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Ravenel's cocaine arrest lacks local response

The P&C Silent Treatment: Editorial page sweeps Ravenel under the rug

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Of the crumbling institutions among the press, an eternal mainstay has been the editorial page. It's the one place where readers can give the paper hell for this article or that comment. They can challenge politicians' actions and inactions. And, God knows, they can complain about the exit of Shoe and B.C. from the comics page. And complain. And complain.

What's been strikingly absent from the editorial pages of our own daily newspaper, the Post and Courier, is nearly any mention of the recent indictment and looming prosecution of former State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel on charges that he distributed cocaine to his friends. There have been a host of editorials in newspapers around the state regarding the case, touching on a variety of concerns that it raises about politicians, drugs, and preferential treatment. What are you hearing on the Post and Courier's editorial page? Crickets.

Soon after the indictment June 19, editorial comments in other papers focused on the embarrassment that Ravenel has brought to the state.

"South Carolina has opened itself up to another round of embarrassing jokes," said The Greenville News on June 21.

Most editorial pages commented on Ravenel's political fate and the apparent loss of a GOP fight for the Senate in 2008.

"Barring an exoneration, his political future is nil, and supporters and detractors alike will be left to scratch their heads and wonder how someone with so much power and potential could be foolish enough to throw it all away," wrote The (Rock Hill) Herald on June 25.

Later, the focus turned to drugs, with The State's Warren Bolton applauding Ravenel for seeking treatment.

"I wish the many poor people in similar positions could get the same opportunity," he said. "But, unlike Mr. Ravenel, many accused of a drug violation can't pick up and go to an expensive treatment center in Arizona, where the average price for a week's stay is $8,000. Many can't afford some of the places right here that are more than capable of treating addictions."

Ravenel's resignation in late July brought the first, and only, mention of Ravenel's troubles on the Post and Courier editorial page — in a piece about what a new treasurer means for the state's Budget and Control Board means. There were two lines about Ravenel.

"Once the shock of the indictment of state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel on drug charges had settled in, his resignation was expected sooner rather than later," the P&C wrote. "His alleged cocaine use has not only cost him his office. He is now facing the prospect of prison if convicted."

That's it. The entirety of the Post and Courier's editorial view on the Thomas Ravenel incident.

And it's not just the editors who aren't talking, readers aren't getting a say, either. While dozens of comments have been posted on the Post and Courier's website, not one letter with support or criticism for Ravenel has appeared in the paper. On the other hand, readers have given their take on Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's alleged indiscretions with hookers, for which he has faced no indictment nor offered his resignation.

The silent treatment is not unfamiliar to P&C readers. After a scathing report in The State last year regarding the management and funding of the Hunley preservation, editorial pages across the state lit up with comments, including guest commentary from Sen. Glenn McConnell, the Hunley bandleader, to counter the report. It was two weeks before the Post and Courier tackled the State report with its own story outlining McConnell's defense.

But even then, the editorial page made no comment on the controversy and offered up only a single letter on the issue — one of support for the Hunley work and the money it could bring to the area. Months later, an editorial ran titled "As long as it takes for Hunley."

While the news coverage on Ravenel's demise has been sufficient, what's lacking in this case, like the Hunley story, is an open discussion on the pages that were designed to birth just that. Those disturbed by this silence could send a letter to the editor, but then again, why bother?

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