How about doing something GOOD that’s ‘unprecedented?’ For a change…

That would be nice. That would be a wonderful change from what we’ve seen ever since 2016, both nationally and here at home.

I’ve never seen anything like this happen in South Carolina. I saw it happen on the national level, though. Once. And once was enough. That was when Mitch McConnell violated his responsibility as leader of the U.S. Senate by refusing to let Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination even be considered in committee, much less come up for a vote.

That’s not exactly what happened here, but in a way, what the Legislature did yesterday was worse, just on a smaller scale. I say that because James Smith did get considered. Not only was he considered, but he was duly found qualified by the screening panel. (How could the panel have possibly reached any other conclusion?)

The only other candidate found qualified dropped out back in January. And yet this judgeship somehow didn’t come up for a vote until we were past the middle of April. And when it came up, lawmakers did the “unprecedented” thing: They refused to vote, and sent it back to the screening panel to try again. Here’s the AP story:

I’m thinking the AP version is more likely to be accessible to all. But here’s the P&C story that the image above refers to, the one with “unprecedented” in the hed.

That story had this passage in it:

State Rep. Micah Caskey, a West Columbia Republican who is chairman of the judicial vetting panel, voted to find Smith qualified on the panel but voted to spike his election during the joint assembly. He said that the role of the vetting panel is to check a candidate’s qualifications while the Legislature can consider a broader set of factors.

“More information was revealed with respect to various positions and statements he’s taken in the past,” Caskey said of the opposition to Smith, who was in attendance for the vote…

As y’all know, Micah is my representative. I supported him for that seat rather than run myself. And I have continued to support him. I’m meeting with him tomorrow. I’ll let you know if he has a good explanation for yesterday, or if anything else newsworthy is said.

What follows is aimed not only at him, but at everyone who participated in this sorry business.

But the only new “information” I have read about would be this:

Anti-abortion groups had pressured Republicans to reject Smith, who supported abortion rights during his political career….

In other words, something completely irrelevant. As I mentioned in my last post, I have utter contempt for people who judge others based on a single issue, that one or any other. Especially when, as in the immediate case, it has pretty much nothing to do with the matter at hand. (That was different in the Garland case, since SCOTUS had made abortion its business back in 1973. But what happened to Garland was still inexcusable, and will blacken Mitch McConnell’s name forever, especially since he remains proud of it.)

This is the kind of behavior you see from people who don’t think about abortion either way, not on any level that matters. They just use it as a litmus test to determine which “side” someone is on (in their feeble minds) so they can know whether to love or hate that person absolutely. Which is sickening. And people on both sides do it to some extent. That’s what Dick Harpootlian is counting on in his contest against Russell Ott.

Some other points:

  • Making all of this even more contemptible is the fact that they could have simply voted James up or down. That’s what honorable people — or people who don’t want to waste everyone’s time — would do in this situation. But they didn’t. Presumably, the cowards must not have thought they had the votes. They figured it was easier just to cop out, and throw it back to Micah’s screening committee.
  • Here’s where the alter cocker talks about how things were “in the old days,” but I assure you what I say is true. This would never have happened (and to my knowledge never did happen) before very, very recently. For instance, it wouldn’t have happened at any point during the 20 years James was in the House himself. People in both parties respected him too much. Of course, some of those people who would never have done this before did it yesterday. That’s because they’re now different people. The whole country is different.
  • Following up on that previous bullet, we now live in a country in which Republican lawmakers will do any contemptible thing — even abandon Ukraine to the bloodthirsty predations of Vladimir Putin — to pacify the loudest, most ourrageous lunatics in their ranks, people they would have laughed at a few years ago. That’s what we have sunk to.

I had coffee with James downtown this morning, keeping an appointment we set several days ago. He, like me, is very disappointed. Personally, I had looked forward to saying “your honor” when I saw him. For his part, I’m sure it’s painful to be treated this way by an insitution in which he served so honorably and respectably for two decades.

But James will be fine. Folks, in case you wonder, he didn’t need this job. He’s a partner in one of the biggest, most successful law firms in the state. Beyond that, he also enjoys serving on the PatriotPoint Development Authority Board. His grandfather served on USS Laffey, one of the ships in that museum, in World War II. He was on his way down there after our meeting this morning.

He ran for that judgeship because it was another chance to serve. James likes to serve his country and his state, perhaps more than anyone else I know. He has definitely proved his devotion to country. The P&C story noted that he is “a decorated combat veteran from the Afghanistan War.” That ain’t the half of it. As I wrote in 2006:

Rep. James Smith of Columbia was a JAG officer in the National Guard with the rank of captain, but he didn’t think that was doing enough. So a couple of years back, he started agitating for a transfer to the infantry. His entreaties were rebuffed. He bucked it up to Washington before someone told him fine, you can do that — as long as you give up your commission and start over as an enlisted man…

So that’s what he did. He went through basic training with kids half his age, and after OCS (that is, the Guard version of OCS) and advanced infantry combat training, went to Afghanistan and distinguished himself in combat. He was named to the Palmetto Military Academy Hall of Fame for that. You know why?

