Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Paris, Munich, New York, and New Delhi is next

In the past month, Governor Nikki Haley has indulged her professed love of travel by visiting Munich, Paris and New York City. This fall, she's headed to India.

The trip to New York took some by surprise, as Her Excellency demanded -- by way of an executive order -- that the General Assembly ignore the sine die joint resolution it adopted in early June and return to Columbia until its work -- as she prescribed it -- was done. The Supreme Court kicked the order to the curb, lawmakers returned to Columbia as they intended and worked through the end of last week to dispatch three dozen vetoes that Haley sent them.

But while lawmakers were doing the governor's laundry, the governor was in New York City. Last I knew, the business of the South Carolina is not conducted in the Big Apple. But Haley was there, spending one day on the business of the Republican Governors Association and the next three days presumably taking Manhattan by storm.

It's not clear what our governor was accomplishing on behalf of South Carolinians for three days in New York City during the July 4 weekend. Most people who didn't have jobs while she was here didn't suddenly have work because of her efforts in New York. Godfrey, her spokesperson, told The State newspaper it was "personal time," and "time with her husband and children."

This is puzzling. For educators and school district employees, "personal time" is time away from work, time spent at home, time grieving the loss of loved ones or addressing other issues of a personal nature. If Haley is, indeed, a state employee now, does "personal time" mean something different for her?

When the governor travels outside the state, a security detail is dispatched to travel with her. Did one travel with her to New York? If so, did her security return when her "business" was finished on Thursday night, or did security go sightseeing in New York with her? Are there photographs? I've never seen the Statue of Liberty in person; I wonder if my tax dollars helped to pay for the Haleys to see it? Did they take in a show on Broadway? Did they go to the top of the Empire State Building?

Will the governor post her photographs so that the rest of South Carolina's children can enjoy vicariously what her own children enjoyed in person?

Oh, to be the child of a jet-setting governor: The fine hotels, the haute cuisine, riding down Fifth Avenue in style, the cameras and attention, the fawning tourists clamoring for autographs, safety provided by South Carolina's finest, all so far from the red clay and dust, the common collards and grits, the humidity and inescapable summer sun, the huddled masses yearning for jobs.

We know from Godfrey, her spokesperson, what Haley didn't do: She didn't meet with her publishers at Sentinel, the "dedicated conservative imprint" of Penguin Books, although Sentinel happened, by coincidence, to announce the publication of Haley's memoir on the first day she spent in New York.

Rep. Leon Stavrinakis is one lawmaker who is as puzzled by the governor's behavior as I am.

Stavrinakis said Haley’s a hypocrite for taking a trip out of state before the budget was completely finalized after she tried to force legislators back into session to restructure government. Haley’s attempts to bring lawmakers back to Columbia, saying they hadn’t finished their work for the year, failed under a ruling by the state Supreme Court in early June.

“If she is going to chastise legislators and try to cost the state tens of thousands to try to bring us back to Columbia, then she needs to be there, too,” he said.
Her public schedule, released Tuesday, made no mention of her trip to New York but lists on Thursday three RGA meetings, three calls for the group and a newspaper interview that spanned from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The schedule does not list any events for Friday.

The Legislature adjourned Wednesday after the House and Senate voted on the budget vetoes.

The governor did not respond to questions about her decision to leave the state during part of the budget veto discussion.

She may not be answering questions from South Carolina's reporters, but Her Excellency granted an "exclusive" interview to reporters for India Abroad, "the oldest and most widely-circulated Indian-American weekly newspaper." This is the same newspaper who named Haley the 2010 India Abroad Person of the Year at a dazzling ceremony in the Cotillion Ballroom ("the setting for Al Pacino's memorable tango scene from Scent Of A Woman") and the Grand Ballroom of New York's The Pierre.

It isn't surprising that Haley would grant an interview to India Abroad -- after all, it published an item titled 'South Carolina laps up Nikki Haley' after her primary victory in 2010 -- but it is surprising to read how Haley characterizes South Carolina to the foreign media.

Let's consider, for example, the word "progressive." There was once a "Progressive" movement in America, "with settlement workers and reformers who were interested in helping those facing harsh conditions at home and at work. The reformers spoke out about the need for laws regulating tenement housing and child labor. They also called for better working conditions for women."

Wikipedia notes further that

Today, most progressive politicians in the United States associate with the Democratic Party or the Green Party of the United States. In the US Congress there exists the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is often in opposition to the more conservative Democrats, who form the Blue Dogs caucus. Some of the more notable progressive members of Congress have included Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, John Conyers, John Lewis, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Paul Wellstone.

Clearly, "progressive" is a term that has specific meanings in American culture.

Yet, when India Abroad asked Haley to comment on what her election proved about negativity and racism in the South, Haley answered, "South Carolina is not the label that people have given. It is a very progressive state; it's a very smart state." One assumes that South Carolina is progressive and smart because it elected Haley its governor; had it not, we might all still be negative and racist.

