Kevin Fisher on Sanford, Kathleen and me

Kevin Fisher is a thoughtful columnist. He called to leave a message and warn me that I’d be mentioned in his column this week, as follows:

I realize that sentiment cuts to the quick of Sanford bashers, including people I like and respect. For example, former editorial page editor of The State and local blogger Brad Warthen sometimes seems obsessed with Sanford’s misdeeds, real or imagined.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s own superb nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker badly missed the mark in a prominent column leading up to the recent election, writing “Sanford’s candidacy is on life support … not only did his former wife Jenny not stand by her man, she wrote a book, went on TV and recently took him to court for trespassing … Where the wife goes, so go the people.”

Apparently not, to the dismay of not only the usually astute Warthen and Parker but also the inevitably smug and self-righteous commentators of MSNBC.
While partisan hacks are now the norm on cable news (both left and right), Chris Matthews and company repeatedly made fools of themselves by ridiculing the idea of a Sanford comeback, all while assuring each other that the people of SC-1 would not be such knaves as to vote for him…

Kevin always does that. He doesn’t really have to, when he’s saying something that mild, but I’m impressed that he does.

I did call him back to make a couple of points: One, that I never shared Kathleen’s belief that Sanford was toast. I sort of marveled at the fact that she seemed so convinced of it. In fact, I cast doubt on it at the time — even though between the time she wrote her column and I reacted to it, a poll had come out showing him 9 points behind. This is me then:

I think it’s premature to count Mark Sanford out. That district is so Republican, and he won the crowded GOP primary. The same people who voted for him all those times before seem poised to do it again. Relying on those voters not to show up on election day seems like a thin premise.

I now think he may lose. [That was because of the PPP poll.] I’d very much like to see him lose, because it would go a long way toward bolstering my faith in democracy in South Carolina, which frankly has been repeatedly bruised over the last few years. It would show that voters in that district have some sense.

But I’m not counting on it, not on the basis of information currently available to me…

And on the day before the election, I flatly wrote, “he is likely to win tomorrow…”

As for Kevin’s observation that “Brad Warthen sometimes seems obsessed with Sanford’s misdeeds, real or imagined,” I have two things to say. I write like that — very insistently and repeatedly — when I’m worried that something bad is going to happen. In this case, the bad thing being Mark Sanford returning to public office. It was a clear and present danger, as the outcome confirms.

Looking back, I think my best statement of the reasons voters shouldn’t have elected Sanford came after the election, when it was too late. That was in this comment:

Nor should voters have voted against Sanford because of the Argentina thing. Or the pathologically narcissistic interview a week later in which he droned on about his “soulmate.” (Michael Jackson died to save Mark Sanford from further humiliation, but he just had to grab the spotlight back.) Or messing up the State House carpet with the stupid piglet stunt. Or vetoing the entire state budget in 2006 (hours after it was too late for anyone to vote for his opponent in the GOP primary). Or the constant contempt he has heaped on his fellow elected Republicans over the years. Or being the only governor in the nation who didn’t want his state to get the stimulus money that they’d be on the hook for just as much as taxpayers in the rest of the country.

Not even for his maddening verbal tics. I would say.

No, at the end of the day (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em), it should have been cumulative. People should have learned from the totality of his record in public life.

But they didn’t.

Note that those are real, not imagined, misdeeds. 🙂

And somehow, in all of that, I failed to mention his 37 ethics violations, including flying 1st or business class instead of coach as state regs required, using state aircraft for personal travel and spending campaign funds for noncampaign expenses. Mind you, this is the guy who was such a watchdog of public money that he made state employees double up in hotel rooms when they were on state business. And you know, that’s why his supporters supposedly love him — because he’s so respectful of their money. Which is hogwash, just for the record.

64 thoughts on “Kevin Fisher on Sanford, Kathleen and me

  1. bud

    You can only go by the polls and there was so very little polling for this race that you had, to some extent, rely on the one poll that was out there, the PPP which had Sanford down 9 points. I was discounting that poll for a couple of reasons. First, PPP has always had a democratic lean. Second, Mitt Romney won the district by a whopping 18 points in November and it seemed like a difficult task to overcome such a Republican district. Even so early on I had the race a toss up or even a very slight lean toward Ms. Colbert-Busch. But as the race rolled on things clearly looked bad for the Democrat. When the next PPP poll showed the race roughly even it was clear who would win. A week out from the election I predicted a 9 point Sanford win. You can only go by the evidence and there was scant little to go on until very late in the race. Still, the fact that Sanford only won by about 9 points indicates he lost a fair amount of ground because of his behavior. Nine points just wasn’t enough in such a red district.

