Category Archives: Speechifying

My speech to the Naval Academy alumni

There are no pictures from my talk, so, since this was a naval group, here's a picture of a ship -- one my Dad served in, long ago, USS Noa.

There are no pictures from my talk, so, since this was a naval group, here’s a picture of a ship — one my Dad served in, long ago, USS Noa.

Today at noon at the Palmetto Club, I spoke to the Midlands Chapter of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association.

It’s a good group, consisting of a bunch of former naval officers (including one admiral), and they let me speak about whatever I wanted, although I understand that what most groups want me to talk about is politics and/or the media.

I like to keep my remarks short because I prefer to devote as much time as possible to questions — not because I’m generous about answering questions, because I simply feel more comfortable doing that. When I’m answering questions, I know I’m talking about something that interests my audience, and I can do it all day it you let me. So I relax.

But I have to prepare some remarks, and this time I went a bit overboard, leaving time for only about four questions (each of which I answered at length, of course). I really need to time myself on these things going forward, to increase Q&A time.

Here’s what I had written down, and — after some off-the-cuff remarks about today’s news about The State‘s new publisher — I read most of it, with a few tangents. So, since I don’t like to spend time writing anything without publishing it, here are my notes:

US Naval Academy Alumni Assoc of the Midlands
Thursday 19 April at noon

We are living in a strange time.

It’s a time when everyone is more closely connected than ever, at least on a superficial level, but we are being blown apart by the very factors that allow us to connect.

Distrust of institutions, distrust of the ideas that have animated our country and given it meaning from the beginning. Distrust of expertise. Distrust of facts, distrust of reality.

There’s a quote attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the most thoughtful people to grace our politics in the second half of the 20th century. He said:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

At the time when he said it, it was just an assertion of common sense. People repeated the quote because it so succinctly stated a basic truth. We congratulated ourselves on understanding this. We knew what a fact was, and we knew what an opinion was, and we had a general agreement on where the dividing line was between the two.

No more.

Growing up when I did, in the postwar world, I was fortunate to live in a time when we all had a shared daily source of facts – the newspaper.

Newspapers in America started life as disreputable things, at least by the standards in place by the time I came along. They existed to push partisan points of view. In the first years of our republic, the papers run by Hamilton’s Federalists existed to tear down Jefferson and Madison’s Democratic-Republicans, and vice-versa. And there were no boundaries.

Journalism continued to be wild and wooly throughout the 19th century, and in many places, well into the 20th. But then they started to get “respectable.” They started trying to treat Democrats and Republicans fairly and impartially and at arm’s length on the news pages, and keep opinion strictly confined to the editorial page. And increasingly, to be nonpartisan on the editorial page as well.

I’d like to say that this happened out of nobility, but there was also a selfish factor at work: Publishers figured out they could make more money if everybody – Democrats, Republicans and independents – read their papers. So objectivity became the order of the day.

And it had a good effect, to the extent that people’s understanding of public life was formed by newspapers, and to a great extent it was: Everyone, regardless of their political views, had a shared set of facts to work from. Everyone was entitled to his opinion as to what to DO in light of the facts, but the facts belonged to everybody, and were no respecters of persons.

We all tacitly accepted what my favorite Founding Father, John Adams, had said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

However fiercely we might have held and expressed our opinions, they rested on a shared belief in the same facts, the same reality. And however wrong we believed them to be, we were able to respect other people’s rights to THEIR opinions.

And while our debates, and our elections, were lively, they were civil.

Facts were things presented to us by experts, by people trained to understand what was important, to investigate it, and to present it in an easily understood format. (talk about what editors went through in deciding how to present the news [this turned into a lengthy digression, talking about stuff like this]). Their ability to make these decisions and follow through on them in a hurry was honed in a hard school, daily, over years of pressure.

And they tended to come up with the same facts, and presented them very similarly. (My experience comparing on a daily basis in the 80s.)

Now, nobody needs an editor. Let me correct that. Actually, one of the old truisms of journalism is that everybody needs an editor, all the time. But we have technology today that fools people into thinking they don’t need an editor. Now, everyone is his own editor, and publisher.

This is very democratic – small d. It’s also the way madness lies, because nowadays, everyone is persuaded that he is indeed entitled to his own facts, and everyone else’s facts are “fake news.”

The “news,” as many people experience it, is no longer curated by people who have an understanding of what is important. Worse, there is no skeptical editor telling the reporter, “You don’t have that story nailed down, so I’m not running it.” Not on many of the “news” platforms of today. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. (And I can say that even though I love Twitter, which I can elaborate on later if you care.) And not on the plethora of websites out there that exist to cater to your preferred version of reality.

This has driven our national politics, the level most susceptible to these forces, mad. From the left to the right, although the rightward version currently holds power. And the madness is seeping down to the state level.

I could give a lot of examples of this, but I’ll give one: sanctuary cities. The number-one legislative priority of the governor of our state these days is to pass a law against “sanctuary cities” in South Carolina. Never mind that there ARE no sanctuary cities in South Carolina; the governor wants to force cities to actively PROVE that they are not sanctuary cities – in other words, he would accomplish nothing but increase the amount of stupid, pointless, bureaucratic red tape in government.

Reality doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter, in a new world in which people choose their own facts.

Before I open up to questions, I want to point out that our problem with personal-preference facts isn’t entirely a creation of the Internet. There are a lot of other unfortunate trends of recent decades that have brought us to this divided state.

To pick on another medium, before the Web there was 24-7 cable TV “news,” and now there’s more of it than ever.

This had two very bad effects on the country.

First, it elevated local news into national news. Once, news directors only needed to fill half an hour. Now, they have to fill 24 hours, and they’ll use any “news” they can get their hands on. So it is that stories of weird, disturbing crimes and small-time public corruption – things that would never have been reported beyond a local news market — became national news stories. Accordingly, people think the world is much more menacing and corrupt than they used to think, because they’re exposed to much more of it.

This makes people distrustful of everyone and everything – the streets aren’t safe! they’re all crooks! – and they no longer perceive the most important thing that should be understood about news: News is the unusual, the weird, the departure from the norm. Increasingly, people think what they see on sensationalized TV news IS the norm. Because it’s on ALL THE TIME!

Secondly, no matter how hard they try, these stations can’t come up with 24 hours of NEWS news. So they fill the rest with opinion. It might be an interview with an “expert,” or a panel of highly opinionated talking heads yelling at each other. In any case, increasingly the viewer ceases to distinguish between this yacking and NEWS. Worse, increasingly, people who watch this stuff begin to tar real journalists with the same brush. They think everybody’s pushing an angle, even when they’re reporting the news straight.

I could keep on, but I won’t. I’d like to hear your questions, so we can talk about what interests YOU….

