Oh what fun it is to ride with a one-horse political story.

While many hundreds of thousands of Georgia and South Carolina commuters had to dash through the snow during last week’s winter storm, their political leaders and media sentinels have gotten caught up in a public relations war that keeps coming in flurries. It’s starting to pile up.

Now South Carolina’s Gov. Nikki Haley had to apologize over her comment that she was “furious” at Gov. Nathan Deal for not better handling the roads situation here. It seems her diabetic brother got stuck in Atlanta for 27 hours after de-boarding a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, according to reports.

What’s interesting about the media fallout since Haley’s verbal stumble is that partisan blood generally has been thicker than state-pride water, at least in South Carolina.

Cleverly, Deal’s spokesperson Brian Robinson coined this gem in response to Haley: “To say South Carolina did a better job responding to the storm than Georgia is like saying Tennessee did a better job than Louisiana responding to Hurricane Katrina. We experienced completely different weather events.”


One would think editorialists and bloggers and maybe even spokespersons in South Carolina would have escalated the words war by lashing out in defense of the Palmetto State and its damsel-in-distress governor.

But that line of thinking didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Most comments we reviewed on South Carolina political blogs have been to ridicule both Haley’s comment about Deal and her handling of the storm aftermath in her own state. (Brian Robinson is right: It wasn’t as bad in South Carolina.)

The political lessons here are less about public officials and more about media.

Lesson one is about newspaper and local TV coverage. Following the misfortune and misjudgment of state and local government before and following the storm, ‘mainstream’ media unleashed an avalanche of coverage, most of it savaging everybody this side of Frosty the Snowman. Press conference confrontations! Open records requests!

And why not? Weather affects everyone, and weather stories are more easily comprehensible than stories about education-funding formulas. (For reporters as well as for the public.) Besides, the storm was undeniably an emergency of enormous proportion.

But the governor of Georgia and the mayor of Atlanta should not have their careers largely defined by something as capricious and uncontrollable as the weather.

And James’ prediction of last week has already come true: The state on Wednesday night and Thursday morning had electronic highway signs warning motorists that a winter weather storm watch was on. Except that it wasn’t. Public officials and bureaucrats are paranoid now. Who can blame them?

Lesson number two is about partisanship in much media. Most of the reaction in South Carolina to Gov. Haley’s crack about Nathan Deal has been to defend Deal and to ridicule their own governor after the spokesperson for the other governor rebuked her.

Nikki Haley is a Republican, of course, and cutting her down to size is apparently an imperative over to the east. Put her on ice.


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