Explaining Donald Trump by looking at Donald Draper — and other fictional ‘mad men’

On this slow news day, The Guardian is giving big play to a fun piece that attempts to explain the appeal of Donald Trump by way of various popular fictional antiheroes:

Last week millions of Americans tuned into a cable program featuring a wealthy white male narcissist with anger management issues, a history of viciousness towards women, and a pervading sense that there’s something amiss in his homeland. But this time the character in question wasn’t Walter White, Don Draper, Tyrion Lannister or Tony Soprano, but instead a real – if strangely orange – human man named Donald Trump. The program Americans so eagerly watched him plow through wasn’t an acclaimed drama, but a presidential debate….

Think about all they have in common – Tyrion’s cynicism and cunning, Don’s scorn for weakness, Tony’s rage, Walter White’s limitless ego. They’re all scoundrels who move through the world with an inordinate amount of swagger, and Americans, going back to 1773, love scoundrels with swagger. We love people who challenge authority and convention and get away with it. Thursday night, when Chris Wallace asked Trump if he thought a man who has declared bankruptcy multiple times was well suited to running the economy of an entire country, Trump’s response was to basically blow a raspberry and brag that he simply exploited the law….

No, I didn’t understand the 1773 reference, either (why not ’75, or ’76?). But never mind.

Interesting. And fun, since I have really, really enjoyed most of those shows.

But here’s the flaw in the idea… I respect all of those fictional characters more than I do Donald Trump. Unlike him, they all have appealing characteristics (WARNING! MULTIPLE-SPOILER ALERT):

"Say my name. And no, it's not Trump!"

“Trump is not the One Who Knocks.”

Walter White at least started out wanting to take care of his family after he was diagnosed with cancer. And he truly, honestly grieved when Hank was killed. So he had some actual human qualities. And he was, you know, smart — his ego was based in something.

 

I have NO idea why people like Trump.

I have NO idea why people like the guy.

Don Draper has that characteristic that Trump seems to value, although it completely eludes him: class. At least, class as style if not as a moral quality. And occasionally, he is moved to do the right thing, if it doesn’t inconvenience him. He can be virtuous — not all over, but in spots.

 

Trump on the Iron Throne? Not even I would drink to that.

Trump on the Iron Throne? I need a drink.

Tyrion may be the most virtuous, admirable continuing character on “Game of Thrones,” with the possible exception of Lady Brienne. Admittedly, that’s not a high bar, but he was born into a singularly seamy fictional universe. He is even capable of wit, which distinguishes him rather dramatically from The Donald.

 

You're comparing me to WHO?

You’re comparing me to WHO?

Tony Soprano, being a brutal, blustering bully, comes closest to Trump. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he demanded that Trump cough up some tribute money for running gambling operations in New Jersey. But Tony is a family man, who cares about his kids and sometimes his wife. He has a human, likable quality — think about it: Would you want to sit and watch Trump’s visits with his shrink (even if she was Dr. Melfi)? I hope not.

No, if you want to find a fictional character who is as thoroughly off-putting as Donald Trump, you have to think Frank Underwood. No, wait: Frank at least is clever, and occasionally borders on being amusing.

I’m afraid the theory doesn’t hold up…

In what universe is there a South Carolina where Graham is considered ‘long-serving?’

A mere pup, a novice, a tenderfoot, a tyro...

A mere pup, a novice, a tenderfoot, a tyro…

These Yankees do have some fanciful notions about time. First, there was their confusing insistence that “dinner” was to be eaten at suppertime. (Thanks to Yankee control of mass media, we’ve all been conditioned to accept that now, but I can remember finding it confusing as a child.)

And now this…

Over the weekend, The Washington Post had a story about our own Lindsey Graham warning that Donald Trump poses a serious threat to the Republican Party, as long as he is in any way associated with the brand (once, we would have said “the name,” as in family name, but Don Draper and the rest of those mercantilists from up North now have us all saying “brand.”)

A fine story, and worth reading (he says of Trump that the point has passed “where his behavior becomes about us, not just him”), but you’ll do a double-take when you read this part:

Graham, a long-serving senator from South Carolina, was relegated to the undercard debate on Thursday because of his poor standing in national polls….

Did that jar you as much as it did me? I assumed it was a typo. In what universe does there exist a South Carolina in which Lindsey Graham would be regarded as “a long-serving senator?”

The boy just finished his sophomore term! He’s a novice, a mere pup, a tenderfoot, a tyro!

Just to state the painfully obvious: His predecessor in that seat held it for 47 years. (Fritz Hollings only served 38 years — which is why, until the very end, he was our junior senator.)

