Category Archives: 2024 President

Let me know if you can read these two good Dionne pieces

OK, I’m going to conduct an experiment here. Please help me out.

The last couple of weeks, E.J. Dionne has had two really excellent columns. There’s nothing unusual about that. But there’s something new — or something that I hadn’t previously noticed — about them. Here’s the first:

Did you see that at the end of the tweet — “my column free access?” I’m asking y’all to try to link and read the column, and let me know if you’re able to do so without being a subscriber. Then, leave your thoughts on the column.

I loved the piece, because E.J. is getting to the heart of my great appreciation of Joe Biden. Because I am both liberal and conservative myself, I see Joe as the only hope left to the country. We had plenty of such people to choose from in the decades after 1945. And we needed them. We need them more than ever now. But now there’s just Joe.

But E.J.’s piece also shames me a bit. I say the same things he’s saying here all the time, but I tend to present them as truth without the careful documentation and explanation. This is possibly because I grow weary of repeatedly explaining how I arrive at conclusions that have taken seven decades of thought and observation to reach. And people shrug it off, because they think it’s just the ranting of an alter cocker.

But I guess it’s also because I don’t get paid anymore to put in the time to dig up all the evidence supporting conclusions I reached long ago. So I don’t. Too much time spent doing what little I do to make a modest living. And doing it around those naps that are the residue of my stroke in 2000. I can do all the things I used to do, but I have less time in which to do them.

In any case, I’m very appreciative to E.J. for taking the time to explain it to his readers, especially since I know he’s busier than I am.

Now, the other column, which features the same “free access:”

First, again, please let me know if you can read it. Beyond that…

Another good piece. There are, of course, many things that, considered alone, tell us “all we need to know about him.” You could compile a lengthy list of things that, considered singly, should cause any voter to run the opposite way. But this should be, if not the top item, at least very close to it.

Anyway, I wanted to share these columns because they’re important, and I’m thinking E.J. gets these points across batter than I do.

Beyond that, though, I really want to know whether those links work for nonsubscribers.

This is one of the things that concerns me most about blogging these days. To me, almost everything worth discussing these days is from things I subscribe to. This was fine 10 or 15 years ago, before everybody got so serious about pay walls. Now, it’s a huge problem — I bring up something, and I want everyone to read it so we can have a discussion with everyone fully informed, but most people can’t open it. Because normal people don’t subscribe to four or five newspapers.

So when I get a chance to share, I seize it. But please let me know if it worked for you…

What Nikki Haley should have said and done from the start

‘Hints’ are not, and were never, enough…

Finally, Nikki Haley has a headline she can cut out and frame, if she has access to a print edition:

Nikki Haley Wins the Washington, D.C., Primary, Ending Trump’s Streak

Not that it means much. Do any Republicans actually live in D.C.? Is there not a local ordinance against that?

But we cherish whatever we have to celebrate.

Meanwhile, on Super Tuesday — possibly her last day in the race — she’s still trying to figure out who she is and how she wants to run. And she’s REALLY confused about her primary opponent, and the man the GOP nominee will face in November.

Let me refer you to this Washington Post story, “Haley hints she isn’t bound by loyalty pledge to support GOP nominee.”

But she still backs away from saying things you should say if you ever really want to beat the man who is almost certainly going to be the GOP nominee.

The NYT says it even better: “Nikki Haley Ducks and Weaves on Trump Endorsement, I.V.F. and Jan. 6.

If you’re running against Trump, the very first thing you have to do is tell the truth — about everything. That’s assuming you know what the truth is, and I’m not sure Nikki does. But let’s say she does — because she would need to know what it is, and tell it, to win.

Not that the odds would be in her favor. They never were. So she’s absurdly careful. She’s terrified of offending Trump supporters. So she says such idiotic things as this:

When asked directly if she would endorse Trump if she dropped out, she wouldn’t answer but said she has “serious concerns about Donald Trump. I have even more concerns about Joe Biden.”

Nikki may lack the sophistication and judgment to be president of the United States. And I think she does. But I don’t believe even she has more “concerns” about Joe Biden, or about anyone on the planet, than about Trump. If she believes that, she shouldn’t be running.

Which is why — even though we see examples of Democrats and independents turning out for her in states with open primaries — we won’t ever see enough of them for her to win unless she inspires far more of them, and the Never-Trump Republicans, to get behind her.

She needs every one of them. And she’s not going to get them to step up for her unless she throws all her timidity to the winds and tells the complete, unvarnished truth about everything.

Of course, it’s almost certainly too late now. But I’m Monday-morning quarterbacking here. And from the very beginning, from the moment she launched her campaign, she should have said, loudly, clearly and boldly:

  • The fact that Donald Trump ever occupied the White House, and even worse, the fact that we know “Republicans” will vote for him again, makes me ashamed to be a Republican. And it was once such a noble party. (Yep, I’m burning bridges right off the bat. They need to be burned, and a person who could seize this nomination would have the guts to do it.)
  • It would be extraordinarily dangerous for him to regain that power — for the country and for the whole world. And it would be the greatest gift we could give to those abroad who hate America.
  • And don’t give me that nonsense about “the world didn’t come to an end when he was president before.” Even if you’re too blind to see the damage he did to our country, especially on the world stage (something I learned a lot about when he named me, a completely unqualified person, to be ambassador to the U.N, solely to make a man who supported him governor of South Carolina), you certainly hear the things he’s saying now. He’s made it clear what he will do, given another term. And rest assured that there will be no “grownups in the room” this time. His appointments would no longer make any attempt at a veneer of legitimacy.
  • There are so many reasons to say these things — he give us more every day, but this one would be enough: On Jan. 6, 2021, he egged on a mob to attack our nation’s capital. And he did it to overthrow the clear results of a legitimate election removing him from power. We all know this, regardless of how the court cases come out. (“We all know this” works, remember, because she’s not trying to appeal to people who pathetically try to deny it.)
  • As for you who think — as I once did when I was parroting silly nostrums like “I want to run government like a business” — that he’s a good businessman, so he’s a good leader… This is probably the sleaziest businessman any of us have ever encountered. And you don’t have to wait for a court case to be settle to convince you of that. We recently got 355 million confirmations on that point. (OK, she couldn’t have said that when she launched, but she could say it now.)
  • Not only will I not support Donald J. Trump if he becomes the nominee, I assure you: In that tragic event, I will be voting for Joe Biden in November. I don’t much like President Biden. I disagree with him on a LOT of things. And even if I agreed with him, I think he (like Trump) is too old. But wrong as he is, he’s a normal, decent, sane human being. And voting for him will be the ONLY way to stop Trump — which anyone who cares at all about this country should be committed to doing. A write-in to make yourself feel good will accomplish nothing. You have to vote for the one person with the chance to beat him.

And thousands of other things. She could say something different every day, never repeating herself, illustrating why it is essential for anyone who loves this country to stop Trump — and it is especially a duty for anyone who also cares about the Republican Party, which is facing its last chance to recover and redeem itself.

She should have said all these things without hesitation, because she had nothing to lose — and everything to gain.

But, she didn’t.

 

The real ‘bias’ in the news

OK, here’s another point I’ve made many times before, but the reporting on the Michigan Democratic primary offered another illustration of it.

There is one predominant “bias” in news reporting, and it’s very harmful to the country. It’s journalists’ addiction to conflict. This is very harmful to the country. (Another one that may be just as harmful is the tendency to explain and interpret everything, from global security to pop culture trivia, in terms of the next election. But that’s somewhat less relevant to what I’m writing about today.)

I don’t think reporters and editors are doing it on purpose. Their brains are just stuck in this mode. When they encounter a story that lacks significant conflict, they instinctively exaggerate what little they can find. It happens on a subconscious level, I believe. At least I hope it’s never conscious.

Anyway, we saw it in Michigan, where Joe Biden won the essentially uncontested primary with 81 percent. It was a victory margin Trump would kill for (and assume his MAGA mob would still support him, of course).

And yet what sort of coverage did we see, over and over and over? On the GOP side, it was about how Trump continues to crush his opposition. And as he always does, he gloated and boasted, and everything he said was dutifully reported.

On the Democratic side, headline after headline after headline said “Biden wins, BUT…” (The one you see above from my NYT Audio app — “Biden Takes a Hit in Michigan…” — was the most disproportional, unhinged hed I saw. Most stuck with the milder “but” construction.)

The “but” is a reference to the small number of Democratic primary voters who opted to vote “Uncommitted.” How small? 13 percent. This is attributed to a campaign in that state to protest the war in Gaza.

So, what do you think that means? Not much, as I see it. These voters did not choose to vote in the Republican primary.* They would have been crazy to do so, if their goal is to stop the fighting over there. They apparently realize that Trump is FAR less likely to do what Biden is constantly doing — trying to restrain Netanyahu (which is an uphill battle, since Netanyahu’s best chance of staying in office is to prolong the war). But of course, lots of voters do entirely irrational things — a phenomenon you can see amply demonstrated over in the Republican contest.