  2. Silence

    Even if Mark Sanford could: cure cancer, end world hunger, bring about peace on earth, turn water into wine, eliminate overpopulation in the developing world, invent cold fusion, spay and neuter everyone’s pets, eliminate the national debt and raise Lazarus from the dead, Brad would still hate him.

    It is my medical opinion that Brad suffers from “Sanford Derangement Syndrome”. Our top researchers are working on a cure, even as we speak.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, though, I don’t hate him. He would be hard to hate. He’s so easygoing — around me, anyway. I’ve heard stories he’s not necessarily that way all the time with staff.

      He just has no business holding public office.

      Also, if he COULD, through whatever public office he holds, “cure cancer, end world hunger, bring about peace on earth, turn water into wine, eliminate overpopulation in the developing world, invent cold fusion, spay and neuter everyone’s pets, eliminate the national debt and raise Lazarus from the dead,” and whatever else you care to claim, he wouldn’t do them — even if the federal government financed it all, even if the most diamond mines in the world were discovered under the state parks — because he doesn’t want government doing those things. Except maybe eliminate the national debt, but then that would just be a side effect of what he wants, which is government not spending, period.

      Think about it, from his perspective: Raise Lazarus from the dead once, and from then on, every time he dies, he’s going to be expecting the government to bail him out.

      And that’s the problem with Mark Sanford.

      Once, I thought he was just a run-of-the-mill fiscal conservative — a wealthy guy who didn’t like paying taxes, and was happy to be the champion of other people who didn’t like paying taxes. The sort who wanted good, sound, adequate government, but who didn’t want to spend a penny more on it than he had to. In other words, a rational being.

      Then, we found that whenever more money came in to state coffers, whether from economic growth or because the federal government was doing a stimulus package, he wanted to do ANYTHING other than spend it on state services — put it into a reserve fund, distribute it through tax cuts, bury it in a hole in the ground, whatever. Even though under his administration, many vital functions of state government, from Commerce to Corrections and beyond, were badly underfunded.

      THAT was not rational. That showed an animus toward government doing the basic things that reasonable people across the political spectrum (except, perhaps, on the particular uber-ideological fringe that he inhabits) expect it to do.

      No one like that should be entrusted with the stewardship of our government, in any capacity.

      1. Doug Ross

        Didn’t realize that the Governor set the budgets for state agencies. Thanks for the civics lesson.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, Doug, those that I mentioned were both Cabinet agencies, and in the case of Commerce, Sanford had deliberately slashed the agency to the point that even today, people connected with it say it hasn’t recovered its full effectiveness in the wake of those cutbacks.

          He took great pride in the way he had cut Commerce, held it out as a signal accomplishment.

          And the reason I mention Corrections is that I watched a very conflicted Jon Ozmint try to run that agency with inadequate resources — the least spent per prisoner in the country, with one of the nation’s largest per-capita prison populations. Ozmint is a deeply conservative guy, but he knew the levels of funding he labored under were dangerous and did not serve SC well, either in terms of security in the prisons on in terms of rehabilitation.

          But Sanford was his boss, and he was in no position to effectively advocate for more funding.

          1. Doug Ross

            “But Sanford was his boss, and he was in no position to effectively advocate for more funding.”

            Then he shouldn’t have held the position.

          2. Mark Stewart

            Commerce is the epitome of the department of redundancy department. It’s like having a cabinet position to try to correct the flaws laid by the other arms of government. But its not really a Mr. Fix-It, and can’t ever be; so it’s really just a bunch of make-work people trying to sell soft-focus images to people who make hard-edged business decisions. Better to stop making stupid laws that make business expansion ridiculous (though I am not talking about environmental controls, those generally serve us well as a state).

          3. Doug Ross

            Agreed, Mark. It is a department that you cannot measure in terms of effectiveness.

            If the government would stop doing the things it shouldn’t do, there would be more money available to do the basic things it should do.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’m trying to think if there’s anyone in public life in South Carolina I DO hate, and I’m sort of drawing a blank — you know, someone who stirs a visceral, urge-to-kill kind of response. Which is what “hate” means.

        Maybe, to some extent, I have an aversion to LETTING myself hate anyone I’ve actually met. Like a means of controlling myself, and a consciousness that hatred is itself evil and counterproductive. If I DID hate anyone in SC politics, I can think of some folks who would rise to the list ahead of Sanford. But I’m not going to name them, because I’m not letting myself go there.

