Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav is the name that really shakes things up

The “bounce” the Democratic National Convention brought was in the single digits. The Real Clear Politics poll average gives a 3.9% lead nationally to Obama. No poll conducted and released shows him ahead by double digits.

In other words, the Denver meeting was a political failure. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, there is not way to get around the history and the numbers. With the opposition to the sitting President, the state of affairs in the nation and the positive convention coverage, a strong campaign would be up by 15 or 20 points.

Indeed, the Obama Biden ticket has the weakest showing of any Democratic ticket against a Republican ticket of an outgoing Republican President in the history of polling. Obama-Biden can still win. However, the history and the numbers tell us what we at Voting under the Influence saw as the convention unfolded, the Democratic National Convention was a bust.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that stated, “Jesus is a Democrat.” I do not believe that the good Lord would define Himself politically; however, there are things outside of the human control that might aide the Democrats. Hurricane Gustav appears headed for the Louisiana coast. If that hurricane hits, it will interrupt the normal ebb and flow of the Republican National Convention. The normal ebb and flow would likely put the race back into a sort of tied status. The Gustav factor is a wildcard politically. It could help or hurt.

Logic dictates some reactions to Gustav. President Bush should not go to the convention. He should be on the job, perhaps heading operations as close to the action as possible. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has already said he is not going to Minnesota, as he should not. McCain and Palin should be ready to go to the region and offer whatever assistance their clout can give. Obama and Biden should be prepared to do the same.

After all, Senator Obama, who was in the United States Senate when Katrina hit, was not able to use his all powerful political status he touts to bring people together to get more done for New Orleans. It is easy to miss that fact. It is easy to blame President Bush. And, believe me, Bush did mess the response to Katrina up. But, Obama was no champion of New Orleans during those dark days in American history. Senator Obama’s record on that matter is dead silent.

Now, Gustav appears. I pray it turns into a tropical low and brings just a little rain. However, if Gustav packs the predicted punch, it will be a test of the political leadership of the United States on both sides of aisle. I hope President Bush has the good sense to be President first and politician second and worry about the hurricane more than the convention. I also hope and pray that Obama and Biden forego the political cheap shots and use their clout in the United States Senate to help bring about immediate assistance. I hope and pray McCain and Palin do the same. Ideally, seeing the “Big Four” together at one venue announcing unity and support to help the region would go a long way in healing the nation.

While we disagree strongly on this and that issue, there seems to be one issue all of us agree upon. When our fellow citizens are harmed by a natural disaster, they need our help. For whatever reason, the good folks of Louisiana again seem to need our prayers and our help. It appears Gustav can not be bought off. He can not be promised some political favor or office. He is just out to kick our fellow citizens.

Both Obama and McCain talk about how they want to be above the normal politics. Now is their chance. They both can use whatever influence that they have to get behind helping the people of Louisiana and openly supporting the President, if the President removes himself from the politics of the situation and just acts as a President should.

Looking at the raw politics, if Gustav hits hard, and the President does his job and stays home and runs his job, the campaign that does not join him in helping the people of Louisiana will lose come November. And, frankly, that campaign should. There are some things that government does that are just not political. The test of who puts country first is at hand.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday Night Football: Abbeville at 96

The crack staff of Voting under the Influence were at Wilson-Campbell Stadium Friday night for the showdown between regional rivals Abbeville (Class AA) and Ninety Six (Class A).

The first thing to note is the electric atmosphere. Ninety Six's Wilson-Campbell Stadium is a fine venue for small high school football. The only drawback is that for a regional showdown like this is that parking and seating are limited. If you go to Ninety Six for a big game, be prepared to park along some street and walk a bit, stand in line for a ticket, and bring your own chair for their "hill" region if you get there too late. One of the things that struck me is there is as much fan merchandise on sale for Ninety Six as there is for any AAAA team.

Ninety Six borrows its entrance from Clemson. The players rub a rock at the top of the grassy hill in one the end zones and run down that hill upon the playing field.

That tradition was not enough to deal with the Abbeville team that paid the Wildcats a visit Friday night. Abbeville brought a huge number of fans, and those fans were not disappointed. Abbeville's Dureal Elmore rushed for 301 yards and scored four touchdowns in route to Abbeville's 40-16 win over their hosts.

Overall, though, going to a Ninety Six home game is a good experience. The facilites are adequate, the atomopshere is electric and the it is a safe place for a family evening out. You can get a glimpse at how much the local football team means to a small town that had its biggest economic engine, the textile mill, close down years ago. Even in defeat the fanbase was proud, loyal, and well behaved.

Ranking it overall with Abbeville at Ninety Six:

Facilities: B (Though one Abbeville graduate of our staff wanted a D)
Fan Comfort, concessions and safety: B
Fan behavior: A
Family friendly environment? Yes
Coaching: Ninety Six C-, Abbeville C
Team Effort: Ninety Six B, Abbeville B
Offciating: C-

Next week, we head to Dixie to watch them take on Camden Military. Don't fret, the big guys are coming soon. Byrnes, Dutch Fork, Summerville, they are all on our radar.

Main Stream Media member's mindset on McCain-Palin

Imagine the life of a mainstream media writer or pundit. It is the Friday morning before Labor Day. Let's climb inside their minds and egos and see why they will be hellbent to tear down the Alaska Governor.

Here is what is likely on their minds:

"It is bad enough I will have only a short break between the Democratic National Convention that featured the guy I love and the Republican National Convention which will feature the guy I respect but have to put on my professional hat for, striving to calling the story straight. Then, I get the news that McCain picked Palin to be his Vice-Presidential candidate. I then utter a profanity. All that work on preparing stories on Romney and Pawlenty and having them "in the can" was in vain. Now, I have to, damn it, work on Labor Day weekend. All those hit pieces I had in the can are no good. Now, I have to work and find something on Palin. Indeed, the woman's mere presence pisses me off. Who is this Alaskan to dare make me work this weekend? Who is John McCain to not pick the men I had prepared for and was ready to attack? Doesn't John McCain know he made ME look dumb and is making ME work this weekend? That shows he has no judgement. I think I will look at Obama's press releases and go from there. It beats working this weekend. Alaska? Geez, sure, she's a babe, but Alaska? Who wants to go there to do a story? She is not ready. McCain is senile. It is far easier just to sit here and work from these press releases. "

When the media attacks Palin in the next week or so, remember this post. There is only one set of egos bigger than that of politicians. That set belongs to those who think they have a monopoly on calling things like running mates. Those folks are by and far lazy as well, and like their news spoon fed and canned. Being caught off guard and being forced to work more than they expected ticks those types off. So, they will bring it to Palin.

I think what will really get them is that Palin will fight harder than Dan Quayle or John Edwards. Don't let her looks fool you, media types, Palin is tough as nails. Between now and election day, you had better bring your lunch to work, because you will be working all day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Palin

Back in July, Voting under the Influence advocated Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President.

McCain-Palin is now a reality. It is a gutsy pick by McCain that has pundits and Democrats almost angry that they did not see it coming.

