Thursday, November 27, 2014

The 2014 VUI Thanksgiving Political Awards presented by Calhoun Fawls and Joe Modoc

Yet again Voting Under the Influence is happy to bring you the Annual Thanksgiving Political Awards this year presented by Calhoun Fawls and Joe Modoc.  To paraphrase Randy Quaid’s character in the movie Independence Day, “we’re back!”  The awards are a mix of humor and serious recognition. Now on to the awards.

First, we get started with a new award.  Everyone seems to have, or at least know someone who has, a grumpy and absent minded uncle who used to be a big shot and sits and complains about most things, especially politics.  He means well, even spends money on family, but ends up not even making it to Thanksgiving dinner. After watching the gubernatorial debates and with his dropping out of the race for Governor after spending millions, this year’s Grumpy Uncle Award goes to Tom Ervin.  

Next, we present the Cranberry Sauce Award for Local Government Political Achievement. There are several local political figures that deserve recognition for the jobs they are doing.   The nominees are:

Solicitor Strom Thurmond, Jr. ---Thurmond not only is doing an effective job as Solicitor but is a genuine good guy who by all accounts is loyal to his family, friends, and employees.  That is a rare thing in politics today. He also has been instrumental in continuing the Steve Kodman Memorial Golf Tournament in Aiken to benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County. 

Sheriff Ricky Wayne Chastain of Laurens County—One thing you have to say about Sheriff Chastain is that he is a political survivor.  He’s been a professional “rassler,” he has endured staff scandals and his own sex scandals, which got him dubbed the “loving Sheriff.”  But, the criminals don’t love him because he does a pretty good job of law enforcement in Laurens County and he is another public official is active is charitable activities.

Sheriff Lewis McCarty of Lexington County---Speaking of scandals, the scandal involving Jim Metts of Lexington County rocked the midlands of South Carolina.  Rumors flew around and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department lost credibility around the area.  After his appointment by Governor Haley, Sheriff McCarty came out of retirement to act quickly to restore credibility to the department.  His willingness to leave retirement to become interim Sheriff in such circumstances is a true example of public service.

Chesterfield County Clerk of Court Faye Sellers---Sellers is the last nominee and the award winner.  Chesterfield County is not a wealthy or heavy populated county.  However, the Clerk of Court’s office is one of the most efficient, accurate, modern and friendliest in the state.  Frankly that office is an example of local government working the way it should.  For that we give Clerk of Court Sellers the Cranberry Sauce Award for achievement in local government.

Speaking of examples, Jenny Sanford and Thomas Ravenel are two examples of political figures that made us laugh and scratch our head.  Jenny Sanford seems to love getting publicity as an ex-wife of an ex- Governor.  When she was not publically hauling her now Congressman ex-husband into court over this or that, “conservative” Sanford was making a strange campaign video for Democrat Jenny Deerin who was running against Republican incumbent Secretary of State Mark Hammond.  Whatever the reason that Sanford and her some of moneyed pals were endeared by Deerin, it was odd.  Ravenel well, what can you say?  He is the star of an embarrassing reality television show.  He is a convicted felon for drugs.  He recently picked up a DUI. He has a baby daughter with a woman on the TV show he is on that is young enough to be his daughter herself.  Yet, he was either crazy enough or egotistical enough to run for United States Senate against his old nemesis Lindsey Graham. Even more bizarre was the accusation by his “baby mama’s” hairdresser that he assaulted her and fell into a swimming pool while holding his baby daughter.  Something is wrong in the Lowcountry.  Maybe the well to do just have too much time on their hands and too many drinks at the ready.  Whatever the reason, Ravenel and Sanford share this year’s Fruitcake Award.  

Speaking of the Lowcountry, this year’s Turkey of the Year Award goes to ex-Speaker of the SC House Bobby Harrell.  A year ago, Bobby Harrell and his infamous “Speaker’s Mafia” were basically running South Carolina.  Now, after thousands of tax dollars were spent, a long drawn out legal fight, and smearing others as he left politics, Harrell has pled guilty to criminal charges of misdeeds involving campaign funds and resigned his office.  Thanks goes to Ashley Landis of the South Carolina Policy Council and Attorney General Alan Wilson for working hard to make sure that turkey got basted.

