Our congressional endorsements today

Yesterday, I wrote the editorial that I dread each election year — the one dealing with Congress. (Actually, some years we do separates on the individual districts, but this year I decided to do it all in one piece — like ripping off a Band-Aid suddenly.) I put it off until it became the VERY LAST endorsement we did. I’m the one who had to write it, and I took advantage of being the editor to keep postponing it.

Now, before anyone gets all huffy about my dismissive attitude — I think Joe Wilson is a really nice guy who tries hard, and I know that Jim Clyburn is deeply and passionately committed to his constituents. But they are both, to me, emblematic of what is wrong with Congress and with our system for apportioning districts.

They are both deeply committed to the agendas of their respective political parties, and you know how I feel about that. Joe is just breathlessly eager to implement GOP initiatives, and Mr. Clyburn (I don’t feel I know him well enough to call him "Jim"), as the Majority Whip, is the very embodiment of Nancy Pelosi’s House. And I don’t like any of that one bit.

So why don’t I do what Doug always says I should do, and endorse the challengers? Because I have too great a sense of responsibility. (As you know, I’ll make a futile gesture with my own personal vote, but I wouldn’t feel right indulging myself that way on behalf of the newspaper.) For all their partisan flaws, Messrs. Wilson and Clyburn are obviously more knowledgeable and better qualified than the people running against them. I have the greatest respect, admiration and appreciation for young Rob Miller’s service as a United States Marine. (As some of you know, the very first thing I wanted to be as a kid — and one thing I could never be, for medical reasons — is a Marine. So the Corps has a particular mystique for me.) But I can’t see where serving as a captain in the Corps has equipped Mr. Miller for the very different duties of a congressman. I’d like to see some other things on his resume — such as service in some lower elective offices. I have a great reluctance to send people off to Washington before we’ve had a chance to see how they serve in office a little closer to home, where we can keep more of an eye on them.

And from what little I’ve seen of the lady running against Mr. Clyburn, I am deeply unimpressed. Watch the debate on ETV if you doubt me.

Now John Spratt is a somewhat different story. I’ve never been conflicted about endorsing him, because he seems to have so much competence, and his partisanship has been far more muted than either of the aforementioned gentlemen.

Those three are the only districts we endorse in, because those are the areas where we deliver the paper.

Anyway, here’s the endorsement(s).

21 thoughts on “Our congressional endorsements today

  1. Doug Ross

    So your Unparty “solution” is to endorse partisan Republicans and Democrats so they balance each other out?
    You seem to think politics is like brain surgery. That it requires years of training to master. In fact, it is the years of “training” that teaches the politician how to get re-elected and serve a smaller and smaller set of more influential constituents
    (i.e. contributors) who understand how to make government “work” for them.
    These are the endorsements that just boggle my mind. “I want to see a new style of government — just with the same guys who have been in there forever.”

  2. Mattheus Mei

    I must say that I’m disappointed about the Miller/Tim Calhoun endorsement, if more for the fact that Lexington County scares me and too much power emanates from that locale on the rest of that district with very little care or concern for the rest of that district. (I have other reasons subsequent to that particular one)
    I agree with you on the gerrymandering. I know districts have to contain a certain population, but why can’t we just group whole counties together? I feel the same way with how our state house opperates. It’s bizarre and selfish.
    I also agree with you about Spratt. I originally hale from Chesterfield County — Spratt country all the way, and yes he’s one of the most, scratch that, THE most competent and even keeled politicians in this state.

  3. Brad Warthen

    It’s not brain surgery, but then I wouldn’t support someone for Congress who only knew brain surgery, either. The conduct of public policy — the actual making of laws — isn’t an "American Idol" sort of amateur contest. I want people who know what they are doing.

    I’ll support newcomers for city council, even for the Legislature — if they demonstrate that they’ve boned up on the issues and bring something to the table. Two examples of people we’ve endorsed this year who are running for their first elective offices illustrate my point: Michael Koska and Elise Partin.