I predict a media hit job on Palin within a week or so. Those guys hate being wrong and hate not having Mitt Romney to pick on. But, Palin will get through it and make history.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

McCain must hit Obama hard

Obama's speech, long on rhetoric and attacks, and short on detailed answers to problems, created great American political theater. Not since JFK's speech at Los Angeles have so many Americans seemed so fired up in one place over a candidate who gave a mediocre address. That said, night four was a hit for the Democrats. It was a defining moment in the Presidential campaign that sent images throughout the nation. It was a declaration of political war.

McCain's folks had better see that. They need to attack and attack now. They need to spend what is left of the McCain war chest before the federal limit kicks in on how arrogant Obama is, how non-specific he is, how he has ties with very unsavory characters and how the message of the Democrats is wrapped in doom and gloom.

Let's also be frank about another thing. Barack Obama is obviously an intelligent man. You do not get an Ivy League law degree without being one. You don't beat the Clintons without being intelligent. However, his speech and his remarks of late remind me of a quote from Fritz Hollings about President George W. Bush, " If you walked through the waters of his mind in your loafers, you would not even get your socks wet."

To compete, the Republicans will have to pull off a more disciplined convention than the Democrats just put on. The Republicans will need each and every night of their convention to convince folks that John McCain is the safest and best choice in November.

To do that, the Republicans have to hit hard now. There is no tomorrow. If they choose to delay, Obama wins. It is that simple.

Barackus came down from Olympus

When I first learned of the Greek temple look of the platform on which Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night, I thought it was an internet joke. I just could not believe that people smart enough to beat the Clintons in the Democratic Party were stupid enough to play into the arrogance and laughable self importance issue the McCain campaign used to virtually tie Obama.

I was wrong. They are going to do it. With all that is going on in the United States, the Democratic nominee should leave this convention up 20 points. However, with the way the convention is being handled, they will be lucky to see double digits at all.

Of course, some like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann will likely disagree. Olbermann kisses up to Obama in his role as "anchor" for MSNBC more than a dead beat brother in law who owes his sister's husband money. There is some serious man love going on there.

I can hear public crier Oblbermann now, "Barackus came down from Mount Olympus to mingle with and address the mere mortals, who gathered in mass to cherish his every golden word. Some women fainted. Others were made great with child just from the sound of his voice. Barackus promised all of us mere mortals the nectar of the gods if we would just make him our leader."

Laugh, because, the gods know, Olbermann would not.

DNC Night Three: Yesterday's Gone

Bill Clinton shared the spotlight with Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday night. Overall, Clinton's speech was vintage Clinton and was solid enough that he and Mrs. Clinton will not be blamed should Obama-Biden lose in November.

However, I could not help but notice the irony of the old Fleetwood Mac song that was once the theme of Bill Clinton's rise to the Presidency in 1992. As the lyrics "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone," blared out as he walked on stage, I wondered if President Clinton got the irony. The Clintons are no longer the driving force of the Democratic Party.

Joe Biden did what was expected. He talked about his personal story, which is a compelling one, and talked about issues that relate to his foreign policy experience. Biden wisely made his remarks relatively brief. Following the only living two term Democratic President of the United States was no favor to him. However, Biden got a nice solid single out of this speech.

The appearance of Barack Obama at the convention was about as much of a surprise as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Night three ended like the previous two. The message was clearer, but the Democrats did not seem to have the discipline and organization of such an event down.

Thursday night's action the crack staff of Voting under the Influence will watch via recorded video. Sorry, Senator Obama, the Gamecocks are playing. We realize we might be offending Zeus on that one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Give the Governor a Department of Administration and Budget

South Carolina government again finds itself in a financial bind. The budget passed by the General Assembly is going to fall short of the revenues brought in to pay for it.

I will not join those who claim 20/20 hindsight vision that criticize the General Assembly for its budget. Such shots are cheap and easy.

What is not easy, is changing how South Carolina state government does business. When a crisis, such as a hurricane or a unexpected fall in revenue happens, the Governor and other executive officers ought to have more power to act quickly.

In my ideal world, the Governor of South Carolina would have a Department of Administration and Budget under him that he could make emergency measures within. Instead, the Budget and Control Board, complete with its sometimes mammoth waste and unappreciative attitude towards rank and file employees, has to be appealed to.

No other state within in the United States has such a hybrid agency that decides policy. If South Carolina was on the leading edge of state government performance, I would say hooray for our independent thought. However, we are not.

I am not contending, as SCRG and the Governor do, that we should not elect officers such as Treasurer and Comptroller General. Indeed, I think it is essential that executives independent of the Governor have their role in dealing with the states books, so to speak.

However, when there is a crisis, people expect their Governor to act. The average guy does not understand the nuanced politics of the Budget and Control Board and how the General Assembly holds 40% of the decision on Executive acts.

In short, we in South Carolina ought to give the next Governor the power to enforce the laws. That is what an executive does. We should eliminate the Budget and Control Board and create a structure in which the Governor can promptly respond to an emergency. Tough standards can be set to define such an emergency. But, alas, at some point in a crisis, there has to be one person calling the shots.

I don't think much of Mark Sanford's approach to South Carolina government. I think he has failed as a Governor because he is unwilling to compromise and break reforms into pieces. But, imagine, if you will, if a Katrina type storm was about to hit Hilton Head, the worst case scenario for a hurricane strike, with the strong end pounding most of the coast.

Suppose the Governor wanted the SCHP and other agencies such as DSS to go into full operational mode. Suppose someone told him they would exceed their budgets if they did. Should the Governor have to deal with the Budget and Control Board? Suppose the three members of the five member board who do not care for the Governor personally held out. What then?

I hope that never comes to pass. But, if a crisis like that does arise, we ought to have in place a system such as a Department of Administration and Budget, where the Governor can act in strictly defined emergencies to move resources to help the state react to a challenge without a convoluted process.

I know there will be some that will point out that Governor Campbell got things done during Hugo in 1989. However, Governor Campbell was one of those once in a lifetime political figures with a force of personality that made men act beyond their own political agendas. We can not assume that every emergency South Carolina faces will invoke that type of response.

The bottom line is we should allow the Governor of South Carolina to be able to act as an executive in a crisis. The General Assembly will still have control over the overall purse strings. The Governor would merely be able to act in a crisis at the level he is currently held responsible for.

There is other waste within in the Budget and Control Board to discuss, and how its top officials mistreat its rank and file workers, but that is for another post. For this post, let it be clear that Voting under the Influence advocates the elimination of the Budget and Control Board and replacing it with a Department of Administration and Budget under the Governor that is funded and regulated by the General Assembly.

How right wingers can help elect Obama

If John McCain picks one of the security gurus on his short list, Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman, there is widespread talk of folks on the Right going into open rebellion due to the abortion issue.

I am staunchly pro-life, without apology. I will vote for John McCain for President if he picks a pro-choice running mate without apology. Why? I do not want the very security of the United States handed over to Barack Obama. I also recognize that a lot of people who are smarter than me and who probably act more morally correct than I do disagree with me on abortion.

