Category Archives: South Carolina

Dems seem desperate, clutching at Graham’s out-of-bounds joke about himself, the GOP and other white men

I initially learned of the incident from the Brad Hutto campaign, which has skewed my reaction:

Hutto Blasts Graham for ‘white male only’ Comments

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show”

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic candidate for US Senate Brad Hutto spoke out this evening in response to news reports regarding Lindsey Graham’s leaked comments at an exclusive all-male private club. Graham told the group members he was helping them with their tax status and that “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/29/politics/lindsey-graham-private-club/index.html?hpt=po_c1

Hutto made the following statement:

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show. He is only interested in his own ambitions and the best interests of the wealthy donors he hopes will fund his possible presidential campaign.  Women, people of color, and middle class and working families have no part in Lindsey Graham’s plans.  But, we shouldn’t be surprised. Lindsey Graham voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against equal pay for women, against raising the minimum wage and against the level of support our veterans have earned and deserve. He’s consistently supported tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans and corporations while trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare. We already knew where Lindsey Graham stood. Now, he’s just confirmed it.”

###

And the thing that put me off right away was the dead earnestness of the reaction. I read that quote, “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” And without any explanation or context, I knew that it was a joke. Because, you know, I’m not dense. It reads like a joke, without knowing anything at all about who said it. Knowing that it’s Graham, it obviously couldn’t be anything else.

And of course, when you follow the link — or look at any of the coverage of the incident after Peter Hamby reported it — the fact that it’s a joke is reported at the top, and accepted without question. Everyone understands that this was the Hibernian Society, and the drill is that you stand up there and make fun of yourself.

And yet, there’s not one word in this release that acknowledges that. It’s treated as though Graham were making a straightforward, naked, campaign promise to this group he was speaking to. Which is absurd on its face, but the absurdity doesn’t seem to register on Hutto or his campaign. The release seems to expect the voters to believe that Graham was dead serious, as though he were Ben Tillman or something.

Now if Hutto had acknowledge the joke and said it was a bad joke, in terrible taste, it would be a different matter. The assertion might be debatable — a good argument might tip me either way on the point — but it would at least be respectable.

He could legitimately get on a pretty high horse about it. He could say that it says terrible things about Graham that he could even conceive of such a joke, and think it was funny. He could say it would be unseemly to joke like that with an all-white-male crowd even if he knew it would never leave the room — or especially if he knew it would never leave the room.

As a joke, it’s pretty edgy stuff. Like, almost “Family Guy” edgy (which is to say, “OhmyGod, why am I laughing at this?” edgy). A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, says something that both mocks himself as a GOP politician (and mocks the idea of himself as a presidential candidate along the way) and digs at the audience itself. It was pretty nervy. It was the kind of thing I might say to such a group in spoofing a GOP politician, while being pretty nervous about whether they would laugh or not.

On the one hand, you can argue that it shows a pretty finely developed sense of both social conscience and irony to want to mock a crowd like that, and oneself, that way. Like, look at all us white guys schmoozing; aren’t we ridiculous?

But a very good case could be made that a politician who represents an entire state in the South should never, ever make such a joke — particularly if, you know, he belongs to the official party of the Southern white man. There’s really nothing funny about living in a state in which the racial division between the parties is so clearly understood by all, Tim Scott notwithstanding.

So make that case. But don’t give me this nonsense like you think he was being serious. Like you think it’s a statement of policy when a politician tells an all-male group, “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up.”

I mean, have a little respect for me. Give me a f—ing break, as a U.S. senator might say.

This may be the most intellectually insulting thing I’ve seen from the Democratic Party since all the “War on Women” nonsense. It’s an appeal that assumes appalling degrees of emotionalism and gullibility on the part of its audience.

After the Hutto release, the state party doubled-down on this meme that Graham was baring his soul:

BREAKING: Lindsey Graham makes offensive comments at male-only club. We’ve had enough of this. Add your name now to send a message: It’s time for South Carolina to move beyond this kind of behavior!

As if we couldn’t add more to the list of reasons why we need to get Lindsey Graham out of office, this happens:

While at an event at a males-only club in Charleston last month, Graham – who’s toying with the idea of a run for the presidency — charmed his friends with blatant bigotry: “white men who are in male-only clubs would do great in my presidency.”

A couple moments later, he insulted Baptists. “They’re the ones who drink and don’t admit it!”

These offensive comments are NOT okay – and absolutely unbecoming of a United States Senator.

Will you click here and send a message that it’s past time for South Carolina to move on from this kind of behavior?

Thanks,

Breaking News @ South Carolina Democratic Party

If you can take that seriously, by all means click on the links and give some money. Which is the point.

The fact is, if Hutto and his party just left this alone, the half-perceived news coverage would cause a lot of their constituents to leap to the very response that they wish to see them leap to: “Lindsey Graham said WHAT?” But to take them by the hand and misrepresent the situation so as to lead them there is something else altogether.

The difference here is that — appropriately or not (and personally, if I were his campaign manager, I’d probably be giving him hell right now for f—ing up) — Graham was kidding, but the Democrats are not. They really want people to believe that they’ve caught Graham being genuine. As though this were a “47 percent” moment. Which it plainly is not.

A couple of broadcast ads from House District 78

The above Beth Bernstein ad came out a couple of days ago. Just getting around to sharing it now.