Only three senators held Graham’s seat between Ben Tillman (1895-1918 — but give him a break; he would have served longer had he not died in office) and Strom Thurmond, as long as you don’t count three or four fellas who were placeholders, just keeping the seat warm for a few months each here and there.

Anyway, I thought that was an odd choice of words, given the state that Graham represents.

Is it time for dinner yet? I’m hungry…

Lindsey, baby, ya gotta work on the RBF thing…

gettyimages483181798.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

I’ve mentioned before that one of my current fantasy jobs is working on the Lindsey Graham presidential campaign. Seriously, if he called me right now, and offered to pay me enough to pay my bills for the duration, I’d jump. Why? Because aside from the fact that I’ve always liked him, I think his campaign would be loads of fun. He’s in that “I can’t win, so I might as well say what I think and have fun” zone, and there’s really no more gratifying place to be in the political universe. I could really enjoy that.

But since I haven’t gotten that call, I just have these imaginary conversations in which I’m coaching him, telling him stuff that somebody should be telling him. And today, I’d be having a serious talk — more a rant, really — about his performance during the JV debate last night.

Not that I saw it or anything. But since this is all in my imagination, I figure I might as well be the kind of brilliant campaign strategist who can extrapolate all that he needs to know from a single, low-res still shot. And of course, in my imagination, the candidate is so impressed with me that he actually listens to my brilliant flashes of intuitive insight.

And the great thing is, unlike the punk kids likely advising him on media, I’m older than he is, and therefore entitled to talk to him like a Dutch uncle.

The tiny scrap of data I’d be riffing on today would be the above photo, which ran with a short Slate item that said in part:

Lindsey Graham was subdued, almost morose during much of the early Republican debate…

And then yadda-yadda. The rest is irrelevant; I have what I need. And here’s what I’d say:

Lindsey, baby, you’re killing me here! What’s with the RBF! Yes, men can have it, too — I mean, LOOK at you! Who died? Who killed your dog? Yeah, I know, you don’t dig standing there with the rejects and having to wait your turn — it sucks, OK? I feel your pain. You’d rather be the only guy with a mic, cracking jokes with a small group of yokels at a Shoney’s in New Hampshire, making like the cracker Henny Youngman, but come ON! You’re on national TV! You didn’t have to bend over for some crypto-fascist twit who made a billion selling patio furniture to pay for this! Show some gratitude! Enjoy it! Give people a sliver of a chance to maybe, God forbid, LIKE you! Ditch the sad bastard routine, or I am outta here!

Really, the man has a problem, and he needs to listen to me and fix it.

Did you see him at the historic, miraculous press conference when Nikki Haley stood up with top leaders from both parties and promised to take down the flag? This was his chance to look like a hero! People who saw the stills later wouldn’t know he didn’t have a speaking part; for all they would know, he helped make this happen. But not when they see that face:

I mean really… and look at me when I’m talkin’ to ya, or I’m outta here! So what if you’re a Pip to Nikki’s Gladys here? Who cares? What did you have to do to get here? NOTHING! You’ve been invited to share the glory for FREE! This is a MAJOR feel-good moment that people will remember for the rest of their lives, and they’re going to see this image over and over, and you’re gonna stare at the ceiling like you’re in detention? What’s the MATTER with you? And no, this is not just some unfortunate moment — I was watching, and you did this THE WHOLE TIME. Yes, serious and determined would be fine — look at Clyburn — but detached, disinterested and ticked off to be here ain’t gonna cut it…

And after this talking-to, the candidate straightens up and flies right. The “I’m outta here” threat always works. Because I’m just that good. I’m the pro from Dover, baby! You know it..

Graham RBF

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.

Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, we’re a better, fairer country — no matter what the Democrats say

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

LBJ and MLK at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Within the past two or three hours, I’ve received three releases marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act — from Jim Clyburn, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the S.C. Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, none of these communications are as celebratory as they should be. They’re all, “the Voting Rights Act is great, but our rights are in terrible danger.”

Which is a shame, because the Act deserves an unqualified hurrah.

Clyburn’s release is typical:

CLYBURN STATEMENT ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (SC) released the following statement on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

“On this day fifty years ago, surrounded by leaders of both political parties, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. It was a moment worthy of both celebration and reflection. Today, we stand at a similar crossroads.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy and the foundation upon which all other rights are built. Nearly a century after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which protected the franchise in theory but not in fact, the world watched as peaceful protesters were brutally attacked and beaten by police while marching for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Just five months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, and millions of African Americans were finally able to exercise their right to vote.