While I think that abortion, especially for the purpose of birth control, is one of the most morally reprehensible acts that one can do, I realize I live in the real world. In the real world, people disagree and they have to be persuaded. Litmus tests in times of great political peril to the Republican party and the common sense that its candidate shows on so many issues is plain dumb.

Suppose pro-lifers like me stay home and do not vote for John McCain because of his running mate in November. Barack Obama will be elected. How in the world does that help the pro-life movement?

John McCain is the Presidential candidate. He has a proven pro-life record. If McCain chooses a running mate with a differing view, we should not punish the unborn by insuring the election of a ticket who will work hard everyday against them.

Neither Ridge or Lieberman are pro choice activists. They simply acted the way they had to in the political environments they were in. That is not true of Obama. If abortion is the issue that matters to you most, know staying home over McCain's pick will give the keys to the White House to a man who is surrounded by pro abortion activists, not a running mate who simply concentrates on other issues he deems more important.

Think. Use that brain God gave you. There is so much more at stake than just one issue in 2008.

Hillary Clinton's Night

Day Two of the Democratic National Convention offered few surprises. Again, it was a day in which the focus seemed to be on someone other than the nominee and it gave insight as to why one Vice Presidential contender was not picked.

The speech by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was as flat as the state she governs. I found myself dozing during it. I will admit I did not keep the notes I had planned to, because, well, she put me to sleep for a while. I understand now why she was not picked. I am sure people in Kansas are fond of her, and her speech will not define her career, but good grief she was boring. Almost as boring as Bill Clinton in 1988.

The other speakers said the same old tired stuff about McCain and Bush and about how wonderful Obama was. I could have written their speeches for them because I knew exactly what they would say. The general gist was, "McCain owns seven houses. The country has gone to Hell. McCain is a hero, but he wants to keep America in Hell."

Then came the star of the night, Hillary Clinton. I thought she did well for herself and not too much for Obama. When the camera cut away to Michelle Obama during some moments, Mrs. Obama's eyes were angry. Clinton talked about the progress of women in American politics, but failed the mention the fact that an African American was nominated for the first time. She had a few clever lines, but most of the speech seemed to be right from her campaign stump speech with a "oh yeah, now Obama can do that too," line or two.

Having Chelsea introduce her was a nice touch. My mother, who is the ultimate common sense voter who votes in every election but can not, despite my best efforts, be pinned down to one party, told me it was good to see Chelsea and how the stuff about women progressing impressed her. That said, my mother is still leaning McCain.

In other words, the night was all about Hillary Clinton and her life. Perhaps it should have been. Clinton did go farther than any woman in history in a Presidential race and she and her husband still command a great deal of respect with the rank and file Democrats who actually caste more primary votes for her than Obama.

But, in the realm of realpolitik it was another night of someone other than the Obama-Biden ticket being the star of the evening.

Wednesday night does not look any better. Like him or not, former President Clinton has the charisma to bring down the house. Why the Democrats have him sharing the night with the Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden is beyond me.

It seems that the Democrats and the Obama-Biden campaign are banking their convention bounce on Obama's speech in Mile High Stadium on Thursday night. Considering that the Joe Six Pack voters that actually make the difference in elections might be tuning into the start of college football season Thursday night, that is one helluva gamble. Take for example the state of North Carolina, one in which Obama-Biden seems to think they can win. How many Joe Sixpacks will flip from NC State-South Carolina to watch Obama speak?

I was prepared for Obama-Biden to leave Denver with a huge lead over McCain-Romney(or whomever), but now I am not so sure. The only inspiring speaker of their convention so far is the woman that they denied the nomination to.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Day in the Life of the Westboro Baptist Church Protesting!

Comedian Tim Wilson once penned a song entitled "Every village needs a nut."

These folks are protesting..under the influence of insanity.

Notes on the Democratic Convention Day One

Day one of the Democratic National Convention in Denver is in the books. The day seemed wasted for the Democrats in some ways, but it was not a disaester. There were mixed messages.

First, stories continue to come out about how the Clintons are not really in sync with the Obama operation. McCain seized on that and ran two different ads, one with a former Clinton delegate now for McCain. McCain also did the Tonight Show, forgoing what was once a gentleman's agreement that the opposing candidate drop out of sight during his opponents convention. Those days are gone.

New York's delegation was advised by state party officials not to drink too much at the convention. Hmmm...considering the first "star" speaker....

The night's first "star" guest was Jimmy Carter. He did not speak at the convention, but appeared before prime time in most parts of the nation in a video about the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Carter then had a brief moment with his wife waving to the crowd. That was a good way to not disrespect Carter, but make sure the viewers did not tie him to Obama.

However, tying Carter to Katrina was puzzling. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hit President Bush and the GOP hard, tying that to a first night appearance by Jimmy Carter seemed a bit inept. Sure, Carter is better known for his charity work now than his failed Presidency, but Carter's video made me think that, like Carter with the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, Senator Barack Obama was powerless in helping the victims of Katrina. If Barack Obama has such powers of persuasion and is above the fray and can bring people together, why did he not use that talent to bring more help to New Orleans?

The next "star" was Teddy Kennedy. I disagree with Senator Kennedy and most of what he believes in. However, I admire the man for his personal courage. Recovering from brain surgery, dealing with chemotherapy and the altitude of Denver, his speech was was an inspiration in personal courage. Note personal courage. I am not contending that his agenda is correct, I merely state that we Republicans should recognize the personal courage of the man to be there. It was in all likelihood the last major speech by a man who has been on the political scene for over forty years. It was clearly the most emotional speech of the night for anyone with any feeling for fellow human beings, whether you like Kennedy or not.

Michelle Obama had a tough act to follow. It is odd that we now have sort of a tradition where the Presidential candidate's spouse has to give a speech at the national convention. We Republicans are the blame for that one. It started in earnest in 1992, when the Republicans had Barbara Bush, who was more popular than her husband, speak at the convention. I don't care for the practice. Suppose your husband or wife is interviewing for a job, should the potential employer call you in for an interview as well? It is a given that most people confide in and seek advice from their spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, whatever, but it is also true that most people can take that advice and make an independent decision on their job. It is true of every political office other than President. Take for example the presence of Maria Shriver at the Democratic Convention. Many Congressional spouses are rarely seen or heard from. I digress.

Michelle Obama's speech was technically sound, and her delivery was sound as well. There were a couple of things that were clear in her speech. Success in the private sector is not really something she cares about. She had only a hand full of words about those who serve in the military. Her biggest applause line was when she mentioned Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Obama did do well in making Senator Obama appear to be more human. His daughters helped in that as well, with their "hey daddy" comments when Obama appeared via video. That was good tv for sure, but it confused the message. Is Barack Obama this extraordinary political figure who comes only once a few generations or is he the guy down the street who happened to stumble into the nomination for President? The next few days will tell how the Democrats portray him for the fall campaign.

