Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

Sheheen’s bold stand is the ONLY way the flag will come down

Vincent Sheheen’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds isn’t some here-today, forgotten-tomorrow campaign gimmick.

It’s a game-changer. But only if he somehow manages to win the election.

Sheheen was paraphrased in The State today as saying that this is an issue best addressed by a governor. Sure, he could have introduced a resolution to have it removed every session, only to have it die in committee, as did Cleveland Sellers’ one such attempt as a freshman House member. One or two lawmakers might be willing to stick their necks out, but there aren’t enough others willing to go along with them to make the effort viable. Knowing that, lawmakers see little point in making enemies over a lost cause — they have other things they want to accomplish.

But a governor has the bully pulpit to raise the issue so it can’t be buried or ignored.

That said, not just any governor would have the political leverage to overcome the General Assembly’s profound inertia on the issue. It would take a governor who campaigned on the issue, and got elected. A governor who does that would have political juice, and moral authority, unlike any we’ve seen in our poor state, which has been so sadly short on political courage for the generation that I’ve covered it.

So that raises the issue, does this move hurt or help Sheheen’s chances of getting elected? I truly don’t know. His chances were slim as it stood, barring something to shake up the equation. And I’d rather see it shaken this way — by Sheheen doing something right and good and visionary and courageous — than by some new scandal or other disaster befalling Nikki Haley.

Some think it’s automatic political death for a governor or gubernatorial candidate to embrace this issue. They’re wrong. They point to what happened to David Beasley, who stirred up the Angry White Men of his party with his abortive, half-hearted attempt to take action on the flag. Yeah, a few more neoConfederates may have voted against him. But Beasley had also alienated those of us on the other side of the issue, by so quickly reversing himself and giving up on the issue when he experienced the white backlash. Even to people who, unlike me, didn’t care about the flag, it made him look weak, wishy-washy and ineffective.

(I had only contempt for his surprised, shocked and weak reaction to the angry calls and letters. I, and to an even greater extent my colleague Warren Bolton — flag defenders got especially angry at a black man who dared to say the same things I was saying — had experienced the same phenomenon every single time we published another editorial or column on the subject. That means we had experienced it hundreds of times since I had joined the editorial board and started writing on the subject in 1994. Beasley couldn’t take a few days of it.)

And there were other reasons for Beasley’s loss.

In Sheheen’s case, not only is this likely to galvanize voters who would likely have supported him anyway — motivating them to get out and vote and urge their friends and neighbors to do so — it elevates him as someone willing to lead among many who might have been on the fence. Say, business leaders. If you’ll recall, the state Chamber backed Sheheen last time, and this time (thanks in large part to the rise of some Haley allies on the Chamber’s board), it went for Nicky. Business people can be favorably impressed by someone who is willing to lead, and to lead us in a direction that sweeps away such atavistic nonsense, such unnecessary barriers to progress, as flying that flag.

People who were dispirited by Sheheen’s lackluster, take-no-chances campaign thus far will be willing to step forward and put out some effort to get him elected.

I believe it’s at best a wash, and could be helpful to his chances.

But win or lose, he’s doing the right thing. And it’s been far too long since we’ve seen anyone who would lead us do that.

In the South, we don’t just take the pain; we take the pills

painkiller-prescriptions-per-person-by-state-580x378

Burl Burlingame says he was discussing this with our fellow high school classmate Gary Berliner, a physician in Georgia, and he shares:

Health care providers in some states prescribe far more painkillers than those in other states, according to a new government report.

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012 – many more in some states than in others – according to Vital Signs, the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlights the danger of overdose.

Health care providers in the highest prescribing state, Alabama, wrote almost three times as many of these prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state, Hawaii. Most of the highest prescribing states were in the South.

CDC said previous research has shown that regional variation in use of prescriptions cannot be explained by the underlying health status of the population…

Burl notes that Hawaii, where he and Gary and I graduated from high school and where Burl still lives, had the lowest number of such prescriptions. To that, I’ll say two things: Hawaii is easily the least painful place I ever lived, and 52-71 prescriptions per 100 people is nothing to write home about.

I thought that chart above contained a huge error at first: 95-143 prescriptions per 100 people in SC and the rest of the South? More prescriptions than people? Surely they meant per 1,000, or per 100,000. But then I saw that figure of 259 prescriptions, and realized yep, that’s one for almost every one of us.

Wow. I mean, I’m not the most stoic of men myself, but the only time I was ever prescribed oxycodone was after sinus surgery years ago. I’ve been prescribed hydrocodone for pain a couple of times in my life, such as after I broke four ribs kick-boxing in 2001. I took it for a month — I couldn’t have slept otherwise — and I found it unpleasant to quit (jangled nerves, irritability for several days). But I was very glad to say goodbye to it.

What are people taking all these pills for?

