Defending or Defensive?
I understand the Governor’s sensitivity to the question of her children, and the tendency of media to cause pain and injury particularly to Republican politicians’ families, but I don’t understand her refusal to discuss this case, which seems to be about nepotism. What the media seems to be asking her is not about her daughter, per se, but about Haley’s own conduct. She became rather angry at the mention of her daughter, 14, who works in the gift shop at the State House, but what bothers me in all of this is that while the media naturally behaves like sharks smelling blood at the first hint of “impropriety” among Republicans and conservatives, the reporter was not really asking about the Governor’s daughter so much as how she came to get the job in the gift shop, and whether there had been something improper in hiring her. While I find it despicable when media attacks the families of politicians, and in fact, I don’t consider the families of politicians in supporting them, since we don’t elect the family members to serve, I tend to stay far away from discussing their families at all. I avoid particularly their minor children, but all children in general. It’s simply a ridiculous thing to do in all but the rarest of instances. This may be one of those rare cases, because it’s not about Governor Haley’s daughter at all, but instead about Haley herself.
What the reporter questions in this video clip is nothing at all about Haley’s daughter, personally. Here’s the video, as well as the text version of the exchange(H/T Tammy Bruce):
At an impromptu press conference last week, a reporter for WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, Robert Kittle, asked Haley about her daughter working at the gift shop.
“Y’all are not allowed to talk about my children,” Haley responded.
Kittle pressed on, asking Haley if the story really wasn’t about nepotism – whether the governor had helped her daughter get the state job.
“None of that is true,” Haley responded. “That’s what makes me angry. Not only is this a story about my daughter, it’s a story that is based on false facts and none of that is true. Do not attack my children. Do not even talk about my children.”
Kittle then asked if the issue wasn’t about what the governor had done, not her daughter.
“I’m not going to talk about it anymore,” Haley said. “My children are off limits.”
It’s all well and good for the Governor to say to the press that her children are “off limits,” and they should be, but this story isn’t really about the Governor’s daughter inasmuch as it seems actually to be a story about Governor Haley and the insinuation of the reporter’s question is about the possible undue influence of the Governor in securing her daughter that job, roughly one-hundred feet from her own office door. To everybody but perhaps Haley herself, this story isn’t about a kid working a summer job in a State-run gift shop, but instead about the influence of the Governor in placing her child in a job there. If we imagined for a moment that this had been her husband, rather than her minor child, the same question would stand. Had it been her brother-in-law’s ne’er-do-well second cousin’s great aunt Imogene(any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental,) it might raise fewer eyebrows. When it’s the first-degree relative of the chief executive of the state, whether minor child or septigenarian parent, there are going to be questions, and there should be.
Frankly, I’m astonished that the Governor of South Carolina is so ill-prepared for the question, and maybe that’s the problem: Did it never cross her mind that there might be something improper about her daughter(OR ANY RELATIVE,) obtaining employment in a state job in a location well within the bubble of the Governor’s security detail and watchful eye? I’m betting that many Americans would love to have that arrangement to keep an eye on their teenagers during the summer months, but most of us cannot, since many employers forbid the sort of arrangement precisely because it gives the appearance of impropriety.
I’m not one who blows his stack at the mere appearance of impropriety, since I don’t care that much about appearances, although I am keen to expose actual impropriety, but so is the mainstream media, at least when Republicans and conservatives are the ones under examination. This is why Haley really must answer the question, because it’s not really about her daughter, and it hasn’t anything to do with her family except by virtue of her influence.
There will be those who might think I’m being unfair in singling out Haley, or that I should ignore the story because Haley is a Republican, or something of the sort, but the truth is that when this came over the transom, it was given to me by a conservative worried about the potential scandal implicit in the matter. Yes, fine, okay, it’s not absconding with the treasury or something of that nature, but the part I find disturbing about this is how Haley used the line “my children are off limits” to close off further questioning when it is clear that her daughter isn’t the object of this story. It’s a question of character, and this goes to the heart of the matter with respect to the sort of nepotism that characterizes corrupt government.