A turkey always seems to go with a holiday ham.  The Holiday Ham Award goes to the politician who stretches things and hams it up to self-promote their political skills and achievements.  There is no one who hams it up like Governor Nikki Haley.  Governor Haley has never seen a jobs number she did not want to inflate or enough bad news from DSS to keep from saying how her DSS cabinet appointee “rocked.”  She exaggerated and ignored reality like few politicians can. Who can blame her? As long as she blamed President Obama for her woes, the voters ate up her lines.  What better way to top that campaign performance than a taxpayer paid for trip to India in which she and her husband hammed it up for cameras in traditional garb as to say “hey look at us South Carolina, we are moving on up.”  Move over Sarah, here comes Nikki.

Governor Haley would not have been hamming up it in India had it not been for her opponent Vincent Sheheen’s campaign.  A year ago, Sheheen’s election seemed possible.  Most of the time Sheheen comes across as a nice, smart and solid guy.  Haley was weak. However, as the campaign wore on and Sheheen’s negative campaign devolved into an unfortunate incident in which he was caught on video calling the Governor an unpleasant name, his once solid campaign became cooked and mashed.  Thus, this year’s Mashed Potato Award goes to Vincent Sheheen.

The next couple of awards are the most important and most coveted of our Thanksgiving Political Awards. 

The Cornbread Dressing Award for career achievement is given posthumously to longtime Lexington County Coroner Harry Harman.  Harman served as Coroner from 1977 until his passing in April of this year.  As Coroner, Harman oversaw the office as Lexington County grew from a rural place to a thriving suburban area. Harman had a reputation for professionalism and compassion in performing his job.  Indeed, Harman’s lifetime of public service showed what a public servant should be like. 

That brings us to the Golden Drumstick Award for overall political achievement.  United States Senator Tim Scott is worth mentioning because he became the first African American elected to statewide office in South Carolina since Reconstruction.  However, it is Scott’s colleague in the United States Senate, Lindsey Graham, who earned the Golden Drumstick Award this year.  A year ago Senator Graham seemed like a politician in trouble.  There was grumbling all around on the right and the left, and conventional wisdom was that Senator Graham was a candidate to be “primaryed.”   Several candidates stepped up to challenge Graham in the Republican Primary in hopes of one of them creating a runoff with Graham and then national Tea Party money coming in and knocking him off.  Graham would have none of it and won handily.  Then came millionaire ex-Treasurer and reality TV star Thomas Ravenel, mentioned above, who was a “Tea Party” darling and even had one upstate GOP county chairman quietly campaigning for him.  Added to the General Election fray was respected Democratic State Senator Brad Hutto of Orangeburg.  Graham won handily again, and in doing so proved his mastery of Palmetto State politics and now is even mentioned in Presidential discussions.  That is Golden Drumstick worthy.
That is it.  That is the 2014 VUI Thanksgiving Political Awards presented by Calhoun Fawls and Joe Modoc.  Happy Thanksgiving Ya’ll and God Bless.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Have a happy MLK Day.  Here is the speech that was instrumental in changing America for the better on race.  The man's words and deeds are deserving of a national holiday and we should all be grateful for his words and works. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2014 is going to be a great year to follow and commentate on life and politics in South Carolina.  It is going to be an historic election year, with both United States Senate seats and the Governor's Mansion up for grabs.  Millions of dollars are sure to flow into the Palmetto State to influence the vote and we at VUI are gearing up to be back up and running full forced for this exciting year.  Thank you for reading and what a year it is going to be. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Speaker King of South Carolina under investigation

That have been published reports that South Carolina House of Representatives Speaker Bobby Harrell is under investigation.  Allegations are that the Speaker used campaign funds for personal gain, among a few other things, such as abuse of his position as Speaker.   