And they didn’t vote for another Democrat, presumably because one who will magically make them happier about Gaza doesn’t exist.

Mind you, this small “but” isn’t some harbinger of what will happen elsewhere. Michigan has the largest number of Arab-Americans in the country. This is the one place you would expect such a protest. But what if it did happen elsewhere? What would that 13 percent mean in this primary or another? Nikki Haley got twice that percentage in Michigan, but where’s the foreboding language about what a problem that is for Trump?

The only remotely plausible reason I saw or heard presented anywhere for making a big deal of this was the idea that Michigan is a swing state, and anything that might cut into Joe’s vote even slightly could be important in November. But that’s not gonna keep this Biden supporter up nights between now and then. (This brings up a third harmful “bias” we see in political reporting these days — the obsession with trying to predict WHAT WILL HAPPEN far in the future rather than simply reporting what actually has happened.)

Anyway, I just thought I’d point this out before the memory fades. Media outlets were desperate to find a fight somewhere in this boring non-contest, and this is all they could come up with…

This sort of headline was more typical.

Thoughts about the primary? No? Then we’ll move on…

I actually meant to write a little bit more about it over the last couple of days, but was busy. I had to take my Mom to the emergency room Friday, and she (and I) spent the night there and she didn’t get discharged until late Saturday afternoon. She’s better now, I’m happy to say.

So I got home pretty wiped out from the hospital, and might have commented on the vote last night, but my wife and I went to a performance of the South Carolina Philharmonic, which we thoroughly enjoyed — especially the Gershwin at the end.

So, if you followed the primary last night, we had more fun than you did. But to go ahead and say a few things:

  • The result was about as I expected. It was somewhat better than the polls I had seen, but about what I expected in the real world — 20 points. Nikki managed to counter some of the crazy, but not that much of it. She was more successful back in South Carolina when she embraced the crazy, in 2010. Back then we called it the Tea Party instead of MAGA, but it was just a different stage in the GOP’s descent into madness. Here’s that picture again of her standing proudly with Sarah Palin, to illustrate the point.
  • Should she drop out now? Of course not. That shouldn’t happen before the money from the Koch organization and others who wish to rescue conservatism from Trumpism runs out. No one but the Trump people want her to drop out — no sane people do — and the fact that her continuing to run frustrates Trump is probably enough reason for a lot of people to holler, “Go, Nikki!”
  • It’s interesting to read the many points of view cheering Nikki on. If you can get past the paywalls, I wish you’d check some of them out: From The Washington Post alone, George Will, Jim Geraughty, and Kathleen Parker.
  • Of course, she won’t win the nomination and she shouldn’t win the general election — the first because the overwhelming majority of Republicans have lost their minds, and the second is that she lacks the qualifications to be president.

I need to stop now because I have another time crunch on my hands. When I come back, I’ll probably write about something else.

DeMarco: Democrats and Independents: The Time to Stop Trump is Feb. 24

The Op-Ed Page

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Rarely does a state have an opportunity to make history the way we do on Feb. 24 in the Republican presidential primary election.

South Carolina may be Nikki Haley’s last chance to derail Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. It will be hard for Haley to justify remaining in the race until Super Tuesday without a strong showing here.

I won’t rehearse all the reasons Trump is bad for America, just two quick points. First, Republicans could get all they say they want – conservative policies, family values, and respect for the Constitution – from Mike Pence and several other prominent Republicans. Yet they are drawn to Trump’s scorched-earth approach, despite the Sisyphean rock of baggage he bears.

Second, Trump has proven he is dangerously unpredictable. Almost no one on Jan. 5, 2021 would have predicted what happened the next day: a sitting president encouraged his VP to overturn the will of the people, exhorted the gathered crowd to march on the Capitol, and then watched passively for three hours as they ransacked it. When he finally sent out a Twitter video asking the crowd to disperse, his message to the rioters included “We love you; you’re very special.”

S.C. Democrats and Independents propelled Biden to the nomination in 2020. Our task in 2024 will be less comfortable and potentially riskier. Like me, you may prefer Biden over Haley and have deep policy disagreements with her. But this election is less about the candidates than about America herself. Both Biden and Haley will try to leave America better than they found her. Trump has no such desire.

If you are like many in this state and nation, you have had Trump’s number since he first announced for president in 2015. You recognized what a small, soulless human being he was. You understood his drive to be revered and his dearth of compassion and loyalty. Over the past eight years, you have endured his fountain of lies, from the claim that Obama was not a citizen to his claim that he won in 2020. You’ve asked yourself again and again, is this is the best the Republicans can do?

This is your moment. The turnout in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Feb. 3 was predictably low, since Biden had only token opposition. Only about 131,000 voters participated (about 4 percent of the state’s more than 3 million registered voters). In 2020, when the outcome was not a foregone conclusion, about 540,000 voters participated in the Democratic primary. That means more than 400,000 voters who turned out in 2020 stayed home this year.

So if you’re a Democrat or Independent who voted in 2020 but didn’t vote on Feb. 3, you can make history. If we leave the election to usual Republican primary voters, the latest polls predict Trump will win by 65 percent to 35 percent. If there is healthy turnout, say 700,000 votes, then the final tally will be roughly Trump 455,000, Haley 245,000, a difference of 210,000 votes.

The 400,000 of you who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary but not in the 2024 primary can swing this election. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of others who didn’t vote in the 2020 primaries who could vote this time around. Everyone, yes everyone, except the 131,000 who voted on Feb. 3, is eligible to vote in the Republican primary (South Carolina has an open primary system, so you can vote in one primary or the other, but not both).

There are two ways to use this power. One is cynically, by trying to elect the weakest opponent for the other side so your candidate can beat them in the general. The better way is to help elect the strongest candidate for the other side, so that America will have the best choice possible. If Haley wins and then goes on to beat Biden in the general, I will disagree with some of her policies, but the country will be in sane, stable hands.

Imagine you have an infant child or grandchildren. How will you explain your vote for Trump to them in 15 years, when they are old enough to understand politics? I suspect many South Carolinians regret their vote for Strom Thurmond as candidate for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948 (more than 70% of SC voters chose him) or for George Wallace in 1968 (over 30% of SC voters). How an evangelical Christian will explain his or her vote for Trump in 15 years to intense questioning from a skeptical teenager, I have no idea (although I would pay to watch it).

I am hoping South Carolina plays the role Iowa did in January 2008 in its first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential caucus. In a state with challenging demographics, Barack Obama won and was propelled to a general election victory over John McCain. Whether or not you agree with Obama on policy, his respect for the office was clear. He adhered to essential presidential norms and left the fundamentals of American democracy as strong as he found them. Needless to say, if someone with McCain’s integrity was the Republican front-runner in 2024, this column would never have been written.

On Feb. 24, we can make a statement similar to the one our countrymen and -women in Iowa made 16 years ago. We can signal the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s political career by voting for Nikki Haley.

A version of this column appeared in the Feb. 14 edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

OK, I voted for Joe, but it wasn’t easy…

I mean, it was easy in terms of not having to wait in a line, and the weather was nice, and the pollworkers were all helpful and professional. And I was unconflicted about it — despite my Hamlet routine the last few days — because I love to vote for Joe.

But in other senses…

I showed up at my usual voting place — for the Quail Hollow precinct — and was greeted by the sign you see at the end of the post. Which made me wonder, WTH, but when I got to Gray Collegiate, one of the pollworkers — who normally works the Saluda River site — explained to me that the party, trying to save money, had asked for the reduction in polling places, to save money.

The arrows were helpful, since I’d never been here before…

OK that made sense, since I and everyone else knew the turnout today would be next to nothing, with Joe having no actual competition. (The weird thing, though, is what I heard later from another pollworker who works at another site across the county — she said the voting places are reduced for the Republican primary on the 24th as well. If that’s correct, THAT is going to be a mess, with all the Trumpistas out to crush Nikki’s bones to make their bread, and 90 percent of Democrats turning out to vote for Nikki. Yeah, I made up the 90 percent, but it feels like that.)

Almost everyone else in the place normally works my precinct, since they’re my neighbors. Everyone addressed me as Brad. And there was no point being cagey about what I was there to do, since all these folks knew me and are used to seeing my yardsigns and bumper stickers. So of course, I wasn’t. Cagey, I mean. Not that I ever am. In fact, I probably blathered more about it than was quite right, but it’s not like I was tying up busy people. I only noticed one other voter the whole time I was there.

I had no line to wait in, which was sweet. I went to my little minikiosk thingy (still haven’t learned a term for those things that are not booths), inserted the paper ballot, pressed the screen to vote for Joe, pressed again to check my vote, and pressed once more to print out the results.

