Category Archives: Say something nice

That guy’s a governor? You’re kidding, right?


One thing you’ve got to hand to Mark Sanford — he  looks like a governor, even though he has generally not acted like one. This is a key to his electoral success.

I remember back before he was elected — I guess it was about this time in 2001 — he sent out Christmas cards with pictures of himself with his family. As soon as he received his, Sen. John Courson said to me (and you’ve got to imagine that booming bullfrog voice of his saying it), “Faaahhhn lookin’ family! Kennedyesque…” and said that on the basis of that picture, he expected Sanford to be our next governor.

Anyway, I’m reminded of that today, having just seen a picture of Jon Corzine for the first time (this was on the front of the WSJ). As I previously noted, unlike the national media, I don’t pay attention to state elections in other states because they have nothing to do with me. People elect their governors for their own reasons (sometimes things as superficial as how they look, although of course that’s not the only reason South Carolinians went for Sanford in 2002), reasons that I cannot infer meaningfully from afar, so I don’t try to do so.

Anyway, my reaction on seeing this guy for the first time as he was on his way out (having lost yesterday, for those of you who pay even less attention than I do), was this: “What? This guy is the governor of an actual state? You’re kidding. He looks like a college professor, and maybe not even an American college professor at that. He looks more like Leon Trotsky than a guy who could get elected in this country.” And what’s that he’s got in the back in this picture? Is that a ducktail?

I realize that standards of political pulchritude vary from state to state, that we would elect people in South Carolina that New Jerseyites (or whatever you call them) would never take a second look at, and vice versa. But if I had tried to imagine somebody who could get elected up there and not down here, I would have pictured a guy who would have looked at home hanging around in front of Satriani’s Pork Store with Tony Soprano. Yeah, I realize such stereotypes are the bane of New Jerseyians, who deserve better, but that I could have believed in. Whereas this Corzine guy … if Tony had shown up for his first therapy session and his shrink had looked like this instead of like Lorraine Bracco (and that’s the only role I could imagine a guy who looks like this filling on that show about north Jersey), he would have turned around and walked out.

No wonder this Trotsky-looking character lost. That Christie looks like a regular guy, a guy you might actually imagine being in the, uh, sanitation business.

They’re coming back…

As the day has worn on, I haven’t thought of anything particularly clever to say about the news that the Legislature is coming back to town. I’ll just make these three quick points, and turn it over to y’all:

  1. I don’t know that lawmakers should try to rush into impeachment proceedings — although if they’re going to do it, I’d rather they get it out of the way so it doesn’t waste another legislative session, the way Sanford’s foolishness over the stimulus wasted the last one.
  2. Sanford’s right that the department of Employment Security should report to the governor. Of course, he’s done all he could over the past year to undermine the case. It didn’t help with the commissioners disclosed that this governor had never been interested enough in what they do to have a real meeting with them in his six years in office.
  3. In case you wondered, I don’t have a dog in this fight, in the sense that I don’t think I, as an unemployed person, derive any benefit from what lawmakers are coming back to do. Long story, which I’m not going to get into right now, but suffice to say that as of this moment, I am not claiming unemployment compensation.

That’s all for now. What do y’all think?

The New Blog Order, Mark IV

OK, I really don’t know how many “New Blog Orders” there have been; I just thought “Mark IV” sounded good.

Anyway, here’s the new deal, for now: Comments won’t appear unless I approve them. (And yes, we’ve been here before, in a previous regime change. The video above of me explaining this very same approach was shot during a family gathering at my house in July 2007. See how unhappy I was with having to take this approach? That’s the way I look now, only without the grubby beginning of a beard. Sort of amazing, isn’t it, that as fed up as I was then, I’m still trying? I’m nothing if not persistent.)

I’m going to do that for a few days at least, and then I hope to go to something less stringent, not that there are a lot of options. I see, for instance, that WordPress provides the option of “Comment author must have a previously approved comment,” which sounds nice, but what good is it really? I prefer to judge a comment by its own merits, not by who posted it. Lee, for instance (and Lee really resents being picked on, and he’ll probably see this as being picked on, but let’s face it; his name is the one my readers most frequently bring up as an irritant), sometimes posts perfectly fine comments that add to the conversation. I’m not saying it happens every day, but it happens. So, going by my own preferred standards, I would approve that one good comment — and under the “Comment author must have a previously approved comment,” he would then have carte blanche to return to his habitual ways.

