What happened to Mike Huckabee when I wasn’t looking?

Huckabee in 2007.

Huckabee in 2007.

When I interviewed Mike Huckabee in 2007, I was fairly impressed. He stood out among self-styled conservatives of the day by speaking of the obligation to govern when in office, rather than merely rip and tear at the very idea of government:

    Mike Huckabee, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, made reference to this principle when he met with our editorial board Thursday:
One of the tough jobs of governing is, you actually have to do it.” That may sound so obvious that it’s foolish, like “One thing about water is, it’s wet.” But it can come as a cold shock.
Think of the congressional class of 1994. Newt Gingrich’s bomb-throwers were full of radical notions when they gained power. But once they had it, and used it, however briefly, to shut down the government, they quickly realized that was not what they were elected to do.
Or some of them realized it. More about that in a moment. Back to Mr. Huckabee.
Mr. Huckabee is a conservative — the old-fashioned kind that believes in traditional values, and wants strong, effective institutions in our society to support and promote those values.
Many newfangled “conservatives” seem just as likely to want to tear down as build up.
If Mr. Huckabee was ever that way, being the governor of Arkansas made him less so. “As a governor, I’ve seen a different level of human life, maybe, than the folks who live in the protected bubble of Washington see,” he said. And as a governor who believed he must govern, he was appalled when he saw government fail to do its job. He points to the aftermath of Katrina: “It was one of the more, to me, disgusting moments of American history…. It made my blood boil….

Of course, I was comparing him to Mark Sanford. Among other things, the Club for Growth — which has always adored Mark Sanford — hated Huckabee. And he wore that as a badge of honor.

He said he was “a conservative that’s not mad at anybody over it.” (Here’s video in which he said that.) And his demeanor, and the way he spoke about issues bore that out.

So it is that I was surprised at this statement from him, which Jennifer Rubin, the duty conservative blogger at the WashPost, passed on:

On the other side of the religious debate, Mike Huckabee opined: “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.” Yikes. Not helpful and only designed to provoke Christians and Jews….

Now, the president deserves criticism for what he said, and I plan to get into that in a separate post when I get my head above water for an hour or so. But this was really over the top, and off the mark.

I was sort of vaguely aware, in the background somewhere, that Huckabee had changed somewhat. I don’t know what caused that. Maybe it happened while he had that TV show, which I never saw because I have a TV for watching movies and “West Wing” and “Better Call Saul,” and not much else (and don’t tell me what happened in last night’s episode, because I haven’t seen it!).

But this really brought it home. What happened to not being mad at anybody about it?

Join me for a conversation about social media

Just thought I’d let you know about this event tomorrow at the Capital City Club, in case you’d like to attend:

Distinguished Speaker Series Presents: 
Brad Warthen and “A Conversation About Social Media”
Brad Warthen — former old-media editor, now a consultant in the brave new world of multidirectional communications — will share what he has learned about social media, both good and bad. A blogger since 2005, and a Twitter fiend since 2009, he still feels greatly honored that “Free Times” dubbed him one of the “Twitterati” of the Midlands awhile back. He’ll also share observations about Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ — the whole gamut. He’s counting on questions, and wants to hear about YOUR experiences with social media, because he doesn’t plan on doing all the talking.
Tomorrow, February 11 at Noon | $25++ for members and guests
Lunch Club can be applied

Now that it’s looming, I guess I’d better get serious and put that Powerpoint together. No, don’t let that scare you off. There won’t be too many words, just a way of creating a semblance of order and keeping me from rambling too much.

By the way, I think I’ll be focusing mostly on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, since the time is limited — and since I’m hoping my audience will have stuff to share, so that maybe I’ll learn something.

Peggy Noonan’s right: Recrimination is not a plan. It never was…

Meant to post this over the weekend, from Peggy Noonan’s latest column:

Everything’s frozen. When you ask, “What is the appropriate U.S. response to ISIS?” half the people in Washington answer: “ George W. Bush broke Iraq and ISIS was born in the rubble. There would be no ISIS if it weren’t for him.” The other half answer: “WhenBarack Obama withdrew from Iraq, ISIS was born in the vacuum. There would be no ISIS without him.”

These are charges, not answers, and they are getting us nowhere. Bitterness and begging the question are keeping us from focusing on what is. We’re frozen in what was….

Of course, that’s SOP in Washington in this generation.

