Friday, November 30, 2007

Here comes Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is now the rising star of the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. Huckabee is showing strong poll numbers in Iowa and nationwide. The former Governor also enjoyed the wide acclaim of politicos and media alike for his performance in the recent Florida presidential debate. Like somehow knowing the end of an episode of Texas Ranger or a Ric Flair match, politicos are sensing that Huckabee is going to make some real noise in he presidential race, and at worst, might secure the second spot on the ticket.

Why is Huckabee suddenly so powerful on the scene? First, he is an authentic conservative. He is not only a former governor, but a former Baptist minister who has a proven record on conservative social issues. That is appealing to a large part of the Republican base.

Add to that Huckabee’s populist approach. There are a large number of social conservatives who are uneasy with the big money in Republican politics today. When Huckabee sings their song on social issues and then hits a tone on things like tax reform, big business, health care and education, he is hitting Bubba Sixpack right in the political face. A good many Republican voters out there do not care for gay marriage or abortion or gun control. Those same Republican voters also are sick and tired of big business and big government. Those same Republican voters face rising health care costs and worry about their kids’ education. Those voters are more Republican populist in their views, and Huckabee has found a base with them. Those are the folks who are conservative in nature, but compassionate about the plight of their neighbors.

Then there is Huckabee’s sense of humor and charisma. Tip O’Neil that old Democrat, knew a lot about politics in general. Like him or not, O’Neil knew how to judge the people. He once stated that a politician who could “get the people to laugh with him would nearly always win.” He also stated that a politician who had the people laughing at him would likely lose. With the over-serious types like Romney, Rudy and Fred Thompson, Huckabee comes out as the funny guy, the guy that can put us at ease. Reagan had that quality.

All of the above stated, Huckabee still faces an uphill battle. Rudy and Romney have the money. Huckabee is still yet the face the media attack machine. Who knows what it will turn up on him when it goes full forced on him if he wins Iowa.

A hint of what might be coming came from the Fred Thompson attack ad on Huckabee about immigration.

But, one thing is for sure, as Huckabee supporter Ric Flair would say, “like it or not, he’s the biggest thing going today.”

Huckabee is on the rise. Huckabee is proving he will have to be dealt with. No one knows how all this will play out. However, it seems Huckabee, especially if Rudy wins the nomination, is in a good spot for the ticket, and has eclipsed Fred Thompson as the true conservative alternative. As ole Ric would say, “Whooo! Like it or not, you better learn to deal with it, because here comes Huckabee!”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2nd Annual Thanksgiving Political Awards

It is that time of year again. It is time for turkey, football and family. It is time for Voting under the Influence’s Second Annual Thanksgiving Political Awards. The past year has been a tough one politically for conservatives, and frankly, for everyone involved in politics. With the Presidential candidates stooping into to South Carolina, it did give me more potential award nominees. This year we at Voting under the Influence not only looked at state politicians, but presidential candidates and political activists around us. I hope you will enjoy our picks and get both the insight and humor of our crack staff’s hard work.

We begin with the Cornbread Dressing Award for career achievement. That award goes to outgoing SLED chief Robert Stewart. Stewart oversaw the reform of the once very political SLED and led South Carolina law enforcement though one of its most stressful days in Abbeville a couple of years ago. Stewart led SLED with integrity and honor and he will be missed.

Next, there is the Cranberry Sauce Award for local or county government. Last years winner, my dear friend Anderson County Councilman Bill McAbee, disappointed me by voting to raise taxes when he thought he had to. With this years winner Voting under the Influence’s crack staff came up might be a surprise to the readers of this blog. The award goes to Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston. Forget who has a D or R beside their name, sometimes local government is about owning up to things and answering hard questions. After the tragedy in Charleston regarding the lost fire fighters over the summer, Riley stood tall in the saddle, so to speak, answered the questions and acted to make his city government cooperate with state and federal investigators. Voters in the Holy City rewarded him for his efforts with an overwhelming re-election.

