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.