of Commissioners, served as an Executive Councilor from 1983 to 2006. He previously served as a county commissioner from 1970-1992.

Spaulding is a New Hampshire native who grew up in Bradford, NH. He earned a BA from the University of New Hampshire in 1966.

View the full New Hampshire endorsement list here. 

So there…

Rubio is a pawn star in new ad

I visited Marco Rubio HQ over on Huger earlier this week. If I hadn’t known exactly where it was (in the building that used to be a flag store), I might have driven past it. There was no signage visible from the road other than one of those wheeled signs with the movable letters.

I was there to touch base with Buzz Jacobs, newly named senior adviser to the campaign. Buzz was one of the architects of John McCain’s come-from-behind (remember when they said he was out of it, in mid-2007) victory here in 2008.

Nothing to report on that conversation — we just spent the time catching up, off the record. But I did ask him to put me on the Rubio email list — I’m sort of inundated with stuff from Cruz and Christie, but hadn’t been getting anything from this campaign.

Buzz obliged, and so I share with you the above new ad, which came in this morning.

I’m not entirely sure of the value of being hawked as a great investment by a pawn shop owner, but hey, there are popular TV shows now about that business, right? So what do I know? (And I find myself trying to place the background music — I think I heard it on a video game I had years ago.)

One thing Buzz did tell me was that they would have a more noticeable sign out front soon. And he meant really soon, because there were some young guys putting it up as I was leaving.

So it seems the Rubio campaign is getting settled in for the home stretch in South Carolina…

Last night’s Democratic debate in Charleston

Hillary Clinton sitting on the COLD State House steps this morning with Todd Rutherford, awaiting her turn to speak.

Hillary Clinton sitting on the COLD State House steps this morning with Todd Rutherford, awaiting her turn to speak.

Well, I meant to write today about the Democratic presidential candidates at the King Day at the Dome observance, but technical problems intervened. I watched some of it (via WIS) on my laptop and iPad, but the signal kept getting interrupted — both wifi and 4G.

Finally, when Hillary Clinton was done and Bernie Sanders had started, and I could see him but hear nothing, I put on my coat (and hat, and gloves, and scarf, remembering the bitter cold of a similar such rally eight years ago) and walked the four blocks or so to the State House, and… it was over. I walked onto the grounds against the flow of uniformed Secret Service officers hurriedly leaving.

I saw Sheriff Leon Lott, and he told me I hadn’t missed much, in terms of what the candidates had to say. He said if you heard them last night, you heard what they said today.

So let’s talk about the debate last night.

My quick takeaways…

  • Most who watched who are not Hillary Clinton supporters saw Bernie Sanders as the winner. And that’s probably true, partly because he stayed on message and partly because ex-Sen. Clinton was so obviously, deliberately lashing out at him, in light of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Note that term, “deliberately.” Everything Hillary Clinton does is so calculated, it’s one of the reasons a lot of people like Bernie, and a lot of other people wish Joe Biden had run.
  • Saying Bernie won does not mean I liked what he had to say. The raw paranoia of it is so disturbing — the whole Occupy Wall Street narrative about a few billionaires running the country (when anyone who looks around would see nobody’s running the country; it’s kind of on autopilot). How do people believe that stuff? Just because you aren’t doing well (and hey, I can identify with that) doesn’t mean that there’s some conspiracy against you. It just doesn’t. It’s like… when I was laid off from the paper, I wasn’t mad at anybody. The world changed, and the business model that supported newspapers collapsed under them. Nobody did it on purpose.
  • O’Malley did a nice job, and got to play the reasonable guy on the stage a number of times when Hillary was lashing out at Bernie and Bernie was spouting about super PACs, the wicked banks and billionaires. But it’s over for him.
  • I felt for Hillary when the moderator asked, “If Obama couldn’t bring the country together, how could you?” I mean, that’s a cruel question to ask someone who is Republicans’ favorite punching bag (as they are hers). He might as well have added, “… of all people.” But as she said, she has reached out and tried to work with the Lindsey Grahams of the Senate. No one would call it a core strength of hers, though.