Which is when everything went haywire. There were all these distorted images flashing on my screen, and eventually the screen went white. And there were no sounds of printing going on. So one of the workers had to open the machine and make sure nothing had printed, dig out the unmarked ballot, and give it to me to take to another machine.

So I got to vote twice! Of course, it only counted once, but I had the pleasure of doing it twice. Which was nice.

I didn’t remember to take a selfie with my sticker until I got home. It’s at the top. See my hat? I think Michelle Norris gave me that hat when she interviewed me in 2008. Seemed appropriate — as you know by my recent posts, I do consider all things. Rather obsessively…

Then, on the other hand…

All that said, let me tell you about something weird that came up just a little while ago…

Another smart friend, not one of those I had called earlier in the day, texted me this evening to say:

“_____ is writing an op Ed urging women to go out and vote for Nikki. She is with me and ______ on Dems skipping their primary and voting for Nikki.”

(Yes, I blanked out the names of two people I haven’t spoken with.)

Another county heard from. I told this friend I was still voting for Joe. And we went back and forth on that for a moment.

Then, the same friend sent me something just received by text a moment earlier (at 7:58 p.m.):

I wrote back to say I had just received the same message (or so I thought for a moment). And I hadn’t finished sending my reply when I got a text from one of the people I had called earlier to talk about this. He had just received the same text.

I was thinking that these had to be from someone supporting Nikki — maybe not her campaign, but a PAC backing her. Maybe that Koch group.

But then I looked back at the one I had received, and saw the wording was different. Instead of the flat, noncommittal statement, “Biden is winning by more than 50 points,” mine said:

President Biden will win a strong victory for his pro-democracy agenda.

Huh. It went on to say:

In the Republican primary on February 24, democracy itself is on the ballot. Former governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is running against Trump, a proud election denier. Make your vote count by protecting our democracy.

All straight from Biden campaign talking points. Which were not present in the other two texts. Those were quite neutral.

I called the second of those two friends, the one I had spoken to earlier in the day. This friend was an old newspaper colleague, and the different wordings perplexed us. This friend votes more in Democratic primaries than I do, and yet I had received the “Democrat” version.

Maybe because I was in James Smith’s campaign? That got me on some lists other than the ones based on primary voting.

I don’t know who’s doing this. Are my friends on the Biden campaign or a related group saying, “Look, Brad, we know you love Joe, but he’s got this. Go help Nikki be a thorn in Trump’s side.”

I don’t know. I don’t think so, based on past experience, and knowledge of these people. But I’ve never seen an election like this, and neither have these people, and maybe they’re doing something I wouldn’t expect them to do.

If so, they should call me on the phone and say it straight to me. I’m going to vote for Joe.

At least, I think so…

 

I’m the only Biden supporter who plans to vote for him tomorrow

How could I vote for anyone else? (2018 file photo)

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. It just sort of feels like that, after the conversations I’ve been having in recent days. Especially today.

In response to Paul’s announcement that he’s going to skip Saturday’s Democratic primary and vote for Nikki Haley three weeks later, I said that Paul makes very valuable points, but “I’m not going to do what Paul’s going to do.” Joe’s my boy. I’m proud of him and the job he’s done, and deeply grateful to him for running. And I’m going vote FOR somebody — especially someone I like so much — rather than against someone.

And ever since I said that, I’ve been questioning myself. That reasoning is fine under most circumstances — such as when I voted in the Democratic primary in 2010 because I wanted to express approval for Vincent Sheheen rather than try to stop the worst of the Republican candidates. I felt good about that.

But this time, we’re facing an unprecedented threat to the country, and to the world. And if you doubt the “and to the world” part, go ask the people of Ukraine what they think. Or read this column by Max Boot: “If Trump wins, he will destroy the American-led world order.” It’s a good basic explanation of global realities, and I went away from it depressed that Max felt the need to explain such things. But he’s right. We don’t live in, say, Reagan’s America. Reagan supporters understood those things. But now, far too many of their descendants, on the left and right, come closer to the isolationism of Lindbergh’s “America First” movement.

Joe Biden is running for president at the age of 81, when he richly deserves retirement, because he’s the only qualified person who has a realistic chance of standing in the way of the madness of millions of voters who would instead vote for a malevolent ignoramus who — when he actually WAS president for four years — had to be impeached twice (something he richly deserved both times), who tried to throw out the results of the election that removed him from office, and is currently facing 91 criminal charges in a variety of legal jurisdictions. A guy who daily demonstrates to the world that he is more unhinged and vengefully hostile than ever.

As I say, unique situation. So each day this week, I’ve asked myself, “Don’t I help Joe, and my country, better by voting against Trump than by voting for the good guy?” I was doubting my course enough today that when I went on my regular walk around the neighborhood, I called several people who fit these two criteria:

  1. They are people whose judgment I greatly respect from over the years, to the extent that they might have the power to persuade me to change course. Which is not something you can say about everyone.
  2. They are also people who I’m almost 100 percent sure will vote for Joe in the fall.

They said different things, but they all had one commonality — not one was planning to vote for Joe tomorrow. And they made damned good arguments for what they were doing. But so far (I could still change my mind by tomorrow morning), I’m still planning to vote for Joe.

Here’s the way I see it, in chunks as bite-sized as I can make them:

  • I started making those calls because I was listening to today’s “The Daily” podcast from the NYT. It was headlined, “On the Ballot in South Carolina: Biden’s Pitch to Black Voters.” During the introduction, host Michael Barbaro said, “The question is not who will win, but whether President Biden can fix his growing problem with black voters.” Which kind of set me off on a “Here we go again!” trajectory. A premise that suggests that if Joe doesn’t have a decent turnout in South Carolina — which there’s no reason for him to have, since we all know he will win — I’ll end up reading political analyses to the effect that the poor turnout in the South Carolina is yet another datum demonstrating how the Democratic electorate is unenthusiastic about him.
  • Yes, that would be a profoundly stupid thing to say, as all my friends who are planning to vote for Nikki keep telling me. They’re rational people, and they insist no rational person would expect a big turnout in the Democratic primary when we all know who the nominee will be. And they’re completely right. Unfortunately, rational people make up a distressingly small portion of the American electorate in this moment of collective madness in our country. Every day, we all see idiotic memes take hold around us, and stick.
  • Worse, the current political press isn’t much better. This was demonstrated over and over in 2020. We had 25 or so people seeking the Democratic nomination, but as I kept saying, only one of them exhibited these three qualities: a) he was qualified, as one could amply tell not only from his resume, but by his record and performance over the years; b), he had the skills, bipartisan sincerity and credibility to appeal across a broad-enough political spectrum to win over the moderates who are essential to victory in a country so evenly split; and c) voters knew him. I kept saying that over and over in this venue. And yet what did we keep hearing and reading — not from the drunk at the end of the bar, but from paid professional journalists? Joe’s past it. Today’s Democrats want a new face that represents new concerns — such as, say, culture war battles of identity politics, rather than say, an understanding of international affairs (ho-hum!). How deep did that rot go? Well, I mentioned the NYT above, and as much as I still respect the Gray Lady, its editorial board was in the midst of some sort of psychotic episode in 2020. They didn’t even consider endorsing Joe, the one candidate who clearly could both win and then do the job. Instead, they embarrassed themselves with a “split decision,” endorsing both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. This seemed to reflect a generational split on the board — Klobuchar for the grownups (she’s who I wanted for Joe’s running mate), and Warren for the kids. This was widely and justly mocked. Vanity Fair said “The New York Times Splits Their Endorsement, Pleasing No One and Inspiring Twitter Bonanza.” Amen.
  • Of course, the good Democratic primary voters of South Carolina schooled those journalists on Feb. 29, 2020. And they all changed their tunes, immediately, as Joe’s Democratic opponents started hastening to line up behind him. Still, just watch — some people, and not just folks on Fox, will be saying “Obviously, Biden’s South Carolina support isn’t as strong as it was in 2020.” There’s a great deal of foolishness out there.
  • No, my one vote for Joe won’t do anything to stop stupid interpretations of the turnout. But my vote for Nikki won’t put her over the top against Trump, either. And here’s where we get to the deep, gut reason I have to vote tomorrow instead of on the 24th: I’ve imagined myself doing that, and I recoil at the image of me, Brad Warthen, voting for Nikki Haley to be president of the United States. Because I know how abysmally unqualified she is (and how wonderfully qualified Joe is).
  • Yes, as unqualified as Nikki is, and as poor a president as she would be, she’s still a normal human being, and having Trump become president again would be infinitely worse. It could well mean the end of this wonderful liberal democracy we have been so privileged to live in since 1789. Got it. I agree completely. But…
  • If somehow all these votes for Nikki that my friends are planning enable her to defy expectations in this open primary enough that she weakens Trump, thereby causing him to slip and her to catch up and overtake him — all unlikely, but possible — then my man Joe would be facing someone I think would have a better chance of beating him than Trump does. Why? Because she’s a normal, very personable candidate (unlike Trump) who has a talent for winning people over to her. Also, that silly “vote for somebody younger” shtick of hers has more resonance than it deserves. Millions of people would vote for her purely on that point, despite her lack of qualification.
  • If she were better qualified — say, if she were as good a candidate as John McCain, or Mitt Romney, or for the sake of you identity politics people, as Hillary Clinton — then I could with a clear conscience wait and vote for her on the 24th, even as much as I like Joe. But she isn’t.
  • And if she weren’t trying to beat such a national catastrophe as Trump, I wouldn’t even be debating myself on this. But she is, and I am, hence this lengthy soliloquy. Maybe I should wait and vote for her. But…
  • We used to have these long debates on the editorial board… Someone would suggest it might be strategically smart to endorse this or that candidate or issue, even though we really didn’t want that outcome. (This post is already way too long for me to go off on a tangent about why that might happen, but such arguments did come up sometimes.) But then someone would say something like “Never endorse an outcome that you don’t want to see happen.” The vote is too sacred and precious to play such games. And I would nod, and agree. And it is especially risky to attempt such a gambit when we’re talking about presidential elections. Anyone who gets the nomination of one of the two major parties has a 50-50 chance of becoming president, regardless of who it is, or who his or her opponent is. That’s how delicately split our country is. We no longer have elections like the ones in 1964 and 1984.

