Loose Lips

See Dick make them run

Strom Thurmond, at 95, is the oldest and longest-serving senator in history. If he finishes out his term, he will be 100. While it is in poor taste to talk about Thurmond dying, folks in some quarters are busy doing the math.

Gov. David Beasley recently confirmed what this column speculated four years ago, that he would appoint former-governor Carroll Campbell to serve out Thurmond's term if the senator were unable.

Should Beasley lose the election, look for Thurmond to retire before Jim Hodges takes office to insure that the line of succession goes to Campbell. Should Hodges win, the Republicans' worst fear is that he would appoint Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian to fill Thurmond's seat. The mere thought might be enough to push the senior senator over the edge.

Can we talk?

There is no greater argument for cutting the flow of corporate money to politicians than this year's glut of insulting political commercials. The two gubernatorial candidates spent close to $6.5 million on television spots this fall -- money wasted on attack and counterattack ads that underscore why most of us are disgusted with politics.

The sad fact is that there are very real issues in South Carolina that are being drowned out by the negative noise. Consider that the next governor will appoint a new majority to the DHEC board by July. That is a huge responsibility with heavy implications, but you don't hear anyone talking about the environment -- or any issues in a substantive way.

We're sure that Hodges' recent announcement that he wouldn't touch the Confederate flag pleased more people in the Beasley camp than potential Hodges supporters. In fact, Hodges' failure to lead on the environment, women's rights and racial equality have left many Democrats uncomfortable with his single-issue campaign.

Time is running out for Hodges to offer ideas beyond a lottery. If he doesn't begin to raise other issues and find a way to distinguish himself from the opposition, a number of Hodges votes will never be cast.

Praise the Lord, pass the ballots

It's not your imagination; the state Republican Party does bear a remarkable similarity to Islamic fundamentalists. The Party works on the same divine edict principle that drives the ayatollahs.

With fewer than 5,000 strategically placed operatives, the Christian Coalition has gained control of the Republican Party by taking over the precincts, county and state offices, and key committees. Consider who is running the platform committee: Cyndi Mosteller, David Eckstrom and Henry Jordan.

Mosteller is the Creature from the Corporate Lagoon who is grooming herself to be the late night talk show diva for "family values." (Anti-women women and anti-black blacks are favorites for talk shows like "Politically Incorrect" which try to offer a provocative mix of political animals.)

Mosteller is famous in certain circles for her very vocal opposition to abortion rights. And she was way ahead of the curve on moralizing about the president. Four years ago, she founded Families Against Clinton. And, for reasons that are clear only to the governor, Mosteller is also a member of the DHEC board. She has no experience or expertise that qualifies her for the job.

Eckstrom is the Christian Coalition candidate for Superintendent of Education. He favors diverting public education funds to private schools through a voucher system, and would put prayer in public schools if he could figure out a way to do it.

Jordan is the state school board member who suggested that we "screw the Buddhists and kill the Moslems" as a way to end the controversy over posting the Ten Commandments in schools.

This crew has built a platform so straight and narrow that many old school Republicans have fallen from the path.

It remains to be seen whether these disaffected Republicans will pull their party's lever on Nov. 3.

Zero tolerance, zero sense

The drug war has hit the schools in a new way. Apparently, just saying no isn't working. Now school administrators are bringing out the big guns. More than 30 school districts in South Carolina have contracted with RAID Corps. Inc., out of Spartanburg, to enforce their zero-tolerance rules against drugs. (This is the same zero-sense approach that recently saw a second grader expelled from a Richland County school because he brought a butter knife to lunch. He has braces, and gets reasonably embarrassed wearing his food all day. It is the same zero-sense that had another grade school student expelled for packing a water pistol.)

RAID stands for retaliation against drugs, said Rick Russell, one of the company owners. "We contract to do one or two unannounced searches a month, with a dog, in different schools." A recent search of the Wando High School in Charleston County brought the school to a halt for two hours. Eight students were arrested for possession of marijuana.