I guess that’s enough to get some conversation going. I’ll close with this, which I tweeted when the debate was over:

Joel Lourie had asked me essentially the same question earlier in the evening, after I said I expected her to win the election. My answer? “Not all that great.” All the reasons why I preferred Obama on the Democratic side eight years ago are still present, only this time there’s no Obama.

That was, for me, the no-lose election, since I liked both Obama and McCain a lot. But this time? I like Hillary on foreign affairs, and I like that she’d veto the GOP’s perpetual attempts to scuttle the ACA. But she does not inspire enthusiasm.

And it’s looking increasingly like the sensible options on the Republican side have the odds stacked against them.

So I’m nostalgic for 2008. Maybe someone will inspire me before it’s over. But the chances of that don’t look great at the moment.

In the studio with Todd and Joel on Cynthia Hardy’s show

Studio

Just sharing this shot of Rep. Todd Atwater, Sen. Joel Lourie and me in the studio during Cynthia Hardy’s On Point radio show on the Big DM this evening.

Note that Todd is alert and looking around, Joel is playing the nerd studying the notes he had brought with him about the SOTU and Gov. Haley’s response, and I’m staring at my phone, probably writing this Tweet:

Which prompted Rob Godfrey from the governor’s office to respond:

Yes, this is a very self-referential blog post. But then, blogs tend to be that way as a medium — they are to journalism what selfies are to photography.

We had a good discussion, with everyone on board with agreeing with both the president and the governor in their calls for greater civility and less negativity. In fact, if our Legislature consisted entirely of Joel Louries and Todd Atwaters, we’d get a lot more done at the State House.

Not that there wasn’t sincere disagreement. Todd and Joel had a pretty good back-and-forth about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. At one point I almost jumped in on Joel’s side, when Todd said it was a shame the president didn’t meet Republicans halfway on the issue.

Hey, I was about to say, the president and the Democrats did meet Republicans halfway and more from the get-go — before the debate on the Act was joined, before the president was even elected.

That happened when Obama didn’t run advocating for single-payer, which is the one really rational approach to healthcare. And he backed away from that in deference to the wall of Republican resistance that already existed against it. So he and the other Dems started out with a compromise position.

But then the subject changed, and we didn’t return to it. Just as well. I was being presented to listeners as the guy in the middle between Joel the Democrat and Todd the Republican, and it would have just confused everybody if I had jumped out on the one issue where I’m to the left of Bernie Sanders. That is, that’s where my position has been cast popularly — mostly by Republican resistance that has made Democrats afraid to embrace it. I don’t consider it to be to the left of anything. To me, it’s the commonsense, nonideological, pragmatic option. And a lot simpler than the ACA.

Speaking of Bernie… He and the author of Hillarycare will be on the tube in awhile, so I think I’ll stop and rest up to get ready to Tweet during that. Join me @BradWarthen if you’re so inclined.

 

Graham endorses Bush, which makes sense for him

You’ve probably heard about this by now:

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Sen. Lindsey Graham on Friday endorsed Jeb Bush for president, a major get for the former Florida governor who has struggled to gain traction in the contest.

In a press conference here, where the two stood side-by-side, Graham praised Bush, calling him a thoughtful and pragmatic figure who, unlike many of his rivals, had the experience to be president. At one point, Graham offered harsh criticism of Sen. Marco Rubio, saying that he wasn’t ready for the White House.

“I think Marco Rubio will be president of the United States someday,” Graham said. “I like him. But I wasn’t ready to be president at 44.”

Bush, Graham said, “is ready to be a commander-in-chief on Day One.”…

Umm… that doesn’t sound all that “harsh” to me. It’s not even inconsistent with the big pat on the head he gave Rubio last year, calling him a “son of Ronald Reagan.” That spurred speculation that he might back Rubio. But sons are not necessarily always ready to fill the roles of their fathers.