“Sadly, in 2015, this fundamental right is under threat yet again. Two years ago, the Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act and made it easier for states to discriminate against minority, elderly and disabled Americans by deliberately making it harder for them to exercise their right to vote. Republican leaders in Congress have thus far refused to take up bipartisan legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, as states continue to erect new barriers to the ballot box.

“Today, as we celebrate the proud legacy of the Voting Rights Act and reflect on symbolic victories like the furling of the Confederate battle flag in my home state of South Carolina, we must also take substantive action to restore the Voting Rights Act. I call on my Republican colleagues in Congress to do more than issue statements celebrating the past—I urge them to look to the future and work with us to protect the voting rights of all Americans for the next fifty years and beyond.”

– 30 –

No Democrat, it seems, can mention the Act without also bemoaning either of the following, or both: The first is the Supreme Court opinion that lifted the onerous burden from some jurisdictions (and not others, which is key) to get advance approval from the Justice Department before proceeding with any change to its local laws bearing on voting. The second is the ongoing efforts by Republicans to require picture IDs to vote.

What the Supreme Court did was rule on the constitutionality of two provisions in the Act:

Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.[3][4]

On June 25, 2013, the Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on data over 40 years old, making it no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states.[3][4] The Court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula.[5]

… which makes sense to me. What did NOT make sense, what was unfair, was the presumption of guilt of anyone residing within particular geographical areas, based on what other people did or did not do 40 years previously.

Why should these jurisdictions not be governed by the law in the same way that all the other jurisdictions in the country were: by getting in trouble if they actually violated the law, rather than having to get advance permission to act based on a presumption of guilt?

As for the Voter ID laws: As I’ve expressed many times before, I find the positions of both the Republicans and Democrats unpersuasive. The Republicans fail to convince me that there’s this huge fraud problem that we need such laws to address, and the Democrats fail to persuade me that the ID requirement is an onerous burden.

I’ll say this for the Democrats: Between the two positions, theirs (that barriers to voting should be low) sounds way nobler than the Republicans’ (that certain people — a category Republicans would describe, unconvincingly, as people trying to vote fraudulently — should be prevented from voting).

But the bottom line, of course, is that one strongly suspects that on a certain level Republicans want these laws because they think they will increase their chances of winning elections, and Democrats oppose them because they think the Republicans are right about that.

In any case, couldn’t we have just one day in which we celebrate a good thing without adulterating the celebration with another reminder of how awful we think those OTHER people are?

So let’s hear it for the Voting Rights Act: Hip-hip…

Anybody want to talk about Hiroshima?

800px-Atomic_cloud_over_Nagasaki_from_Koyagi-jima

Atomic cloud over Nagasaki, by Hiromichi Matsuda

There’s been a lot out there about the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of it seems to be of either the “look at the horrible thing we did” or “Thank God for the Atom Bomb” varieties.

In other words, they tend to be couched in the binary, either-or, good-or-bad, black-or-white terms that curse our public discourse these days.

ARRGGHHH! I JUST LOST THE REST OF THIS POST, WHICH I HAD FINISHED, TO A COMPUTER GLITCH! I WILL NOW TRY, LABORIOUSLY, TO RECONSTRUCT IT. ARGGGHHHH!!!

And I can’t subscribe to either approach.

I certainly can’t go along with the “America is horrible and should apologize” approach, as exemplified by the piece I linked to above. If the topic weren’t so horrible it would be comical. Like so much that Salon publishes, it condemns our leaders of 1945 in terms fashionable in 2015 — those old white guys were a bunch of hateful, insensitive racists, so no wonder they did what they did.

But I can’t say “Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” either. Not because I think the bombing of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki was particularly egregious. After all, the previous firebombing of Tokyo was worse. But that very context — the fact that the bombing of population centers was taken for granted by both sides as an acceptable strategy — is the thing that bothers me, a lot.

In saying that, don’t think I’m judging our WWII leaders by modern standards — or by the standards of, say, the 19th century, when such widespread killing of civilians was unthinkable, in large part because it was impossible. Our leaders in those pre-smart bomb days assumed that the bombings were necessary to winning the war, an imperative that might be a bit hard for a lot of people to understand today, when we speak of “exit strategies” with hardly any reference made to the concept of “victory.”

And I applaud their determination to win the war. I see victory in that conflict as every bit as important as did FDR and Churchill. I just don’t know that bombing cities was necessary to victory. How can I know? The variables are too many to game out an alternative history in which we don’t bomb cities, yet still win.