My initial inspiration for my topic was this column from earlier in the week by David Brooks, about how in this age of hyperconnectivity, loneliness is at an all-time high in our society. But as you can see, I digressed from that almost immediately. To correct that, I threw in an elaboration on his theme. Brooks’ column is better, of course, because it’s a column, rather than rambling notes…

The parting gift I got for speaking. It will look great with some rum and ginger ale in it.

The parting gift I got for speaking. It will look great with some rum and ginger ale in it.

What I ended up saying to Rotary

capital-rotary

Your suggestions — especially Kathryn’s — led more or less directly to my drafting the words below, which I delivered to the Capital Rotary Club at the Palmetto Club early this morning.

I pretty much zipped through the prepared stuff in order to get to my favorite part — questions. But here’s what I started with:

I was asked to come talk about the current election, and I hardly know where to start.

I think I’ll start with PREVIOUS elections.

We’ve been talking quite a bit on my blog this week about The State’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Sunday – or rather, to put it more accurately, The State’s endorsement of the person running against Donald Trump. The paper has no love for Secretary Clinton.

Of course, my responsibility for The State’s endorsements ended when I left the paper in 2009, but it remains a subject that highly interests me.

It was noted in the editorial that this was the first time the paper had endorsed a Democrat for president since 1976.

Someone – a person I’m pretty sure almost always votes Democratic [is that fair, Kathryn?] – asked on my blog why we endorsed all those Republicans. Which is a fair enough question to ask me, since I don’t like either party, and think they have both been enormously destructive to the country in recent decades.

I could only answer for the elections in the years when I was on the editorial board, so here goes:

In 1996, We liked Dole better than Clinton – although by the end, I had my doubts about Dole, and asked Tom McLean, who was then editor, to write it instead of me, which he did. But personally, I still voted for Dole.

In 2000 — We liked Bush better than Gore – as a board, anyway – personally I was rather noncommittal. I was lukewarm on Bush because I had much, much preferred John McCain to him, and had argued very strenuously for endorsing McCain in the primary. We had endorsed Bush instead, which was probably the biggest argument I ever lost as editorial page editor. Also… I worked in Tennessee in the 70s and 80s and got to know Al Gore, interacted with him a good bit, and liked him. But after eight years as Clinton’s vice president, I liked him less. On election night, I remember the lead changing back and forth, and at each point, I couldn’t decide how I felt. I only knew that when the Supreme Court decided Bush had won Florida, I was relieved, and grateful to Gore for promptly conceding at that point.

2004 — We disliked Kerry more than we disliked Bush (if you look back, you’ll see most of the editorial was about Bush’s flaws, but ultimately we didn’t trust Kerry on national security – and for me, that tends to trump everything)

2008 — My man John McCain was running, although we liked Obama a lot. That was really an unusual election for us at the paper. For once, the two candidates we had endorsed in their respective party primaries back at the start of the year faced each other in the general. So we were happy either way, but I had been waiting 8 years to endorse McCain, and I wasn’t going to miss my chance. Besides, Obama was untested. We trusted McCain’s experience.

In 2009, I was laid off from the paper for the sin of having too high a salary when the paper was desperate to cut costs. So I wasn’t involved in 2012, or this year.

Another way to explain our preference for Republicans over the years, a very simplistic one: we were essentially a center-right board, and as long as the GOP remained a center-right party and the national Democrats were so ideologically liberal, we would tend toward Republicans. But I don’t like that overly simple explanation because I don’t like the liberal OR conservative labels, and we prided ourselves on being pragmatic. [I then went on a brief digression of our official point of view, which we called, rather oxymoronically, “pragmatic conservatism.”]

This brings us to today.

The general thrust of the editorial page remains the same as in my day. The core of the editorial board is Cindi Scoppe, and the joke during our many years working together was that we were two people with the same brain. Of course, there are different people involved along with her (Mark Lett, Sara Borton, Paul Osmundson), but the general editorial positions remain the same.

And in this election cycle, the paper did the only thing it could do under the circumstances: It endorsed the only person on the planet in a position to stop Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States.

As I said, the paper was pleased to endorse Republicans as long as it remained a sensible, center-right party. This year, the GOP completely went off the rails, and nominated a man who really isn’t any kind of conservative: an abysmally ignorant – and unwilling to learn – bully who considers attacking people who have criticized him personally as his top priority. A man who admires tyrants, who would abandon our allies, throw out nuclear nonproliferation policies that have served us since 1945, who plays to xenophobia, who would institute religious tests for entering the country, and the list goes on and on.

But that seems like a good place to stop and take questions. I’d love to get questions about local politics, but I can speak to national ones as well. Whatever y’all prefer…

My audience did not disappoint, but provided enough good questions to keep a likely interaction going until time was called. We pretty much stuck to national politics, which I guess was to some extent my fault, for having started us in that direction. But the discussion was interesting, relevant and civil. And you can’t beat that…

I thank my optometrist, Dr. Philip Flynn, for inviting me, and the Club for putting up with me this morning.

What should I say to Rotary in the morning?

Back before I realized it was on the morning after a critical World Series game, I agreed to speak to the Rotary Club that meets at the Palmetto Club at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. I’ve been asked to speak on “the upcoming election and the state of national/local politics.”8662336773_7910f6010a_b

As is my wont, I intend to reserve most of my time for questions (that ensures that I address things my audience is interested in, and besides, I enjoy it more), but I do need to come up with some opening remarks — and it’s not a good idea to try to whip them together during the game tonight.

So I’m thinking about it now.

The problem, of course, isn’t a lack of things to talk about, but choosing from an overabundance.

What do y’all think I should say, to start things off?

Just this one more night, and we’re done! Live-Tweeting Hillary

night 4 crowd

Boy, I could have done with having this convention some other week, when I’m not trying to have vacation. But them’s the breaks.

Here’s hoping I like Hillary Clinton’s speech better than I did this one back in 2008.

First step, please don’t say you’re going to “fight” for me. I hate that.

Another thing I hope she doesn’t do is talk like this is all a Democrats-vs.-Republicans thing, partisan business as usual. She knows better. The picture she must paint is one that reflects the reality that we’re facing: A choice between her, a fairly conventional center-left politician with very good credentials. (Not “the best ever,” as some would have it — she can’t beat a G.H.W. Bush or an Eisenhower — but very, very good.)

No, she has to reach out to independents like me, because she needs every one of us. She needs to reach out to all those Republicans out there who are deeply disturbed at what has seized their party’s nomination, and unfortunately have a problem with voting for her — a sort of Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

That takes some mighty reaching — stretching that might challenge Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man. But she needs to do it. The country needs her to do it.