Because it was unprecedented.

34 thoughts on “How about doing something GOOD that’s ‘unprecedented?’ For a change…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Just to let you know that I can find things to smile about, even on a dark day…

    You see those pictures that ran with the AP and P&C stories above? Those were taken at the 2018 debate in Greenville.

    They made me think of this picture I took a few hours before that, when ETV was doing sound checks or whatever you call them:

    That’s Campaign Manager Scott Hogan pretending to be Henry. This photo is the only known documentation of a moment when Hogan was better dressed than James. Scott is wearing his only known suit, which he had bought a few days earlier for the Joe Biden appearance in Charleston. James is saving the suit he had brought for the debate for that night.

    See how Scott, as Henry, is pretending to be shocked and appalled at something James had said? Well, I’m not faking in reacting that way to what happened yesterday…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Speaking of Henry…

      He appointed James to the Patriots Point board. James mentions that whenever he mentions being on the board. He gives credit where it’s due.

      I’m sure Henry didn’t mind doing that. If only the members of his party in the Legislature could be that sensible and decent. James was even more qualified for the bench than he was for the board…

  2. Ken

    Ask Caskey why, in his view, his fellow Rep., Representative Neil Collins, from the conservative, anti-abortion Upcountry, was not persuaded to vote to recommit and instead joined the Dems. against. And how he rationalizes their different behaviors.

    1. Barry

      Neil intentionally tries to compromise and reach across the aisle of he can.

      I would also guess Neil thinks James Smith is a good person, an honorable person and feels he’d make a good judge. I think that is all that would matter to Neil.

      That’s not Micah.

      1. Robert Amundson

        I hope Brad understands the difference between Mr. Collins and his Representative Mr. Caskey. Seems that in his elected leadership position Mr. Collins leads, while Mr. Caskey follows.

  3. Barry

    1) Ralph Norman got involved in the state issue with his irresponsible and bombastic social media comments trying to nationalize a local judicial selection process.

    Ralph’s comments were as moronic as one would expect from a law breaker like Ralph (gun incident where he pulled out a loaded handgun in a restaurant. He was a CWP holder. It’s illegal for a CWP holder to take out their weapon in a public setting except for self defense actions. But law enforcement didn’t hold him accountable because he’s a politician.

    2) Folks like Micah Caskey let folks like Ralph Norman win.

    3) Never understood why you support Micah Caskey anyway. I’ve followed him closely and his votes. He’s a Freedom Caucus extremist without the nutty rhetoric- dressed up a little nicer with a few family stories thrown in. He votes nearly the same way- but will say it’s for different reasons. The results are almost always the same.

    In other words – I smacked you across the face Brad. But it was because I actually like you. It’s not because I dislike you.

    4) I have no idea what kind of judge he would be. The legislature gives such judges very little discretion on most issues and certainly no ability to rule on something that is clearly spelled out in state law.

    5) I’m sorry you are meeting Micah. I’m sure you’ll come away understanding his position and he’ll explain it perfectly well as politicians are known to do when necessary. Someone telling him face to face in a serious manner they were disappointed in him is not something he faces very much.

  4. Barry

    “we now live in a country in which Republican lawmakers will do any contemptible thing — even abandon Ukraine to the bloodthirsty predations of Vladimir Putin — to pacify the loudest, most outrageous lunatics in their ranks, people they would have laughed at a few years ago. That’s what we have sunk to.”

    This week- FINALLY- we’ve seen a small group of Congressional House Republicans say that there are some Republicans in the House that do want Russia to win in their invasion of Ukraine. They are Russian supporters and generally admire Putin and believe anything he says.

    It took a long time for them to admit it- but now some are admitting it publicly.

    1. Doug Ross

      Saying you don’t want to continue to give billions of dollars (of money created from thin air) to Ukraine when there are far greater priorities domestically doesn’t make anyone a Putin supporter. Ukraine has proven they can’t win.. nobody in their right mind ever thought they could… but Zelensky will keep taking the money as long as we’re dumb enough to send it. On the other hand, if the US is actually serious about defeating Putin instead of creating huge profits for defense contractors, let’s see Biden call for U.S. troops on the ground fighting side by side with the Ukrainians… Deficit tax dollars? Sure, we’ll send those all day long… because if Putin WAS defeated, then we’d have to invent another boogeyman to “fight”.