Overall, it was a neutral night for the Democrats. To me, the story of the night was the personal courage and determination of Teddy Kennedy, not the love Michelle Obama has for her husband and this country. The message was muddled.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

McCain Powell is just a dream

Various media reports indicate that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is being considered by the McCain campaign for the Vice Presidency. Yes, that is the same Colin Powell media pundits were saying would endorse Barack Obama a few weeks ago.

What changed? Well, the problem is, nothing changed. Colin Powell is the most respected non politician in politics. Both sides want his name and his counsel with them. It is my belief that the McCain campaign’s leaks that the Arizona Senator is considering Powell for Vice President are little different than the leaks the Obama campaign gave that Secretary Powell was about to endorse their guy. Both campaigns want to use Secretary Powell to promote their campaigns.

While I would not be unhappy with a McCain-Powell ticket, there are some realpolitik considerations involved. The first is the fact Secretary Powell is 71 years old. The second is that it is known that Alma Powell does not want the Secretary to seek such office. In 1996, Powell was at a point in which the Republican nomination for President or Vice-President was all but his for the asking. His wife talked him out of it. There is nothing out there to suggest the Powell family have changed their minds about the Secretary on a national ticket.

Then there is Iraq. Secretary Powell was the point man for the Bush Administration in justifying the war in the United Nations session. If by some extraordinary reason, he was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Powell would face an endless stream of questions about his role in the buildup to the war.

Even if Powell could combat such attacks well, he would lose a bit of his luster. Secretary Powell has widespread respect still in the United States and the world. He can demand and receive an audience with the President of the United States, Senator McCain, Senator Obama and leaders around the world. The moment he decides to be a partisan participant by becoming a nominee for Vice-President, Secretary Powell gives up that clout.

I respect and admire Colin Powell. But, as someone who has studied the man and his life, I find it unlikely that he would give up the lofty status he has now in all circles to be McCain’s running mate. Of course, the notion of McCain-Powell would be a dream ticket. A debate between Biden and Powell would make all other Vice Presidential debates pale in comparison.

Alas, it is just a dream, or better put, just a spin to counter the Obama momentum. I would love for McCain to prove me wrong on this, but I just do not see Colin Powell being McCain’s choice for Vice President.

It was 3AM, guess who was not getting a phone call

The infamous Hillary Clinton ad about who answers the phone at the White House is pointed to by some as the most blunt ad of the Democratic primary. Some even contend it made the primary closer than it should have been.

That said, isn't it interesting that the Obama folks decided to "break" their choice of Vice President with text messages at 3AM Saturday morning?

While I know they will deny it, I can not help but believe there were some Obama staffers who were sitting around, thinking to themselves, "it's 3AM, and guess who ain't getting the call, Hillary."

My gut tells me the 3AM release was a direct slap to the face of Mrs. Clinton and her former President husband. Now, whether or not that slap results in her supporters staying home or voting for McCain will be seen.

But, to me, the 3AM announcement made one thing clear: Mr. Obama and his do not give a damn about how the Clintons feel.

Friday Night Football: Liberty at Christ Church

Liberty visited Christ Church on Friday night for a “week 0” game. Most high schools start their regular seasons this upcoming Friday night. Liberty and Christ Church chose to rumble a week early, as did a handful of other teams in South Carolina.

As stated before on this blog, the atmosphere at Christ Church is about as good as small high school football gets. The facilities are top notch for a 1-A school, safety is not an issue, and the concession stand even serves Chic-fil-a. The press box is probably the best in upstate 1-A football. The students are enthusiastic in the support of the team and the stadium is usually packed on the home side. The only thing missing at Christ Church is a good pep band for the home team.

Liberty brought a nice sized crowd that mostly filled the small but comfortable visitor’s stands. Overall, the facilities at Christ Church are the best in the upstate for private school football, and among the best in the upstate for 1-A football.

The action on the field complimented the facilities. Christ Church jumped out to a big lead, and held a 21-7 halftime advantage, only to find itself tied by the gritty Liberty team in the fourth quarter at 21. Christ Church responded with a solid offensive drive to take the lead and then returned a turnover for a touchdown to seal its 35-21 victory.

Both teams played with class and character. There were no “cheap shots” and no unruly behavior by either side’s fans. It was an example of how high school football ought to be.

Breaking down the grades and questions for Liberty at Christ Church:

Facilities: A
Fan comfort, concessions and safety: A
Fan behavior: A
Family friendly environment? Yes
Coaching: Liberty, B-, Christ Church B
Team effort: Liberty B, Christ Church B
Officiating: C+

It is not Clemson or South Carolina, but if you want an affordable and comfortable football experience, try Christ Church out. It is a place where some good football is played in a family friendly environment. Voting under the Influence wishes both teams well in the coming season. Next week, we will be at Ninety Six as the Wildcats host the Abbeville Panthers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Maybe it ain't so, but it looks like Joe

Maybe the "scoop" from the Washington Post reporter is wrong. Maybe all the speculation is wrong. Only Barack H. Obama knows. But, right now, it seems that Joe Biden will be the running mate of Barack Obama.

Obama and his team are making a wise choice if it is Biden. Biden is respected in both parties for his experience and his knowledge of world affairs. Biden has a compelling personal story. In 1972, Joe Biden, then age 30, rolled the political dice and ran for the US Senate against a Republican incumbent and won the big upset. Biden's victory was tempered by the tragic loss of his wife and daughter in an auto accident a few weeks later. From various accounts, Biden was talked out of resigning his seat and instead chose to commute from Delaware to Washington, D.C., on a daily basis so he could take care of his surviving sons.

Biden went on to remarry and have another daughter. In D.C., Biden developed a reputation for being a fierce partisan who was smart and did his "homework" on the issues. Biden's fierce partisanship was tempered by the friendships he developed in the United States Senate. Among those friendships was one with South Carolina's Strom Thurmond. Their friendship was so strong that Thurmond requested Biden to be one of the speakers at his funeral. Biden honored the request, showing up at a Columbia, SC church to pay tribute to Thurmond.

Biden's Presidential ambitions were stifled by the voters twice. Yet, Biden remained a respected member of the Senate and a man who Democrats could go to for experienced answers on complicated questions about world affairs.

If Biden is Obama's choice, watch out. Biden can be a sharp and witty pit bull on the stump. Biden has the experience and the brains to be one helluva of Vice Presidential candidate. Even if you, like me, do not really care for most of the positions on the issues Joe Biden takes, you have to respect the man. He is a smart and serious fighter for what he believes in.

Obama could do worse in a running mate. And, for those of us who are Republican, perhaps we should hope and pray that he will pick someone else.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Will Obama send Tennenbaum to Israel?

The Obama folks just can not help it. Despite numbers that say they are in a real dogfight with John McCain for the Presidency, somehow, things keep leaking out about who will serve where in the "upcoming" Obama Administration.

London papers are reporting that Caroline Kennedy will be Ambassador to the Court of St. James, (uh, Great Britian for you foreign policy neophytes).

