Asking the governor

his is the audio of my effort to get the governor talking about the reform ideas that he and new Superintendent of Education Jim Rex have in common. I wrote about this in today’s column.

It was interesting for me to go back and listen to it. I had forgotten how long and hard I had pressed to get a few seconds of response from the governor — and what he did say was remarkably noncommital even by his standards. (My question took a minute-and-a-half to set up and ask; the governor answered vaguely for 15 seconds.)

Poor Tom Davis jumped in and talked and talked (for more than two minutes) after the governor stopped, and I had the impression he was consciously trying to make up for the governor’s apparent lack of interest in what is really a remarkable opportunity to achieve some dramatic reforms by reaching across party lines.

I remain hopeful, though. If the governor does decide to seize this chance, he should find a willing partner in Mr. Rex, who pretty much jumps at any opportunity to build bridges on these issues. For a little corroboration of that, check out this video from after the State of the State address. You can fast-forward through it; Mr. Rex is the last person interviewed by my sometime TV sidekick Andy Gobeil.

13 thoughts on “Asking the governor

  1. Dave

    Brad, what comes across in the video and audio is that the governor commented in a positive and constructive manner (and for all we know he was actually eating) and then Davis joined the dialogue. So it’s what one cannot see. For example, if the governor was suddenly playing with a blackberry and tuned out, that is one direction, but if he was listening etc. then you may have read too much into his silence for a few minutes. I think I would be uncomfortable going to lunch with you in the future if you enjoy a social/business lunch (that few citizens would ever get to do), and then appear to pyschoanalyze the governor in public print/blog about the conduct of the lunch. Just my 2 cents.

  2. Ed

    Let’s see, the candidate that the Governor endorsed and supported did not get elected did she? Maybe the Governor doesn’t have a lot of common territory with the newly elected superintendent. Maybe the Governor hasn’t had time yet to figure out where he and the new super can agree and move forward. Perhaps there is not a lot of agreement between the two at this point and the Governor was being polite and diplomatic by not saying a lot. Take out Christmas and New Year holidays (and Martin Luther King Day) and the two have had essentially 3 weeks to work together…and it isn’t like there wasn’t anything else to be doing in those 3 weeks either. So, I wouldn’t expect too much yet. Ed

  3. Brad Warthen

    Actually, my point is that there is a LOT that they have in common — a remarkable amount, in fact, as Tom was noting.
    I really don’t care much about all that electoral nonsense, particularly the “he’s not on our team, so forget him,” which is the most outrageous excuse to do nothing ever invented in the history of politics.
    This is an opportunity to get some dramatic, transformative things done that the governor keeps saying he wants to get done — things that he would never have gotten done with the candidate he supported, because all of the constituencies who know how to lobby on these issues would have fought her tooth and nail.
    Basically, the governor needs to choose:
    A. He’d really like to get those things done.
    B. The thing that his most severe critics say about him is true — that he never, ever wants to get anything done. He just wants to come out for things he can run on in elections, COUNTING on them not happening, so that he can cynically run “against the system” that resists his reforms.
    And it’s time for you folks who say that those of us who resist the proposal to destroy the public school system — which would be the only practical result of PPIC, in terms of its effect on South Carolina — are defenders of the status quo to decide whether YOU are serious about wanting to change the system, or just make excuses.
    Merit pay, total choice within the system, consolidation of administration — THOSE are the kinds of things that would effect profound change. If you will make excuses for a leader in a position to do something about them if he doesn’t do so, then YOU are the ones defending the status quo. And forgive me if I suspect that you’re doing it so that you can keep complaining about the system, and trying to destroy it.
    Or don’t forgive me. Whatever. I would suspect it anyway.

  4. Paul DeMarco

    I agree with Ed-you sound a little edgy this weekend. Time to put the mean face back up?
    I am confident Rex could work with the governor. He has very little partisan baggage. He did not emphasize that he was running on the Democratic ticket during the campaign and would have preferred it to be a non-partisan affair.
    The question is can the governor work with Rex? I keep hoping (against hope?) that the governor will see the light and climb out of the ideological box he has built for himself. Let’s hope this term he joins the rest of us on the public square rather than remaining aloft in the ivory tower that the governor’s mansion has become.

  5. Ready to Hurl

    Brad, you leave out option C:
    Sanford’s ultimate objective is replacing public schools with private schools. He’s fundamentally opposed to reforming and improving public schools, which is Rex’s goal.
    Option C seems far more likely than Option B because Sanford is a hardcore libertarian ideologue who would rather be “pure” than win elections.

  6. chris w

    Brad, you wrote: “Merit pay, total choice within the system, consolidation of administration — THOSE are the kinds of things that would effect profound change.”
    I believe I first heard these things debated in 1976…and in every election since.
    It is just the same ole same ole.

  7. Doug

    Next time you want to include Sanford’s um’s and yeah’s in a quote in a piece, maybe you should count all the yeah’s, um’s, you knows, likes, etc. in your own patter…
    What a hack.

