Southern Discomfort

From WSPA:

Governor Mark Sanford’s odd and unexplained disappearance in June got a lot of national attention just because it was so unusual. He left the state without telling anyone and without a way to contact him. His wife even said she didn’t know where he was, while his staff thought he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. But when he returned and explained that he had disappeared to Argentina to visit his mistress, the admission left even his close friends dumbfounded.


But the Sanford affair is the just the latest in a long line of South Carolina political scandals.

Original DVD cover

(From left to right:  (top) Lindseypoo Graham, Sparky Marky Mark Sanford, Jim Dimwit DeMint;  (bottom) Earle “No Parole” Morris, John “Capitol Steps” Jenrette, Strom Thurmond, Joe “You Lie” Wilson, Tom “Things Go Better With Coke” Ravenel, Charles “Ex-con” Sharpe

Just two years ago, then-state treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted on federal charges of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. Gov. Sanford suspended him from office. Ravenel later resigned, pleaded guilty and served 10 months in prison.

Former comptroller general and lieutenant governor Earle Morris is still in state prison on securities fraud charges. He was the chairman of Carolina Investors when it went bankrupt, taking about $275 million from thousands of South Carolinians.

Then-state agriculture commissioner Charles Sharpe was indicted in 2004 on charges of extortion and lying to a federal officer in connection with a cockfighting ring. He pleaded guilty in 2005, admitting to taking $10,000 in exchange for helping a group involved in cockfighting avoid legal trouble.

And in the early 1990s, ten percent of the state legislature was indicted on bribery, racketeering or drug charges in an FBI sting that was dubbed “Operation Lost Trust.“ The name aptly describes what that scandal and many others have done to the public’s view of politicians.


And politicians have been involved in scandals since the founding of our country, but many of them didn’t get the same attention they do now because of the speed and easy availability of information. A good example is Strom Thurmond’s fathering of a child out of wedlock with his African-American housekeeper. It happened when Thurmond was 22 and the housekeeper was 16, but no one publicly acknowledged the fact until more than 75 years later when their daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, came forward shortly after Thurmond’s death.

From the Los Angeles Times:

True, Republican John McCain carried the state over Democrat Barack Obama, 59% to 37%, in the 2008 election.

But opposition to the Democratic White House seems to have reached fever pitch there.

First Republican Sen. Jim DeMint urged fellow conservatives to “break” President Obama by making his healthcare reform a Waterloo in his presidency, defeating him and his ideas with a big fat congressional rejection.

Then came Gov. Mark Sanford. […] The onetime presidential aspirant made headlines in February by threatening to reject Obama’s stimulus package money. Even the Legislature balked at that one.

Now comes Joe Wilson, the former Marine and six-term congressman who until Thursday was an obscure back-bencher. After his unprecedented outburst Wednesday night — calling Obama a liar from the floor of the House — he apologized. As Ticket reported, he also cut an ad asking supporters to send money to his cause. Because, as the Ticket also reported, Democrats have been sending lots of money to his rival, Rob Miller. In fact by this morning ActBlue’s efforts have sent more than $700,000 to Miller’s campaign coffers.

From Ethiopian Review:

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) mastered politics in a state where no-holds-barred political combat dates to the days before the Civil War, when one of its congressmen entered the Senate chamber and beat a Massachusetts senator with a cane for attacking pro-slavery Southerners.

So when Wilson went so far Wednesday night as to heckle President Obama, interrupting his address to a joint session of Congress with shouts of “You lie!” he wasn’t straying far from South Carolina’s tradition of wild and woolly politics.


Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called Wilson’s behavior “inappropriate.” Even so, Graham pledged to campaign for Wilson’s reelection, saying the congressman should not be judged on one incident. [And Lindseypoo thinks Sparky Marky Mark deserves a second chance, too.]

“People who know Joe Wilson like I do understand that that doesn’t reflect the man,” Graham said. “That was a mistake on his part from emotion about the issue, the consequences of where we’re going as a nation.”

Wilson’s surprising moment drew renewed attention to the Palmetto State’s history of colorful politics. Historians recall the state’s then-Democratic Sen. Strom Thurmond wrestling Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Tex.) in 1964 over a civil rights nomination, and Rep. John W. Jenrette (D-S.C.) and his then-wife Rita having sex on the Capitol steps in the 1970s. [more on Jenrette below]


To be sure, South Carolina Democrats have had their brushes, too. During 39 years in the Senate, Democrat Fritz Hollings infamously spoke derogatively of just about every ethnic group. When Hollings lost a 1983 presidential straw poll in Iowa, he reportedly said: “Well, that [Walter] Mondale imported a lot of them wetbacks across the Mississippi River.”


It was in these waters that Wilson, 62, got his first taste of politics. At age 11, Addison Graves “Joe” Wilson was a “pop runner,” delivering soda pop to election workers in Charleston. He became an activist with anti-communist causes in high school and while working as a counselor at a camp for Republican teenagers, Wilson met Roxanne, the camper who would become his wife.