Rumors around South Carolina indicate that former Education Superintendent Inez Tennenbaum might be in line to be a would be President Obama's Ambassador to Israel. Multiple sources have expressed to the crack staff of Voting under the Influence how close Sam and Inez Tennenbaum are to the Senator from Illinois and how they will be rewarded for their support if Obama's election comes to pass.

One source stated something about Tennebaum being Obama's Secretary of Education. However, the notion of either Tennebaum being named Ambassador to Israel by Obama comes from several sources and seems to have some legs.

Of course, there is one thing for all to consider. Obama has not won the election yet.

It is time for Friday night football

There is nothing more ingrained in the Southern or South Carolinian culture than high school football. Throughout the state, people put aside their economic, racial and political differences to cheer for the kids playing on the home team.

South Carolina is a place of high school football legends. John McKissick, the coach of Summerville High, has won more football games as coach than anyone at any level in the sport. He is joined by the late Willie Varner and "Pinky" Babb in the national all time high school coaching top ten win list. South Carolina athletes are consistently recruited by colleges throughout the nation. Simply put, some of the best high school football in the world is found right here in South Carolina.

This Friday, August 22nd, Voting under the Influence begins its tour of South Carolina High School football games. Our first game will be in Greenville, where private school Christ Church Episcopal hosts Liberty High School. On the weekend of each game, we will give the results and our impressions of the environment found at the game.

Our plans this season are diverse. The staff of Voting under the Influence has plans in place to attend games in places like the elite Christ Church, little towns like Ninety Six, Ware Shoals and Abbeville, and big schools such as Dutch Fork in the Columbia suburbs. Also, plans are being worked out to catch a game or two along the coast of South Carolina.

The goal of the Voting under the Influence High School football tour is to show people how the ritual of high school football games influences the people of South Carolina. Through the opening weekend of August 22nd to the state championships, Voting under the Influence is committed to be there and give you a take on the cultural phenomenon that is South Carolina high school football.

A first step in reforming SC state government

We in South Carolina love to vote for reform at the polls, but are reluctant to actually make reform happen. We are a people and a state tied to tradition. That is why Governor Sanford's state restructuring packages have failed in the General Assembly. The Governor and his allies have, for ever session since he took office, sought overreaching restructuring that touched each aspect of state government.

I humbly suggest, if they want to get something done, they work on small steps. Those small steps should be started in an area of government that does not see a lot of mainstream attention and where logic could dictate some real reform.

That real reform could happen in the combining the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Environmental control into one department. As it stands, those government entities have duties that overlap, (i.e. the Agriculture Commissioner regulates gasoline tanks). Those duties could be combined into a new Department of Health and Natural Resources.

Whether or not such a new department would be held by an elected commissioner or by a director appointed by the Governor could be debated. What is not debatable is the need to eliminate duplication, overlapping and waste in such government services.

I realize Governor Sanford is well into his second term and is looking to hit a home run for his legacy. However, a base hit this coming legislative session and a base hit the next one just might add up to a reform run scored. That sure beats striking out all the time. This year, making DNR, DOE and DHEC act on the same page should be a priority of the Governor and his supporters. It is common sense, and with a bit of compromise, it just might be possible.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why do the bulk of state and local employees need special pension plans?

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently ruled that municipal governments could not form a fund to invest their retirement monies in the stock market. The legal decision was sound, as the South Carolina Constitution bans such. The people of South Carolina will ultimately decide the issue when a constitutional amendment allowing such investment appears on the fall ballot.

The merits of the argument for or against such investments will be reserved for another time. The fact is the vast majority of the costs involved with such benefits needs to be addressed in a radical way.

It is far past time for those not involved in public safety jobs to be removed from a special pension system. At the time that the pensions and other special benefits were created for state and local government employees, such jobs were not competitive with the private sector in regards to salary. In order to draw talent to government jobs, such benefits were offered.

The landscape has changed. With more high paying private sector jobs in areas such as manufacturing being replaced by relatively lower paying service based jobs, government jobs for the vast majority of government positions are competitive in salary. Further, it is harder to be fired from a government job for whatever reason.

The various government employee unions, or associations as we in South Carolina seem to call them, will scream to the high heavens. However, they should note how the UAW’s pension demands have almost put American automakers out of business. Detroit struggles to compete in today’s global economy because it is saddled with pension commitments. If the costs of state and local government pensions continue to grow, that cost will be passed along to the taxpayers, thus they will spend less money (less sales tax revenue) or choose not to invest in South Carolina, and a vicious cycle is created.

In the short term, with or without private investment, the numbers will be staggering as South Carolina governments pay a growing number of retirees that matches those still working for governments and contributing. Indeed, some studies show that South Carolina governments will reach a point in the next few years in which they will be paying more people who are no longer working than they do people who are working.

How do we begin to solve the problem? One idea, with marginal effect is allowing the local governments to invest in the private stock market. Another idea, which history tells us will fail, is to substantially raise taxes to pay for the increased costs of benefits.

Then, there is the radical solution. First, governments should keep their word and find a way to honor commitments to those who about to retire or those in some sort of relatively small window to retirement. For the rest of those government workers who are not in public safety, which is aged limited in its physical demands, the current retirement system should no longer be offered. Those employees instead should participate in the Social Security system and be offered a contributions based plan, such as a 401(k).

Let that sink in. That solution is not attacking the value of school teachers, social workers, government clerks and the like. It is recognition of the changed landscape and the competitive world we live in. Indeed, how can government employees, who have the same physical demands upon them, if not less, than those who say, work at the local plant or the local café, justify being granted special benefits over their fellow South Carolinians?

Here is an example for consideration. If you are a secretary for a local business, you have to work to federal retirement age, and unless some other agreement is reached with your employer, when you retire, your pension will be from your social security, your extra benefits will be from the 401(k) you contributed to, and your healthcare will be covered by Medicare insurance. Now, if you are secretary in some state or local government office, you can retire years under the federal retirement age, you get a benefits based retirement, and your healthcare costs are assisted before Medicare kicks in. In that example, you have two people performing similar jobs, with similar physical and safety demands, getting two very different sets of benefits. Add to that the secretary from the private sector will have to help pay for the increase in costs of the secretary in the public sector’s benefits.

In sum, the current status of state and local government retirement benefits for the vast majority of such employees is not economically or morally right. Perhaps such largess could be afforded before, but the landscape has changed and the policy needs to change with it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

BBC NEWS Report - September 11 Attacks

It has been almost seven years since the attacks upon the United States. Just in case you forgot, or were too young to really know what went on that day, this British newscast reminds us of how terrible that day was.

I will never forget it, because my father was in the air on a plane that day. I and my "uncle" Skip, my dad's lifelong best friend, drove to Columbus Ohio to get my dad on the night of September 11th. We saw firsthand the chaos going on in several states.

