Our governor’s mature, calm, professional op-ed piece

During my vacation last week, I saw Nikki Haley’s op-ed piece taking issue with an editorial that took issue with her, shall we say, lack of precision with facts and figures. An excerpt from the Haley piece:

The State newspaper’s editorial board recently reminded its readers that they should verify the things I say (“There she goes again,” July 22). I couldn’t agree more. It’s a good reminder, and I encourage the editorial board to verify the statements of all public officials. The people of our state deserve an honest, open and accountable government that serves them, not the other way around. It’s something I’ve fought for every day of my administration….

If The State editorial board believes that I meant to imply that all 3,000 regulations the task force reviewed were recommended for extinction, then either I misspoke or the members of the board misinterpreted what I said. Either one could be the case — I am not always perfect in the words I choose, and I’d guess that The State editorial writers are not perfect either….

Here’s what struck me about the piece: It was lucid, mature, and to the point.

While it verged on sarcasm in one or two spots, it was considerably less defensive than I expected it to be, based on the topic and the author and her usual tone when complaining about being mistreated by the press.

She made effective use of her opportunity to get her own message out, rather than wasting a lot of her words and energy whining about the newspaper being mean to her.

I considered it to be a very grown-up, professional response. And it made me wonder who is behind this shift in style of communication.

And yeah, I know that sounds really, really condescending. But I don’t mean it to be. This governor has shown a tendency to be thin-skinned, and has lavished little love on the MSM, but based on my experience with op-eds from thin-skinned politicos in the past — not just her — this was a departure.

I’ve been in this situation enough to know when someone departs from the pattern, which goes like this: A politician or other public figure who doesn’t have the greatest relationship with the paper asks for space to rebut something said about him or her or something he or she is involved in. You indicate openness to running such a piece. It comes in, and it’s nothing but an extended whine about how mean the paper is, and the writer’s defense gets lost amid the moaning.

At that point, I would delicately suggest that the writer was doing himself or herself an injustice, and wasting an opportunity. I would suggest bumping up the parts that actually rebut what we had published, and leaving out all the unsupported complaining that was beside the point and bound to make the writer look petty and turn off a disinterested observer.

The writer’s hackles would rise, and I’d be accused of suppressing legitimate opinion and just wanting to leave out the stuff that made the paper look bad. When what I was honestly trying to do was help the writer avoid looking bad, and help him or her make the most of the space. To help the reader focus on the actual difference of opinion, rather than the acrimony.

Anyway, I started reading this piece expecting one of those experiences. But it wasn’t like that at all. The governor did a good job of fighting her corner, and looking cool and above the fray — and managed to spend some paragraphs getting her own message out beyond the immediate point of contention.

It was a very smart, professional job, and I was impressed.

22 thoughts on “Our governor’s mature, calm, professional op-ed piece

  1. Doug Ross

    I mentioned it before but when I saw her speak at a technology summit at IT-ology back in the spring, I was impressed with her focus, energy, and delivery.

    1. Doug Ross

      More criminal than Obama selectively choosing which pieces of his signature legislation would be implemented based on the impact it would have on elections?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Criminal? I think what he did was react to criticism and complaints, and try to make the implementation less onerous and painful to those complaining, or likely to complain. To give the law a chance to start working, if only partially.

        Whether he had the authority to postpone implementation of parts of the law is something I don’t know enough to judge. I do find it interesting, however, that Republicans are hooting and hollering about it NOW rather than when the president took these steps. Like suddenly (just before an election, by the way), it’s way more “illegal” than it was awhile back. (And yes, I know the legality was questioned then, but there wasn’t this loud, sustained campaign on the subject, or a lawsuit.)

        I suspect that some in the GOP are finding that the public doesn’t hate Obamacare as much as they’d hoped. Those steps Obama took to ease it in appear to have helped, and the GOP was hoping for an outcry. They had banked a great deal on such a negative reaction. Now, they’re trying to gin one up…

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “I think what he did was react to criticism and complaints, and try to make the implementation less onerous and painful to those complaining, or likely to complain. To give the law a chance to start working, if only partially. Whether he had the authority to postpone implementation of parts of the law is something I don’t know enough to judge.” -Brad

          Complaints and criticism of a law do not convey authority to the executive branch to delay enforcement of existing law. I hope that’s a fairly non-controversial statement. If you disagree with that proposition, then you’ll be happy to know that in a Caskey Administration, I may choose to simply delay enforcement of the capital gains tax, or delay enforcement of the minimum wage laws. How does that sound? Not so great, right?

          The executive (on multiple occasions) has unilaterally delayed the enforcement of the employer mandate. That’s a fact. No part of the ACA allows this.

          I think it’s fairly obvious that he did it solely for political purposes, but I would certainly concede that to be my opinion. Nevertheless, the motive for delaying enforcement of the law is irrelevant for our purposes here.

          Some more history: The Republicans do not like this law. They have never liked this law. Not one Republican voted for this law. In fact, the law had to be pushed through Congress using arcane rules to avoid a conference committee after the election of Scott Brown, on the platform of opposing the ACA.

          Congress basically ignored the will of the people and did an end run around the normal procedures of legislation to produce this law. It’s now the law, after surviving a constitutional challenge ending at SCOUTS, on a 5-4 decision.

          So here we sit. The supporters of this law are now so dedicated to holding onto it, they are willing to chuck principles aside to keep it.

          For instance, people are willing to simply let the executive pick and choose what parts of the law he wants to selectively enforce so as to not subject the public to the full force of the law as written – which would arouse the anger of the public, and be politically negative for Democrats. This is short term political gain, for long term bad precedent. It’s bad precedent to allow the executive to selectively enforce any law. If you think selective enforcement of the law is OK, then you really haven’t thought it through.

