Haley in 2011 | File photo.

South Carolina must not be as great of a place as it used to be — at least when you call government offices.

“Business management” was the answer we heard when we called one phone number this week at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“Thank you for calling the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. We are located at …,” said a recording.

Or “Are you looking for a rewarding career with the South Carolina Department of Revenue?” asked another recording.

The only place of 10 agencies that referenced the Palmetto State’s stature was a call to the Statehouse, where yet another recorded message piped: “It’s a great day in South Carolina …”

Ah, finally the familiar sounds of a telephone greeting imposed upon state cabinet agencies in September 2011 by former Gov. Nikki Haley.

Even then, it was derided as cheesy, making what one writer described as something that made phoning a state agency sound pretty grim.

“As every fast food chain has taught us,” Eric Randall wrote in The Atlantic, “there is no sunny greeting that a monotone teenage employee can’t turn into something shockingly ironic.(‘Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?’) But still, it feels like there must be something else the state legislature should be doing, especially if it really and truly isn’t a good day today in South Carolina.”

The attempt to frame perceptions with a perky phone greeting was widely panned in Democratic circles, leading two state representatives to say they would file legislation to say state employees couldn’t be forced to give the greeting until the state’s unemployment rate was less than 5% (At the time, it was 10%; now it’s 3%).

“When you answer the phone and say, ‘It’s a great day in South Carolina,’ to be honest with you, it’s a lie,” state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, said at the time. “South Carolina is being misrepresented by its No. 1 leader, and that’s the governor.”

But the silliness blew away and now it’s a part of the past — except that Haley’s past as a leader is now being dredged up as she flirts with running for president.

Back in April 2021, Haley, who left her job as governor to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, said she wouldn’t run for president if Donald Trump was running. She told the Associated Press, “I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it. That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point, if that decision is something that has to be made.”

But since the summer, Haley, who now lives on Kiawah Island, has been popping up in the media at key times to remind people that she’s a moderate, viable choice. Just this week, she sent emails to “patriots” in Georgia asking for them to vote in a runoff for Herschel Walker in his bid to win a U.S. Senate seat. Throughout the recent general election campaign, she traveled around the state and country campaigning and endorsing.

And this week, she reminded people she’s still thinking about running for president — even though national polls show Trump with a commanding lead among Republican voters and Haley at, shall we say, the low single digits. (A Winthrop Poll of South Carolina Republicans, however, showed Trump at 45% and Haley close at 37%, which is important because the Palmetto State plays a defining role in the presidential nomination process.)

“We are taking the holidays to kind of look at what the situation is,” Haley said Tuesday at a Clemson forum. “If we decide to get into it, we’ll put 1,000% in, and we’ll finish it.”

Maybe, or perhaps, it’s just political puffery to remain relevant and be considered as a moderate vice presidential candidate — which would be kind of a great day for South Carolina for many.

By the way, we sent an email — and didn’t make a phone call — to the office of Haley’s successor, Gov. Henry McMaster to find out what happened to the “great day” telephone policy. No response.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Charleston City Paper and the Statehouse Report. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@statehousereport.com

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