Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is Will Folks Worth 1,590 Words? Of Course ...

There's something about The State Newspaper Editorial Page Editor Brad Warthen you've just got to love.

Sure, if he were in charge of South Carolina we'd be shelling out 50% of our incomes to the government, annually forking over half the value of our homes in property taxes and paying a 30% sales tax on everything we purchased (well, except newspapers), but there's something about Brad's articulate misguidedness that begs to be engaged.

In particular, one of Brad's most endearing qualities is that he "gets" our boy sic Willie. While he never refrains from dispensing the high-brow pot shot, the condescending ivory tower snub or reinforcing ever-so-subtly the "tempermental misfit" type-casting of our hero, Brad has mastered the fundamental equation:

Will Folks = Controversy = Reaction = Newspaper Sales

Apparently, Will Folks also equals a hell of a lot of website comments, which is why Mr. Warthen devoted a full 1,590 words to rebuffing an original oped one-third that length.

So here, in its entirety, is Mr. Warthen's 1,590-word response to a 600-word oped submitted by sic Willie in The State last Friday (be sure to visit http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/ for more of Brad's musings):

OK, My Turn on the Folks' Oped
By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor

OK, now that the comments on the Will Folks op-ed have reached critical mass of 34 comments and rising (including two from Mr. Folks himself), I will take a few moments to address some of the points raised by readers.

First, though, let me give you a brief summary of my thinking as it went before the piece ran -- before the storm, as it were.

When the proof landed on my desk, I saw Will's mug and thought, "Oh, man -- what, again?" Then I remembered the earlier conversation in which it had been mentioned that this piece was in the pipeline. A board member responded by asking, "Is it something we would run if someone else wrote it?" That's pretty much our standard response whenever the question arises whether we should give this person or that person space on our pages -- what if it were from someone else? If the answer is "yes," we generally go with it. The answer was "yes."

So I read the piece on the page and agreed with my colleague who had put it there that yes, if this had been from some other similarly situated advocate on that side of the debate, we would have run it. But note that qualification of "similarly situated": It probably (would) NOT have run if it had come in from someone who had never been a player of some kind in the debate. I say that because the arguments were pretty weak, and persuasive only to someone who already believes all this stuff, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Coming from Will Folks, its weakness was interesting in and of itself. Coming from someone unknown to the readers, it would have had little value.

To elaborate on that, some folks have asked why we would "give a platform" to someone who pleaded guilty to criminal domestic violence. Well, we wouldn't. But we would "give a platform" to someone who is writing on a subject that is important and timely and who:

-Was the spokesman, until quite recently, of the current governor.
-Demonstrated his temperamental unsuitability for the job a number of times during the four years he spoke for the governor, but continued to hold the position until, as I just said, quite recently.
-Is still advocating, as hard as he can, policies that are priorities for that governor.
-Writes with a tone and style that is much the same as the way he spoke when he was in the governor's office -- lashing out, dismissive toward those who disagree, etc.
-Brings to the surface, in a particularly stark manner, something that has been hinted at more subtly up to now -- the growing tension between the governor and those who think like him and an increasingly unified business leadership.

My friend Samuel Tenenbaum said "Shame!" over our having run this piece. But I feel no shame. Well, I will admit that one thing about the decision to run this does nag at my conscience just a bit: the fact that the piece was so weak in its arguments that it undermined Mr. Folks' point of view, with which I disagree. So should I have waited for a stronger piece expressing that point of view to come in? Well, if I had, I'd still be waiting. It's not like we had a strong piece and this one, and picked this one. This is what we had.