I was interested to see the Tennessee numbers. That’s where Dr. Nick prescribed so freely for Elvis. It’s also where, a few years later in Gibson County, we covered a case of a woman found dead with an astounding number of pill bottles around her. Fingers were pointed at a local physician who the whole town knew was an easy touch for drugs. Sometime before that, I had been sitting in General Sessions court, waiting for the arraignment of a murder suspect, listening to the disposition of several lesser cases, when a young woman was called to the stand to account for the drugs that had been found in her purse at a traffic stop. Percodan or some such.

“My doctor prescribed those for me,” the young woman protested.

“Your doctor is Dr. So-and-So, isn’t he?” asked the judge with a world-weary manner. Yes, he was. Everyone knew about him. (I remember his name but I’m not using it because the man’s dead, and I still remember with some sympathy the pain of his family when we mentioned the case in his obit.)

Yo, T-Rav: There’s a REASON Stonewall Jackson never wrote a ‘little note’ like that, but it’s not the one you think

T-Rav, military historian

T-Rav, military historian

At the end of the story relating the appalling news that Thomas Ravenel is seeking to put his name on the fall ballot for U.S. Senate was this gem:

Still, Ravenel is cagey when asked about his strategy for the race, declining to discuss his campaign plans and fundraising goals or disclose the number of registered voters who already have signed his petition to be on the ballot, due to the State Election Commission by noon on July 15.

While he says he is a proponent for peace, Ravenel used a war analogy to explain his campaign secrecy.

“You think Stonewall Jackson wrote a little note over to Gen. Grant and said here’s my battle plan?”

Um… correct me if I’m wrong, Civil War buffs, but isn’t the main reason Jackson never wrote a little note like that the fact that he never faced Ulysses S. Grant in any battle at any time? Grant was out West until nearly a year after Jackson was killed in action.

For the record, Julius Caesar never wrote a little note like that to Napoleon Bonaparte, either.

Um… is this debate about bikers at the beach really about race? (If so, excuse me for being so slow on the uptake)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the night in Surfside Beach after attending the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking. As I was leaving the next morning, I stopped for coffee on the way off the Strand to Tweet this:

Obviously, bikers were much in evidence up and down Highway 17. I sort of had those bikers in mind (you know, ones who look, ethnically, like they could be Visigoths) when I read earlier this week about all the violence on the Strand, which was being reported in the context of Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

But today, it dawned on me that we’re talking about black biker week rather than white biker week. It didn’t hit me until I read that Nikki Haley was adding her voice to the calls to end the event, and it was evident that the one obvious pocket of resistance to such a ban was coming from the administration of Atlantic Beach Mayor Jake Evans.

The tone of this had a certain flavor to it, and I found myself suspecting that the folks wanting to end this event were white, and the defensive-sounding mayor was black. And not just because of Atlantic Beach’s long history as the “black beach” on the Grand Strand.

Yup. At least, I was right about the mayor. I haven’t seen pictures of all of the folks on the other side.

(People following this on television probably realized this way before I did. The one news story I had read told me nothing about potential racial sensitivities, aside from the mention, way down — the 11th graf — of Atlantic Beach. Sometimes the Victorian Gent, as Tom Wolfe has called the press, is just entirely too discreet to give us a hint what’s going on.)

Now that I know this, I tend to read some of the things I’d read earlier in a somewhat different light. Such as the statement by Rep. Tracy Edge that it was time to “take back the streets and make the Grand Strand safer for residents, business owners and visitors.”

Up to the point of my belated epiphany, I had been inclined to agree — ban the bikers. Now, I’d like to know more. Are the people wanting to end this event eager to end the invasion by white bikers as well? If not, are there clear data indicating that there’s less violence and other crime associated with the white influx than the black one?

Perhaps so; I just don’t know. I think a good start for getting to the bottom of this would be an up-front admission by everyone that this issue is complicated by the great cognitive divide between black and white in our state and nation. Assuming that that’s the case. And it’s looking to me as though it is.

 

wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina |

Reparations and ‘the monster in the closet’

Doug Ross suggests that there would be great interest in a discussion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece in The Atlantic on the subject of reparations.

OK, so I’ll raise the subject. I can’t really comment this morning because I don’t have time to read the rather lengthy piece myself. I did, however, skim over the synopsis that Doug provided.

It tells me that what Coates suggests is not so much reparations in the sense of dollars. Rather, he wants to authorize a commission that would cause us to talk about the subject:

Calling the essay the “case” for reparation is equally misleading. Coates produces plenty of facts and figures that would be used to argue the case for reparations, his role though, is less that of the prosecuting attorney than that of the Grand Jury. He’s merely presenting enough evidence to make it clear that there ought to be a trial.

The “trial,” in this case, would be a study conducted by a congressionally appointed committee under the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, a bill that has been submitted by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in every Congress for the past 25 years, but has never been brought to the floor.

