May 30, 2004
errrr, poor taste
SC Statehouse Report
30, 2004 - - A dozen years ago in Washington, it was said
the most dangerous place was to be between U.S. Sen. Phil
Gramm, R-Texas, and a television camera.
But following a Thursday publicity stunt that found Gov.
Mark Sanford holding two squealing pigs in the S.C. Statehouse
lobby, it was clear our governor now holds Gramm's title.
Sanford says he brought the pigs to the lobby to make a point
- - to show that state lawmakers were on a freewheeling spending
binge when they dispatched 105 of his 106 budget vetoes in
99 minutes the day before. The Senate did virtually the same
Thursday by overriding 100 vetoes.
PIGS? You know how smart they say pigs are. Maybe
they're secret editorialists. While Gov. Mark Sanford
obviously took great pleasure in poking the House in the
eye with pigs, the pigs deposited their poop on the governor.
courtesy of the Office of the Governor.)
"We wanted to have a little fun," Sanford said
in a press release. "I think it's important to have a
sense of humor at the same time that you're making what I
think is a serious point about at least limiting pork barrel
spending long enough to pay off this unconstitutional deficit."
But the governor's public relations gimmick will backfire,
if it already hasn't. As House Speaker David Wilkins said,
Sanford's stunt wasn't taken as a joke. Instead, the governor
"defiled" the people's house with political grandstanding,
the speaker said.
What in the world was our movie-star governor thinking? He
embarrassed state lawmakers. He embarrassed fellow Republicans,
who control the House and Senate. And he put any hope of being
an effective leader for all South Carolinians at risk - -
just to make a political point. Hasn't he ever heard the cliché
that one attracts more bees with honey than with vinegar?
In politics, there's a lot of give and take. But for Sanford,
it mostly appears to be take. He's South Carolina's Ritchie
Rich who pouts when he doesn't get his way.
This year while the governor successfully pushed payback
of a $155 million deficit to the top of the legislative agenda
(the just-passed budget erases it despite his rhetoric), Sanford's
been in for a lot of pouting. He hasn't gotten his way on
the budget vetoes. On restructuring. On a proposed income
tax cut. On school vouchers. The list goes on. Last year,
he had no significant legislative wins.
Prior to Thursday's stunt, this column was going to focus
on how Sanford's lack of legislative wins and continuing spats
with the General Assembly might create an environment for
someone in the GOP to run against him in the 2006 gubernatorial
primary. Many Republicans have been grumbling quietly about
it for months because they believe they got more than they
bargained for with the maverick Sanford, who soared in to
head the state from Congress with few political loyalties
and ties to the Statehouse.
But with Sanford having a 73 percent good-to-excellent job
rating according to this month's SC Index, such a premise
still seems a long shot. Remember, however, there are six
Republicans running to be the party's nominee for U.S. Senate.
Only one will win. Five of the candidates, some of whom have
spent millions and traversed the state countless times, might
be looking for more public service. One of them might be talked
into running for governor, just like former Gov. David Beasley
was talked into running for U.S. Senate.
As one senior House Republican said prior to the pig ploy
Thursday, "His [Sanford's] popularity is due to the public's
general mistrust of government in general and the General
Assembly in particular. This one is almost independent of
the General Assembly, and I think the public likes that."
But with politics being the way it is, some folks upset by
Sanford's disrespectful treatment of legislators on Thursday
now might find someone to run against him in 2006.
If Sanford wants to get his agenda approved by state lawmakers
in the future, he's going to have to stop acting like Rodney
Dangerfield ("I get no respect") and more like a
governor who builds bridges.
5/30: A 17-year itch
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
State lawmakers. Unlike what was characterized in
the media, state lawmakers considered the governor's vetoes
in a gentlemanly fashion and dispatched them based on a disagreement
with the governor.
Calendar. Thank goodness there's only one week left
of the session with all of the mess that's going on.
Sanford. Pigs in the Statehouse? Enough said.
The State. The newspaper characterized Wednesday's
House action as "Angry House overturns vetoes."
We were there. There was no anger. In fact, House Speaker
David Wilkins took special strides to characterize the overrides
as a disagreement and not a fracas. The Sanford team turned
it into a circus.
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