Be sure to follow the link, and see King Abdullah all dressed up like a combat soldier, to let you know he’s serious

 

I had forgotten about Rep. Funderburk voting against Haley on ethics charge

Funderburk,Laurie

Rep. Funderburk

There are good reasons for us to change our way of choosing judges in SC. Stronger ones than the fact that the husband of a legislator was elected to the bench the other day.

I briefly wondered why Nikki Haley seized on that incident to push for reform — after all, such a situation didn’t bother her in 2009 (although she hates to be reminded of the fact) — but then I set it aside. Different people are motivated by different things at different times. I suppose a lot of folks agree with the governor on this reason. So I set it aside.

And frankly, I’m still inclined to think the governor actually wants reform. But I did find this interesting:

Rutherford: Haley attack on Funderburk ‘Political Payback’ for Ethics Committee Vote
 
Calls on Haley to apologize to members of the General Assembly and come clean about her previous vote
Columbia, SC – House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford released a statement in response to The State article revealing Governor Haley’s previous support for a Republican legislator’s spouse running for the Supreme Court in 2009 after criticizing the legislature this week for electing a highly-qualified Democratic member’s husband to be an Administration Law judge. Rutherford suggested Haley’s criticism of the legislature’s support for Judge Bill Funderburk was simply payback for his wife’s, Rep. Laurie Funderburk, vote to not dismiss ethics charges against Haley in 2012.
“Representative Laurie Funderburk had the courage and integrity to stand up three years ago and call a crook a crook, and now Governor Haley wants payback,” said House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Richland County. “When Governor Haley was in the House, she clearly voted to elect spouses of Republican legislators to judicial posts. Her new-found outrage can only be attributed to Rep. Funderburk’s vote to not dismiss charges against Haley for illegally hiding income she received from a company that did business with the state. We’ve always known Haley was a hypocrite, but she continues to prove it on an astonishingly frequent basis.”
Rutherford also blasted Haley for lying to a reporter on Thursday about her vote to elect Kaye Hearn to the South Carolina Supreme Court while her husband, George Hearn, was a member of the State House of Representatives.
Jamie Self of The State reported in Friday’s newspaper that Haley denied voting for Hearn after the House journal from May 13, 2009 clearly shows Haley casting an ‘aye’ vote in favor of tabling a motion that would reject Hearn from consideration.
“It isn’t often that you see a politician blatantly lie about a previous vote when roll-call votes are public record,” said Rep. Rutherford. “I was flabbergasted when I saw Governor Haley try to rewrite history and then call it ‘offensive’ that the reporter would even bring it up. But people often act erratic when they’ve been caught in a lie. Governor Haley owes the entire General Assembly an apology for this unbelievable display of hypocrisy.”
####

You know I had forgotten about that — Laurie Funderburk being the only one on the ethics committee who voted against the governor that time. But that’s what happened:

The committee voted unanimously to dismiss three charges against Ms. Haley. On the fourth charge, accusing the governor of failing to properly disclose her payment by the engineering firm, one member, Representative Laurie Slade Funderburk, a Democrat, voted against Ms. Haley….

By all means, let’s change the system, as long as it’s to something better. And to me, something better means something like the federal system, through which both political branches get a measure of control over who becomes a judge. There are systems that are worse than what we have in South Carolina, and I wouldn’t want to switch to one of those.

But this incident is an interesting thing to remember at this time…

Prediction: The president AFTER Obama will also be the most polarizing ever

So I saw this Tweet over the weekend:

… and I really didn’t need to follow the link.

Of course it’s not entirely his fault. Just as it wasn’t entirely George W. Bush’s fault that he was the most polarizing president before Obama was.

Basically, we’re on a downward trajectory in terms of unreasoning partisan polarization that first started showing up in the early ’80s (a spate of unusually negative ads across the country in the ’82 campaign, the rise of Lee Atwater), and really blossomed with the election of Bill Clinton 10 years later — the first sign, for me, was the “Don’t Blame Me; I voted Republican” bumper stickers that showed up after Election Day 1992 and before Clinton even took office.

From the start, from before the start, Republicans abandoned the “loyal opposition” stance and treated Clinton as illegitimate.

Things got worse all through the Clinton years. They got nastier through the Bush years (and were nasty, again, from the start, with a brief hiatus right after 9/11). And as Obama took office, they just kept getting nastier.

Which to meet argues that it’s something about the rest of the country and our dysfunctional politics, and the president is just an incidental target of the vitriol.

