SC Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson at Rotary today…

“Ironically, I tend to look left,” said SC Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson at the Columbia Rotary Club today. “That’s a joke.”

He said that because he had already gotten a big laugh, unintentionally. Worried about his time, he had turned to tell our president that he was just going to speak a minute-and-a-half about Yucca Mountain before going to questions. Except that our president, Rodger Stroup, was on his right, and he turned the other way and said it to David Kunz, who was seated up there to do Health and Happiness. The laugh came when David said, very enthusiastically, “All right by me!”

But the rest of his speech went pretty well. Crawford Clarkson turned to me afterward to say it was one of the best speakers he’d heard at Rotary. And Crawford’s been in Rotary approximately forever. I said I didn’t know about that, but I thought he did well.

He did well because he spoke as something other than what detractors of his Dad might expect. Sure, he started out sounding a lot like Joe, looking around the room and recognizing his many friends. But that was cool. I’ve always liked that about Joe. He’s very sincere about it, and so was Alan. Alan was a bit cooler about it, in fact. Joe tends to be rather manic in his extreme excitement to be there as a congressman.

Anyway, as I said, some would like to think that Alan is another Charlie Condon. (Charlie, who is a perfectly reasonable human being in person out of the limelight, turned into a sort of pandering monster as A.G., pursuing one issue after another that seemed fabricated to further his political career.) But I haven’t seen that yet, and there was none of that in the presentation we got today. Charlie would have worked in the “electric couch” somewhere, but not Alan.

Wilson spent a large portion of his time simply talking about the routine work that the A.G.’s office does in the course of meeting its statutory and constitutional obligations — handling civil litigation, criminal prosecution, post-conviction relief, criminal domestic violence, etc. That he chose to do so, to explain his office in such professional terms rather than political ones, is to me worthy of praise. Perhaps because I’m always on the lookout for another Charlie. (Fellow Rotarian Henry McMaster was a welcome change from Charlie — and it should be pointed out, Henry was largely responsible for the emphasis on CDV. I’m glad to see Wilson is continuing to be interested in that.)

Then he got onto the controversial issues — the NLRB/Boeing thing (although in SC, that’s hardly controversial), the health care mandate, Yucca Mountain — and he fought his corner well on these. His point on each was that he approached them according to the law as he read it. Of course, I’m less likely to disbelieve him than some, since I see the first and third ones the way he does. I disagree strongly with him on the middle one (and the idea that he could be successful in pursuing severability appalls me), although I fear he may be right that in the end it will be settled by a 5-4 SCOTUS decision, one way or the other.

In supporting his assertion that for him it’s about the law and not political advantage, he cited the Cornell Arms case, in which a security guard shot and killed an unarmed man who he said he thought was threatening him. Wilson said some told him that “You’ll take heat” from 2nd Amendment advocates for supporting the government’s prosecution of the guard. But in his account, he said, “That’s irrelevant.” The man had served five years, and would have been released by the state Supreme Court had Wilson not filed for a rehearing. As John Monk (happy birthday, John!) reported after the meeting:

“This has nothing to do with the right to carry (guns), nothing to do with the gun issue,” Wilson said. “The defense has the right to appeal at each level of litigation, and the state has a right to ask the court to reconsider their decision.”

A  good example for the point the A.G. was making. But whether you agree that he’s always representing the law rather than serving politics, I was impressed that he took no opportunity to posture before Rotary. There was no ideological cant about “big government” or, to cite something his predecessor sank to in trying to run for governor, about promising to protect us from Obama and his Washington “vultures.” He opposes the mandate and sees it as constitutionally unsound. Fine. I just disagree. At least he expresses himself like someone who respects the law, rather than an ideological ranter.

And that counts for a lot. Now, to be perfectly frank, his website seems a tad more self-promotional than his speech today (I went there to get y’all a link to look up more about these issues and his involvement with them). But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good speech. That it was, and well received.

11 thoughts on “SC Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson at Rotary today…

  1. Brad

    Afterward, one of the few liberal Democrats in the club (not Kathryn, another one) said something scornful to the effect that we had just heard from “Governor Wilson.”