As David Brooks said a moment ago, her party has done a decent job seizing the ground that the GOP abandoned last week — the role of the patriotic party, the Morning in America party, even in a sense the culturally conservative party, in terms of embracing traditional American values.

She needs to close the deal. We’ll see.

If the internet keeps working — it’s been on and off today where I am — you’ll see my Tweets more or less in real time below, in the comments. If you just can’t wait a few seconds for them to show up here, here’s my Twitter feed

Khris Khristie’s Kangaroo Kourt

CHRISTIE TWO

I didn’t watch a whole lot of last night’s RNC festivities, because… Well, I can only take so much of any party’s convention these days, with all the morally and intellectually offensive blackguarding of the opposition, which tends to lower my opinion of the human race.

And I got a headache.

The last straw, for me, was Chris Christie saying, essentially, Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we play lynch mob, and I whip y’all up to condemn Hillary Clinton?

His excuse was that he’s a former federal prosecutor, so this ostensibly would be an appropriate format for a speech from him. But the fact that he has been an officer of the court is what makes what he did so shameful. As though this were a proper way of finding someone guilty of something. On national television.

The call-and-response in which the mob had the role of roaring “GUILTY!” on cue was… wearying… to watch.

Alexandra Petri tried to have fun with it, and bless her for attempting to lighten things up:

Then Chris Christie took the stage. Christie had honed his speaking style in Salem, 1692, and he opened by announcing that he had seen Goody Clinton with the Devil. (Well, to be fair, he did not literally say that Clinton was in league with Satan, but this restraint on his part was unnecessary, as a few minutes later Ben Carson did.) “Let’s do something fun tonight,” Christie suggested: specifically, hold a mock trial of Clinton. The crowd loved this idea and began chanting “Guilty!” when prompted. Given that much of the convention so far has been dedicated to blaming her for the deaths of Americans (“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” said Pat Smith) and intentionally sabotaging our prestige in the world, this felt like the logical, fun next step. “How do you live with your own conscience when you reward a domestic terrorist with continued safety and betray the family of [a] fallen police officer waiting for decades for justice for his murder?” Christie asked, to give you a sample. “Hillary Clinton, as coddler of the brutal Castro brothers and betrayer of the family of fallen Trooper Werner Foerster: guilty or not guilty?” “GUILTY!” the crowd shouted.

If the speech had gone on any longer, Christie would have brought out an effigy of Clinton to see if it weighed the same as a duck, then handed out torches on which you could still see the “TRUMP­CHRISTIE” logo that had been hastily scratched out and replaced with “TRUMP­PENCE.”

Yes, this is the party of hope and fresh ideas, the one shouting, “GUILTY!” and “LOCK HER UP!” as it holds a mock trial of its opponent in absentia….

Yep, all that was missing was Christie saying, “She turned me into a Newt!

Anyway, I’ve been busy today, so I thought I’d put up something new for y’all to post comments on.

But I didn’t enjoy it.

Life will be more pleasant when both of these conventions are over. I hope.

I suppose I’ll have to watch the Cruz speech tonight. But I’d rather be watching another episode of “Vikings,” which I did after turning away from Christie last night.

The discussions are on a higher plane, and if someone gets tiresome, our hero bashes his head in or heaves a spear into him. It doesn’t go on and on…

And did I mention it has vikings in it?

Cindi Scoppe’s Gonzales Award acceptance speech

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn't ideal...

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn’t ideal…

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was my day for awards ceremonies. The best, for me, was the one at The State at which Associate Editor Cindi Scoppe received the paper’s Gonzales Award (named for the paper’s first editor, who was shot and killed on Main Street by the lieutenant governor in 1903).

It was the second time she had received the award, having gotten it in 1999 as well.

Bud Ferillo, Bob McAlister and I had written letters supporting her nomination, which is why we were there.

The work for which Cindi was honored took place during her first months alone, as the last remaining member of the editorial department. (There were once nine of us.) I addressed the significance of that in my letter supporting her:

When it comes to cold, dispassionate, hard-eyed assessment of South Carolina government and politics, no one touches Cindi Scoppe. Not in 2014, and not in 2015, either.

But in 2015, she did something else as well. She grew. She still did everything she had always done, the stuff no one else could do, but she added a couple of new ingredients: Heart and Soul.

There was a time when she didn’t have to do that sort of writing, and that comforted her. She liked being, in her own assessment, the board’s “Designated Mean Bitch.” When empathy and violins were called for, she was more than happy to let other associate editors “resonate” with the proper emotion for the moment – and some of them were really good at it. She would stick to the hard stuff.

But by mid-2015, there were no other associate editors. Warren Bolton – an ordained minister who could speak to the heart as well as anyone who had ever served on the board – left in the spring, and by June, Cindi was alone….

That sort of sets up what Cindi had to say in her acceptance speech. Here it is, shorn of some personal acknowledgments at the beginning:

The day after Dylann Roof slaughtered those nine innocents, Bertram Rantin stopped by my office to chat. I probably said I knew I needed to write something about the massacre but I had no idea what to say. Because what our community needed, what our state needed was not policy prescriptions but emotion and understanding. What was needed was RESONATING. And I don’t do resonating.

And Bertram said, you know, we used to have two people who could speak to this sort of situation. And isn’t it ironic that this would happen just weeks after we lost both Warren Bolton and Carolyn Click.

We talked some more about other things, and he left, but his words stayed in my head. And at some point, I realized that I had to step up to the task. I realized, as Brad wrote in his letter supporting my nomination, that I had to grow. I had to become a writer I had not been willing to.

Three thousand years ago, when God wondered aloud who he could send to speak to his people, the prophet Isaiah answered saying “Here am I, send me.” I think that’s one of the coolest passages in the Bible. Christians and Jews see that as a great act of faith. But it could also be seen as an act of dedication, of commitment to a cause, to a calling.

And don’t we all have a calling? Isn’t that what journalism is?

Shouldn’t we all be willing to ask, in the secularized iteration of Isaiah’s response: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Isn’t that the commitment that all of us need to give to our craft, to our community?

Now, except for Paul, there’s no one on the second floor who should be doing what I do routinely – advocating for policy positions. It’s probably not often that you should be writing about your personal experiences. Certainly not about how your faith informs your life decisions, or how it relates to public policy.

But what I had to do last year – after the massacre and a few months later, after the flood – is something every one of us can and should be willing to do every day: Look for where we can make a difference, fill roles we might not be comfortable filling, grow, if necessary, into the bigger demands of our jobs.

In his supporting letter, Bob McAlister said this about our jobs:

“I have spent my professional life in South Carolina’s political/media axis and have seen the media, especially newspapers, evolve. Of this I am certain: Our citizens have never needed good journalism more to help them wade through the complexities of life and the chaos of the Internet.”