The purpose of the bill is “To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.”

The Commission would have no authority beyond the ability to compel testimony and gather information, and would be authorized to spend $8 million–a sum utterly trivial in the grand scheme of the U.S. budget. Its conclusions would not have the force of law, and could not require the U.S. government to take any action whatsoever.

This brings us to the monster in the closet. Coates believes that the United States, as a people, has never been fully honest with itself about the extent to which black Americans were subjected to institutionalized discrimination. Further, to the extent that we have acknowledged discrimination, the U.S., as a country, has never made an honest effort to assess what it cost the country’s black citizens.

That’s what we’ve locked away in the closet, he argues, and the Conyers committee’s charge would be to open the door and find a way for the United States, as a people, to kill the monster. It’s that effort itself, Coates writes, done under the imprimatur of the federal government itself, which would be the true act of making reparations.

“Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely,” he writes.

“What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt….

The only reaction I have is, “More talk?” Perhaps because of what I have done for a living for so many years, every time someone says we haven’t talked enough about the subject of race in America, or some aspect of the subject of race in America, I wonder where they’ve been.

But hey, I’m a talker. Let’s talk away. I just don’t know where yet another talk can realistically be expected to take us…

Slate is doing its best to keep Confederate flag flying in SC

Josh Voorhees posted this at Slate this morning, under a picture of the Confederate flag flying in front of our State House:

March Madness kicks into full swing today with games in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, and Spokane. Another four cities—Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis—will see men’s action on Friday. The women’s tournament then tips off on Saturday with weekend games spread out over 16 other cities. By the time the NCAA crowns a men’s and women’s champion in Arlington and Nashville, respectively, more than 30 cities will have hosted tournament games. None of those games, however, will be in South Carolina or Mississippi. The reason: The Confederate battle flags that still fly over the state capitol grounds in Columbia and Jackson.

In 2001, the NCAA imposed a ban on either state hosting post-season sporting events at predetermined sites (an important caveat I’ll get to in a second) as long as the flags continued to fly, and neither it nor the states have budged since. That is set to change somewhat next year when a format tweak will allow for a key exception for the women’s tournament. But that change won’t be in place in time to help the Lady Gamecocks, who are currently bearing the brunt of the NCAA post-season boycott of the Palmetto State…

As you and anyone else who’s ever read my stuff knows, I take a backseat to no one in my ardent desire to get that flag down. In fact, starting with my first editorial on the subject in 1994, I almost certainly hold the world record for number of words written with that aim in mind.

But as you probably also know, I think one of the most powerful factors keeping the flag there is the NAACP boycott. It causes a defiant backlash effect among the majority in the Legislature. History, and in our case personal experience, teaches us that the surest way to get a white South Carolinian to do something is to get someone from other parts of the country to try to make him stop doing it. (OK, technically, the NAACP boycott is driven by the South Carolina chapter, which had a lot of pull in the national organization at the time the boycott started — which is why SC is singled out while states like Georgia, which at one point during the life of the boycott even incorporated the symbol into its state flag, escape this censure. But the boycott is under the authority of the national organization, and in SC minds qualifies as out-of-staters trying to tell us what to do.)

And Slate smugly moralizing on the subject — the Tweet promoting this post said, “The (excellent) reason South Carolina and Mississippi don’t get to host March Madness” — only increases the effect. So, way to go there, Josh. Sheesh.

What’s in a word? From ‘nullification’ to ‘anti-commandeering’

Somehow, I missed Sen. Tom Davis’ announcement of how he was changing the emphasis of his nullification bill, until about three days later. So I didn’t write about it.

But now it’s been 10 days, and I think we should still at least make note of it, because it’s indicative of a shift of emphasis on the state’s rights front.

You’ll recall that Tom indicated earlier that he was backing away from “nullification,” which I saw as a positive development, since we really don’t need to revisit the discredited ideology of 1832. What Tom did 10 days ago was announce what he’s changing that wording to.

Here’s his release:

BEAUFORT, S.C. – Yesterday afternoon, State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) filed with the Clerk of the South Carolina State Senate a strike-and-insert amendment for H. 3101, a bill passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives in May 2013 that initially sought to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Davis was appointed last June by Sen. John Courson, the President Pro Tem of the South Carolina Senate, to chair an ad hoc committee to review H 3101, and the committee subsequently held public hearings in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston.  Davis’ amendment, a copy of which is attached, would slow the spread of the ACA in South Carolina by:

 

  • Invoking the constitutional principle of anti-commandeering
  • Requiring legislative approval for ACA grants and programs
  • Rejecting the optional Medicaid expansion authorized by the ACA
  • Prohibiting the creation of a state health-insurance exchange
  • Registering ACA navigators with the state Department of Insurance

 

“The heart of my amendment is the anti-commandeering section,” said Davis. “The principle is a simple one: The federal government cannot compel a state to use state resources to implement a federal law.  If the ACA is bad law – and I think it is – then South Carolina’s resources should not be used to implement it.”  The principle of anti-commandeering was expressed by the United States Supreme Court in Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997): “The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

 

Anti-commandeering differs from nullification, in that the latter is a flat refusal by the state to allow a federal law to be enforced within its borders. “My amendment doesn’t say that,” said Davis. “It says that South Carolina will not use its resources to aid and abet in the ACA’s implementation.  It really boils down to this: Why should we spend state money to implement a bad federal law?”