So I’m voting for the guy I actually want to be president, and who has demonstrated how good at the job he is over these last four years.

Of course, I’m still confused at the moment, as the following post will indicate…

After today, no more hearing about New Hampshire!

Or at least, that’s what I hope, being a hopeful kind of guy. Eight days ago, I tweeted this:

Yeah, I was sounding a bit desperate there, wasn’t I? Well, I was, after suffering through all that hyperventilation over a meaningless contest. But so much for that. After today, it will be over, right? Wrong. After today, I will be tormented by the hellishly long general election campaign, which journalists everywhere will write about as though a normal election was going on, and a serious decision to be made.

When there won’t be. The only “decision” will be whether to turn out and vote for Joe, or vote for (and not voting would be a vote for this) the utter destruction of the country, an outcome that will make the disgrace of America in the four years after 2016 look like a picnic.

So, no decision to be made, not for anyone who cares at all about the country. You either step up and vote for Joe, or become part of the problem. You know what I will do… enthusiastically.

Of course, there’s another way to look at New Hampshire today — as the last chance for Nikki Haley to save the Republican Party from itself. It’s a longshot, but it would be nice to see her win there. Of course, it remains to be seen whether that would give her enough of a boost to win here at home. But it would be nice to see such an expression of sanity happen up north today — and it remains remotely possible, since N.H. has an open primary. (Of course, so do we, but that hasn’t done much good on the GOP side lately, has it?)

Notice I said this was Nikki’s last chance to save her party. I did not say “to save the country.” That was for a couple of reasons. One, the country doesn’t need saving, since we’ve got Joe, and as expected, he has done a fine job. Of course, there’s always the horrible chance that — since doing a fine job doesn’t get you much in our recent social-media elections in Rabbit Hole, post-reality America — Joe could lose to whoever the GOP nominee is.

And as I’ve said in the past Nikki would be exponentially better — or rather, exponentially less bad — than you-know-who by almost any measure you choose. But… she’s not qualified to be president of the United States. Not by a very long shot.

I say that for a lot of reasons, which you’ve seen me state over the years. Frankly, I’ve forgotten some of them — things that offered ample proof of her unreadiness over the years, and fed into my overall impression. The Boston Globe reminded me of this the other day when they ran this item from The New York Times about things we all knew here in South Carolina back in the day:

But that old news is far from being a significant reason to see her as unqualified. Those of us who have known her for what — 20 years now — have a sackful of reasons, from her immature craziness on Facebook while governor, to her failure to denounce Trump and run squarely against him, for which Chris Christie criticized her so aptly before he bowed out. (And yes, we all know why she didn’t. But what good to the country is a presidential nominee who won’t do that?)

So, despite the ongoing breathlessness from national media, I’m not in any kind of great suspense today.

How about you?

 

 

Do you think Trump is the whole problem? Well, don’t…

I’ve made this point a bunch of times, but having been reminded of it the last two or three days, I thought I’d share it again once or twice.

Over the weekend, my friend Steve Millies in Chicago tweeted this:

What got me going was those last few words, “We should be capable of recognizing him as what he is, never voting for him.” Well, indeed. Anyone who walks into a voting booth should find the idea of voting for him unthinkable. But the problem is, there’s a big difference between should and the way things are. So I responded:

And there you have placed your finger upon the problem with America. Trump isn’t the problem. The problem is that there are actually people who will vote for him. Millions of them. And frankly, I don’t know how we solve that problem…

As regular readers will have noted, I’ve been trying to sort that out since 2016, when something happened that had never even come close to happening in our history. For the first time, American voters were willing to vote for someone as low, crude and grossly unqualified as Trump — enough of them to actually elect him.

Trump had been embarrassing himself on a public stage since sometime in the 1980s. But now, there were all these millions of people who thought he was a great choice to become the most powerful man in the world.

And those same people would do it again.

Anyway, this morning while working out, I got around to listening to Friday’s Matter of Opinion podcast, which was dedicated to the question, “Should Trump Be on the Ballot?” It was provoked, obviously, by the Supreme Court deciding to take up the question after recent developments in Colorado and Maine.

At some point, conservative Catholic columnist Ross Douthat said the following:

A deeper question here is just, do you think that the challenge to American democracy is just all about Donald Trump himself alone, this one guy, this distinctive figure, this reality TV show, proto-fascist, billionaire, whatever. And if we can just make him go away, things will go back to normal.

Do you think that? Because if you think that, then I can see how you start to talk yourself into the idea that this is a good idea, and you say to yourself, look, I’m sure that a majority of the Republicans on the Supreme Court do not want Donald Trump to be president again. So why shouldn’t they just wave a magic wand and get rid of him? Nikki Haley can run the table or maybe DeSantis could make a comeback. One of them will beat Donald Trump. Everything will go back to normal.

And that’s sort of a view that I had for the first year or so of the Trump phenomenon. And I guess, I don’t understand how at this point, with everything we’ve seen in Europe, in North America, around the world, that you could think of Trump as just sort of a force that you can just make go away, and everything will go back to normal. But clearly, there are people who think that. So that’s what I’m interested in, I guess, again, having thought that once myself…

Which brings us again to the question: If Trump goes away, does the problem go away?

I don’t think so. The problem is bigger and more complicated than that. If you want to paint a picture of it, it’s not going to be a portrait of this one weird guy. It’s going to be more like a Bosch painting. Good luck making sense of it…

Christie pretty much nailed it on Nikki’s gaffe

Last week while I was at the beach, I got a call from an old friend who is among the few who are still employed at one of South Carolina’s metropolitan newspapers. He was working on a piece about Nikki Haley’s Civil War gaffe, and had a technical question about how she and the Legislature brought down the Army of Northern Virginia flag in 2015.

He should have called someone with a way better memory for specifics regarding legislative procedure. I was unable to help. But we discussed the matter for a few minutes, and I intended at the time to write about Nikki’s self-inflicted problem, but I didn’t get to it until now.

There had so many things to say, that I had trouble finding the time. Just briefly:

  • First, it’s not a huge deal unless you’re among the many Americans who are not South Carolinians. Around here, we’re used to seeing Republicans dodge that simple question, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?” Even my hero John McCain, having been burned by telling the truth initially regarding the flag, started reading something akin to what Nikki said in response to questions. But at least he had the character to be ashamed of himself. He made a big show of unfolding the paper and reading it each time he was asked, so everyone would know he had been bludgeoned into it by his advisers. Nikki had a lighter approach, in keeping with her superpower of making positive impressions (which usually involves not offending any potential GOP voter). But she ran into a buzz saw because the press was present. And millions of unprepared nonSouth Carolinians were shocked, shocked to hear someone who won’t even condemn Donald Trump answer in such a weaselly manner.
  • You want to be shocked? Go back and watch her meek answers to the questions of actual, real-life neoConfederates. Here’s the video. As I’ve said before, at least she has the character to look like she’s responding under duress. But she still goes along with the program.
  • It’s ironic — not that she doesn’t deserve it — that unlike most South Carolinians who identify themselves as white on their driver licenses, this is one Republican who has NO ancestors who owned slaves, or fought for the Confederacy, or any of that stuff. She just sounds like a Lost Cause defender because she’s so used to telling these South Carolina Republicans what they want to hear — or at least, not telling them things they don’t want to hear. She’s used to politely brushing such questions aside and moving on to something she’d much rather talk about. If you can call it up, you might enjoy reading Alexandra Petri’s column mocking her on that point.
  • At least Nikki managed to demonstrate in one respect that in this benighted MAGA age, at least she retains some values of the Reagan era, or at least one: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, either. She blamed the asker of the fateful question thusly: “It was definitely a Democrat plant.” Well, I suppose it could have been. Certainly it was posed by someone who did not wish her well. When you’re running for the nomination of the White Man’s Party, and in the age of the MAGA White Man, there’s no way you answer that question — whatever you say — that doesn’t get you into trouble with somebody. Either you — the one who stuck her neck out to finally get that flag down — get yourself in hot water with those Trump voters you’re trying to lure away with the simple answer, “Slavery. Duh.” Or you draw the “shocked, shocked” opprobrium of the rest of the country, by doing a little dance around it. But here’s the thing, Nikki — lots of people would want to back you into a corner with such a question, and a lot of them are Republicans. But of course, you don’t blame them, do you? You want every one of them, including the creeps, to love you.

