S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0220.toast.htm


COMMENTARY
Milquetoast Dems should start piping up

By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

FEB. 20, 2005 - - Imagine if the S.C. House of Representatives were still run by Democrats and, seemingly out of the blue, the state's public television network offered a free show to the speaker of the House.

It would be a very good bet that the House Republican Caucus would wail and moan. GOP representatives would cry outrage and get hot under the collar. They'd say it was unfair for Democrats to have a free show and Republicans to get no equal time.

In reality, it's GOP House Speaker David Wilkins who hosts the free show every Tuesday morning on SCETV's year-old S.C. Channel to give a weekly overview of what's happening in the House. Reporters and editors from around the state can call-in to ask questions of the House's top official.

And the Democrats? They're as quiet as titmice. Other than a sole comment earlier this month to The State that he was "shocked" by the new program, House Minority Leader Harry Ott and the whole Democratic Party seem to be looking the other way.

Their silence is deafening. If Democrats want to be players in South Carolina politics, they're going to have to react when political opportunities like the new show arise as the easy lob that a 6-year-old kid could hit out of the park. Otherwise, they might just as well stay at home.

On Feb. 8, SCETV broadcast the first show of "This Week in the State House with Speaker David H. Wilkins." In the show, which is on the network's SC Channel digital subscriber service and some cable systems, Wilkins outlines public policy debates in what his staff describes as a non-partisan manner. Ott was invited to respond in an interview taped later the first week, but didn't on the second.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Computer incompatibility

FEEDBACK: Libertarianism gone wild

SCORECARD: Thumbs up/down and mixed reviews

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Although the show serves a laudable public purpose of trying to provide information about the inner-workings of government for S.C. citizens, it's being executed in a lousy manner. Spending tax money for only a House Republican-hosted talk show is plain wrong.

While the speaker may try to be non-partisan in his comments, he is the leading Republican in the House and his comments come through the filter of being Republican.

"Having both sides of the argument represented is superior," said Alex S. Jones, a distinguished journalist who runs the Joan Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

For SCETV to be fair and balanced, it should modify the current show to be more of a debate that always has two seats - - one for Wilkins and another for a Democratic leader. SCETV shouldn't use canned, taped interviews of Democrats. And it shouldn't have to rely on Wilkins to be the umpire in charge of inviting Democrats to be on the show. (If the Democrats don't show up, leave the chair empty.)

Or, SCETV could provide a similar news platform for Democrats - - a separate show - - at a standard time to allow its leaders to respond and discuss how they view state policy initiatives. An SCETV official says the network would be able to provide such a platform if Democrats would show up consistently and exude desire to do so.

Two other observations:

  • S.C. Senate. State senators of both parties should be wailing and moaning too, because the last time we checked, the General Assembly was a bicameral body. By having a show devoted to the House, SCETV is ignoring the chamber that generally is the key player in state public policy debates. (The House often starts major issues, but the Senate's more lengthy discussions often are the keys to what eventually happens.)

  • S.C. press. A sponsor of the current show, the S.C. Press Association, believes it to be a wonderful opportunity for reporters and editors from around the state to interact with Wilkins. Hogwash. Wilkins and other state leaders are accessible. If reporters and editors have questions, all they have to do is call them or go see them. To say the show is needed to improve accessibility is just unsound reasoning for institutionalizing media laziness.

South Carolina's future depends on healthy public policy debates. Democrats need to engage. The state needs, at a minimum, a real two-party system. Otherwise, the state will slip into authoritarianism.

Full disclosure: Statehouse Report is an associate member of the S.C. Press Association. Statehouse Report and SCETV have an in-kind advertising promotional trade agreement.

RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
2/20: Computer incompatibility


LEARN MORE DAILY

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.


FEEDBACK
2/12: Libertarianism gone wild

To the editor:

So now we know who Mark Sanford really is. An elitist for sure, eccentric to be nice. But WIS-TV reports that Governor Sanford has now gained the firm title of Scrooge. He has cut over $180,000.00 to a camp for campers who need wheelchairs, feeding tubes and round-the-clock care. Camp Burnt Gin provides a place for these children like no other. What better place for the state to invest a meager $200,000.00 than to help the least of these. The Governor's own budget and the salaries and office expenses of Chris Drummond and Will Folks could more than cover the costs.

Come on Governor Sanford, let's get back in the real world! Give the kids the money, if they raise more, then so be it!

-- Sandy Gibson, Lexington, S.C.

SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Indian tribes. Hats off to the Waccamaw Indian People and the Pee Dee Nation for becoming two new officially recognized tribes in the state.

Hollings. A Wednesday ceremony to unveil a portrait of former Sen. Fritz Hollings was a great tribute -- and Republican and Democratic speakers were funny, respectful and thankful for his service.

Mixed reviews

Sanford. The governor got a lot of people to rally for school vouchers during the week, but suffered a nasty attack from The State for being the "leader of the clueless" on tougher seatbelt legislation.

Thumbs down

Tort reform. Proponents of caps on non-economic damages on medical malpractice laws believe they'll lower insurance rates, but data shows they're living in a dream world. The people who will be hurt are those who are hurting. It's a big win, however, for big business.


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