 

Other sections of Davis’ amendment would do the following: codify last year’s decision by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to neither seek an ACA-authorized expansion of the Medicaid population nor create a state health-insurance exchange; require public entities that want to apply for ACA grants to justify the application in hearings open to the public and to obtain legislative approval prior to seeking them; and protecting South Carolinians from unscrupulous practices by navigators who are paid by the federal government to enroll people in ACA health-insurance exchanges.

 

“Ultimately,” Davis said, “it is up to the United States Congress to repeal the ACA.  In the meantime, though, the states have the power and the duty to push back, and this is a way of doing that.”

 

The South Carolina State Senate is expected to begin debate on H 3101 next Tuesday.

 

 

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And here’s a link to the amendment.

This strikes me as less a move away from extreme aims than a move toward strategic pragmatism. Which sounds like it would be good — whenever pragmatism even slightly displaces ideology, it tends to sound good to me — but I suppose one could see it as a glass-half-empty thing as well, in terms of getting more practical about achieving extreme aims.

But let’s be glass-half-full as well. At least Tom is acknowledging that states can’t nullify acts of the federal government. “Anti-commandeering,” even though the term suggests something local luminaries might have come up with during the Federal occupation of SC after the Recent Unpleasantness, makes a somewhat more modest assumption — that the feds can’t set states’ agendas or priorities, or tell them how to spend their resources.

The intended effect, however, is the same — “We don’t have to do what you goddamnyankees are telling us to do.”

Although Tom himself wouldn’t put it that way.

This is not a totally improvised fallback position, by the way. If you Google it, you’ll see “anti-commandeering” used on websites like tenthamendmentcenter.com/.

We lose Maurice Bessinger and Harold Ramis on the same day

bill_murray-stripes1981-1040

Which means nothing, of course — I mean, the fact that they died on the same day means nothing; obviously their respective deaths mean a great deal to their families — but it struck me as an odd juxtaposition.

Maurice Bessinger, purveyor of yellow barbecue and “South Will Rise Again” tracts was 83. The man who gave us Egon “Print is Dead” Spengler and Army recruit Russell Ziskey (and as a writer and director, such gems as “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This”) was only 69. And yes, my very first thought on the latter’s passing was that maybe collecting spores, molds and fungus was not the healthiest hobby. I mean that fondly, and intend no disrespect.

In Maurice’s behalf, I’ll note that his barbecue was my youngest daughter’s favorite. As the baby of the family, she had trouble understanding why the rest of us preferred not to give him our custom while that flag was flying at his restaurants. But now my daughter is off in Thailand with the Peace Corps, so I don’t think her BBQ preference limited her horizons or worldview any.

As for why the juxtaposition is notable, well… Maurice was a man who went out of his way to stand up for outmoded ideas, a man who insisted on pushing a discredited worldview even when it drove customers away. Ramis, on the other hand, was a harbinger of a new ironic meme in our popular culture, the smirking wise guy who poked gentle, mocking fun at our social foibles. One insisted on respect for ideas that had never deserved it; the other urged us not to take ourselves so seriously.

For what that’s worth…

Rep. Ted Vick calls it quits

This just in:

Rep. Ted Vick will not seek 6th term in SC House
 
Chesterfield, SC – State Rep. Ted Vick announced on Friday that he will not seek a 6th term in the South Carolina General Assembly.  Vick has served as a State Representative of Chesterfield and Lancaster for the past ten years.

Vick released the following statement regarding his decision:

“It’s time to spend more time and effort on my family.  My twins will be 11 this year and they need me to be more focused on their needs and our time together. My family and I have been talking for months about a new phase in our lives and we are looking forward to it.

It has been a pleasure to serve the people of SC House District 53 and I am honored they allowed me to represent them in Columbia.”  

Vick has chaired the SC House Rural Caucus, SC House Sportsman Caucus, SC House AG subcommittee, SC Wildlife committee, SC House Interstate Cooperation committee, and served as chief Minority Whip for eight years.
 
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Unfortunately for him, you will remember Ted Vick as the SC legislator whose DUI defense (that he was walking that way because he had a rock in his shoe) made the Daily Mail

Here’s an idea for Ravenel’s new reality show

This was pretty funny — at least, the parts that I could make out through that thick, awful, fake “Gone With the Wind” accent.