If present trends continue — which they will, barring some horrific event that pulls us back together as a country, or some other cause for a drastic change in our political attitudes — then the next president, regardless of who it is, will be the “most polarizing in history.”

I hope I’m wrong about that, but I doubt it.

Both ends of the political spectrum attacking the GOOD part of Haley’s tax-swap plan

This does not bode well for responsible policy-making in South Carolina. (Now, if there’s an “Understatement of the Year” contest somewhere, and there’s a cash prize, I want one of y’all to enter that statement for me, on account of the fact that I’m too modest to do it myself. If there’s more than one such contest, enter it in the one with the biggest cash prize. I mean, duh.)

I had an oh-so-brief, and oh-so-ill-founded, moment of optimism last week when I read this:

Competing state roads-funding plans from the GOP-controlled S.C. House and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appear to be on a collision course unless a compromise can be reached by next week….

Because I thought, for that brief second, contrary to all past experience, that maybe it means they’re willing to raise the gas tax without a much-bigger cut in the income tax that would more than wipe out any overall advantage to the gas tax.

Silly me. I have these Panglossian moments from time to time, but they pass quickly enough when I run head-on into reality. This particular fit was fully over by the time I was done reading this bit:

Some GOP lawmakers, wary of opposition to Haley’s plan by the limited government Americans for Prosperity group, are hesitant to back a direct gas-tax increase….

Because, you know, that’s what’s important: Slavish devotion to the agendas of out-of-state groups that don’t give a tinker’s dam about South Carolina, rather than whether our state’s needs are attended to.

So basically, the problem with Haley’s “roads” plan isn’t the much-greater tax cut that has nothing to do with paying for roads. The problem, for our solons, is the very modest part that would benefit roads.

But surely, surely, there are some lawmakers who are neither automatons for Washington interest groups nor sensible folks who fear meeting such automatons in a primary.

Which is to say, there still ARE some Democrats in the Legislature, right? I mean, they’re too few to be effective or anything, but at least they can stand up for a needed, sensible tax increase when no one else will, just so somebody is standing up for wise policy. Right?

Wrong. Here’s what the Democrats are saying:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Democratic legislators say Gov. Nikki Haley’s plan to cut income taxes by $9 billion over the next decade is nothing but a tax hike for more than a million South Carolinians….

Haley announced last month she’s willing to support increasing the gas tax by 10 cents over three years to pay for road and bridge work, but only if legislators cut income taxes by 2 percentage points over 10 years….

The office’s economic advisers project that 1.1 million people who file income tax returns – or 46 percent of filers – would see no benefit because they would pay no personal income taxes anyway, due to previous cuts to the bottom brackets.

Democrats note those taxpayers would, however, pay the gas increase.

“One million people will only see a tax increase,” said Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia….

So basically, no one is articulating the case for what actually ought to happen. Which is that we should increase the tax (the ridiculously low tax) that already exists specifically for the purpose of paying for roads, since we don’t have enough money to fix and build roads. We can’t even get folks to stand up for it at a moment when it would cost so little politically, because gasoline prices are so low that no one would notice the increase.

Welcome to the State House.

Open Thread for Friday, February 6, 2015

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Just in case any of you are actually paying attention at this time on a Friday, which seems doubtful:

The latest on the apparent murder-suicide at USC — I’m a little surprised at the slow pace at which info is coming out. For instance, we still don’t have a name of the second person — the presumed shooter — who died.

The burgeoning Bryan Williams scandal — What makes people say stupid stuff like that? Is there something in their heads that tells them the truth just isn’t impressive enough? I don’t get it. You’d think being the best-known anchor in the nation, or the best-known woman in politics, would be enough. But NOOoooo…

ISIS Claims U.S. Captive Died in Jordanian Airstrike — Don’t know yet whether it’s true.

Hiring, Wages Up; Market Nears Full Health — That’s what the WSJ says the numbers say. But does it feel like “full health” to you? Not to me…

… or whatever else y’all want to talk about…

 

 

A somewhat belated Top Ten Super Bowl ads list

blue pill

I mentioned earlier in the week that I was working, off-and-on, on an item for the ADCO blog about best Super Bowl ads of 2015.

Well, it took me until Friday, because not only did I have a lot of much-higher-priority client work to do, but just to do this one thing meant finding time to track down and watch 54 TV adverts.

Yes, 54 of them. And I’m still not sure that I saw them all.