Another respondent says critics are attacking Mr. Folks, but dodging the substance of what he said. Well, let's discuss two or three points of that substance:

Will dismisses the financial acumen of some of the heaviest business hitters in South Carolina (or as he puts it, "prominent leaders of the so-called 'business community'"), and does so in a way that takes for granted that HE and the governor know better than they do what is good for business in South Carolina. He sneers at the "left-leaning S.C. Chamber of Commerce" (note to Hunter Howard -- better quit wearing those Che T-shirts around the State House). He calls Darla Moore and Mack Whittle "self-appointed dilettantes." To provide a little perspective, as the governor said to me awhile back about his having hired Will in the first place, "You take someone who was playing bass guitar in a rock 'n' roll band and you give him a chance." Yeah, OK, let's see -- to whom would I go for credible financial advice? Darla Moore, or Will Folks? Mack Whittle, or Will Folks? Harris DeLoach, or Will Folks? Don Herriott, or Will Folks? Ooh, that's a toughie.

While the governor can be said to have more experience in business than his former protege, to suggest that he is someone whose credentials suggest more real-world experience in financial dealings than the people Mr. Folks dismisses is ludicrous. Mr. Sanford's record in the private sector before he took up politics is by comparison to these people -- and this is charitably understating the case -- less than impressive.

Actually, I'm going to stop there, and not get into his strong suggestion that ONLY the kind of tax cut the governor wants could possibly help our economy, or his indulgence in yet another gratuitous slap at public schools ("unquestionably the nation's worst") or his mentioning that "state spending jumping another 9.1 percent" without noting by how much it had been cut in the several preceding years (some agencies, such as the Corrections Department, by more than 20 percent during that period). Basically, I'm tired of typing.

But before I go, let me address a few reader comments specifically:

Scott Barrow says "you're giving him credibility and helping him restore his bad name by printing his columns." I don't see how. If anything, I'm hurting the cause he advocates by running a piece from him (I already addressed the fact that my conscience nags at me about that, even though my conscience, yaller dog that it is, doesn't know what it's talking about).
Uncle Elmer asks, "Does Mr. Sanford really need cool-headed, articulate friends like this?" Well, no, he doesn't. In fact, the last time we ran a piece by Mr. Folks, the governor's office called to question our having done so.

Honesty says, "The fact that you found the need to edit his previous editorial due to his apparent dishonesty while deeming him worthy of now being published as a guest editorialist borders on bizarre." Well, not really. We edit everybody, and a lot of what we edit out are unsupportable statements that are wrongly presented as fact. Sometimes we miss such mistakes and instances of outright attempts to mislead, but we try.

Will Folks himself complained that "Just once... it would be nice to submit an article and actually have folks debate its merits instead of venting their spleens with all this anonymous speculation regarding a domestic situation they didn't witness and don't possess the slightest bit of insight into." Well, once again, Will, I tried. I refer you to the above.

Finally, Don Williams raised a broader complaint "about the plethora of conservative local columnists which have been given platform" on our pages. Well, first, I wouldn't call Will Folks a "conservative." I think that term refers far better to the "left-leaning" Chamber of Commerce than to him. And Mr. Williams lumps him in with Bob McAlister and Mike Cakora as being three who "arrive at the same conclusions time after time." Well, Bob works for those "dilettantes" over at the Palmetto Institute, and is therefore pushing very different views from Mr. Folks on these issues. Mr. McAlister is also a very conservative Southern Baptist, while last I read, Mr. Cakora was an atheist. I have no idea where Mr. Cakora (whom I met once, about six years ago -- a fact I thought I'd throw in for Mark Whittington's benefit) stands on the tax issue (maybe you can find out on his blog). Beyond that, we usually get complaints about running too many liberals. I don't know whether we do or not. I particularly don't know on local columns. Basically, we generally take what we're sent, and choose between them based on quality and relevance (and whether they've been published somewhere else, which is generally a disqualifier). Mr. McAlister sends us far more columns than probably any other local contributor -- more than we actually run, I would point out. Joe Darby -- who is no one's definition of a conservative -- probably comes in a distant second (we hear from him less since he moved to Charleston). Tom Turnipseed? I would say he submits columns less often that Mr. McAlister, but more often than than Mr. Darby. (Mr. Turnipseed is also regularly published elsewhere). We run letters from him more often, including a short one on Dec. 18.