We now come to the Holiday Ham award. This award is for the politician or activist who seems the best at self promotion. This year’s winner is Will Folks, owner of the FITS news blog. From the pictures of scantily clad women he posts to the defense of the Governor he used to work for he pretends to loathe, no blogger or political activist in South Carolina has promoted himself better. Folks has rehabilitated himself from scandal ridden Sanford staffer into a bona fide voice in state politics better than Jimmy Carter rehabilitated himself from failed President to respected elder statesman.

Next, there is the Fruitcake Award. The name of the award is self explanatory. There were a couple of people to consider, but Congressman Dennis Kucinich comes out the hands down winner. The man talks about seeing UFOs as well as having some kooky ideas about how to run the government. How he ended up with a hot wife nearly two decades his junior frustrates the Voting under the Influence staff.

Now, we move on to the good stuff. The next two awards are the big ones. The first is the Golden Drum Stick award for political achievement. This award goes to the individual or group who had outstanding political achievement.

The nominees are:

1)Attorney General Henry McMaster. McMaster is an open supporter of Johh McCain, yet retains political viability through his solid performance as Attorney General. He might have a style that, allegedly, grates some staffers, but McMaster hits a note with the voters going after internet predators, financial con artists and the like. No one seems to have a better politically tone sensitive ear than Henry McMaster for the job he has.

2)Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Yes, I know he is not from South Carolina. But, not Presidential candidate has performed better in debates here in South Carolina than Huckabee. If Huckabee had money, he would be a force to be reckoned with. As it stands, do not be shocked if he is the VP nominee.

3)State Senator Shane Massey. Massey came virtually out of nowhere to win the seat held by long time senator and Democrat Tommy Moore. Massey beat an old veteran Democrat in a district that still demographically favors Democrats.

4)State Rep. Dan Cooper. Cooper quietly led his forces in the House to get what he wanted politically, with the Governor and the Governor’s well funded groups breathing down his back. Agree or disagree with Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cooper knew how to get his way in the end in the House and the Budget and Control Board.

5)Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. How any Presidential candidate, much less one in the Republican primary, can stay in the top two when having a record of supporting gay rights, gun control and abortion rights, is beyond me. It is a true act of political legerdemain. Rudy has some political gifts that seem to be shaking up the traditional view of South Carolina politics.

The winner is…..State Senator Shane Massey. Our crack staff and I can not say enough about his victory and how it will reshape state politics. Watch the young senator from Aiken County, he will prove to be a force to be reckoned with.

That brings us to our final, and least coveted, but perhaps most covered award: Political Turkey of the Year. Voting under the Influence’s nominees for Political Turkey of the Year are:

1)Senator John McCain. No candidate for President dropped as far and as quickly as John McCain did when he voiced support for the illegal alien amnesty bill. South Carolina voters already are dealing with more and more “authentic” Mexican foods being put on their grocer’s shelves and standing in line behind people who rattle things off in Spanish. Then there is the case of the illegal Hispanic alien in Newberry who molested a little girl but can not be found because he has so many alias names. There is simply no way anyone can win an election in South Carolina being soft on illegal immigration.

2)Anderson County Council. Yes, I include the entire lot, though some are more to blame than others. While serious business has to be done, it seems over the past year, the elected leaders of Anderson County prefer to make personal digs. They are laughed about at local establishments and ridiculed. Yet, my guess is most of them will be re-elected the next go around. But, they still can not get along like adults should.

3)Governor Mark Sanford. Re-elected by a big majority, he still lacked the basic people skills to get anything meaningful done through the General Assembly. Add to that this so called reformer’s move to give left over state grant money to one of his political operations, and well, his political powers just keep dwindling. While Sanford did give the money back to the state, it just shows that this so called “non politician” practices politics as usual. Sanford’s chances of getting some the reforms he proposes, some of which are sorely needed, through the General Assembly are nil.

4)Former State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel. Ravenel had it all: money, charisma, and political clout. He gave it all away to personal demons. The charges of him distributing cocaine to friends forced him to resign his office in disgrace and enter rehab. Perhaps no South Carolina political figure in modern times had more potential and lost it so quickly.

5)State Rep. Jim Harrison. Fair or unfair, the fact that his daughter was one of the folks who benefited for the SC Supreme Court throwing out a section of the bar exam will come back to haunt Harrison politically. I do not know the particulars of the exam. I also assume the Court acted with the utmost integrity. However, in politics, perception is reality, and some pol out there is ready to make the most of the perception that Harrison is just another good ole boy.