And as soon as I posted it, Beth’s opponent, Republican Jeff Mobley, commented below to call our attention to his radio ad, below. So I rewrote the post to include that prominently…

Wow. NOW Mia McLeod is attacking Carolyn Click

Here’s the latest escalation from Rep. Mia McLeod, who really seems to be going around the bend on this thing:

Okay, Ms. Click, so you write front-page fabrications about race in Richland Two on Sunday and then again on Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week? Guess The State must be hard-pressed for real news…and real journalists.

Race wasn’t an issue in Richland Two until you and your White Citizens Council (WCC) buddies made it one.Mia leopard jacket

The illusion of racial tension and animosity you guys have created continues to reveal your true colors. In fact, the same WCC spokesperson quoted in Sunday’s story, had this to add today,

“These people are playing hardball—if they get control they will drive off all the competent people…”

Funny thing is…”these people” kinda reminds me of “those people” and “you people.”

Clearly these are “your people,” Ms. Click, since you’re working overtime to help disseminate and lend credibility to their racist chatter.

Thankfully, somebody at The State had the good sense (not you, of course) to remove his racist rant from “the story” you originally posted online last night, as well as the printed version today.

More proof that “control”—not race, is the real issue. “If they get it,” means we’ve never had it. Guess that’s what scares y’all so much.

And you so desperately want the few readers you do have, to believe that I’m Amelia McKie’s biggest supporter. Guess that’s why you’ve conveniently omitted thousands of dollars in contributions and a diverse cross-section of her contributors from your “story.”

Too bad that while you’re working hard to undermine and discredit Mrs. McKie, the front-runner in this school board race, you’ve actually disclosed even more “evidence” of the collaboration between the current Administration and the WCC.

Obviously, the campaign contributions of current R2 Administrators to some of the WCC’s “chosen four” is evidence of collaboration and conflict—not to mention, impropriety. But I’m sure that’s well above your pay grade, Ms. Click, since The State must not require you to check the rules or the facts before you print your fabrications.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t compare Debbie Hamm to Lillian McBride in my blog. I simply referenced incompetence as their common denominator.

Even my Senator chimed in to “reaffirm” his support for Debbie Hamm. But, this isn’t about her. Or is it?

Anyone who thinks she’s “building morale” in R2, is out of touch with everybody but the DO. For her loyal supporters, friendship trumps everything.

What a sobering reality check for the rest of us in Richland Two.

Let’s channel our energy and efforts towards a true commitment to excellence in education, for the benefit of all Richland Two students.

For those who are afraid of losing it, it’s clearly about control. For the rest of us, it’s truly about moving our students, communities and District forward, in a better direction.

It’s time to silence the rhetoric, the rancor and the manufactured issues of race. Next Tuesday, November 4, I’m counting on voters to do just that.

Maybe then, Ms. Click, you can focus your attention on real news, for a change.

Quote that….

Speaking as a 35-year newspaper veteran, I can tell you with authority that this is real news, and Carolyn Click is a real journalist. A good one. I’ve known her for a couple of decades, and I think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone call her professionalism into question.

And you can quote that….

The issue her opponents inexplicably leave on the table: Nikki Haley’s disregard for the rule of law

I don’t suppose we should be surprised that Nikki Haley treats “lawyer” as some sort of cussword, because she’s shown time and again that she has little regard for the law itself.

Cindi Scoppe detailed, in her column yesterday, the known instances in which our governor has acted as a law unto herself since taking office. Here’s the list:

Gov. Haley first overstepped her authority at the end of her first legislative session, when she ordered the Legislature back into “extraordinary” session because it failed to pass a bill that she supported. (It was a bill I supported as well.) That would have been counterproductive even if she had the constitutional authority to do it, because it angered the legislators whose votes were needed to pass the bill. But she did not have the constitutional authority to do it. Legislative leaders sued, and the Supreme Court overturned her order.

Before that first year ended, she had assumed police powers, unilaterally imposing a curfew on Occupy Columbia protesters who had camped out on the State House grounds, and then having them arrested when they refused to comply with her unlawful order. (I think camping out on the grounds should have been illegal, but at the time it simply was not.) In issuing a restraining order, a federal judge noted that the governor was “making up” the rules as she went along. Our bill for that incident alone was more than a half million dollars.

In early 2012, when the state Supreme Court ordered party and election officials to obey a ridiculous but valid state law, Gov. Haley marched over to the state Republican Party headquarters and persuaded the GOP executive committee to ignore that order and put her favorite candidate back on the ballot. The Election Commission refused to acknowledge that lawless action, saving the governor and the party the ignominy of being found in contempt of court.

Later that year, the Legislature passed a budget that fully covered the increased cost of health-insurance premiums for state employees and retirees. Gov. Haley could have vetoed the funding but chose not to. Instead, when the perfunctory matter of approving insurance rates came before the Budget and Control Board, she persuaded the treasurer and comptroller general to join her in requiring state employees and retirees to pay part of the increase themselves. And again, I agree with her policy preference, but she simply did not have the authority to act. State employees sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the governor and her co-conspirators had violated the constitution by usurping the Legislature’s power to write the law.