I could have taken any of those courses (and those aren’t all the potential courses), and rattled on all day along any of them. But I was at the beach, so I didn’t.

But a couple of days ago, I resolved to take the subject up anyway. That’s when I ran across this tweet:

Nice one there, Chris. You nailed it. “She did it because she’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth.”

And, as he continued, that demonstrates her lack of fitness for the office she seeks.

No doubt about it. Looks like Chris is running hard to regain the dubious distinction of being my Least Awful Republican Candidate. Nikki had stolen it from him, and he’s anxious to grab it back.

In keeping with his goal of regaining my “favor,” such as it is, his campaign started sending me press releases yesterday, and one of them told me he’s continuing the charge against the South Carolina darling. The release begins, “Chris Christie calls Haley’s commitment to pardon Trump part of a pattern where she tries to be everything to everyone.”

This remark goes even more deeply to the truth of why Nikki is not fit for the highest office in the world.

As I said, the no-mention-of-slavery thing was no big deal, if you know what to expect from Republican candidates who came up in South Carolina.

But this was a deal-killer.

“I would pardon Trump if he is found guilty,” Nikki said last Thursday.

You know, I could have forgiven her if she had said, very carefully, that she might consider pardoning him — say, with regard to a poorly-handled conviction on one of the weaker of the many charge he faces. After all, I’ve never been mad at Gerald Ford for pardoning Nixon (not that it’s fair to compare Dick to Trump; by comparison, Nixon was a paragon).

But she didn’t hedge or qualify, from what I’ve read. She didn’t say she’d do it, under certain conditions. She just said she’d do it. And anyone who has that little respect for the Rule of Law has no business holding the lowest office in the land, much less the highest.

So thanks for reminding us of that one, Chris…

America is counting on you and your team, Scott!

On the road, with Scott Harriford driving (and yours truly at shotgun), in 2018. That’s the candidate in the back…

Right after Thanksgiving, I was at the Township watching my twin granddaughters dance in “The Nutcracker” (and they were awesome!). During intermission, I saw Kendall Corley sitting several rows ahead of me and went down to chat with him.

Kendall was our political director during the Smith/Norrell campaign in 2018.  More relevantly to this post, he was the man who saved America (OK, Jim Clyburn helped) by directing the campaign that won the South Carolina primary for Joe Biden.

I asked whether he was involved this year — now that America needs saving again, and from the same threat — and he said no. But he said the state team would be announced soon, and “some people you know” will be running the Biden campaign here.

That Kendall Corley knows what he’s talking about.

Two weeks ago (sorry to take so long to get to it), the campaign put out this release:

Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Announces Key South Carolina Staff Hires

Today, the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign announced the hiring of the following key staffers to serve as the South Carolina state leadership team for the historic first in the nation presidential primary:

  • Scott Harriford, South Carolina State Director
  • Clay Middleton, South Carolina Senior Advisor
  • Jalisa Washington Price, South Carolina Senior Advisor
  • Brady Quirk-Garvan, South Carolina Advisor

Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign National Co-Chair Congressman James Clyburn issued the following statement:
“South Carolina Democrats have been the best preparers of our party’s nominees for decades and we are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to continue playing this historic role in nominating Joe Biden for reelection next year. Every candidate who has won the South Carolina primary in recent years has gone on to be our nominee and get the majority of the popular vote in the general election, and no one knows that better than President Biden. This seasoned, skillful South Carolina team will lead the Biden-Harris coalition to victory in South Carolina and the nation in 2024.”
At President Biden’s recommendation, the Democratic National Committee voted earlier this year to put South Carolina first on the Democrats’ 2024 calendar, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan. The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign’s leadership in the state will be focused on reaching out to voters and organizing in key communities ahead of South Carolina’s historic Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3, 2024.

South Carolina State Leadership:

Scott Harriford, South Carolina State Director
Scott Harriford is a Principal at Hilltop Public Solutions. Most recently Scott was a political appointee at the Small Business Administration and served as the White House liaison. Scott worked on the 2020 Biden campaign as the South Carolina Political Director, and after the primary election he became the Southeastern. Political Director for the Biden-Harris campaign. In his role he helped the campaign develop and implement a regional political strategy. He was also responsible for community outreach, strategic planning, and political organization. Before joining the Biden campaign, Scott worked in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District as a Senior Field Director for Congressman Joe Cunningham. Previously, he worked on Representative James Smith and Mandy Powers Norrell’s campaign for Governor-Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina as the Deputy Political Director. Scott graduated from the University of South Carolina where he had the opportunity to start a small business that focused on hydroponic farm development and consulting.

Clay Middleton, South Carolina Senior Advisor
Clay comes to the campaign after previously serving as Senior Advisor to Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. During the 2020 cycle, Clay worked as House Legislative Advisor for the Biden-Harris Transition team. He was also Senior Advisor to Senator Cory Booker’s presidential campaign. A former Director of Business Services in the City of Charleston, Clay served as Regional Political Director and South Carolina State Director for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. A long-time staffer for Representative Jim Clyburn, Clay also worked on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign as South Carolina Political Director. Clay is a graduate of The Citadel and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the South Carolina Army National Guard serving as a Battalion Commander.

Jalisa Washington Price, South Carolina Senior Advisor
Before joining the campaign, Jalisa was the Political and Advocacy Vice President at iHeartMedia. She also worked on the 2020 Biden-Harris presidential campaign, serving as Senior Political Advisor to then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. After the election, Jalisa was the Director of the Office of the Vice President-elect for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Jalisa has also held senior leadership positions at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, advised on several congressional and statewide campaigns, and she worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. A native of South Carolina, Jalisa graduated from the University of South Carolina. She was named to Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list in Government and Politics.

Brady Quirk-Garvan, South Carolina Advisor
Brady Quirk-Garvan has been working in South Carolina politics for almost 20 years, where he has worked on and supported races across the state from city council to the Presidential level. Upon graduating from the College of Charleston, Brady went to work for President Obama’s campaign in the swing state of Ohio in 2008 before returning back to South Carolina. He served as the Chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party for five years during which time they flipped six seats from Republican to Democrat. Brady has served as a delegate representing South Carolina for the last three Democratic National Conventions and was named “Democrat of the Year” by the South Carolina Democratic Party in 2015.

This is great news, because Scott’s in charge! Scott was the state political director under Kendall in 2020. But I know him better than the others because of the roles he had in James Smith’s campaign, which is where he started his meteoric rise in the politics biz.

As the bio above notes, he was the deputy field director (working under Kendall) in that campaign. That shows how quickly his talents were recognized. His original title was “body man” — you know, like Charlie Young on “The West Wing.”

He was the very first staffer James hired, fairly early in 2017, well before he had even launched the campaign. I met him one morning at the old (now closed) Lizard’s Thicket on Beltline, where I was having breakfast with James. The purpose of our meeting was for me to tell James that when he started building his staff, I wanted him to think about whether there was any way I could be a part of it. The answer, which was yes, came much later. (This was late summer or early fall of 2017, I would not join until the following July.) But James had been told a body man — mainly, a driver — had to come first. And he was right. And he and Scott were already out on the road.

Scott put in more hours, and far more miles, than anyone else on the campaign besides James himself. I need to ask him how many miles he drove, if he knows; it must be a stupendous figure. But he did more than that, involving himself in every aspect of the campaign, which I assume is how he ended up as Kendall’s deputy.

He was certainly essential to me. The other Scott on the campaign — our manager, Hogan (seen standing at the center with me behind Biden below) told me once that there should be five people doing my job handling communications, but we didn’t have the money. So I was tied up in the office most of the time, and relied on the pictures Scott Harriford texted to me to illustrate the social posts I was pumping out most of the time. He also handled Facebook Live videos out on the scene.