          Additionally, the Halbig suit: The relevant statutory language says that only state exchanges get the subsidy. It’s clear. That’s what the text of the law says. However, if you do that, then the law essentially collapses, as a significant number of states didn’t set up exchanges. Obviously, the people who wrote the law never considered that states might simply refuse to set up exchanges. (To quote Rick Perry: “oops”) The non-lawyer defenders of the ACA are now reduced to saying “Hey, man, it was a typo” while their lawyers are saying “Ummmm yeah….this text is ambiguous, so we need to rely on Chevron Deference to the IRS in it’s rule-making authority here” (What the Fourth Circuit did.) To me, the first argument is laughable, and the second argument is weak to the point of being almost laughable.

          Now, Brad may not have heard about this lawsuit, but people have been talking about it for a long time. Pretty much since the law was passed, and as Nancy Pelosi said “We learned what was in it”. This isn’t new. Halbig only became a problem now that lots of states have refused to set up exchanges. But normally, issues like Halbig aren’t a problem, because the executive just goes back to Congress and they pass a new law to make some changes. However, the executive doesn’t want to do that, because that would mean negotiating with the Republicans, and that’s apparently not on the table.

          Accordingly, rather than openly acknowledge the problem and concede that the law needs additional legislation, you have the executive defending a tenuous legal position and hoping the Courts will hold their nose and bail him out, since he doesn’t want to involve the legislative branch in the legislative process and involve the will of the people again.

          Keep in mind, Halbig isn’t a constitutional question. It’s simple statutory construction. The Supreme Court has pretty consistently ruled that statutory construction pretty much starts and ends with WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY? We write down laws with words, with a commonly understood meaning for a reason, sports-fans.

          It’s the job of courts to read statutes as written. If they need fixing rather than reading, that’s the job of Congress. I really don’t think that SCOTUS is going to bail out the administration on this. I can bore you with some law on this, but just take my word for it that this isn’t a controversial issue when you boil it down to the statutory construction. If SCOTUS grants cert, my guess is they’ll uphold the statute as written and basically tell the government to go fix it on their own – using the legislative process. That’s just my guess. Anything’s possible. (By the way If you don’t believe judges should be originalist/textualist, then I don’t see how you can also want them to be life-tenured & unelected, but that’s a whole ‘nother debate.)

          Now….why are the Republicans doing this? They want the law enforced as written to highlight how horrible it is and to highlight the bad precedent being set here. Ulysses S. Grant said: “I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”

          That’s basically the premise here. You want the ACA? Then take it. Take it good and hard. So are they trying to “gin up” negative reaction? Yeah, kind of. But I wouldn’t put it like that. I’d say they are trying to show the people what they have. The reaction is up to the people.

          Having said that, I think the Congressional suit against the President is stupid. Congress doesn’t need to sue the President. Congress is the most powerful branch of government. They are just refusing to flex the muscle. It’s called the power of the purse. (Stuff Madison Said, Vol. II)

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            They’re doing it because they are incapable of revoking the law. Which would be the normal legislative response.

            But thank you as always for your lucid, well-reasoned, thoughtful, lawyerly response….

    2. Silence

      Wasn’t the federal funding for the Medicaid expansion only temporary? Wouldn’t it have left us with an enormous additional burden for the state to bear once the federal money ran out?

      1. Doug Ross

        Of course, Silence. But there’s no sense bringing facts into the discussion. It’s all “free” money.

        The dumbest idea was asking individual states to come up with their own exchanges… followed by the dumb idea to release a website on the public months before it was ready even though anyone who ever wrote a program knew they had no shot of getting it right.

        1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

          It wasn’t “asking individual states;” it was permitting them. No state should have been allowed to opt out of any of it.

            1. Doug Ross

              They were asking for 50 different IT projects to be developed and tested at the same time. We saw how it worked out for the one who went on their own. Oregon NEVER got their system working.

              Pure stupidity designed to fund the pockets of well connected IT consulting companies who lobby the government.

      2. Kathryn Braun Fenner

        Or, shock and horror, we might have discovered that expanding Medicaid was a good idea, and maybe shaken the “money tree” the Governess is so fond of alluding to.

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        Silence, as I recall, the federal funding for the expansion would be 100 percent for three years, and then taper down to 90 percent thereafter. Which is way, way better than the 50-50 match states get on the current portion of the program.

        Here’s what the WashPost wrote in correcting a claim by Marco Rubio that the federal funding would “go away:”

        Currently, the cost of Medicaid is split at least 50-50 between the states and the federal government. There is a complicated formula that can alter the so-called federal matching percentage, but every state essentially gets back at least $1 for every $2 it spends on the program.

        Under the health-care law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Then the federal match is pared back to 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019 and then 90 percent in 2020 and beyond. It would stay at the 90 percent level unless the lawmakers change or repeal the legislation.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Taking the expansion was such a sweet deal for the states — although a better one for the folks who would get covered — that it made ZERO sense to turn it down.

          The decisions by SC and other states to reject it is one of the most dramatic instances in our time of the way blind ideology and rabid partisanship — in this case, the imperative among Republicans to reject anything and everything ever touched by Barack Obama — completely overrides logic.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            In Dune, Yueh described the Fremen as “people who draw knife at hearing the Harkonnen name, who hate the Harkonnens so much they’ll burn a chair in which a Harkonnen has sat, salt the ground over which a Harkonnen has walked.”

            Substitute “Tea Party Republicans” for “Fremen,” and “Obama” for “Harkonnens” to understand the current political situation.

            Oh, wait — I just made the ideological extremists the good guys. Never mind…


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