Two political groups in South Carolina are making the most noise about Speaker Harrell.  One is the conservative group the South Carolina Policy Council.  The other is South Carolina Common Cause.  Harrell’s people have been quick to label the allegations as just politics.  However, Attorney General Alan Wilson saw fit to have the State Law Enforcement Division investigate the allegations. 

What has happened since then is interesting.  The Attorney General found his campaign under scrutiny for missing campaign donations in filed reports.  As one old political hand told VUI, “You do not piss off the King.”  

House members, of both parties, are either silent or supportive of Harrell.  There is a reason.  Speaker Bobby Harrell, innocent or guilty of the allegations, is simply the most powerful elected official in South Carolina and he welds his power with an iron fist. 

Here is how.  Up until the resignation of then Lt. Governor Ken Ard, President Pro Tempore of the State Senate Glenn McConnell was considered the most powerful man in Columbia.  With McConnell’s position and his knowledge of Senate rules and even House Rules and how to manipulate them, he was considered the one man in Columbia any issue had to be on its side.  When Ard resigned, McConnell shocked some folks, including VUI, by simply doing the right thing, and accepting, with a sense of duty, his elevation to the defanged office of Lt. Governor.  Since then, the power has been with Harrell. 

There are several reasons.  Harrell rules the House with an iron fist.  If a member gets out of his good graces, the Speaker will boot them from a committee or buttonhole a pet bill of theirs.  Governor Nikki Haley learned it first hand when Harrell booted her from a committee in the House for getting out of step with him when she was a member of the House.  The vast powers of the Speaker inside the House even make hardened Democrats tread carefully around him for fear they will lose whatever little he gives them.  Further, though President Pro Tempore John Courson is an able man in the State Senate, Courson and his people, and even the Governor and her people, simply lack the information, the savvy and the downright hardball tactics the Speaker and his people have when comes to not only the House but every aspect of state government. 

Further, the Speaker is politically unbeatable for his seat in the House.  With the money in his war chest, his family name in the low country, and his people, there is simply no way the man could lose a re-election to the House.

Then there is the investigation itself.  While Wilson did the right thing in calling for SLED to check into things, there is South Carolina law.  As SC Policy Council President Ashley Landess pointed out in sworn testimony, the House investigates itself.  The Speaker, with his powers, would it seems, oversee the investigation into his own alleged misbehavior. There is certainly no indication that the Speaker will recuse himself or his influence at this time.  Thus, South Carolina could find itself at a major struggle of powers.  What if SLED says there is wrong doing and the House says there is not?

Such a situation is very possible.  The system creates it.  The Speaker could just remove from the House Ethics Committee any member who he thought might find against him.  More subtly, it could be implied.  The rules of the House make the Speaker the Speaker until 2014.  But the members of any committee, including the Ethics Committee, have no set terms.  So, again, the power is with the Speaker.  And, the table is set for an incredible political power battle in Columbia. 

But, it could be avoided.  One advantage to being the King is that you can be gracious.  Everyone in Columbia knows that while Fox News and others drone on about Governor Haley, the real power lies with Speaker Harrell.  The Speaker could solidify that power by simply taking a different approach.  Instead of blasting people who question his ethics, he should thank them for their concern.  He should open the books, so to speak, show there is no wrong doing and pay out no retributions.  It is something a Sol Blatt would do, and well, they did name the House office building after him. 

But, even the strongest of Kings fall when they get bitter and worry about petty things. Indeed, VUI predicts that a huge political struggle over all this will get federal attention, and who knows what happens after that.  Whatever happens, with all the powers involved you can bet a lot of pols in Columbia, Democrat and Republican, are going to keep their heads low and their powder dry as all this unfolds. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day

President's Day is a day that the United States pauses to remember its Presidents.  Usually, names like Washington and Lincoln are remembered.  However, there are lesser known Presidents who had an impact on the history of the nation and on the office  John Tyler is one 

John Tyler became President of the United States after the death of President William Henry Harrison. Harrison served only thirty days as President of the United States, before dying from the ailments related to a bad cold. Tyler was the first Vice-President to ever take over for a President before a President’s term ended. There was debate about how Tyler should be addressed and what his powers were. In the weeks surrounding Harrison’s death, Tyler took the oath as President and secured support from the cabinet and the Congress to be the actual President of the United States. It set a precedent that dictated such transitions until the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provided such. President Tyler paid a high cost for setting such a precedent. Months after his rise to the Presidency, he was disowned by the Whig Party. Thus, Tyler became a rare President to serve without official party affiliation. 