Occasionally I got out with him and James. In early October, I caught a ride with them up to my hometown, Bennettsville. It took us a while to get up there, because whenever Scott saw a good spot for signs, he would stop, and he and I would get out and put them up (something I’d never done before that day; Scott was giving me basic training).

At all times, Scott did whatever was needed. That, among many other considerations, makes me very happy he’s running the show here in South Carolina. America needs Joe to win re-election, to put it very mildly, and this is where it all starts…

Also back in 2018, when Scott (upper left) and I were working together, and Joe was just a former veep.

If forced to choose a Republican, I’d have to go with Nikki

I failed yet again to watch the GOP debate last night, but never fear — I found the above video clip from it.

At least, it sounds like it, based on the debate clips I heard on the radio today.

What if you actually had to vote for one of these people? What if there were no choice?

That unpleasant choice seems much clearer than it was a few weeks back.

The stupidest headline I saw today, from a Ramesh Ponnuru column, posed the question as though it were actually difficult to answer: “How to decide between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

Seriously? You think there’s a decision to be made? You think people would find it difficult? Of course not. The only possible choice would be Nikki Haley.

Is that an endorsement of Nikki? Absolutely not. I am 100 percent a Joe Biden man all the way. No one in any party comes within a mile of him.

But of course, for quite a few years, it was my job to preside over the drafting of editorial endorsements in both parties’ primaries. And I was always insistent that we couldn’t not choose. The voters had to make a choice, and so did we.

What if I had to do that now? Or what if I decided that my vote would be better used voting for the least nightmarish candidate in the GOP contest, since Joe seems likely to sail to the nomination?

Well, then, I’d vote for Nikki.

Oh, every negative thing I’ve every said about her is true. But she has seemed to get a little better each time I look at her. One of the main reasons I opposed her so often over the years was that she kept running for jobs for which she was completely unprepared. But then I’d watch her, and she would gradually get better.

For instance: She was a disaster in her first term as governor, as expected. I mean, really bad, with no notion how to exert leadership. But then, well into her second term, she was notably better. And she had a really fine moment in leading South Carolina to do what I had been shouting for governors and legislators to do for 20 years — take down that flag. (Yeah, I know a lot of people want to dismiss that as not really taking moral leadership — but that’s complicated enough that we’ll have to discuss it separately.)

In other words, by the time she left the governor’s office, she had grown more or less to finally be qualified for the job. And what happens then? Suddenly, she’s the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Of course, no one thought for a minute that she was in any way, shape or form prepared for that job. Well, she had one asset: As I’ve said many times, Nikki’s superpower is that she makes a very good first impression. Being able to present yourself well is good. Trouble was, aside from that rather superficial “qualification,” she had nothing to offer in the field of foreign policy. No training, no experience, and no ideas to offer.

Even Donald Trump, who offered her the job, wasn’t blind enough to think she was qualified. But he didn’t give a damn. His only motivation was to reward Henry McMaster, the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse him, by making him governor.

But here’s the thing… if you listen to her talk foreign policy in these debates, she may not be ready to write a doctoral thesis on international policy, but she’s light years closer to understanding America’s role in the world and how to meet it than anyone else on that stage. And is even farther ahead of the guy who never shows up for the debates.

So she did learn something, which is more than you ever see from the rest of these people. When she was a dewy-eyed young legislative back bencher, I was happy to endorse her a couple of times because I thought she had some promise — if only she would take the time to learn a few things (such as how idiotic the phrase “run government like a business” is). But before she could qualify herself for the job she had, she kept running for the next brass ring. At least since then, she has learned a few things.

And as I’ve told you, I congratulate her on her willingness to turn away from the culture wars. You know, using beautiful words such as “consensus.” When she does that, it reminds my why I thought she was promising in the House.

Still, “President Nikki Haley” is a combination that causes me to shudder, no doubt about it. I could write a post several times as long as this one detailing why. But if you make me choose from that field, she’s now well ahead of my former reluctant choice, Chris Christie.

For what that’s worth…

Mind you, I never for a moment forget the darker moments…

What’s YOUR Dream Team matchup for POTUS?

My mention of Matter of Opinion earlier reminds me of a podcast from last month that I meant to post about, and forgot.

So here goes, and this time, I’m giving you a link that MAY let you listen to it, or at least read the transcript, without a subscription. Someone please try it and let me know whether it works.

Here’s the link to “The Presidential Fantasy Draft America Needs.”

If you can’t or won’t go listen, here’s the essence of it: Ross Douthat posed a question to the panel:

Since so many voters seem to be so over a Trump-Biden rematch in advance, I want to ask each of you what your ideal match-up would actually be. Who do you wish was going head to head for president in 2024?

He started it off by offering his own picks:

I’m going to say that I would like to see a race between JD Vance of Ohio and my home state senator, Chris Murphy, Democrat, of Connecticut.

Michelle Cottle responded, “I’m going a different way. I’m going Gretchen Whitmer versus Glenn Youngkin.”

Lydia Polgreen said she was going to cheat, which if I recall correctly caused the others to hoot at her, but she went ahead:

I’m interested in the sort of theoretical exercise of what the future might look like, knowing that these matchups will never happen. So the first one is testing how the various inflections of populism will unfold in this country. So I would love to see the representative from New York City, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against Ross’s candidate, JD Vance, in Ohio….

The other is Rafael Warnock, the senator from Georgia, and Josh Hawley, the senator from Missouri. The reason I chose those two is that I’m very interested in the role of religion in our country….

The only one who came anywhere near my own choices was Carlos Lozada, whom (as I’ve mentioned before) I have come to respect a lot from listening to these podcasts:

…I finally concluded that my dream matchup is, coming out of nowhere, Biden versus Trump.

This is not the matchup you want. It is the matchup we need. More than any other dream matchup that I can dream up, this matchup forces America to decide on first principles on what it is about. Trump is running as an authoritarian candidate who wants to shred the Constitution.

Biden’s campaign, both 2020 and for 2024, are premised almost entirely on preserving American democracy…

I’m with him on Biden, but definitely not on Trump. Any major-party candidate has almost exactly a 50-50 chance of winning — that’s the way America is now. But there must be ZERO chance of Trump winning again. I refuse to advance a “dream” that offers any chance at all of that.

To do what Lozada is trying to do, but without the distinct chance of driving the final nail into America’s (and the world’s) coffin, we need an actual Republican to oppose Joe’s classic Democratic-liberal views. Then you’re offering the country a real choice, but not playing Russian roulette with the country.

So I’d go with Asa Hutchinson. Yeah, I know he has no chance. But he’s running, and he meets the bill as I’ve set it out, and after all this is a “fantasy draft.”

All that said, what I really want is to see whom y’all would pick. And make a good case for it, please…

Asa Hutchinson in Columbia today

This afternoon, the Post & Courier held one of its Pints & Politics events at J’s Corner Restaurant & Bar (where Jaco’s used to be). It was sponsored by AARP.

It was the first one of these I’ve attended. I went because the guest was Asa Hutchinson, and I’d been wanting to hear him speak since reading a favorable column about him in The Boston Globe, after he had met with that editorial board recently. The headline was “New Hampshire, please consider Asa Hutchinson.”

I don’t live in New Hampshire, but I’ve considered him now, based on little beyond that column and hearing him this evening. So I’m just getting started, but I will say that he is now my favorite Republican candidate for president. Which, of course, isn’t saying much, but if Chris Christie wants to recapture the top spot on my Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates list, he’s going to have to do a lot better.

Of course, you know Joe Biden’s my guy, and nobody else comes close. But Hutchinson is the least objectionable Republican, and that’s important to me. I keep dreaming of having another No Lose election like 2008, when I would have been happy to see either McCain or Obama in office. (I can dream, can’t I?) That involves, and the very least, having someone unobjectionable run against Joe.

And I must say I kind of actually like Hutchinson. I have a few objections to him, but the thing is, he seems to be a real Republican, a normal human being who isn’t out to destroy America. He talks about his admiration for Nixon and Reagan — neither of whom is a fave of mine, but I’d give a lot to have either of them before You Know Who, or any of his many imitators.

So I’ll be watching. In the meantime, I shot a few random minutes of video near the start of his conversation with Schuyler Kropf and Caitlin Byrd, and you see it above. Caitlin asked him for his “stump speech,” but they either got off-track on that, or he has the shortest stump speech I’ve ever heard.