      Biden has reached the point now that he’ll spend, spend, spend as many deficit dollars that it takes to get re-elected. Why should he care? He’ll be dead by the time the massive deficits he approved tank the economy.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        “Saying you don’t want to continue to give billions of dollars (of money created from thin air) to Ukraine when there are far greater priorities domestically doesn’t make anyone a Putin supporter.”

        Yes, it does. And don’t bother explaining to me that that’s not true, and explaining what YOU think, etc. It most definitely helps Putin, more than anything else you could do (or, as in this case, fail to do).

    2. Robert Amundson

      Yes, and Brad posted about that victory. Finally some Hope. I wrote on another post about my family in the Philippines. My 6 year old is named Hope. Spectral Mornings: Although we are just tears and rust, please remember, there is always HOPE.

      I am living the future of multicultural and diverse. We need the Philippines – at times diplomacy is informal.

  5. bud

    I have zero sympathy for your post here. None. Zip. Nada. You endorsed that Caskey idiot and even put out a yard sign that prominently displayed his vile party affiliation! This was as predictable as the sun rising in the east. Or the effects of gravity.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I realize it looks that way to you. But I don’t get the “no sympathy” part. This is something you blame ME for. How does that translate to no sympathy for James (not that he needs it, as I said), or for the judiciary, or for a state in which our judges are chosen in such a manner?

      Unless your attitude is just, “The hell with everybody,” it seems like you might work up some sympathy…

      1. Barry

        There are some elected officials that look to compromise and work together as a matter of routine, day to day effort.

        Too many, Micah is one, aren’t really interested in that course of action. But he talks a good game and to many, talking a good game is really all that matters.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, you’re mistaken there. Micah does compromise with people he disagrees with. The problem is, that people on all sides. In this case, he’s working with the Freedom Caucus types, a faction he generally does not get along with.

          But see, that’s a bad thing, compromizing with those folks.

          Willingness to compromise is a good thing. But not always…

      2. bud

        Damn right I blame you. You’re an enabler. Until you get your head out of the sand and recognize this is the crap we’re going to get from the Gaslighting Odious Pander (GOP) party this is what we’re going to get.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          The thing is, my head IS out of the sand. So we disagree.

          But why emphasize that in this instance, since we are in agreement on the substance?

    2. Doug Ross

      On this, bud and I can agree. Caskey is a pure politician.. he was part of the gang that killed Tom Davis’ very restrictive medical marijuana bill two years ago to appease the holy rollers and busy bodies in the district. Nevermind that polls show very strong support for legal pot… gotta keep the pastors and sheriffs on his good side.

      1. Doug Ross

        Tom Davis’ medical marijuana bill — the most restrictive pot bill ever attempted – was killed in committee again by the idiots in the state house. Polling in SC shows 83% (83%!!!!) of voters in the state favor legal pot. Yet a small group of religious fanatics and law enforcement keep holding us back from joining the 37 other states that allow it. Micah Caskey is one of those politicians who refuse to do the will of the people.

    3. Doug Ross

      The only honest response Caskey could give in this situation would be: “I want to stay in office for the rest of my life like the rest of the Republicans”

  6. Robert Amundson

    You know I supported James, BUT: “University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen announced two new hires Monday: new Chief of Staff Col. Mark Bieger, and James Smith, who will serve as interim special assistant to the president. Caslen praised Smith’s record of public service in announcing his new role at the university.

    ” ‘James Smith has devoted his life to serving the people of South Carolina — as a combat veteran, state legislator and community leader — and I am proud that he has agreed to serve on my team. James was an invaluable asset when I first took over, navigating the complex dynamics among faculty, student body, alumni, legislators, local politicians and leaders of influence. I have grown to trust him and to count on his judgement, as I recognize the need to continue to build these relationships. James has helped to make this university stronger, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to better serve our students, researchers, faculty and the people of South Carolina.’ ”

    That was a serious political miscalculation, for which there are consequences. I’ve known James for over 20 years, but even war heroes can struggle politically. John McCain was so flawed – The Keating Five Scandal. The Savings and Loan (S&L) Crisis was a slow-moving financial disaster. The crisis came to a head and resulted in the failure of nearly a third of the 3,234 savings and loan associations in the United States between 1986 and 1995.

    During this crisis, five U.S. senators known as the Keating Five were investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee due to the $1.5 million in campaign contributions they accepted from Charles Keating, head of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. These senators were accused of pressuring the Federal Home Loan Banking Board to overlook suspicious activities in which Keating had participated. The Keating Five included one of my war heroes, John McCain.

    Presidential Candidate McCain chose Sarah Palin as a running mate. Sigh. Hope “nuff said,” made my point.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It wasn’t a political calculation. James lost friends over that, in addition to doing himself broader political harm. He just went with what he believed…

    2. Barry

      I always sensed James taking that job was political- but political cover for Caslen- not James.