As far as I know, Gov. Haley has not directly overstepped her authority since then. But her fingerprints were all over her DHEC director’s decision last year to tell hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers that they could ignore a state law that required them to get a certificate of need before making large purchases, after the Legislature failed to override her veto of the funding for the program. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that this was completely lawless — but not before Lexington Medical Center and several other health providers spent huge amounts of money on expansion projects that they might have to abandon. And we’ll pay for that as well, through our medical insurance.

We are supposed to be a state of laws and not of men — or women, either. But our governor doesn’t get that.

Yesterday, at a lunch in connection with the Bernardin Lecture at USC (I’m on the committee; last night we hosted Sister Joan Chittister as our guest lecturer), the philosophy professor next to me got to talking first about Heidegger, then about the rise of the Nazis. At one point, he said something like (I wasn’t taking notes), “It’s a terrible thing when leaders see themselves as no longer bound by law.” He wasn’t talking about the Holocaust, or dragging the world into war. He was simply bemoaning the loss of the rule of law, as Hitler transitioned from chancellor to Führer.

Being very careful to say that we were talking about something several degrees of magnitude less evil or severe, I noted that we were seeing the same sad principle at work here in SC.

But Nikki Haley is no Hitler, not even a minor-league one. In fact, it’s not even a “degrees of magnitude” thing. I don’t see any evil at all in her. What I see is a terrible naivete, of a sort that you don’t ever want in someone in charge.

I think that at every stage in the incidents Cindi detailed, our governor meant well — by her lights. She meant no harm to anyone. As Cindi noted, in some instances she was trying to do something good. The restructuring measure she wanted lawmakers to come back and pass was something our state needed (and eventually got, largely thanks to Vincent Sheheen). And no, people shouldn’t be allowed to camp on the State House grounds. Trouble was, there was no law saying so at the time. The shenanigans she got up to with the state party were far less benign, but I think she honestly believed it was good for her chosen candidates to win.

No, the problem with Nikki Haley is that she simply doesn’t get something fundamental about the concept of the rule of law.

This is of a piece with her cluelessness on other things that an educated person who understands how the world works would get. If you’ll recall, back in the days that I was still endorsing her for legislative office, I found disturbing her unquestioning faith in such simplistic and erroneous nostrums as “I want to run government like a business.” Yes, a lot of people say that, but not people who understand government and business, and how they are not only different but supposed to be different. (You might call this, with apologies to Hannah Arendt, a case of being banal without being evil.)

She is innocent of such understanding. That doesn’t make her a bad person. But it makes her unqualified to govern.

As Cindi ended her column:

That is not just notable. That is frightening. That is the stuff of dictators and tyrants. That, more than policy or personal characteristics, is reason to replace her.

It’s frustrating that neither Vincent Sheheen nor Tom Ervin has pointed out this glaring abuse of power on the governor’s part. Perhaps they think voters wouldn’t get it, or wouldn’t care. And indeed, a lot of people — especially those who find the governor’s chip-on-the-shoulder, anti-intellectual populism appealing — would not. They’d dismiss talk of the rule of law as “lawyer double-talk” or some such, I suppose.

Perhaps such ignorance can be excused in a voter, if you’re really inclined to be forgiving. But not in one who would govern.

Ervin endorsement reduces Haley camp to incoherence (which is kind of weird, since they’re ahead and all)

Ervin campaigning with Sheheen in Charleston this morning. Photo is from Sheheen's Twitter feed.

Ervin campaigning with Sheheen in Charleston this morning. Photo is from Sheheen’s Twitter feed.

But then, I’ve noticed that a lot of things have that effect.

So, when Tom Ervin, after spending $2.5 million of his own money on a fairly sophisticated and well-run campaign, drops out endorses Vincent Sheheen at the last minute — and does so in sober, coherent, mature language — we get this kind of grade-school-taunt-level bluster from our governor’s campaign:

Haley’s campaign said Ervin and Sheheen, both attorneys, shared the same agenda with “their liberal trial lawyer cronies.”

“They have spent millions on false and shameful attacks, and gotten nowhere with South Carolina voters,” Haley deputy campaign manager Rob Godfrey said. “It’s no surprise that two pro-Obamacare trial lawyers would officially tie the knot at the end of the race.”…

Oh yeah? Oh yeah?!? Well, you’re… you’re a TRIAL LAWYER, that’s what YOU are…

I guess he told them.

And yet, she’s the one leading in the polls — which would make you expect her to be the calmer party in the equation.

Anyway, thoughts on this? Frankly, I don’t expect it to change anything, in terms of the electoral outcome. But I could be wrong…

Mia McLeod says it’s the WHITES injecting race in District 2

I really, really hated to see the first sentence of this story about the Richland School District 2 election:

Race has become the defining issue in the Richland 2 school board election, as rumors circulate of a shift in power from a white-majority to a black-majority board.

Fueled by the activism of an African-American parents’ advocacy organization and a separate white group called the Bi-Partisan Committee, the usually placid election in the Midlands’ largest district has spawned heightened interest and dueling visions for the future of the 27,300-student district….

Appalling. And here’s where I stand on this: I’m opposed to anyone who cares whether the board is majority-white or majority-black. I have no patience with Identity Politics. I wouldn’t lift a finger to affect the racial balance one way or the other.