The winner of the Poltical Turkey of the Year award goes to…hands down…overwhelmingly…Thomas Ravenel. Can you believe what the guy threw away? While I feel sorry for him to some degree, I still shake my head.

Well, that is it. The Voting under the Influence’s Second Annual Thanksgiving Political Awards post is now in the can. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Remember to be thankful to God for the things you have and for our troops who keep us in freedom. Also, remember the line from ole great grandpa. “During the holidays, there are two kinds of turkey. One is for eating. The other is for drinkin’ so you can put with your relatives.”

Stay safe and be thankful. Let me know what you think. I am thankful you read this blog.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Say it ain't so Barry

About 90 years ago Major League Baseball suffered its first blow to the integrity of the game. Rumors flew that the 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now called the Reds) and the Chicago White Sox was fixed. The allegations made their way to court, where the White Sox players were cleared legally of charges of throwing the World Series. However, Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis decided to ban the players in question for life for the integrity of the game. Those players were forever known as the "Black Sox" because of the dark shadow they cast over what was at the time America's overwhelming past time.
Among those players banned was "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, a natural talent at the game from Greenville, SC. Though Jackson could not read or write, his affable manner and outstanding play on the field made him a popular figure in Chicago. When the scandal broke, a Chicago paper headline blared the words of a little boy who appealed to Jackson, "Say it ain't so, Joe. "
Baseball historians have debated for decades whether or not Jackson had a role in the scandal or if his affable nature and illiteracy got him caught up in a scandal he really had nothing to do with. Regardless of the truth of the matter, Jackson was banned and spent the remaining years of his life playing minor league and textile league baseball under false names and then ran a liquor store.
Nearly 90 years later, baseball faces another crisis of integrity. Barry Bonds, the newly crowned all time home run champion, was indicted this past week for allegedly lying under oath and obstructing justice in the federal investigation of steroids in baseball. The essence of the issue is whether or not Bonds used illegal steroids to enhance his physical prowess and his performance on the baseball field.
Some argue, "so what?" Those who argue that contend that baseball is a competition, and if a competitor wants to sell out his future health to gain an edge, so be it.
I see it differently. I love the game of baseball, though I admit I never played it well. It is the all American sport. The history, the past acts by professional baseball to insure fairness in competition and just the joy of spending an afternoon at the ballpark to me symbolize what America is all about.
That is why I am so disturbed by the indictment of Barry Bonds. The men he passed in his home run championship run were men who competed fairly and were true American characters.
Let's start with the now number four man on the home run list, Barry Bond's godfather, Willie Mays. Mays was a cocky player who completed clean, and according to several baseball historians, was the best player that ever played the game. He fought through the racism still present in his playing days to be a national hero. It is a credit to Mays's character, and not a defense of Bonds, that Mays, with grace, presented Bonds with a gift when Bonds surpassed him on the list.
Then there is the now number three man on the home run list, Babe Ruth. Ruth was the true American character of his time. Ruth partied hard with the best of them his entire career, drinking more than what we would now call a case of beer a day. Ruth loved the women and eating hot dogs as well. He lived life to the fullest. There was nothing artificial about him. With all his personal vices, he still hit 714 home runs and was an outstanding pitcher as well in the early part of his career, winning a total of 94 games.
Another true American character is the man now second on the home run list, Hank Aaron. Aaron personified the American working man. He was quite, lived clean, and got the job done day in day out. He did so even when faced with the racist threats that dogged him the year he eclipsed Ruth. Aaron was and is a true American hero. He worked hard and quietly, and achieved his goals, even when those who hated him for no reason tried to intimidate him. I can think of no better role model in baseball and life than Hank Aaron.
That brings us to Barry Bonds. Whether or not he used performance enhancing illegal substances will be determined by the courts. He was a very talented baseball player. He is also a symbol for the state of American culture today. Bonds is rude. Bonds has always seemed selfish to fans and even his own teammates. Bonds is controversial. His supporters seem to almost relish his indictment as some sort of award. Critics of baseball point to Bonds and say, "this is what is wrong with baseball today."
I see something bigger. The fact that baseball does not shun him and that there is an element that celebrates an alleged cheater, who is rude to fans and teammates, illustrates not only the state of baseball, but the state of American culture. Babe Ruth might have drank like a fish, womanized and ate like a glutton, but he always was nice to the fans, and it would not have crossed his mind to cheat. To Ruth, that would have cheapened his victories. Hank Aaron would never put himself in a place where he could shame the game he loved so and the people who loved it with him.
Ruth and Aaron, though, were men of a different time. One an all out party guy, the other a workhorse, they both shared some values of decency and fairness. I wish the game of baseball I love so much could offer the same today. That is why the little boy in me, who could never play the game all that well, is screaming out, "Say it ain't so, Barry. Say it ain't so!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

