Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Did Stephen Colbert have the last laugh on Haley?

The present occupier of our governor's office, traipsing across America in search of buyers for her new mem-wah, stopped last night in New York City to appear on "The Colbert Report." Fitting, I thought, that she kicked off her media tour on the cable network named Comedy Central.

O, a fine time was had by all, as native son Colbert played a parlor game of state trivia with Nikki Haley, who taught him that our state beverage is milk and our state snack is boiled peanuts. (Or did she say bolled peanuts? Hard to tell.)

On topics of politics, Haley bragged that she wore high heels that double as "ammunition" "for kicking" in the "blood sport" that is politics in our state. For his part, Colbert likened politics in South Carolina to being "one notch above Honduras." Hee-haw.

But Haley, perhaps unknowingly, opened wide a gate for Colbert to march through early in her interview, delivering to him a Clemson University football helmet signed by Dabo Swinney. Colbert told her he has family that works for Clemson at a wind turbine testing facility in Charleston.

And here's where Corey Hutchens, reporter for Columbia's Free Times, finds a fascinating story that make you wonder: Did Colbert purposefully ding Haley, and was she capable of knowing she was being dinged?

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley yukked it up with Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central last night, agreeing with him that South Carolina could lead the world in wind turbine power, an industry that employs Colbert’s sister at Clemson University.

But as a House member, Haley proposed cutting funding for the very facility that employs Colbert’s sister.

Haley appeared on The Colbert Report in support of her new book Can’t is Not an Option. During the interview she presented the satirical talk show host with a Clemson University football helmet signed by coach Dabo Swinney.

“I got family that work for Clemson,” Colbert beamed. “My sister works at the drivetrain facility down in Charleston where they’re testing the new wind turbines.”

Colbert’s sister, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, works as director of business development for the Clemson University Restoration Institute and director of sales and marketing for the wind turbine drivetrain testing facility.

On his show, Colbert said the facility could be the largest drivetrain test facility in the world for wind turbines.

“Are we going to lead the world in wind power?” Colbert asked Haley.

“Yes,” Haley replied enthusiastically.

Charleston Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis agrees, but says it’s no thanks to Haley.

During a floor debate on March 17, 2010 about the very facility Colbert was talking about, Haley proposed eliminating state funding for it, according to the House journal. Her measure failed by a vote of 108 to four.

The amount lawmakers voted on would have been $7 million, or 7.1 percent of the total project, according to its director of communications, Peter Hull.

“That was the element … that Governor Haley, when she was in the House, voted against,” he says. “It was a very important component … we were very pleased they voted yes overall.”
The apparent disconnect between Haley's public support for something on TV and her vote in the House to redirect funds from it doesn't represent the first time she's done so.

In 2010, Haley appeared on the TV evening drama Army Wives, which is filmed in Charleston, even though she had voted against tax incentives for the program to film in the Palmetto State.

About Haley’s drivetrain test facility vote, Stavrinakis says it was part of a “concerted effort to try to get all that stuff that most of us viewed as economic development, but for some reason she viewed as waste, out of the budget.”

And about how she portrayed the facility on The Colbert Report?

“I think it’s pretty typical for her to take some credit for things that she not only had nothing to do with putting in place but often times was against and often to be on the wrong side of investment in things that create jobs for South Carolina,” he says.

Just as she refused to give credit to President Barack Obama for the improvement in South Carolina's employment rates.

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