  8. Ed

    Hmmm, I wasn’t trying to be or sound edgy. What I thought I was doing was forwarding a couple of reasonable points that may explain why Governor Sanford wasn’t enthusiastically and passionately answering Brads’ questions…but maybe that’s considered edgy in this forum, where 90% of the posters, like Brad, have drunk the koolaid and have a blind and undying devotion to the failed public education system in this state. Their involuntary, knee jerk, automatic, and vehement attack upon and denial of anything and anyone that proposes true parental choice tells me that there is much about the present system that cannot be defended, and that the drones that have to attempt to defend it figure they have no other option than to attack. You want edgy? I’ll be edgy…I think the Governor was wise not to say a lot to Brad and wax eloquent about how he intended to work with the newly elected super. Almost exactly one half of the citizens in this state voted against Mr. Rex and for real change. The Governor is on record as being on their side. He doesn’t owe Brad Warthen or any other biased, mind-made-up “journalist” (yes…journalist in quotes, as The State long since dropped any pretense at journalism when it comes to public ed) anything, least of all a bunch of foamy answers to questions he’s already addressed at length. Ed

  9. Brad Warthen

    Ed, have you taken a second to look at what this is about — a bunch of significant, even radical, reforms that the governor keeps saying he wants, but never really does anything about.
    How is it that your comment above has anything to do with that? How does it exist in the same logical universe?

  10. Steve Gordy

    If there is a “failed public education system in this state”, is it not logical to assume that there’s a larger problem: A failed public government? Seems logical that the two go together.

  11. Ed

    I agree with Steve that the problems with public ed are symptomatic and symbolic of the huge problems we have with state government in general in South Carolina. In todays’ edition of The State the lead editorial demonstrates how little regard the our legislature has for fairness, integrity and open government. However, Brads’ continuing attacks on the Governor for his stand against ongoing failure in public ed seem to me to frame the arguement wrongly. The way The State argues, it sounds to me like Brad and Cindi think that it is mainly the Governors’ responsibility to work with Jim Rex, and not necessarily the other way around. Governor Sanford is our Chief Executive. Jim Rex heads up a department within the executive branch. And, although he IS an elected official and ostensibly has voters to answer to, it is, in the end, at LEAST as much the responsibilty of Jim Rex to work with (and for, by the way) the Chief Exec as it is the other way around, his supporters notwithstanding. Ergo, I don’t jump on the bandwagon that says our Governor ought to be all enthusiastic and eloquent when he’s asked questions like “How are you going to work with Jim Rex?” Especially when such questions come from Brad Warthen, the Governors’ sworn enemy when it comes to public ed. And don’t even TRY to assert that Jim Rex has any clear mandate to continue doing business as usual in his department. Again, nearly exactly one half of the people in this state voted against him, and with the Governor. Why don’t we ask Jim Rex how HE’S going to work with his Boss? If you’ve asked Mr. Rex that question Brad, I’d like to know what his answer was. Ed

  12. Ed

    Brad, to attempt to answer your question, let me say first that the posts I’ve written in this string so far have each been thrown together in the morning as I get ready to leave for work. Haste and preoccupation with getting out the door, coupled with my passionate belief that I am on the right side of this issue and you are not (and moreover that you haven’t been fair), make me sound toxic and mean. I’m really not normally either of those things, but this topic gets me rev’d up like few others do. The other thing is that I think you’re probably nice gentleman as far as just about everything else is concerned. Unlike Mary Rosh, I give you credit for being civic-minded and generally having good and decent motives and intentions. Except where public education is concerned. Believe me, I readily admit that I have done my share of name calling and used my share of hyperbole when advancing my arguements for what I believe about public education. So have you. But there is a huge difference between me and you. The things you say are amplified through the medium of your newspaper. The things I say are not amplified in any way. And your use, manipulation and outright abuse of that power have caused resentment and dislike in me for you that I am not proud of, but that is there nonetheless. In my view you have been insulting, vituperative, vitriolic, over the top and below the belt. You have overtly questioned and impugned the motives of just about everyone who holds different opinions about education than yours and dares to express them, and I haven’t seen anyone really treat you that way except guys like me who have no wherewithal to get our venom published like you do. Every once in a long while a dissenting opinion piece would find its’ way onto your editorial page, but the vast majority of material on that page has either been yours, or Cindis, or someone elses’ who thinks just like you do. The often nasty and malicious, unfair, biased and closed-minded way you’ve handled this issue in the pages of The State is precisely the reason I cancelled my subscription 2-3 years ago, and I have seen absolutely nothing from you to make me consider coming back since. I look at some of your stuff nowadays only because I go to the editorial page online to see what other regular Joes think in their letters to the editor. Anyway…given all that as context, let me answer your question. I actually agree with you that Sanford says he wants change but hasn’t accomplished much. But be honest, how much help has he had? The legislature? Please! They’re a pimple on the a$$ of progress in everything they touch. Has he gotten help from the Education Department? Again, please. Nothing but antagonism from Inez, and likely more forthcoming from Rex. The lower level bureaucrats under her and now Rex have absolutely no incentive or desire to make the kind of changes the Governor advocates, or even consider them. Besides, there isn’t much they can do anyway when their leader is not pressing for change. Has he gotten any help from you? Certainly not. All he has gotten from you is invective, insult, and overt attempts to poison the debate. So the short answer to you is: Be honest for once, and cut the governor some slack. I believe his adherence to principle in the face of your attacks and other daunting challenges has been admirable. Indeed, the only encouraging piece of this whole deal to me is that there is so much grassroots support among our citizenry for the kind of changes that he and I support and believe in. The razor thin margin by which Jim Rex won his job ought to be a stern warning and wake-up to status quo defenders within and outside the public ed department. It also does me good personally to know that in spite all you’ve done…your best and nastiest efforts notwithstanding…fully one half of the good people in this state believe the same things about public ed that the Governor does, and that I do. Ed


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