Anyway, here’s what I posted. Wherever it says “we,” substitute “I,” because these are all actually my opinions. As you can probably tell. Of course, I have extensive experience with the royal, I mean editorial, “we”…

After extensive research, we are ready to release our list of favorite ads from Super Bowl XLIX. (That is to say, the one that was played on Feb. 1, 2015, for those of you who don’t want to have to interpret Roman numerals and then add the number onto 1966 to figure out which one we’re talking about.)

This of course is an entirely subjective list, and you’ll have your own favorites, but hey — a list like this is just meant to be a conversation-starter, not a Final Judgment From On High.

Here are our top 10 — out of the 54 we saw:

  1. Esurance “Say My Name” — For a brief, shining moment, Walter White was back among us. And he hadn’t changed a bit. “You’ll thank me later.”
  2. Fiat “Blue Pill” — OK, so it’s a bit off-color. But it was funny, and we liked it. There weren’t enough this year that fit that description.
  3. Dove “Men+Care” — We forced ourselves to choose just one of the three ads that promoted positive images of fathers. We picked this one because all those kids calling “Daddy” really got to us.
  4. Turbo Tax “Boston Tea Party” — Surely there was a more peaceful way to settle this dispute over taxes. Or maybe not. All right, then…
  5. Carnival “Return to the Sea” — So, it’s kind of cheating to play on our emotions with an inspiring voiceover from JFK. But it worked. Especially with that reverb.
  6. Snickers “The Brady Bunch” — Because Steve Buscemi, that’s why!
  7. Supercell “Clash of Clans” — Just Liam Neeson doing what he does, but he does it so well.
  8. BMW “Newfangled Idea” — We expect a sequel in which Katie shows us that she can twerk, too.
  9. Bud Light “Real Life PacMan” — OK, so we’re prejudiced on this one, but we really did think it was good.
  10. Budweiser “Lost Dog” — Yes, this was the annual obligatory cute-puppy ad, which really doesn’t have a lot to do with making beer, but we were torn between this and the other fairly-good Bud ad, and chose this one. We also liked the slow cover version of the Proclaimers song.

Mozart of the drums

Mozart was performing publicly at age 5. This kid has him beat by a couple of years:

Lyonya Shilovskya has been playing the drums ever since he can remember. The funny part is, since he’s only three years old, that time frame isn’t exactly the longest. Raised in Russia’s third most populous city, Novosibrisk, the young drummer first gained recognition on the Russian talent show “Minute of Fame,” which is similar to “America’s Got Talent”. Since then, he has become a bit of a sensation and his fame has skyrocketed.

Lyonya has occasionally taken the time to participate in various performances across Russia. On one such occasion, he was recorded playing “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Jacques Offenbach, better knows as “Can Can,” accompanied by an orchestra. His skill level is sure to amaze you.

I suppose that’s his Dad behind him. Might his name be Leopold?

I saw this when my wife posted it on Facebook, together with the message that she’s seriously thinking about getting our grandson, who is two-and-a-half, a drum set….

Thank you, North Carolina! (is what Jon Stewart should say)

I want to thank the newbie senator from North Carolina for taking some of the heat off South Carolina:

Apparently, making restaurant workers wash their hands before exiting the bathroom is a sign of regulation gone overboard.

At least that’s what Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina suggested on Monday during a discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center. When discussing onerous regulations on business, Tillis brought up hand-washing rules at eateries to illustrate his point.

“I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy,” Tillis said, “as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom.’ The market will take care of that.”

“That’s probably one where every business that did that would go out of business,” he noted. “But I think it’s good to illustrate the point that that’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country.”…

Which caused the audience to laugh, but the senator wasn’t kidding. (To his credit, he did laugh when the moderator closed by saying, “I’m not sure I want to shake your hand…”)

Yes, I know that some of my good friends here also hold libertarian views, but even they should be able to recognize the illogic in what the senator is saying.

Maybe I’m not fully following this, but the senator doesn’t want the nanny government to infringe upon restaurant owners’ freedom to the point of requiring them to require their employees to wash their hands. But he would require (at least, he implies that he would require it) the businesses that opt out of such a requirement to post a sign that, in his own judgment, would ruin those businesses.

Also note that this extreme example of how to do without onerous regulation was not forced upon him. He brought it up as a case that was “good to illustrate the point” he was trying to make.

I also thought it was interesting that he thinks ours is “one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.” I didn’t realize that the E.U. was not located on the planet Earth, although sometimes it might seem like it.