As newspaper staffs grow smaller and the cacophony of self-interested voices grows louder and objective truth becomes increasingly optional, what each one of us does becomes exponentially more critical.

I would urge all of us to focus on the critical nature of what we would do: Not duplicating what others are doing, but providing our readers with important information they can’t get anywhere else. I urge you all to be truth-tellers, not just stenographers.

Today people in public life just make stuff up..

I can remember a time when it simply didn’t occur to journalists that we needed to verify basic facts from someone in a position of authority. Oh, we needed to watch for spin. We needed to make sure they weren’t manipulating numbers or not quite telling the whole story. But if a governor said half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests, it was safe to assume that was true. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way we can fact-check every single thing that public figures say. We can’t even fact-check every single thing a governor says.

But at the very least, we can do this: When people say things we know are not accurate, and we report what they say, we can point out the facts. We can say this is what the law actually says. This is what was actually spent. Or this is what the audit actually recommended.

This isn’t being an editorial writer. This is being an authoritative voice. This is being a journalist. This is something I did as a reporter. It’s something y’all do sometimes as reporters. It’s something we all need to do more of. We need to help our readers understand what is true and what is not. We need to give our readers the facts and the context they need to make informed decisions. It doesn’t matter whether we agree with those choices or not; it matters that they are informed.

Of course, as Jeff will remind us, we need to write things that people will read. And this is the hardest part. It’s never been easy to get people to read the stuff they need to know, and now we have metrics that show, at least in the online world, how little they read it. So it’s very tempting to just give up and give people what they want. That’s the easy way to drive up our unique visitor numbers.

It is not the right way.

The right way is keep trying to figure out how to turn what people need into what they want.

It is a daily battle. It is a battle that I often lose.

But it is a battle that I absolutely must keep fighting.

It’s a battle that you absolutely must keep fighting.

We have big and difficult jobs, and they are getting bigger and more difficult every day. And we have to stretch and grow to fill those jobs.

We have a calling. We work for our community.

Not to entertain our community. To inform our community. To give our readers the tools they need to be active citizens.

It is not an overstatement to say that our system of self-governance depends on our willingness to fulfill our calling.

Amen to that.

Heil Trump! — no, really; watch the video…

We’ve spoken before about the undertones of fascism in the appeal of Donald Trump. (Or maybe I just Tweeted about it; I’m not immediately finding the previous reference.)

Now there’s this, which somehow I missed over the weekend and didn’t see until today.

From the latest column by Dana Milbank:

So it has come to this: The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at a campaign rally Saturday in Orlando, leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute.

“Can I have a pledge? A swearing?” Trump asked, raising his right hand and directing his followers to do the same. He then led them in pledging allegiance — not to the flag but to Trump, for which they stand and for whom they vowed to vote.

Benito Mussolini (1883 - 1945) the Italian dictator in 1934. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) the Italian dictator in 1934. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Trump supporters raised their arms en masse — unfortunately evoking the sort of scene associated with grainy newsreels from Italy and Germany.

Among those not engaging in such ominous imagery were the demonstrators, who, by my colleague Jenna Johnson’s account, interrupted Trump’s event more than a dozen times. The candidate watched a supporter grab and attempt to tackle protesters, at least one of them black, near the stage. “You know, we have a divided country, folks,” Trump said. “We have a terrible president who happens to be African American.”

Loaded imagery, violence against dissenters and a racial attack on the president: It’s all in a day’s work for Trump….

If you watch that video and let it go on to autoplay the next one, you’ll hear the bit that goes, “We have a terrible president who happens to be African American.” You don’t want to miss that one, either.

Yeah, he’s a buffoon. But so was Mussolini. Hitler, too, but I think the Mussolini comparison is more apt. All that comic-opera strutting and mugging…

Barton Swaim, using words as robots never would

Our fellow Columbian Barton Swaim, in semi-defense of Marco Rubio’s recent robotic debate performance, has written a nice piece — published in The Washington Post — about why politicians do sound like machines so often.

As usual, Barton himself uses words in a decidedly human manner. I mean that in a good way:

Coverage of Rubio’s howler has, to my mind, been vastly overdone (the episode did not reflect poorly on his judgment, his character or even his abilities), but it touches on a suspicion most of us have entertained about our politicians: that they use words mindlessly. Probably all of us who follow politics sometimes feel that the whole business is nothing but drivel and fakery — that politicians are emitting vacuous jargon, their key phrases repeated again and again with apparently no concern for accuracy or feasibility or coherence….

Barton Swaim

Barton Swaim

This is what gives political discourse that distinctive air of unreality. Its language isn’t intended to persuade as you and I would try to persuade each other; it’s intended to convey impressions and project images and so arouse the sympathies of voters. The English philosopher Michael Oakeshott’s bleak description of politics (in a 1939 essay titled “The Claims of Politics”) captures the essence of the political sphere and its madcap discourse: “A limitation of view, which appears so clear and practical, but which amounts to little more than a mental fog, is inseparable from political activity. A mind fixed and callous to all subtle distinctions, emotional and intellectual habits become bogus from repetition and lack of examination, unreal loyalties, delusive aims, false significances are what political action involves. . . . The spiritual callousness involved in political action belongs to its character, and follows from the nature of what can be achieved politically.”…

Ah, there ya go again (to use one of my least favorite political catchphrases), Barton, just saying mechanically what we’ve all heard Michael Oakeshott say so many times… :)

Seriously, go read his piece.

Which reminds me. I’ve still got Clare Morris’ copy of Barton’s book, and I need to get it back to her ASAP. Dang: I’m going to see her at a meeting this evening, and I left it at home again…

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

sotu

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

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

haley vid

Thoughts on the Las Vegas debate?

No, I’m not going to embed my dozens of Tweets, or the 60 or 70 interactions they attracted on Twitter. (Twitter isn’t deep, but it’s way livelier than blogging.)

But I’ll show you this one, which makes a good point I’d like to elaborate on:

Now, I don’t know what that means in terms of the horse race. It should move him a bit toward front, but the GOP electorate has been so extremely irrational this year that things that should give a guy a bump don’t deliver, while things that should finish him for good send him soaring.

Elsewhere, I lamented — on Jeb Bush’s account — the sad disconnect between what it takes to govern and the talents needed to shine in debates. There’s some overlap, but they’re not the same things. Jeb did better this time, but not better enough.

I felt bad for Christie, too, as another candidate who deserves a serious look who just can’t get the crowd to turn away from the sideshows and check him out.