By contrast, Rep. Mia McLeod is taking a side, labeling the “white” group as a latter-day “White Citizens’ Council.” Which is a pretty heavy-duty accusation. Here’s what she says:

Sadly, race has taken center-stage in Richland Two (R2), thanks to a modern-day White Citizens’ Council (WCC),” disguised as a bipartisan committee. But this WCC isn’t about students, academics, best practices or strengthening and improving public education in the District.

No…this “whites-only” advocacy group has rebranded itself for the sole purpose of interjecting race, racist rhetoric, lies and fear into a school board contest, so that R2’s power and control remains with those who’ve always had it.

It’s no secret that whites are now the minority in R2, but still very much in control. This election could change that, so the WCC was revived to protect the status quo and ensure that no real diversity or talent is elected.

Like you, I would much rather have qualified, competent board members who truly care about our students, parents, teachers and communities. Service with vision, integrity, transparency and accountability should be the benchmarks—not race.

I don’t care whether you’re (former) Elections Director, Lillian McBride, or (current) R2 Superintendent, Debbie Hamm. Incompetence in any “color” is equally offensive and those who condone it based on race, gender, party or friendship are equally wrong.

Realizing that change is imminent, former R2 leaders have joined forces with current R2 leaders to create this unholy alliance and ironically, it’s this White Citizens’ Council—not the Black Parents’ Association, that has strategically placed the issue of race front and center.

By purposely disseminating false, misleading, deliberately divisive rhetoric, R2’s WCC attempts to marginalize and discredit anyone who challenges the status quo. According to one WCC member, “it’s the last stand for a good school district.”

And yet, hiring and electing candidates based on race, not merit, is precisely what they’ve accused the R2 BPA of doing.

Isn’t that “the pot calling the kettle black?”

And because they’ve identified their “picks,” we now know who not to vote for, if we ever wanna see any positive, progressive change in R2.

Let’s start with the WCC’s only African-American endorsee, Cheryl Washington Caution-Parker, a retired R2 Deputy Superintendent who was repeatedly passed over for the top gig.

According to the WCC, she’s aptly qualified. Perhaps she was consistently not promoted because she is black, since current District leaders have secretly opined that R2 isn’t ready for a black Superintendent and “the reason we got rid of (former Superintendent) Katie” is because she promoted too many qualified African-Americans to Administrative positions, making it harder to keep R2 from “looking Black like Richland One.”

Amazingly, Washington Caution-Parker is now conspiring with the same racist operatives who’ve worked against her for years. Clearly qualified, but obviously not the brightest candle in the bunch…

Since the BPA allegedly works so hard to ensure that R2 hires and promotes African-Americans, whether qualified or not…maybe it was actually trying to help by listing her as “white” on it’s website—in keeping with the District’s “whites-only” Superintendent policy.

Perhaps, if the BPA had come to her aid sooner, Washington Caution-Parker might not have gotten bumped out of the Superintendent spot by a white IT Director with only a fraction of the qualifications and experience.

And White Citizens’ Council endorsee #2, James Manning, has proven yet again that he’ll align himself with anyone who’ll help him get re-elected.

Even after admitting that the WCC’s newsletter was chock full of lies, Manning happily accepted the endorsement—proof that he too, is fully supportive of the WCC’s mission and aligned with its values–while latching onto every black church, black parent, black anybody, who’ll help him hoodwink us out of four more years.

But the WCC’s radically racist crusade doesn’t stop there. It also attempts to defame and discredit one of the most qualified, capable, committed candidates, who happens to be African-American.

Why? Because if Amelia McKie (or as the WCC refers to her…the one with “the green signs”) is elected, we’ll have a strong voice on R2’s school board who’ll fight for students, communicate with parents and demand real transparency and accountability.

Contrary to what you’ve heard or read, I’m not a member of the R2 BPA. Neither is she. And if the school board and DO were truly representative of all of the people of R2, there would be no need for a Black Parents’ Association, White Citizens’ Council or this email.

Amelia McKie is a dynamic parent advocate, State SIC Board Member, R2 Ambassador, District spokesperson and SC Education Policy Fellow, who’s maliciously maligned because she poses the biggest threat to the OG’s precious status quo. And unlike the WCC’s “picks,” McKie is a change agent who’s qualified and in this race for the right reasons.

Her candidacy appeals to a vast cross-section of R2 residents because she understands that equity, parity and diversity are key to our individual and collective success.

Since we’re obviously not beyond tactics used during the Civil Rights Movement, ask R2’s WCC why it deliberately distributed false, deceptive, race-based propaganda, touting a predominately white slate to a “whites-only” audience—proving that District leaders still aren’t interested in engaging all of the people of Richland Two.

But as fate would have it, I just did. And now you too, get to see their true colors…

Not sure what to think of all that. But I imagine that some of the white folks who were so tickled that Mia was taking on Lillian McBride and her supporters among the other black members of the county legislative delegation are probably going to be less enchanted now.

No special election for Harrell’s seat

It looks like the Democrats might — might, mind you — pick up a seat in the SC House this year. Bobby Harrell’s:

Former S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s name will appear on ballots in his district on Election Day, but he cannot win.

Mary Tinkler

Mary Tinkler

“The election for House 114 will go forward on Nov. 4,” said S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire in a statement. “While Mr. Harrell’s name will appear on the ballot, he is no longer eligible to win the election.”