Ultimately, the place where I think I’ll end up is that I’ll open the gates back up, but I’ll make a point of checking comments several times a day, and just delete anything that doesn’t contribute to this being a place that encourages thoughtful people who want to engage in good-faith dialogue.

And I know those people are out there. Just this morning, I was meeting with a prominent local attorney — a public-spirited guy who is a great public speaker and has a lot to say — mentioned to me that there was NO WAY he was going to spend any of his life wrestling in the mud with a bunch of trolls on a blog. And the bad thing about that is, he is just the kind of person I wish would join in with our dialogues here — I want lots of people like him, from across the political spectrum (and those of you on the left or right who think there are no thoughtful people with something worthwhile to say on the opposite end of the spectrum; well, you’re part of the problem).

So in this latest effort to foster the kind of place that he and other like him would consider worthy of his time, I’m going with a standard that goes beyond the mere absence of incivility. I’m going to look for posts that actually contribute something. I’m going for positive attributes, rather than just the absence of negative ones. Because serious people (or for that matter, people who like to have a little fun, just not at other people’s expense) deserve a blog that answers that description.

At this point, some of you are furiously writing to me to say, “You just want comments that agree with you!” which is ridiculous. That’s a ploy to get me to back down on enforcing standards, and post something that calls me and people who agree with me names just to prove how “fair” I am. Well, you know what? I’m not falling for that. I’ve heard it too many thousands of times from people who just can’t be bothered to disagree in a civilized manner.

I know that I’ve always given precedence to people who disagree with me. And anyone who’s followed my career and is not seriously challenged in the reading comprehension department knows that about me. But from now on, you’re going to disagree in a way that it doesn’t run off well-behaved people. You’re going to disagree in a way that makes people think, “Maybe he’s got a point” instead of “What a jerk!” I realize this is going to be a challenge for some, but I hope the rest of you will appreciate it.

And if you don’t, or if you just can’t bring yourself to meet the new standard, you are completely free to go start your own blog. This one’s mine, and I’m not going to waste time with it unless I think it’s getting better, and providing a worthwhile forum.

Joel Sawyer calls it quits


That's Joel at right, with his hand on the governor's arm.

Looks like I’ll have to contact somebody else to add me to the e-mail distribution list for the gov’s weekly schedules. Press spokesman Joel Sawyer, whom the governor left high and dry with no hint of where he actually was when he went AWOL, is leaving that increasingly thankless job, according to The State:

Gov. Mark Sanford’s communications director, Joel Sawyer, said today he is leaving for an unspecified private-sector job, effective Aug. 5.

Sawyer said his decision to leave his $65,000-a-year job had nothing to do with Sanford’s recent six-day disappearance and the Republican governor’s subsequent disclosure of an affair with an Argentine woman.

“I want to be crystal clear that my departure is purely about what’s best for me and my family on a personal and financial level,” Sawyer said in a statement. “I wish Mark and the rest of my talented and dedicated colleagues the best.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to say that, while we may have disagreed about some things, Joel Sawyer was always thoroughly professional in my dealings with him. I would trust him with my life — in fact, I have. I hope he found a great new job.

Tom Davis appointment a case of qualification trumping connection

Here’s something you don’t see every day in South Carolina:

Columbia, SCJuly 6, 2009 – South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler announced today that he has recommended State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) for appointment to the State Ports Authority Legislative Oversight Committee.  The 10-member legislative committee was recently created with the passage of the port-restructuring bill to help ensure stability and efficiency in state ports operations.

Tom Davis is one of Gov. Mark Sanford’s closest friends and advisers, and has said the gov should stay in office. Harvey Peeler was one of the first GOP senators to call on the governor to step down. Tom served previously on the Ports Authority, as a gubernatorial appointee. And he holds up the Jasper port deal with Georgia as a key achievement of the Sanford administration (when I suspect it is actually a key achievement of Tom Davis).

But Sen. Peeler appointed Sen. Davis anyway. We need to see more of that in South Carolina, a lot more: People being chosen for office because of their qualifications, rather than who their friends are.

Anyway, good choice there, Sen. Peeler.

Congratulations to Samuel!

First Inez, now Samuel. Hey, if he can get a full-time job, so can I. There’s hope:

COLUMBIA, SC – June 25, 2009 – Retired businessman and philanthropist Samuel Tenenbaum has been named president of Palmetto Health Foundation. He replaces Cary Smith who has led Palmetto Health Foundation since 2005 and is now retiring.

