Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier
AG Wilson and the Republican Attorneys General Association
We're glad to see S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson repudiate his former deputy's efforts to drum up attendance at the rally that spawned last week's deadly insurrectionist assault on the U.S. Capitol and to state in unequivocal terms that Joe Biden is the legitimate president-elect.
It certainly doesn't undo his reckless decision to join in a lawsuit that went far beyond the effort to have the courts retroactively reinterpret the U.S. Constitution and carelessly - or perhaps carefully - tossed about words such as "fraud" as it trafficked in innuendo about alleged voting irregularities. Even though that lawsuit was legally permissible, it clearly was an effort to throw out the votes of millions of Americans and overturn the results of the presidential election.
Still, his comments on Monday are a step in the right direction.
A good next step would be to resign from the Republican Attorneys General Association.
The problem with the association isn't that its now-former executive director, Adam Piper, orchestrated a robocall campaign encouraging "patriots" to attend the election protest. We find it credible to believe that Mr. Piper didn't think his bosses would object and so undertook that action on his own, without consulting with Mr. Wilson or other leaders in the organization.
The problem is that the association never should have been created in the first place. It was started in 1999 when a handful of Republican attorneys general decided they needed to counter "the lack of commitment by their Democrat counterparts to defend federalism, adhere to the law and apply a commonsense, free market approach to governing."
Truth be told, we'd probably agree more often with the Republicans' perspective on constitutional questions than the Democrats.' But state attorneys general are first and foremost state officials. And after that, they are prosecutors. Although it's hard to completely depoliticize elected officials, attorneys general need to stay as far away from party politics as possible. They are at their core state legal officers, not policy makers.
Instead, this organization was near the vanguard of the nationalization of our state governments and the hyper-politicization of the work of attorneys general - both of which have helped push all of us to viewing all things through a partisan lens. It wasn't alone, of course; Democratic attorneys general quickly formed their own association, which also shouldn't exist.
Those two organizations - like similar organizations for secretaries and state and lieutenant governors - focus primarily on raising money to get attorneys general of their party elected in other states, something that frankly is none of their business. (We don't like the partisan organizations of governors either, but that ship has sailed.) They also serve as networking associations that help perpetuate partisan lawsuits such as the one Mr. Wilson supported to try to overturn the election. And they have overshadowed the national organization that brings together state attorneys general to learn from each other about creative solutions to common problems.
If Mr. Piper's name sounds vaguely familiar, it's because he was the political operative with no legal experience whom Mr. Wilson took with him to the attorney general's office as deputy chief of staff. As such, he attempted to launch a political smear campaign against Solicitor David Pascoe, who eventually brought corruption charges against Mr. Wilson's political confidants.
And that brings us to a larger truth about Mr. Wilson: Although all the attorneys general have joined these destructive partisan associations, he has had a particularly difficult time keeping partisan politics out of the inner workings of his office. He didn't understand it when he hired Mr. Piper and kept him on his staff for years. He didn't understand it when he allowed political activist Richard Quinn to serve, in Mr. Quinn's words, as his "de facto press secretary," helping him decide how to spin his decisions, and even what his decisions should be, involving criminal prosecutions.
Mr. Wilson has done some good work as attorney general. But the more he allows himself to function as a partisan hack, the more difficult he makes it for us to remember any of that good work.
Congressman Jeff Duncan can do the right thing and remain electable
Please, Congressman Jeff Duncan, put those socks back in the sock drawer. Actually, this past week they would have served a better purpose had you placed them firmly in the mouth of the man whose last name they bear - Trump.
It is now rather safe and maybe even cool to not only condemn the actions of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but also denounce the man who at the very least inspired the sad and tragic events that unfolded there last week.
Impeachment? The 25th Amendment? We'll acknowledge that either of those is a long shot, and we understand you have done well by a large swath of your constituency by supporting President Trump these past four years. Surely by now, however, you cannot leave any doubt in voters' minds that the president's rhetoric prior to the march on the Capitol was wrong, that even his reaction to the mob, late coming as it was, signaled his support of their actions.