      I felt Caslen knew he owned his job to Republican politicians at the state house and wanted to do something to make his tenure look less political. So reaching out to James made sense.

      no idea why James took the job other than $$$

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        It’s pretty simple to me. James is FAR more likely to like and respect a guy with Caslen’s military background than, say, your average faculty member.

        I was always agnostic on the guy. And I liked seeing Harris come back in as a sub…

  7. Barry

    “I’m meeting with him tomorrow. I’ll let you know if he has a good explanation for yesterday, or if anything else newsworthy is said.”


    What did Micah say that would suggest and what evidence did he offer you that Micah honestly didn’t think James Smith could properly handle murder cases, robberies, domestic violence, DUI cases, and drug cases (99.9% of the ones circuit court judges deal with)?

    “Honestly” is the key word. Or did he just offer some Republican baloney talk about abortion.

    Did you push back on his dismissal of James given Micah is someone you support?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Nope. Nothing to report for the good of the order. Nothing that constitutes “a good explanation,” or “anything else newsworthy.”

        Since then, I’ve been arguing — not heatedly, but arguing — with my dear friend Cindi Scoppe:

        James Smith’s judicial loss resulted from political rot. A win would have too.

        I disagree. I’d tell you why, but I don’t have time to write a book today.

        And as I said, we haven’t argued heatedly. She agrees that a rotten thing was done to James. But her recent advocacy for reform in the process causes her to attach moore negativity than I would to the way things worked to give James an edge. Other than that, our differences are subtle, inside-baseball stuff.

        But I thought I’d share with you her perspective on it. Some of you will see it her way…

        1. Barry

          Thanks for the response.

          I didn’t think Micah would have a good response because other than a 100% pure political move, there is no response MIcah could offer you.

          Micah should lose his job in the House. He won’t because he’ll remind some in Lexington how he stood up to someone like James Smith. So, he plays his political games and many folks, maybe even you will continue to support him. He knows that. So he loses nothing from screwing over decent people.

          After all, there is NO reason why James Smith could not enforce South Carolina law when it comes to murders, robberies, domestic abuse cases, sexual abuse cases, fraud cases, DUI cases, and the like.

          People like Micah Caskey are the problem in our political system. He doesn’t care. He also won’t pay any political price for it.

          and you ask me why I don’t vote anymore. That’s hilarious. It really is.

          But no worries. People get to stand in line again and vote for Micah in 6 months.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            He’s not playing games. As upset as I am with what he did in that case, he’s not playing games.

            He’s trying to survive.

            It’s all well and good to pretend that someone could run as a Democrat or an independent — in the district where Micah and I live — but that’s just not the case. He has to run as a Republican. A few years ago, in this district, that meant you could be a fairly moderate Republican. But not since 2016. Since 2016, all the moderate Republicans have either retired or been defeated by Trumpist extremists in their primaries.

            Two years ago, Micah won his primary against such an extremist by 25 votes. Today, he goes around with the number 13 echoing in his head. That many more, and she would have been elected. (“Nominated” you’d say, but here, if you have the GOP nomination, you’re elected.)

            You could also pretend that if Micah would only act like a moderate 24/7, thus gaining your and my applause, he could then hold his head high as he gets replaced in his next primary. He could not. He knows if he leaves, he will be replaced by someone like that woman, or someone worse.

            So he stays where he is, and fights where he can. And he’s been pushing hard against the “Freedom Caucus.” Some recent tweets:

            So, if you live in this district, you can have someone who works and votes against those people, and calls them out constantly, but sometimes disapponts you… or you can see him replaced by someone far worse, who will march in lockstep with those yahoos Micah opposes.

            That’s reality.

        2. Ken

          I read Scoppe’s piece. It was incoherent. And the argument made violated the rule against sacrificing the good for the perfect.

    1. Ken

      Here’s another piece of populistic, reactionary legislation that Caskey supports (H. 4710).

      And reporting on the populistically vindictive nature of the proposal, from the P&C:

      1. Barry

        A pretty shortsighted bill given that some industries have higher unemployment than others.

        But of course Micah Caskey supports it. It’s very predictable at this point.

        Folks like Micah have never had to spend one day in their life living on $236.

        I remember when I was in high school, my dad was laid off from his job. He applied to every similar company in our area, but other manufacturing companies were also laying off people at the time.

        He got unemployment insurance and started studying for an occupational license because he thought of changing careers. But, he hated the idea of it and to be honest, wasn’t very good at it because it wasn’t what he was interested in. He passed his licensing exam and worked in that field for about 2 years. Never made much money out it. Didn’t like it at all and ended up being gone from home more than he had ever been because of the job.

        Not all industries have the same unemployment issues. Caskey’s bill doesn’t take that into account though because he doesn’t care and can’t relate to it.

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