South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster should be ashamed. But you’d have to possess a shred of integrity for shame to be even a possibility, so I get why he isn’t.
The University of South Carolina should be ashamed. But it is apparently run by cowards comfortable bending the knee to an obviously-compromised governor, and an even more compromised presidential candidate who inspired a violent attack at the heart of our democracy just a couple years ago.
And I hear South Carolina’s amoral senior U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham was somewhere in the mix Saturday night as well as McMaster and former president Donald Trump sullied the state’s showcase football game by taking a victory lap at halftime of Clemson-USC. That the pair got as many boos and epithets hurled at them as cheers from the crowd can’t erase the stench that will forever be attached to what turned out to be another Clemson victory.
Whoever signed off on that pathetic Trump parade should be fired, though I suspect given how far we’ve fallen from any sense of decency, they may have already received a raise. And don’t be fooled. The relatively few who cheered Trump would have angrily stormed the field had, say, Colin Kaepernick been authorized to silently protest at midfield in favor of racial equality.
It’s not just that Trump is a 91-time indicted and credibly-accused sexual abuser who plans to uproot what is left of this democracy if gets to return to the White House, or that McMaster heads up a regime that proudly censors speech it doesn’t like while undermining the vote of those who don’t support them. It’s that they knew everyone with the power to stop their witless show of machismo and arrogance would roll over and let them do whatever the heck they wanted to do on what is a quasi-religious holiday in the Palmetto State.
The usual political pundits are making the same proclamations, that Trump did it as a show of strength against former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been rising in the polls. But that’s precisely backwards. Trump could have remained in his home state and watched Florida State University beat the Florida Gators if he feared Ron DeSantis. Instead, he went to Columbia knowing Haley is not only the state’s former governor but a Clemson Tiger. What I learned long ago from politicos such as former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is you don’t pay attention to candidates you don’t fear, don’t give them air. You pretend they don’t exist. You don’t even debate them until there’s a flickering of life in their campaign.
Trump hasn’t participated in Republican primary debates because polls show he’s far ahead of the field. And yet, he showed up in South Carolina’s state capitol to make a spectacle of himself and sully one of our most-cherished annual traditions. He didn’t do that because of Tim Scott, who has since dropped out of the presidential sweepstakes. He did that because of Haley.
Trump didn’t show strength Saturday night. It was an ultimate sign of weakness, of fear of a woman he’s afraid to face on the debate stage but who obviously lives rent-free in his head. He probably has trouble sleeping from the constant click-clacking of high-heels ringing in his ears. Trump sycophant McMaster is so blind to that reality, not only is he unashamed of his participation in Saturday night’s farce, he likely doesn’t realize it hurt his preferred candidate more than helped.
Haley’s team won the football game, and she won an important political victory against a man who brags about how tough he is but whose decision to fly into Columbia was political weakness. McMaster and others pretended the man they treated like an emperor had new clothes. But those of us with eyes, and a functioning brain, know the truth, that he was exposed as the naked coward’s bully he’s long been.
Issac Bailey is a McClatchy opinion writer in the Carolinas.