That said, Christie and Kasich made themselves look pretty bad with their plans for dealing with Russia. I thought Kasich had gone off the reservation wanting to punch them in the nose, but then Christie wanted to shoot their planes down. Christie even managed to set up Rand Paul to sound more rational on foreign affairs, which is a hard thing to do.

So that kind of left Rubio and Bush as… well, here’s another Tweet:

Maybe that’s too harsh. Carly Fiorina didn’t really say anything extraordinarily foolish, although her assertion that people have said “no” to her all her life rang a bit empty coming from someone who was CEO of HP. But wait — come to think of it, they did say “no” to her later, and I know how that feels, so… In any case, she didn’t say much that impressed. Nobody really impressed, except the razzle-dazzle kid Rubio, who was playing the part of Lindsey Graham in the big-table debate, standing up for national defense.

Well, no, someone else impressed: Cruz did. We’re all starting to focus more on Cruz. Trump has been so distracting that few people have focused on the fact that Cruz is the real, dyed-in-the-wool, right-wing ideological extremist in the bunch — with a dollop or two of let’s-disarm-ourselves, Rand Paul-style libertarianism, which doesn’t endear me either.

Which makes Rubio look even better.

Speaking of Lindsey Graham: Philip Bump of The Fix made a strong argument for why Graham, who has dominated most of the undercard debates, should be allowed into the big ones, regardless of his poll numbers. In short, no one else could possibly be such an effective foil for Trump — and that’s something most of us would like to see:

Including Trump. Graham and Trump differ on issues, but Graham also seems to have a sense for Trump’s Achilles heel. The tycoon’s only demonstrated weakness against his opponents is when he’s the butt of someone else’s zinger — which we saw in the second debate after Carly Fiorina put him in his place. So far, the only significant on-going challenge to Trump in the debates has been questions he didn’t want to answer. He can’t be used to dealing with people who are able to spar as well as he can. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

 

Obama acknowledges War on Terror

Obama speech

Most of the commentary I’ve seen since last night has emphasized that POTUS didn’t unveil anything new in his speech last night, that he mainly just tried to justify what he’s doing (or what he’s not doing, if you prefer), and that his real purpose was apparently to lecture us about tolerance.

Well, I heard something that sounded new to me. He said:

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11. In the process, we’ve hardened our defenses — from airports to financial centers, to other critical infrastructure. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas, and worked around the clock to keep us safe. Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership…

Did you catch it? Tell you what; let’s just zero right in on what I’m talking about:

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

 

You catch that? We are “at war with terrorists.” Not “We’ve been prosecuting incidents of terror as discrete crimes,” or “I’ve been shutting down multiple wars started by my predecessor,” or “the so-called War on Terror.”

He said we are at war with terrorists. Maybe he’s said it multiple times before, but this time it jumped out at me.

Did it strike anyone else?

Come hear ‘nun on the bus’ Simone Campbell Tuesday

Remember Sister Simone Campbell, the representative of the “Nuns on the Bus” who spoke so eloquently at the Democratic National Convention in 2012?

Well, tomorrow night — Tuesday, Oct. 27 — she will deliver this year’s Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Lecture at USC’s Capstone at 6 p.m.

The title of her speech is “Bridge the Divides, Transform Politics: A View from the Bus.” From the flyer:

Campbell flyer

Come on out and listen. I expect it to be inspiring.

It was Clinton, then Sanders, O’Malley, Webb and Chaffee

I think maybe, just maybe, this was on CNN.

I think maybe, just maybe, this was on CNN.

As I said last night:

To elaborate a bit:

  1. Everyone seems to agree that HIllary Clinton towered over the others. That was certainly my impression, although I don’t think her performance was as flawless as some say: She started out hesitantly, just for a second or two, on more than one occasion — but then quickly recovered. Her best moments were when she demonstrated the self-assurance and courage to stand to the right of her opponents — defending capitalism (staking out the moderate position that capitalism is a glorious thing, although we should stand ready to address its worst excesses), and then being the one total grownup on the stage on the subject of Edward Snowden.
  2. Sanders showed why he’s wowing the disaffected left out there at his rallies, although I’m not sure whether the chicken or egg came first — is his delivery so practiced and effective because of all those successful rallies, or are the rallies successful because his delivery is that good. Anderson Cooper was of course completely right that in the extremely unlikely event that Sanders were nominated, the Republican attack ad writes itself (I hadn’t even known about the “honeymoon in the Soviet Union” part). But he remains a far more attractive candidate, based on the debate performance, than the other three guys on the stage.
  3. Next, we take a big step down to No. 3, Martin O’Malley. I honestly don’t remember much that he said now, but I do remember the sort of supercilious, holier-than-thou tone he had when he said a lot of it. All I remember right now was his mantra about Glass-Steagall, which I suppose he kept mentioning in order to run down Chaffee, who really needed no help on that score; he was scuttling his chances just fine on his own. Anderson Cooper dramatically underlined O’Malley’s weakness as a debater by doing what O’Malley so glaringly failed to do: taking a few words to explain what Glass-Steagall was.
  4. I had really expected more from Jim Webb. Maybe because he was a military guy and once served in a Republican administration, I guess I thought he’d be more UnParty than the others or something. But man, was he lame. He comes in as far behind O’Malley as O’Malley does behind Sanders. Was anyone looking at a stopwatch? If so, just how much time did he spend whining about not being allowed enough time? Oh, sure, you call time on ME, but you just let all the other kids go on all day, yadda-yadda… Cooper lectured him about it (another instance of the host presuming to correct the candidates, which was presumptuous as all get-out, but in the two cases I mention here, they really deserved it). Then there was that weird smile when he said that the Vietnamese who threw the grenade that wounded him wasn’t around to comment. What was that? And was that anecdote in any way relevant to the question?
  5. Then, in a category all on his own, there was Chaffee. Is he always like this? If so, how has he ever been elected to anything? His answer to almost every question was something like, “Hey, I was always against going into Iraq,” as though he couldn’t think of anything to say about this decade. And on the Glass-Steagall thing… Wow. Aw, come on, guys, cut me a break on that! I was new in town, my Dad had just died, I was this dumb kid, and it was my very first vote! Don’t you get a mulligan on your first vote?… Really? That’s your answer? You have your big moment on the national stage, you’ve had all these years to think about it, and that’s your answer? As someone I read this morning said, at least “Oops” was short.

That’s enough to get a discussion started. Your thoughts?

"Secretary Clinton, do you want to respond?" "No."

“Secretary Clinton, do you want to respond?” “No.”

What do Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis have in common?

The answer: Dorothy Day, the Catholic social activist and anathema of the Right.

The pope mentioned her as an extraordinary American along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King (no, not Martin Luther, Martin Luther King) and Thomas Merton.

