Our young governor’s presumption apparently knows no bounds (and it’s kinda freaking me out)

Been feeling the need to write this ever since I read the paper early this morning. I haven’t had time before now…

Nikki Haley kind of blew my mind on three fronts this morning, which caused me to go on a bit of a rant at breakfast (Wesley isn’t the only ranter in Columbia), along these lines:

  1. Haley to grade legislators.” Did you see that headline this morning? I normally eschew text-speak, but WTF? None of the lawmakers quite came out and said this, but I’ll tell you what they were thinking: “This little girl couldn’t even get called on when she raised her hand at the back of the class a year ago, and now she’s going to grade US?” This would be followed by the aforementioned “WTF?” Yep, lawmakers really think like that, the insensitive brutes. Now, before you think this is just a question of whom you like — with reactions divided between Haley fans who cheer, “Go get ’em, Nikki!” and the harrumphers who do not and never will be Haley fans — allow me to point something out to you. It would be presumptuous for anyone to do this. Back when I worked in Tennessee, some writers at one of the Nashville papers would grade all the legislators at the end of the session each year. I thought it presumptuous as all get-out, but… it was still within the bounds of acceptable commentary. And it would certainly be permissible for me to do something like that on my blog, although you would be equally free to tell me to what extent I was full of it. Just an exchange of views among citizens. But here’s the problem with Nikki doing it, in case you didn’t make it through Civics 101: She’s the governor, which means she’s the closest thing to a head of the executive branch that we’ve got (in another state, she’d be the head of the executive branch, but this is South Carolina). For the chief executive to use whatever political influence she has to harass and bully and threaten lawmakers, even in as silly a manner as this (do my will, or I’ll give you a bad grade!), smacks of bossism. Ben Tillman would have loved a device like that for keeping lawmakers in line, and Boss Crump as well. Folks, the best virtue Nikki Haley has going for her is that she advocates restructuring that would make the executive branch more accountable to the governor (and in fact, it’s their positions on reforms like that that she plans to “grade” lawmakers on). But this kind of behavior gives executive power a bad name, and gives lawmakers — who don’t want to give the governor power anyway — an excuse to blow her off, just as Mark Sanford did with his defecating piglets. And that’s what takes this beyond silly, practically to the realm of outrage. The very modest restructuring legislation that just passed the House will have tough-enough sledding in the Senate (where all such reforms go to die) without this nonsense.
  2. Governor takes aim at state employee benefits.” Wow. Poor Nikki. Last year, she was the darling of the national media (which is how she won the election), making the cover of Newsweek twice. Now, she feels forgotten. Through the lens of this story, you can see the little wheels turning in her head: Look at all the attention that governor in Wisconsin is getting! That’s so unfair? What’s he doing? Oh, he’s trying to take away state employees collective bargaining power. What an awesome idea! I’ll do that too, and then I can get some attention? What? Oh, drat! We don’t HAVE public employee unions in South Carolina, so I can’t strike dramatic poses fighting against them! That’s really, REALLY unfair! What, oh what am I going to do? There must be SOMETHING I can do to state employees here that will draw attention… but what? I know! I’ll go after their BENEFITS…
  3. The mystery man on Haley’s staff.” THIS one is so weird, that I suspect there’s a typo in it somewhere. So… Nikki has a guy on her staff who supposedly is only being paid $1 a year. He’s supposedly a government-efficiency expert who’s gonna help the gov straighten out waste and inefficiency in our gummint. He uprooted his family and moved here from Pennsylvania for the job — for the $1-a-year job. OK, this causes a lot of people to suspect there’s something else going on, and speculate that he’s waiting around for a real job that could come open soon. This he denies, or at least says he hasn’t been promised anything. But that wouldn’t be my theory anyway, given those facts. MY theory is that he’s being paid by one of those national ideological groups that flock around the Mark Sanfords of the world. Howie Rich, or Grover Norquist or some such. But he says no, that he’s living off his state employee pension from Pennsylvania. Got that? OK… The story also says he’s 32 years old. Twice. In the main body of the story, and in a graphic. After someone suggested it was a double-typo, I Tweeted John O’Connor to ask him. He Tweeted back that “No, that’s his age according to the governor’s office.” So maybe the governor’s office is wrong about his age. But if not — this guy’s able to live on a state pension (and I went back to look again, and yes, the only jobs listed in the published summary of his resume sound like state jobs) at the age of 32 — and he’s here as an expert on government efficiency? That ought to make state employees breath a sigh of relief. No way he’ll have the nerve to urge the governor to reduce their pensions, huh? Unless he’s the nerviest guy in two states. Somewhere, there’s gotta be something inaccurate in this picture, because the “facts” we have definitely don’t add up.

OK, I got all that off my chest. Now, to shift gears on you, and praise our governor for her pushiness — in that same story about state employee benefits, she promised to present lawmakers with a comprehensive tax reform plan. THAT’S the kind of presumption I can cheer for. But I’m going to hold my applause until I see whether it’s comprehensive, and whether it’s reform. The first sign will be whether she steps up and proposes to undo the execrable Act 388.

And… now that I’m cooled down a bit… I’ll go further in that backtracking direction: I still haven’t made up my mind about what I think of the bill I wrote about earlier that would do essentially what Nikki’s saying with state pensions. (Mainly because I haven’t yet seen enough about it — on something that complex and that financial, I sort of need some broad input to make up my mind.) But the truth is, I read items 2 and 3 right after reading item 1 this morning, so it all looked bad while I was in that mood.