They haven't yet called in the dogs to do battle against hemp at Richland County's Spring Valley High. School officials there have suspended students who wear hemp necklaces.

To their credit, some of the kids are sticking to their guns and defending hemp by trying to educate school administrators and parents about the ecological advantages of the crop. (See page 9 to improve your hemp I.Q.)

Disrespecting your Elders

When DHEC dropped its long-standing sponsorship of the annual AIDS conference, it was a sign of the times.

An advisory board of people working with the AIDS community had invited former surgeon general Joselyn Elders to speak at the Oct. 21 conference in Columbia. But DHEC Commissioner Doug Bryant withdrew the agency's sponsorship because he worried that her presence would be a media distraction. "This is the surgeon general that Clinton fired for being too liberal," Bryant said. "The attention would be on her and not on what we need to do to combat AIDS in South Carolina."

Bryant insisted that nobody influenced his decision, but acknowledged that Gov. Beasley and Mosteller are among those who supported it.

From where we're sitting, it certainly appears that the agency puts politics and public relations above public health. Apparently the fear of making waves scares the board more than any fear of the AIDS epidemic.

Charlie won't talk

Not much has been made of Charlie Condon's refusal to debate his opposition for state attorney general, Tom Turnipseed. It's too bad the media isn't pressing for a face-to-face meeting. It could be the best show of the season.

Condon is the only statewide candidate who didn't accept an invitation from the League of Women Voters to appear in its televised forums. Rick Quinn, Condon's handler, said that Turnipseed's television ads superimposed a photograph of Condon over an image of a burning cross has Condon so miffed that he has refused to acknowledge Turnipseed until he gets an apology.

Condon is vulnerable on the issue of racial sensitivity because his policies attract a large right-wing following, some of whom are Klan members. Condon is the only Republican holding statewide office, including Sen. Strom Thurmond, to oppose Gov. Beasley's proposal to take the Confederate flag off the State House. When Condon became the primary defender of the "old ways," he took on a whole new constituency.

The Council of Conservative Citizens is the most stalwart of flag supporters -- and of Charlie Condon. Belonging to the Council is about as close as you can get to the Klan and still have teeth.

It was the Council, you may remember, that led well-organized protests against a federal judge Condon had criticized, and it was the Council that supported Condon's efforts to exclude gays from being protected in hate crime legislation.

After a Council rally to defend the flag, two men who had attended the event shot into a crowd of black youths in Pelion. Ironically, the black victims' lawyer is Tom Turnipseed, who took the case two years ago -- well before he entertained the notion of running against Condon.

While no one is suggesting that Condon is a member of the Klan, they seem to recognize him as a kindred spirit.

(C)old War

The message that the Cold War is over hasn't reached the richest man in South Carolina. Roger Milliken, the billionaire owner of the world's largest privately owned textile company, has been accused of hiring corporate spies to boost his bottom line.

According to a lawsuit filed in October by an Alabama textile company, Milliken has been waging a campaign of corporate espionage against nine of his competitors. Using code names like Project Ginko and Project Coconut, R.A. Taylors and Associates of Atlanta admits it gathered trade secrets for the Spartanburg magnate.

Apparently, Milliken has the money to bring his Tom Clancy fantasies to life. Allegedly, corporate spies posed as graduate students or foreign bankers to gather information on Milliken's competition. The plaintiff claims that Milliken used the information to target clients with reduced prices on specific products.

Milliken, long a financial backer of conservative politicians and causes, blames the shady practices on an overzealous contractor. But those of us old enough to remember when Milliken was convicted for bugging the motel rooms of union organizers don't think the spy stories are necessarily fiction.

Name that sleazeball!

This month's sleazeball is South Carolina's most opportunistic politician. We know that doesn't narrow it down much, but here's a hint: while he pushes all the hot buttons, he won't debate his opponent.

This sleazebag isn't running for governor, but it's clear that's where he's headed. Be the first caller to identify this sleazeball and win a free subscription to POINT.


© Copyright by POINT, 1998