Not having party affiliation did not prevent President Tyler from having a meaningful role as President. There are so many things about the Presidency today that we take for granted that pioneers like Tyler established. Tyler was the first President of the United States to send a diplomatic mission to China. President Tyler oversaw the resolution of one the last disputes with Great Britain, the Maine/Canada border issue, thus paving the way to the close friendship the two nations now enjoy. President Tyler applied the Monroe Doctrine to Hawaii, thus setting up the situation in which the once island nation would become part of the United States. President Tyler ordered the army to set up bases from the frontier of the time to the Pacific Coast, setting up America’s claim from sea to shining sea. In the last days of his Presidency, President Tyler signed measures bringing Texas and Florida into the United States. The annexation of Texas was by Congressional Resolution, not a treaty, something unheard of in those times. 

President Tyler had negative precedents as well. As the first President to wield the veto for policy matters, Tyler was the first President to ever have a veto overridden by Congress. Tyler also had four Supreme Court nominees defeated by Senate, the most by any President. Indeed, the Supreme Court process was so difficult for President Tyler he left office on March 4th, 1845, with a vacancy still left on the court. 

After the Presidency, President Tyler returned to private life. Yet, his sympathies for the South were ever present. Tyler’s appointment of John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, to the post of Secretary of State showed Tyler’s feelings on sectional matters as President. In 1862, John Tyler, the former President of the United States, would show those views distinctly via his election to the Confederate Congress. Though he would only live a few months to serve in the Confederate Congress, he stands as the only President of the United States to serve as an elected official in another national government. 

Tyler’s tough stance on the Presidency would led his opponents to call him “His Accidenticy” Tyler’s decision to be a part of the Confederate Congress would cause others to call him a traitor. Indeed, it was not until the 20th Century that Congress would choose to honor his burial site as a burial site of a former President. 

As we honor and observe President’s Day and think of the likes of Washington, Lincoln and the Roosevelts, let us not forget John Tyler. Tyler was a complicated man with true faults, but as President, he set many of the precedents we now take for granted from a President. Tyler, as an elected Vice-President who became President due to the death of another President, took over the office full forced and, with no political party backing, used every ounce of its power to continue the United States on a course of growth.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pray for President George H.W. Bush

Regardless of how your politics run, if you are honest and logical, you have to recognize that George Herbert Walker Bush,41st President of the United States, is an outstanding American.  News is President Bush is struggling for his life in a Texas hospital.  We should all pray for this great American,

Bush's service to the country started young.  During World War II, George Bush was among the youngest naval aviators the United States Navy had in its Pacific War against Japan.  Bush made many successful flights as an aviator, but one in particular stands out.  Bush and his cohorts in his plane took heavy fire, completed their mission, and got shot down.  Bush survived, and was rescued by a United States Navy submarine.  That flight lived with Bush his entire life, and helped to define him to serve.  The Navy honored him by naming an aircraft carrier the USS George H.W. Bush. 

And, serve Bush did.  Bush, though the son of a Senator, went out and ran a successful business on his own in Texas.  Then he got elected to the United States House of Representatives.  He did his party's bidding and lost a US Senate campaign, but returned to service.  He served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, United States Ambassador to China, Director of the CIA and then Vice President of the of the United States.  

In those roles.  Two stand out.  As Chairman of the National Republican Committee, Bush had the guts to stand before then President Richard Nixon and tell him that Watergate had crippled Nixon and it was time to go.So many of this generation do not understand how difficult of a time that was.  Bush put country before party and the President,    As the representative of the United States to China, Bush set a tone that enabled the strong economic ties between the United States and China that exist today.  