Seriously, I’m please for my good friend. And Palmetto Health now has one ace of a fundraiser.

WWJD (What Would Jenny Do?): The new standard for wives of wayward politicians

This morning at breakfast at my usual location, a wag suggested that soon someone would be selling bracelets saying WWJD, for “What Would Jenny Do?”

I sort of hate to pass on something like that said in a jocular manner, because the state of mind of the state’s chief executive — and the inevitable impact it has on his family — is no laughing matter, and it’s getting less funny day by day.

But you know what? I seriously think that after what we’ve seen the past week, someone ought to have a bunch of those bracelets printed up and distributed to political wives. I say that because Jenny Sanford has been a class act from the beginning. I don’t think she’s trying to be a class act; I don’t think she gives a rip what the chattering class think about her. I think she’s just trying to do the right thing, with some self-respect and most of all with the welfare of her children in mind, and that’s what makes her a class act.

I dropped by the offices of the Palmetto Family Council today. I had seen the story about their support-Jenny movement, and since I was stopping by Starbuck’s on Gervais anyway, I thought I’d walk up and say hi to Oran Smith and the gang. I had never seen their digs before. (That’s a great, cool building they’re in, which is owned by my friend Hal Stevenson.) I mentioned the bracelet idea to them, just sort of half-seriously at the time, and when they showed a little interest I said if they followed up on it, they needed to give my friend who thought of it credit.

Something that not everybody realizes about Jenny Sanford that makes her “let-him-take-his-own-medicine” stance more remarkable: She was in her own way sort of the Republican version of Hillary Clinton. Electing the Sanfords, the state got a two-fer. I’ll never forget the time, at the start of the 2002 campaign, when Sanford asked to come present his economic plan to our editorial board. We said fine, and when I went downstairs to bring him up to the board room, there was Jenny. She was holding out a basket of cookies to me, which I took as a very conscious effort to say, “I’m not Hillary Clinton, even though it may look like I am once we get upstairs.” In the board room, Mark Sanford kept deferring to Jenny on the economics theory, letting her explain the pie charts and other stuff on the Powerpoint presentation.

She managed his campaign, and was a tough manager. I remember Tom Davis — who lived in the Sanford’s basement during that campaign — talking about “going to the hats” when he’d done something wrong. If he’d screwed up, Jenny would ask him to step with her into a part of the house where there were a bunch of ballcaps and such belonging to the boys hanging on the wall. “Going to the hats” was an experience to be avoided.

In other words, one would be forgiven for assuming that Jenny was every bit as politically ambitious as Mark. Yet she didn’t do a Hillary (or a whatever-Spitzer’s-wife’s-name-is). She didn’t do a Tammy Wynette.

And women everywhere should bless her for it, as many are doing.

Inez confirmed

Here’s another scoop (to follow my earlier one on Twitter today about Lourie’s being sold): Inez Tenenbaum has been confirmed to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Lindsey Graham had this to say:

“I’m pleased the Senate has acted quickly on the nomination and confirmed her to this important position. I know Inez and am confident she will hit the ground running. She will look out for American consumers and provide the agency with the leadership it needs.

“I also want to thank President Obama. He made an outstanding selection in choosing Inez Tenenbaum for this job.”

I’ll add my own “Thank you, Mr. President” to that. Good one there.

Stay tuned to, always first with the burst, and on the spot while it’s hot. Etc. (I stole those zippy taglines from Heinlein, by the way — in the interests of full disclosure.)

Totally apart from the fact that Samuel and Inez are friends of mine, her quick approval is a feel-good story all around. She’s a positive, capable person whose admirable qualities easily overrode partisan considerations, and that is something to celebrate.

Why the good falls with the bad

Cindi Scoppe’s column today about Mark Sanford’s “good vetoes” makes an excellent point. Many of his vetoes as governor have truly been about good and smart government, and have tried to undo some of the General Assembly’s more objectionable excesses.

Unfortunately, the governor has generated so much bad blood between himself and lawmakers — and damaged his credibility outside the State House with such wrongheaded moves as trying to block the stimulus — that he’s made it much, much easier for lawmakers to brush him off, even when he’s right.

Some who still defend the governor believe this is not his fault, that it’s all the fault of those wicked, wasteful lawmakers. And indeed, legislators give such critics ammunition when they reject even the governor’s demonstrably good ideas.