    In fact, both of them are the kinds of candidates I think Doug would support — they stand as fresh alternatives to established insiders. But the difference here is that being "fresh" is not in and of itself a consideration that overrides experience. You have to know something. Both Partin and Koska have gotten involved to the point that they have at least as great a grasp of the issues as incumbents would, if not more so.

    Doug, you’re a bit of a bomb-thrower, buddy. I’m just a lot more conservative, and deliberate than you are. I want change, but I want people who have the skills to implement the change. And Congress — a place where it’s hard to watch a neophyte and see how he’s coming along — is not a good place to do tryouts.

  4. Lee Muller

    I wish some reporter had known enough about the issues to ask how they felt about the Democrats’ plans to confiscate the 401-k money.
    They have been holding hearings on it this month.
    I wish someone would defeat those two disgraceful clowns, Clyburn and Spratt.
    Spratt sits on the Banking Committee with crooks like Barney Frank and does nothing while Democrats create junk loans for bad-credit blacks and 5,000,000 illegal Mexicans to buy homes, default on payments, and cause a banking crash.

  5. mck

    But the VP slot is a good place for such tryouts, I take it…
    You seem to say as much in your editorial –just substituted Sarah Palin for Rob Miller…
    “Newcomer Sarah Palin seems poised to give the VP a real contest this year…….she has gained confidence in the intervening months with an aggressive, populist, anti-establishment message. Combine that with the Christian Conservative Effect, and you have a candidate with a chance”

  6. Doug Ross

    Let’s take a look at this resume:
    In 1992, Mr. X was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. After only one term, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1998 and 2000 with no substantive opposition. In 2002, he was elected U.S. Senator.
    Lindsey Graham. One of the guys on your short list of favorites. Are you saying now that it would have been better for him to have served in the SC State House for a few more terms before he was ready for Congress?

  7. Brad Warthen

    mck, I’m not going to tell you Mrs. Palin is qualified to be president, but come on — she IS a governor. She resume is a better preparation for being veep than Mr. Miller’s is for serving in Congress.
    You seem to imply that because WE as a nation haven’t had a chance to watch her in office, that disqualifies her. That would mean only Senators, or the governors of the most populous states, should be considered. And the fact is that being governor is more relevant experience than being a senator. In her case, I just don’t think she’s had enough of that experience. Just as I worry that Obama hasn’t had enough experience, either. He is a gifted newcomer, but still largely untested beyond the ability to win elections.

  8. mck

    I’m not implying anything. I’m saying that Rob Miller is much more prepared to handle the affairs of one SC district than Sarah Palin is to handle the VP job. She’s not qualified and being governor of a state with a population less than two-thirds of most American cities doesn’t make her qualified. WE haven’t been watching, but the citizens of Alaska have been, and according to the Anchorage Daily News, they ain’t happy, and neither is Lawrence Eagleburger, who just came out and said as much.
    And don’t lecture us on how being a governor is better preparation as opposed to being a Senator. Sometimes it is, in this case it ain’t.McCain got himself saddled with this lemon and now he’s paying the price for it.
    So you condescend, and bloviate, and patronize as you wish. She’s not nearly as ready as Mr. Obama, despite your imprecations to the contrary.

  9. bud

    Damn Brad, you are just all over the place with your endorsement logic. You seem to use different rules every time you endorse.
    First, a minor point. Congress is, by definition, sort of the entry level position into national politics. I don’t see any special requirements, say a stint in the state legislature, that provides any great insight into the responsibilities of a United States congressman. A marine captain would seem just as qualified for congress as anyone.
    But that’s not the half of it. You rant and rave and carry on and get downright testy when you’re accussed of being a partisan. Then you turn around and endorse 2 guys that you acknowledge are HIGHLY partisan!!!
    And worst of all, you imply that you’re going to vote AGAINST the candidate you endorsed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’m speechless.

