Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 17 2012 10:30 AM

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Gov. Nikki Haley has made the choice that basically everyone on the right wanted her to make. She's elevated Rep. Tim Scott, a 47-year-old freshman congressman, to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint. Even DeMint was saying he wanted this -- his legacy of success endorsements now includes two Hispanic senators (Cruz, Rubio) and the first black Republican senator since Ed Brooke was shown the door by Paul Tsongas.

Probably because the Scott rumor had been out there for days, ThinkProgress already has an oppo rap sheet. My favorite item: the 2011 welfare reform bill that would have taken a family's government benefits away if one member of the family went on strike. But that's what made Scott so attractive to Republicans. Lots of freshmen, some in his own delegation, could be counted on to run into a fight with liberals holding knives in their teeth. But they were white guys. Scott's colleague Joe Wilson yelled "you lie!" at the president during a special congressional address on health care, and Wilson was labeled a racist. Nobody can call Scott a "racist." Those who attack him risk getting overzealous and calling him some kind of race traitor, which Fox News et al can blow up into stories of Liberal Racism Unveiled at Last. (The fact that liberals have elected the first black president, twice, is nudged off to the side.)

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Had Susan Rice been nominated for Secretary of State, Scott would have been very important, very quickly. He'd already signed a toothless House letter pre-announcing his opposition to the choice; he could have climbed into TV screens to explain why all Americans, regardless of color, needed to oppose this black female nominee.* He can stlll do that if/when Barack Obama nominates some non-white candidates for the Supreme Court. The first line of opposition in the Senate, to anything Obama does, is likely to come from Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Tim Scott, and Ted Cruz. Just from a pure PR perspective, it does the GOP a lot of good to have two non-white guys on that team.

*FWIW, I don't think the opposition to Rice had anything to do with race. Republicans wanted to humble the administration and scorch its leadership about Benghazi.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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