But the sad truth is — and it IS  a sad truth to someone who initially was a Sanford supporter, as I was — that he has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure his own ineffectiveness in dealing with the Legislature across the board. However wasteful or foolish you may think lawmakers as a group are (and Lord knows they give plenty of opportunities for you to draw that conclusion), the fact is that the Republican leaders would love to have worked with a governor of their own party to achieve his agenda, even when it wasn’t theirs. It’s in their nature, whatever their flaws.

Cindi does a pretty decent job of explaining how that happened, although you had to be there watching closely to fully get the degree to which he has spoiled his opportunities:

Unfortunately, the Legislature dealt with his 2004 vetoes in a most irresponsible way (overriding 105 of 106 of them in 90 minutes, before most legislators even had a chance to hear his arguments), which prompted his even more-irresponsible response (carrying two squealing, defecating piglets into the State House in a made-for-TV protest), which made legislators even more angry, which made the governor even more provocative, which made legislators even more determined to ignore him, which made him even less concerned about making nice — or acting responsibly — which prompted legislators to not just ignore him but punish him, which ….

You get the point. And all of that was before he united just about the entire Legislature — Republican and Democrat and, more significantly, House and Senate — in seething opposition to his campaign to reject federal stimulus funding unless it is used to not stimulate the economy.

And let me tell you, it’s one thing to unite Democrat and Republican. Uniting the House and the Senate against you takes real talent for p0litical self-destruction, bordering on genius.

The result is that the governor’s good ideas get swept away with the bad, and that truly is a shame.

Making change happen in Columbia

If you’ve tried to make change happen in Columbia, or anywhere else in our beloved state, you’ve likely been frustrated. And by “change” I mean any kind of change. Whether you’re Gov. Mark Sanford pushing restructuring of state government (the cause he and I share) or Michael Rodgers trying to get the Confederate flag down (ditto), you can feel like you’re butting your head against a wall.

Blame a system that was set up to resist change. The landed gentry who ran this state from the start set up institutions and fostered a political culture that was probably more resistant to change than any in the U.S. You can blame John Locke, in part. He helped Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper draft the original rules under which the colony would be run, and we have vestiges of that hyper-conservative (in the original sense of resisting change) system he helped devise to this day.

But that’s probably deeper than you want to get into it. The point is, change comes hard in these parts.

So I read with interest Adam Beam’s story today about how one group has managed to get a number of things done recently in the city of Columbia. You’ll note that our own Kathryn Fenner — regular contributor to this blog — and the Rev. Wiley Cooper were mentioned prominently.

Kathryn tells me that there’s one person who was NOT mentioned, though, and should have been. She said she credits “top city staffer Marc Mylott’s excellent quarterbacking for much of our success, as well as the support he received from his boss, Steve Gantt.” She described Mr. Mylott as “the Zoning Administrator, and the head of the development services department. He’s the city staff person designated to lead the task force –Wiley was the civilian head, and Marc did and does all the admin work and heavy lifting–coordinated with all the city departments — pulled together all their issues with the Code, etc.”

So, credit where it’s due. I thought that, as long as I was giving out plaudits for good work in Cayce, some folks who’ve been doing a good job at Columbia City Hall should get get some praise, too. People who deserve an attaboy don’t get one often enough.

Can you believe this guy? (I mean that in a NICE way)

Sorry not to have posted today. Aside from doing the work I usually do to get the opinion pages out, I'm dealing with a lot of e-mails and phone calls related to my personal and professional news — mostly very kind and thoughtful (although not quite all — hey, you know my public).

When I came in this morning, I was going to write something about our governor's latest, which is pretty wild and crazy and outrageous. I decided the headline was going to be, "Can you believe this guy?" I was going to say, he only wants the stimulus on his terms? Oh, yeah, it's all about him, all right, yadda-yadda…

But before I could write it, I got a call from the governor himself, in which he was very kind and gracious — which actually didn't surprise me a bit. On a personal level, I think he's a fine person, even though I wish he weren't our governor. Can you follow that (because a lot of people have trouble with it)? I said so here on the blog back when we endorsed his opponent in 2006:

If we went on the basis of who we like, I'd probably have gone with
Sanford. I know him, and I personally like him. I really have to force
myself to look at what he's doing (and not doing) as governor and shove
aside the fact that I like the guy.