This makes sense for Graham. The only choices for him were Bush, Rubio, Christie and maybe Kasich. And of them all, Bush comes closest to the kind of traditional conservatism that would appeal to Graham and to South Carolina Republicans — or would have, before they lost their collective mind when Donald Trump started running.graham mug

It’s like Graham is saying to fellow Republicans — this is the guy I prefer, and he’s the one y’all would prefer if you weren’t under the influence of red kryptonite, or whatever’s gotten into you.

As for the first objection most people will have — But Bush can’t win! He’s out of it! He’s missed his chance! — that wouldn’t bother Graham. As he said at his availability in Columbia last week, there are two ways to approach choosing someone to endorse, or vote for — getting onto the bandwagon of someone with momentum, or choosing the person you honestly think would do the best job if he did get elected.

And I was thinking during the debate last night, as Bush failed yet again to get the sort of traction that would help him gain lost ground, he was the one guy on the stage who didn’t say anything really strongly objectionable. He plays the quiet, Father Knows Best role in the crowd — maybe not the most fun guy, but somebody you could trust to run the government while you’re busy living your life. The sober, stolid type who may be boring but isn’t alarming.

Which is saying something these days.

Thoughts about the State of the Union, Haley’s response?

sotu

Y’all, I’ve really been backed up today and having technical problems and just haven’t been able to stop with day job stuff to reflect on last night’s State of the Union, or Nikki Haley’s response.

But what did y’all think? I’ll jump in there with you as I can…

haley vid

I can’t believe we’re voting next month (this just doesn’t feel right)

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., responds to a warm welcome from the audience as he approaches the microphone during a South Carolina victory party in Columbia, S.C. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Dimly remembered: 8 years ago, there was actual excitement.

I started to say this in a comment earlier, but decided it was worth a post…

You know, this year doesn’t feel like either 2012 or 2008 — which are the only presidential years since I’ve been blogging (which affects my perception). By now, there should be a fever pitch of interest, on my part and on the parts of my readers. January 2008 was by far my biggest month for blog traffic when I was at the paper. January 2012 was huge on the blog’s post-MSM iteration.

But that absorbing interest just doesn’t seem to be there, on anyone’s part. After a high last summer with the Emanuel AME shootings and the flag coming down, my traffic has been ticking along at, if anything, a slower pace than usual. And it hasn’t picked up since Christmas, the way it usually would.

A huge part of this is me — I’m not feeling charged up, and my level and frequency of posting reflects that. But I sense that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’m not picking up on any excitement on anyone’s part. (Please tell me if I’m wrong.) And it’s not just on the blog — I’m just not hearing all that much interest out on the street, either.

And I think a big part of is that the choices are so dispiriting.

There just doesn’t seem to be any likely good outcome from the GOP contest, which makes a sensible person want to go to sleep and leave instructions to be awakened when there’s a whole other slate of options to choose from.

But every night for what — six months or so — we’ve gone to bed each night and waked up to see Trump leading the polls. Some days, we might think we see something else on the horizon — look, somebody else is catching up to him! But then that somebody else turns out to be Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz, and you just want to give up.

Then, on the Democratic side…

It looks like, when it’s all said and done, it will be Hillary. But by the time that happens, she will be so battered and shopworn that no one will feel any enthusiasm about that outcome. There will just be a sort of weary acceptance. In fact, it feels like we reached that point some time back. Years ago, even.

Sure, there have been moments of almost-hopefulness on that side, too:

  • Joe Biden might run! Oh, no… he won’t…
  • Look, someone’s catching up to her! Dang, it’s just Bernie Sanders…
  • Hey, she did great in that debate! Maybe it won’t be so bad if she’s the nominee… but then you are soon reminded of the things, big and small, that keep you from being enthusiastic, and make you feel like you’re being marched to the inevitable by a Vogon guard who is shouting “Resistance is useless!

You tell yourself, there are some decent options on the Republican side — Jeb Bush or Mario Rubio on their good days, maybe Chris Christie when he’s not blustering or John Kasich when he’s not being crabby.

But then you think, none of them seems likely to win here. And even if one of them is the eventual nominee, it seems increasingly likely that that will be decided quite some time after our primary.