I just cannot say with an undivided mind that bombing civilians was necessary or defensible. That practice will always temper the triumph of “the Good War” in my mind, even as I long for the kind of moral clarity and unity of purpose that our nation experienced then.

All of that said, though, given that the decision to drop the Big One, twice, on Japanese cities was made against a backdrop in which it made consistent strategic sense, and was even seen as a humane alternative to an exponentially worse version of the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa, which is what it was assumed (with good reason) the invasion of the Japanese home islands would be… I can’t go along with the “Truman was wrong” camp. I suspect I’d have made the same decision, although I thank God I never had to.

But maybe the issue is much, much clearer to y’all. So I’ll hand it over to you…

Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

What’s amazing about Jeb Bush getting into trouble over what he said about Planned Parenthood — which led to his having to issue a clarification — is that he essentially handed the cudgel to his critics and begged them to beat him with it.

Here’s what he said:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been criticized recently by some conservatives for serving on the board of a charity that gave money to Planned Parenthood, called for the organization’s defunding during an interview Tuesday with a Southern Baptist leader.

“If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” said Bush, to the cheers and applause from the audience of 13,000 Southern Baptists during his interview with Russell Moore at the denomination’s missions conference….

Obviously, what he meant to say was, I don’t think we need to send half a billion in tax dollars to the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Because, you know, that’s what we do. And that was the context of the statement.

But instead, he adopted the language of the people who use “women’s health” as a euphemism for abortion. This is something we all know and understand, whatever our positions on the issue. If we didn’t know that, we would have a terrible time following political debates. Anyone who thinks “women’s health,” in a political context, refers to fighting breast cancer or putting free clinics to promote overall health in poor neighborhoods is a person who’s going to be very confused about what is being discussed.

So why would Bush use the preferred euphemism of his opposition on this issue, thereby enabling them (with towering cynicism) to paint him as actually being opposed to, you know, women’s health? (Which is something that no one is against, which is why they say that instead of “abortion.”)

It’s inexplicable. Will he continue this trend? Will he start stating his position on abortion to be “anti-choice?” Will he express his objection to Planned Parenthood as being that it “prevents us from controlling women’s bodies?” Will he start wearing an actual sign on his back saying, “Kick Me, Hard?”

We all know that Donald Trump has said some stupid stuff lately. But on this, Jeb Bush voluntarily stuffed both feet in his mouth, completely unnecessarily.

Making machine-gun bacon with Ted Cruz (now THAT’S what I’M talkin’ about…)

The Ted Cruz presidential campaign hasn’t received a lot of attention from this blog, and that’s for a simple, obvious and perfectly fair reason: He just hasn’t been trying hard enough.

Other candidates have done whatever it takes to get our attention. Lindsey Graham has conscientiously shown us multiple ways to destroy a cell phone. Donald Trump has demonstrated his seriousness by outDonalding himself, in spades.

Finally, Sen. Cruz has shown he cares about the real issues. He has provided us with video of himself cooking bacon by wrapping it around the barrel of an assault rifle and firing off several magazines of ammo — and with pretty fair accuracy.

Meanwhile, Chris Christie is trying hard, offering to punch a national teacher’s union in the face. Big talk, but so far no video! No cigar, Chris.

I’ll continue to bring you the campaigns that care enough to show us something really cool, something that would have made the boys in my 9th-grade class at Bennettsville High School say, “GOTTAWMIGHTY!”…

How about it, Jeb Bush? Whatchagot?

It depends on what the meaning of ‘Christian’ is…

I'm using this photo from Scott Walker's website not because it particularly goes with this post, but to be helpful: If I were to write a post headlined, "Top Five GOP Presidential Candidates I'd Have Trouble Picking Out of a Police Lineup," he'd make the list.

I’m using this photo from Scott Walker’s website not because it particularly goes with this post, but to help y’all get used to seeing him: If I were to write a post headlined, “Top Five GOP Presidential Candidates I’d Have Trouble Picking Out of a Police Lineup,” he’d make the list. And it occurs to me that maybe some of y’all would have the same problem. Or maybe not. Other people watch more TV than I do…

Scott Walker is in hot water again — with Democrats, anyway, which probably isn’t keeping him up nights — for expressing something short of 100 percent certainty on whether POTUS is a Christian:

“You’re not going to get a different answer than I said before,” the Wisconsin governor said. “I don’t know. I presume he is. … But I’ve never asked him about that. As someone who is a believer myself, I don’t presume to know someone’s beliefs about whether they follow Christ or not unless I’ve actually talked with them.”…

Walker wrapped up his answer by saying, “He’s said he is, and I take him at his word.”…

OK, yeah, I get it. Obama is a special case. Expressing anything short of total acceptance of his avowed Christianity hints at birtherism. Dog whistles and all that.