All of this said, the senator seems like an affable sort of guy who wants to be reasonable and sound reasonable, but his ideology gets in the way.

Oh, as for Jon Stewart, here’s what he did say about “Mr. Ayn Rand 2015″…

Open Thread for Tuesday, February 3, 2015

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Y’all can probably come up with a better topic than I can, but here are some possibilities:

GOP contenders try to bolster their foreign policy cred — I’m encouraged to see Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker taking trips abroad. Makes me think that maybe the 2016 election won’t be all about domestic issues (which to me are generally secondary with regard to the presidency), as I have feared. Which might undermine the rationale of Lindsey Graham’s campaign…

And what about that vaccination stuff? — Speaking of Christie, is it now a prerequisite for GOP candidates to cater to medical paranoia? On the one hand we have these potential candidates broadening themselves with travel, on the other hand we have this…

What were your favorite Super Bowl ads? — This is entirely self-serving. I need to write a blog item on the subject for the ADCO blog, and I could use some input. (I’m always a bit handicapped in this, since I don’t watch the game and therefore have to find time during the working week to track them down and watch them.)

Below is one of my favorites so far:

The play’s the thing: Help enrich the lives of Thai youth

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I mentioned yesterday about our plans to go visit our youngest daughter, who is in the Peace Corps in Thailand.

Today, I offer you the opportunity to help in one of the Peace Corps projects: The Thai Youth Theater Festival, a chance for kids in that country to attend “a three day festival of learning educational theater activities, developing their personal potential, and performing a performance for their audience in English.” The operative concepts being both cultural enrichment and becoming more conversant in English — which is helpful wherever you live in this world today.

I’ve chipped in, and if someone as tight-fisted as I am can do so, perhaps you will, too.

Anyway, here’s where you go to do so, if you’re willing to help out.

Tige Watts: Coming up through the neighborhoods

Tige Watts at the Five Points Starbucks, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

Tige Watts at the Five Points Starbucks, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

To begin with, Tige Watts isn’t just running against Cameron Runyan because of the incumbent’s solitary stance in November against providing same-sex couples with marriage-related benefits.

The 42-year-old Watts says that actually, his interest in running for council has been “bubbling up for awhile.”

As he sees it, he started on this path 13 years ago when he bought a home — in the neighborhood across Garner’s Ferry from the V.A. hospital — and started getting involved with his neighborhood.

And boy, did he get involved. He not even rose to leadership in his own neighborhood, but became president of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods. When he entered that office, there were 81 neighborhood associations on the council. He resolved to grow it to 100, and reached the 104 mark before he left office.

He says his name was first mentioned for city council in 2010, but that was a bad time for him. He was about to become president of Neighborhoods USA, the national group of such associations. He is now serving his second term in that position, after a brief hiatus required by the organization’s rules.

Through his involvement in such groups, he says, he’s learned a lot about how local government should function, and how it can function.

“I see what people go through every day,” he said. The things that matter are basic — ensuring that “homes are safe, trash is picked up, water lines are running.” It’s “what really impacts people on a daily basis.”

He sees running for council as a “natural progression… City council is the next stop.”

He foresees his campaign focusing mainly on three things: Public safety, financial stewardship and the younger generation.

On public safety, he says it’s “easy to pick on” flashpoints such as Five Points, but he sees the challenge more holistically. He likes what Chief Holbrook has been doing in his brief time in office, and sees him as a welcome addition after the turmoil in police leadership the last few years.

Mr. Watts is a believer in the “broken windows” school of community policing, and believes that ultimately, “Prosperity is the best deterrent.”

On financial stewardship, “I worry about some of the commitments we’ve taken on.” He was very much against the city exposing itself so far on the Bull Street development, but now that Columbia is committed, “We’ve got to make that a success.”

He worries that Columbia relies far too much on government for jobs.

As for youth, he is concerned that too many are at risk, and we may be “losing a generation” to crime, gangs, and a lack of good job opportunities. As with so many things, he says this is something he has seen up close “in our neighborhoods.”

In our conversation at the Five Points Starbucks Friday, he sounded communitarian themes so often that I began to wonder who might have coached him for this interview. (Not that he couldn’t have coached himself — he is, after all, a political consultant, one who does “everything but raise money.”) He talked about the need to get people back out on their front porches, and get to know their neighbors. “Neighbors watch out for each other.”