There is also Bush's Vice Presidency under President Ronald Reagan.  Again, we so many of us today do not understand that time and the chaos that was created when President Reagan was shot in late March of 1981.  Cabinet members were squabbling over who was in charge of what.  Secretary of State Alexander Haig went on television to say he was in charge.  Vice President Bush was on a trip to Texas.  When then Vice President Bush returned, things calmed down.  He refused Marine One, saying that was Reagan's.  When he arrived at the White House, he checked all the egos with his calm resolve.  Bush's calm sense of things and diplomacy calmed the nation and the world.  

The performance as Vice President lined Bush up to be elected President.  Then Vice President Bush defeated Governor Mike Dukakis to become the 41st President of the United States.  Bush was a rare sitting Vice President to be elected President.  As President, he oversaw big military operations in Panama and in the Persian Gulf, expelling Saddam Hussein"s Iraqi forces from Kuwait.  That has its historical due.  

But, perhaps the greatest achievement of President George H.W. Bush was how he handled the fall of the Soviet Union.  There was chaos there.  Gorbachev seemed overthrown.  Came back.  The Berlin Wall fell.  Bush's calm nature and diplomatic acumen kept the world calm during it all and kept the hardliners in the Soviet Union from launching an attack out of the desperation that is brought on by disrespect.  Indeed, there was probably no President in the history of the United States whose temperament and abilities were better suited for the situation than President Bush. How President Bush handled that situation will likely be looked at by historians as his greatest accomplishment. 

However, historians do not matter in current politics.  Bush lost re-election to Bill Clinton, an historic force on his own.  Bush's decision to do the right thing for the country and deal with the Democratic Congress and raise some taxes was part of the problem.  Bush's abilities to deftly deal with foreign affairs were the other.  To many Americans, Bush seemed out of touch. And, then there were just silly things in 1992, like President Bush getting ill at a Japanese state dinner, making folks think of the idea of then Vice President Quayle becoming President.  

After his defeat to Bill Clinton, Bush continued to serve.  He served with charities and continued to be a man who conferred with world leaders.  He tried to show old folks that being old was not a death sentence by several parachute jumps.  Then, he struck a friendship up with the man who beat him.  Presidents Bush and Clinton worked together to raise almost a billion dollars for relief funds for victims of the tidal wave in Asia and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana   

We all know that Bush's oldest son went on to be the President to succeed the man that beat President Bush for the job.  But, that does not define George H.W. Bush.  He expected his sons to serve.  He did.  Though it is difficult for academics to rank one term Presidents as great, Bush deserves consideration.  He is right there with James K. Polk in doing a lot that really mattered to the country in his term.  Beyond that, a great American patriot lies in a Texas hospital, fighting for his life.  We first should pray that God is with him and with his family and then we ought to thank God for Americans like George H.W. Bush.  We are praying for you Mr. President. Thank you, sir, for all you have done in service to our country. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lets be human again

The events of last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut cut us all to the core. How someone could so act so evil and take the lives of little kids and those around them.  It hits us hard.  It shakes us.  

For me, what hit me was the fire station scene.  There were parents hugging their kids as they found them.  Then those were those parents looking for children who would never run up to them.  Children that they would never hold again.  I think on that.  Those parents will never fix a breakfast for those kids again.  They will never rush them to practice.  They will not put out Santa for them.  They will not see those kids off to their proms or their graduation.  That evil man with that gun in a moment robbed those parents of that and robbed those little children of all that they could be.  It was pure evil. 

As a man of Faith, I take some comfort in knowing that those children are with Christ now.  But, I also think about how Christ told us "do this unto the least of my Kingdom and you and have done it unto me."  Preachers on the past Sunday gave solid sermons about why God allows such things to happen.  I look at it another way.  I see God, saying to us, "I gave you free will, why did you let this happen?"