You, sir, were a target on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, when, on June 14, 2017, James Hodgkinson shot U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, U.S. Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, congressional aide Zack Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika. So the question now is how can you not speak out harshly against the commander in chief whose very words led to last week's act of insurrection? Lives were lost, lives were in danger. That included some Republicans, even Vice President Pence, among the Democrats the mob sought out, some at the ready with plastic handcuffs.
Seriously, Congressman, it's likely the overwhelming majority of constituents by now will have set aside the Kool-Aid; they will understand and accept if you speak up and speak out. Urge the president to do no harm - no more harm - and go away quietly. You will remain electable and more honorable.
But do put away the socks. They're a keepsake, perhaps, but they're hardly the right support hose to be wearing these days.
The Times and Democrat
Proposed bill to create a committee to examine federal election integrity
The violence perpetrated by a few has again overshadowed the message of the many.
The riot damaging the U.S. Capitol and leaving five people dead that grew from a massive protest in Washington over the 2020 election was despicable, as is ongoing violence in American cities aimed at government institutions and officials and private businesses.
Those perpetrating violence hijack the cause of protesters to commit criminal acts - and they should pay for their crimes.
Forgotten amid the violence are legitimate messages. In the case of the pro-Donald Trump protesters in Washington this past week, these primarily were people believing the 2020 election that resulted in Democrat Joe Biden's victory was illegitimate. And as much as most if not all of them realize that President Trump will not be installed as president on Jan. 20, they want action to restore their faith in the American electoral system.
It would be a mistake not to take such electoral concerns as a call to action - not by protesting but by pushing elected leaders to act.
South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott made clear before confirmation of the Electoral College victory for Biden that he would not join some of his GOP colleagues in objecting to the outcome. He said he could see no constitutionally viable means for Congress to overturn an election certified by the states. But Scott is proposing a way for concerns about election irregularities to be addressed ahead of future voting.
He has introduced a bill to establish the 2020 Bipartisan Advisory Committee, charged with examining the integrity of the November election and making recommendations to state legislatures to improve the security, integrity and administration of federal elections.
"The beauty of the American experiment is the ability to freely question our processes and build upon lessons learned. We cannot move forward without looking back and scrutinizing the issues that led to millions of Americans losing trust in our election system," Scott said. "While every election has a modicum of fraud, the circumstances around the pandemic led multiple states to make rushed and perhaps ill-planned changes to their election systems weeks ahead of the presidential election. Simply put, Congress needs to act in a bipartisan fashion to examine the missteps - intentional or not - made this year in state legislatures across the country."
The committee would be composed of 18 members: nine appointed by the Republican Senate leader in consultation with the House minority leader and nine appointed by the speaker of the House in consultation with the Democratic Senate leader.
The committee would study:
- The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the election.
- The election practices adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Practices regarding mail-in ballots, absentee ballots and vote-by-mail procedures.
- Practices that would have allowed improper or fraudulent voter registration or votes.
- The scope of any improper or fraudulent voter registration or votes.
- Practices that would bolster public confidence in the integrity of future general elections.
The result would be two reports, an initial one including precinct-by-precinct data highlighting any improper and fraudulent voter registrations and improper and fraudulent votes that were cast in the 2020 election.
The final report would include recommendations on best practices that each level of local and state government should adopt for administering elections for federal office during a pandemic and other national emergencies; mitigating fraud and increasing the integrity and security of mail-in ballots, absentee ballots and vote-by-mail procedures; and preventing improper or fraudulent votes from being cast and stop improper voters from being registered.
The Scott plan can do more than produce reports if the events of this past week are the wakeup call that pushes Democrats and Republicans in Congress to take the lead in finding common ground. The more each party plays to the extremes, the more extremism the nation will get.
We've written previously that a closely divided government affords the opportunity for those in the middle to hold some sway again. On the vital matter of election integrity, Scott is making a common-sense proposal to do the research and determine solutions from the results.
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