I mean, I was kidding around a little when I said I was willing to put my life in his hands back here, but I was also being serious. The fact is that on a personal level he is a fine gentleman. Hand in hand with the fact that he places WAY too much faith in the private sector is the fact that in his private LIFE I see him as a good father and husband and so forth.

Anyway, he was very gracious in saying this morning that while we have had our differences, he had a certain respect for me and my colleagues, and he went on to pay us a compliment that you might find curious, but which I appreciated.

He cited the Teddy Roosevelt saying that "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena." Now, if I stopped there, you would think he actually meant to malign me and aggrandize himself, because here is the context of that portion of the speech TR delivered at the Sorbonne in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

As you can see, it would be easy to cast me and those like me as the "critic," and the governor as the man in the arena.

But his purpose in saying that was to say that he sees me — and my colleagues on this editorial board — as also being in the arena, as among those who take risks, who strive valiantly, "who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause." I thought that was very generous of the governor, and perceptive, too — in that it's smart of him to know that I would LIKE to be described that way.

When I was 22 years old and starting out in this business, I wouldn't have wanted a politician to suggest I was in the arena. I was filled with all that J-school stuff about detachment and objectivity, and would rather have been cast as the critic. But along the way, I started to CARE about what happened to my community, my state, my country, the world — which ruined me as the kind of journalist I once aspired to be, but which I truly hope made me more useful to society. I have worked hard with that goal in mind — that of being useful, of trying to make a difference.

And I truly appreciate the governor recognizing that, and taking the time to tell me.

So, can you believe this guy? Only in this case, I mean that in a nice way.

Parties playing nice

Y'all know how I'm always trashing the parties, but when they do something even halfway nice, I do notice. And I was struck by the statement that DNC Chair Tim Kaine put out about Michael Steele becoming his opposite number:

My congratulations to Michael Steele on his election as chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Together, we have the honor of leading our respective Parties during one of the most important periods in our country’s history.   I look forward to working with Chairman Steele as we set out to put partisanship and the politics of the past aside to get our economy working again.  The American people have sent a clear message that the challenges we face are too great for us to get bogged down by outmoded ideological divides. They have challenged us to work together to find practical solutions that will put this country back on the right track. President Obama and the Democratic Party are answering that challenge, and I hope Chairman Steele will join us.

That might not sound like much, but normally the parties don't issue statements about their opposition that it not nasty or catty or worse. So this was an improvement. Yeah, I know — his definition of "putting partisanship aside" means that he wants Mr. Steele to do what the Democrats want. So you can't call this message bipartisan in a strict sense.

But he put it in an unusually nice way, and that's something. Not one slash of the claws. No, if your Aunt Emily sent out a note like this it wouldn't be especially nice, because she's nice all the time. But this is progress for the parties. And we praise children when they take those first baby steps…

In praise of good ideas, starting with school district consolidation

You know, I sort of damned the good news about the growing DHEC consensus with unfairly faint praise earlier today. (Or darned it, at the very least.)

I need to start looking more at the bright side. I don't spend enough time looking at things that way these days. We're all so overwhelmed by the economic situation — and if you are in the newspaper business, you are steeped in it (nothing is more sensitive to a slowing economy than an already-troubled industry that is built on advertising revenues). It's very easy to dwell on such facts as this one that has stuck in my head since last week: That not only did the U.S. economy lose 2.5 million jobs in 2008, the worst since 1945, but 524,000 of those jobs lost were in December alone. To do the math for you, if the whole year had been as bad as the last month, the total would have been over 6.29 million. And there's no particular reason to think January won't be worse than December.

I'm not a big Paul Krugman fan, but stats like that make me worry that he was right in his column, which we ran on Sunday, saying that the Barack Obama stimulus plan, overwhelming huge as it is, won't be nearly big enough.

And these are not cheery thoughts. Nor is it cheery to reflect, as I did in my Sunday column, about how resistant policy makers in South Carolina are to policies that make sense — even the more obvious policies, such as increasing the cigarette tax to the national average, or restructuring government to increase accountability, or comprehensive tax reform.

That's what we do in this business. We harp. Year in, year out. We can be tiresome. We can, as I suggested Sunday, get tired of it ourselves. But little victories such as this emerging consensus on DHEC, or the signs that we saw last year that even some of the stauncher opponents of restructuring in the Black Caucus are coming around on the issue (which is a real sea change) are worth celebrating, and encouraging — like putting extra oxygen on an ember.

