‘Sanford as veep’ AGAIN? Geez, would you people give it a rest?

Back when I did the editorial stating fairly succinctly why naming Mark Sanford as running mate would be stupid for John McCain, and disastrous for the country, I got a call from a reader who said I was manufacturing the whole thing, that nobody mentioned it but us, and if I’d just shut up, it would go away.

I wish.

Unfortunately, even though most Republicans see no reason for McCain to choose Sanford, and those Republicans who actually know both men (that would be S.C. Republicans) mostly think such a move would be insane, there is one subfaction in the GOP coalition that continues to push him, against all reason and all odds. That is the economic-libertarian faction represented by the Club for Growth and The Wall Street Journal, among a few others.

The Journal‘s latest effort along these lines was to devote the big "Weekend Interview" to Mr. Sanford on Saturday, and to promote it from the front page, complete with a front-page, full-color caricature of
our gov. It’s fascinating the way the Journal — truly one of the best papers in the country — continues to sully its reputation by taking Mr. Sanford more seriously than does any paper in South Carolina, with the possible exception of the Post and Courier.

The Journal apparently justifies continuing to float this idea on a basis that simply isn’t true, that Mr. Sanford "is on nearly every Republican strategist’s shortlist for vice president this year." To back that up, the piece names three people: "Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and Sen. Lindsey Graham (a stalwart John McCain backer) have all floated Mr. Sanford’s name for veep."

Sen. Graham is on that list because of the three, he’s the only one that anyone might believe has Sen. McCain’s ear. Well, I’ve shown you what Sen. Graham has to say about his old friend Mark’s status as a veep candidate or as a party leader of any kind; you may want to watch the video again.

So I don’t know where that’s coming from.

Anyway, the "hour-long interview" with the governor is said to have taken place at the State House; one must sincerely doubt that the interviewer bothered to ask anyone else about the governor on the way in or out of the building. That would have been damaging to the Journal‘s premise that the governor would be an asset to a national ticket. Of course, if you buy into the premise that Mr. Sanford is involved in a lonely, "prolonged fight against the political status quo in South Carolina," then you wouldn’t want to talk to any of those people, anyway.

But six years after he was elected, one has to be rather gullible to buy into that myth. The truth is that the State House is dominated by conservative Republicans who are much, much more representative of the national party and rank-and-file Republican voters (much less the independents that McCain must continue to appeal to) than Mr. Sanford ever has been or ever will be.

Yes, you can believe the myth if you don’t actually know him, and if you read the quote that starts the piece:

"Our system was put in place in large part based on the fear that a black man would be elected governor. So traditional functions of the executive branch were diffused . . . to mean that if a black man was elected governor, it wouldn’t matter anyway because he wouldn’t have any responsibility . . . That is an insane operating model."

And if you like that, you can read the much more extended version, written by me in 1991 as part of our "Power Failure" series (you’ll also learn that keeping the governor weak was not an innovation of the 1895 constitution, but the continuation of a 300-year South Carolina tradition). The governor read our reprint of that series back in 2002, and based much of his electoral platform on that. That’s why we endorsed the guy. But ever since he was elected, he’s put far more effort into his more marginal, anti-government libertarian proposals than he has into anything that would reform our system.

Several statements in this piece need to be addressed individually, to set the record straight (to the extent I can do such a thing, my pulpit being decidedly less bully than the Journal‘s):

  • After noting the rather obvious fact that no South Carolinian could help the GOP ticket, the author protests, "But Mr. Sanford is popular on the right because he understands markets." No. The truth is that he is popular among economic libertarians because he agrees with them, right down the line, perfectly. Such people are not the same as "the right," although they overlap with that set. And no one can be said to understand markets when he believes that distributing vouchers to people in a thinly populated, poor community that can’t attract a grocery store would lead to the spontaneous generation of an excellent private school.
  • "Mr. Sanford’s main governing problem is the state’s constitution." As someone who has been pushing for 17 years for the same restructuring reforms that Mr. Sanford says he’s for, I wish that were true. But Mr. Sanford’s main governing problem is that he can’t get along with other Republican leaders — and that doesn’t augur well for one who would lead his party nationally.
  • "…the state has leaned left on spending…" Oh, Good Lord have mercy. That’s so idiotic, so utterly marinated, rolled and deep-fried in fantasy, that it’s astounding a bolt of lightning didn’t strike the Journal’s presses as they pushed that one out.
  • "Over the past six years, he has helped shepherd through three big tax reforms: the state’s first cut to its income tax; a grand tax swap that slashed property taxes and increased sales taxes; and the virtual elimination of grocery taxes. That last one is not the tax cut Mr. Sanford wanted to spur investment. But he took what he could get…" Our "left-leaning" Legislature loves nothing more than to cut taxes. A session seldom passes without a tax cut; and the only suspense is what kind of cut will tickle lawmakers’ fancy that particular year. The governor can pretend that the Legislature keeps doing what comes naturally as some sort of response to him, but it’s just not true. (The closest it comes to truth is that some lawmakers pointed to the income tax cut as being kinda, sorta like a cut the governor wanted, and they used that as an excuse to say they don’t always ignore him. But even in that case, the cut what they wanted to cut, as they always do. But that’s the only instance in which it made sense for him to say he "took what he could get.")