Yes, I can see how folks up north — in places “like Vermont, and South Carolina” — might laugh at Southerners’ overreaction to a couple of inches of snow.

But this gives me an idea for an episode of Thomas Ravenel’s new reality TV show, “Southern Charm,” which as I gather is about what happens to scions of old Charleston families in a time of general cultural decline and decadence.

There could be an entire episode in which T-Rav is trapped in his vehicle (possibly a white Escalade, as in this skit) because… wait for it… someone (possibly Yankees) have closed down his Daddy’s bridge on account of snow.

It could work… Hey, maybe it even happened…

Nice to see Tom Davis backing away from nullification

I’ve always seen Tom Davis as a (mostly) reasonable man, and have been distressed to see his drift into extremism over the last couple of years.

So I’m pleased to see him take a deliberate step away from the antebellum notion of Nullification:

Davis,TomCOLUMBIA, SC — A Republican lawmaker says he plans to take the “nullification” out of the Obamacare nullification bill before the state Senate….

“The conversation really has gotten off the rails a little bit,” Davis said Wednesday, after holding three public hearings across the state that drew hundreds. “Everybody talks about nullification. This isn’t nullification. We can’t nullify.”…

Amen to that, senator. No, we can’t. That’s been pretty clear ever since 1865, if not sooner.

But it’s a bit disingenuous for Tom to act like other people have somehow gone “off the rails” with all this nullification talk:

  • I remember his presence at this Ron Paul press conference at which nullification was spoken of approvingly.
  • Then there was his speech at a… Nullification Rally… at which he praised John C. Calhoun as “a great man who has been maligned far too long.” And by the way, Tom himself called it a “nullification rally” when he thanked someone for putting up video of his speech.

So… Tom no longer wants to nullify Obamacare. However, he does want to sabotage it, to do all he can to make it fail. Which is not the most positive attitude I’ve ever heard of with regard to respecting laws legitimately passed by the Congress.

But this is progress…

We don’t need outsiders calling our governor a ‘clown’

crew

Back in the first few years that I was back here in SC — I want to say it was about the time of the Lost Trust scandal in 1990; in any case, it was a time when we were struggling with some huge problem in Columbia — The Charlotte Observer ran a short, dismissive, truly snotty editorial asking what was up with South Carolina, and comparing us to the Three Stooges.

That was it. There was no serious analysis of the problem, and no recommendation (that I recall) on how to make it better. Just a setup for comparing South Carolina to the Stooges. Ha-ha.

Something crystallized for me in that moment. I had been a longtime admirer of the Observer before I came to work here. But since my return here in 1987, I had noticed that its coverage of my home state had a certain tone to it — a scornful fascination based in a concept of SC as the other; as a vastly inferior other that existed to make folks in that corner of NC feel good about themselves.

I fully realized what had bothered me as soon as I read that editorial. I felt that the Observer couldn’t care less whether things got better in SC, as long as we provided our betters with entertainment. (If I’m correct on the timing, this was at the time that I was conceiving of the year-long Power Failure project analyzing what was really wrong with SC, and offering a specific path to fixing the problems. So I had a markedly different attitude: I cared.)

Anyway, I was reminded of that Three Stooges moment when Celeste Headlee brought my attention to CREW’s second list of the nation’s worst governors. (CREW, by the way, is the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government.)

For those of you interested in such things, of the 18 governors on the list, only two — Andrew Cuomo and Steven Beshear — are Democrats (Scott Walker makes the list for being anti-union, and accepting contributions from people who are also anti-union — really; those are his “sins”). But I’m less concerned with the fact that CREW doesn’t live up to its self-professed partisan impartiality than the fact that, by publishing a list such as this one, the organization gives the lie to the “responsibility” part of its name.

Of course, our own governor makes the list. And that would be OK, if CREW had some helpful criticism. Here’s what it has to say about Gov. Haley. I won’t bother repeating it since there’s no news in it. She’s been roundly criticized for these things in this space. But I stand today to defend her.

My beef is with the overall way that this list is presented. Someone thought it would be cute to give the list a circus theme. The 18 governors are divided into three groups — the “Ringmasters,” the “Clowns,” and the “Sideshows.”

Nikki Haley is listed among the six “Clowns.”

I’m mystified as to the reasoning behind this equal division into three groups. What, our governor is a “Clown,” but Rick Perry makes “Ringmaster”? Really? If someone forced you to pick one of them as a “Clown,” how could you pick her over him?

Beyond that, there is no evidence provided of her clownishness. I didn’t see anything funny in any of the things said about her. It is simply not a defensible metaphor.

Let me say unequivocally that Nikki Haley is not a clown. She’s a perfectly serious, earnest young woman who governs as well as she can, according to her lights.

She does not deserve to be called a clown.

