Column on Lee Bandy

Lee Bandy at work in his hotel room at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Lee Bandy, the fairest of us all

Editorial Page Editor
LOOKING AROUND at a crowd of journalists, I gestured to Lee Bandy and said, “This is the fairest guy in the room.”
    Like Snow White’s stepmother, scribes generally don’t like to hear that anyone is fairer than they. But no one disputed the point, as all present had gathered to bid a fond farewell to Bandy as he retired after 40 years of remarkable service to this newspaper and its readers.
    I was Lee’s editor when I first came to this newspaper almost 20 years ago. I was young enough and arrogant enough not to be intimidated — as I should have been — at the thought of supervising a man who had been covering Washington since the Kennedy administration. That was OK with Lee; he tolerated me. He tolerated everybody, and enjoyed the company of the human race in general. He still does.
    That’s not the only way in which he stood out from the rest of us scribblers. He was also completely fair and impartial. Sure, all of us are, yadda-yadda, but he really was, and many people found it disconcerting.
    One of the first things I was told about Lee Bandy was that he was a Republican. It had to be true, because Democrats kept telling me so over and over.
    As you can guess, I watched him closely as a result. In my nine years as an editor at two other newspapers I had known one other reporter who was a Republican — he made no bones about it, so I’m not casting aspersions — and he ended up leaving us to become press secretary to a newly elected GOP congressman. Next thing you know he was wearing fancy suits and suspenders; he’s now a lobbyist.
    Not wanting to risk another such ugly episode, I was extra careful with Mr. Bandy’s copy. Strangely, though, I never found any evidence that he skewed Republican. He seemed to be scrupulously fair to all his subjects.
    That, apparently, was what had aroused the suspicion of S.C. Democrats. They were still in the majority. Not long before, there hadn’t been anything in the state but Democrats, so anything having to do with these newfangled Republican critters seemed unnatural and made them wary. The fact that Lee Bandy was just as fair to Republicans as he was to normal people made them think he must be one of them.
    But he wasn’t, believe me. I had edited other political writers over the years who were routinely fair to Republicans, and I had worked with that one actual Republican, so I knew the difference.
You can see why Democrats wondered, though. Republicans on the national and state levels actually trusted Lee Bandy, and this made him conspicuous. When Lee Atwater, Democrats’ ultimate bete noir (before W. and Rove), contracted cancer, he would only speak to one reporter in Washington or anywhere else — Bandy.
    Years later, when former Gov. Carroll Campbell revealed that he had Alzheimer’s, Lee Bandy was the only one he wanted to tell the story. That would seem to indict him permanently as a Republican, or at best a friend of Republicans, if not for one thing:
    By this time, the conventional “wisdom” had shifted. Now, it was common knowledge among Republicans everywhere that Lee Bandy  was a dyed-in-the-wool, unrepentant, proselytizing, big-government-loving, yellow-dog left-leaning liberal Democrat, and probably a socialist.
    I have learned this unassailable truth from letters to the editor in recent years. If you’re a regular reader, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, you were probably disoriented by the first part of this column, unless you’re an old-timer like Lee. Your younger, or more recently converted, Republicans would just as soon vote to restore welfare as we used to know it as believe that Lee Bandy could possibly be one of them.
    What changed? Nothing. Lee’s great sin was that he was just as fair to the now-despised minority Democrats as he had been to Republicans back when they were little more than an oddity.
    What hadn’t changed was that he was still the pre-eminent political writer of South Carolina’s largest newspaper — its capital city newspaper — which magnified his sin of being fair and magnanimous to those whom the partisan majority of the moment would prefer to see him despise.
    Lee can’t help it. That’s just the way he is. He likes people, and he’s nice to them. Don’t ask me to explain how a guy like that kept a newspaper job for 40 years. It’s unnatural, but there it is.
    We’ll miss you, Lee.


20 thoughts on “Column on Lee Bandy

  1. Lee

    Lee Bandy at least doesn’t pretend to write objective news stories about politics. He is openly opinionated, and fits the facts to match is bias. He loves celebrities of either party, the more Foghorn Leghorn the better.

  2. Ed

    I agree that Lee has been a diligent and steady reporter down through the years, but he has always been far too liberal. What you describe above simply indicates to me that he began in an era when fledgling republicans were disorganized and weak, and really had no coherent voice against the backdrop of a huge and mighty democrat machine. That Lee looked conservative in this setting is no surprise. But he was most assuredly a liberal then, and as the conservative movement found its’ voice and strengthened, Lee appeared to move farther and farther left. He wasn’t moving, his backdrop was, and in more recent years conservatives began more and more to call a spade a shovel. The guy is clearly a lib. Period. Adios Lee. Ed

  3. Steve

    Lee Bandy loves politicians, especially Good Old Boy’s… I’ve read him for nearly two decades and couldn’t tell you one principle he believes in… backroom politics, yes… progress, no.

