Well, I was completely unprepared for this one. I can’t remember the last time anything this big snuck up on me to this extent, that the first HINT I had of it was when I read it in the paper.
I mean, I just had lunch with Inez last week, and not a word. Oh, well. More power to my friend and colleague Lee Bandy.
I chatted with Mrs. Tenenbaum for a few minutes this afternoon, and didn’t learn much that you didn’t already know. Basically, she said that she had been thinking about this all summer — that once the budget and PPIC fights were over (for THIS year) and things calmed down a bit, she was able to reflect a bit, and reached the conclusion that two terms full of remarkable accomplishments (my judgment there, not hers) were enough.
I asked whether the incessant attacks from the Republicans who fear her for her popularity among the voters (and don’t bother mentioning that loss last year in the Senate race to a guy backed by a popular president; besides, I for one didn’t want to see her in the Senate anyway) was a factor in deciding to get out of the way. I have long suspected that the insistence on the part of many Republicans upon trashing our public schools (in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the encouraging data that show how education has improved on the Tenenbaum watch) was more about her than the schools.
She didn’t agree with that outright, but she did say that it would be a relief working on remaining initiatives for further improving our schools without the burden of electoral politics. Speaking of herself and her staff, "I think we’re all relieved that I’m not going to be involved in a race." One of the things she will continue to work on, even when she’s out of office is "changing the culture of education in South Carolina, so people not only respect it but revere it."
Of course, being who she is, when I brought up Republican criticism, she brought up the Republicans who have been nothing but supportive of public education and her efforts to improve it — such as John Courson, Ronny Townsend and Ken Clark. She said Bobby Harrell has been good to work with, too — although she was surprised that he criticized recently what he termed "out-of-control" transportation costs. In light of the facts, this surprised her: "He must have cheaper gas in Charleston than we have."