Ready for more? Says India Abroad: "And now with a clear-eyed agenda for America, she's thinking of revisiting her roots. In October, she plans to visit India and her focus is clear."

Clear-eyed agenda for America? Seven months in the Governor's Mansion and she's already measuring for drapes in the White House?

Pop quiz: What nation has the most-educated populace? Let's ask a national leader with a "clear-eyed agenda for America."

What I want people to know about the Indian American community is that they are the most educated, they make the most money per capita, they are the ones least dependent on government assistance. And the fact that I am most proud of -- they give more to charity than any other minority in the country. And I want the entire world to know that.

So the answer is not America? Since when was the answer not plainly, simply, America?

Following an earlier interview with India Abroad, the writer characterized former Governor Mark Sanford as Haley's mentor. But in this exchange, it appears clear that Haley (a) has done a good job communicating to India her opposition to President Barack Obama and to health care for all Americans, and (b) isn't afraid of pushing Sanford under the bus:

Q: You were among the newly elected governors who met US President Barack Obama just weeks after being sworn into office. You had no compunctions in expressing your strong reservations and concerns about his health care reform bill. Will you continue to try to overturn it in South Carolina even though there was all this criticism that yes, you've spoken out against it, but you had no compunctions in accepting federal money?

A: Well, first of all, the previous administration accepted federal money. I did not. But what I would tell you is we have to look at our states and ask 'How do we get the most health care for the least amount of money?'

Haley, the national leader with the "clear-eyed agenda for America," also opined on immigration, an issue that must weigh heavily on the mind of South Carolina's chief executive. In a nutshell, Haley opposes letting any new immigrants into the country unless "they put in the time, they put in the money," and they are professionals. To let in immigrants who don't "put in the time, ...put in the money" is "offensive" to Haley's parents, she reports, and presumably to Haley.

She explains,

What we do need is professionals. We do need workers that we can't find in this country. That's the reason you expand the worker visa programme. That's the key to making sure that we get who we need.

Yes, we need more professionals, we need more researchers, we need more engineers and we need more help. But we need to make sure that the worker visa programme is a good one, so that we can bring them over easily and we know exactly who's documented and who's not.

To make it crystal clear: Investing in South Carolina's children so that those who want to attend college and become professionals is a bad thing; it shouldn't be a high priority in South Carolina's budget, and to invest more dollars in the education of South Carolina's children risks a veto from the governor.

But the same governor wants to expand a worker visa program so that we can bring more -- but specific -- foreign nationals into the United States to assume highly-skilled, high-paying jobs here.

If there's another way to read Haley's public pronouncements -- both here in South Carolina's media and in the foreign press -- I'm delighted to hear it.

In her expansive, exclusive interview with India Abroad, Haley comments on several other matters. No, she won't run for vice president. No, she's not going to endorse Sarah Palin for president yet. Yes, she's going to India in October, "taking a very high-powered trade delegation" with her.

No, seriously. The governor of South Carolina had this exchange with India Abroad:

Q: So, you will be taking a very high-powered trade delegation with you?

A: Absolutely, with the whole emphasis of trying to see how much trade we can bring to the United States.

That's well and fine. South Carolinians need jobs. Foreign investment may help our economy. I suspect our Treasurer, Curtis Loftis, will be pleased if Haley's "clear-eyed agenda for America" includes an improvement in our economy.

But Haley offered one more note that may intrigue the good folks at the National Labor Relations Board, as well as the working-class folks who don't get to spend a long weekend in Manhattan on the taxpayers' dimes when they feel like it.

Said Her Excellency to India Abroad:

We are a great state; great pro-business state. The cost of doing business in South Carolina is low, our trained work force is great. We keep the unions out so a lot of companies want to come to the state and invest in aerospace, automotive, research and development. So, I am heavily recruiting. Since I've taken office, we've brought 7,000 jobs. The unemployment number is down for the fourth time in a row. Exports are up, tourism is up and it would only make sense that we go to India and say, 'We want you here, we welcome you here, please come to South Carolina.'

Keeping unions out, but importing more foreign professionals on worker visas.

Demanding our lawmakers stay in town to finish the job, but taking the family for a long weekend in New York City.

Seven months in our chief executive's office, but traveling the world "with a clear-eyed vision for America."

Vetoing funds for children and working South Carolinians, but declaring to the world that we're a "progressive" state.

Unemployment has resurged under her administration, but says unemployment has dropped under her administration.

Hasn't finished a full term in office, yet publishing a memoir on the state's time.

Who, exactly, did we elect governor?

And what, by the way, was the total cost of the Haley family vacation to New York during the July 4 weekend, including the costs of security, paid by taxpayers?

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