This is a guest note by Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff at the Department of State from 2001-2005 and a sixteen-year long aide to General Colin Powell. He now serves as Harriman Adjunct Professor of Government at the College of William & Mary.
South Carolina’s Worst
My father was a life-long Republican.
This was not easy for him because my grandmother, a foundation stone of our family, was a life-long Democrat. Both were South Carolinians to their core–my grandmother a first-grade school teacher for half a century, traveling widely, but always most comfortable in her southern home; my father a military man in WWII, later a vice president for Allstate Insurance Company, and still later an Arabian horse and Black Angus cattle rancher, but only after returning to his beloved state of South Carolina.
Thomas Wolfe’s admonition about not going home never appealed to my father.
My grandmother died at the Darlington, South Carolina Baptist Home, beloved of those kind and generous people for her more than 70 years of service to her Baptist Church. I miss her greatly even today. My father passed away in December of 2007 after telling the head nurse at his full-care facility, “You people make it too g-d hard to die.”
But before my father died, he spoke some profound words about the state of politics in South Carolina.
A few months before he passed, as I was talking with him about serious matters such as my Mom’s financial inheritance–she’s still living at 89–he turned to me and said: “You know, son, I’m not voting for Lindsey Graham again. He promised to be term-limited and he broke his promise. So, I’m not voting for him again.”
That was a hard thing for my father to say, as hard as granite.
As he paused and looked gravely at me, I took the opportunity to ask him: “What about Jim DeMint?”
He fixed me with his steely blue-gray eyes and said: “I’m not voting for him either. He’s an idiot.”
My father was mistaken but his intent was in the right direction.
Senator DeMint’s (R-SC) latest “idiocy” is single-handedly holding up two of President Obama’s appointments to State Department duties–Tom Shannon as U.S. Ambassador to the most important country in South America, Brazil, and Arturo Valenzuela to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
A single senator’s ability to effect such holds is lunacy gone amuck in any regard; but Jim DeMint gives that state of affairs new meaning altogether. He is holding up a refurbishment of U.S. foreign policy in our own hemisphere–and in the name, he says, of a coup d’etat in Honduras, a coup that he apparently supports.
Recently, South Carolina–my home state–has not shown up too well in the harsh kleig lights of today’s radical-eat-radical politics. A governor who gallivants off to see his lady friend in Argentina, a congressman who calls the President of the United States a liar from the floor of the House and then raises political money because of it, and a senator who blocks a much-needed re-examination of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America because he supports a coup d’etat that, according to him and not the people of Honduras, brought a better leader to the helm of Honduras.
In defense of his position, Senator DeMint writes in the Wall Street Journal that “America’s Founding Fathers–like the framers of Honduras’s own constitution–believed strong institutions were necessary to defend freedom and democracy from the ambitions of would-be tyrants and dictators.”
I do not believe that the likes of George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin would have included coup d’etats in their listing of “strong institutions.”
And, of course, nothing is said in DeMint’s article about the real reason for his and other politicians’–including some Democrats–reasoning with regard to Honduras. In their reasoning, AT&T and other U.S. business interests play heavily, perhaps even more heavily than democracy? Likewise for long-standing and nefarious U.S. ties to the Honduran military establishment.
In that latter regard, nothing is said about the reason that President Zelaya, the leader whom the coup d’etat removed from office, may have wanted to change the constitution of Honduras. One clear reason, for example, was to limit the power of the military in that much-troubled state–a military with whose leaders I met some years ago in my capacity as Deputy Director of the US Marine Corps War College, and I can only say that when I departed the room where we met, my greatest urge was for a shower to cleanse myself of the stench that lingered from their presence.
Jim DeMint. Not an idiot as my father claimed–because that would in some way excuse him. And there is no excuse for his actions, the reasons for which are all too apparent.
Ah, South Carolina. Both my beloved grandmother and my father would be as ashamed as I am.
— Lawrence B. Wilkerson