And hey, you tell yourself: You may be tired of her, but don’t you like her views on foreign policy better than any Democrat since Joe Lieberman? (OK, maybe you don’t think that; but I do.) Isn’t this a chance to revive the Third Way, or at least to take a step in that direction? Wasn’t Bill Clinton a pretty sound policy guy, despite all the drama, and doesn’t she have a lot of the same characteristics?

But then you remember that with the Clintons there is always the endlessly wearying drama, the feelings of persecution, the scores to settle with the vast right-wing conspiracy, and you wonder, Am I really up for more of this?

Maybe I’m just blowing smoke here. Maybe I’m totally off-base. But this just all feels really low-energy for a month before the primaries. Maybe y’all disagree with that. Or maybe you have a better explanation for it.

Or maybe no one will comment on this, which seems to happen too often these days. Which means, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m losing my touch…

Naaaahhh…

Could Bernie Sanders be viable in SC? The gut says ‘no,’ but there are now reasons to consider the possibility

Something just struck me, in the middle of a conversation with a longtime colleague about the upcoming primaries…

After a period several months ago when it looked like Hillary Clinton was in real trouble, and Joe Biden was doing his Hamlet routine (to run… or not to run), the once and future front-runner regained control, and Joe stayed out. Consequently, since that point in the fall, we’ve been back to assuming Hillary is inevitable. Especially in South Carolina, where Democrats tend to be a bit less, you know, socialistic.

But consider this…

She and Bernie Sanders are pretty much neck-and-neck in both Iowa and New Hampshire at the moment. That kind of mo is very good for Sanders this late in the game, and horrible for Clinton.

It has people such as Chris Cillizza at The Fix saying:

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine it’s Feb. 10. In the past nine days, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has beaten his Democratic presidential challenger Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. There won’t be another vote for 10 more days (Nevada), and then it’ll be another week until South Carolina, the last of the big four early states, votes.

That scenario would be a total nightmare for Clinton. Period. It’s also a lot more likely to go from fantasy to reality than most people — including most establishment Democrats — understand….

Which raises the question: Could Bernie Sanders come from way behind to win the South Carolina primary?

The temptation is to say NO WAY. Democrats here tend to love them some Clintons. (Except if they are named Dick Harpootlian, or James Smith, or… you know what? There were a bunch of people looking around for alternatives, up until the time Biden definitely said no.)

But think about eight years ago: South Carolina was Clinton country then, too. There were a lot of black Democrats who thought the idea of Barack Obama as nominee sounded good, but they didn’t believe in it as a real possibility.

Then he won Iowa. Which meant white folks would vote for him, despite many doubts before that.

But then Hillary won New Hampshire, barely, after much sweat and some tears.

And yet the Iowa result was enough to seal the deal for Obama, and he picked up the further momentum he needed right here in SC.

What if… and as Cillizza says, this is now less crazy than it may sound… Sanders won both Iowa and New Hampshire?

It… could… happen.

Sure, the dynamics would be different. That rush of good feeling about maybe nominating the first black president would be absent.

But it’s worth thinking about now…

Lindsey Graham, back from the campaign trail

Graham availability

You may already have read Andy Shain’s piece on Lindsey Graham’s press availability in Columbia yesterday. It began:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he quit the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination last month because he saw no clear path to the upper tier of candidates, some of whom — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — he sees as toxic to the GOP.

The Seneca Republican regularly was named the winner of the GOP race’s “undercard” debates, which featured lower-polling candidates. But not getting on the main debate stage killed his chances to win greater support, Graham said.

Graham thought that if he could make the top three in the New Hampshire primary polls, he could have won the next GOP contest, in his home state of South Carolina….