As for nationally syndicated columnists, here's a blog by a fairly nonpartisan guy who takes the trouble to rate columnists according to how much they lean either Democratic or Republican. Of the ones on his list we run regularly, he sees five as Dems and only one as GOP. But then, he lists George Will, of all people, as being slightly Democratic, so... Also, he doesn't include some of our conservative regulars, such as Charles Krauthammer and Cal Thomas. I guess "left" and "right" are pretty much in the eyes of the beholder, which is one reason I hate using the terms.
That's all I have to say about that. For now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

why didn't you post will's response to this long column if you were oing to post brad wrathen's column?

this is what he siad in reponse:


I've trudged through your column and from what I can glean, your only real substantive argument regarding the merits of my original oped is that Darla Moore, Mack Whittle, Don Herriot and Harris DeLoach have all made more money than me.

I'm only thirty, dude. I haven't even been in the private sector a full half-year yet. Aren't all those people like, at least 50 or something (although Darla is pretty hot)?

Look, I provided factual data in my column highlighting the difference between government spending and population/inflation growth in our state over the past decade-and-a-half and then recapped what that dramatically increased taxpayer investment has provided our state.

I'm curious as to a) what part of that specific argument was, to use your term "so weak in its arguments," and b) what factual data would you provide to refute my premise?

I know Darla Moore and those other fine folks have a lot more money than I do (now), but what on earth does that have to do with our state's historic spending trends and their impact on our state's economic and educational well-being?

I look forward to hearing you justify factually how that premise is "so weak in its arguments."

Good to hear from you again, though, my friend, even if it is only through the blogosphere.

Peace, W

Posted by: Will Folks | Feb 8, 2006 11:50:47 AM

3:31 PM

Blogger faithinsound said...

thanks, anon. good point.

3:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

More Will Folks crap? Bring back the angry groundhog!

4:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will, I gotta say, you got some big brass ones boy.

Darla Moore, Mack Whittle, Don Herriot and Harris DeLoach aren't just wealthy, they're really damned smart people who take the time to bring reason to their decisions, unlike you.

Yes you're "only thirty dude," which is half the problem with you spouting off all the BS you spout off. You haven't experienced anything except the whimsical nonsense your former boss taught you.

You've suffered from what the military calls "incestuous indoctrination," meaning you only hang out with like-minded people, so you don't take in other ideas. That's not to say you don't meet people who dissagree with you, you just don't listen to them. And wasn't that REALLY the problem you had at the Guv's office? You didn't listen to people.

Oh, and you pissed off every journalist in the state, that's a good way to get the bosses message out to the people.

9:50 PM

Blogger faithinsound said...

Sounds like a little Will-envy to us.

But thanks for writing.


10:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

based on the way warthen's blog panned out for you will...I would say this. It is time to dry out and get a little bit...and I mean a little bit of rehab. Peeps...they don't seem to like you right now from either side of the aisle...if you want to help mark get a second term, maybe you should go to camp betty...

You really are a smart gay but you are so mad at so many people. you should just relax for a while.

12:53 AM

Anonymous sccapital said...

Mr. Folks column was accurate in my opinion. While I do not know Mr. Folks myself, I do find it interesting that so many individuals criticize him for everything under the sun except for the point he was making in his column to begin with.

South Carolina has a business leadership that is out of touch with the majority of small business owners who, like myself, would want to keep taxes and government intrusion in our operations to a minimum.

What may have happened in Mr. Folks personal life I do not know about, but his contention that our business leaders are steering us in the wrong direction is worth considering. I myself happen to think he is correct in that assumption

12:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last poster is correct. What is the deal with the people always attacking this guy? You know the only reason I ever came to this site in the first place was because somebody told me that Will Folks was the one who wrote for it. Then I read all the comments and you know it's like - maybe there is something that he knows that all the other people don't know.

Will you don't know me but count me as a fan.

9:57 PM

Blogger NeverEnough said...

I'm a huge Will Folks fan and he can slap my ass (in the bedroom of course) any time he wants :)

7:24 PM

Blogger faithinsound said...

Can we girls at FITS get in on that action, Never???

1:00 PM


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