And if CREW really cared about responsibility in government, it would desist from this kind of immature, dismissive, unhelpful nonsense. This is the kind of destructive thing the political parties do — denigrate and demean and utterly dismiss all with whom they disagree, making it impossible for people wearing different labels to work together toward the common good.

On its About Us page, CREW moans,

Many Americans have given up on our political system, writing off our elected leaders…

Well, you know why? Because (at least in part) of dismissive junk such as this.

If you have something constructive to say, say it. If you have any specific, serious advice to offer the people of South Carolina, we’re all ears — really. Not all of us have “We Don’t CARE How You Did It Up North” bumper stickers on our vehicles (although, admittedly, some of us do). Let’s hear your prescription.

But if you have nothing more helpful to offer than to call our governor a “clown,” then just shut up about it.

Nikki Haley could have saved herself (much of) this grief

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The SC Democratic Party sent out this release a few minutes ago:

Nikki Haley’s Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week

After three days of condemnation, Haley finally drops white supremacist co-chair

 

It’s been a rough week for Governor Nikki Haley and her reelection campaign. But that’s what happens when you appoint, and then spend three days defending, a white supremacist co-chair to your campaign. Let’s recap:

 

One week ago, reports first surfaced that Nikki Haley had appointed a leader of a white nationalist group as a co-chair of her reelection campaign.

 

Southern Poverty Law Center: SC Governor Names White Nationalist to Reelection Committee. “Garcia-Quintana is a lifetime member and current board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which is listed as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The CCC is the linear descendant of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South, and has evolved into a crudely racist organization.” [SPLC, 5/22/13]

 

Two days later, amid calls for her to dismiss the white supremacist co-chair, Governor Haley and her team stood by him even as he doubled-down on his divisive rhetoric.

 

Haley rebuffs Dem demands that she dismiss controversial advisor. “Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election campaign has no plans to remove a controversial volunteer who S.C. Democrats and others say has ties to white supremacist groups…. ‘Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?’ Garcia-Quintana said.” [The State, 5/24/13]

 

Nikki Haley: No Plans to Remove Controversial Volunteer. “Over the past week, several media outlets have reported that one of the volunteers for Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election has been active in groups linked to right-wing extremism. On Friday, Haley’s political director Tim Pearson told Patch Haley has no plans to ask the volunteer, Roan Garcia-Quintana, to step down from the team of 170-plus volunteers.” [Patch, 5/24/13]

 

Over the weekend, Haley’s team launched political attacks and pointed the finger at others, while still defending their appointment.

 

Garcia-Quintana said he had “no plans to step aside and has not been asked to.” “Garcia-Quintana, a Mauldin resident, said he has no plans to step aside and has not been asked to. Even if he were, he said he would still volunteer on behalf of Haley. Earlier this week, Garcia-Quintana was linked to an organization that advocates for purification of races. He did not back off those views when he spoke to Patch on Saturday.” [Patch, 5/25/13]

 

Finally, on Sunday night before Memorial Day, Haley’s campaign finally asked Mr. Garcia-Quintana to resign, claiming ignorance on his beliefs (which they had just spent three days excusing).

 

Volunteer exits Haley campaign group after accusations of racism. “Haley’s campaign had been criticized by civil-rights groups and Democrats for the role played by Garcia-Quintana, who they said has ties to a white nationalist group. The campaign initially stood by Garcia-Quintana. But Sunday the campaign said it requested his resignation, which was offered and accepted, because it was “previously unaware” of some of Garcia-Quintana’s comments.” [The State, 5/26/13]

 

Post & Courier: “Flip-flop much?” “Pearson’s about-face was classic. On Friday, he said: ‘There’s nothing racial about this Cuban-American’s participation in the political process, nor his support for the first Indian-American governor and the first African-American U.S. senator in South Carolina history.’ Two days later, he said: ‘There is no place for racially divisive rhetoric in the politics or governance of South Carolina. While we appreciate the support Roan has provided, we were previously unaware of some of the statements he had made, statements which do not well represent the views of the governor.’ Flip-flop much?” [Post and Courier,5/29/13]

 

Now, editorial boards and columnists around the state are weighing in and asking the same question as South Carolinians: why did Governor Haley and her team spend three days defending a white supremacist and refusing to disavow his beliefs?

 

Post & Courier: Haley’s call right, but was reason? “Hold the hypocrisy. The cynical view here is that Haley used the holiday weekend to distance herself some from unnecessary controversy. Self-preservation is nothing new from the governor’s office. But maybe Haley actually didn’t want to associate with a guy who holds intolerant views, which would bode well for her political maturity. Or maybe she just realized it would have looked hypocritical to get indignant about Jake Knotts’ ‘raghead’ comment and then ignore this.” [Post and Courier, 5/29/13]

 

Rock Hill Herald: Haley dumps volunteer. “Gov. Nikki Haley did the right thing in dismissing one of the co-chairs of her grass-roots political organization because of his ties to a white nationalist group. The only surprise is that it took her three days to do so.” [Rock Hill Herald, 5/28/13]

 

It really has been a terrible, no-good, very-bad week for Nikki Haley.