Beyond that, a few points from the few notes I took:

  • When I mentioned that I had objections, that mostly came from when Caitlin asked him to rattle off in 30 seconds what he would do first if elected. He immediately mentioned some please-the-base stuff, starting with immigration. Of course, maybe she should have allowed him more than 30 seconds, so he could branch out more. Whatever, that was the low point.
  • One of the best things was that while he wasn’t shouting “I’m a Never Trumper!,” it’s fairly clear he comes pretty close, saying things like “Is that who we want to lead our country into the future?” He sees his mission as making the case that we need to go in another direction. As for the multiple indictments, he was very mildly critical of the case against Trump in Georgia, but that’s mainly because, as a former U.S. attorney himself, he thought Georgia should have sat back and let the federal indictments run their course.
  • Another fave moment for me — possibly because I’m still plodding through, but enjoying, Theodore Rex (I just moments ago finished reading about the Perdicaris affair in 1904, which “The Wind and the Lion” was very roughly based on) — was when Caitlin asked him to name his favorite president who was not named Reagan. He picked TR without having to think too hard. So bully for him!
  • Asked about Mitt Romney’s retirement and his copout comment about stepping aside for the “next generation,” Hutchinson — who is three years older than I am — had pretty much the same reaction I did. I didn’t get the whole quote, but he has the same impression of the GOP’s “next generation” that I do. He specifically mentioned Matt Gaetz, so….
  • I could have used a lot more talk about world affairs, beyond his discussion of drug trafficking from south of the border (based on his having headed the DEA — yeah, this is a guy with actual experience in federal government) and some generally positive statements about Ukraine. That is, that he’s for “standing with freedom against oppression.”
  • When Schuyler asked him what non-religious book he had on his bedside table, he said on this trip he’d been reading Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. Not exactly a book, I guess, but much better reading than anything certain other people have ever tackled.
  • Being in South Carolina, he said some nice things about Nikki Haley. A bit too nice, I thought, when he praised her international experience.
  • On the other hand, I liked what he said about Henry. As you may know, Hutchinson got his bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University. (Asked why, he said his pastor back in Arkansas had recommended it.) Then, he had intended to get his Juris Doctor from USC Law School, but ended up at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He speculates that had he stayed here, he would be governor of South Carolina, not Henry. I mean, he was just joking around, but it struck me as a fairly pleasant idea.
  • And while I don’t want to completely destroy his already-slim chances, he even sounded a bit like a Democrat a couple of times, for what it’s worth. For instance, he said some folks want to raise the age for receiving Social Security, but he thinks “how about the construction worker,” whose strength is not likely to hold up until 70? Bottom line is, he sounded overall like a center-right pol, from in the non-crazy days when the two parties weren’t all that far apart. In other words, he’s a Republican. And with Mitt Romney, John McCain and Lamar Alexander out of the picture (and Lindsey Graham now living on the far side of Alice’s Looking Glass), that makes him rare.

That’s it for now. I’ll be watching this guy as things progress.

Here are 9 things I prefer to watch. How about you?

This image was under the headline. It’s not nice to call people ‘things.’ Anyway, there are only 5…

By now, you know from all the unending coverage that this is an election year, and a biggie.

Except that it isn’t. The election everyone is so worked up about is next year — in fact, at the end of next year, And the result will depend — to the extent that it is influenced by reality in any way — will depend on what’s happening then, not what’s happening now.

So, when The Washington Post wanted me to read something headlined, “9 things to watch as the 2024 presidential campaign heats up,” I responded this way:

Here are my 9:

1. My grandchildren

2. The seasons changing

3. The AL playoffs

4. The NL playoffs

5. The World Series

6. The last 3 next year, too

7. Detective shows on Britbox

8. My diet and workout routine

9. Pretty much anything but football.

I didn’t have room to elaborate, because that used all 280 characters that Twitter allows.

If I’d had more room, I would have of course mentioned my kids and all the other people with whom I choose to spend most of my time. They’re all way more interesting, and enjoyable, than, say, Vivek Ramaswamy. And I’d have explained that I don’t just watch English murder mysteries. I also enjoy Scottish, Welsh, Swedish, German and French detective shows. And I would have mentioned books, but you don’t “watch” books; you read them. And I’d have put quotes around “diet and workout routine,” to be more honest about it. But there just wasn’t room.

Anyway, what are your favorite things to watch rather than campaigns for next year’s presidential election?

 

Thoughts on the ‘debate’ last night?

Actually, the first thing I’d like to know is how many of you watched it.

I didn’t. Well, I tried — about a half-hour into it — and I couldn’t. I mean, technically couldn’t get it on my TV. You see, this wasn’t an event for the American people; it was an event for Fox News. It was only available if you had cable, which I don’t. It certainly wasn’t on WACH-Fox 57, which I can get. Oh, I watched for a few minutes by a path that looked like a workaround, but it only offered me 10 free minutes, and at least half of that was commercials.

Of course, I’ve read various accounts of it, and listened to the “The Daily” podcast this morning, which was devoted entirely to it. So I have some thoughts. Those of you who watched the whole sorry spectacle (and I feel for you) may have a great deal of, um, enlightenment to add. If you’re not in a coma or something.

Here’s what I have:

What passes for a ‘profile in courage’ in the GOP — It’s been many, many years since we’ve seen anything we could call an actual presidential debate — you know, something that sheds light on the degree to which the candidates possess qualities that it would be useful for a POTUS to have — instead of a circus contest to see how many clowns can crowd onto a stage, while trying to goad each other into gaffes. It’s about as dignified as the Three Stooges. We reached a new low last night (really, in the parts I heard, Quemoy and Matsu weren’t mentioned even once), and possibly the lowest point was when the participants were asked whether they’d support Trump if he were both convicted of a crime, and nominated. The three hands on the right shot up, with Vivek Ramaswamy succeeding in his mission to convey the greatest enthusiasm. DeSantis, in the middle, looked to both his left and right before deciding he’d better put his up his, too. Then Pence did. Christie started to raise his, then shook his head, pointing his finger downward and twitching it back and forth. Asked to clarify his gestures (I think it was a form of New Jersey Sign Language), he hemmed and hawed and said “someone’s got to stop normalizing this conduct,” and overall gave the impression he’d never given the question a moment’s thought, and was trying to think what to say as he said it. And yet this was the closest anyone came to answering negatively, making his performance a Republican Profile in Courage, 2023 edition. How do I know all this, since I didn’t watch? Here’s the video.

Calling the kettle black — Nikki Haley was exactly right when she said to Ramaswamy, “You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.” And the rest of us were right when we said that about her when Donald Trump named her to be ambassador to the U.N. And if you think he did that because he thought she had such experience, you’re as wrong as you can be. He did it to make his buddy Henry McMaster governor. You know, the first statewide elected official in the country to ditch Reaganism and support the abasement of the country.

That said, did Nikki have a big night? Lots of observers think so. — Of course, it depends on how you’re scoring it. A number of people made the observation that she was the one person up there who was campaigning for the general election instead of the primaries. That means speaking in terms that are less objectionable to rational human beings. And she was rewarded with a lot of praise for that modest achievement — she was the consensus star of the evening, for instance, among NYT opinion writers. And David Brooks out-and-out said, “Nikki Haley Is the Best Trump Alternative.” That’s pretty clear. He adds, “She seems to be one of the few candidates who understands that to run against Trump you have to run against Trump.” Maybe so. As a big Brooks fan, I’m listening…

Trump showed them all up, and stole the spotlight — He did this by traveling to Atlanta this evening and turning himself in at the jail. America eagerly awaits the mug shot. But wait, you know what? I remember hearing before all this that he was supposed to be doing something with Tucker Carlson. Did that happen?

That’s probably enough to get us started. Thoughts?

“No, I was doin’ dis…”

Did y’all get this in the mail, too?

My reaction of course is, Well, let’s certainly hope it would be my man Joe’s “ticket to another four years.”

Of course, I fervently hope we’ll have the same result even if any of these jokers — the ones having a “debate” tonight — turns out to be the nominee.

Obviously, that’s not what Americans for Prosperity — that’s the Koch brothers’ group — is hoping. They want one of those other Republicans to be nominated, and then beat Joe! (Shudder.)

I’m just curious about who got it, and who didn’t. I probably got it because, living in Lexington County — where the GOP nominee always gets elected — I’ve voted in quite a few GOP primaries. Or maybe it’s just that this is Lexington County. Or maybe, with all that Koch money to spend, everybody got it.

So… who got it, and who didn’t?

 

Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates

It won’t be fun, but I urge you to think HARD on this one.

As y’all know, all I want to happen with regard to the presidency is for Joe Biden to win reelection comfortably, and remain alive and healthy for four years, during which someone — I have no idea who — as suitable as he is emerges to succeed him.

But as the philosopher said, you can’t always get what you want. (See video clip below. Or this one, if you prefer.)

All sorts of things can happen. And it’s not just a matter of Joe’s age — look up “Kennedy, John” or “Garfield, James” or “Harrison, William Henry” — although his age makes more people aware of reality than they really should be with younger examples. And there’s a great deal to think about beyond death or physical disability. Anything, from the spectacular to the mundane, can crop up to end a political career. A sharp downward trend in the economy, for instance, would do it.

