Thursday, 4 p.m. Here’s the answer to my last post: The way you interview a lieutenant governor about whom you have so many troubling questions is … you ask him those questions. Duh.
And if you’re Andre Bauer, the way you deal with such a barrage of questions is … you answer them. Which he did. That may sound obvious, but I didn’t expect him to do so. I expected him to dodge and weave, and complain about us picking on him and ignoring his virtues. He did complain, but he also answered the questions.
And you know what (and here’s the part where my loyal readers ride me out of the blogosphere on a digital rail)? He did a good job, considering.
Of course, that’s a big "considering," what with all the ways that he’s screwed up. But if there is a good way to deal with all that stuff, it’s what Mr. Bauer did in our board room today: He was candid. Mostly. And sometimes surprisingly so.
More about that in a minute. First, I want to talk about the part he really did well: Fight his corner on the role of the lieutenant governor, and what he personally has done with the office.
He noted that four years earlier, when he was sitting in the same seat, my colleague Cindi Scoppe had been so dismissive of the office of lieutenant governor that he was determined to make something worthwhile of the office. He told her he had often thought about it.
So he welcomed the new authority lawmakers gave him over the Council on Aging, and went into detail about the ways he has worked to raise the profile of the services provided by that agency to our growing senior population.
He spoke of the mutually respectful relationships he’s built in the Senate
(and truth is, I’ve often marveled at the bipartisan support he has there), how he has tried to make a difference with the limited parliamentary powers he possesses and his right to break ties.
He spoke of how his previous service in both the House and the Senate gave him understanding into the legislative process that has enabled him to do all of that with an effectiveness his predecessors lacked, and his opponents similarly lack.
He talked about the long hours he puts into a part-time job (which of course, raises specters of his adventures rushing about as a motorist) doing constituent service and trying to improve services to the aged.
So then we got to the tough stuff. As he said, "We all know that I’ve had some things that I’m not so proud of." On these, he both hurt and helped himself, sometimes at the same time and in the same way — by being candid.
Some of his worst answers were on the deal
in which he sold a small parcel of land to the state Department of Transportation at twice what the DOT had wanted to pay for it — after the Gov Lite showed up to the negotiation with both state Sen. Yancey McGill
and a member of the transportation commission. (How hard do you suppose the DOT employee bargained with one of his bosses sitting across the table?)
"I see your point" about how that looked, Mr. Bauer admitted, but he still believes he got shafted on the deal to the extent that "I’m embarrassed as a real estate person."
So how did such a meeting occur? Well, it seems Andre went to Sen. McGill just for some friendly advice. "They set up a meeting," he said. "I didn’t ask for any preferential treatment." Did he have to ask?
What about the time he was stopped, but not ticketed, going 78 in a 65 mph zone? "I thought I was in the 70 zone." So he admits taking advantage of the infamous 10 mph cushion. Yet on this one incident, you can just about swallow the point his supporters raise on other, less-excusable items: Let him who is without sin, etc. It’s not right, but nobody would hang him on this one alone.
So what about going 101, telling the cops who were trying to stop him he was "SC2," never giving his name, and taking it so matter-of-factly when the cop drove away with a "You have a good night, sir?"
He said he was "confused" at the cop stopping him, then driving past him, only coming back after Andre called him on the radio to say he was pulled over and waiting. Which was odd behavior, as one can see on the video. But still, why didn’t he say something when the cop was obviously letting him off? "I’m not gonna ask him for a ticket." Especially not after taking eight points on the Assembly Street incident. Candid.
And how about his failure to admit the above two incidents when asked by a reporter? He said the question was along the lines of whether he had been ticketed, which he had not. (The reporter in question was present during this interview, and did not dispute that.)
Oh, come on, I said. You’re going to retreat into that kind of Bill Clintonian dodge? "You knew what he was asking about," I said.
"Uh-huh," agreed Mr. Bauer, nodding his head. But he had been knocked around by the paper a good bit already, and "I wasn’t going to do your journalism for you."
Like I said: Candid. Even more so when I asked if there were any other incidents over the past four years in which he was stopped and not ticketed that still haven’t been reported? Yes, as it turns out. "I’ve been pulled over a time or two." But not, he claims, anything in the range of the 101 incident.
Oh, yes, the Assembly Street incident. He still insists the officer should not have been alarmed, and that after he pulled his gun, the Gov Lite was meek as a lamb. And afterwards, rather than try to get the charge reduced, "I pled it up" and took the eight points.
So, no excuses. Well, not many. Anyway, he admits he’s messed up, "But in my job role I have no regrets."
Facing surgery Friday that will entail signing a power of attorney and keep him out of action through the primary, he says he’s decided after what his miraculous plane crash survival that "There are more important things" than being lieutenant governor.
"Yes, I would like to be re-elected," but "No, I don’t have the drive that I once did."
Not that he has to, what with the sympathy vote and all. But I admit I didn’t mention that.
Andre said repeatedly that he knew there was no way we’d endorse him, but he had decided to hobble in anyway. He said it would probably finish him off if we did; he’d have a heart attack.
Well, at the risk of this being considered an attempt on the lieutenant governor’s life — which could lead to him actually getting the protection detail that his fans would like him to have — let me say that endorsing him isn’t entirely out of the question.
His opposition (not counting the inexplicable Dr. Jordan) is a guy who doesn’t have the Bauer sins. But oddly, Mike Campbell has refused to make any kind of an issue of that — even though it is he one advantage. There’s not a lot to being Gov Lite of South Carolina — but you CAN be an embarrassment, if you really try. Andre has succeeded beyond even the wildest dreams of Nick (I’ve Got to Have an Army for a Security Detail) Theodore. That seems to me to be a legitimate issue, but Mr. Campbell has never seen fit to bring it up. Sometimes, candidates take this "playing cricket" thing to an extreme (especially in the polite state of South Carolina), and this is one of those times. Amid all that pussyfooting around on all sides in the debate the other night, Mr. Campbell never gave any compelling reasons why we should think he would be a better lt. gov. at the actual (although limited) work parts of the job. He should have.
And as hard as he has worked at being a doofus outside the State House, the fact is that Andre has worked just as hard at being of service in the State House. I don’t think the lieutenant governor needs to be doing all that stuff, and I’m not very impressed with all the Strom-style constituent service he does. I don’t vote people into office to do me or anybody else personal favors. But he has really tried to make a difference by his own lights, and sometimes (both for better and for worse) he has.
So we take all that into consideration. We also take into consideration all the crazy, bad, irresponsible stuff he’s done. Which he admits.
So is this an easy call? Or not? Your turn. Our endorsement, yet unwritten, runs Saturday.