Mr. Watts showed little interest in talking about Mr. Runyan’s vote on the benefits issue. When I noted that some people believed that was why he was running, he responded, “The only thing I’ll say is… If he can discriminate against one type of person, he can discriminate against others.”

And he changed the subject. The biggest thing he seems to take issue with the incumbent over is Bull Street. “I don’t thing that was a good risk” for the city. But again he stressed, “Now that it’s done… we’ve got to make sure it is a success.” He says he’s “dying to see the letters of intent” from prospective business tenants that the developer is said to have.

He plans to launch his campaign two weeks from today, on Feb. 16.

Where Cameron Runyan is coming from

File photo of Cameron Runyan in 2011.

File photo of Cameron Runyan in 2011.

Earlier this month, Cameron Runyan happened to run across my blog post from November, when I shared with y’all his written explanation of his lone vote against same-sex benefits.

He wanted to get together and “catch up,” so I met him for breakfast on Jan. 23.

At that time, he shared with me some of the story about how he came to be a lone culture warrior on Columbia City Council, among other things. I wasn’t sure at the time that I was going to write anything about the conversation, and took few notes (so Cameron, if I remember anything wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct it). Then I decided that I would write about it, but only after talking with his likely opponent in this year’s election, Tige Watts. I spoke with Mr. Watts Friday, making a point of taking more notes this time.

But first, the incumbent, starting with his conversion experience…

Cameron Runyan’s grandparents were missionaries, but he didn’t really get deeply into religion until just over three years ago.

He and his extended family were spending the Christmas holidays in the Caribbean. On Boxing Day 2011, he and a couple of other family members went out for a run (if you recall from something I wrote earlier that year, he had “disgustingly healthy habits”).

Suddenly, he could not go on. His muscles were seizing up, and he could hardly breathe. Apparently, it was a matter of dehydration or something of that sort — in any case, his electrolytes (which plants crave) were all out of whack. “The point of dehydration where I was is 50-60% fatal,” he added in a text to me today. “You more often die than live at that point. It was extremely dire and painful.” He thought this was it; he was dying. And as he lay more or less helpless on a bed in a medical facility later, trying to recover, he concluded that he was not happy with how he had lived his life thus far. He felt himself to be lacking the proper connection to something greater than himself.

Over the coming months, he plunged into a new sort of relationship with God, one with an evangelical flavor. For a time, his wife had a hard time dealing with the new Cameron. Then one day, he came home and she had undergone a conversion of her own. From then on, the Runyans were on the same journey, bringing their kids along with them.

For a good while, they attended services presided over by Det Bowers. Det was from Hampton County, where Cameron had grown up. And his life had followed in some ways a similar trajectory. Bowers was an attorney who managed Michael Dukakis’ campaign in South Carolina in 1988, and went on to become a preacher who would run to the right of Lindsey Graham in last year’s GOP primary.

But when Mr. Bowers gave up preaching, the Runyans ended up at Columbia’s First Presbyterian Church, well known as one of the most conservative large, brand-name congregations in the city. I showed my ignorance by saying that while I knew First Pres was pretty conservative, it wasn’t as conservative as A.R.P. Cameron said it is A.R.P. (which I think maybe I once knew, but had forgotten), and in fact the biggest Associate Reform Presbyterian church around.

A word or two about the A.R.P. denomination… While the only time I can recall entering an A.R.P. church was for Lee Bandy’s funeral, it looms large in my family tree. Look up the church’s history, and you see among the founders such names as Moffatt and Pressly, which are kin to my father’s mother. Erskine College is A.R.P., as was Erskine Caldwell, in spite of the sexually titillating books for which he became famous. In the years before my grandfather died in 1957, he and my grandmother had been living in a house on the edge of Due West owned by the president of Erskine. Billy Graham was brought up in an A.R.P. church, although he was later ordained as a Southern Baptist.

Among other things, Wikipedia notes that the denomination officially calls homosexuals “to repentance, cleansing, and deliverance in the saving power of Jesus Christ.”

So it is not surprising that when Cameron Runyan gets onto the subject of same-sex marriage, there is a good bit of talk about God’s will along with his objections to moral relativism, postmodernism and so forth.