But… suppose for a moment that Walker said that about any one of the other 7 billion and something people on the planet. In those cases, I would say his caution was entirely defensible.

This interests me for reasons totally unrelated to Barack Obama and the paranoid fantasies about him to which some fringe folk subscribe. It has to do with the proper use of the word “Christian.”

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable myself answering the question, “Are you a Christian?” Not because of the denotative meaning of the word — one who professes belief in Jesus Christ and his teachings — but because of the connotations that attach to it.

Once, it was used among English speakers to mean something like “normal,” or civilized. For instance, the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian would put it in the mouths of his Regency Period characters when they were talking about the normal, proper way of doing a thing. The physician Stephen Maturin, despite years at sea, remains such a landsman that he can’t climb the rigging the way seamen do and must ascend to the top through the “lubber’s hole.” So his friend Jack Aubrey might speak of his inability to get up there “like a Christian.” Aubrey, who is just as incompetent on land as his friend is at sea, is a terrible gardener, so his rose bushes do not resemble “anything planted by a Christian for his pleasure.”

That sense has gone out of favor. Most people would find it confusing today, and like as not take offense at it.

Nevertheless, many English speakers today seem to use the word as a sort of honorific, as something describing a person who has arrived spiritually. This is most common among those who are in the habit of describing Christians as people who are “saved,” as opposed to people who are merely striving to follow the teachings of the carpenter/rabbi from Nazareth.

If I was sure everyone understood it in that striving sense — as describing someone who believes, and wants to live up to the standards set by the teachings of Jesus, and tries to do so — then I’d be perfectly comfortable telling one and all that I am a Christian. Or at least, attempting to be. (After all, I must ask myself always, am I even a Christian in the sense of striving? Am I really trying hard enough to qualify?)

But I fear they may take it the other way, as some sort of self-congratulation on my part — which to me would be contradictory to the whole belief system. In other words, if I said “yes” without mixed feelings, would I be disqualifying myself?

Anyway, if Scott Walker or anyone else says he can’t know whether I am truly a Christian, I’ll congratulate him on his humility in admitting he doesn’t know something he lacks the power to truly know, since it’s a point upon which I can even confuse myself.

But then, I’m not Barack Obama.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Barack Obama turns 54 today. A mere pup.

This was brought to my attention by Nancy Pelosi, who wanted me to celebrate by participating in one of the DCCC’s cheesy fund-raising schemes.

I prefer to just share the above video, which says “Happy Birthday” far better than I could.

FYI, for you young folks, the person doing the singing self-identified as a woman, and everyone agreed with her.

Graham manages to get first mention out of 14

The Washington Post‘s story on the New Hampshire cattle-call event last night was headlined, “14 Republican candidates not named Trump did some political speed dating. Here’s how they tried to stand out.

Apparently, the most successful at standing out was Lindsey Graham, because he got the first individual mention in the story:

In perhaps the most searing criticism of the evening, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said he is “fluent in Clinton speak” and accused former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, of lying about her private e-mail server in the same way Bill Clinton misled the country about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky…

He got two other mentions, first in regard to ISIL:

Graham, whose lines were a hit with the crowd, summed up his outlook this way: “A clenched fist and an open hand — you choose.”

And then the final graf of the story:

“Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill saved Social Security by working together after they had a drink,” said Graham. “Maybe we need to drink more in Washington.”

Open Thread for Monday, August 3, 2015

SCSanfordChiefofStaffColorAriail

Just a few things to talk over, if you’re so inclined:

  1. Obama Unveils Limits on Power-Plant Emissions — Which is a first for this country.
  2. Gulf Arab States Voice Support for Iran Nuclear Deal — An important diplomatic development for the Obama administration.
  3.  GOP moves to defund Planned Parenthood — Democrats are of course livid, for as George Will wrote over the weekend (“Planned Parenthood and the barbarity of America“), “The nonnegotiable tenet in today’s Democratic Party catechism is not opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline or support for a $15 minimum wage. These are evanescent fevers. As the decades roll by, the single unshakable commitment is opposition to any restriction on the right to inflict violence on pre-born babies.”
  4. Pay-by-phone parking app comes to Columbia — I don’t know about y’all, but I’m pretty excited about this. I’ve already downloaded the app. You?