And so forth. I won’t repeat anything Andy already said. But here are a few points Graham made that Andy didn’t touch on:

  • Asked whether he was interested in serving in the Cabinet of the eventual winner, he said he didn’t think so. He sees it as too important to stay in the Senate. He’s one of the few who can work across the aisle, and he’s convinced that none of the actual challenges that face the country — dealing with entitlement reform, dealing comprehensively with immigration — can be dealt with by one party or the other. It’s going to take coalition-building. It’s going to take people who can “get to ‘yes’.”
  • “This is a religious war” that the West is engaged in, and winning will require working with Muslims — the 99 percent who “are non-radical Islamists.” That’s why the approach of a Trump will never work.
  • Is Christianity under attack in this country — with laws forcing employers to provide birth control, or a court ruling creating the institution of same-sex marriage? No, he says. Not in this country. Democracy has outlets for people to express their views, and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. There is a war against Christianity, though, and everything else about Western culture — but it’s happening in the Mideast.
  • Did he like running for president enough to do it again? As Andy wrote, he’d consider it. And the reason why is that he thinks there’s a market for what he offers. “I think people are looking around for somebody like me,” if not actually him. Somebody who will be “tough on our enemies,” but who believes in pluralism, in the principles of a liberal democracy and land of opportunity.
  • On the campaign trail, John McCain “worked harder for me than he did for himself,” and Graham deeply appreciates it. Noting that politicians are a little too quick to call everyone their friend, but in this case, it applies: “John McCain is my friend.”
  • Reminiscing about the campaign trail, he asked whether anyone had heard the story of his encounter with an out-and-out racist in a pool hall. No one said yes, so he told the story, which recognized before he was done. The voter in question muttered some ethnic slurs, including the “N-word.” Graham said “I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” and answered a few more questions before taking the bigot on in a game of pool — and winning. “It was fun to beat his ass,” Graham said Friday.
  • Speaking of pool halls, Graham said anyone who grew up in a bar — as Graham did, the one his parents owned — is very familiar with people like Donald Trump, and knows how to deal with them.
  • Touching on fellow South Carolina Republicans, he said Nikki Haley being chosen to deliver the GOP response to the State of the Union is “a big honor” for our state, Tim Scott is “a rock star,” and Trey Gowdy has done well with the tough hand he was dealt. “South Carolina is hitting above her weight” on the national political scene.

Earlier, I had asked him another SC question. I wondered whether, with Newt Gingrich having won here in 2012 and Trump and Cruz doing so well here this time, South Carolina’s losing its touch on picking eventual nominees, and presidents. In other words, is South Carolina becoming irrelevant?

He didn’t think so. His answer is on the video clip that follows…

The Democrats’ response to Nikki Haley giving the GOP ‘response’ — and mine to theirs

From the governor's Facebook page.

From the governor’s Facebook page.

The SC Democrats put out this release today:

SCDP Chair Statement on Nikki Haley Delivering GOP SOTU Response
Columbia, SC –  South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison issued the following statement on the announcement of Governor Nikki Haley delivering the GOP response to the President’s State of the Union.
Next Tuesday, America will see a poised and confident speaker in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. But, what they won’t see, and what they certainly won’t hear about, is the despair that has plagued our state as a result of her leadership.”
“What Gov. Haley doesn’t want you to know is that South Carolina is hurting. While she’s smiling in front of the cameras, normal people in our state are struggling just to get by.
“The South Carolina we see is filled with roads and bridges in dire need of repair after recent flooding. Our schools, especially those in poor, rural communities, are without the funds they need to teach our children. Hard-working men and women are being forced to work two or three jobs to support their families because the wages they make at one job simply aren’t enough.
“The stakes are high. While Gov. Haley and Republicans are focused on driving a wedge between us, South Carolina Democrats are working to find common ground and common sense solutions. Because we see what South Carolina can be.
“Let’s make the game fair again—let’s take care of the many, not just the powerful and influential. Let’s create good paying jobs and make education affordable for the next generation of leaders. Let’s make healthcare accessible and repair our bridges and roads. And let’s do it together.
“If you work hard and play by the rules, you should feel good about your future and the future of your loved ones. That’s what South Carolina Democrats believe, and that’s the American Dream we’re defending.
###

I’d like to make a couple or three points about that:

