Nikki Haley’s Civil War Memory (when the SCV asks)

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Update: The interviews were conducted by the Palmetto Patriots with all the candidates and are available on the organization’s website.  A wide range of issues were covered.  McMaster discusses the flag in Part 2 at 2:55.  Bauer comments on the flag in Part 2 at 4:50 after one of the interviewers admits that there is some crossover between the SCV and Palmetto Patriots.  Barrett is a member of an SCV camp and in Part 1 at 2:25 pledged to defend the Confederate flag against “cultural genocide.”  One of the interviewers also encouraged Barrett to resist calls to remove the statue of Ben Tillman from the statehouse.  There is nothing surprising in any of this.

This is a wonderful example of a behind-the scenes-look at the way in which Civil War/Confederate heritage continues to shape politics.  I’m not sure Nikki Haley, who recently won the Republican Gubernatorial Primary in South Carolina, knows anything about the American Civil War, but she is clearly being put through the ringer by an unknown group.  I suspect that the interviewers are with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, but I can’t be sure.  Haley reduces the war to a matter of “tradition vs. change” and is clearly doing her best not to offend.  Around the 5 minute mark one of the interviewers demands to know Haley’s position on the ongoing debate about the Confederate flag and reminds her of their work to remove Governor Beasley for proposing to remove the flag from atop the statehouse.

I’m not sure if I am more upset about the complete lack of historical understanding by everyone in this video or that this is an issue that demands serious attention by our candidates for public office.

24 comments… add one

  • Jonathan Dresner Jun 14, 2010

    The war wasn’t about slavery, “It was simply a matter of the Union at that time — Mr. Lincoln’s minority government — trying to do away with the Constitution at that time, that started the war.” (about 2:30)

    Her ability to smile and nod is quite impressive, actually. That she agreed to this being videotaped is either extraordinary or naive, though.

  • Nat Turners Son Jun 14, 2010

    Well USCON doesn’t require you to be smart to vote; maybe we need to bring back the old reading test before you could vote.
    There are a lot of historically ignorant people today who are politically active and that is scary to me.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 14, 2010

      I would rather not go back to the days of poll taxes and reading tests.

  • Andy Hall Jun 14, 2010

    Good Lord, that’s painful to watch. I don’t have any sympathy for Nikki Haley’s politics, but that had to be worse to sit through than these guys’ attention-whoring (starts about 6:30, possibly NSFW).

    No doubt the organizers of this event felt that Ms. Haley needed to be schooled on the “truth” about the Civil War because (1) she has lady parts and (2) is the daughter of immigrants, both of which make it unlikely that she really understands that event in the way a true son, er, daughter of South Carolina should. I’m pretty sure these guys didn’t demand a sit-down with Mark Sanford back in the day.

    I really do wish we had an electorate that was mature enough to allow a candidate to get away with saying,”that’s interesting, but also utterly irrelevant to my candidacy or the office I’m seeking.” Or occasionally, “that’s the stupidest effing thing I ever heard.” But that’s a fantasy, isn’t it?

    • Kevin Levin Jun 14, 2010

      Andy,

      I give her a lot of credit. She obviously worried her interviewers at the beginning when she mentioned that “everyone is supposed to be free” and that she valued “individual right and liberty for people.” That’s when the conversation turned to secession and Lincoln’s proclamation. These guys come off looking like a bunch of bullies and I have to say again that Haley acquitted herself quite well. She tried to steer the discussion toward the end, but it was pretty much useless given the agenda of the men in the room. The more I listen to it the more I am convinced that the meeting was organized by the SCV.

  • Margaret D. Blough Jun 14, 2010

    Wow! Starting at about 1:30, there is some of the most unmitigated whooey and outright falsehoods and misrepresentations that I’ve ever heard on the subject. One of my personal favorites is the outright declaration that slavery would have ended by 1850 and that Lincoln’s was a “minority” government. Lincoln obtained a majority of the electoral vote which was the only vote that counts under the Constitution; if he hadn’t, the election of the President would have gone to the House. They, of course, were also totally wrong about the tariff.