  10. Doug Ross

    There are numerous examples of “regular” people moving into the world of politics at a high level and doing reasonably well.
    Mayor Bloomberg of NYC certainly. Arnold Swarzenegger as Governor of CA.
    I guess The State would be endorsing Ted Stevens due to his rare combination of partisanship and experience.

  11. Brad Warthen

    On that last point, I promise you I’m NOT (going to vote against an endorsee). I’ll be voting a straight State newspaper ticket this time. Especially McCain.
    I’m sorry if I’m hard to follow. I try hard not to be. Maybe my problem is that I give you TOO MUCH information on what I think. I do hold many seemingly contradictory ideas in my head at once. I truly do consider all sides, and see the MERITS in all sides. For instance, I see a lot of good things in Obama, and am not immune to the excitement about his candidacy. But I have no doubt in my mind that I prefer McCain. My Sunday column will give you some more reasons why.
    Maybe my logic is hard to follow because I’m a “maverick-y” endorser (ARGHH! that word again!). A different sort of Maverick. If McCain is Bret and Palin is Bart (bear with me), maybe I’m the third maverick, Brad. Then again, maybe not.
    Actually, here’s a fun trivia question: People my age know that James Garner was Bret, and Jack Kelly was Bart. But there actually WAS a third Maverick brother, played by an actor later far more famous for other roles.
    Without Googling, what was that character’s name (of course, it starts with a B), and who was the actor?
    (Actually, there was even a fourth Maverick, but the less said about that, the better. The show had long jumped the shark by then.)
    Oh, one more trivia question: John McCain nearly got tossed out of the Naval Academy for having a contraband television in his room. What were the two shows he regularly watched, according to his autobiography? OK, I’ll give you one: The Friday Night Fights. The other show was on Sunday nights.

  12. Doug Ross

    Here’s a question for you, Brad. You have a much better understanding of the people who make up the SC State Legislature than I do.
    If you had the power to replace any of them, what percentage do you think would make the cut? How about telling us which specific high ranking members you think do more harm than good?

  13. bud

    (As you know, I’ll make a futile gesture with my own personal vote, but I wouldn’t feel right indulging myself that way on behalf of the newspaper.)
    This seemed like an implied admission of a vote different from the endorsement. I withdraw my last comment if that’s not correct.

  14. Ralph Hightower

    What about on the job training? Every new member in Congress experiences OJT.
    If experience in Congress is all that counts, then it looks like it would take retirement or death to get a new member.
    If expericence is all that matters, I agree with Doug’s assessment; if Ted Stevens (R-AK) were a South Carolina resident, he would be a shoo-in!

  15. Doug Ross

    All they have to do is watch “How A Bill Becomes A Law” on Schoolhouse Rock.
    I’m trying to understand your emphasis on experience. Are you okay with guys like Barney Frank, Charles Rangel, Robert Byrd making key decisions that impact the nation’s economy?

  16. Brad Warthen

    Come on, Doug — you’re suggesting that I don’t consider anything BUT experience, and obviously that’s not the case.
    Look at those two endorsements mentioned above, just as the most obvious examples at hand that disprove that. Elise Partin is up against a guy with decades of experience in Cayce gummint. She embodies the need for positive change.
    Michael Koska is up against an experienced member of County Council whom we’ve endorsed several times. But primarily because he is such a breath of fresh air AND has gone to the trouble to school himself on the issues, we’re backing Koska.
    I have said and done nothing to suggest that experience is everything; I merely think it is valuable, and you have to set it alongside other considerations. Go watch the 6th District debate on ETV, and then tell me you think Nancy Harrelson’s got what it takes to make her more suited to the job than the guy with the experience. I don’t think you can do it.

  17. Brad Warthen

    And bud, that was a reference (which I linked) to my previous post about 1996. I had told my editor I could not in good conscience write an endorsement, speaking for the newspaper, saying that it was our considered opinion that Dole would do a better job as president than Clinton. But I DID vote for Dole personally, as a protest against Clinton. If I had thought there was any chance Dole would be elected I wouldn’t have done that.