Bernie Sanders was thrilled that the pontiff mentioned Ms. Day:

“The name Dorothy Day has not been used in the United States Congress terribly often,” said Sanders in a short interview. “She was a valiant fighter for workers, was very strong in her belief for social justice, and I think it was extraordinary that he cited her as one of the most important people in recent American history. This would be one of the very, very few times that somebody as radical as Dorothy Day was mentioned.”…

Whoa! When Bernie Sanders calls you a radical, even though he means it in a good way, watch out!

By the way, when I saw the Reuters picture on the page linked above, I once again had that disconnect I have every time I see Al Franken — I immediately think this must be an SNL spoof, not the actual U.S. Congress. Sitting there in his suit, he looks like he’s mocking Senators, not being one.

But maybe that’s just me…

 

Graham’s speech today opposing the Iran deal

Since he sent it to me, and I’m too busy this afternoon to digest it, I’ll just share the whole thing with y’all. Here’s the transcript:

Mr. Graham:

Thank you, Senator Corker. Well, I just want to make sure people understand what we’re trying to do here at this point. Our Democratic colleagues are filibustering an attempt to have a debate, an up-or-down vote on the most consequential foreign policy decision in modern history. That’s what you’re doing. And Senator Corker in good faith got us here in a bipartisan manner and Senator Reid has come out of nowhere to change what was the common understanding of how we would proceed, get 60 votes, a simple majority, let the president act as he wishes. But no, we couldn’t do that.  We’re more worried about protecting Barack Obama from having to veto this than you are about having a debate on the floor of the Senate.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about who you’re dealing with here, folks. And if I hear one more comment from my Democratic friends about how much they love Israel……with friends like this, you don’t need an enemy.

Here’s who you are dealing with. This was yesterday. The Iran Supreme Leader predicted Wednesday that Israel would not exist in 25 years and ruled out any new negotiations with a Satan, the United States, beyond the recently concluded nuclear accord. In remarks published Wednesday on his personal web site — at least the Ayatollah has gotten in modern times and post on Twitter — the Supreme Leader — do you know what they call him Supreme Leader? Because he is. Ayatollah Khamenei responding to what he said were claims that Israel would be safe for that period. Where do those claims come from?

It came from this Administration, my colleagues on the other side. You’re telling everybody in the world that this is the best deal for Israel. Guess what? Nobody in Israel agrees with you, who is in the current government.  It’s just not Bibi [Netanyahu]. Everybody who is in the current coalition government understands this is not a good deal for Israel. Why don’t you listen to them? You want it to be a good deal for Israel. Well, it’s not. And you wanting it doesn’t change it.

So let’s finish to what he said.   The Ayatollah responded to claims he would be safe for that period under the nuclear agreement reached in July. After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years.  After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years. Israel didn’t say that. People over here said that. The Ayatollah wrote I am telling you first you will not be around in 25 years, and god willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years.

Second, during this period, the spirit of fighting heroism and jihad will keep you worried at every moment. Clearly, somebody who is on the course of change, somebody we should give $100 billion to, create a pathway to a nuclear bomb in 15 years, let him buy more weapons in five years and build an intercontinental ballistic missile in eight years. Clearly, this is the man that has changed course and you have empowered.

At least, at least [Neville] Chamberlain can say Hitler lied. At least Chamberlain can say I negotiated with the Fuhrer, he told me to my face if you give me this I’m done. We all know that Chamberlain was a chump and Hitler actually meant what he said when he wrote a book. The question is does this man mean what he says when he tweets yesterday?

The ink is not dry on the deal. One thing you can say about the old Ayatollah, who is crazy, who is a religious Nazi, at least he’s honest. He doesn’t want you to be confused as you vote as to what he wants to do to your friend Israel.

See, he doesn’t want you to mistake what this deal means to him. You obviously are writing him off. You obviously believe he doesn’t mean it. I guess he has a polling problem in Iran. He’s got to get his numbers up. He needs to say these things because he doesn’t mean it but he has to keep his people happy because they like hearing this stuff. All I can tell you, his people tried to rise up against him in 2009 and our president sat on the sidelines and didn’t do a damn thing.

The biggest moment for change in Iran came in 2009 when young people and women took to the streets demanding a fair election that was stolen from them by the Ayatollah and his response was to beat them, shoot them, put them in jail and torture them. This is the guy that you’re going to give $100 billion to. A clear pathway to a bomb. He doesn’t even have to cheat to get there. And buy more weapons to attack us. At least Chamberlain lied. This man is telling you what he’s going to do as of yesterday.

And between the time the negotiations have started to now, has he given us — shown us a little leg about real change? During the negotiations he has toppled four Arab capitals. During the negotiations, he supported the Houthis in Yemen who destroyed a pro-American government, and we’ve lost eyes and ears on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Sunni-extremist group who attacked Paris and will attack us. During the negotiation they have done anything but be modest. I cannot believe that you don’t believe him. I cannot believe that you made the biggest miscalculation in modern history by empowering a religious fanatic with the ability to attack our nation, destroy our friends in Israel and keep the Mideast on fire for 15 years. What are y’all thinking over there?

All I can say is that the last 9/11, 3,000 of us died because they couldn’t get weapons to kill three million of us. If you let this deal go forward, before too long the most radical regime on the planet will have the most lethal weapons available to mankind. They will share that technology with terrorists and it will come here. And why do they need an ICBM folks? What are they going to do with it? They’re not going to send people to space. What are you thinking? What are y’all thinking over there? You’re taking the most radical regime on the planet, a theocracy. This is not a democracy. The moderates were shot down in the streets. They were begging ‘are you with us or with you with him, President Obama?’

President Obama is absolutely the most poor champion of freedom and the weakest opponent of evil in history. Evil is flourishing on his watch. President Obama said you’d have to be crazy not to support this deal. Let’s walk through whether or not we should follow his advice about radical Islam.

This is the president who was told to leave troops in Iraq to make sure our gains would be maintained, and he pulled everybody out because he wanted to get to zero. He turned down every commander’s advice to get to zero because he made a campaign promise. This is the president that was told by his entire national security team three years ago establish a no-fly zone and help the Free Syrian Army because Assad was on the rope. At the time when it would have mattered when there was a Free Syrian Army to help. Obama said no thanks.

This is the president who drew a red line against Assad after he backed off and said if you use chemical weapons and cross that red line, you’ll pay a price. Here’s the facts: Assad is going to be in power and Obama is going to be gone. The last guy standing is going to be Assad. This is the man who said don’t worry about ISIL. They are the J.V. Team.  I killed Bin Laden.  Al-Qaeda is decimated.  At what point do you realize that President Obama has no idea what he’s talking about? At what point in time is it obvious to anybody in the world who’s paying attention when it comes to radical Islam, he has no clue? So this is the guy we’re going to send in to negotiate with a radical Ayatollah, a guy who in the eyes of the world is a complete weak defender of freedom and a very poor adversary of evil?