The Republican resigned his Charleston seat and withdrew from the election as part of his guilty plea last week on charges of spending campaign money for personal use.

The county voter registration and elections offices will place prominent notices in all polling places to inform voters that Harrell is no longer a candidate, Whitmire said.

Harrell was seeking re-election Nov. 4 to his seat, facing two challengers: Democrat Mary Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward….

I say “might” because, well, this is South Carolina and that’s a Republican seat. (And if you’re so naive as to believe there’s no such thing as “a Republican seat,” you need to pay closer attention the next time the GOP is redrawing district lines.)

And… the GOP still might run a write-in candidate. Also, there is another candidate, other than the Democrat.

But at least Democrats have this moment to savor…

 

Hutchins highlights Dudley’s role in bringing down Harrell

On a previous post, Doug Ross and Lynn T. both said that Renee Dudley, formerly of The Post and Courier, deserved a lot of credit for bringing Harrell down. I had to confess that I wasn’t that familiar with her work (the last one of their reporters I knew at all was Yvonne Wenger) and had little to add on the subject. I knew that a lot of the initial spadework on the case had been done by the Charleston paper, but that was about it.

Well, today, Corey Hutchins brings to my attention to this piece he wrote in Columbia Journalism Review, praising Ms. Dudley along those lines:

ReneeDudley295

Renee Dudley

It is a case study in why local accountability reporting matters. It took the reporting of Renee Dudley, a young, aggressive reporter for the Charleston Post and Courier, to break the news of the longtime politician’s wrongdoing and force the issue to the forefront of public debate.

Harrell had been in the House since 1993, and had been Speaker since 2005. Before Dudley took him on, no other reporter had so thoroughly researched and scrutinized his behavior in office, not at papers around the state capitol nor in his home district of Charleston.

But Dudley, a Boston native, had started to make a name for herself with investigative features after joining The Post and Courier in 2010 to cover health stories. As a reporter covering politics at the capital for the Columbia, SC-based alt-weekly Free Times, I first noticed her work when she dropped a September 2011 story on Gov. Nikki Haley’s trip to Europe.

By the time I read her pieces on Harrell the next year, I was jealous. In the spring of 2012, Dudley, then 26, penned her first big report on Bobby’s world. The story was an investigative report about a big-money political action committee linked to the Speaker, and how he used it to consolidate and wield power in the House. Her piece raised questions about conflicts of interest, including whether it was proper for one lawmaker to accept $123,000 in payment to his communications firm from “the Speaker’s PAC.”

The bombshell that eventually put the Speaker in legal crosshairs, and later led to his guilty plea, came that September. Its title: “Harrell offers no details on self-reimbursement of $325,000 from campaign funds.”…

Scoppe reminds us Sheheen is a guy who gets good things done

We were treated to “steak-and-steak” in The State today. That’s what former Associate Editor Nina Brook called an editorial page that had a lede editorial on one subject, and a column on the same (or related subject). As opposed to, say, steak and potatoes. (Nina meant it disparagingly. Me, I like a lot of protein.)

And while I thought the editorial endorsement of Vincent Sheheen was fine, and made its case well (no open-minded person could come away from it thinking we shouldn’t make a change), I was more pleased with Cindi Scoppe’s column.

That’s because it made a point that I made here several months ago — that Sheheen is a remarkably successful and influential leader in our State House.

This year alone, he has been the driving force behind a shift of power from the constitutionally perverse Budget and Control Board to a Department of Administration under the governor (his baby from the get-go), a huge expansion of 4k education, without any new taxes; and a ban on texting while driving.

As Cindi concluded:

There are more legislators than I can count — and then-Rep. Nikki Haley was among them — who don’t get a single significant bill passed in their entire legislative career. To pass three in a single year, all of which will help our state … well, that’s practically unheard of, even for the Legislature’s most powerful Republican leaders.

Indeed. This campaign is about flash over substance, and there’s little doubt, to a careful observer, about which side has the substance.

WashPost displays SC as poster child of our stagnant politics

Just wanted to bring to your attention this story, together with photo essay, in The Washington Post today.

It examines the dreary fact that there is not one competitive congressional race in South Carolina. As though that were news to us:

… Wilson, running for his eighth term, didn’t attend that candidates night program. Which is not unusual for South Carolina’s congressional delegation: All seven House members and both senators are floating toward Nov. 4 free and easy, running unopposed or facing absurdly underfunded, almost completely unknown challengers.

In a year in which American voters express deep frustration with paralysis in Washington, the ballots awaiting South Carolinians are so lopsided — not one competitive congressional race — that even some entrenched incumbents lament the lack of choice and bemoan what the paucity of campaigning says about the nation’s dysfunctional politics and disaffected citizenry.

Although candidates, parties and outside groups are spending nearly $4 billion to capture the two dozen House races and maybe one dozen Senate contests across the nation that are truly competitive, in states such as South Carolina, there are precious few bumper stickers or yard signs to be seen and barely any debates or forums where challengers can face off against incumbents….

South Carolina is perhaps more afflicted than most states with the results of ever-more-sophisticated gerrymandering by the majority party in the State House.

The one thing that was new for me in this story was that I read more here about the Democratic nominee in the 2nd congressional district — the district in which I live — than I have seen in any SC media.