  • Jaime HarrisonFirst, a modest attaboy: The tone of this is noticeably better than that in many such communiques, and I want to give Jaime Harrison credit for that. Seldom do see a statement from either party regarding a leader of the opposing party that says anything like this: “America will see a poised and confident speaker in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.” No, it’s not huge, but the bar is so very low when it comes to party rhetoric that I wanted to make positive note of that.
  • Next, as I’ve said many times before, I heartily disapprove of these “responses” from the party that does not occupy the White House. The president has a constitutional obligation to make these reports “from time to time” — not to the voters, but to Congress, although it is obviously a matter of concern to the whole country, and I applaud networks for airing it all these years now. The “response” has now become an informal institution, and an unfortunate one — it institutionalizes pure partisanship. There is no reason for it except to afford the opposition party a chance to say “Yeah? And your mama!” in response to the president’s performance of this constitutional duty, and to do so before a live television audience. It is one of the most visible expressions of pointless partisanship in a country in which many voters have forgotten that our founders despised parties (at least in theory; they were more fallible in practice).
  • Finally, I want to praise Gov. Haley for calling it an “address” rather than a response. After all, it never is a response, is it? It’s prepared in advance, before the president has spoken. It’s a pro forma “Is not!” that is offered regardless of what the president actually just said. I appreciate her frankness about that.

How is Tim Scott like Strom Thurmond?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Did you see this item in The State over the weekend?

Tim ScottSCOTT SEEKS HIS OWN TERM

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, is expected to run for re-election in 2016. The only African-American Republican in the U.S. Senate, Scott was appointed to the seat in late 2012 after Jim De-Mint resigned to run a conservative think tank. Scott, the state’s most popular pol, won a special election in 2014 to complete DeMint’s six-year term. Now, he must seek his own term on Nov. 8. Do S.C. Democrats even field a candidate?

Catch that? Scott is “the state’s most popular pol”?

Think about that for a moment. What is Tim Scott known for? How has he distinguished himself? What has he done in office, for good or ill?

Not much, near as I can recall.

And South Carolina voters love that. That’s why they loved Strom Thurmond, at least for the last three or four decades of his career. During my adult life, Strom never did much of anything. OK, he did one thing: He had warning labels put on bottles of alcohol. He worked on that one from 1971 to 1988. After 1988, he kicked back let constituent service occupy him — or at least, occupy his staff — for the rest of his time in office.

Floyd Spence followed pretty much the same approach. He provided constituent service, identified himself with a strong national defense, and kept his head down. Except for that brief “You lie!” eruption, his successor, Joe Wilson, has followed a similar pattern.

And if Strom were still in office today, he probably wouldn’t even have messed with the warning-labels thing, since the surging libertarian wing of his party would probably regard it as nanny-state meddling.

Anyway, Tim Scott is sticking with that formula, and it works for him. Our other senator, Lindsey Graham, tries to do stuff, and that just gets him into trouble with the base.

In fact, in a sense he’s more like Strom than Strom’s own son is. Paul Thurmond is retiring from the SC Senate after this year — after only a single term! That boy fell a long way from the tree…

Did you read my comments in the NYT?

Over the weekend, the NYT finally ran that piece by Richard Fausset, in which he quoted me on the subject of the Confederate flag.

Some people are nationally recognized experts on quantum physics. Others are sought after for what they have to say about macroeconomics. Me, I’m seen as a boffin on South Carolina’s cheesy, nylon, fake Confederate flag.

Hey, it’s something. And if anybody’s got an idea on how to monetize this, my super-power, I’m listening.

Anyway, here’s my bit in the story:

The museum is also full of Confederate battle flags that were used by South Carolinians during the war — unlike the flag that was removed from the State House. That makes the whole issue of honoring the State House flag in the museum particularly absurd to critics like Brad Warthen, a former editorial page editor at The State in Columbia, who now blogs about South Carolina politics.

Mr. Warthen has noted that legislators, years ago, mandated that the flag be made of nylon, rather than cotton, to keep the colors from fading. He ridiculed this as ahistorical and “cheesy.” (One of his old columns began with altered lyrics to the song “Dixie”: “Oh, I wish I was in the land of nylon.”)