And if that’s not enough, the Iranians are rubbing this in John Kerry and Barack Obama’s face by tweeting this out hours before you vote on this deal, just to remind you that no matter what you say on this floor about Israel, nothing’s changed in his mind about Israel. And when you claim Israel’s safe, he’s telling you no, they’re not.

But you’re not listening because you — you’re not listening because you don’t think he really means it. I can tell you right now, you better be right. And how about this idea, when it comes to the Ayatollah, assume the worst, not the best. And to our friends in Russia, John Kerry said one of the big benefits of this deal is that we’ll bring Russia in and Iran will be a better partner in the Mideast. And we’ll have a major breakthrough where Iran begins to help us with problems like Syria. Well, here’s Russia’s response before you vote.

They’re sending Russian troops, maybe fighter planes into Syria to prop up Assad before you vote. Taking everything John Kerry said about what would happen if you do this deal and rubbing it in his face. Tell me how you fix Syria with Assad in power? What the Russians are doing are ensuring he will stay in power longer. The longer he stays in power the more refugees the world will have to deal with and the more hell on earth will occur in Syria. The Syrian people want two things. They want to destroy ISIL and want Assad gone because he destroyed their families. Secretary Kerry, how well is this working with this new engagement with Iran and Russia? Things are really changing. Look at the tweet yesterday. What are you going to tell the American people this means? Interpret the Ayatollah for me. This is just all talk? He has to say these things?

He doesn’t get elected. He doesn’t have to worry about the next election. He says these things because he believes it. He’s a religious fanatic compelled by his version of Islam to destroy everything in his religion that he doesn’t agree with, to destroy the one and only Jewish state and attack democracies like ours. And you’re giving him more to do that with.  This is over time a death sentence for Israel if it’s not changed. And if I had $100 billion to negotiate with, for God’s sake, could I get four people out of jail? I could get people out of jail here with $100 billion. Who’s negotiating with Iran? This idea we’re going to separate all of their bad behavior from the nuclear program was the biggest miscalculation in modern foreign policy history. To suggest that we don’t need to look at Iran as a whole unit, that we’re going to ignore the fact that they have four hostages, U.S. personnel held in sham trials, a “Washington Post” reporter, that they are the largest state sponsor of terrorism, they destabilize the region, driven our friends out of Yemen. They are supporting Hezbollah, a mortal enemy of Israel, taken over the Lebanese government. We’re not going to worry about that. What do you think they’re going to do with the $100 billion? Do you think they’re going to build roads and bridges? The best indication of the next 15 years is the last 35. When you separated their nuclear ambitions from their destructive behavior, giving them access to more weapons and $100 billion, you made a huge mistake because you’re damning the Middle East to holy hell for the next 15 years and giving the largest state sponsor of terrorism more money and more weapons to attack us. And you couldn’t get four people out of jail.

The Iranians must — the only reason they’re not dancing in Iran, the Ayatollah, he doesn’t believe in dancing. I’ve got friends over there who I respect and admire. I have no idea what you’re thinking here. I have no idea why you believe the Ayatollah doesn’t mean what he says given the way he’s behaved. If they will shoot their own children down in the streets to keep power, what do you think they’ll do to ours? And the only reason 3,000 people died on 9/11 is they couldn’t get the weapons to kill three million of us, and they’re on course to do it now. I’ve never been more disappointed in the body than I am today. A body known to be the most deliberative body in democracy in the history of the world, and you won’t let us have a vote. You won’t let us have a debate. And please stop saying this deal makes Israel safer.

That’s cruel. And your response to this deal is to give them more weapons because you know they’re not safer. I find it a bit odd that in response to this deal we’re selling the Arabs every kind of weapon known to man. If you really thought this was such a good deal, why do you have to arm everybody who is in the cross hairs of the Ayatollah? When they write the history of these times, they’re going to look back and say that President Obama was a weak opponent of evil and a poor champion of freedom. They’re going to look and say that the United States Senate refused to debate the most consequential foreign policy agreement in modern times. And people in Israel are going to wonder where did America go?

Has it ever crossed your mind that everybody in Israel who is in power, who is running the government today objects to this agreement?

The Presiding Officer:

The senator’s time has expired.

Mr. Graham:

Senator Corker, thank you for trying to have the debate we need. To my Democratic friends, you own this. You own every “I” and every “T” and every bullet and you own everything that is to follow, and it’s going to be holy hell.

#####

graham speech

Thoughts on the GOP debate(s) last night?

debate_closingstatement_080615

Y’all are likely better situated to comment than I am.

First, I missed the early, junior-varsity debate. I was still at work, on a deadline. Then, at 9, I tried to tune in, and found Fox didn’t want to let me do that, even streaming on my laptop. I fumed about that for half an hour or so before Tweeting this:

I mean, seriously: I don’t DO cable these days. Who needs it, with Netflix, Amazon and HBO NOW? And in the 21st century, what major content organization doesn’t want the whole world buzzing about it when it has an exclusive such as this? Dumb. Fox should be looking for viable ways to move away from old-school cable, the way HBO has.

But the nice thing about griping on Twitter is that people go out of their way to offer you solutions. Soon, I was watching it on the SkyNews app on Apple TV. (And apparently Fox even tried to shut that down, but missed the Apple TV avenue.)

So I saw more than an hour of it, and you know what? I was pretty impressed. It could have been SO much worse with that many people on the stage, especially when one of them is Donald Trump. But even The Donald, while bombastic and so red-faced I thought he was about to bust a blood vessel, actually seemed to be trying to be a serious candidate, after his fashion.

The Fox people were really putting their best foot forward, and the moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — were taking their jobs seriously. Fox REALLY should have been paying people to watch this, rather than trying to limit the audience, because it would have made a good impression on people who haven’t seen them lately.

The three were asking serious, tough questions, and following up very professionally, as former Greenville News editorialist Paul Hyde noted on Facebook:

Much to their credit, the Fox News journalists are acting like journalists, challenging the individual candidates on economic policy, abortion, and their own divisive, sexist and strident statements.

You know they were doing a decent job, because a lot of the so-called “conservatives” watching were really ticked off at them. They were all like, “Et tu, Fox?” Only not in Latin, of course.

As for the candidates, I actually felt like I was getting some useful impressions of them, despite the fact that there were far too many of them. Not that I changed my mind or anything — I had previously had the most positive impressions of (in no particular order) Bush, Rubio, Christie and Huckabee, and I came away feeling about the same.