Frankly, it wasn’t quite clear in my mind that Phil Black was the Democratic nominee. I had seen some signs for him, but had supposed he was mounting an independent campaign.

I’d be embarrassed if it weren’t for the fact that I know that the Democratic nominee in the 2nd district is fated at most to be a footnote.

 

Video: Sheheen’s and Ervin’s meetings with The State’s editorial board

I was looking for something else, and happened to run across these videos posted by SCETV, obviously with the cooperation of my friends at The State.

These are a considerable improvement over the low-res, 3-minute clips I used to post from my little personal Canon camera — which could not shoot any video longer than 3 minutes, and which I also used for still shots, so the video record was far from complete. And I was doing it all while running a sound recorder, taking notes and presiding over the meeting. But hey, before I started blogging, you didn’t get any pictures or video from these meetings. So get outta my face.

Anyway. I’m happy to note the progress. And as a connoisseur of these things, it’s fun for me to note the way things are the same and how they differ. For instance, I notice Cindi used the usual “give us your stump speech” opener with Sheheen, but asked a slightly different opening question of Ervin. The Sheheen approach was always our standard. I would do that because I liked to start with the candidate making his or her case in his or her own words, rather than just responding to our questions. I felt that was the fairest way to start, to lay a base, before we started asking what we wanted to know. And even if the spiel was a bunch of baloney, the fact that the candidate freely chose such a pose told me a lot. It was boring for the reporters who would sit in, because they had heard the speech out on the hustings. But these meetings weren’t held for their purposes; they were for those of us trying to make an endorsement decision.

You’ll hear me starting things off that way in this meeting with Barack Obama, just as I did with hundreds of others.

You might notice another, subtler thing. You can sort of tell at the start of the Obama clip that something has gone before — some small talk, some joshing around, before we got down to business. I always did that. You’ll note that Cindi, far more task oriented than I, and nobody’s idea of a social butterfly, doesn’t fool with that. She doesn’t schmooze. An interview is an opportunity to get answers to X, Y and Z, and that’s what she’s there for.

She always knows just what information she needs. I took more of a zen approach. I was always curious to see where an interview would go if I let it have its head. I was looking for column inspiration; I had Cindi and Warren and, in the good times, a couple of other associate editors to make sure all the essential bases were covered.

Oh, you’re wondering where the Nikki Haley meeting is, right? There wasn’t one. My understanding is that her campaign did not accept the board’s invitations to meet. So if you ever wondered what, if anything, Nikki Haley and Hillary Clinton have in common, now you know.

Prosecutors really had Harrell over a barrel

Carolyn Callahan of WIS Tweeted this just before the hearing, showing the isolated ex-speaker in the courtroom. Hope she doesn't mind my sharing it here...

Carolyn Callahan of WIS Tweeted this just before the hearing, showing the isolated ex-speaker in the courtroom. Hope she doesn’t mind my sharing it here…

There’s a country song in there somewhere.

The man who was arguably the most powerful person in state government, boasting only a few weeks ago about how the attorney general had failed to bring him down, pleaded guilty today to six counts against him, and still has other charges hanging over his head. The terms, as reported by John Monk:

In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was given six one-year prison sentences but all were suspended by circuit court Judge Casey Manning after Harrell, 58, agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:

• Harrell agrees not to seek or hold public office for three years. He also will be on probation during that time. The Charleston Republican was first elected to the House in 1993.

• Harrell will pay a $30,000 fine plus an additional $93,958 to the general fund of South Carolina. Harrell will also turn over all of his remaining campaign account to the state’s general fund. That amount was not immediately available.

• Harrell agrees to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors, including being ready to testify “fully and truthfully at any trials or other proceeding” in state or federal court. Harrell must submit to polygraph examinations….

Here’s perhaps the most interesting part:

In getting Harrell’s cooperation to be a potential government witness, prosecutor Pascoe agreed to “nol pros,” or not prosecute four other indictments against Harrell. However, under a written plea agreement, Pascoe reserves the right to re-activate the indictments and prosecute Harrell if the former speaker lies to law enforcement officials.

Such written plea agreements – in which lighter sentences are given, and some charges are dropped, in return for a criminal’s information about other potential crimes involving other people – are common in federal criminal court. In federal court, defendants also agree to submit to lie detector tests and they know that dropped charges can be brought again if the government catches the defendant in a lie…

So it looks like prosecutors pretty much have Bobby Harrell on a leash for the foreseeable future. How the mighty have… well, you know the rest. But who foresaw it happening so quickly and dramatically in this case?

 

WOW — Bobby Harrell expected to plead guilty!

Here’s another reason to feel better about the direction of our state — a big one.

Bobby Harrell, who so recently went about boasting that he had beaten efforts to bring him down, is now reported to be about to surrender completely. John Monk reports:

Suspended S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell is expected to resign his House seat and plead guilty Thursday to charges of using campaign funds for his personal gain, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Harrell is scheduled to appear at a 10:30 a.m. hearing at the Richland County courthouse, according to a prosecutor’s press release….

Harrell, 58, who faces various charges of criminal misconduct in office, already has had a bond hearing and is free on $18,000 bond.

Harrell was indicted Sept. 10 on nine charges, including illegally using campaign money for personal expenses, filing false campaign disclosure reports and misconduct in office. It was the first time in memory that a sitting South Carolina House speaker has been indicted….

