Vincent Sheheen’s new Web video

The first thing you’ll notice is the length of this: At 1:44, it’s too long for a TV ad; this was made to distribute on the Web.

Perhaps because it’s as long as it is, it’s more effective than other things I’ve seen from this campaign — the slow march of headlines appearing as you hear Nikki Haley say how proud she is of Lillian Koller has a cumulative effect.

Of course, I still can’t honestly know how many of these horrific tragedies can in any way be laid at the feet of Ms. Koller or anyone else in the agency. Deciding whether children should remain with questionable parents has always been a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition. There were deaths before Ms. Koller joined DSS, and there will be deaths after. If I’m wrong about the latter, I’ll be overjoyed, but I’m speaking from the base of what I’ve seen.

The larger point is about leadership and judgment. Was the governor right to so adamantly defend her director?

It’s perhaps instructive, to Democrats, Republicans and the rest of us, to compare this to the V.A. scandal on the federal level. President Obama stuck by Gen. Shinseki, up until the time he didn’t. And when Shinseki bowed out, the president used almost identical language to what the governor did — he praised the retired general, and said he was merely accepting the resignation so that Shinseki would no longer be a “distraction” from the task of solving the problem.

If there’s a difference, it may lie in tone. No-drama Obama was cool and dispassionate in standing by the general as long as he did. There was none of the this-is-personal touchiness that we get from Nikki Haley, particularly when she takes to her Facebook page.

Somebody pointed something out to me that I hadn’t picked up on — that during the session just ending, the governor’s staff kept her out of the State House for two of the three days a week the Legislature is in town. The purpose being to keep her from interacting with lawmakers in ways that would reflect badly on her in this election year.

I don’t even know if that’s correct or not — I haven’t studied the governor’s schedule. But if it is, it points to the thing as I said above is the key element to consider as voters. The last thing you want is a governor who stays away from the State House when the laws are being made, who doesn’t trust herself enough to stay cool and stay out of trouble. When I said that to the Republican who was making the observation, he smiled slightly and said what we know, that this governor isn’t all that interested in governing.

Which is another problem. But it’s tough to make punchy campaign videos, much less bumper stickers, that point these things out.

Koller 2

16 thoughts on “Vincent Sheheen’s new Web video

  1. Gary Karr

    For what it’s worth, Gov. Beasley was almost never out of the Statehouse when the General Assembly was in session. The schedule was set up that way so he could have maximum flexibility to meet with legislators. (I don’t know the accuracy of the claims about Gov. Haley’s schedule, of course)

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Family court is a tough business, even for private parties. Throw in a level of bureaucracy and it’s even harder. DSS has a huge caseload and difficult decisions to make. Sometimes there are no good answers. Sometimes there is only the answer that is the least wrong.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I would imagine that if I worked at DSS, I’d seldom go home feeling good and confident and satisfied with what I’d done that day. About the best I could hope for would be that I had done the “least wrong” things…

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      I agree, as one who worked on a case with Bryan, who impressed me with his diligence, unlike so many appointed lawyers, most of whom don’t really even know what would constitute doing a good job on a DSS case. I had several DSS/CASA lawyers teach me. We appoint lawyers to these important cases without regard to whether they have a clue. Many pay experts to take their cases, but many do not.
      Add to that caseworkers with weak credentials, and you get what you pay for: a cheap shoddy system punctuated with a few diligent, skilled workers, in a very messy environment, where mostly the parties are not articulate and not inclined to be forthcoming.

      I often asked myself whether the kid would be better at home or in foster care/group homes. You just don’t know, and training as a lawyer only helps you articulate and analyze. We don’t have social work backgrounds, for the most part!

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Yup, he was Guardian ad Litem, the toughest job, and I represented one of the parents. My last case, I believe, and one of his first.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author


            You know what? If I had to work in family court, I’d be useless. Just one horrifically sad story after another. I’d crack up. I’d probably just sit there in a chair and weep, and not stop.

            And I’m not the sort who cries. Except, you know, at the end of “Saving Private Ryan” and stuff like that. I definitely do NOT watch movies about the same kinds of things that happen in family court. “Kramer vs. Kramer” was kinda my limit, and that was probably pretty happy and shiny compared to the daily reality in SC family courts…

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              You just repeat my mantra, “I did not create your problem. I am here to help.”

              Kind of true for a lot of legal work. When you were a cub reporter, if you ever were, did you feel responsible for fixing the car wrecks and the like you reported on? At least when you are a lawyer, you are expected to help, but you will burn out (more rapidly) if you don’t keep in mind that you are a lawyer, not a magician.

              For real crazy-making stuff, try being on the end that tries to prevent messes, writing contracts and the like. That is a quick trip to Angstberg, if you are not supremely confident (deluded).

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              I was only a reporter very briefly, when I was very young. And like most reporters I felt no responsibility for the situations I was reporting on. I was remarkably detached — appallingly detached, really.

              As I grew older, I started to care. Eventually, that took me from news to editorial…

  3. Doug Ross

    I think Haley is smart to distance herself from the State House, especially Harrell. Until Harrell is kicked out, working with him would result in guilt by association,

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Sheheen doubtless has a better temperament than Haley, but it is not cool of him to capitalize on the mess that is DSS! I guess you sell what you got.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    What about the Slate piece on the Savannah River Site MOX boondoggle, complete with Nikki Haley’s insisting that more federal funds be spent. A commenter notes the rich irony, given her Medicaid stance.

    1. Juan Caruso

      “What about the Slate piece on the Savannah River Site MOX boondoggle, complete with Nikki Haley’s insisting that more federal funds be spent.”

      Rather odd that our federal government pretends to act as a cost-conscious business on the MOX, don’t you think? Especially, considering recent comments by the The U.S. Department of Energy (Reuters). The department said it is considering a plan to ship the nuclear waste from Germany to the Savannah River Site, a federal facility in South Carolina.

      “There’s no place to take high-level waste in the U.S.,” he said. “Uranium that is turned into commercial fuel is not contained inside nuclear waste. It’s pure material.” – Tom Clements, president of SRS Watch, a nuclear watchdog group in South Carolina.

      The “cold standby” thing is just another political gimmick designed to help certain candidates (Dems) promising reinstatement, if elected. What will happen if they are not elected? SC’s lawsuit will be dropped and DOE mismanagement (overspending) will resume. Wait and see, KF.

  6. Doug Ross

    As of this moment, the Sheheen video has 438 views. Not exactly going viral, is it?

    Hopefully he didn’t spend too many of those campaign contribution dollars on it. Maybe if he posts it to his MySpace page, he can double the traffic.

    1. Doug Ross

      There are 26 subscribers to the Sheheen campaign video feed on YouTube. I am guessing there are some high schoolers running for class president who have a larger following.


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