Monday, August 30, 2010

Alvin Greene, for real

You can't just say no to the opportunity to sit down and talk with a guy who's made national news and been the butt of more than a few jokes, for being an oddball politician from a state that seems to get plenty of national attention for its oddball politicians' antics.

Yes, I spent about 30-40 minutes this afternoon in an interview with Alvin Greene, the guy who's running for U.S. Senate from South Carolina. Greene's an unemployed veteran who's never run for office before, and his win in the S.C. primary had everyone scratching their heads and looking for nefarious political pranks, etc. None, to date, has been found.

Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten and I had asked for some time with him while he was in Charlotte today appearing on the Keith Larson show on WBT Radio. (Be sure to watch the dancing video; Larson's spot on when he says Greene is dancing like a white guy at a wedding.)

You can see a short video clip of our interview, but it in no way captures the almost surreal nature of the event. Greene was accompanied by Dottie Maggart-Feldman of Oconee County, S.C., whose role was not entirely clarified to us despite our asking numerous questions. She is NOT his campaign manager, she said, and while she was trying to give us the name of the woman who is, Greene was telling us not to write down that person's name because tomorrow he was going to have a talk with her.

Maggart-Feldman has very black hair and looks to be in her late 50s, early 60s. She said she's never been a campaign manager, and, asked if she had done any previous political work, said she "had made some media buys for Sen. Thurmond." That would be Strom Thurmond, the late senator who started his career as a segregationist. When I said, incredulously, "Thurmond?" she said that had been in the 1970s. Neither she nor Greene was forthcoming about how or whether she was being paid. She's apparently his "handler" – when I remarked that his tie was Tar Heel blue, she said she had taken him shopping and helped him pick it out.

Some impressions: Greene's handshake is very weak. He's the kind of guy who, when you try to connect on a human level, gives you a blank look. His answers were repetitive, as if he'd memorized his talking points and wasn't going to stray, and indeed went back to them over and over, almost as a comfort object. "Jobs, education and justice," he said - a lot. "My opponent is offering nothing," he said - a lot. Some of his remarks sounded almost like a parody of what a Democratic candidate would say: Jobs, education, alternative energy, green jobs. We tried to ask questions to get at a sense of how much he, himself, knew about the issues. For instance, I asked about Iraq. He was in the Air Force when the U.S. invaded Iraq; did he think it was a good idea at the time? "It was not a good move," he said. "It doesn't look to have been a good move. ... All that was accomplished was the re-election of George Bush.

Not surprisingly, he wouldn't talk about the charges pending against him that accuse him of showing pornography on a computer to a University of South Carolina student, although Maggart-Feldman started talking about how the image on the computer screen was tiny and hard to see unless you were right up on it. Meanwhile, Greene kept saying, "There's a process," and she kept on spewing details.

During all of this we were being filmed by a couple of Los Angeles documentary filmmakers, who said they are shadowing Greene everywhere, even living at his house sometimes. (With Maggart-Feldman also living there it must get crowded sometimes.) No, they said, they don't have any funding for their film.

My conclusion is that Greene isn't the imbecile many people assume he is. He's no Einstein, but then, many people who run for office aren't. He clearly has difficulty relating to people on multiple levels, including reading their reactions. It looks as if he either doesn't understand or doesn't care when people make fun of him, as when Larson got him to dance to an Alvin Greene campaign rap tune. I asked him whether it bothered him when people are making fun of him, and he said, "I try to stay serious. This is a serious campaign. We're in serious times." And then, "My opponent is the joke."
Should he be elected? No way. And it's unlikely he will. But as I wrote in my Saturday op-ed, "Ballot eccentrics are a U.S. tradition," it's not as if he's the only oddball who's ever graced a ballot. And some of them do get elected.
Photo by Observer staff photographer Todd Sumlin: Alvin Greene talks to WBT Radio as Los Angeles documentary filmmakers accompany him on Charlotte interview Monday.


Anonymous said...

The more I hear about this guy, the more I think he is "special" in more ways than one. Wow. How stupid are the people of SC for voting for him? Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

After listening to the interview, I'd put him more on the level of our own, Sue Myrick.
Repetitive in nature, yet giving us no new answers, almost puppetlike.
It's worked for her, maybe it will work for him.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I watched the video of his interview with Observer editors and heard what sounded like constant giggling in the background. Who was doing that?

consultant said...

".."..had everyone scratching their heads and looking for nefarious political pranks, etc. None, to date, has been found."

Oh the political pranks are well known. They involve the planned, systematic defunding of education to the point South Carolina is actually a genuine 3rd world state attached to the US.

North Carolina should be embarrassed to share part of its name with that place.

I think the state's name should be changed to "South Backwards". I think the Tea Party people in the state would vote to approve it.

Mary Newsom said...

Clarification: The person laughing in the background was Dottie Maggart-Feldman, not the two journalists who were in the interview.

During Alvin Greene's remarks on the $100 donation he gave to Obama which turned things around for the Obama campaign, Taylor and I were about 80 percent sure he was just making a sarcastic joke about the huge difference that made to the Obama campaign, but we weren't positive. Maggart-Feldman was laughing particularly loudly during that exchange, perhaps to signal to us that it was a joke (whether it was or not).

Jumper said...

I am definitely wondering if Dottie Maggart-Feldman is the real story here. How did she come to be doing this?

Anonymous said...

Alvin Greene, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid should take a trip together. This list of individuals indicates following political leaders is suicide.

consultant said...

In the context of that state, Alvin Greene is HUGE IMPROVEMENT over the Senators South Carolina has sent to Washington for the last 200 years.