Thursday, Oct 27, 2016
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Nepotism in the land of Strom

At 98, South Carolina's Strom Thurmond renders true meaning to the term “senior senator.” Having cheated Father Time longer than anyone else in the U.S. Senate, he's now using his position of power to advance the Thurmond name even deeper into history by having his son appointed a U.S. attorney.

A time-honored political tradition, you say? Well, if all goes according to plan, Strom Thurmond, Jr., will become the federal government's top law enforcement officer in South Carolina, despite the fact that he is only 28 years old and, just three years out of law school, has the barest legal experience. He would be the country's youngest U.S. attorney.

Now an assistant prosecutor in Aiken County, S.C., population 135,401 (slightly larger than Wood County, Ohio), Mr. Thurmond, Jr., will head a staff of 60 federal lawyers, prosecuting such crimes as drug-trafficking and corruption. The job pays a handsome $118,000 and is expected to serve as a springboard for him to run for the U.S. Senate when Strom the Really Elder's term expires in 2002.

All this assumes, of course, that President Bush will approve this very fortuitous nomination, which is about as certain as, say, pecan pie is sweet.

In the Old South, family blood lines run thick and long, so much so that Mr. Thurmond, Jr., was hired right out of law school by a lawyer with the last name of Strom. Pete Strom, himself a former U.S. attorney, changed the name of his firm to Strom, Young & Thurmond, but the local folks knowingly refer to it as “Young Strom Thurmond.” Mr. Strom, a distant relative of the Thurmonds, calls Strom, Jr., “truly a chip off the old block.”

If this true story sounds like something out of a Pat Conroy novel, it's because nepotism - family ties - is a tradition ingrained nowhere more deeply than in the Old South.

Nonetheless, it's hard to ignore Strom, Jr.'s modest background, considering that, nationally, the average age of the 93 U.S. attorneys is 50, with 22 years of legal experience.

Over at the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Powell, 37, son of our new secretary of State, has been elevated by Mr. Bush to chairman. But at least he has a pedigree that includes Georgetown Law School, prestigious clerkships with judges, a stint as chief of the Justice Department's anti-trust division, and a firm grasp of communications issues from three years on the FCC.

Strom, Jr., is reported to be mature and charming, but that and a storied name won't help Mr. Thurmond the younger in court. Let's hope that his assistants down at the federal courthouse in Columbia at least know what they're doing. They may very well prove once again the old political bromide that a good staff can save you from a whole lot of trouble.

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