    I said we could do a lot worse.

    He looked as though he wanted to doubt me. I said, I think we’ve amply proved that point in recent years.

    There wasn’t much he could say to that…

  2. Steven Davis

    Rotary = Part-time Occupiers.

    What was accomplished in this meeting? I mean besides having a few dozen people skip work for a couple hours? Does Rotary have committees that are actually responsible for doing something or is it a co-ed Lady’s Aid gathering? At least they’d put on a bake sale now and again.

    Before you suggest I go and find out myself, I am one of those who has to work for a living and going to civic gatherings to back slap each other doesn’t really mean anything to me or my employer.

  3. Brad

    Actually, it’s more like a couple of hundred — heads of businesses, a few nonprofit and state and local agency people. And boy, is my back sore from all that slappin’!

    Rotary raises money for Salvation Army (we man the kettles and ring the bells at Christmas), for Alzheimer’s research (Kathryn can tell you more about that), scholarships, student exchange programs and other stuff. We do blood drives. Yesterday, I heard we’ll be doing something with Meals on Wheels. Rotary International is working, in partnership with Bill Gates, to eliminate the last vestiges of polio on the planet.

  4. Brad

    No, I’m not the secretary. What’s happened is that J.T. Gandolfo, the car dealer, is in charge of the programs this year, and he has gone out of his way to make most of the speakers people who will make news by speaking to us. (In recent years before this one, our speakers have usually been lower-profile.)

    Every week, TV cameras are set up at the back of the room, and reporters are standing back there as well. (This time The State didn’t send a reporter specifically for this, but John Monk is a member of the club, and he wrote the report referenced above.) If you check around, there are usually several reports on different news outlets about these speeches. I’m not the only one reporting on them. Normally, of course, this blog is concerned with commentary, not reporting. But since I’m there anyway…

    And when business people interact with other business people, they generally try to do it during the working day. Lunch is most popular, with breakfast second. They have to eat anyway, so they might as well eat then. I’ve participated in relatively few business dinners.

    Oh, and I wasn’t inclusive enough in describing the membership. It’s not just “heads of businesses;” it’s all sorts of people who play prominent roles in those organizations. Neither John Monk nor I nor John’s boss Mark Lett (a former member) were ever CEOs at The State. We were just people who are known to varying degrees in the community, and represent the paper as an institution in this important public forum. Or I DID do that, to be accurate.

    I joined Rotary back in the 90s because my supervisor, then-Publisher Fred Mott, told me to do so. I’ve stayed on since then because I wanted to.

  5. Brad

    Oh, another thing… I meant to write about last week’s speaker, a representative from Boeing, but didn’t get to it.

    There was no particular headline news generated. It was mostly about being happy to be hear, the SC workers doing a great job in spite of all the unions’ talk about what incompetent idiots we all are, a briefing on the aircraft itself, etc.

    Nothing new about the NLRB. There might have been if we’d gotten to questions, but he ran out of time.

    He did succeed in persuading me that the aircraft is a big breakthrough in airliner innovation. But the opinion of all those airlines lining up for them means a lot more than my opinion on that.

  6. Brad

    While the Boeing guy (John Moloney) didn’t get to it in his speech, Jeff Wilkinson asked him about the NLRB situation after the meeting ended, and this is his report.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    @Brad–there are far more “liberal” Democrats at Rotary than two. Anne Sinclair, Anne Walker, Rodger Stroup, Natalie Britt, Debbie Yoho, John Monk, Boyd Summers, Steve Benjamin…to name a few….

  8. Brad

    I said, “one of the few,” not one of the two.

    Not sure John, as a reporter, would particularly appreciate your characterizing him that way. But I allowed the comment, since John’s opinions are on the record from the days when he worked for me in editorial. Long time ago now, though. John is in many ways essentially a highly skilled general assignment reporter these days. He doesn’t seem to be allowed any time for the kinds of investigative work for which he’s known. Which is understandable, given the devastation of the news staff.


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