It is that question that haunts me.  Keeps me up at night.  Now there are politicians who argue it is all about guns.  That is the easy discussion.  Blaming such things on a inhuman thing like a gun is easy and simple and well, wrong.  The evil man who did the act had guns, true, but the guns he used were not legally his.  There were laws already in place that forbade him from having the guns he used.  

That begs bigger questions and a tougher discussion.  It starts with this culture we live in.  It is device driven. So many of us do not talk to one another, learn about one another, we just facebook and tweet.  It is an impersonal world we have created with technology.  Our youth are even more immersed in the impersonal.  Things are said and done online in social networks that we would never do in person and life itself just seems to be a name on a device.  Not a living human being.  Not someone to understand.  Not someone to respect.  Just a name on a device.  

Add to that the incredibly violent video games so many of our youth get lost in.  It is not like playing war with other kids outside at the play fort anymore.  Its all on the video screen, and a killshot gets you points and success.  No suffering you see.  No humanity. Just a game with points to score.  A soul lost in that world has no sense of humanity.  And, so many of us not only let it happen, we buy the games for our youth.  

That brings to mind other issues, like how we deal with mental illnesses and how drugged up we all are.  The mentally ill are people we just find a "magic" pill for, not work with them to deal with their problems.  Once we give them the magic pills, we isolate them usually.  We say, "hey they have their meds."  

And, when it comes to meds, we all love them as a society.  We condemn the man who might smoke a joint or take a drink, but we love the prescribed drugs.  If your kid is too hyper, we got a drug for that.  If you feel down this week, take a pill.  Big drug companies make big money making sure you and yours are medicated to a state where you can not tell good from bad, because hey that is judgmental, just take a pill. 

So many of us and our kids are so addicted to the prescribed pills that when something like Newtown happens, we demand a tool like guns be dealt with. Do not dare touch our culture of technology and drugs that combines to make us so inhuman.  I say balderdash with that.  It is time we did the real work of being human.  Lets talk to one another for real.  Let our youth go out and play and interact with others.  Lets deal with problems for real.  Do the work.  Say no to the magic pills marketed to us.  Let this tragedy forge us to work to be human beings again, and have a culture in which human beings touch other human beings and work out problems instead of hiding behind pills and blaming some tool. 

May God be with the victims of Connecticut and have mercy on us all for the culture we created. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Seventh Annual VUI Thanksgiving Political Awards

It is Thanksgiving.  Time to gather with friends and family to be thankful of the blessings in life and time for football and parades.  It is also time for VUI to hand out its Thanksgiving political awards.  This is the seventh time we at VUI have done this, and this year was as difficult as any in making the choices.  But, after much debate and what not, here we go.  

The Cornbread Dressing Award for Career Achievement goes to outgoing State Senator Jake Knotts.  Sure, Knotts made a mess of things in his legal efforts to get Katrina Shealy off the primary ballot, and that made him a candidate for the Holiday Ham Award as well, but we look at things as a whole.  Shealy got on the Fall ballot and defeated Knotts at the November polls.  But, let's measure Knotts on his entire career.  Knotts was accessible to South Carolinians inside and outside his district and was always good for straight politically incorrect remarks.  Knotts stood for the everyman, the little guy, the redneck, the ne'er do well.  Further, Knotts was not the product of out of state big money or well paid handlers.  He did his own work and he was who he was, like him or not, honestly.  The State Senate filled with handlers and out of state money whispering in State Senators ears will miss an honest voice like Knotts, whatever his faults.  VUI thanks Knotts for his service in the South Carolina House and Senate and wishes him well in his retirement.  

The Cranberry Sauce Award for achievement in local politics goes to Eight Circuit Solicitor Elect David Stumbo. Stumbo took a big risk taking on the political establishment in Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens and Newberry counties when he left his job in the South Carolina Attorney General's office to take on the politically entrenched and well connected incumbent Solicitor Jerry Peace in the Republican Primary.  Stumbo rightly saw that people in that area wanted a fighter for justice, not the status quo. Stumbo defeated Peace in the primary and then a Democratic opponent in the Fall.  Stumbo has goodwill and support that transcends party politics in that area and his integrity will be a breath of fresh air to that area.  