An apology to Councilman Bill McAbee, etc.

When I started this blog I wanted it to be a free for all in the exchange of ideas. For that reason I offered no comment moderation. I wanted people go at it and let the words fly.
I was naive. When political discussions started to degrade a few months ago regarding posts involving Anderson County Councilman Bill McAbee and an business associate of his, I started comment moderation, as much I hated it.
A recent chance meeting in Anderson made me make the effort to take down all comments related to Mr. McAbee and his business associate, who will not be named. The people talking had no idea who I was, but they were happy that I was their tool to hurt my friend Bill McAbee.
Until I got up here in Anderson County, my home, I had no idea the degree of the flat made up poison that passes for political discourse from some elements. I let this blog be their tool for the politics of personal destruction months ago. I regret that, and it will never happen again. I suppose I worked too much in statewide politics and issues and had no idea how petty and mean county politics are.
While I do believe that anonymous comments on a small time blog like this one can not be all that harmful, I truly regret that the least of harm might have been inflicted upon my friend for many years, Bill McAbee and his business associate because this blog became a tool of those with spiteful motives and unproven rumors.
So that those in that element who read this blog understand me, let me clear. I do disagree with Bill McAbee on some issues of the day. But, Bill McAbee is my friend. I believe he is loyal to his wife and son and that the spiteful and untrue things said about him by those who despise the fact that they can not control him politically are what is wrong with politics today. It also shows the true character of those people. They really do not care that much for issues, just their egos.
For that reason, Voting under the Influence apologizes to Bill McAbee and his business associate. Also, this blog will not be a tool of the politics of personal destruction in any fashion, and instead will, from time to time, shine a light on those people.
Now, back to the issues.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Childhood pranks are ending up in court

As reported in the Charleston Post an Courier (the link can be found
at, more and more school discipline issues are ending up in law enforcement's hands and getting into the family courts.

Some blame the growing big state views of the education elites. Some educators blame lawyers and lawsuits. Some blame the culture of the times we live in. But, one thing is certain: life in school has changed.

I think of my own childhood. I have only been out of public schools for twenty years. I grew up in a small town, and I had a habit, instilled in me by my father and grandfather of toting a pocket knife at all times, including when I was at school. I never thought to cut someone with it.

However, there are times when a knife, and especially the blunt "screwdriver" end of one of the blades, can come in handy. The can opener blade is pretty useful as well.

God and the public defender be with me I were a student and got caught with a pocket knife today. Years ago I would "show off" my new pocket knife I got for Christmas to some of my classmates and even one of male teachers. Now if a student did such, he would be suspended, arrested, and DSS would be knocking at his parents' door.

If you doubt that, think on the case in West Columbia a couple of years ago. A little girl was suspended and her family faced investigation because the little girl's mother packed a butter knife in the little girls lunch box to cut an apple with. The school officials stated their position of "zero tolerance" of weapons on campus.

Then, and now, so called zero tolerance makes zero sense. There was a time if two young men got into a scuffle, they would get a stern lecture from the principal and some cleanup duty or some laps ran around the football field. Now, those same young men get arrested and have criminal records.

I am not a teacher. But, I did coach youth basketball for five years. Young people, especially those in their early to mid teens, tend to be unsure of themselves. They sometimes act out in stupid ways. They also tend to live up or down to the expectations placed upon them by the adults in their lives. My uncle was a youth coach for years as well, and he taught me the valuable lesson of never telling my youngsters not to make mistakes. He told me that because, "if you tell them not to turn the ball over, they will, they will think about turning the ball over."

