My kind of Carolina kid
April 15, 2005
When my National Review comes to my mailbox, I immediately turn to the "The Week" section and then skim through the rest of the magazine to see what I will want to sit down to enjoy later. This week I started my routine and was stopped immediately by a smiling caricature of Governor Mark Sanford. Pick up the April 25 issue and you’ll find an article about our anything but ordinary governor on page 20 entitled, "A Carolina Kid."
If you are a conservative, you should already have your subscription. If you don’t get one. My favorite contributors are Jay Nordlinger, John Derbyshire, and Jonah Goldberg. However, it pays to read Ramesh Ponnuru, Byron York – and, of course, Mr. Buckley.
I’ll whet your appetite with a few snippets from the piece on Sanford by John J. Miller. Then you can go pick up a copy yourself and read the rest.
Miller leads off by going back to 2002 when Sanford ran against incumbent Jim Hodges. It relates to today because if you remember, Hodges attacked his opponent by attempting to scare voters by "exposing" Sanford’s plan from his congressional days when he sought to allow workers to invest a percentage of their payroll taxes into personal accounts. Sound familiar? Miller points out that Hodges’ tactic didn’t work.
Since then, he has gone on to become one of the best new governors in the country, ranking near the top of the Cato Institute’s latest fiscal-policy report card and putting himself in position for an easy reelection next year.
He even mentions the "Draft Sanford for President 2008" website started by a Maryland college student. It hasn’t stopped with that one – as a search of Google reveals.
Miller steps away from conjectures of the future to focus on the early days of the Governor’s foray into politics. That beginning led him to Washington in 1994. That is when the legend of "penny pincher" Mark Sanford begins. We’ve heard most of the anecdotes before. Miller offers an example.
To cut down on paper costs, his staff used the letterhead of Rep. Andrea Seastrand, a California Republican who was defeated for reelection in 1996. "We found reams and reams of her stationery sitting in the hallway and decided to put it in our fax maching, " says Scott English, a longtime Sanford aide. "I think we finally ran out in December 2000." Sanford’s office ultimately returned more than $1.2 million in unused funds.
Of course, all this was not without controversy. Some called Sanford’s actions grandstanding, peculiar and even weird. Some found his fiscal conservatism to be extreme and it led to a number of attacks on the freshman congressman.
Sanford voted against a bill to perserve Underground Railroad sites (he hates blacks!), against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (he hates women!), against a breast-cancer stamp (he hates women with breast cancer!).
The last several paragraphs deal with Sanford’s views of the current Social Security debate. It also brings up some of the more controversial aspects of his tenure; the Air Force Reserve issue and bringing pigs to the State House. Mr. Miller must not have heard of the horse and buggy – he doesn’t mention it.
Mark Sanford is a populist. I agree that he should easily take reelection if he seeks it. Yes, I know the legislature doesn’t like the way he treats them. However, most people love it. I bet if a poll were to be taken contrasting the popularity of the Governor vs. the legislature, Sanford would win.
That isn’t to say he is perfect. It is great to be an idealist and to say what you mean and mean what you say. However, unless the office of Governor receives more power, all of Sanford’s great ideas are worthless without the help of the legislature. Sure, if Sanford had the populist groundswell to put pressure on the members of the legislature to follow his lead or get voted out of office, it could possibly be done. That just isn’t going to happen.
As it is, those of us who like to watch South Carolina politics find our drawing-out-of-the-lines governor to be a breath of fresh air. As Miller writes in conclusion:
If seven Republicans run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, some media wag is bound to label them "the seven dwarves." Conservatives hoping to find someone not so dwarfish may want to check out that "Draft Sanford" website.
Until then, we’ll keep him.