    It was an empty gesture, but one I felt free as a voter to make. I could not argue that he would have been a better president.

    Do you see the difference? In that same post, I talked about doing the same with McGovern in 72. He would have been a worse president than Nixon (in terms of sheer incompetence), but I voted for him as a protest against Nixon, knowing he would lose. Not the sort of thing I think a responsible editorial page editor ought to ADVISE, but something I felt free to do.

    We have always taken the position that regardless of what we think the election outcome would be, our endorsements should reflect what we believe SHOULD happen. So we would not advise readers to make empty gestures voting for someone other than the more competent candidate.

    Do you follow me?

  18. Dean Walters

    “But I can’t see where serving as a captain in the Corps has equipped Mr. Miller for the very different duties of a congressman. I’d like to see some other things on his resume — such as service in some lower elective offices. I have a great reluctance to send people off to Washington before we’ve had a chance to see how they serve in office a little closer to home, where we can keep more of an eye on them.”
    Interesting calls on the congressional races, Brad. I wholeheartedly agree with you on Messrs. Clyburn and Spratt, however, I would take exception with you on Rep. Wilson on a couple of points.
    Riding on the coattails of Governor Campbell during the South Carolina Republican surge of the mid-to-late 1980s, Joe Wilson was known for nothing more that being a small-scale businessman and a veteran / National Guardsman when he was elected to the SC Legislature. What few people may remember is that, during the planning and construction of the former AT&T building at Main and Gervais in about 1986 (which was going to be largely rented out by state government), Joe was found to be not only an investor in the building, but in a legislative position to approve these state leases – a move that would have made him quite wealthy – until a whistleblower uncovered the whole deal, thus forcing Joe to withdraw as an investor. If he had not been in the groundswell Republican movement, he would have gotten much, much more than the wrist-slap that he received.
    Meanwhile, Floyd Spence had been running a con game for the better part of 30 years in getting elected to Congress, and yet doing nothing but posing for photo-ops in Lexington, kissing babies in Irmo, and the occasional sound-bite on the 7:00 news from his private island on Lake Murray. In all of that time, he never primary-authored a single piece of legislation in Congress, which probably explains why, in 1978, Esquire magazine named him #434 out of the 435 members of Congress (“all Representative Spence is looking for is a fresh pack of cigarettes, a stiff drink, and a good-looking intern”). Taking care of your hometown constituents was one thing, but being completely invisible inside the Beltway was another.
    After the unfortunate passing of Spence in 2001, it was “appointed” that Joe Wilson was to be the heir apparent of the congressional seat – as if the seat represented some form of House of Lords-like peerage, instead of an elective seat.
    Joe Wilson, much as his predecessor Floyd Spence, considered the borders of the district to be no more than eyeshot of the Lexington County line, although admittedly, he has evolved to be much more effective than Rep Spence was, as to effective representation of the district as a whole.
    The point in the above is to show a faulty bit of logic: Rob Miller is no worse than Joe Wilson once was – both came off of military careers to enter their higher political aspirations; the only difference was that Joe did appear in the state legislature for a few short years (time enough to dirty his diaper with the AT&T deal – just in case that “lower elective office” makes a diference) before moving to the congressional level. That said, I do not believe that is a difference maker, nor do I feel like it is indicative of effective representation (well, unless you are a resident of Lexington County) of the district as a whole.
    Oh, and by the way, I am no archetypical Democrat – I have generally voted Republican since the 1980 Presidential election year. I just prefer to call the shots evenly and as I see them.
    Enjoy reading your blog, Brad.

  19. Dean Walters

    By the way, your answer to the question above regarding McCain’s other favorite program at the Acadeny was, of course, “Maverick”

  20. Lee Muller

    I wish I could grill John Spratt on his role in the mortgage scandals for about one hour on public television.
    Then Brad would have something to write about, because none of the former journalists have the guts to confront Spratt or Clyburn. It is all patty cakes and softballs.
    Spratt and Clyburn really need to be questioned by a grand jury.


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