If we as a society have an educational system that makes the kid who pulls a prank, gets in a scuffle, or dares to carry a pocket knife feel like a criminal in his most formative years, should we be surprised when he does not achieve in life? Further, if we create a generation of mindless sheep, afraid even to do something such as pull a prank, how can we expect them to compete with the rest of the world who does not live by our wimpy standards?

I know some will say I just don't get it. And, perhaps I don't. You see I went to a high school where students could smoke at lunch in a smoking area if their parents consented. I grew up in a time when moms and dads would be less concerned about Junior if he was caught behind the barn drinking one of dad's beers then if he was caught behind the barn hugging on his buddy Jack.

Forgive me, but there is something wrong with this country when teachers can not break up scuffles and deal with pranks without calling in the cops. Our educational leadership is filled with mind numb people who have went to seminars in which they tell each other how much smarter they are than everyone else and how parents and children must be controlled, even if at a law officer's gunpoint.

And, then we wonder what is wrong with our young people today. I am not saying give youngsters who mess up a pass. When young people mess up, punish them, but don't give them marks on their record that last for life such as arrests. If earlier generations did that, half of the business and political leaders of nation's history would have never made into a college or their first job. This power hungry thing education elites are doing toying with the future of young people's lives just sickens me. To know we are all paying for them to do so sickens me more.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thank a Veteran

The first man I will mention is now in his eighties. He moves a bit slower than he did just a few years ago. He shares a nearly sixty year marriage with a woman who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Back in 1945, he got one of his few leaves from service in the United States Navy to attend the funeral of his older brother who had been killed in action in Germany. The man then came home and spent years in the fields and cotton mills and raised a family with his now ailing bride. That first man I mention is my grandfather, a proud World War II vet who lost his dear brother to that conflict, yet went on to work hard, raise a family and live the typical American life.
My grandfather was not alone in his generation. He had two other brothers who served with honor in Korea. He had a brother in law who lived with the pain of the Battle of the Bulge for his entire life.
My mother’s uncle, my great uncle, Charles, was in the Green Berets and retired out of the military.
Then there is my mother’s brother, and my uncle, who served as a Vietnam era marine. Family members say he was never the same after his service. I did not know him before, but I do know he lives a life now that George Jones could write a song about.
I also think about three of my old friends. There are a few others, but I will limit myself to mentioning three. The first is Pete, who ironically has the same name as my grandfather’s brother. Pete is a committed family man now. Pete did his bit for our country in places like Korea, Bosnia and Haiti. He retired out only to be brought back into service in Afghanistan. He went without complaint and served our country well. Pete did so leaving his wife and children behind to worry and wait. Pete did come home.
The other old friend is Marty, who is finishing up his training as a helicopter pilot after a rather long stint in the National Guard. Marty will be one of the oldest people to complete such training, and in all frankness, I do believe he will see some action again. I grew up beside Marty and think of him as another little brother.
The last is Steven, a friend of mine with a young wife and daughter. Steven served some time in the mid east while his young bride to be waited for him at home. He is now going forward with his life and trying to raise a family and make a living, just like my grandfather.
Steven and Pete are the men trying to go on with life after military service. Marty still stands guard at the gates. They all deserve our thanks.
As we approach this Veteran’s Day, we seem to forget what it is about. The men and women who served our country by protecting the freedoms we have deserve our respect. Just this Saturday night, I anguished over my beloved Gamecocks losing yet another game. But without Grandpa, Uncle Charles, Uncle Pete, Uncle Floyd, Uncle Junior, Uncle Doug, my friends Pete, Marty and Steven, and so many like them, I would not have the luxury of watching a football game, much less caring about the outcome.
Perhaps the elderly man that lives down the street from you deserves a thank you. Perhaps it is the middle aged guy who still serves in the National Guard. Perhaps it is the young man or woman down the street who just got home from Iraq or Afghanistan.
Regardless, I urge you to put your political feelings aside and say thank you to a veteran. They are the reason we are able to live the lives we do. They come from walks of life. They come from every type of community. They deserve the full measure of our respect and gratitude.
To the men and women who have served in the military, I say with pride, respect and gratitude, “THANK YOU!”