So it is that I applaud Cindi today for, instead of doing her usual thing of mocking the stupider ideas among the prefiled bills, giving a boost to the better ideas. There were some good ones on her list.

In fact, I was inspired to do a little followup on one of them:

H.3102 by Reps. Ted Pitts and Joan Brady would shut off state funds to
school districts with fewer than 10,000 students, in an attempt to make
inefficient little districts merge.

Now that's the beginning of a good idea. Like most obviously good ideas, it isn't new. We've been pushing for school district consolidation as long as we've been pushing restructuring and comprehensive tax reform, etc., and with even less success. Everybody says they're for it in the abstract; no one lifts a finger to make it happen. Even Mark Sanford gives lip service to it (but won't work to make it happen, preferring to waste his energy on ideological dead-ends such as vouchers).

So it's encouraging that Ted Pitts and Joan Brady (and Bill Wylie and Dan Hamilton) want to at least set a starting place — a numerical threshold, a line that the state can draw and say, "We won't waste precious resources paying to run districts smaller than this."

Mind you, I'm not sure it's the RIGHT threshold. I've always thought that the most logical goal should get us down from the 85 districts we have now to about one per county — which would be 46. The 10,000 student threshold overshoots that goal, as I discovered today. I asked Jim Foster over at the state department of ed to give me a list of the sizes of districts. The latest list that he had handy that had districts ranked was this spreadsheet
(see the "TABLE 1-N" tab), which showed that as of 2006, only 18 districts in the state had more than 10,000 pupils. One of those — Kershaw County — has since risen over the magic mark, so that makes it 19.

Maybe we should have only 19 districts in the state, although I worry that a district that had to aggregate multiple counties to be big enough might be a little unwieldy.

But hey, it's a starting point for discussion on an actual reform that would help us eliminate ACTUAL waste in our education system, and provide more professional direction to some of our most troubled schools (which tend to be in those rural districts that just aren't big enough to BE districts to start with).

So way to go, Ted and Joan (and Bill and Dan).

I was particularly struck that Ted was willing to put forth an idea that would have an impact in his own county (although perhaps not, I suspected, in his actual district). That's the standard reason why district consolidation gets nowhere — lawmakers balk at messing with their home folks districts, because voters tend to be about this the way they are about other things; a reform is great until if affects them.

I suspected, and Jim's spreadsheet confirmed, that while Lexington 1 and District 5 were big enough to retain state funding under this proposal, Lexington 3 and 4 were not. More than that, Lexington 2 falls below the threshold, and at least part of Ted's district is in Lexington 2. (Unless I'm very mistaken. Ted is MY House member, and my children all attended Lexington 2 schools.) As for Joan Brady — I think her district would be unaffected, as Richland 1 and 2 would be untouched (even though they shouldn't be — they should be merged). But I still applaud her involvement.

Anyway, way to get the ball rolling on this, folks. Let's keep talking about this one.

DeMint’s right about Bush bailout

Just saw this release from Jim DeMint about Bush's unilateral $17.4 billion bailout of Detroit:

“This decision is
disappointing. While the bailout may provide a short-term boost to three
companies, it will not force them to fundamentally improve their operations and
become competitive in the long-term. This decision, I am sad to say, runs
counter the interests of American taxpayers, American consumers and the American
auto industry,” said Senator DeMint.

“I also believe this action is
unconstitutional. The Executive Branch must have the consent of Congress to
appropriate taxpayer funds. Yet the bailout legislation passed earlier this year
does not permit the Administration to use taxpayer money in this way, and
Congress rejected the auto bailout when it was brought up for a vote last

The senator and I are not on the same page when it comes to other "bailouts" — we definitely disagree about the Obama infrastructure thing — but we're on the same side on this one. All of his libertarian populist rhetoric aside, this IS a constitutionally objectionable action. As I wrote in this editorial earlier this week, the president "takes too much upon himself."

And the thing is, nobody's going to stop the president from doing this — certainly not the Congress. George Will will have an interesting piece about that on our Sunday pages.

At least we don’t have to worry about Sanford doing things the CHICAGO way…


After more than three decades in this business, you can get sort of jaded. You hear that the governor of Illinois is arrested and charged with trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat, and you think, here we go again. What’s new in the world? Hey, I’ve seen gubernatorial corruption. I was there in Nashville in January 2009 when they swore in Lamar Alexander several days early because Gov. Ray Blanton was expected to turn a bunch of prisoners loose in his last days in office.

