The Buzz took away five lessons from President Barack Obama’s speech and visit at Benedict College on Friday:
• Don’t break the president’s train of thought.
Never miss a local story.
The commander-in-chief was on a roll, talking about the lessons of Ferguson when an audience member moved back to his seat in the VIP section.
“I think the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers here in South Carolina and anyplace else — young man, sit down, I’m in the middle of talking,” Obama said sternly. “All right. Thank you.”
• Obama won’t let you off easy for kissing up to the boss.
When one questioner identified himself as University of South Carolina student, Obama responded with, “Go Gamecocks.”
When the student replied, “I see (USC) President (Harris) Pastides in the House, so it’s good to see you, Mr. President,” Obama called him out.
“Oh, you’re sucking up to the president, huh?”
• He knows when you’ve been naughty.
Dick Harpootlian, who helped raise hundreds of thousands for Obama’s campaigns, said the president did not directly mention the former S.C. Democratic Party chairman’s recent biting comments about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email controversy — “unfixable” and worse, said Harpo — when they met privately Friday before his speech.
But Obama dropped a hint that he had heard what the Palmetto State’s flame-throwing, former party pooh-bah had to say.
Said Harpo: “He said to me, ‘I see you haven’t changed.’ ”
• The president will use little kids to shame the big kids.
When the star of the Benedict College town hall, 10-year-old Trace Adams of Sumter, told Obama that he is interested in becoming president, the commander-in-chief asked the fourth grader if he is interested in public policy and reads newspapers.
Trace said he did.
“I want all the folks in college to just notice he’s reading the papers and talking public policy,” the president said. “So if all you’re doing is watching the ballgame, don’t let 10-year-old Trace embarrass you now.”
• He just might hawk your business.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford’s Columbia law practice got a presidential pitch after one of his associates asked a question during the town hall.
When Simone Martin announced she worked for the Richland Democrat, Obama cut her off.
“Are you advertising for him?” the president joked. “Are you going to give like the number? ... ‘If you need representation, call Rutherford and Associates.’ ”
Martin asked the president about the prospect of increasing the number of federal pardons and her chances of being chosen as a White House fellow.
“Well, let me address the non-self-interested question first,” the president replied, the crowd chuckling.
After discussing the pardons issue, the leader of the free world said he has no pull on the fellows program.
“I do not put my thumb on the scale because if I did, I’d get into trouble,” Obama said. “So you have got to go through the process. But you seem very well-qualified, so good luck.”
Rutherford quipped later: “After that question, I might have to make her a partner.”
Swimming in the press pool
The Buzz spent a day in the White House press pool when Obama visited Columbia on Friday.
Some parts were rather cool as you would expect when spending time around the president. Other parts were reminders that covering America’s boss is a job.
The cool parts: Being part of a significant event for the state. Seeing Air Force One up close. Watching the president work a crowd in person. Seeing highways cleared for the presidential motorcade. (Imagine if you could do that on your commute?)
The ‘job’ parts: Being kept at a distance from the president while others meet him. Perfecting the art of hurry up and wait while going from stop to stop. Not getting to ask Obama a question — unlike a 10 year old.
Watch the President's address - White House video
McMaster ethics case on hold
Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster’s March 18 state ethics hearing — over allegations that the Republican accepted $72,200 in improper campaign contributions — has been postponed.
In fact, all March hearings before the S.C. Ethics Commission are on standby.
The delays come after agency attorney Cathy Hazelwood left for the state Department of Education this year, commission director Herb Hayden told The Buzz.
No new dates have been set for the hearings, including the one for McMaster, which stems from his failed 2010 gubernatorial bid.
2016 in SC
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry heads to the Upstate this week as he continues laying the ground work for a possible presidential bid.
Perry headlines a $15-a-ticket barbecue dinner fundraiser Tuesday for the Greenville GOP. The next day, he will be featured at a reception for the Greenville Chamber’s PAC with tickets and sponsorships ranging from $100 to $3,500.
The following week will see a pair of leaders among the Republicans vying for the White House in 2016 in the Palmetto State, back to back.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush heads to events in Greenville and Columbia March 17 and 18. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker goes on a four-city swing March 19 and 20.
Eat light, Lindsey
The Buzz hopes U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham ate only veggies this weekend at the Iowa Agriculture Summit during his testing-the-waters tour of early presidential caucus-and-primary states.
Next, the Seneca Republican will test his presidential palate in New Hampshire.
On Sunday, Graham will speak at the Concord Republican Committee’s Inaugural “Politics and Pie.” And on Monday, he will serve up “Politics and Eggs” with the New England Council in Bedford.
Hopefully, Graham won’t need a “Politics and Pepto” event.
House newcomer takes a plunge
Freshman state Rep. Mary Tinkler, D-Charleston, got thrown into the deep end of the pool during a budget discussion last week.
State Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort, said he called out Tinkler — in what he later said was a “tongue-in-cheek” gesture — about her request for state money for a Charleston-area swimming pool.
Tinkler said the request came after she was approached by local council members, asking for state help to pay for the pool, which she said would host national competitions and boost tourism.
But the request was not included in the proposed budget that passed the House Ways and Means committee. Herbkersman said requests like that should have members’ names attached to them as an earmark in the budget.
“If it’s not a good idea, it needs to be their not good idea,” he said.
Staff writer Cassie Cope and Jamie Self contributed