Aw, geez, I can’t spend any more time on this, but if you’re able to call up the piece, you’ll find more absurd assertions than you can shake a stick at. Obviously, the only person this writer — the Journal‘s assistant features editor, if you can wrap your head around that — spoke to in South Carolina (or, perhaps, anywhere) for this piece was Mark Sanford.

And no matter what sort of goals it may have of bending the world to its ideological will, the Journal did its readers a disservice by publishing it.

12 thoughts on “‘Sanford as veep’ AGAIN? Geez, would you people give it a rest?

  1. Club for Growth


    Columnist Brad Warthen is borderline hysterical over the fact that Mark Sanford continues to receive favorable VP coverage in right-leaning media outlets, most recently in the WSJ weekend interview. According to Warthen, it seems the only people with a…

  2. Doug Ross

    Would a Sanford selection for VP be a deal killer for you on the endorsement of McCain?
    I think you continue to miss the point in that South Carolinians like Sanford because he doesn’t get along with the State House leadership. That is a positive in my view. I’d rather they fight it out versus having the House and Senate doing whatever they feel like doing.
    Whatever role Sanford had in the property tax shift to the sales tax gets him high marks as well from me. I got my notice from my mortgage company that my escrow will drop by $150 /month starting in June.
    I’m waiting for the day when we have legislators who don’t treat home owners
    as the piggy bank for the state.

  3. Charles

    “And no one can be said to understand markets when he believes that distributing vouchers to people in a thinly populated, poor community that can’t attract a grocery store would lead to the spontaneous generation of an excellent private school.”
    Brad, you have such a keen wit! I wish I could dream up such analogies as eloquent as this. The sad thing about this governor is that he refuses to listen to anyone who does not share his views.
    Perhaps his agenda would work in an affluent state such as Massachusetts or Connecticut. He fails to look beyond the veranda and the BBQ under the oak of the plantation to see the people living on the place. He thinks everything is “moonlight and magnolias.” He might as well utter something like “let them eat cake,” or perhaps when told that poor children don’t have health insurance “well let their parents pay cash.” Or even better when he decided to cut Meals on Wheels for seniors- “all they have to do is sit around all day long why don’t they cook for themselves.” Or perhaps he suffers from the delusions of a high school student who was heard to mutter “you mean there are actually poor senior citizens in the state?”
    The sad thing is the voters in this financially poor state were duped into voting for this idiot who is out of touch with reality. I have seen no evidence of him reaching out to work with anyone. These last 6 years have been a stalemate in the General Assembly, and I suspect 10 or 15 years from now he will be among the people history remembers as missing a great opportunity to move this state forward.
    What he- and many members of the General Assembly- do not understand is that the power structure of this state has spent a considerable amount of time, energy, and resources keeping the vast majority of citizens reduced to “plantation help” so that the small power elite can maintain their status in this little fiefdom.

  4. Doug Ross

    Yeah, the schools were SO much better before Mark Sanford was elected…
    I mean if he would have just agreed to whatever the House and Senate wanted over the past six years, we’d be so flush with cash and so overwhelmed with academic achievement, we wouldn’t know what to do.
    How’s Jim Rex working out for you anti-voucher educrats? Year two and we’ve seen zip, zilch, nada out of him and the multi-million dollar braintrust that prevents even a pilot program for choice from occuring. Because a pilot might succeed.
    Sanford is the scapegoat for the good old boys who really run this state. The people of South Carolina know that. Unfortunately, we can’t vote them all out. We have to settle for voting for someone who is willing to shine the light on the cockroaches.

  5. Cal

    Brad, The fact that you dislike Sanford carries little weight to your readers or anyone else except other Sanford haters. Do us all a favor and get over what ever it was that Sanford did to hurt your feelings. The State endorsed Moore and Sanford beat him like a drum.
    SC is burdened with a self serving legislature that would rather fight to their death than go along with a progressive, reformist, conservative leader. Sanford’s disputes with the Legislature has put the spot light on our antiquidated government structure and the failed leadership that seems to go from one generation to the next. Sanford would serve our country well in any capacity.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Liking or disliking the guy has nothing to do with it. Read what I say. Either agree or disagree. And if you’re motivated by emotion, that’s your problem; just don’t project that on me…

  7. Richard L. Wolfe

    It would never work because the ticket would be upside down as Stanford is twice the man McCain will ever be.

  8. Bob Lewis

    Darn good article Brad. Sanford has not been a leader. However, on the bright side, if chosen, Sanford would be out of South Carolina. Now,that might be the only upside to Sanford as VP.

  9. slugger

    This country could do worse than have a VP that does kiss you know what…
    I feel that Sandord takes an issue and tells it like he feels personally would be best for the people. That is where the issue becomes the fact that he is not popular. He is not telling you what you want to hear but what is best of the state. This is death to a politician.


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