This is big stuff, people. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every century in South Carolina…

OK, sometimes things DO change in SC (maybe)

So yesterday I was being all Cameron Frye and whiny and dissatisfied over my perception (based in long and bitter experience) that try as good people might, things never change for the better in South Carolina. In the public policy arena, I mean.

That was based in the long run by decades of advocating as hard as I can for various reforms and seldom seeing the slightest progress (and in fact, a good bit of movement in the wrong direction on some things, such as tax policy). And in the short term, it was based in the almost-certain knowledge that nothing’s going to happen in the looming election to make things better.

But as I was reading the paper this morning, I got to thinking about reasons I was wrong to have done my Captain Bringdown routine (that’s for those of you who don’t get the Cameron Frye reference).

Let me share three of them:

Adjutant General — One of the things I’ve been pushing for over the course of these decades is cutting down on the absurd number of constitutional officers we elect separately, thereby fragmenting the executive branch of our government into separate governments with their own separate constituencies, and often inconsistent or even conflicting agendas. And the post of adjutant general has long been the most extreme case. It’s outrageous to choose a military leader in a partisan election, and we’re the only state in the union that does it. Finally, we’re going to have a referendum, on Nov. 4, in which we’ll have the opportunity to end this anachronism. There are still some who defend this throwback to the days when amateurism was OK in the military, when officers bought their commissions rather than earning them — Phil Leventis did so in the paper today. But I was very proud to see the chairs of the two political parties, Matt Moore and Jaime Harrison, come together to jointly call for passage of the measure. As they say, it’s not a partisan issue. It’s about whether you want professional, apolitical military leadership — which is what you want if you’re not a banana republic. I can well remember a time when there was no chance of this coming to a vote. Now we have something like consensus — both parties for it, both Nikki Haley and Vincent Sheheen for it, and the current A.G., too. That is broad-based, systemic change for the better, and it shames me for my moaning yesterday. First the lieutenant governor running on a joint ticket with the governor, now this — if it passes.

School funding — Democrats are right to complain that Nikki Haley didn’t show much interest in public education until re-election year, but I was reminded by this debate story today that she DID propose, and get passed, a measure to address the lack of funding equity for poor, rural schools. That doesn’t solve all of our education challenges, not by a long shot, but it’s another move in a direction I’ve been calling for for, well, decades. And I give her props for it.

The advent of the Jay Lucas era — A couple of months ago, it looked like Bobby Harrell was going to remain as speaker, and that there would be no positive movement on ethics reform — in fact, there was a lot of momentum in the wrong direction. Now, he’s out, and replaced by a guy who I’ve only heard good things about, from both Democrats and Republicans — and he appears inclined to push through some long-stymied reforms that were unthinkable earlier this year. That’s change for the better.

So, I just thought I should share those more upbeat thoughts.

Hutto hits Graham, again, for not being ‘downhome’ enough

There’s not much new about it. It’s his usual thing about how he thinks the job of a U.S. senator should be about worrying about everyday conditions on the ground here in South Carolina rather than in the rest of the nation and the world.

Which isn’t my concept of a senator’s role at all. When I hear Hutto say these things, I sometimes wonder whether he ought to quit the South Carolina Senate and run for county council. He seems to be all about the local level.

But don’t go by me. He’s running a populist campaign, and I don’t have a populist bone in my body.

Here’s the release that goes with the ad:

Hutto Begins Statewide TV Blitz

 

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic nominee for US Senate Brad Hutto began running TV advertisements across South Carolina today.

The ad can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhQTgegprZk&feature=youtu.be

The ad contrasts Lindsey Graham’s role as a Washington DC insider, self-promoter and potential Presidential candidate to Brad Hutto’s pledge to be a Senator who will work for South Carolina. In the ad Hutto advocates for a hike in the minimum wage, securing equal pay for women, and protecting financial security for seniors.

At the ad’s conclusion, Hutto says “We need a Senator who cares more about making a difference than making headlines.”

Hutto campaign manager Lachlan McIntosh describes the buy as major. “People will see it and they’ll be talking about it.”

 

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As you see when you watch the ad, the one new wrinkle in this one is making fun of Graham talking about the presidency, which is certainly fair game. The incumbent was sort of asking for it with that…

Tearing down the Townhouse

Townhouse

Or rather, the hotel formerly known as the Townhouse. It’s called the Clarion these days.

Once, it was the home of the notorious card games that starred Sen. Jack Lindsey and lobbyist Ron Cobb. The old Townhouse became a familiar part of the tales that made up the Lost Trust epic. There were other local houses of accommodation where inappropriate relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists thrived, but the Townhouse seemed to pick up most of that dubious cachet in the imaginations of those of us who followed such things.

But those days are long gone, and it’s been a generation since the establishment was said to be associated with such goings-on. Or even since it was called the Townhouse.

Now, current management is remaking the place yet again, and much of the old structure is being razed to be replaced. They’re making rapid progress. A few yards more, and I’ll have to move my car (the Clarion is right behind ADCO, and I park against one of its walls).

Interesting that this is happening just as the Bobby Harrell era ends, and we have a good chance of the first meaningful ethics reform since that that followed Lost Trust

Showing a noble, inspiring faith in the possibility of politics

Sue and Jim Rex, at the American Party booth at the SC State Fair.

