Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ousting Moore nets national attention for Haley

Governor Nikki Haley's replacement of state icon Darla Moore with an unknown campaign contributor on the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees caught the attention of the Washington Post last week, as Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker weighed in with the solemn question, "Has Nikki Haley doomed her promising career?"

Has a breathless quality, doesn't it? I hear it in Vivien Leigh's voice.

For those who appreciate Parker's perspective, I'll get to it. But I can offer a fairly good answer to her question:

This is South Carolina. We elected Mark Sanford, twice. And Andre Bauer, twice. And Thomas Ravenel. And a laundry list of other lesser lights whose collective twinkle won't ever rate space in the firmament, and they variously embarrassed, humiliated, violated and defied themselves, us, common sense, the spirit and letter of the law, and the memories of our mutual ancestors. We continue to elect and re-elect men and women to our legislature whose chief attribute is mere consistence -- consistence in protecting self and allied interests, consistence in starving the least among us of vital services, consistence in vowing at home to do their best for all their constituents and in forgetting the vow by the time they've arrived at the Clarion on Gervais.

Haley has already made a smattering of stumbles and misjudgments, any three of which would have led another state's chief executive to beg forgiveness and demonstrate the lesson learned. But, like her predecessor Mark Sanford, Haley hails from a time, a place and a generation that wears self-confidence in abundance, righteousness by the bushel and superiority by the barrel. We average South Carolinians learned from the Argentinian saga of 2009 that it takes much more than mere stumbles and misjudgments to doom a promising career in South Carolina. Violent crime committed in broad daylight may -- may, I say, not will -- do it. Federal indictments may do it, after they've led to a conviction. The only thing sure and certain to do it is affiliation with the wrong side of the political spectrum.

But Parker asks the question in the Post's pages, and spends a bit of the Post's ink budget to answer it, so we honor the effort.

"This jaw-dropping move has created a furor," she writes, "prompting a statehouse protest and an anti-Haley campaign that has some talking about her political ruin. Others, such as former state Republican Party chair Katon Dawson, shrug and say that 'there’s a new sheriff in town'.”

With a tin badge, no doubt.

“I say there is a new governor in high heels doing what she told the voters she would do and willing to let the chips fall where they may,” says Dawson. “Elections have consequences.”

Ain't that the truth.

Parker has a flair:

As stories go, this one has, dare I say, good legs. It doesn’t hurt that both women are attractive — a Snow White and Rose Red pair of Southern sisters who are politely engaged in a war of, well, roses. In the nicest possible way, they are at each other’s throats.

She aims high:

Speaking to about 400 students on the University of South Carolina campus Thursday as she announced her latest donation, Moore began disarmingly: “While I quickly admit to enjoying the occasional opportunity to talk about the wonder of me, this is not about Darla Moore.”

And then she commenced, without mentioning Haley’s name, to shred the governor: “Neither you nor I need to be on the Board of Trustees to make this [improving higher education] happen. We need simply to hold our leaders accountable and tell them we understand that they may not help us, they may not be able to help us — but we demand that they not hurt us.”

But she takes Haley's talking points:

As Haley explains events, Moore lost her seat basically because she didn’t express sufficient interest in keeping it. She didn’t return Haley’s calls, as the governor tells it, and when Haley tried to meet with Moore, there was a three-week wait.

The governor told me she couldn’t wait. She has only one voting member on the board and, says Haley, “I have to pick one who will report to me and return my calls.”

That's the new sheriff talking. Don't take her calls, and she'll take your seat on the Board of Trustees. Don't care who you are. Or how much money you've given to USC. And to Clemson. Bottom line: You don't give contributions to the Haley campaign, you aren't owed a thing. Better be nice to the new sheriff.

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