 

But sadly for South Carolinians who continue to struggle with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, some of the worst public schools in the nation, and roads and bridges on the verge of crumbling, Governor Haley’s failure to lead is no surprise.

What I liked about it best was the headline that SCDP Communications Director Kristin Sosanie put on it: “Nikki Haley’s Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week.”

Somehow, evoking children’s literature seems apropos, given the intellectual level on which we conduct politics in SC.

Other than that, the release is garden-variety, partisan, kick-‘em-while-they’re-down stuff.

The governor could have saved herself some of this grief had she just not played the usual game. Her team treated complaints about this “Confederate Cuban” in a manner consistent with the standard playbook that SC Democrats and Republicans take off the national shelf: If the other side criticizes you, dismiss it, and criticize the other side for criticizing you — because that’s just the way those awful people on the other side are…

A small amount of due diligence — an hour or two spent looking into this guy before saying anything, then going ahead and getting rid of him on the first day, explaining that you just hadn’t known — would have left her looking better. It also would have been extraordinary, given, as I said, the level on which we conduct our politics in South Carolina.

She could have had a “Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad” afternoon, rather than “Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week” week. Or weekend, anyway…

Ted Vick makes the Daily Mail

Yes, the Daily Mail, as in the one in London — the one in “Paperback Writer,” for my fellow Boomers.article-2325324-19CE5AD1000005DC-443_306x366

Imagine my surprise. I just this morning loaded the Daily Mail app onto my iPod, and this was one of the first stories to pop up, right there on the main U.S. news page.

And why on Earth would an arrest of a South Carolina lawmaker be worth a headline in such a venue? I think maybe it was Todd Rutherford’s explanation about the rock in his shoe. They even squeezed that into the hed, “South Carolina Democrat arrested for second DUI in a year but blames ‘impairment’ on rock in his shoe.” An excerpt:

A South Carolina state representative has been arrested for his second DUI in less than a year despite claims by his attorney that his perceived impairment was because of a rock in his shoe.

State Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield, was arrested on the Statehouse grounds around 11 p.m. Tuesday by the Bureau of Protective Services, according to Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli.

An officer followed Vick after seeing him stumbling as he walked into a parking garage in Columbia. Vick got into his car and hit a cone before the officer could catch up and ask him to stop…

But Vick’s lawyer, fellow Rep. Todd Rutherford, said Vick was not impaired.

Vick was walking funny because he had a rock in his shoe, said Rutherford, D-Columbia…

Jenny wins; Sanford admits to being in contempt

Of his divorce decree, that is:

By BRUCE SMITH — Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Newly elected Congressman Mark Sanford and his ex-wife have settled a complaint that said he was at her home without her permission in violation of their divorce agreement….

Under the settlement, Sanford admits he was in contempt of the divorce decree then and on previous occasions. The judge agreed to withhold sentencing Sanford as long as he complies with the provision in their divorce settlement that he not enter his ex-wife’s Sullivans Island, S.C., home without her permission.

Sanford also agreed to pay her $5,000 in fees and court costs…

As to the matter of his showing contempt for the people of the 1st District, and them just eating it up, that’s another story.

He’s all yours, Lowcountry, and welcome to him.

Well, Sanford has SC to kick around again

The expected end to the special election in the 1st Congressional District has come:

Mark Sanford has won the South Carolina special election in a competitive race for what in normal circumstances is a safe Republican seat.

The former governor beat Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert Busch, for the state’s 1st congressional district.

The AP called the race for Sanford, with the Republican leading Colbert Busch 54 percent 46 percent…

Except, of course, it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning, or rather the resumption. One more thing for all of South Carolina to be repeatedly humiliated over.

Way to go, voters of the 1st District. You do realize that all of us will get the blame for this, right?

Smith: Anti-Obamacare witness transported on state plane

Here’s an interesting release that just came in:

Rep. James Smith Responds to Use of State Plane by Right-Wing Radio Host

 

Today, some members of the South Carolina General Assembly learned that one of only two people to testify in favor of H.3101, otherwise known as the Obamacare Nullification Bill, at today’s subcommittee hearing, was given special travel arrangements by being flown to Columbia from Washington, DC on Palmetto 2, a state airplane.  Dr. Walter Williams, a professor at George Mason University and popular right-wing radio host, gave testimony in favor of H.3101 today in Columbia after his taxpayer funded flight was authorized by Spartanburg State Representative, and lead sponsor of H.3101, Bill Chumley. The other person testifying in favor of the bill was a prominent Tea Party activist Kent Masterson Brown, who admitted he was paid $7500 to testify.