Sue and Jim Rex, at the American Party booth at the SC State Fair.

I went to the fair today, and saw the usual booths for the Democrats and Republicans, and stayed away from them.

But I stopped to chat at the American Party booth, because one of the founders of the party was there — Jim Rex.

Jim invited me to sign the petition to get a recall power onto the ballot — a measure that would allow voters to dump politicians who have broken the law.

I told him no, I don’t hold with recall petitions. I think elections come soon enough. Although I admit that allowing recall only in cases of illegality is a lot less objectionable than the kind they have in California and other places, which allow voters to dump pols between election on a whim if they choose (thereby eliminating even the rare glimpses of political courage that we occasionally see in non-election years).

Then, we segued into a polite argument about term limits, with me getting on a rhetorical high horse and saying I just have more simple faith in politics than he does. I trust the voters to decide for themselves whether they want somebody for one term, two terms, three terms or 20 terms.

I said that if he wanted to do something about cynical incumbents, noncompetitive elections and apathy, then go to work on a federal constitutional amendment that would end the way we apportion districts in this country. THAT is the cause of all the ills he deplores.

Anyway, looking at the picture I took above of the Rexes causes me to check myself — I shouldn’t have said I have more faith in politics.

There is no greater faith in our system than stepping out and starting a new party, and sticking to it and working as hard at it as the Rexes have, along with Oscar Lovelace and others.

Frankly, I find it inspiring, even when I disagree on policy proposals

Joe Wilson says Hamas could attack U.S. with Ebola

Joe Hamas

Today, our own Rep. Joe Wilson is enjoying his biggest splash on social media since his “You lie!” glory days. A sampling:


Here’s a link to video of the congressman setting forth this theory.

Sen. Tim Scott: Ban travel from Ebola-stricken countries

And now, we have this proposal from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC:

Charleston, SC – U.S. Senator Tim Scott released the following statement regarding travel restrictions from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa. Senator Scott is a member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.Scott,Tim

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to those infected with Ebola and their families both in the United States and in West Africa. This is a terrible virus, and one the world must come together to stop.

As infections continue to spread here in the United States, the trust of the American people has been shaken by the administration’s response thus far. It is clear that a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa should be put in place. The President has the authority to do so, and we have seen that airport screenings and self-reporting simply are not enough.

While both the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health state that patients without a fever are not contagious, recent studies from West Africa show that almost 13 percent of confirmed cases did not present with a fever. Screenings have also only been initiated at five airports, and even at airports travelers’ symptoms can be masked by over-the-counter medications.

This is about the safety of the American people, and nothing more. As the fight against Ebola continues, a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from the epicenter of the outbreak is a necessity.”

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I find myself wondering: Did he decide independently to join the voices advocating this, or did Republicans get together and decide that his was the most sympathetic face they had for advancing such a proposal?

I say that in part because, although a number of Republicans have said it, it has tended to be those in tight races, such as Scott Brown and Thom Tillis. Sen. Scott, of course, is in the opposite of a “tight race.”

Did you see last night’s debate? I missed it…

I was traveling back from Memphis and missed last night’s gubernatorial debate. I do have these two releases from the SC Democratic and Republican parties. But somehow, I don’t think I’m getting the full story.

First, the Democrats:

Harrison: Sheheen Clear Winner of Debate As Haley Caught in Multiple Lies

Charleston, SC — SCDP Chairman Jaime Harrison released this statement following tonight’s first gubernatorial debate in Charleston:

“Sen. Sheheen was the clear winner of tonight’s debate. Vincent Sheheen made a compelling case for his plan to bring honest leadership and real accountability to South Carolina. Nikki Haley got caught in multiple lies about her jobs numbers, her record of repeatedly violating our ethics laws, and her failure to lead on roads, education, and helping hardworking families. There is a clear choice this November, and Vincent Sheheen is the only choice for South Carolinians who want a governor they can trust.”

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Now, the Republicans:

Press Release: SCGOP Chair Moore congratulates Governor Haley on Debate Victory

North Charleston, S.C. – South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore issued the following statement tonight following Governor Haley’s gubernatorial debate victory:

“Tonight’s debate was a resounding victory for Governor Nikki Haley. Governor Haley is the only candidate with a clear, conservative record of results and a positive vision for South Carolina,” said SCGOP Chairman Matt Moore. “Vincent Sheheen’s mud-slinging debate performance, coupled with his full-on embrace of President Obama’s failed policies, shows why his campaign is failing and he’s the wrong choice for South Carolina.”

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Reading stuff like that is SO dispiriting. Makes me depressed about the whole process, and glad that I missed the debate, if it was anything like those descriptions.

It also reminds me of why I wanted to switch from news to editorial years ago. The “objective news” model holds that if someone tells you the sky is white, you dutifully write that down and then run to somebody else who tells you the sky is black, and you write that down carefully. Then you write a story that reads like this:

Joe Blow today said the sky is white. However, John Jones insisted that it is black.

And you dust your hands and congratulate yourself for having written a balanced story. Trouble is, you haven’t told your readers the truth about the sky, which you can see for yourself. Opinion writing allows you to say that the sky is, indeed, blue.

So how about it? Any opinions about last night’s debate?