Like many here, Mr. Warthen believes that spending millions to display the flag makes little sense in a state that is struggling to find funds for road and infrastructure repairs (much needed after catastrophic flooding in October), educational initiatives and changes to a scandal-plagued Department of Social Services.

“Our state’s spending needs are legion,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter how you feel about the flag. It’s a ridiculous waste of resources.”…

I tweeted about this Sunday morning, and Phillip Bush responded:

Yeah, it’s pretty cool. This may be my first time in that august publication. I’ve been in the WSJ once or twice, but not, as I recall, in the Gray Lady. It’s nice to be quoted in a paper where they call you “mister.”

But think about it: Donald Trump is in there every day. So, you know…

Here it is: The last license plate South Carolina will ever need

plate

Is this beautiful or what? Has South Carolina ever had a license plate that looked this good? If our state leaders had the good sense to adopt it, could you ever imagine us wanting to change the design again? I can’t.

Thank our own Mark Stewart for putting the image together, based on a conversation he and I had on an earlier post.

Reacting to the blah new design we’ll have to start putting on our cars next year (it lacks lust; it’s so lackluster), Mark said:

I see they are still designing license plates by committee over at the DMV. Another dreadful effort is on display here. Better than last year’s; but that isn’t saying much as those were clearly DOA.

When you have a flag like SC’s for inspiration, how hard is it to bollocks it up?

Absolutely, said I:

I know! We need a dark blue plate with white letters and a white Palmetto tree and crescent moon in the center. How complicated is that? It would be beautiful, and we would never need a redesign, because it couldn’t be improved upon…

I have a lot of respect for states like New Jersey, who have a simple design and just stick with it. You can tell a NJ plate at quite a distance.

I want a plate like that, only beautiful. The flag design is the way to go.

Anyway, we riffed back and forth on the subject for a few more comments, and then Mark, fired up, went and created the above.

Isn’t it gorgeous? If only we could adopt this plate, we’d never need another. It would be impossible to improve upon.

If I were to make any change at all, I might make the blue just a tad darker. But I’d also be satisfied with it just as it is…

Polls: South Carolina, Trump, Republicans and Muslims

These three polls just in:

Bad News: Donald Trump favorite of SC Republicans — again — This is Winthop Poll. The only reassurance I can give you is that it was mostly taken before Trump spoke of banning Muslims from our shores.

Good News: Majority Opposes Trump Plan to Ban Muslims, Poll Finds — Unfortunately, the WSJ/NBC poll finds that Republicans are more evenly split on the matter.

Bad News: Trump’s Lead Solidifies in Poll, but Many Are Nervous — This one’s from the NYT and CBS. Again, this was largely taken before Trump’s latest bad craziness.

All of which leads to this story from The Washington Post:

As Trump surges, GOP prepares for a contested convention — Time to crank up the ol’ smoke-filled room, boys. Your phony-baloney party is on the line. Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph….

Let’s look at an excerpt from that:

Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as Donald Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race.

More than 20 of them convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, where the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting.

Considering that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said….

May you live in interesting times, Reince Priebus…

Lawmakers hope to see more cooperation, building upon the summer

panel

Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Joe Neal; Sens. Joel Lourie, Katrina Shealy and Ronnie Cromer

This morning, ADCO had a table at the latest Columbia Regional Business Report’s Power Breakfast. This one was about looking ahead to the coming legislative session, and featured a panel of lawmakers — Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Joe Neal, and Sens. Joel Lourie, Katrina Shealy and Ronnie Cromer.

(Bryan Caskey joined me at the ADCO table, along with several other representatives of local law firms whom I invited.)

The nice thing about “covering” these events is that if I just wait a few hours, CRBR will put up its own report that gives you the basics and saves me from a lot of typing. An excerpt:

Next year’s legislative session will be a failure if not remembered for collaboration across party lines, state lawmakers said today.