I think I’ve fairly brought you up to date on that. Some other items from our conversation:

  • When he voted as he did on the benefits issue, I recall that a number of people expressed disappointment in him as a Democrat. Well, he doesn’t consider himself to be a Democrat any longer. (Remember, city council elections are nonpartisan.) As evidence of that, he pointed to his support of Mr. Bowers in last year’s Senate primary.
  • He didn’t want to talk about his relationship with Steve Benjamin who endorsed his candidacy last time around, and with whom he has been so closely allied for quite some time thereafter. But there are indications that that relationship is at best strained, compared to what it was.
  • While he is running for re-election in November, he says he won’t run again for this seat, after this time. I did not gather from that that he was retiring from politics; he just doesn’t want to hold this seat past one more term.
  • When I mentioned that it looked as though he had opposition, he said that yes, he’d heard that Joe Azar might run against him. He did not mention Tige Watts, whose yet-to-be-official candidacy has actually been the subject of some talk in the community.

Speaking of Mr. Watts, I’d best turn to my post about him…

 

Preview for our trip to Thailand

My daughter in the Peace Corps has posted this video chronicling some of her experiences during the month of January, as apology for not blogging as often as she should:

Please accept this video in exchange for my lack of blog posts/ updates recently. I figure if a picture says a thousand words then a video says a million and that about makes up for my many months of silence.

For my wife and me, this video acts as a sort of trailer, previewing what we are likely to see and hear when we visit Thailand next month.

Yes, we’ve decided to take the plunge and go, both because we haven’t seen our youngest (in person, not counting Skype) in a year, and because, you know, when will we ever get the chance again?

So for the last few months, whatever free time we can find has increasingly been tied up in preparations. First, we had to get new passports. Then, we started the incredibly challenging process of deciding what to take with us.

Why is this so challenging? Because someone involved in this expedition, not yours truly, decided that we should take only what we can take in a single carry-on bag, to avoid the possibility of having to chase checked luggage all over Asia.

This is fine for members of the gender that washes their smallclothes out in hotel room sinks and hangs them on the shower curtain (perhaps some of you gentlemen have noted behavior of this sort). But that’s not my style of travel.

My style of travel was in vogue during the Gilded Age, and involved steamer trunks and servants to carry them and hiring entire floors of the best hotels, and people such as Henry James and E.M. Forster writing books about one’s experiences.

We traveled in a modified form of this fashion to England awhile back. It was the dead of winter, so I packed everything conceivable, most of it into a wheeled suitcase that was almost, but not quite, as large as a steamer trunk. Plus a backpack-style laptop case, into which I crammed said laptop, accessories, drugs and toiletries and a change of clothes in case the big bag should be lost.

Not so this time. Everything must go into a backpack only slightly larger than the laptop bag. It arrived yesterday — an Osprey Farpoint 40, guaranteed to meet the carryon regulations. I’ll keep you posted on efforts to pack it with all I’ll need for 17 days.

If I sound discontented over this challenge, I am not. I see it as an opportunity to strip down to essentials, like Nick Adams in Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.” If you’ll recall, the war-rattled Nick has to justify the decision to indulge himself with a jar of apple butter by rationalizing that if he’s willing to carry it, it’s OK.

I’ve already decided not to take any apple butter — so you see, I’m making great progress…

How many more ways can this Kitzman thing get weird?

OK, we already knew that Eleanor Kitzman’s main qualification for the job of DHEC director was that she’s a passionately loyal Nikki Haley supporter.

And we’ve seen her be handed another job at the agency so she doesn’t have to wait around on Senate confirmation to start collecting a paycheck. (Admittedly, it’s as a mere hourly employee — one who makes $74 an hour, that is.)

And now there’s this:

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board did not seek applications from anyone to fill the agency director’s job before voting to hire former state insurance chief Eleanor Kitzman, a campaign contributor to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

In response to an open records request from The State newspaper, DHEC said Thursday that while the board talked about several potential candidates, “no applications were requested or submitted.” The department thought Kitzman was the best person for the position, an agency statement said.

The State newspaper’s request, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, sought copies of job applications for the post vacated Jan. 8 by Catherine Templeton.

But agency spokeswoman Cassandra Harris and Freedom of Information Office director Karla York said they did not have any to provide. Only Kitzman’s resume was provided to the newspaper….

How many more ways can this nomination get weird?

Incoherently overheated headline of the day

guardian

And the award goes to… The Guardian, for “Romney decision clears path for next stage of Bush presidential empire.”

I’m not even sure what it means, beyond communicating the vague idea that The Guardian really has a thing about the Bushes, doesn’t it?