So, if one wants a sane and happy future for the country, one would look to other options — the “get what you need” part of the philosopher’s equation. Although I earnestly pray that we don’t have to fall back to that, because any of the paths remaining to us would require major miracles even for the country to be just kinda OK.

One course would be some suitable Democrat that is not currently visible on the horizon emerges and somehow seizes the mantle before it settles on the shoulders of Kamala Harris. I have trouble even imagining a scenario.

The other most obvious path would be for someone remotely acceptable to get the Republican nomination. I’ve been shaking my head as each eager GOP candidate has emerged, ready to seize any opportunity that the rapid decline of his or her party creates in the next year. It’s not a pretty spectacle.

But this morning, I forced myself to rank them in descending order, from the least to the worst. Or at least, the top five along that continuum, among the ones who have thrust themselves forward upon the nation’s attention.

Here they are. Be mindful that I haven’t been given a lot to work with here. No actually good, decent, acceptable candidate — such as John Kasich — has stepped forward, apparently because such people see no chance for the likes of them in today’s GOP. So, working with what I have, here goes:

  1. Chris Christie — At this point, you throw up your hands and stop reading, right? You’re like, you think he’s the best? No. Have you been reading up to this point? We’re talking least bad, in a nightmare scenario. The thing about Christie is, I kinda remember when he was a not-too-terrible (but pretty awful at times) governor. No, I can’t shake that awful image of him standing behind Trump, with a look of horror that reflected a man whose very essence had just been scooped out of him, but at least he had the humanity left to know he should look that way.
  2. Mike Pence — Normally, I’d put Pence at No. 1 Least Bad. His worst episodes aren’t quite as lurid as Christie’s, and I’m mindful of the case Paul DeMarco made for him — a lot of good points. But his main bad point remains that he was, willingly, Trump’s boy for four years. Yes, I appreciate that, with MAGA hellhounds on his heels, he refused to abet his master’s attempt to overthrow the election. That, as much as anything, puts him at No. 2. Without that, he might not even make the list. The NYT reports that his announcement video sort of glides over his time as veep, and emphasizes his service as governor before that. Good idea.
  3. Tim Scott — As I’ve said, nice guy, but I don’t see anything from him that comes close to showing he is prepared for the job. I suspect I put him ahead of Nikki for one big reason: I don’t know him. I’ve never even met him, which emphasizes how briefly he’s been a visible statewide figure, much less national. I don’t even know he’s a nice guy — he just seems to be, from a distance. But I know Nikki.
  4. Nikki Haley — I’ll always honor her for taking the flag down. People who don’t know the situation — even people who haven’t seen the appalling videos of her submitting humbly to the neoconfederates — think this was a mere political calculation based on a necessity thrust on her by tragedy. But it was more than that. For a generation, Republicans in South Carolina had run from the issue. Even David Beasley, a very decent guy, only tried briefly to do something before collapsing under the backlash. So I give her credit. As for why she’s not higher on my list — well, search for her name on this blog, and review the entire record.
  5. Ron DeSantis — Clearly at the bottom. I’m unlike Democrats in that his constant harping on Kulturkampf issues that endure him to the MAGA base usually don’t appall me in any way having to do with the substance of the issues. What does appall me is that he spends all his energy on these things, which loom in our politics mainly as ways to divide the country, rather than on real issues that might address the good of all. So what use is he? None at all, that I can see. And has he done things that appall me in a substantial way? You bet. I can’t think of anything I’ve seen any politician do yet in this century that was as disgusting as duping desperate refugees to win the love of hateful people.

They’re all sad prospects — worse than that, really. There’s not a lot of distance between No. 1 and, say, No. 4. Some of the judgments I made are based on small, subtle, even whimsical things. But I decided to make myself do it, and this is what I came up with.

I don’t know much about this Doug Burgum guy who announced today, but he doesn’t sound promising. However, if further evidence offers reason to do so, I’ll post an amended list.

I’d really like to see y’all to take a shot at this unsavory challenge, and share what you come up with. One overriding rule: Do NOT under any circumstances rank them according to “the one I think would be easiest to beat.” That kind of grossly irresponsible thinking is one of the quickest ways to national suicide. Here’s the truth: Anyone, absolutely anyone — as we saw in 2016 — who obtains the nomination of either of the two major parties has about a 50 percent chance of becoming president. Let that sober you. Least objectionable first, then on down…

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The Kamala Harris problem

Doug Ross, earlier today, put it more harshly than I would have. But yeah, having Kamala Harris in line for the presidency is not a pleasant thought. I mean, it’s light years better than having a Donald Trump, but it’s still far from being a good thing.

It’s about… I guess it’s about in the same ballpark as having Nikki Haley as president, in terms of qualifications, temperament and so forth.

Which is not a pleasant thought, as I said. You know me. I’ve got this thing about qualifications. A bit of a fetish, really. And neither of these ladies has them at the level I expect for this particular job. Unless you call “being a woman” or “being black” to be qualifications, which I don’t, any more than I would consider being a man or white to be relevant credentials. I mean, let’s face it: Most white guys don’t measure up to this job. Most other people don’t, either. And Nikki and Kamala are in the “most people” category.

Before I abandon my Kamala/Nikki comparison, though, I will say this in the veep’s favor: She’d probably retain a huge portion of Joe’s administration if he were gone, whereas I have no confidence at all in the random newbies Nikki would be likely to bring in. If you doubt me, ask Darla Moore about Nikki’s judgment on appointments.

Anyway, Matt Bai came closer than Doug to my view on Kamala Harris, in a column the other day headlined, “How Joe Biden should solve the Kamala Harris Conundrum.” It was a good piece, and I wish you could read it without a subscription. Here’s an excerpt… he said Joe’s biggest handicap is “the uncomfortable question of whether voters can get their heads around Biden’s vice president as a potential president — a question that is probably more pressing for Biden, who would be 82 if he takes the oath for a second time, than it has been for any nominee since Franklin D. Roosevelt sought a fourth term.”

And it’s a tough topic, especially for Democrats…

Because to understand the root of Biden’s Kamala Harris Conundrum now, you have to understand his thinking in 2020 — which means touching on fraught subjects of race and gender. (This is a thankless task in the current environment, but let’s do it anyway.)

Having publicly promised to choose a woman during his primary campaign with Bernie Sanders, and then wanting to hold his party together during an agonizing summer of racial unrest, Biden determined that his running mate should be a Black woman. It was the right call at the time, morally and politically — although I would argue that by publicly crowing about his criteria, Biden’s campaign did his eventual running mate a disservice, ensuring that whomever he chose would be seen as the best Black female candidate rather than the best candidate, period.

Given the country’s long struggle with inclusivity at the highest levels of politics, however, the list of Black women with obvious credentials wasn’t long, and most of the candidates were untested….

That’s probably all I dare lift directly from the column, but it’s all very much on point, in my view.

Y’all know I really like Joe, but that doesn’t mean I always think he does the right thing (abortion, Afghanistan, just to talk about the A’s). And I don’t think he should have promised to pick a woman, for the reasons Bai points out.

Of course, once he did, I didn’t think it was too bad, since I thought Amy Klobuchar was the best of his rivals during the primaries. Although, she deserved to be seen as the best candidate, not merely, as Bai points out, the best of a certain gender.

I was a lot more concerned when he said she also had to be black, because as Bai is also correct in noting, while we have more black women in politics than we used to, there’s a great lack of black women with “obvious” presidential credentials.

But I kept my eyes peeled, and ended up praising Karen Bass, who is now mayor of Los Angeles. (See “I think I like Karen Bass. As always, I’d like to know more.“)

But Joe went with the black woman who was one of the three black women I would least have wanted him to pick. Obviously, I think he was looking at different things from what I was looking at. And no, I don’t mean what President Obama was looking at in 2013 (although it was hard to argue with the president at the time, unless you were an ardent feminist).

I think he saw her as politically helpful, perhaps even politically necessary. And maybe he was right. Maybe it was close enough that he’d have lost without whatever portion of the electorate she helped turn out. And that would have been disastrous for the country. So Joe picked her, despite the way she had unforgettably stabbed him in the back the year before. He didn’t care about that as much as I did.

Anyway, he picked her, and I tried to be optimistic. But I have to say that in the last three years, I haven’t seen her take on any qualities that would increase my confidence in her. Of course, admittedly, I don’t spend a lot of time scrutinizing what veeps do.

And now, Joe’s stuck with her. And while Matt Bai’s diagnosis of the problem was really good, he didn’t really come up with what I would call a solution to the conundrum.

What he suggested seemed kind of fatalistic, really. But I admit I don’t have any better ideas. And neither does anyone else. As long as there are no acceptable alternatives to my man Joe for the top job — and there aren’t ANY — it may just be a problem we have to live with. Which is kind of what Bai said…