        Do I hate anyone? Well, I hate Nazis. You laugh, because that’s such a cliche. But seriously, this is more than a casual I-hate-Nazis-because-we-all-hate-Nazis thing. And I’m not talking pathetic people such as those who Sieg-Heiled on the State House steps a few years ago. I mean the real ones, who took over Germany in the 30s.

        I realized this fully once when I was watching a documentary on TV. It was telling about a showcase the Nazis set up in one of their concentration camps, for propaganda purposes. Footage was shown of Jews performing in a camp orchestra. This is what the Nazis showed other Germans. See how well-treated they are? They’re fine! They even have cultural enrichment programs to enjoy!

        The depth, the profound evil, of that monstrous lie, stirred a profound emotion in me, a deeper understanding on an emotional level that had escaped me before. I wanted in that moment to be transported back to 1944 and handed a rifle and allowed to go after the people who perpetrated this.

        Yeah, I’ve wanted that ever since I was a kid — I’ve always wished I could have been around then, and been part of that unified national struggle against evil and aggression.

        But this was different. This wasn’t WWII-buff stuff. I just really, really wanted to kill Nazis in that moment.

        But it was unnecessary. The Allies had beaten me to it.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I can get pretty passionate about the militarists who did so much to warp Japanese culture into something that served their fanaticism in the early decades of the last century.

          Bringing things to the present day, I feel much the same about the madmen who have similarly twisted Islam to murderous, nihilistic ends.

          Although it’s not QUITE the same as with the Nazis.

          There’s an image burned into my brain of one of the outrages from the strife in the Mideast. It’s of a Palestinian militant who was one of a group who had trapped and killed an Israeli (a soldier, I think) in a house, and he ran to the window and triumphantly waved his blood-covered hands for the world to see, deeply pleased and proud at the role he had played in killing that man, waving his blood as a trophy.

          I can look at that outrage and see that guy as something of a victim himself — a guy who has gone beyond radicalization to having his very humanity stripped away. Things have happened to him that mean he has lost something essential to being a man. I still hold him responsible, but I also blame whoever taught him to hate like that.

          I see someone like that, and I conclude that the world is better off without someone like him. I guess that’s kind of a form of hatred.

          I guess the Syrian rebel who ate a soldier’s heart would be in the same category. Doesn’t matter what side he’s on; he’s become a monster.

      3. Cicero

        “Think about it, from (Sanford’s) perspective: Raise Lazarus from the dead once, and from then on, every time he dies, he’s going to be expecting the government to bail him out.”

        No, no; Sanford would argue that the raising of the dead represents a clear blurring of Church and State, and therefore, is something in which the state should not be involved.

    2. bud

      Let’s turn this around. Even if Mark Sanford caused cancer, doubled world hunger, brought about war everywhere on earth, turned 18 year old single malt Scotch into vinegar, increased over-crowding and doubled the national debt (his party really did that during the 80s and 2000s), etc etc folks in District 1 would still have voted for him for the sole reason that he had an R beside his name.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, as I mentioned to Kevin, I was taken aback at the headline in The State over the weekend, “How Mark Sanford staged an unlikely comeback.”

    There was never anything “unlikely” about it.

    Also, the lede said “Four years ago, Mark Sanford seemed to be political road kill…”

    Well, no, not really, not as I remember it…

    I can’t easily lay my hands on it right now, but as I recall there was at least poll in his last months in office that indicated to me that if he could have stood for election a third time, he might have won.

    I don’t recall the numbers, I just remember that they were pretty disturbing…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The idea that Sanford was utterly politically destroyed four years ago is one of those political “wisdom” things that everyone “knows,” but which is not necessarily true.

      Sort of like NPR making that mistake, in the interview with me, saying he “resigned” back then — which, unfortunately, he most certainly did NOT. And yet I didn’t even correct them when I said that, because I didn’t notice it. I guess I was thinking too hard about what I was going to say next. (Or it happened when I took off my headphones for a second, early in the interview, to remove my sweater vest; it was warm in the studio.) Kathryn (I think it was Kathryn) had to point it out to me after she heard it on the radio. Went right by me.

      1. Silence

        Brad – So if Sanford ran in the (R) primary against Haley for SC Gov.- and someone put a gun to your head and you had to choose one (assume that republicans were going to win the general election no matter who was chosen), who would you choose?

          1. Silence

            Kathryn want’s to know your choice if you had to:
            have coitus with one person,
            marry another person,
            and murder a third person,
            who you’d choose? Of course it all depends on who the third person is.