  4. bud

    Sadly, we have lost Gerald Ford. Although I generally disagreed with him politically, he was unquestionably a man of great integrity, a true statesman. Hopefully with the much deserved thrashing the Republican party recieved in the past election we can return to the days when men like Ford fought the good fight without the sleazy nastiness that has characterized the GOP since the days of Lee Atwater. Gerald Ford will be missed.

  5. Ed

    Gerald Ford was never elected to anything, and I doubt he could have been had circumstances been different. While I agree that he was a man of integrity and truly desired to govern well under difficult circs, I don’t remember him ever articulating a coherent vision for the country or exercising the leadership to implement whatever vision he might have had. Of course, I was student at Carolina at the time and interested in most anything other than a stodgy old republican. Ed

  6. Phillip

    “…never elected to anything…” well, Ford was elected to Congress 13 times, rising to rank of Minority Leader. Also, as has been pointed out several times in the last day or so, a shift of a very small number of votes in a couple of places would have given him the 76 election over Carter.
    Interesting to speculate how history might have been different had Ford won. Economic woes might have continued and the Shah still would have gotten cancer and probably still been flown to US for treatment…Iranian revolution still happens, Americans still taken hostage, but this time Ford and GOP blamed instead of Carter and Democrats. US decides to vote Democratic finally in 1980 for first time since ’64, Scoop Jackson becomes President, Iranians release hostages on day he takes office…Jackson’s health issues still cause him to die in 1983, making VP Walter Mondale President. Mondale pledges to continue “stand up to Soviets” policy, residual goodwill towards Jackson re-elects him in 1984, as Reagan now is considered too old and to have missed his chance at the Presidency…therefore losing nomination to George HW Bush, who loses election, is never elected President, and whose sons never rise beyond state political level.

  7. Dave

    Nixon’s unnecessary and paranoid antics put Carter into the White House, unfortunately. Ford should have never run after pardoning Nixon, but the temptation is too great for most. Ford was a decent sort but belonged mainly to the country club elite wing of the GOP. This branch of the party with Lincoln Chafee, Rockefeller, etc had established themselves as a 40 year minority party, and never did learn to lead. Reagan changed that whole paradigm.

  8. Marshall Lawson

    Come on Warthen:
    Lee Bandy wore his bias for Dems on his sleeve. He epitomizes the type of dishonesty rampanant in the main stream news media where most journalists claim to be fair and impartial but spin their coverage of the news to fit their leftwing ideology. I wonder which “fair and impartial” liberal The State will hire to replace Mr. Bandy. I most certainly won’t be a Republican (if any exist in journalism today).

  9. Phillip

    Dave, if Ford and Rockefeller were “country-club” Republicans (and certainly GHW Bush would have to be included there), then Reagan and W would have to be called “Ranch Republicans.” Either category is light-years away from life as most Americans know it.
    Let’s face it: the vast majority of national politicians of BOTH parties are basically “country-club elites”.

  10. Dave

    Phillip – I agree with you on the elitism present in both parties. Perhaps we will see a President Mark Sanford in our future and he would define a whole new category, yet to be named. The RINO branch of the GOP still lives with Arlen Spector, Chuck Hagel and several others. The Dems have their limousine liberal group of Feinstein, Kennedy, John Edwards, Hillary, to name a few. Then we have Obama, the Oprah media sensation who has accomplished nothing but is a good speaker. We will see if he can sustain that popularity with a middle name of Hussein and being a chain smoker to boot. If he denounces the smokes, checks himself into smoker rehab, and repents, he may pull off the 08 election yet. Hillary will want him to be her VP candidate is my guess. She smokes too, but sneaks it. Hillbama in 08.

  11. Lee

    Some “liberals” are again using phony email addresses to steal the identity of Brad Warthen and send viruses.
    upxzhofym.exe is a security risk named W32/Mitglied

  12. Brad Warthen

    “RINO” is interesting, coming as it does from folks who have recently invaded the Republican Party. The folks defined as “RINOs” are usually the real Republicans, and the ones doing the defining show themselves to be something else. I suppose you’d say they were libertarians who wanted to take over a party that actually gave them a chance of winning office, as opposed to those Libertarians who keep their nominal purity, but forgo ever winning power.
    Phillip, I like your “what if” scenario. Of course, Scoop Jackson was the sort of Democrat who would have invaded Iraq, had he been in office in 2003.
    And no, Mark Sanford is no “country-club Republican.” He’s not social enough for that; I can’t see him joining a club of any kind.

  13. Lee

    I didn’t use insight or guessing. That’s the way liberals pseudo-think. I backtracked the server hops of the e-mail.
    Also, every malicious spam, e-mail, and virus I have seen from the Internet has come from the socialistic types. It fits right in with their goon tactics of shouting down speakers on campus and using Hitler’s repetitious Big Lie technique to distort the political issues.

  14. Ready to Hurl

    I backtracked the server hops of the e-mail.
    Did it originate at “” or something?
    What a joke you are.

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