The Buzz

The Buzz: Remembering Lee Bandy, ‘a Palmetto State institution’

A tributeOctober 27, 2013 

Lee Bandy was the original Buzz.

To honor The State’s longtime political writer, whose memorial service was held Saturday, The Buzz turns over today’s column to Lee. Here is some of what Bandy wrote in recent years about South Carolina’s favorite contact sport – after football.

2005: Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar. All for Mark Sanford stand up and holler.

A third of the room rose to honor the Republican governor.

A gathering of Democrats?

No.

A banquet hall chock-full of GOP activists.

(Note: Sanford, elected again to the 1st District congressional that he held before he was elected governor, remains a divisive figure to many Republicans.)

2001: Former Gov. Carroll Campbell, the man most responsible for building the South Carolina Republican Party into the dominant political force it is today, has been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“My doctors say I inherited a gene running through several generations of my family that contributed to this condition,” Campbell, 61, said Thursday in an open letter to the people of South Carolina. “This is a reality that my family and I have had to grasp and deal with. Otherwise, I am physically fit. I intend to fight this illness. I will not yield. This is my nature and my plan.”

The letter was reminiscent of a similar missive former President Reagan wrote to the American people in 1994 advising them he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

(Note: Campbell passed away in 2005.)

1998: The stakes have never been higher for South Carolina Democrats than in Tuesday’s elections. If they lose the governorship, they will be hard-pressed to mount a significant challenge against Republicans for many years to come. ...

Both parties are gubernatorial-driven. Under Gov. Carroll Campbell’s leadership, the Republican Party witnessed dramatic growth in eight years. Expansion continued under (Gov. David) Beasley. Today, the GOP has surpassed the Democrats. In the last election two years ago, the Republican core vote was 52 percent, the first time the GOP has been in a majority. The Democratic core vote was 37 percent. ...

The Democrats are hoping to re-elect U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings and win one constitutional office with Inez Tenenbaum, running for state superintendent of education. But even if they win those two positions and, say, pick up some state House seats, that won’t be enough to rebuild a party.

Hollings isn’t exactly a spring chicken at 76, and the superintendent’s office isn’t one that has the clout and influence to start rebuilding a party. For the Democrats, everything rides on the governorship.

(Note: The Democratic candidate for governor, Jim Hodges, upset Republican Beasley, the last time a S.C. Democrat has been elected governor.)

1996: Republican U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham of Seneca has straddled the fence on the Confederate battle flag controversy, firmly planting a foot in each camp.

He says both Gov. David Beasley and Attorney General Charlie Condon have some good points, but he would trust the General Assembly to do the right thing.

Beasley proposes to move the banner from the Capitol dome to a place of honor on the State House grounds. Condon wants to keep it where it is.

GOP U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence of Lexington remains tied to the old South. “I kinda like leaving it like it is,” he says. ...

(S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Les) Tindal dismisses the debate as “much ado about nothing” and “rather foolish.” He says he will sit on the sidelines and watch. “I’ll leave the flag up to the governor.”

What Beasley needs are a few profiles in courage from his own party.

(Note: Four years later, the Legislature voted to move the flag from the dome to a monument on the grounds.)

1993: Everybody’s still talking about “that awkward moment” at Strom Thurmond’s 90th birthday bash in Washington a week or so ago.

Nancy Thurmond, the senator’s estranged wife, made what event planners said was a surprise and unwelcome appearance on the program.

“It was the most bizarre thing,” said a longtime friend and associate of Thurmond, who, like others relating the events, asked not to be named. “It made everybody feel a little bit uneasy,” acknowledged a South Carolina congressional member who attended.

The strange occurrence came at the end of what generally was hailed as a lovely evening and beautiful tribute to the senior senator.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole, the master of ceremonies, kept people in stitches with his one-liners. Former President (Richard) Nixon delivered a brief but eloquent speech, and congressional leaders waxed poetic about South Carolina’s living legend.

“I don’t usually go to these things. But this damn event was a great affair. I just laughed and laughed,” another South Carolina congressional member said.

That is, until that awkward moment.

... The family – with Nancy in tow – brought in a cake and presented the senator with a portrait of Thurmond and his four children. Soul singer James Brown broke into singing “Happy Birthday.” The guests, still standing, prepared for the benediction.

Enter Nancy.

She took the mike and started speaking. She said nice things about the senator, extolling him for his virtues and telling everyone what a great guy he is. ... Some Thurmond staffers, upset with her surprise speech, left the room.

When she finished, the senator felt obligated to respond. And, boy, did he – with a zinger: “Not bad for somebody who’s separated.”

(Thurmond, a national political legend, died in 2003 at age 100.)

1991: Charles Bolden, the astronaut from Columbia, turned thumbs down Thursday to a Republican overture that he run for Congress in the proposed majority black district.

He declined to identify who in the GOP called him to see if he would be a candidate in next year’s election.

“No way. I have no interest in politics,” Bolden, a Marine colonel, said with a big laugh.

( Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, went on to win the then-newly redistricted 6th District seat, which he still holds. Bolden was named head of NASA by Democratic President Barack Obama.)

1989: The specter of Willie Horton has come back to haunt Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater and his efforts to reach out to blacks and other minorities.

Witness what happened here last week when protesting Howard University students rose up and forced Atwater to resign from the school’s board of trustees.

In pressing for his ouster, the students cited several civil rights problems they had with the South Carolina native.

... “We didn’t campaign on Willie Horton,” protested Atwater, who directed President ( George H.W.) Bush’s campaign. “We campaigned against the criminal furlough system. I didn’t know Willie Horton’s name or color when I first heard about it.”

(Atwater died of brain cancer in 1991, after apologizing for many of his blood-sport political tactics. Bandy appeared in a 2008 documentary about Atwater, “Boogie Man.”)

A fitting “kicker,” as we call endings in the news business, is this passage from Bandy’s 2006 retirement column:

No one gets more pleasure out of needling politicians than I do. Some, like Hollings, are good at firing back – all in good fun.

And that’s what politics should be: fun. Unfortunately, it has become mean-spirited.

True, we don’t always make politicians, or our readers, happy with our writings. And that’s to be expected.

Our task, as the saying goes, is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

During my 40 years as a scribe, I have managed to anger Democrats and Republicans.

It’s the nature of the beast.

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