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.
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.