And hey, this is Illinois we’re talking about, so what do you expect? They’re doing politics the Chicago way.

But then I saw that, among the nefarious things this Blagojevich was about to do is blackmail the troubled Chicago Tribune into firing the entire editorial board as the price of getting state aid. At that point I thought, now he’s gone to meddling! I mean, there oughta be a law, right? Fortunately, there is…

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The NYT said:

The authorities also say Mr. Blagojevich threatened to withhold state assistance from the Tribune Company,
the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, which filed
for bankruptcy on Monday. According to the authorities, Mr. Blagojevich
wanted members of the Tribune’s editorial board, who had criticized
him, to be fired before he extended any state assistance.

What state aid, I wondered? Here I was thinking that my industry was the only one taking its lumps without asking for any government handouts. The WSJ described the plot differently:

Another incident that came from intercepted conversations involved
the Chicago Tribune.  The governor wasn’t pleased with the Tribune’s
coverage of him and its editorial content. According to the government,
the governor threatened to stall the sale of Wrigley Field if the
newspaper failed to fire certain members of the editorial board. Both
the newspaper and Wrigley Field are owned by Tribune Co.

According to Mr. Fitzgerald, the person who was targeted to be fired
is still at the newspaper. He wouldn’t offer specific names.

In a statement, Tribune said the actions of its executives and
advisers working on the Wrigley Field sale "have been appropriate at
all times." The company also said, "No one working for the company or
on its behalf has ever attempted to influence staffing decisions at the
Chicago Tribune or any aspect of the newspaper’s editorial coverage as
a result of conversations with officials in the governor’s

Apparently, the gov was upset about editorials such as these:

Hey, isn’t that the way a newspaper is supposed to write about its governor?

Anyway, we’ve got nothing to worry about. Aside from the fact that our governor is NOT a crook — and remember, you read it here — our governor doesn’t believe in the gummint getting involved with bailouts anyway, so what kind of leverage could he have if he DID go bad…

By the way, the photo above is of the Illinois gov arriving at da scene of da crime — Tribune Tower — on Monday. In the perp-drive photo below, that’s his (allegedly) naughty face peeping out from behind the cop’s headrest at extreme left.



Palling around with terrorists in S.C.


A lot of y’all think I’m way harsh on our gov. Well, the guy deserves to have someone stick up for him on this one. Barack Obama’s campaign has done him a rather grave, although ridiculous, injustice.

As Sanford says, the attempt to tie him to Obama’s old friend Bill Ayers (that’s him above with Bernardine Dohrn in 1980, and below in 1981) is "bizarre." From the story in the Greenville News:

Obama’s campaign responded in recent days, noting in a fact-check release to reporters this week that Ayers "is currently a distinguished scholar at the University of South Carolina where Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who supported Sen. McCain’s campaign as far back as the 2000 primaries, serves as an ex-officio member of the board of trustees. By Gov. Palin’s standards, that means Gov. Sanford shares Ayers’ views."

In an interview with Fox News, Bill Burton, Obama’s press secretary, said Sanford "employs" Ayers.

"He’s the governor of the state and he’s in charge of the board, so that means he employs Bill Ayers," Burton said, adding that, "We don’t think that Mark Sanford or John McCain share the views or condone what Bill Ayers did in the 1960s, which Barack Obama said were despicable and horrible."

Gosh, where do we start?

  • First, if supporting John McCain is a crime, then Mark Sanford is as innocent as a lamb. Did he, years ago (as, once upon a time, Obama associated with Ayers)? Yes. But he basically gave the McCain campaign the big, fat finger this year. Sanford was the only leading Republican in the state (and in his case, one uses the term "Republican" loosely, which is one thing I’ve always liked about the guy, but even that can wear thin) NOT to take a stand as to who should win the primary in S.C. As one McCain supporter complained to me, Sanford never so much as invited McCain to drop by for a cup off coffee during the primary campaign; his disdain was breathtaking. His post-primary "endorsement" came through a spokesman, in answer to a question.
  • Next, and this is the most telling point, one must have a staggering ignorance of South Carolina to hold the governor of the state responsible for ANYTHING that happens at a public college or university. Should he have such say? Absolutely. Sanford thinks so, and we’ve thought so for a lot longer. But the higher ed institutions continue to be autonomous fiefdoms answering to boards of trustees appointed by the Legislature — one of the powers that lawmakers guard most jealously. USC and its fellows are famously, notoriously independent of executive control, which is one reason why we lag so far behind such states as NORTH Carolina, which has a board of regents. You say the gov is an ex-officio member of the trustee board? Yeah, with the emphasis on the EX, in the original Latin meaning. He’s also an honorary member of my Rotary Club, but I can’t remember seeing him at any meetings.