A former aide to Thurmond, who became a Republican late in 1964, Wilson spent nearly two decades in the state Senate before winning a special election in 2001 to succeed another former boss, Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.), who died in office. Wilson once boasted that Spence called him from his hospital bed as he lay dying and urged him to run for his seat.


In Washington, Wilson is known for covering his office walls with framed photos of Republicans and for filling cabinets with elephant figurines and busts of such politicians as Thomas Jefferson and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.

Wilson revels in the pomp of Capitol Hill, once telling the State, a Columbia newspaper, that every day is “like Christmas.”

“I love parliamentary maneuvering!” he was quoted as saying. “I love the trees! . . . I love this view!”

But some colleagues see behind his easy manner a confrontational streak. “There are people who tend to look at him as this choirboy,” said House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose district borders Wilson’s. “He is really everything but that.”

Last month, Wilson organized a town hall meeting at Columbia’s Keenan High School — in Clyburn’s district. “He came into my district, the high school where my kids went, where I was an officer in the [Parent Teacher Association], and that was on purpose,” Clyburn said. “That was as unethical as one can be, and he didn’t say one word to me about it.”

From CongressionalBadBoys:

The Honorable John Jenrette, an up-and-comer in the Democratic party, was one of seven Congressmen caught in the FBI Abscam investigation of political corruption. In December 1979, he was filmed by the feds accepting a bribe and then convicted in December 1983, sentenced to two years in prison and fined $20,000. The following year, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. And, to leave no stone unturned, Jenrette took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court let the conviction stand.

It didn’t help having him on surveillance tape saying to an undercover agent, “I’ve got larceny in my heart.”


In January 1981, Jenrette’s second wife, Rita, said she was seeking a divorce. Rita found $25,000 in $100 bills (much of it FBI bribe money) in her husband’s brown suede shoes. Rita didn’t help relations with the constituents back home when she once called the “cornballs.”

Rita is probably best known for (1) telling us that she and John had sex on the steps of the U.S. Capitol (and that became a hot stop on the Washington Sex Scandals tour for out-of-towners; and perhaps the inspiration for the song and satire group called “The Capitol Steps”); and (2) posing nude in Playboy. She also wrote, later, about ex-husband John: she found him on Capitol Hill “drunk, undressed and lying on the floor in the arms of a woman who I knew was old enough to be his mother.”

But we’re not through . . .

Turns out the Honorable ex-congressman was charged with stealing a pair of shoes from a Fairfax County, Virginia, store. He was charged with petty larceny and altering a price tag at a Marshall’s department store.


Filed under Barack Obama, Democrats, FBI, humor, Joe Wilson, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, movies, parody, politics, Racism, Republicans, Scandals, snark, South Carolina, Wordpress Political Blogs

22 responses to “Southern Discomfort

  1. ‘Operation Lost Trust’ – Oh is that what the last 40-odd years of business-as-usual governance calls itself.
    How many times does the exchequer have to be looted by star-spangled cross-wearing malfeasants before the marks wise up, I wonder.


    • i was just over at your blog, dark black, and then came here to see you left a comment. we must have espn! 🙂

      i don’t think thinking is the state’s official pastime down in south carolina. it appears having 1/10th of their elected officials indicted has not made them change their priorities.

      • Sadly, this regional deficiency appears to be less unique as time goes by, Nonnie – So much luridly blatant corruption on federal, state and civic levels, and an alarmingly fatuous acceptance of the vile status quo from the mass of those whom are governed.
        I foresee a long struggle toward the time that America leaves the shadows cast by such purblind venality.


        • corruption is so widespread that people just accept it as the norm. until money is taken out of the equation, i honestly don’t know how things will change.

  2. Excellent cover, nonnie… and nice flag work, too. I’d forgotten what a loathsome little cutie Jimmy Strom was; and Darkblack, ever the gentleman, soft peddles their historic inbred backwardness as a “regional deficiency.” I should learn to be so kind. Fortunately there’s still time for them to jump on the tenther bandwagon with Tixass and MinnaSoda.

    • thanks, mh! little stromie was such an imp, wasn’t he? i just assumed that darkblack meant mental deficiency.

      i went to south carolina a few years ago with thoughts of moving there. the cost of living is nothing compared to here, and it’s beautiful there. it’s also another world. racism is alive and well. in fact, in some places, it’s thriving.

      • That’s what my brother says, too; he was a cabinet maker there for several years, but he just couldn’t stand the racism and general hatefulness of many people, and had to leave.

        • there’s the rub. the only way for that place to evolve is for reasonable people to move there and change things. however, reasonable people can’t stand to be there, so nothing changes.

  3. jeb

    The was a prominent jurist from SC who was considered one of the final legal minds of his time. A national newspaper asked him in the late 1850s what he thought of the idea of his home state seceding from the Union. He famously replied that SC was to small to be a republic and too large to be an asylum.

    • i read that when i was doing my research. i love that quote, and i forgot to add it. thanks for bringing it over, jeb. it was a congressman named james petigru who said it. 150+ years later, and not much has changed.

