I was supposed to be writing a wrap-up piece about the South Carolina Republican primary this afternoon, but an attack of writers' block led me to more inspiring territory: the compilation of the (mostly) complete music playlists of every candidate I've seen speak over the last two weeks, in New Hampshire and now South Carolina. Shazam: It's every political reporter's best friend.
This list is incomplete, and can change a lot depending on the candidate's audience or the whims of the artist (heaven forbid Rachel Platten decides to endorse Bernie Sanders). I don't ascribe any deeper meaning to these musical selections either, although suffice it to say there is a pretty big difference between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and for that matter, between Donald Trump and everyone else.
When Bernie Sanders was a 21-year-old University of Chicago undergrad, he was arrested for resisting arrest at a 1963 anti-segregation protest on the South Side. As we've reported, the Vermont senator was a civil rights activist in college, leading his campus chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality in sit-ins on and off campus. He also attended the 1963 March on Washington. Now, the Chicago Tribune has unearthed a photo of the young presidential candidate being hauled away by police that same year.
Donald Trump ended his final campaign rally of the South Carolina primary Friday night with a story about a four-star general, Muslim insurgents, and bullets dunked in pig blood. Forty minutes into his address at a not-quite-full convention center in North Charleston, after mocking Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's lack of enthusiasm for waterboarding, the Republican presidential front-runner told the crowd that he wanted to share an anecdote he'd heard about General John Pershing.
"General Pershing was a rough guy," Trump said. He explained that during the early 1900s, when the general was battling Muslim insurgents in the US-controlled Philippines, he decided to make a point:
He caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage…and he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and dipped 50 bullets in pig's blood. You heard about that? He took 50 bullets and dipped them in pig's blood [which is considered haram]. And he has his men load up their rifles and he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years there wasn't a problem.
"We've got to start getting tough and we've got to start being vigilant and we've got to start using our heads or we're not gonna have a country, folks," Trump concluded.
Snopes, the online mythbuster, classifies the Pershing tale—which is popular on the right—as a "legend." "We haven't eliminated the possibility…but so far all we've turned up are several different accounts with nothing that documents Pershing's involvement," it explains.
But a lack of evidence has never stopped Trump, especially when it comes to the anti-Islam invective that has helped keep him atop the polls in South Carolina. His proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States is hugely popular among Republicans; a recent survey of his supporters found that just 44 percent believed Islam should even be legal. So with his candidacy on the line, he's sticking with what got him to this point.
Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson told conservative voters in South Carolina on Friday that "godly" Sen. Ted Cruz offered them the best chance at preventing the United States from becoming "hell on Earth."
Appearing at a packed theater at the College of Charleston, Cruz was accompanied by a squad of conservative favorites the day before voters hit the polls in the critical South Carolina Republican presidential primary. This group of Cruz backers included Rush Limbaugh's brother, David, and Rep. Mark Sanford, who was once governor of the state and famously caused a scandal when he disappeared to see a mistress but told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Yet it was Robertson the audience came to see; some supporters even brought their own duck calls. Robertson tried to take front-runner Donald Trump down a notch by showing that Cruz has a reality television star of his own in his corner and, more important, God on his side.
Robertson's endorsement of Cruz could almost fit in a tweet. As Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed Cruz on the stage, Robertson, clutching a Bible, walked up in camo attire and declared, "I'm for Cruz because you see this in my hand? Bibles and guns brought us here. And it will be Bibles and guns that keeps us here. And this man owns them both." Then Robertson picked up his camo backpack and walked back through the curtains.
About 15 minutes later, Robertson returned to the stage and read aloud from a book about presidents who pray. Prayer was the reason the United States won its independence, he explained, and it might be the only thing that could save the nation from its current fate. He expanded on his previous pitch for Cruz. "You say, 'Phil, you either got mighty lucky or God blessed you,'" he said. "But you know something, South Carolina? Can all the money the money I evvvvver make, can it remove your sin, South Carolina? That money? What about all this fame I received—will it raise me from the dead? That's why I follow Jesus. That's why I vote for people who follow Jesus."
Robertson continued: "We went with the atheists beginning about 50 years ago, and we've almost created in America a hell on Earth. Vote godly. I love you, and I love God. It's the only way to roll."
Cruz embraced Robertson warmly. In the past few days, Cruz has suggested that if he were elected president, he would nominate Utah tea party Sen. Mike Lee to the Supreme Court and ask Trump to build a wall on the Mexican border. Now he told the crowd there might also be a place for Robertson in his administration. "Can you imagine Phil Robertson as ambassador to the United Nations?" Cruz asked. "How much would you pay to see that?"
As the South Carolina contest hurdles toward its conclusion—and after Cruz has spent months hammering his opponents (especially Marco Rubio) on immigration—he is pushing a more fundamental message to voters on his final swing through the state: Vote for Cruz so that he can bring God back to America.
Cruz finished the event with a prayer. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways," Cruz said, reciting from memory 2 Chronicles 7:14, "then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins."
The audience knew the rest and finished the prayer with him: "And I will heal their land."
By the way, here's a commercial that Robertson made with Cruz a few weeks ago:
While Sen. Ted Cruz was firing up conservatives at an arena in Greenville, South Carolina, on Thursday night, someone—presumably a supporter of Donald Trump—was leaving copies of a racist far-right newsletter on the windshields of cars parked outside the venue. Here's the front page:
The Conservative Action Report appears to be affiliated with the South Carolina Conservative Action Council, which "proudly" defends the "Confederate South" and the Confederate flag. (This weekend, the group will hold an event to commemorate the Union army's "satanic" attack on Charleston.) One front-page story in the newsletter is headlined "Is Barack Obama a Muslim?" Another is called "Blacks and the Confederacy—the story the leftist mass media will never tell." An op-ed in the newsletter refers to Gov. Nikki Haley by her birth name, Nimrada Randhawa, and attacks her for her "Stalinesque" decision to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds after last year's mass shooting in Charleston.
The newsletter, which endorses Trump and hails his proposed wall along the Mexican border, also slams Cruz (on trade) and Marco Rubio (on immigration).
The South Carolina Republican primary this year has so far been bereft of the slanderous whisper campaigns that have marked elections of the past in the Palmetto State. And this isn't exactly a "dirty trick." But it is a glimpse of the far extreme of the Trump coalition, which may well carry the Muslim-bashing tycoon to victory on Saturday.