            It’s a game called F**k, Kill, Marry.
            Example: I’d have sexual relations with Maryanne, kill Ginger and marry Mrs. Howell.
            Example 2: I’d have coitus with Inara, marry Kaylee, and kill River.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            You couldn’t kill River. If you recall, she beat up Jayne.

            She killed a whole horde of Reavers, single-handed.

            Let’s be realistic here.

            But yeah, Kaylee would be the one I’d marry. Or adopt, or something. She’s adorable.

            Are the rules of the game that the three have to be part of the same small set of people? Or can you choose from all space and time — as in, have sex with Christina Hendricks, marry Laura Linney and kill Hitler? And then have sex with Christina Hendricks.

          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            The “marry” part is tough. I’ve never been able to imagine marrying anyone other than my actual wife. And I’m not just saying that to keep peace on the home front.

            The sex one is tough for the opposite reason. There are just so many to choose from, since a significant percentage of the female population of child-bearing age is quite attractive enough to choose.

            But I’m thinking I don’t get to choose from the whole world, do I?

          4. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oh, and finally — there has to be a guy to choose from, because I couldn’t kill a girl. Couldn’t even think about it, even for joking or ironic purposes.

          5. Bryan Caskey

            I tried to come up with three people for that game, but it got a little weird using real people. So, we’ll go with fictional characters:

            1. Ilsa (from Casablanca)
            2. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction)
            3. Scarlet (From Gone with the Wind)

            Too easy?

          6. Brad Warthen Post author

            But which are you considering for which purpose, Bryan? I know you don’t want to kill Ilsa, but which of the other two are you choosing? And which one did you want to marry?

          7. Silence

            There’s not really any rules to the game, per se. Just whatever makes it interesting. It’s often played using a subset of people, like from a TV show, or a group of friends you know, and you HAVE to kill one, it’s part of the game. If you throw Hitler in there, it’s not very interesting unless he’s in a group with 2 other awful people. FMK – Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot – that type of group.
            FMK – 1950’s Bridget Bardot, 1960’s Jane Fonda, 1950’s Marilyn Monroe (two turn out awful and one turns out dead, so what do you do?)
            FMK – June from Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, Jodi Arias, Lorena Bobbit
            that sort of thing.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          First, no one would have to put a gun to my head — I believe one always has to choose. (This is something Doug and I argue about a lot. He gets on my case about people we’ve endorsed, ignoring the fact they were running against someone worse. You have to choose, because one of these people WILL hold the office.)

          But I don’t think I can answer the question right now, off the top of my head. That’s one I’d have to agonize over. The way that process would work is that, knowing I’m faced with that choice, I’d watch both of them closely with that choice in mind, and at some point I’d reach a decision as to which was the lesser of two weevils, as Jack Aubrey would say.

          I’d talk to a lot of people, I’d watch closely what Cindi Scoppe wrote (because her thinking would be very, very close to mine, and she’d be keeping closer tabs on it that I could). For me, the dynamics of dialogue with people I respect is very helpful in reaching a difficult decision. It’s not that they tell me what to think; it’s that in reacting to them, I think of points I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, whether I agree with them in the end or not. (This, by the way, is the value of newspaper endorsements. People always misunderstand when they complain that “The newspaper is trying to tell me what to think.” No one can do that. But the dynamic of reading and considering points you may not have thought of helps you make a more thoughtful, better-supported decision than you might have otherwise.)

          Then, at some point — maybe a month out, maybe the day of, maybe in the voting booth (which has happened a couple of times) — I’d make up my mind, grimace, and vote.

          Fortunately, in the real world, Vincent Sheheen has a chance…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            By the way, there are important differences between Sanford and Haley. They are not the same, even though there’s overlap between them.

            Sanford is the kind of economic libertarian beloved by the Club for Growth and the Wall Street Journal editorial board. He has a radical ideology, but it’s a radical ideology held by country-club types. There’s a whiff of elitism to it.

            Nikki Haley is also an economic libertarian, but she’s a populist. That makes her very different culturally and socially from Sanford. She’s pure Tea Party. The Tea Party would LIKE Sanford, and he’d be happy to use them, but he’s not really one of them.

            Of course, being an elitist ideologue and being a down-amongst-’em populist are both negatives in my book, generally speaking. They’re just different kinds of negatives…

          2. Steven Davis II

            I think it’s odd that the only choice a party has is “the guy who lost last time”. In 4 years they couldn’t come up with anyone else?