Let me be clear: I am not calling Nikki Haley corrupt, and indeed, without further information, it is impossible to know for certain. If I were a reporter in South Carolina, I would ask some pointed questions about the matter, and I would do so in a way as to avoid going after or even seeming to go after the Governor’s daughter:
1.) Was the position properly posted on the appropriate state website and otherwise announced in applicable media?
2.) How many applicants were considered, and were they competitively evaluated?
3.) What were the screening criteria applied to applicants?
4.) Does the state’s job application require the listing of relatives also employed by the state, as is the case in many states, including my own?
5.) Did those charged with screening the application notice the relationship, and did that person or persons apply the State’s ordinary ethical hiring practices in evaluating the matter?
You see, this isn’t a family business, in which one can hire one’s kid without repercussion. It’s a state job, and that means that somebody along the organizational hierarchy who is charged with supervising the employee is answerable to the Governor. How did those in all the intermediate positions handle this application? These are questions that ought to be answered by Nikki Haley, for the sake of the credibility of her office. This petulant “my children are off limits” business is fine so far as it goes, but where it doesn’t extend is into a matter like this. All these same questions are applicable had the relation been a sister or brother, or anybody else of close relationship to Haley.
None who read this blog would say that the Obama daughters should be given a summer job as a tour guide in the White House, because the stench of such a thing would waft up to the rafters. In the same way, and for all the same reasons, we shouldn’t take Haley’s indignant dismissal of the questions as evidence of a defensive mother, as she intended, so much as the reaction of a defensive politician. Assuming the facts of the story are basically accurate, it is easy to suppose that Haley didn’t give it much thought, and might even have figured it was a good thing for her daughter to take a summer job so close at hand, but the problem is that had it been anywhere else, nobody would likely have uttered a word.
One of the things we discuss a good deal on this website is the GOP establishment, and what I can tell you is that much of what you see and experience as a corrupt political establishment begins with things as innocuous as this. Those who truly have a servant’s heart know this, and they studiously avoid the appearance of conflicts and impropriety not merely to avoid some statutory ethics rules sink-hole, but because they earnestly believe it is wrong in all cases to gain such advantage, even for one’s minor daughter, even in a minimum wage, summer hire job, just down the hall.
The truth is likely that Haley probably didn’t give it much thought, but that may be the most troubling aspect. Whether a child, a parent, a sibling, or a spouse, our public officials ought not permit such things to happen, because no matter how one slices it, it stinks to high heaven. The fact that it’s one of her children is irrelevant except as a simple fact in the case, but the unambiguous part of the story is that rather than face up to it and say, “You know, I was thinking like a parent, and not as your Governor, but I’ve corrected that, and my daughter is no longer employed there,” it would likely all go away, and people would understand it. I could understand it, and so could most of my readers. What I can’t understand is the proclamation that her “children are off limits,” as a means by which to obfuscate the matter in which it having been her child, as opposed to any other close relative, is not the controlling or even vaguely interesting fact in the case. Governor Haley, we know your children, and indeed your whole family is not the Governor of South Carolina, but in seeking employment, they necessarily carry a strong advantage over others seeking the same jobs.
This isn’t about the Governor’s child at all, but entirely about the Governor and her judgment in such matters. After all, it’s not very far, ethically speaking, from a job for a relative to a contract for a friend. While nobody is alleging the latter, still it is interesting to see the Governor try to obfuscate the matter of the former, and I don’t understand why some Republicans think this is proper behavior, or why it’s acceptable for Governor Haley to use her children as a shield in the matter, when it’s clear that this isn’t about her kids at all. It may be that the Governor had done nothing wrong, and that she had nothing to do with the hiring of her daughter, and nobody at the gift shop knew it was Haley’s daughter who had applied for the job, and perhaps she got the job solely on an honest, competitive basis. At present, we don’t know, and the Governor isn’t willing to talk about it. Should we pretend it all away because she’s a Republican? I think not. While I have no intention of assisting the Democrat media machine in going after Haley, I also think we need at least a simple explanation, and just the facts will do. Nobody is after her kids, and using them as a shield simply isn’t acceptable.