And now that I’m looking at them again before hitting “Publish,” I’m still kinda freaked out…

20 thoughts on “Our young governor’s presumption apparently knows no bounds (and it’s kinda freaking me out)

  1. Virginia

    Thanks for addressing this. I’m having a panic attack and wonder when the grown-ups are coming back in the house…but, a sudden calm washes over me. I envision the quiet campfire scene (Oh Brother) where Delbert offers ” Care for gopher?” “No Thanks” … Fade out to Tommy’s Killing Floor.

  2. Luke

    I agree with you, when I read the article about the benefits, I immediately thought of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. I don’t see that Haley has an original thought in her head except maybe for the report card and what an idea that is!

  3. Luke

    Sorry just couldn’t resist, told my wife about what you had written and she said the report card must be Haley’s version of No Legislator Left Behind! I hate that, just too clever! By the way, we have dibs on that…

  4. virginia

    PS. After our 2008 election and Thomas Ravenel’s liability issues of SC Public pensions settled (by huge voter rejection)why is this UP? Because we’re a target with Wisconsin,Tennessee,Nevada,Alabama Pennsylvania. “Care for gopher?”

  5. Jake

    What about the picture of her shown on The State’s website at President Obama’s speech? Her back is turned and she is typing away on her ipad.

  6. Scout

    I have only read two of the articles. They wiped me out. I haven’t had the strength to tackle the one about benefits yet. My husband pointed out that there are quite a few different reasons that Haley judging the legislators is just wrong. For him, the big one is that legislators are accountable to their constituents – not to the governor. For me, the big one is the arrogance of her thinking that her opinion of how they are doing on her personal agenda items is relevant in any kind of public way. It is patronizing to the people of SC and to the legislators themselves, and the ideal it seems to suggest – that the legislators should always agree with the governor – is not good. Why would we need a carbon copy branch of government? We don’t all agree and that’s alright. That’s the point. We don’t all agree, and we have mechanisms to work it out. This isn’t one of them.

    And about the 32 year old – are we to assume that this child prodigy living on his pension has left Pennsylvania a paragon of government efficiency? I haven’t done any research but I find myself tending to doubt it. But I guess we can assume that he didn’t recommend that Pennsylvania cut out their pension plan (at least not for him.)

  7. Joanne

    I agree, Brad. It is presumptuous of her to grade the legislators. I thought the same thing about how she wasn’t much of a force when she was one of the representatives. What makes her think she’s qualified?

    The so-called “mystery man” bothers me too. Does SLED run a check on the members of her staff? I’d like to know more about him as well. A teensie portion of that $1 is mine.

    I don’t even know what to say about her taking benefits from state workers. I guess she is now a member of that elite “I’ve-got-mine-now-I’ll-take-yours-because-I-can” group.

    She is more egocentric than I ever thought. Has it only been two months since she was sworn in?

  8. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    She’s trying to be Sarah Palin, methinks. Next up–“Nikki Haley’s Lexington”–come with our camera crews as daredevil Nikki texts and drives her SUV down 378–they don’t call it Sunset Drive for nuthin’…

  9. WayneB

    You are certainly correct that the issues regarding the public pension plans in South Carolina are exceedingly complex; so much so that the legislation proposed by Nathan Ballentine and Greg Ryberg ( H3568 and S531 respectively)do not come close to addressing the perceived problem while fulfilling the commitment to retirees. Of course it is possible that meeting the commitment to retirees is not a concern.

  10. Ralph Hightower

    @Kathryn Fenner:

    I’ve seen Nikki drive. I think she went to Andre’ Bauer’s School of Driving, zipping in and out of lanes, signalling only after she has made her lane change.

    There is one good thing that I can say about Nikki Haley being our governor: “She has a driver to escort her around.”

  11. Ralph Hightower

    1. SC Governot Haley is stealing pages from former governot, Mark Sanford, playbook: “How to Humiliate the General Assembly”. Since Nikki views everything as a one-way street, I think she deserves a report card. The areas I will grade Nikki on are: 1) Transparency;
    2) Leadership;
    3) Communications;
    4) Stewardship;
    5) Conflict of Interests (self and staffers);
    6) Recruiting (Businesses).

    2. State employees are people too. They have not had raises for three years; they had their pay cut last year through involuntary pay furloughs. I lost a significant chunk of income switching from private employment to state employment.

    3. Damn! Pennsylvania must have a fantastic pension plan if Christian Soura can retire at the age of 32!

    I think that Nikki has plans to put Christian Soura in the Department of Administrations if legislation to move the Budget and Control Board to the governor’s office.

    Soura’s newly formed “think tank” S.C. Center for Transforming Government smacks of conflict of interest! South Carolina doesn’t need outsiders like Howard Rich or Grover Norquist running our state government.

  12. Ralph Hightower

    We didn’t elect a new governor. We got a Mark Sanford clone.

    Nikki Haley has been called “Sanford in a Skirt”.

    Just two months into her term, I’m thinking that she’s more like “Sanford in Drag”.

  13. Doug Ross

    Haley is the highest elected official in the state. As a governor without any real power, I’m glad she is using whatever means possible to demonstrate which legislators are onboard with the issues she campaigned on. They usually like to work under the cover of darkness and backroom deals.

    I see no harm in her tracking who is for and against specific bills that Haley wants to see passed. That’s called using the bully pulpit (emphasis on bully). The good old boys just hate being held accountable.

  14. Mark Stewart

    Despite the total flounder, she did come close to a kernal of an idea. What if she had proposed to grade the passed legislation on a scale of:


    That would have been a useful nudge. But instead she crashed on hubris.

  15. Meredith

    As a member of the SC State Retiree system and as a supporter of SCETV, I am truly concerned about the kind of damage this woman could do to our state. If, as Kathryn (above) said, “she’s trying to be Sarah Palin,” let us hope that includes dropping out midway through her term.

    In which case, I say “Go, Nikki!”

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