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Haley. Her populism gives sensible folk a chance. Sanford is an Army of One, and no one is going to change his mind.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, Nikki is less rigidly ideological, and therefore does the right thing occasionally…

      For instance — pushing to increase funding at Corrections…

      But that doesn’t make up my mind. I’d have to think long and hard about this…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    The idea of FMK is three people of one category, any category. It doesn’t make for much fun otherwise. Obvious choices also don’t work. Generally there is some level of distastefulness attached to the choices, too: not Hitler, Christina Hendricks and Alison Brie.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        It’s your game. Play how you will, but usually the other person just proposes three people. There is usually some sort of link, just to make some sort of sense….as if….

        It isn’t a categories game. It is more a gross-out game….like would you rather eat worms or cockroaches….

    1. Steven Davis II

      This has to be one of the dumbest side-topics ever posted on this blog. It’s like a Jr. High slumber party game. Is killing yourself an option?

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    For example,
    Nikki Haley, Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin

    Jenny Sanford, Huma Abedin, Silda Spitzer

    Mark Sanford, Jim DeMint, Nikki Haley

    Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, I need to be straight on the rules here…

    If you choose F, I’m assuming you only get to do it once, right? Because you only get to kill somebody once…

    In that case, if you really wanted to F someone, then you’d pick that one to marry, because then you wouldn’t be limited to that one time.

    Which seems like a flaw in the game.

    But maybe I’m overthinking it.

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    I don’t think I could play this game. I’d feel too guilty and sheepish about the F choice, but even more about the K.

    I certainly couldn’t do it in mixed company. It would be insupportable.

    There’s a certain point I don’t go to in the ironic dark humor realm. I could never get into South Park, for instance. Didn’t want to…

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’ve been trying to think if there’s ANY combination of three related people that I could bring myself to answer.

    I thought of one: Eva Braun, Leni Riefenstahl and Hitler. And again, Hitler is the one I’d kill. And I wouldn’t want to marry Eva.

    But again, I wouldn’t want to MARRY Leni, either. It’s just that if I HAD to choose one… This game is too hard…

  10. Silence

    It’s supposed to be fun, and you are overthinking it. Answer quickly but rationally.
    FMK- Diana Rigg, Jane Seymour, Maud Adams.

  11. Kathryn Fenner

    It’s supposed to be difficult.

    I bet your wish would be infinite wishes, too.

    Jane Seymour, Maud Adams, Diana Rigg.

    Diana is clearly the keeper.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Could we make it Jill St. John instead? She’s my fave Bond girl.

      In which case, either Rigg, St. John, Seymour or St. John, Rigg, Seymour.

      Sorry, Dr. Quinn.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I just don’t have any particular opinion of Maud Adams. Beautiful, certainly, but she didn’t leave an impression that makes her stand out beyond the other beauties.

      2. Silence

        You know i almost went with Jill St. John in my example, but picked Maud Adams instead b/c she’d been in two Bond movies, and was an exrtra in a third one.

      3. Kathryn Fenner

        That isn’t the game. It is about hard choices…..

        You can propose your own trio next round….

      4. Bryan Caskey

        Whoa, whoa, whoa….stop. Brad. Seriously?

        Jill St. John is your favorite Bond girl? Tiffany Case?

        I’m sorry, but that’s not the correct answer. She’s not even in the top 5. This needs a whole other thread.

        1. Silence

          I agree with Caskey. The only Bond Girl categories that Jill St. John is “tops” in are Most Annoying” and “Most Wigs”.

          I wouldn’t kick Ms. St. John out of bed for eating crackers, but she’s not even in the same league with Ursula Andress….

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          She’s my favorite Bond girl whose name I can remember. I also liked the health spa girl in “Thunderball.”

          She wasn’t exotic, or dangerous (like Honor Blackman) or mysterious. She was just very attractive, in an approachable kind of way. Seems like you could have a conversation with her, about everyday things…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        exactly. it should be tough. I usually start with M, because that person sticks around. The least annoying. F–the most likely to be disease free….
        So, M- Paris Hilton–never a bad hotle room, at least.
        F–tough, Kim
        K–Linds, although she is doing a good job all by herself

  12. bud

    Jessica Lange, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba

    SD II is correct but sometimes the inner 7th grader just needs some attention.

  13. Norm Ivey

    Creepy game. I refuse to play with real people. Fictional I can handle…

    Archies: F Veronica Lodge M Betty Cooper K Reggie Mantle

    Lois Lanes: F Erica Durance M Teri Hatcher K Margot Kidder

    Jennifer Connellys: F Jenny (Rocketeer) M Alicia Nash K Helen Benson


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *