Nikki Haley could have saved herself (much of) this grief

The SC Democratic Party sent out this release a few minutes ago:

Nikki Haley’s Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week

After three days of condemnation, Haley finally drops white supremacist co-chair


It’s been a rough week for Governor Nikki Haley and her reelection campaign. But that’s what happens when you appoint, and then spend three days defending, a white supremacist co-chair to your campaign. Let’s recap:


One week ago, reports first surfaced that Nikki Haley had appointed a leader of a white nationalist group as a co-chair of her reelection campaign.


Southern Poverty Law Center: SC Governor Names White Nationalist to Reelection Committee. “Garcia-Quintana is a lifetime member and current board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which is listed as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The CCC is the linear descendant of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South, and has evolved into a crudely racist organization.” [SPLC, 5/22/13]


Two days later, amid calls for her to dismiss the white supremacist co-chair, Governor Haley and her team stood by him even as he doubled-down on his divisive rhetoric.


Haley rebuffs Dem demands that she dismiss controversial advisor. “Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election campaign has no plans to remove a controversial volunteer who S.C. Democrats and others say has ties to white supremacist groups…. ‘Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?’ Garcia-Quintana said.” [The State, 5/24/13]


Nikki Haley: No Plans to Remove Controversial Volunteer. “Over the past week, several media outlets have reported that one of the volunteers for Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election has been active in groups linked to right-wing extremism. On Friday, Haley’s political director Tim Pearson told Patch Haley has no plans to ask the volunteer, Roan Garcia-Quintana, to step down from the team of 170-plus volunteers.” [Patch, 5/24/13]


Over the weekend, Haley’s team launched political attacks and pointed the finger at others, while still defending their appointment.


Garcia-Quintana said he had “no plans to step aside and has not been asked to.” “Garcia-Quintana, a Mauldin resident, said he has no plans to step aside and has not been asked to. Even if he were, he said he would still volunteer on behalf of Haley. Earlier this week, Garcia-Quintana was linked to an organization that advocates for purification of races. He did not back off those views when he spoke to Patch on Saturday.” [Patch, 5/25/13]


Finally, on Sunday night before Memorial Day, Haley’s campaign finally asked Mr. Garcia-Quintana to resign, claiming ignorance on his beliefs (which they had just spent three days excusing).


Volunteer exits Haley campaign group after accusations of racism. “Haley’s campaign had been criticized by civil-rights groups and Democrats for the role played by Garcia-Quintana, who they said has ties to a white nationalist group. The campaign initially stood by Garcia-Quintana. But Sunday the campaign said it requested his resignation, which was offered and accepted, because it was “previously unaware” of some of Garcia-Quintana’s comments.” [The State, 5/26/13]


Post & Courier: “Flip-flop much?” “Pearson’s about-face was classic. On Friday, he said: ‘There’s nothing racial about this Cuban-American’s participation in the political process, nor his support for the first Indian-American governor and the first African-American U.S. senator in South Carolina history.’ Two days later, he said: ‘There is no place for racially divisive rhetoric in the politics or governance of South Carolina. While we appreciate the support Roan has provided, we were previously unaware of some of the statements he had made, statements which do not well represent the views of the governor.’ Flip-flop much?” [Post and Courier,5/29/13]


Now, editorial boards and columnists around the state are weighing in and asking the same question as South Carolinians: why did Governor Haley and her team spend three days defending a white supremacist and refusing to disavow his beliefs?


Post & Courier: Haley’s call right, but was reason? “Hold the hypocrisy. The cynical view here is that Haley used the holiday weekend to distance herself some from unnecessary controversy. Self-preservation is nothing new from the governor’s office. But maybe Haley actually didn’t want to associate with a guy who holds intolerant views, which would bode well for her political maturity. Or maybe she just realized it would have looked hypocritical to get indignant about Jake Knotts’ ‘raghead’ comment and then ignore this.” [Post and Courier, 5/29/13]


Rock Hill Herald: Haley dumps volunteer. “Gov. Nikki Haley did the right thing in dismissing one of the co-chairs of her grass-roots political organization because of his ties to a white nationalist group. The only surprise is that it took her three days to do so.” [Rock Hill Herald, 5/28/13]


It really has been a terrible, no-good, very-bad week for Nikki Haley.


But sadly for South Carolinians who continue to struggle with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, some of the worst public schools in the nation, and roads and bridges on the verge of crumbling, Governor Haley’s failure to lead is no surprise.

What I liked about it best was the headline that SCDP Communications Director Kristin Sosanie put on it: “Nikki Haley’s Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week.”

Somehow, evoking children’s literature seems apropos, given the intellectual level on which we conduct politics in SC.

Other than that, the release is garden-variety, partisan, kick-’em-while-they’re-down stuff.

The governor could have saved herself some of this grief had she just not played the usual game. Her team treated complaints about this “Confederate Cuban” in a manner consistent with the standard playbook that SC Democrats and Republicans take off the national shelf: If the other side criticizes you, dismiss it, and criticize the other side for criticizing you — because that’s just the way those awful people on the other side are…

A small amount of due diligence — an hour or two spent looking into this guy before saying anything, then going ahead and getting rid of him on the first day, explaining that you just hadn’t known — would have left her looking better. It also would have been extraordinary, given, as I said, the level on which we conduct our politics in South Carolina.

She could have had a “Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad” afternoon, rather than “Terrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Week” week. Or weekend, anyway…

51 thoughts on “Nikki Haley could have saved herself (much of) this grief

  1. Doug Ross

    Guess what? This “terrible” week wasn’t even a blip on most people’s radar over the long weekend. It’s only the “inside baseball” people who think this was a big deal.

    Some day the Democratic Party will talk about what they will do to improve South Carolina rather than talk about the elected politicians who beat them every time.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think the SC Democrats are straining to paint Haley as in political hot water in the same way the national Republicans are trying to do with Obama right now. Of course, the president has more current scandals running…

    2. bud

      It’s just a blip Doug because the Governor has become such a sordid political player that folks have become used to it. And South Carolina continues to seek out the bottom. I suppose eventually we’ll get there if folks like Nikki Haley keep at their disturbing games. For now we’ll have to be content to just keep on falling.

  2. bud

    Her team treated complaints about this “Confederate Cuban” in a manner consistent with the standard playbook that SC Democrats and Republicans take off the national shelf:

    Seriously Brad what a predictible thing to say. It’s as though you feel compelled by an unseen force of nature that compels you to make that kind of statement. Here we have a clearly racist fool that is not dismissed for 3 days and you turn this into a “Democrats and Republicans are all alike” screed. They absolutely are not. Let’s get one thing straight, Republicans in 2013 are far worse partisan players than are the Democrats. And frankly that’s one thing that keeps getting Obama into trouble. He tries too hard to play nice with the wackos in the GOP. No matter how much Brad wants to think the two parties are the same he is wrong. Just check out the Huffington Post article discussing which party gets the most PolitiFact Pants on Fires and Mostly False ratings. It’s the GOP by a country mile.

    1. T.J.

      Not to put words in Brad’s mouth, but I think his comment is aimed more towards the tone of the discourse rather than the content. While each party shades the truth, Republicans, as of late, have been the more egregious in offending in that realm. However, both parties are neck and neck (IMO) when it comes to the lack of civility and overall base level of discourse when dealing with their colleagues across the aisle.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I know that bugs you, Bud, but I can’t help seeing that the general tone of this SCDP release reminds me of the GOP efforts to portray Obama as hopelessly scandal-plagued.

    The problem is that people hear stuff like this and just tune it out, even though in this case, they ought to pay attention…

  4. bud

    Problem is that in this particular case there’s no need to even mention the SCDP as though they were on some type of Benghazi style witch hunt. The whole calamity was one of Haley’s making plain and simple. How could she let this fester for so long without dismissing the guy? I can understand that in a large statewide campaign it’s inevitable that a few miscreants will get into the mix. But this guy was uncovered for the serious scoundrel that he was many days ago. What took so long to give him his walking papers? It’s as though Haley is so stubborn to the point that she cannot recognize herself and her campaign as fallible. What an ego.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Look, Mark Sanford just got elected. What do you have to do in this state, so long as you have an R after your name, to be unelectable?

    1. Juan Caruso

      Your question makes a good one-liner (joke). It pales in comparison to the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2010 United States Senate, one Alvin Michael Greene, who was put there to assure the best possible turnout of minorities for lawyer Sheheen. Yes, Carol Fowler (lawyer) denied the obvious and claimed an oversight by low-level party functionaries. Lawyer Obama’s administration has claimed the same excuse regarding the IRS’s latest scandal. Some of us are not surprised by the connivances and machinations of elected lawyers.

      Sheheen is going to face some very tough questions this time around. Number one: Does he support Obama’s gun control proposals? I can hardly wait for his weasel-worded replies….

      1. Doug Ross

        You may be right, Juan. Sheheen’s message will be the same as 2010: “I’m almost as conservative as Nikki Haley just with less personal baggage… oh, and I’m for schools and jobs!”

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        The bitter irony here is that while we know all about Alvin Greene NOW, nobody knew anything about him before the actual vote, back when we needed to know…

        Well, almost nobody. Corey Hutchins had done his best. He had actually gone and interviewed him, which is pretty enterprising for a guy who works for a Columbia-centric publication. But Corey is an enterprising guy.

        No one else, to my knowledge, did any kind of due diligence on Alvin Greene before he became the nominee…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          What continues to amaze me, in the morbid fascination sense, is that people will still vote when they know nothing about the candidates. Which is what happened with Alvin Greene.

          I had always sorta known that was true (why else would “name recognition” be such a big factor in elections?), but I don’t recall another such dramatic demonstration of the fact.

          I just can’t imagine doing that.

          If you’ll recall, I voted in that primary. (Normally, where I live, I vote in the Republican primary, as otherwise, I don’t get any choices. But I was so disappointed in all the GOP choices for governor that I gave up my right to make my wishes known in all the other races on the ballot, just so I could vote for one candidate I felt good about — Sheheen.)

          Somehow I had it in my mind that governor was the ONLY office on which I’d be offered a choice in the Democratic primary in my Lexington County district. I was unaware that there was more than one person running for the U.S. Senate nomination.

          I looked at the ballot and thought, well, I’ve heard of Vic Rawl. And that was about it. He was the only guy I’d heard mentioned, and I knew next to nothing about him. I had never met him. I had never interviewed him. I didn’t know anything BAD about him. If I were one of those “name recognition” voters, I would have voted for him.

          But I thought that would be unconscionable. How could I vote for someone I knew so little about?

          So I left it blank. And Alvin Greene became the nominee. Because so few bothered to vote for Vic Rawl. And yet… I was the one doing the responsible thing…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Alvin Greene did not get elected.

            Not sure what Vincent Sheheen has done wrong besides practice law….

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oops. My memory is imperfect,

            A few days before that primary, I wrote this:
            “Whereas, if I do take a Democratic ballot, I get to vote for governor, and between Vic Rawl and someone named Alvin Greene for US Senate, and… that’s it.”

            So I did know there was a choice in the Senate primary on the Democratic side. But I promptly forgot that I knew that, because it totally surprised me in the voting booth. (Unless, of course, I’m misremembering THAT.)

            So, my bad.

      3. Mark Stewart

        Sometimes you make me want to go get a law degree, Juan.

        I think gun control is a reasonable idea. Reasonable people think gun control is a reasonable idea. But this is the South. People conceptualize reasonable differently. Often. More guns are mo’ better around here.

        I don’t think you would ever see Sheheen personally take a strong stand on restrictive gun controls. But anyway, as a candidate for governor of SC, that is not a issue of relevance to his campaign, or to any other candidate’s campaign here. You are throwing up just another cardboard cutout.

        Critical thinking is a skill everyone should strive to acquire. I know it is something central to education in law schools; but there are many other avenues where one can pursue acquisition of this skill. Don’t be afraid to try one or more of these alternate paths, Juan.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Cardboard cutouts make effective opponents in this state. See, Pelosi, Nancy….

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    To elaborate on what I was saying to Bud earlier

    Here’s how this release reminds me of what Republicans do…

    The IRS thing is bad. But in terms of anything we know at this point, it is NOT the major scandal that Republicans make it out to be — at least, in terms of blaming Obama for it.

    Similarly, this guy being on Haley’s committee was bad. Reflexively defending him was bad, too. And it’s emblematic of a problem with the GOP in SC, which is that there are some people who gravitate toward it largely because they see it as the “white man’s party.”

    All of that’s bad.

    But… by itself, it’s not some major, major deal reflecting on Nikki Haley personally. Democrats make like this thing dragged on and on.

    No, it didn’t. Not really. Personally — and I’m a guy who keeps up fairly well with politics — I didn’t focus on it until Friday. It was out there a little earlier, but frankly, I don’t think most people heard about it before Friday. That was the day before a three-day weekend. By the time that weekend was over, the guy was out.

    Yeah, he should have been out before that. And no, it does not say good things about Nikki Haley that this guy was attracted to her campaign. There are a lot of fringe elements out there in this loose aggregation we call the Tea Party, and this is what you get for buddying up to them.

    But I don’t think it says as much about Nikki Haley as Democrats hope it does. Just as I don’t think the IRS thing says as much about Barack Obama as the Republicans hope.

  7. Stephen Davis II

    It’s going to be interesting to see how you handle Sheheen as governor… I’m guessing you’ll treat it like the second coming of Obama. I predict that you’ll write how the guy will do no wrong and everything will be right in the state.

    1. Steve Gordy

      Well, no one in the Democratic Party is likely to present Vincent Sheheen as the wave of the future, so he will probably spend more time in-state than does our present Governor. Flying all over the country trying to live up to peoples’ exalted expectations is a terrible burden.

  8. Brad Warthen

    You’re forgetting a couple of things.

    One, I was really, really for Mark Sanford before he was elected governor.

    And I voted for John McCain against Obama.

  9. Silence

    The Very Hungry Governor:
    In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.
    One Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry Chris Christie.
    He started to look for some food.
    On Monday, he ate through one bagel. But he was still hungry.
    On Tuesday he ate through two slices of pizza, but he was still hungry.
    On Wednesday he ate through three pieces of Salt Water Taffy, but he was still hungry.
    On Thursday he ate through four hot dogs, but he was still hungry.
    On Friday he ate through five hogies, but he was still hungry.
    On Saturday he ate through one cake from Carlo’s Bakery, one dead mafia don, one bucket of blueberries, one pine tree, and Snookie, …..
    …… one gelato, one piece of pie, one plate of spaghetti, one cheesesteak, and one billion dollars of federal disaster aid.
    That night he had a stomachache!
    The next day was Sunday again.
    The governor ate through one nice bottle of Maalox, and after that he felt much better.
    Now he wasn’t hungry any more – and he wasn’t a little governor any more. He was a big, fat governor.
    He invited Obama to go down to the shore with him, and built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself.
    He stayed inside for more than six months. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and….
    …. he was a liberal media darling!

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I love it, Silence!

      This is one of the great things about a blog. People will spend time generating creative content for you, and you don’t have to pay them…

  10. Rose

    “Somehow, evoking children’s literature seems apropos, given the intellectual level on which we conduct politics in SC”

    The SCGOP calling Sheheen “Vince” is also silly and childish. They’d scream and rant if Vincent & the Democrats started calling Haley “Nimrata.”

  11. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, talking about the Republicans trying to make Obama out to be in so much trouble, I neglected last week to share with you this interesting piece at NPR:

    Public opinion about the scandals plaguing the Obama administration is decidedly mixed.

    Republicans believe that the trio of controversies — concerning Benghazi, the IRS, and the Justice Department snooping on media phone records — are evidence enough that President Obama is either running a government motivated by partisan politics, or is badly out of touch.

    Democrats, however, are proving to be much more forgiving.

    “These things are being used for political purposes,” says Lois Yatzeck, a retired minister in St. Louis. “Obama’s political foes are taking advantage of it.”

    Yatzeck’s read on the situation is widely shared. Public opinion polls suggest that Republicans are paying much more attention to these matters and are much more likely to disapprove of Obama’s handling of them. Democrats, meanwhile, have been more steadfast in support.

    As a result, even as Congress and the rest of Washington have been consumed by these issues for more than a week, the president’s approval ratings have yet to take any noticeable hit.

    “Part of the issue is that people’s opinion of the president is already baked in,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll. “These are rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats, not the leaders in Washington, and yet we found this very large gulf between them.”…

    That’s what’s so sad about all this. Even when a president or a governor deserves the criticism being leveled at him or her, it accomplishes nothing in terms of modifying voters’ opinions.

    I actually think there’s a little more flexibility in the SC electorate. That was reflected in the fact that, after so many questions were raised about Nikki Haley in 2010, Sheheen came so close. So some South Carolinians actually pay attention, and think about something other than the R or D.

    Or maybe I’m just wanting it to be so, because the alternative explanation — which Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford so firmly believe in (which worked so well for Sanford recently) — is so depressing.

    1. Doug Ross

      Would a Haley victory over Sheheen in 2014 rank at the top of a “Top 10 Most Disappointing Election Results” list?

      If he doesn’t win, is there ANY Democrat on the horizon who could? Steve Benjamin maybe?

    2. bud

      I actually think there’s a little more flexibility in the SC electorate.

      Actually not. Nate Silver did a good piece a while back focusing on voter elasticity. What that means is that a state can be ON AVERAGE fairly Democratic or fairly Republican but on occassion can swing pretty far away from their normal. Alaska was one of the most elastic states in the nation. In spite of voting for Republicans the vast majority of the time they can sometimes fool you and have moved to the left in a couple of key senate races in the past few years. New Hampshire is likewise fairly blue but, being somewhat elastic, can sometimes swing Republican as it did in the 2000 POTUS election.

      Mississippi is the least elastic state. Even though they are ON AVERAGE not nearly the most Republican state in the country they tend to vote solidly at about the same percentage in just about all statewide elections. So even if someone like Barack Obama can muster 45% of the vote in Mississippi he will never budge that number any higher. Nor could any other Democrat. It’s pointless for a Democrat or for that matter a Republican to ever campaign in an inelastic state like Mississippi. Alabama and South Carolina are not too far behind in that regard. South Carolina is a very inelastic state and thus a Democrat is unlikely to break through any time soon.

      1. Silence

        I disagree with that assessment wholeheartedly, bud. Haley only beat Sheheen by 4% last time (51%-47%). Remember, the 2010 election was a mideterm election and a massive defeat for Democrats. A popular, well financed candidate could do well and win SC under better circumstances, and without the right wing landslide that went on that year. Heck, Sheheen could probably do even better this time.
        I don’t think that there’s any SC Dem who’s well positioned to run this cycle against Haley, but next cycle there’s several who could be in the mix.

        As Doug mentioned, Benjamin could probably do it – if Columbia’s finances and leadership don’t re-implode by then. I honestly don’t think he’s doing a very good job as Mayor, but he’s certainly doing a good PR effort and could run a solid campaign.
        Joe Riley could do it, but I doubt he’d run again.
        Anton Gunn could come back to SC and start laying the groundwork if he wanted to.
        Same with Inez.
        Alex Sanders has name recognition, and certainly has the experience and chops.
        I think any of them would be superior candidates to Sheheen.

        1. Doug Ross

          Riley would be 75 in 2018. Inez would be 67. Sanders is probably in that same age group.

          My guess is that the 2018 candidate will be an African American. It’s time.

          1. Silence

            Agreed, Doug. Here are some of the fine candidates I’d like to see in the Democratic Party gubernatorial primary:
            Alvin Greene 2 Electric Boogaloo
            Robert Ford
            Mignon Clyburn
            Lilian McBride
            Gilda Cobb-Hunter
            John L. Scott
            Todd Rutherford
            Mia Whateverhernameisthisweek

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Silence, why on Earth would you include Mia and Gilda in a category that includes Alvin Greene and Robert Ford? Surely you’re not equating them.

          3. Silence

            I wasn’t intending to “equate them” I was merely supposing a list of African American politico-types who might be good or entertaining candiates for governor of SC. Some are obviously more qualified than others….

          4. Silence

            Just so that nobody gets all butt-hurt I’ll make a list of Republicans who could run for Governor post-Haley as well:
            Rudolph Andreas “André” Bauer
            Kirkman Finlay III
            Jakie Knotts
            Alan Wilson
            Gresham Barrett
            J. Strom Thurmond
            Tim Scott
            Larry Grooms

          5. Mark Stewart


            What? No Lee Bright??? Or Kevin Bryant??? Where’s the entertainment value? We can’t depend just on Jakie Knotts on the Republican side (Andre got old a long, long time ago) – Grooms could help for sure, but not so reliably throughout a full campaign season.

  12. Silence

    So good that we are dipping into our reserves yet again. But the budget is balanced.

    1. Mark Stewart

      …To buy a POS obsolescent warehouse. I want to see the analysis that captures the actual IRR when this is all said and done. There is no point complaining at this point; the funds are now committed. The attendant effort better be as well. Otherwise this cotton warehouse is a cotton mouth choke.

          1. Doug Ross

            I mean you can’t measure the “feel goodness” of saving an old warehouse. It’s priceless. So the IRR is infinity!

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