Those days are seared in my mind. With apologies to Mr. Obama, I don't feel the need to negotiate with those who orchestrated the murder of so many fellow Americans. I know it is now a cliched sign of intellectualism to be against Bush. But, so many of those who cling to that cliche are either too young to remember what happened that day or just too dumb to realize that people wanted to kill us and still do. I can not fathom giving people who organized the mass killing of people who did nothing but just to to work the honor of sitting down and addressing grievances. Even the so called mafia has honor about innocents. Those killers on September 11th, and their supporter had no honor. They still do not.

Rick Warren shows reporters how to do their jobs

I watched the forum at Saddleback Church hosted by the Rev. Rick Warren over the weekend. In that forum, Senator John McCain was frank, honest and surprisingly open about his life in Vietnam and in the Congress and the hard choices in life he made and how his experiences shaped him. Senator Obama, to his credit, had the guts to sit in the “belly of the beast” to most Democrats in a church setting and had his highs and lows in his answers.

However, what really struck me was how Rick Warren showed reporters how such things ought to be. Warren asked both men the same questions, and used a coin flip to decide who went first. Mr. Obama won the coin toss, and Mr. McCain was taken to a place where he could not hear the questions or Obama’s answers. While respectful of both Obama and McCain, Warren showed no hint of favoritism towards one or the other and instead asked the questions and let each man answer. The questions were tough and wide ranging. Glib answers could not suffice and neither candidate seemed to rely on their prepared talking points.

Warren’s presentation of the forum gave voters a real insight on both men running for President of the United States. Both McCain and Obama had their moments. Obama’s moment, for me, came when he quoted Jesus talking about how “you did this to the least of my kingdom you have done it unto me.” McCain’s high moments were several. His frankness just oozed a sense of sincerity and when he relayed the kindness of a prison guard who apparently secretly held the Christian faith, chills ran up my spine.

Again, I have to come back to how Rev. Rick Warren showed reporters how things ought to be done. Warren’s forum gave us a chance to view both men running for President as they are as people. Whether you are like me, and support McCain, or you support Obama, watching the forum should leave you feeling better about the process of choosing a President and give a glimpse on how a real discussion and debate of ideas ought to be.

Thank you Rick Warren and Saddleback Church.

Read and watch related video about the forum at:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Anderson County politics: back to court

One has to give this to Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston, he will not allow an apparent political defeat get him down. Instead, he presses forward, and in this case, he presses with a lawsuit against the two current council members that give him the most grief.

What is giving so many hardworking folks in Anderson County grief is once again their so called leaders sue one another over political matters. The courts are as sick of Anderson County political lawsuit antics as the people of Anderson County are. However the newest lawsuit turns out, one thing is sure, a great deal of money will be spent on legal fees by the people of Anderson County. That money could be better spent on public safety or needed infrastructure repairs. Instead, it will be spent on the continuing childlike rants of the political leaders who seem to be unable to act like adults and work things out. What is ironic about Administrator Preston is that he has done things to move Anderson County forward, but he seems so hellbent on "getting even" with political enemies that he eschews his record to score political points in the courtroom.

Anderson County is quickly becoming a laughing stock to other areas of our state. Do not think for a minute that laughing does not cost us jobs and money. The personal rancor between some county leaders clouds their judgement. Other counties are more than willing to step in and note the divide and rancor and show they know how to act as adults. The political leaders of Anderson County do not see how suing over this and that makes the people of the county losers, regardless who prevails in court.

Sober or Slammer

We at Voting under the Influence might get a few laughs about our name, even though it means the influence of money and operatives, but we stand against driving under the influence of alcohol. If you are drunk, find another way home. If your friend is drunk, find him another way home.

To some folks, drunk driving is cool. I learned how uncool drunk driving was way back in 1987 when a friend of mine lost her grandfather to a drunk driver.

If you get drunk, enjoy. But, find another way home. Don't drive drunk. If you don't give a damn about your own life, so be it. But, you might just kill or injure someone else, and that, we all give a damn about. Have real guts, turn over the keys if you have had too much to drink. Getting locked up is one thing, but if you have to live with the fact your drunk driving killed or hurt someone, unless you have no conscious, that will be with you for the rest of your life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

You tube mania

Over the past two weeks, I tried to post from you tube to this blog. Those postings appeared to be unsuccessful. Then, tonight, all of the you tube posting attempts went up at once.

Has anyone else out there had this sort of problem posting from you tube?

Historical Campaign Ad: Bear (Reagan-Bush '84)

This ad from Ronald Reagan in 1984 reminded people about the Russian Bear. I wonder if McCain will take a similar stance this fall.

Goldwater vs. Kennedy

Since the Republican Party is about to nominate a Senator from Arizona for President, I thought I would pay tribute to the man who did that first. Here, we learn how reluctant Goldwater was and how politics used to be. It was once a debate in which people did not sue each other and hate each other.

Barry Goldwater's famous line from 1964

Goldwater reminds of the core princples we face in War against Islamic extremist terrorism.

Ronald Reagan Berlin, West Germany - June 12, 1987

If you suffer from Obama Mania, take a moment to watch this video, and remember a time when President, facing tough odds stood and spoke in German with courage and conviction.

Ronald Reagan was not a candidate. He was the two time elected President of the United States when he stood up and declared, so bravely, "tear down this wall."

Folks, that is political courage. Watch a take a walk down memory lane.

Lyndon B Johnson 1964 TV Ad - LBJ Goldwater KKK

If you think ads and cartoons are racially charged this election year, take a look at what was going in 1964. This ad was made by the Democrats.

Scared of teenagers

It is an age old theme. People are scared to death of teenagers. In the 50s and 60s it was rock music that made so many unsettled. Then there was disco, which frankly, should leave people upset. In the 80s and 90s, metal heads freaked people out. Now there whatever teen culture that leads people to be so afraid that they demand curfews and their law enforcement acts in kind. Just take a read of the following article in The State to get an idea of how afraid we all are of young people.