The Fruitcake Award goes to all those people on Twitter, Facebook and the blogs who just kept spewing nonsense about President Obama and former Governor Romney during the campaign.  You have heard the phrase, "that guy is as nutty as a fruitcake," well, read some of the outlandish stuff people posted about both Presidential candidates and you can see how nutty that they were.  Donald Trump was the leader in that he just embarrassed himself when it came to President Obama.  But, there were so many others.  That is what is both amusing and disappointing   People that we personally know, people we thought were sane until  we read the nonsense they posted and reposted on social media.  They earned the title "fruitcake." with their nonsense. 

Speaking of nonsense on social media, the self chest thumping by staffers and by the man himself gives Congressman Jeff Duncan of the Third District of South Carolina the Holiday Ham Award for self promotion.  Duncan got 60 plus percent of the vote in a heavy GOP district against a convicted felon who did not run a campaign.  From some of the remarks of his supporters and even some of  his staff, you would think the man won a dogfight against a formidable foe.  It was not the case. He ran against a joke.  But, the joke got bigger in how his minions claimed how great the victory was.  To add to it, Duncan joined the Lindsey Graham for Senate campaign by bashing UN Ambassador Susan Rice.  Sure, it is his right to do so, but he formed a petition on Facebook to oppose her nomination as Secretary of State.  That might seem okay to some, but think on this.  The President has not nominated the woman for that job.  The House has nothing to do with confirming appointments to that job, and the day the Congressman launched his all important petition was the same day his leader, Speaker Boehner was meeting with President Obama to discuss something that the US House actually has something to do with, the upcoming fiscal cliff. That's a triple dose of self promotion worthy of a Holiday Ham. 

Speaking of President Obama, lets get to the Golden Drumstick Award for political achievement.  That goes to the President.  A struggling economy, all those fruitcakes on social media, nearly a billion dollars spent to derail his campaign, some rather ugly racial undercurrents, and still the man won re-election.  The President showed that he is a smart pol.  He got Clinton involved.  He appealed to middle class values.  He overcame a dismal first debate.  Whether you like him or not, the President is good at the game.  And, he showed himself to the best at it this year.  

That brings us the Political Turkey of the Year.  That award goes to the political figure who really fowled things up.  Romney and his inner circle might contend that Karl Rove deserves such because Rove blew $300 million on a loss.  But, the real turkey is South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.  No Governor in South Carolina's history, or the history of any state in the United States for that matter, has ever oversaw a Cabinet whose failures did so much harm to its people than Governor Haley.  Millions of people were harmed by the hacking scandal under the Governor's watch now and for years to come.  Millions of people, and hundreds of thousands of South Carolina businesses have had their private information that they trusted the state government cabinet department under Governor Haley to keep safe compromised. 

What is really galling is how the Governor shirks taking responsibility and hides behind a so called credit monitoring program that the state is paying for that is just window dressing.  Indeed, Governor Haley seems like the farmer, who after his cows went away, decided that those who advised him to spend money on fences might be right after all.  But, make no mistake, the Department of Revenue is in her cabinet, under her control, and the it was her choice to secure the information as she saw fit, or did not. The harm done to the people of South Carolina will be long lasting and is unprecedented,  For that, Governor Nikki Haley richly deserves being dubbed VUI's Political Turkey of the Year. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Keep Electing the Lt. Governor

One of the best kept secrets in this year's election politics is that the office of Lt. Governor of South Carolina is up to be revamped via a state constitutional ammendment on the ballot.  The ammendment proposed would take away the people's right to elect the Lt. Governor seperately, abolish the Lt. Governor as President of the State Senate, and allow candidates for Governor to pick their Lt. Governors as running mates like Washington does for the President and Vice President.  It short, its an effort to make South Carolina's government more like the federal government. 