The hed would almost make sense if you substituted “dynasty” for “empire.” But I think somewhere in the lower reaches of some copyeditor’s brain was the mostly-suppressed, unacknowledged thought that “empire” had a more sinister ring to it.

The story itself doesn’t have quite the ring that the hed does. It’s fairly matter-of-fact. I am a little puzzled that the paper is going with such a limited, second-day approach on the breaking story. Romney’s bowing-out has farther-reaching impact than elevating Bush, if it even does that.

Romney himself seemed to be urging Republicans to look beyond Bush to “the next generation.” Bush at 61 is more or less in the usual age range for a presidential contender, so the implication is that Romney is thinking of someone else, someone with a name less well-known.

I found the way Romney put that sort of interesting:

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” Romney wrote. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

I heard in that a hint of, You REALLY oughta be going with me, a guy who is well known and has taken his message across the country, someone who isn’t just getting started… but NOOOO, everybody said “Don’t run, Mitt,” so you’re on your own now, losers.

Hey, I’m holding out for a GOP nominee with a sufficient grasp of the English language that he knows “Democrat” is a noun, and the adjective is “Democratic.” That would be something (he said wistfully)…

Let’s ask the question: Does SC need SC State?

Or to ask it another way, does the state of South Carolina need to keep propping up an institution that has become a money sinkhole, and is not delivering on its mission, with a 13.7 percent four-year graduation rate?

This is a question, of course, that has hovered out there since USC and other formerly white institutions were integrated: Given that other state institutions are open to all, do we need a separate college that formerly existed just for folks who couldn’t get in elsewhere?

And when we ask that, we hear various arguments for why an institution like SC State — or such private colleges as Benedict — have a greater affinity for, and understand better how to educate, a portion of the population that still lacks the advantages and support systems that middle-class whites take for granted. That such historically black institutions are better at meeting such students where they are, and lifting them to where they want to be.

And perhaps that is the case.

But at some point, we need to look at whether that job of lifting up the disadvantaged is getting done, and how much we are spending on dubious returns.

Note:

Struggling S.C. State University wants an added $13.7 million from House budget writers to pay off a $6 million state loan and improve operations at the college, which has one of the worst graduation rates in the state.

The Orangeburg college must get out “from under this cloud” to improve its graduation rate, S.C. State president Thomas Elzey said after he made the school’s budget presentation Wednesday to S.C. House members.

“The negative kind of statements about the quality of this university and the value of this university (need) to be taken off the table because we are valuable, and we do offer quality,” Elzey said.

However, legislators focused on S.C. State’s financial and academic woes.

S.C. State’s enrollment has fallen 20 percent recently but the school failed to cut its budget to match lost tuition payments. As a result, the state’s only historically black public university owes vendors $10 million in unpaid bills. To reduce costs, cuts have been made to staff and are being considered for athletics, the school’s president said.

The school wants its state taxpayer money doubled – to nearly $27 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, including money to pay off the state loan – from $13 million this year.

That request does not include any money to pay back a $12 million state loan – to be issued over three years – that the Joint Bond Review Committee approved in December….

I added the bold-faced emphasis in those two places.

An institution that in recent months and years has only been in the news for financial and leadership failures wants its appropriation doubled to get out “from under this cloud?” And then what? What are the realistic prospects going forward? What do we really expect in terms of improvement and reduced need for state infusions of money?

When the bond review committee gave the school that $12 million “loan” in December, Gov. Haley said they “gave it away because they know it can’t be paid back.” And I’m not seeing any indications that she was wrong to say that.

So… where are we going with this? Where can we realistically expect to be in five years if the state keeps funneling in the money?

And at what point is it not worth it anymore?

Even hometown Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says “we’re going to have to exercise some tough love” with SC State. But how much more love of any kind is it worth investing?

These are very tough questions that everyone involved is hesitant to articulate. Maybe these questions don’t occur to anyone, but that would surprise me.

There may be a million — or 27 million (wait; 39 million counting money to pay back the loan) — reasons why I’m wrong (and heartless and insensitive) to raise such questions. I hope there are. I want to hear them.

But I thought I’d play the part of the little kid in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, if only to see if y’all can come up with those great answers for me. I want to be embarrassed for having asked such silly questions.

But I ask them because it seems that we’re just stumbling along from crisis to crisis here. And I think it’s useful to step back, and ask where we’re going, and whether we want to go there, and whether what we’re doing is getting us there…