Village at Sand hill plans curfew for some teens
Unaccompanied youths 16 and younger to be barred after 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays
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Gerry Melendez/
A group of teenagers walk towards Five Guys Burgers and Fries at the Village at Sandhills, Thursday, August 14, 2008. Sandhills will have a curfew starting September 5th for teens 16 and under. It only applies to Friday and Saturday evenings after 9 p.m. when all children 16 and under will be required to be accompanied by an adult.
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Created: 08/14/08 22:49:07
Should children under 16 be allowed at Sandhill after 9 p.m?
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Total: 84 votes
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Teens 16 and younger soon will not be allowed at Village at Sandhill after 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights unless they have parents or guardians with them.
The new policy, drafted by shopping center management with help from Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, is being announced today and is scheduled to take effect Sept. 5, Richland County Councilwoman Val Hutchinson said Thursday.
Stephanie White, marketing manager at the shopping center, would not provide specifics of the policy.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Myers would not discuss possible punishments for violating the new rules.
“I think they’re trying to make the village safe for citizens to eat and watch a movie and walk around at night,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said she has received complaints “about groups of teenagers congregating at the cinema and being loud and making people feel uncomfortable.”
All of the complaints stemmed from youths gathering inside, in front of, or around the movie theaters, she said.
She forwarded complaints to Lott and said he and the shopping center’s management realized some action had to be taken, Hutchinson said.
“I think the community as a whole will appreciate it,” she said.
White, the center’s marketing manager, said a “youth accompaniment policy” would be implemented, but would not say what prompted it.
But such policies are not new.
Columbia Place, a mall on Two Notch Road, instituted a youth escort policy in April 2004. It requires visitors younger than 18 be accompanied by a parent or guardian 21 or older after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Unescorted teens unable to show valid ID are asked to leave.
Before the ban, from October 2003 to March 2004, the mall saw a 25 percent increase in evictions and a 40 percent increase in people being banned, Columbia Place general manager Charles Gwinn said.
The mall launched a two-week public awareness campaign about the policy similar to what Sandhill is planning.
“It wasn’t very long after implementation it became pretty well-known and understood,” Gwinn said. “We immediately saw a noticeable decline in the number of behavioral-related incidents.”
The Columbiana Grande 14 movie theater in Harbision launched a policy in February prohibiting children younger than 16 from being admitted to shows that start at 9:30 p.m. or later unless they are accompanied by an adult 21 or older.
People visiting the Village at Sandhill late Thursday had mixed opinions.
Scott Riggins of West Columbia said that if his 16-year-old son is old enough to drive, he certainly should be allowed to go see a movie by himself and do something afterward.
“I don’t see where it hurts anything for a 16-year-old to go to the movies and do what he or she needs to do,” he said.
Dennis Bradley, 13, of Columbia, said he doesn’t mind the policy.
And William Dune of Northeast Richland thinks the policy is a good idea. He saw far fewer youths hanging out when it was instituted at Columbia Place, he said.
On several occasions at Sandhill, teenagers have made rude comments toward his wife, driven recklessly in the parking lot and littered, he said.
“If they’re on one side of the street, you want to be on the other side of the street, ’cause you don’t wanna deal with that,” he said.
Keith Knight, 16, of Columbia, likely will come to Sandhill after 9 p.m. anyway, he said.

Welcome to the big leagues, China

China seems shocked that the world noticed that their fireworks show on the opening night of the Olympic games was faked and that they had one little girl lip sinc another little girls voice of their national anthem because the former was cuter.

Now, China expressed dismay that the ages of their gold medal women's (perhaps we should say girl's) gymnastic team are being called into queston. Those little Chinese girls did perform well, but there is considerable doubt that they were all 16 or about to become 16, as the rules require. Welcome to the big leagues, China, and welcome to the world, where people are really questioned on whether or not they followed the rules of competition.

By it is false opening ceremony and what is apparent to many as cheating in the gymnastics, China, in its showcase to the world, has shown the world it is willing to cheat and cut corners to look good

No matter how much the Chinese government limits internet reporting from the games, or tries to spin it, more and more of the world is learning firsthand through the Olympic games that the Chinese are little more than cheap propaganda spinners.

That is hardly what China wanted to show the world. But, their acts speak so much louder than their propaganda.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Perception is right, more HIspanics are here in SC

Not too long ago a friend told me about his home in Saluda County. He remarked, "the last American out get the flag."

While that remark seems funny to some and downright racist to others, recent media reports indicate that South Carolina is the leading place for new Hispanics to come and work. Legal or illegal, more and more of our neighbors to the south are choosing to make South Carolina their new home.

That influx of new people puts pressure on government infrastructure at it most basic levels. Public safety agencies are now compelled to hire someone to translate. Local government resources funded by citizens paying things like property taxes are stretched thin by sudden, unaccountable increases in population.

And, there is the immigrant side. Sure, there is something to honor about people who want to make all efforts to make their lives better. However, businesses that hire them at wages below the legal wage benefit while those who compete by the rules suffer. Those businesses who cheat seem to have real political clout and can make lawmakers at both the state and federal levels water down any serious immigration reform.

Of course there are some political leaders, who like me, have a sincere desire to avoid punishing people who simply want to make their lives better and work towards that. After all, that is the heart of conservatism. Yet, there seems to be more political leaders who are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the business interests of contributors who exploit immigrant labor and the cheap cost it is.

That is why I support an immigration plan that will probably never get through either the South Carolina General Assembly or the United States Congress. I think those folks who come here to work should not be punished, period. However, individuals and businesses who knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished and given mandatory jail time.

The reason for that? It is simple. The person or business who knowingly hires illegals and exploits their status not only cheats his competitors, but takes advantage of people who are simply trying to make their lives better. It is incredible to me that such powerful legislation is not embraced by both conservatives, who seem to want to stub the growth of immigrants, and by liberals, who seem to want basic human rights for all.

The only thing I can think of that would keep us from such true reform with teeth is money. It is the money made off of the backs of illegals that goes to people who fund candidates against immigration reform on the Right and Left. Politicians on the Right and Left give different reasons for opposing real reform, but in the end, I believe it all comes down to money. A Right leaning candidate or group can not get paid without business backing them. A Left leaning candidate or group can not get money without moaning about the human issues of immigration.

It does not do much for Paco who gets a share of the minimum wage for working in the fields or working cleaning up the factory, but the money thrown around in immigration politics does influence policy. Since South Carolina is now number one in the Influx of Hispanics, we all ought to care how our leaders deal with that and how we as a people treat our visiting neighbors and ourselves. Embrace real reform now!

Simpsonville Stars Little League World Series Champions

The crack staff at Voting under the Influence extends congratulations to the young women who make up the the Simpsonville Stars baseball team. The Stars won the little league world series in softball in Portland, Oregon by a come from behind rally. The young women and coaches of the Stars make South Carolina proud.
The photo is from the Greenville News website. You can read the article about these remarkable young women at
Again, congratulations to the young women who make up the Stars, their famlies and coaches. Thank you for making South Carolina proud.

Darlington gets back the Southern 500

For the past few years, there has been something a little bit wrong with NASCAR. At least if one looks at it from the South Carolina prespecitive. The traditional Southern 500 that ran at the legendary track was replaced by a 400 mile spring race.
It was an insult that Darlington lost one race, but even more of one when that one race was reduced down to 400 miles. The hard working bubbas who made NASCAR what it is today were ignored. The smaller stands of Darlington were snubbed for big tracks in places like Texas and California. NASCAR showed the Lady in Black little respect.

However, fans still flocked to that one spring race, due to Darlington's tradition and its unusual track specifications that made it unique on the NASCAR circuit. Recent media reports indicate that Darlington Raceway will host the Southern 500 again next year. The Lady in Black has her respect back.

Bringing back that type of race at Darlington will be good for South Carolina and for NASCAR. NASCAR will get a "full 500" race at a track steeped in tradition that truly tests a driver's skill. Darlington will get its respect back, and with that respect increased excitement and dollars from fans that flock to the Pee Dee.