That’s all I have for now. But perhaps y’all have some topics you’d like to bring up.

SCDP interviews Hillary Clinton in rocking chair

Clinton rocking chair

Here’s an interesting series that the South Carolina Democratic Party is offering — half-hour interviews with presidential candidates, sitting in rocking chairs.

Why, Hillary looks so natural there, I could swear she was sittin’ out on the porch of the family home in Bennettsville, shelling butter beans with my grandmother.

Or not. In any case, I couldn’t help making that connection since Jaime Harrison’s first question to the candidate is about how she feels about being a grandmother. The interview is about eight minutes in before it moves past the subject of relearning how to change diapers.

So yeah, it’s kinda softball. But hey, take a look and toss whatever you learn from it into the hopper with the rest of what you know about the candidate.

And then check out the “chair chats” with Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chaffee and others.

The embed is below:

Dang! Apparently, I JUST missed seeing Lizard Man

WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 – Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Over the weekend, while still at Surfside, I started telling my youngest granddaughter about the Lizard Man legend. I don’t remember why. Anyway, driving home the next day with the kids in the car, I had just passed the Bishopville exit from which you can see the woods where he supposedly dwells, and I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I forgot to point out where they say Lizard Man lives!”

Apparently, if I’d been just a bit more attentive, I might have seen him:

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) — The fabled Bishopville swamp creature known as Lizard Man appears to have surfaced again Sunday afternoon.

Sarah, a Sumter woman who says she went to church with a friend Sunday morning, stepped out of the sanctuary to see the Lizard Man running along the tree line.

So she did what anyone else would do — took a picture with her phone.

“My hand to God, I am not making this up,” she wrote in an email to the ABC News 4 newsroom. “So excited!”

She says they were just a mile or so from Scape Ore Swamp, the site of a similar spotting of what may also be the Lizard Man in May.

A man who asked not to be identified submitted a short video of what he thought was the Lizard Man Monday morning. He said he took the video in May while coon hunting but kept its existence quiet — until he saw the reports of Lizard Man outside a church.

“I saw your lizard man story and it’s given me the courage to send you a video I took in early May,” the man wrote. “Though my wife believes me that it’s real, she said she would be embarrassed that everyone would think I was a loon so I kept it a secret.”…

Above is the video. Below is the picture taken by “Sarah.” As you can see, Lizard Man looks uncannily like a man wearing a cheap rubber costume. Isn’t nature amazing?

Lizard Man

Mia says ‘I’m all in,’ running for Lourie’s Senate seat

Well, that didn’t take long.

The news that Sen. Joel Lourie was not running for re-election in 2016 was only a few hours old when Rep. Mia McLeod said she was definitely running for the job:

I’m all in…

Sen. Joel Lourie has announced he won’t seek reelection in 2016. I hope you’ll join me in thanking him for his service to our state.Since I was first elected to the SC House in 2010, you’ve never had to wonder where I stand on the issues.From day one, I’ve been fighting the status quo…standing up for what’s right, fair and equitable–regardless of party, race or gender…working across party lines for stronger public schools, more jobs, better roads, and greater access to quality, affordable healthcare…advocating for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, as well as comprehensive domestic violence reforms and better race relations.
From the Richland County Elections Commission to the Governor’s Office, I’ve led the charge to demand transparency and accountability from every elected and appointed official at every level of government.I don’t shy away from the tough issues. Never have. Never will.NOW is the time for bold, new leadership. With my family’s support and encouragement, we ask that you continue to pray for God’s guidance as we prepare for this next phase of our journey.Let’s take our fight for a better, stronger South Carolina to the Senate!

With your prayers and support, I plan to file to run for Senate District 22 next year because I’m confident that together, there’s so much more we can do!

I’m all in! Hope you are too…

As reported over the weekend, Rep. Beth Bernstein was also considering running for the seat. If she is “all in,” too, you’ll have two incumbent female House members running to be the second woman in the Senate.

That will be an unusual sort of race — two actual incumbent Democrats (which are kind of thin on the ground) vying for the same job.

Open Thread for Thursday, July 30, 2015

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Some stuff for y’all to chew on while I’m doing a bunch of other stuff today:

  1. $1 Million Bail for Officer Held in Killing of Black Driver — And the terrible trend continues.
  2. Columbia’s summer one of hottest in decades — You may have noticed that already.
  3. Slain senator’s widow sets up foundation to honor his causes — The Honorable Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney Foundation would support “religious, educational and charitable causes” that the senator supported. Presumably, that would include expanding Medicaid…
  4. As world mourned Cecil the lion, 5 elephants were slain — Just in case animal lovers want something else to obsess over.
  5. Anyone see James Taylor last night? — I’m just curious. How was he? I haven’t seen him since a concert in Memphis in the early ’80s.
  6. MH370: aircraft debris in Réunion almost certainly from a Boeing 777 — Could it be that they’ve finally found it?

