Two years ago, I confidently predicted that Gov. Mark Sanford would throw his hat into the ring for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. It made perfect sense — and still does!
Sanford is an attractive package — if you don't look too closely. Sort of lean and craggy, with an attractive wife and four young sons. Good libertarian credentials. No scandals or unseemly conduct — if you don't count the incident with the pigs at the Statehouse three years ago.
Most importantly, Sanford is the governor of South Carolina! He would be the favorite son in this state that is so crucial to nominating Republican presidential candidates. In fact, no Republican has won the nomination since 1980 without first winning in South Carolina. That's why I was so sure Sanford would be in the presidential race today.
Unfortunately, it appears the Guv did not read my well-reasoned column and failed to apply for the job. And it appears that the Pulitzer Prize selection committee was aware of my errant prophesy. How else to explain being passed over yet again when they handed out awards last week? Those bastards have long memories.
Local heroes: A few Southerners did pick up Pulitzers last week: Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for commentary; Brett Blackledge of The Birmingham News for investigative reporting; and Debbie Cenziper of The Miami Herald for local reporting. In South Carolina, no journalist or newspaper received a Pulitzer for the 82nd consecutive year.
That's not to say that there aren't some excellent journalists in the neighborhood. Ron Menchaca of the P&C gets plaudits for the recent series he did with Mindy Hagen on the deplorable condition of the state's school buses. It was Menchaca who shared state journalism honors with Glenn Smith for their 2005 "Tarnished Shield" series on unfit police officers in the state. That series led to the immediate dismissal of several officers and the overhaul of the way the state tracks police officers from job to job. The school bus series led to an immediate bill in the General Assembly to begin funding the replacement of old school buses.
And I cannot say enough about Ken Burger, the P&C sports columnist, who makes his newspaper worth the price of the subscription. Now Burger has embarked on a series of columns about his battle with prostate cancer. With amazing humor and vulnerability, he has written about the silent killer every man fears. Such courageous writing deserves national recognition. Maybe Ken will bring home the Pulitzer next year.
Mea culpa: While we are discussing journalism, last week I wrote a column on Al Parish, the Charleston Southern University professor and investment guru who faces a raft of fraud and related charges. In it, I mentioned that Parish had been an irregular columnist for The Post and Courier. My editor e-mailed back to say she thought he was a regular Monday columnist.
To get it right, I picked up the phone and called the P&C. I made my way past several telephonic gatekeepers, until I found myself speaking to John McDermott at the business desk.
I asked him directly, "Was Al Parish a regular or irregular columnist?"
This is where I screwed up. In my haste, I failed to identify myself as a journalist before asking my question. McDermott confirmed that Parish had, indeed, been a regular Monday columnist, but assured me that he was no longer writing for the paper — a fact that the P&C had already reported.
I was preparing to hang up when McDermott turned the tables, asking, "And who are you?"
I instantly realized my error and introduced myself by name and by my association with Charleston City Paper.
I was not prepared for the angry tirade that followed. McDermott called me "unethical" and implied that I was using subterfuge to gain information from him. I apologized immediately — and repeatedly.
"Apology not accepted!" he hissed and continued his rant.
I can only assume that McDermott's reaction might have been the result of my criticism of The Post and Courier — particularly the management and editorial department. Now he had me in an ethical breach and he wasn't going to let it pass.
The take-home lesson for me is that, since I am in the business of criticizing others, I must make sure that my own house is in order. I suffered a mental — and ethical — lapse, for which I apologize to McDermott and anyone else who takes offense. The apology stands, John, whether you accept it or not.