    I’m not sure which to be more upset about either: the blatant historical misrepresentation or that a major party political candidate is agreeing to sit there and be bullied in the name of being questioned.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      Margaret,

      The mistakes are a reflection of a complete misunderstanding of the basic facts. It’s pathetic.

      • Margaret D. Blough Jun 15, 2010

        In some cases, complete misunderstanding is probably the most accurate description. In others, though, the truth is so easily found that some of what we hear in this video borders on and even crosses into deliberate misrepresentation. Once Lincoln took the Constitutionally prescribed oath of office administered by the then Chief Justice of the United States Roger B. Taney himself, Lincoln was president of the United States and the margin & manner of his victory is irrelevant to that central fact.

  • Dean Stevens Jun 14, 2010

    The interviews were conducted by the Palmetto Patriots, and this is a 7 min and 35 sec clip of an interview that lasted 35-40 mins. It was one of the four that were produced of each GOP candidates for Gov. of SC.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      Dean,

      Thanks for the additional information.

  • James F. Epperson Jun 15, 2010

    Based on the comments, I will skip the video—watching it would only put my laptop at risk ;-) “Palmetto Patriots” sounds like a local tea party group.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      James,

      You are not missing anything. I am going to talk with a Wall Street Journal reporter this morning about all of this. Should be interesting.

  • Andy Hall Jun 15, 2010

    If you read the “who we are” page for the Palmetto Patriots, it sounds vaguely like standard Tea Party stuff. There’s no explicit mention of the Civil War, except for the picture of the Confederate Battle Flag at the top and a mention of “Southern Heritage.”

    All the candidates’ videos are here.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      I don’t find the politics of the organization to be particularly interesting as opposed to the conviction that THEY are somehow the sole defenders of Southern Heritage.

  • Dean Stevens Jun 15, 2010

    Believe that we are doing everything that we know of to have a 2/3 majority against Veto #52.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      Glad to hear it and best of luck.

  • Al Mackey Jun 15, 2010

    Interesting that while this is purportedly an interview to gain her views, they seemed to spend much more time espousing their views than probing for her views.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      Al,

      They are doing more than espousing their views with Haley. The group is basically threatening the candidates and specifically Haley that they better comply with their agenda re: the flag. If you watch all the video you will notice that they go furthest with Haley because she seemed to suggest a different view of the war at the beginning.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Jun 15, 2010

    Actually, this doesn’t bother me at all. This is simply the democratic process at work. The questioners are being quite candid in what they want, and Haley’s chosen to reply as she has. You learn a great deal from how both parties act in the video. That I may intensely disagree with how the questioners interpret history is another matter altogether. if anything, it’s great to see this sort of stuff out in the open, where all can judge what’s going on. Finally, some of us in Arizona welcome the shifting of attention elsewhere, if even for a moment. :)

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Brooks. We talk about the the interconnection of Civil War memory and politics as if it is an abstract concept and here we get to see it play out for all to see. It’s incredibly illuminating for me on a number of different levels and entertaining as well.

  • EarthTone Jun 15, 2010

    It strikes me that at times, she has a deer in the headlights look. She is obviously conscious of saying the “right thing”; perhaps to avoid saying something here which would come back to haunt her in front of a more state-wide audience.

    Her description of the causes of the war is terrible; certainly, being a SC politician, she knows more about the history than she letting on. But for her, this isn’t about history, it’s about not offending a set of voters and avoiding gaffes.

    Meanwhile, it’s unclear what the audience “learned” from or about her in this interview. Their questions are minimal in their scope – but I guess you can say that the SCV are a “single issue” lobby, with a limited set of interests, after all.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 15, 2010

      I don’t know if you read the update, but the organization that interviewed the candidates is the Palmetto Patriots and not the SCV. It’s not clear to me that Haley knows much of anything about the Civil War. All of the interviewees say what the PP want to hear. It’s totally predictable and for that reason a valuable resource.

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