Representative James Smith, a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws, released the following statement in response:

“This is the height of hypocrisy and politics at its worst.  For taxpayers to be forced to foot the bill so that an out-of-state political zealot can push his extreme agenda is not only a dereliction of his duties as a public servant, it is just fundamentally wrong.  During his testimony, Dr. Walter Williams espoused the abuses of government spending and intrusion while engaging in precisely the same behavior.  While we work to make health care more affordable and accessible to our citizens, Representative Bill Chumley, would rather frivolously spend tax dollars to fly Tea Party ideologues down to South Carolina on the state airplane. I call on Representative Chumley to immediately reimburse the taxpayers for his reckless and irresponsible decision to spend tax dollars to promote his own extreme Tea party agenda.”

####

Gee, I didn’t even know that a single member of the Legislature could authorize something like that…

First, key SC lawmakers were dead serious about nullification; now, they’re taking testimony from a secessionist. And yes, it’s 2013

We are really on a roll in South Carolina this week. On a rapid downhill roll, as on the proverbial handcart to hell.

SC Democrats put out this release today:

Well-known Secessionist invited by GOP lawmaker to give testimony in support of Nullification

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws held a hearing on H3101, otherwise known as the “Nullification” bill that seeks to nullify the Affordable Care Act, heard testimony from dozens of Tea Party activists on Wednesday. One of the speakers, Dr. Donald Livingston of Georgia, separated himself from the other speakers when he publicly advocated for secession during his testimony.

Dr. Livingston, a retired philosophy professor testifying in support of nullification, was invited to give the lead testimony by the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Bill Chumley. Dr. Livingston later admitted in his testimony that he had not actually read Rep. Chumley’s bill.

Dr. Donald Livingston is the former director of the League of the South, a neo-confederate group that actively supports southern nationalism as well as secession from the United States. (Source) The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the League of the South as a “racist hate group.” (Source) Dr. Livingston has been dubbed the “Intellectual Godfather of the secession movement” by New York Times journalist Chris Hedges. Dr. Livingston has written extensively in support of secession and southern heritage. (Source)

In 2001, he told the Intelligence Report that “the North created segregation” and that Southerners fought during the Civil War only “because they were invaded.” The next year, he established the Abbeville Institute, based in Atlanta, along the lines of the League of the South. (Source)

At a 2003 “Lincoln Reconsidered” conference he said that “evil is habit-forming” and no habit is as evil as believing that Lincoln acted out of good motives. (Source)

Representative James Smith, a member of the subcommittee, released the following statement in response:

“I was surprised and extremely disappointed Rep. Bill Chumley would invite Dr. Livingston to serve as his chief advocate in front of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee. His extreme views on secession and his association with a known racist hate group insults the institution we serve and reveals the motives behind many who support this legislation. I fundamentally reject his vision for our country and I call on my colleagues to do the same.”

####

It’s really been weird lately. At home in the evenings, I read Team of Rivals, and just started rewatching Ken Burns’ classic “The Civil War” on Netflix. Reading and watching at night, I think that what I’m doing is studying history.

But then I get up in the morning, and day after day, this insane nonsense turns out to be current events over at our State House.

Tom Davis at the ‘nullification rally’

This morning, I saw this on Twitter from Tom Davis:

Thanks, Ed Eichelberger, for this video of my speech at Tuesday’s nullification rally at the S. C. State House. http://fb.me/1eyP5zmGG

“Nullification rally?” Is that what was going on when I passed by on Tuesday.? Wait, let me go check. No, I was right: This is 2013, and not 1832…

I didn’t have time to look at the video until tonight. Before I wrap up for today, I want to take note of it here. We must all remember this when Tom runs against Lindsey Graham next year. If he does. Or when he runs for anything in the future.

I have always liked Tom Davis personally, and I have been very disturbed to see his steady descent into fringe extremism.

In case you don’t have time to watch it all, some lowlights:

  • Lee Bright’s absolutely right.
  • Launching on a history lesson — neoConfederates are big on condescendingly explaining their version of history to the rest of us, and Tom is picking up their habits — he says that George Washington was president in 1800. No, Tom, he wasn’t. Kind of makes you want to double-check all the other stuff he says. In case you didn’t already know to do that.
  • He says, with fierce, defensive passion, that as a South Carolinian he is “proud of John C. Calhoun,” whom he characterizes as “a great man who has been maligned far too long.”
  • “You have the intellectual high ground here.” This to the assembled nullificationists.
  • “I can’t do anything right now up in Congress…” As opposed to later, I guess.
  • “This state has a proud tradition of leaders stepping up and holding aloft the candle of liberty at a time when things were darkest.” Really? I would like to have heard an elaboration on that, with names and dates, so I can understand how Tom is defining “liberty” these days.