My biggest regret, aside from missing most of the first hour, was that I would have liked Lindsey Graham to be there. I think he would have held his own pretty well. I didn’t really care to see him with the second-tier, although I would have watched if not for the work conflict. That said, I think the criteria for choosing who made the varsity game was fair.

It was interesting. There was plenty of foolishness to put me off, but there was food for thought. And I didn’t expect that from such a crowd scene…

moderators

The moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — did a good job.

Images from the Unity Festival at the State House

The above video gives you a small taste of what the Unity Festival at the State House was like yesterday, July 4, 2015.

It was different from the urgent, earnest gathering of two weeks earlier. That one was more intensely pitched at urging our state’s leaders to take down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds. It was a cry from the heart, and at the same time one with relatively little hope for quick action. Folks were mostly there, I believe, to bear witness by their presence that the flag didn’t represent them, whatever our elected leaders did.

But two days later, the event’s three main organizers were present at the miraculous presser at which Gov. Nikki Haley and an extraordinary gathering of other state leaders (including Sen. John Courson!) called for the flag to come down.

As a result, this second demonstration changed focus, and became an occasion for people to celebrate, in a fairly laid-back way, the way black and white, Democrat and Republican have mostly come together on the issue — even though, let me emphasize, it hasn’t happened yet (although we’re moving that way with extraordinary speed, for the SC Legislature).

Basically, the program was half live music, half speakers. In the clip above, I particularly enjoyed that the band was covering Link Wray’s classic “Rumble,” the 1958 guitar instrumental piece that had such huge influence on the guitarists of the ’60s. You’ve heard it a hundred times, probably, as background in a film about surfing, or really almost anything. But few know the name of the piece, or its author. Anyway, it felt just right as background for a pan around the scene. I’m sorry the sound isn’t better.

The crowd was smaller than two weeks earlier, although still respectable for a holiday when so many are out of town or gathering with family (I slipped away before it was over because we were having dinner with my parents and all five of our grandchildren). Estimating it was complicated by the fact that a lot of people were off to the sides, in the shade of trees. The weather wasn’t as hot and humid this time, but there was more direct sun, and it was uncomfortable. Lynn Teague estimated it at 800-1,000. If the first one was indeed 1,500, that sounds about right.

The speakers were… generally not as impressive as at the first rally. And they lacked focus. The Rev. Neal Jones of the Unitarian-Universalist congregation was the first speaker, and he went beyond the flag to call for a litany of lefty causes, such as an increase in the minimum wage. I couldn’t resist saying, via Twitter, that “I guess no Southern Baptists were available.” And indeed, that was the disappointing thing. The consensus in this state to get the flag down — as represented by that group standing with the governor at the aforementioned press conference — is so much broader than this roster of speakers would indicate. I mean, there was no Brett Bursey this time, but Kevin Gray spoke. Enough said.

I had broached this subject with one of the organizers earlier in the week, and the problem largely is that these folks, who are not political consultants, simply didn’t have the contacts for the kinds of speakers that I hoped for — say, Paul Thurmond or the governor herself. (Confession time: I stepped out of my role as journalist so far as to give the organizer the phone number of Matt Moore, chairman of the state GOP. But apparently nothing came of it. I had thought that since Democratic Chair Jaime Harrison had spoken at the first rally, either Matt or some designee would provide balance — and I knew they were both on board on the flag.)

By the way, I had been concerned when I heard that the NAACP was taking over the logistics of the event, even being called the sponsor. You know, on account of its confrontational style, especially the attempt to coerce the state to do the right thing via a boycott, which has done so much over the years to keep lawmakers from wanting to address the issue. But it was cool. Sure, you had the NAACP signage, but aside from a brief address from Lonnie Randolph, the group was cool and low-key, in no way disturbing the whole “Shiny, Happy People” tone of the event.

The best speaker by far was Rep. James Smith. And though as a Democrat he couldn’t symbolically balance the event the way a Paul Thurmond could, he centered the issue nicely, because he was the one speaker focused on the debate coming this week in the real world. He said a lot of things that would never occur to the other speakers — such as noting, as I have done (and as organizer Tom Hall had done two weeks earlier) that it is a gross dishonor to the soldiers who represented South Carolina in the Civil War to fly that flag after they surrendered.

But the most important thing he said, and something we all need to keep in mind and insist upon this week, is this: There must be no compromise this time. As he said, “No flag and no flag pole!” In a shouted conversation before he went on, while one of the bands was playing, he told me he was optimistic, but worried by all the talk of compromises that were swirling around — such as leaving the pole and flying some other flag there.

Absolutely not. This absolutely must be the end to it. Nothing else will answer at this historic moment. The governor, with all those people standing with her, said it was time for the flag to be removed, and that’s it. Get it down, put it in a museum. Period. Otherwise, we’ll be talking about it for another 15 years.

Mrs. Christie having an AWESOME time at announcement

I don’t have time to watch all of this right now, but maybe you will.

I’ve watched the beginning, and didn’t hear much because I was having fun watching his wife. She, and at least one of her daughters, kept doing that thing that some ladies do — I mean that thing where they apparently see a friend in the crowd, and they throw their mouths WAY open and their eyes pop really big, with the brows way up, displaying the very essence of almost maniacally delighted surprise, sending the pantomime message that it’s SO awesome to see you, but I can’t talk right now

She must have had a lot of friends in the crowd…

As for my observation that “some ladies” do this — I guess some guys, particularly politicians, do something like that, but the smile isn’t as big. They’re more like, well, the son in the picture below, sort of smiling at someone out there but not about to act like he’s thrilled by any of this.

Anyway, I enjoyed her.

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I'm missing...

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I’m missing…

Thoughts on the funeral, and the president’s remarks?

eulogy

I’m watching and listening, as you probably are, too. Here’s a place where you can do that.

Here’s another

I’ll get back to you when the president is done speaking…

In the meantime, I’ll just note things he says as we go along…

He just said: “This whole week I’ve been reflecting on the idea of grace.” So have we all, Mr. President…

“For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag caused…” Amen.

He just called Governor Haley “worthy of praise.” Amen again.

Taking down the flag not a dishonor to soldiers who fought and died, but “… an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, is wrong…” Triple Amen.

“By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace…” Yes.

“For too long (for too long, comes the response)…”

“It would be a betrayal of everything Clementa Pinckney stood for… to go back to business as usual…”

“History… should be a manual on how to avoid the mistakes of the past…” AMEN! Too many in South Carolina see it as an altar before which to bow down.

“If we can tap that grace, everything can change…” And I think we’ve been seeing that in recent days.

I’ve never heard him sing before!

“May God continue to shed his grace on the UNITED States of America.” Absolutely.

Let the church say, AMEN.