The new SPECTRE trailer looks awesome.

Brad’s busy doing work (allegedly), so I thought I would toss a fresh post up here at the top to keep y’all entertained. Right now, everything political just seems like crazy-town right now, so here’s something that is a break from the antics of the fever-swamp on the Potomac. Just pretend that your regular teacher is out sick, and the substitute teacher shows up and has a movie for the class.

The new James Bond movie, SPECTRE, has a new trailer out, and it looks awesome.

There are four categories of movies for me. First, there are movies that I will definitely pay to see in the theater. Second, there are movies that I will rent once they hit the PPV market. Third, there are movies that I’ll watch on TV if I happen to be in the right mood. Lastly, there are movies that I just have no interest in watching.

Although it’s early, I think I’m leaning toward seeing SPECTRE in the theaters. By way of comparison, the last movie I saw in theaters was American SniperI was disappointed with the last Bond film, Skyfall. It was okay, but not great. I rented it, and I was glad that I didn’t go pay to see it in theaters.

Is ‘populist’ sometimes a euphemism for ‘stupid?’

I sort of felt like Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal‘s Washington bureau chief, was tiptoeing around something in this political analysis, which seems to go nowhere really, reaching no coherent conclusion (it read less like something a senior political writer is inspired to write than a reply dragged from a schoolboy by the question, “Compare and contrast these two politicians…”):

Could the nascent 2016 campaign turn into one of those elections that shakes up the system?

The question arises most obviously because of the summer sensation of Donald Trump, billionaire populist with a long history of giving to Democrats who has somehow tapped into a deep vein of working-class anger to become a current (though temporary) leader in the Republican presidential field. There are enough mind-bending contradictions in that sentence alone to at least raise the question of whether something broader is going on. The thought is only enhanced by the fact that the single hottest political draw right now is Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 73-year-old socialist who favors a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the breakup of big banks….

In fact, those are just two forces at work suggesting the system is straining to break loose from some of its traditional moorings. The combination of a wide-open race, populist strains at the base of both parties and big demographic changes all open the doors to destabilizing forces.

Polls suggest Mr. Trump’s resonance is greatest with disillusioned lower-income voters, illustrating that Republicans are trying to come to terms with a party that has grown more blue-collar, working-class and antiestablishment as it has grown….

Seems to me like he’s straining with that “populist” label in an effort to come up with a word that describes the appeal of both Trump and Sanders. With Sanders, I can see it, but with Trump? Really? A populist billionaire who revels into  his own excess? How can a guy who’s best-known catchphrase is “You’re fired!” be any kind of a populist?

Seib describes the GOP as “a party that has grown more blue-collar, working-class and antiestablishment,” but is that really who is applauding Trump right now? There’s a word that seems to be missing, and it describes a long-standing tradition in American politics: anti-intellectual.

I wouldn’t apply that label to the GOP in general. But it’s definitely the impulse that Trump is tapping into.

From the election of flat-Earther Andrew Jackson over the supremely qualified John Quincy Adams to the present day, there has been a perverse streak in the electorate that causes significant numbers to go for whoever is dumbing down politics the most.

I’m not saying the voters themselves are stupid (that would be anathema in American politics, right?), I’m just saying that sometimes, some voters have a sort of fit that causes them to convulsively embrace whoever is making the biggest jackass of himself on the political stage.

And at the moment, that is unquestionably Trump.

And yeah, there is a disturbing simplicity to Bernie Sanders’ vision of how to build a more perfect union. But to the extent that the two share a trait, is “populist” really the word for it?

Open Thread for Friday, July 24, 2015

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Not a lot going on locally today, but here are some potential topics:

  1. Review: Clinton Emailed Classified Information — After this, I’ve got a feeling she’s not going to change her ways and start taking media questions on a regular basis any time soon.
  2. China’s Global Desires, Loans and Strings Attached — This story makes this sound like something new, but I remember writing about this very phenomenon in an editorial in 1994. China has been taking the long view, carefully paving its way toward superpowerdom, for a long, long time. While we, messy democracy that we are, sort of stumble from one ad hoc foreign policy decision to the next.
  3. Americans Are Finally Eating Less — Well, you can’t go by me. I totally broke the paleo rules this morning and had grits with my bacon, my sausage, my plate piled high with fruit. I had to try on three pairs of pants this morning before I found some I could fasten at the waist.
  4. President Obama starts two-day Kenya visit — Any comment from Donald Trump yet?
  5. Louisiana Movie Theater Gunman Hated Feminists, Liberals — So he went out and killed two lovely young women.

