S.C. Statehouse Report
May 30, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.0530.pork.htm


COMMENTARY
Sanford's pork, errrr, poor taste
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

MAY 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.


SMART 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. (Photo 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.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Bug love

SCORECARD: Winners and losers of the past week

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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.


McLEMORE'S WORLD
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:

Thumbs up

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.

Thumbs down

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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