The push for such a change came with the scandal of former Lt. Governor Ken Ard.  Ard's embarrassing resignation sparked the General Assembly to push through the proposed constitutional ammendment.  As with most things, the heat of the moment often makes bad law. 

Now, academics and the political pundits disagree.  They seem all too eager to have Columbia mimick Washington in many ways.  But, we have learned that mimicking Washington, i.e., with the the cabinet form of state government under the Governor we moved to currently have, does not result in ideal things.  Just ask all those taxpayers and businesses who had their identification information stolen under the Governor's cabinet if you doubt that. 

That said, here are the reasons to vote no and keep things as they are. 

First, as it stands, right or wrong, the people of South Carolina, as a whole, elect the second highest ranking state official and the President of the State Senate.  Allowing the State Senate to choose their own President via its membership would reward cronyism and factions.  Further, a candidate for Governor would likely pick a running mate that satisfied some narrow interest or reward some campaign donor.  Thus, instead of a Lt. Governor who serves as the people's elected President of the State Senate as a whole, we would end up with two public officials, the Lt. Governor, and the President of the Senate, who would be beholden not the people of South Carolina, but the narrow interests that gave them their offices.  Instead of being vetting at the polls by the people of South Carolina as a whole, they would be chosen by a few. 

That brings the second point.  There is an ever growing movement that South Carolina's government should be more like the federal government.  It is a great irony that some of those who demand this change the most are those who protest the most against the federal government.  Their reasons are petty and personal.  Some politicians, groups and pundits are just flat unhappy with Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell being Lt. Governor and were unhappy with former Lt. Governor Bauer.  They want a Lt. Governor who walks lockstep with their pet Governor's agenda.  And, that is why South Carolina's way of having the people elect the Lt. Governor matters most.  South Carolina is not supposed to be Washington.  Our Lt. Governor is not supposed to be anyone's pet.

We in South Carolina have this notion that the people, as a whole, decide who is President of our State Senate.  Forty-six senators are elected.  The Lt. Governor is elected to preside.  Acadmemics and pundits contend that the Lt. Governor has no real power.  They do not understand real politics.  As a statewide elected official, the Lt. Governor serves as a "state senator at large" if you will, a person who can use the weight of being elected on his own to help constituents, and stand for good things for the state.  People like George Bell Timmerman, Fritz Hollings,  Robert McNair, John West, Nancy Stevenson, Mike Daniel, Nick Theodore, and yes, even Bob Peeler and Andre Bauer, used that bully pulpit of election on their own to do good for the people of South Carolina.  They made a difference not because they walked lock step with the Governor, but because they were elected on their own.  Their, and others contributions serve as shining examples of why a state government, particularly South Carolina's should not mimick Washington's.

Think on it a bit.  If we decide yes to the change, then come 2018, the Lt. Governor will be just another member of the Governor's adminstration.  A call from the Lt. Governor will have no weight on a matter with someone until what the Governor wants done is checked out.  People will have one less elected representative contending their case in that those in government will know the Lt. Governor is just some political pet picked from a narrow agenda. The respect for the office, and what its occupant can do for South Carolina will go down, not up.  The days of Lt. Governors doing great things will forever be gone.

That brings up the last point.  It is contended that a Governor needs to be comfortbable with who might take over their office.  Again, this is not Washington.  The transition argument is all but a red herring argument.  Rarely has it happened in state history.  And, state issues do not correspond with issues like national defense and the like at any rate.  Perhaps its healthy that the people of this state have someone like a freely elected Lt. Governor to vent to with an agenda free of the Governor's.  Historically, our state government structure with a freely elected Lt. Governor kept us from having the likes of Talmedge and Wallace.  Having the people decide freely who was Governor and who was Lt. Governor kept us from such things. 

In sum, we are South Carolina.  We are not Washington, D.C.  Letting the people freely elect the Lt. Governor of South Carolina has served this state and its people well in our history.  No one bad guy or no outside groups who want us to be more like the federal goverment should change that.  The people should choose their Lt. Governor, not politicians in a back room.  Vote no to the constitutional ammendment proposing to take that right away.