Howard Duvall, opposing Cameron Runyan for city council

Howard Duvall

Howard Duvall

Y’all remember several months ago when I interviewed Tige Watts, who was running against Cameron Runyan in this year’s election for at-large Columbia City Council member?

Well, if you’ll recall, a couple of months later Tige dropped out, to be replaced by his political ally Howard Duvall, whom most folks know as the longtime director of the South Carolina municipal association, now retired.

Well, here’s how all that happened, according to Howard, whom I interviewed this morning:

Howard and Tige are both involved with a group that concerns itself with good local government as they see it, along with Kit Smith, Candy Waites, Ginny Grose and several others.

Back last November, they decided to do a poll to examine the feasibility of one of them challenging Cameron Runyan for his at-large seat on City Council. This was close to the time when the incumbent was taking his lonesome stance against benefits for same-sex partners of city employees. And sure, there was a good bit of bitterness out there on account of his having been elected with gay community help, before his big conversion experience.

But Howard says that was not the impetus. The members of his Good Government Group were united in opposing him because he supported the deal for the baseball park at the Bull Street development. The Triple-G had thought he was on their side after they had presented him with facts and figures that they thought made an overwhelming case against the deal, and when he voted the other way, giving the proposal a 4-3 victory, they decided they had had enough of Cameron Runyan.

They did ask a question on their poll as to whether voters could support an openly gay candidate, and 70 percent responded affirmatively. That and the rest of the poll persuaded Tige Watts, a political consultant, that he should be the one to run. The rest of the group agreed, and he started talking up his candidacy.

But as time passed, others in the group began to have their doubts. They were worried that Tige wasn’t raising enough money, and that he was having trouble balancing his work with the time that such a candidacy demanded. Other members of the group got together and decided that Mr. Duvall, who is retired, would be able to commit the kind of time and effort that success would demand.

So he approached Mr. Watts, who initially responded by proposing that both run, and promise each other that if either got into a runoff, the other would endorse him. That was on a Monday. By Friday, he had thought better of that, and said he would drop out and endorse Howard.

Since then, the Duvall campaign has been fairly active, with the candidate spending several hours a day on the phone either raising money (he’s shooting for $100,000) or seeking other forms of support. And yet the campaign hasn’t been officially launched. That is set to happen on September 9. Tonight, one of the Republican members of Duvall’s backer group is hosting him at a reception at which about 100 Republicans — not the usual allies for him, or for Kit or Candy — are expected.

With Duvall, you have a great believer in professionalism in local government, and someone who could reasonably claim to be as well qualified as anyone you can imagine. He was a several-term councilman and then mayor of Cheraw, his hometown, before he become head of the Municipal Association in 1987. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from USC.

In other words, he’s a pretty logical replacement for Tige Watts, who is a national leader in neighborhood associations.

I have a lot of respect for Howard, and for the folks in his group, even though they were the cabal behind defeating the strong-mayor initiative, with Howard being the guy who managed to get the vote separated from the mayoral election, which is what did the proposal in.

See, that’s what Howard means by professionalism in government — that it should be run by an unelected, professional manager instead of an elected mayor.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons he’s wrong about that at the moment. For now, I’ll just say that his long experience and dedication to municipal government in this state makes him a very strong candidate.

He’s running on a platform of improving public safety and updating infrastructure, by which he means water and sewer.

Meanwhile it appears that Runyan is still in it, based on an email I got today inviting me to this Rally.org page.

And I believe John Adams, son of ex-mayor Patton, is still in it as well — although I haven’t heard anything about it since March, which was back before Tige Watts dropped out.

I guess I’ll need to run him down next.

Meanwhile, dig Howard’s wild campaign poster and logo. He says it’s Ginny Grose’s design. The little triangle in the D is supposed to look like a fast-forward button, he says. Some GOP allies thought it looked too much like the arrow in Hillary Clinton’s logo, but they went with it anyway.

It looks to me like a title page for a cartoon — more like Howard the Duck (who, you will recall, ran for office on the ticket of the All-Night Party in 1976 — campaign slogan, “Get Down, America!”) than Howard the Duvall. But I’ve got to say, it’s distinctive.

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