So I’ve defended Sanford, who in this case was most unjustly accused. But what the silly Obama allegation DOES do, however, is raise this very good question: What on Earth is USC doing paying stipends to an unrepentant terrorist?


Tom Davis on the Jasper Port deal

Tom Davis dropped by to see Cindi and me Tuesday morning — his first visit since the one I wrote about back here and here — and we talked about a number of things.

Tom, you will recall, is the governor’s former chief of staff who is now the GOP nominee for what is for the moment Catherine Ceips’ Senate seat.

Anyway, one thing Tom talked about was progress that’s been made on the Jasper Port deal. Tom continues to believe that his ex-boss, Mark Sanford, doesn’t get enough credit for bringing the deal with Georgia along to this point (even though my former colleague Mike Fitts did a column awhile back pretty much covering Tom’s talking points on the subject).

But Tom expects that years from now, when some of the more southern Corridor of Shame counties have benefited greatly from the economic development the projected port will bring, Mr. Sanford will get the credit, and deservedly so. This, he says, will be Mark Sanford’s legacy.

It will also be, if it turns out as hoped, Tom Davis’ legacy. He was, near as I could tell, the most ardent advocate for the Jasper Port in the Sanford administration, and the one who worked hardest to make it happen. I think you can probably see some of Tom’s passion about the subject in the above video.

What? Only $25 more per month for smokers?

Yes, of course smokers covered by the state health plan should pay more, because they cost more.

But $25 a month? What is that, a joke? That’s not enough either to cover the added cost of their filthy habit, or to encourage them to quit. It’s desultory. As the story said:

State health insurance system officials said an extra $25 a month would
not cover the full cost of smoking-related expenses. It is more
effective, they said, to encourage smokers to quit.

And $25 a month won’t do that.

Who even notices a $25-a-month increase in insurance premiums, the way they go up these days? That’s less than the increase most of us deal with in most years, without engaging in stupid and harmful behavior.

Two cheers to the governor for supporting the increase, pathetic though it is.

footnote: I have a shorter answer to the question posed in the sidebar with this morning’s story, QUESTION: I’m a state employee. How will the state know I’m a smoker? Answer: By the smell.

House backs up on lawmakers’ pension COLA

Maybe it’s a good thing I used Cindi’s column in my usual Sunday slot.

Today, the House took action that will at least ALLOW the provision slipping in a cost-of-living increase on lawmakers’ ridiculously generous pension plan to be removed from the larger bill. Cindi explains what happened as follows:

An explainer: For procedural reasons, it would have been all but impossible for the House to remove the legislative cola from the bill today. So its only options were to 1) give the bill 3rd reading as is; 2) kill the bill; or 3) recommit the bill to committee so that the committee could remove the legislative cola (or not, if it so chose) and send it back to the House for debate. The third option was, in my opinion, the only responsible one. And that’s what the House did.

And hey, how often does the House move to do something that will please both the newspaper AND the governor? Here’s what Mark Sanford had to say:

"I want to thank everyone in the House – and in particular Mick Mulvaney who made the recommit motion – who agreed that this issue of backdoor pay increases needed to be revisited," Gov. Sanford said. "As this bill goes back through the committee process, we believe the first order of business should be to strip out this legislative pay perk. While we still have a number of concerns about the rest of this bill as well, today’s vote showed that a majority in the House have enough respect for taxpayers to put the breaks on this terrible idea. If this provision does, however, somehow survive the committee process again, we believe that at a minimum House members need to take a recorded vote on the matter so that taxpayers can hold them accountable for their actions."

God bless Mayor Bob

Forgot to mention this yesterday, but as one who has worked at the south end of Assembly for over 20 years, about three or four years of which (by my highly scientific estimate) have been spent waiting for trains to move — and mind you, I long ago learned every trick for getting around them, but sometimes it’s impossible — I was deeply grateful to Mayor Bob for setting forth a vision for ridding us of this curse.

I’m not sure the city can afford it, and I’m not necessarily convinced that if it had the money it shouldn’t spend it on other things, but I do appreciate the thought.