Hats off to the guys who run Darlington who got the beloved Southern 500 back. In a world that seems to be crazy all the time, the folks at Darlington have brought back a tradition that makes things, at least on the Palmetto sports scene, seem to make things right again. Hooray for the return of the Southern 500 at Darlington!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obama and Dems face tough history in SC

Recently, the Obama campaign made it known it will compete in every state in some fashion. That excited South Carolina Democrats, who seem to believe that their high turnout in the Presidential primary and their efforts to register new voters will turn South Carolina into Obama country come November.

While I will not state that such is impossible, the history of South Carolina Presidential voting makes it improbable.

In the past 44 years, South Carolina has only awarded the Democratic nominee its electoral votes twice. Once was in 1960, when John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by less then 10,000 votes among nearly 400,000 votes cast. The second victory was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford. Carter was the former Governor of Georgia and had the Southern Democrat identity going for him at the time.

In every other election since, the Republican nominee has won the South Carolina electoral vote, often by a large margin. Indeed, in 1968, the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey finished third. Further, if one looks at the numbers since 1948, when Strom Thurmond defeated Harry Truman in South Carolina, only Kennedy, Carter and Stevenson won a majority of votes in South Carolina. Stevenson won a slim majority in 1952 but gained no majority in 1956, only a plurality.

Thus, only three times in 60 years have South Carolinians by a majority embraced a Democratic nominee for President of the United States. That is the history that the Democrats face this fall. Even the weak candidacy of Bob Dole against then President Clinton garnered a solid win over Clinton in South Carolina.

I realize that Democrats see this election year as a perfect storm. Democrats saw the same in 1992, when an unpopular President Bush won South Carolina and an unknown named Bob Inglis defeated incumbent Liz Patterson for a US House seat. While 2008 might prove to be another perfect national storm for the Democrats, South Carolina Democrats are up against too much history and too many numbers to believe that they can make South Carolina an Obama state.

Obama's campaign has made all the right moves over the past few months and has one helluva ground campaign. However, because the people around Obama are so smart, I think they will read the numbers and not make a major play for South Carolina. Chances are they can win the White House without South Carolina and can better spend their resources elsewhere. When all is said and done, the Obama campaign will leave the South Carolina Democratic party with a lot of rhetoric and very little resources. Sixty years of numbers just do not justify the smart money being bet on a long shot like South Carolina for Obama. South Carolina will again be a state in which the VP candidates might show up, but one in which both parties encourage their foot soldiers to go work elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Bear might have backed off a bit, but it is still back.

For nearly 17 years, we in the United States have lived under somewhat of an illusion that Russia was our dear friend, and that the old Russian Bear was tamed. Despite the fact that the bear appears to be backing off a bit, the act of Russia over the past few days in regards to Georgia show the Bear is back and it is willing to bite.

Russia has never had an open and above board government truly accountable to its people. Strong Czars with secret police and cruel methods were replaced by the Soviet structure with his strict adherence to communism and use of the KGB, which Prime Minister Putin headed as a young man. The “new” Russia that developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union had promise, but it developed into a state ran by corruption, oppression, propaganda and organized crime running rampant.

The United States and Europe should have known the true state of the Russian Federation when Vladimir Putin ended his second term as President of Russia. Supposedly banned by Russia’s constitution from a third term as President, Putin did not retire to private life as leaders of other developed countries do when their legal time in office has expired. Instead of seeking to write memoirs or join some company board or build a library, Putin made moves to put his puppet in the Russian presidency. Putin then had his puppet appoint Putin Prime Minister and move most of the important powers of state to the Prime Minister’s office. It was a bloodless coup against the rule of law. No other G-8 nation-state has ever, since that group was formed, had such an occurrence of political events.

That was the warning. Alarm should have grown more when Russia began a propaganda campaign against Georgia recently. Forget the feelings of the people in the break away region that supposedly started this crisis. Russia wanted a pro Russian, not a pro Western leader heading up the government that led a country that had one of the most important oil pipelines in the world running through it. The attack on Georgia by Russia was a clear geopolitical power play and meant to send a message to the United States and the Europe that Russia was back.

From most news accounts, President Bush and the leaders of Europe got that message loud and clear and are moving to blunt the Russian invasion through diplomatic means. However, when puppet President Medvedev issued his call for a pull back of sorts, he and Putin still had the Russian foreign minister demand that the legally elected President of Georgia leave office. Since that President was elected in a manner respected by the United States, Europe and the G-8 nations, Russia is still sticking a thumb in the eye of the free world.

Why does Russia risk such a thing? It is simple, they think they can. Russia traditionally has viewed foreign policy through the eyes of strength and sacrifice. I believe that the Russians saw how the American people can not handle well relatively low war casualties in Iraq and how the American people and the people of Europe seem to embrace the Obama campaign that espouses compromise and deal making first. Add to that President Bush, who while tough on terror, seems to have been oblivious to what was going on in Russia. In short the Russians see the United States and the other developed nations of the world as weak and without the courage or ability to stop them from doing whatever they want in Georgia.

Medvedev’s announcement of pulling back a bit might be a sign that the Russians realize it will not be as easy as first thought to take over a sovereign nation. However, things are still very dangerous for the United States and Europe. History shows us that Russia, under a Czar, under Communism, or under a de facto dictator like Putin will be aggressive towards its small neighbors and consequently, Europe. We had better realize the Russian Bear is not anywhere near tamed.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

vacation is over

Okay, as you might have guessed with the most recent Obama post, the vacation on Voting under the Influence is over. This week we were off the job. But, what a week.

First, the sad news about Bob Novak, a true pro pundit. Then, we learned about the brain tumor that Rod Shealy has. The latter was the toughest to accept. It is hard to fathom a SC political world without that guy in it. While I admit I do not know the infamous Mr. Shealy well personally, I always have respected him. When I was involved in a campaign at any level and heard he was in the that race as well, there was sort of a sense of dread. You knew you had your work cut out for you if that guy was involved. We at Voting under the Influence hope Earl Capps at his blog is right, and that Shealy leaves cancer begging for mercy. At the least that old political fighter gets our upmost respect and our prayers for full recovery.

There was the Olympic opening, made boring by the fact that the Russian bear has teeth again, as the Russians are making war with Georgia. No, not that Georgia we all hate called the bulldogs, but that nation over yonder. It could turn out to be one helluva mess since Georgia has such a close relationship with the United States and Western Europe. The old Russian bear is back, and it looks like he wants to bite.

Back to the local scene, the SC High School League showed its teeth and bit Greer's football program hard for alleged illegal practices. It seems the young men at Greer contacted one another too much in the first few days of practice and got suspended from preseason and post season games. While no one at Voting Under the Influence has a dog in Greer's fight, we will be pulling for them in their appeal of the sanctions. The SCHSL seems to be going too far and in the coming days, we are going to write more about that.

Anyway, it is great to be back. There is so much to talk about and so little time. The entire crack staff of Voting under the Influence looks foward to making some noise and having some fun for the rest of the year. Thanks for reading and for posting your comments.