  4. Since jeb beat me to the punch with the Petigru quote, I’ll go back even farther.

    “Preston Smith Brooks (August 5, 1819 – January 27, 1857) was a Democratic Congressman from South Carolina, known for physically beating Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate. His first cousin, Matthew Butler, was a Confederate general.”

    “On May 22, 1856, Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner with his Gutta-percha wood walking cane in the Senate chamber because of a speech Sumner had made three days earlier, criticizing President Franklin Pierce and Southerners who sympathized with the pro-slavery violence in Kansas (“Bleeding Kansas”). In particular, Sumner lambasted Brooks’ kinsman, Senator Andrew Butler, who was not in attendance when the speech was read, describing slavery as a harlot, comparing Butler with Don Quixote for embracing it, and mocking Butler for a physical handicap. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, who was also a subject of abuse during the speech, suggested to a colleague while Sumner was orating that “this damn fool [Sumner] is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.” (Jordan et al., The Americans)

    “At first intending to challenge Sumner to a duel, Brooks consulted with fellow South Carolina Rep. Laurence M. Keitt on dueling etiquette. Keitt instructed him that dueling was for gentlemen of equal social standing, and suggested that Sumner occupied a lower social status comparable to a drunkard due to the supposedly coarse language he had used during his speech. Brooks thus decided to attack Sumner with a cane.

    “Two days after the speech, on the afternoon of May 22, Brooks confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber. Brooks was accompanied by Keitt and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia. Brooks said, “Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner on the head with his thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Sumner was trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt who was holding a pistol and shouting “Let them be!” (Keitt would be censured for his actions and later died of wounds in 1864 during the US Civil War.)

    “Sumner was unable to return to his Senate duties for more than three years while he recovered. He later became one of the most influential Radical Republicans throughout the conduct of the American Civil War, and on through the early years of Reconstruction.

    “South Carolinians sent Brooks dozens of brand new canes, with one bearing the phrase, ‘Hit him again.’ The Richmond Enquirer crowed: ‘We consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences. These vulgar abolitionists in the Senate must be lashed into submission.'”

    As you can see, political misbehavior by South Carolinians goes back a long way.

    • i was on the computer all night long until after 9 this morning reading stories about misbehaving politicians. some of them were jaw-dropping. one involves a pol from mississippi, not south carolina, but cut from the same cloth. this one is much more recent, which makes it more scary. instead of cutting and pasting, here’s the link. it’s a good read.

  5. This is all about the underlying, hideous factor of the racism that is so deeply ingrained in the American character. The attempt to portray this president (Of all people!) as a socialistic, left wing extremist doesn’t even pass the giggle test for people who have bothered to pay attention to their times and their history. Let’s face it – Franklin D. Roosevelt, he ain’t! They can’t obstruct his agenda with a manufactured scandal regarding his personal life, as they did with Bill Clinton. eleven years ago. Their only hope is for enough of the American people to become really frightened by the Big, Bad Negro Commie. An ironic description when one takes into consideration how boringly moderate Obama really is.

    Think about this: In the last presidential campaign only one of the nominees of the two major political parties was born in the United States – Barack Obama – John McCain was born in Panama. Do you find it as revealing as I do that it was the black guy had his citizenship called into question? How much more proof do we need of the overt racism that is inherent in that party – or in our own country for that matter? Honestly, this isn’t rocket science, folks!

    But wait! It gets better! Now Glenn Beck is slated to become the Martin Loony King of the Far Right thanks to his stupid “March on Washington” yesterday.

    Isn’t life interesting?

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

    • hello tom degan,
      welcome to the raisin! 😀

      excellent comment and excellent post at your blog. this was all about race, plain and simple. addison graves wilson would not have heckled a white man, and 99.9% of the idiots in dc yesterday would not have been protesting if obama had a different complexion.

      so you’re from goshen? i grew up in monticello! we were practically neighbors! 🙂

      hope you’ll stop by and comment again soon. i’ve bookmarked your blog and will be sure to stop by there often.

  6. helenwheels

    Nonnie, superb poster and post! I had never heard of the Preston Booth caning, either. Gotta hand it to SC, they know how to resist evolving.

    Ironically, though, we have to give credit where credit is due: Sanford HAS contributed a great entry to the urban dictionary with “Hiking the Old Appalachian Trail.”

    Can’t wait to read about the other scalliwag posted above. Good stuff.

    I agree w/Tom Degan, Obama is moderate which makes the hysterical birthers, birchers and teabaggers look all the more crazy by comparison.

    • thanks helen! (and it’s so nice to have the real helen here instead of imbecilic imitators 😉 )

      i kept finding all these stories about south carolina politicians, and the more i read, the more links i had to click on. while other states have been given more attention for their politicians’ maneuverings and indiscretions, south carolina is in its own league. the stories from there are so sordid. it’s pretty fascinating.

  7. LOL–lil’ Strom looks so creepy. Well, so did real life Strom, now that I think about it.