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My impressions of Anderson County Council meeting

I attended my first Anderson County Council meeting as a resident of Anderson County on Tuesday night. Several things crossed my mind as I soaked it all in.

First, my council representative, Cindy Wilson, seems to be a sincere person who is woefully over her head in some ways. There was a discussion about the county adopting a particular radio system for command and control and communication with other agencies during an emergency. Ms. Wilson first seemed to not grasp that the current system would remain intact and be supplemented by the new system. Then she droned on and on about some standard “boiler plate” language within the contract proposed with the telecommunications company. I wanted to jump up ask her if she had a mobile phone, and if she did, had she read the contract. Ms. Wilson also seemed to have some real personal issues with Joey Preston, the county administrator. New to the scene again up here, I am not used to seeing such open pettiness on display. Ms. Wilson is charming and has a disarming way about her that makes it hard to really get angry with her. I believe she is sincere in her beliefs. I appreciated her voicing that Honea Path should get its fair share of accommodations tax revenue.

I move on to Council Chairman Bob Waldrep. Waldrep is a man with a stellar resume and a life of service to the state and Anderson County. I hesitate to criticize a man like him. However, I will offer this; he seemed to play too much the ham to the crowd in the room and drug things out a bit. It reminded me of a book I have been reading recently about Winston Churchill’s last year in his second stint as Prime Minister chairing cabinet meetings that went on for the sake of just going on. But, like Churchill, Waldrep is one helluva man with a lifetime of achievement, so you just give him a pass and realize that he offers nuggets of real wisdom still. Waldrep’s nugget came at the end of the council meeting, when he refused a membership in the Chiquola Club that was apparently offered to him as a county council member. Like any great old politician, Waldrep saved his best moment of the night for last when he plopped down the card offered to him and stressed he wanted to go on record rejecting the offer. Hooray for Mr. Waldrep on that one.

Then there is Michael Thompson, my friend Bill McAbee and Larry Greer. I have respect for all three men, especially my friend. However, I must, in all fairness, note there were a couple of times when Mr. Greer and Bill got a bet testy. In defense of my friend, I will say that he did have moments when he appeared the smartest man in the room.

The biggest surprise of the night came from Ron Wilson. You remember the big controversy Mr. Wilson and I had with one another in the spring. During the first recess of the meeting, Mr. Wilson came directly over to me and extended his hand. We shook hands and both shared a laugh about how two men who had never met before caused such a firestorm. I am not saying I am fan of Mr. Wilson. But, I do respect his courtesy and feel obligated to note it.

I regret that Council Member Gracie Floyd was unable to attend. My mother is a friend of hers and I would have enjoyed chatting with Ms. Floyd.

I did note some other things. There seems to be some sort of issue brewing between the legally incorporated Anderson County Taxpayers Association and the unofficial, self proclaimed “real” Anderson County Taxpayers Association headed by defeated House candidate Dan Harvell. There seems to be a good bit of bitterness there.

There also seems to be a good bit of bitterness on council. Things got a bit testy between some of the members. At least they did not pull out a knife like a member of the Allendale County school board did some years ago.

Overall, I was struck by the sincerity of the council members and public commentators. While there is some bitterness that seems to go beyond politics present, I believe by and large, the differences are sincere. I saw decent people who honestly disagree on how some things should be done. If only those people who disagree could admit the other side, while wrong in their eyes, were decent and sincere, then perhaps some of the tension could be removed from Anderson County government.

But, I admit I am now the new guy again. All I am going to do up here in local government is just watch and listen.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Live from Honea Path

After a frustrating move with all sorts of twists and turns, I am finally live from Honea Path, a town where I spent the formative years of my youth. While I have maintained ties from age 9 to Honea Path and the surrounding area through my parents, my brother and friends, it has been over 18 years since I have lived here full time.

I am looking forward to the small town life after 13 years or so in Columbia. Further, I can not wait get back to commenting on this blog again, this time, live from Honea Path, finally. What fun it is going to be.