Legislators from both sides of the aisle urged to see similar cooperation next year from the General Assembly as it did in the aftermath of the Emanuel AME tragedy. The give-and-take between Democrats and Republicans will be vital if the state hopes to finally fix crumbling infrastructure, they said during the Columbia Regional Business Report’s quarterly “Power Breakfast” networking event at the Columbia Marriott.

“I think 2016, more than anything else is going to be known as the year that we either came up with an idea to fund our infrastructure and do it in the right manner,” said Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry, “or it’s going to be known as the year we failed the people of South Carolina. Because we couldn’t put some plan together to fund our roads and bridges.”

Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, knows it can be easy to assume collaboration as part of the General Assembly’s supermajority. But he still saw it at work when his colleagues voted to remove the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds in July and expects to see more of it again next year, this time without tragedy serving as a catalyst….

And that pretty much states it. There was an air of cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe — after the miracle they experienced together over the summer (achieving near-unanimity on an issue that had previously been too controversial even to bring up), that goodwill could be channeled productively on other fronts.

Of course, the usual differences were on display — the three Republicans tended to think in terms of coming together over infrastructure; the two Democrats wanted to see some Republicans agreeing with them on Medicaid expansion. But there was also agreement on some key issues — Democrats agreed infrastructure must be dealt with, and both sides acknowledged that the state Supreme Court’s instructions to improve educational opportunity in poor, rural districts must be meaningfully addressed as well.

Beyond that, here are some Tweets that give you the flavor of the session:

Harrell replacement: Use private money to display flag

If you’re counting up the ways that Bobby Harrell’s departure from the House was a blessing to South Carolina, add this…

Mary Tinkler, the young Democrat who won his seat by default when Harrell had to withdraw from the 2014 election, is stepping up to avoid the obscenity of state taxpayers paying an exorbitant amount to display the fake nylon flag removed from the State House:

Representative Mary Tinkler to Prefile Bill Creating Commission to Fund Confederate Flag Display with Private Dollars

Tinkler bill would prevent taxpayers from funding proposed Confederate Flag Display

Charleston, SC – State Representative Mary Tinkler (D-Charleston) announced Wednesday that she will prefile legislation creating a nine-person commission to raise private funds for and oversee the maintenance of the display of the confederate battle flag that was removed from the statehouse grounds in July.

Last week, the museum commission approved a costly, $5.3-million design incorporating the display of the confederate battle flag in an expanded Confederate Relic Room in Columbia.  As proposed by consultants, the display features eight-foot-tall panels with millions of small LED lights and requires significant security enhancements for the flag, which was removed after the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Rep. Mary Tinkler

Rep. Mary Tinkler

“When the flag was removed from the statehouse grounds, we overwhelmingly agreed that it should be displayed in an appropriate manner,” said Tinker.  “But this proposal is irresponsible and not in the best interest of South Carolina’s taxpayers.  We have thousands of flood victims in this state who still haven’t seen relief, roads that are literally crumbling, and schools that continue to fail.  Their needs should take priority.”

Tinkler says she plans to prefile legislation on Thursday that would limit public funding for the confederate battle flag but protect the planned display in perpetuity.

“Taxpayers should not be required to fund such an extravagant project when we have so many needs that aren’t being adequately addressed,” said Tinkler. “However, we can still honor the history of the confederacy with a flag display at the Confederate Relic Room.  My bill is a free-market compromise that allows for an appropriate display, funded by private donations.”

Tinkler’s proposal tasks the legislature with appointing a commission, made up of lay people, to create and direct a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to raise the necessary funds for an appropriate confederate flag display. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore would each have four (4) appointments, while the Governor would have one.  The commission would also be in charge of raising the funds to maintain the display and support necessary personnel and security.

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Good for her. But I’d go a step further: Even if every penny comes from private sources (which would be a challenge, since the proposal involves an annual cost of $416,000 in perpetuity — or until the rent goes even higher), this display should not be erected within the context of a museum under the purview of the state.

Even if the money drops from the sky, devoting that kind of space and energy to this tawdry token instead of to the real military relics at the museum would be obscene.