Sunday, Oct. 1, 2006
Sanford shouldn't use racial language
SC Statehouse Report
1 , 2006 - - At a Sept. 19 meeting of the State Budget and
Control Board, Gov. Mark Sanford described his frustration
with how the state disposes of excess property as "dancing
with a tar baby."
Quite simply, it was a very poor choice of words - especially
by a politician running for reelection.
Hear Gov. Sanford's "tar baby" comment. The
quality isn't great, but you can distinguish the governor's
voice and words.
Sanford's use of "tar baby," unreported until now
by the South Carolina press, might be viewed by some as a
way to describe a "sticky situation." But for many,
particularly South Carolinians of African-American descent,
this expression that comes from the Uncle Remus stories by
Joel Chandler Harris is a racial epithet - a derogatory term
for black people. "As a result, some people suggest avoiding
the use of the term in any context," according to a Web
site on sensitive words by Random House publishers.
Sanford's press secretary, Joel Sawyer, said the context
of the remark was to highlight how "the state was dealing
with a difficult-to-escape situation. The governor was not
aware that some people view the word as having another meaning,
and if anyone was offended by his use of that word he certainly
But when the Rev. Joseph Darby, the powerful African-American
pastor from Charleston who gave the invocation at Sanford's
inauguration, listened to an audio tape of the budget meeting,
he found the governor's language was "distressing and
"I am surprised and I am shocked because Mark Sanford
is a well-read man who usually chooses his words carefully,"
said Darby, who is former vice-chair of the state NAACP. "I
would be very curious to learn where he learned to say that
phrase with such natural comfort and I look forward to his
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Sanford's use of the term came during the budget board meeting
during a discussion of how the state should dispose of a 250-acre
tract of property near the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base
owned by Clemson University. Earlier this year, Sanford pushed
for the board to sell excess property through auctions. But
this month, Clemson said it wanted to sell the attractive
and developable tract through a sealed bid process with the
minimum value set at $18 million. The university reportedly
wanted to ensure it got at least that amount of money so it
could use the proceeds to purchase options on property for
the Upstate ICAR project.
When Sanford raised a red flag during the budget meeting
about changing how the property was sold, he recalled how
the board agreed to sell a piece of property in Dorchester
County at auction, but changed its mind by August:
"The explanation used was it's slower - uhh, we need
to move this property. But what I've come to learn is that
[Budget and Control Board Executive Director ] Frank [Fusco],
you went and held them for a month in even looking for auctioneers.
"So, I just feel I'm dancing with a tar baby on trying
to, to move this ball forward and again, I don't want to
make my problem y'all's problem but, uh, we're pushing for
open, transparent ways of disposing property so that everybody
has as much of a shot as somebody else.
"Umm, in this instance, given the magnitude of this
project for y'all, if y'all feel strongly about wanting
to go the other way, I'll look the other way. But I want
to emphasize how important we think it is to move to a completely
open process in the way we sell properties." [Transcription
by S.C. Statehouse Report from an audiotape of the 9/12
Budget and Control Board meeting; More]
Sanford's use of the term "tar baby" this month
isn't the first time he's put his foot in his mouth. Four
years ago when running for governor, he offended Jews by likening
time spent on his family's farm to time spent in a concentration
Meanwhile, Sanford isn't the only Republican to use the expression
"tar baby." Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts governor
who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, received
a storm of criticism in July for using the term at a fundraiser
in Iowa. In describing Boston's Big Dig construction project,
he said: "The best thing politically would be to stay
as far away from that tar baby as I can."
Romney quickly later apologized by saying he didn't realize
some people were offended by the term. In May, presidential
spokesman Tony Snow was criticized for using the term when
answering a question about government surveillance.
Romney was born in Michigan. Snow grew up in Ohio. But Sanford
is Southern. He should have known better. Let's give him the
benefit of the doubt, but it's hard to believe he didn't know
"tar baby" was an old expression with racial overtones.
Send your comments to Andy Brack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
9/24: Outlaw cell
phones when driving
To the editor:
Outlawing Cell phones while driving..(Commentary,
9/24) Let's call it 'Celling'...My suggestion would
be to outlaw using HANDHELD CELLPHONES while driving and impose
a National requirement of the auto makers to make available
as an option a speaker cell phone system would would allow
celling through the autos speaker phone and allow keeping
both hands on the wheel. No harm here anymore than carrying
on a conversation with passengers sitting in the car and that
-- Bob Logan, Little River, SC
Ahead on soul
of budget board
A look at how you often learn first about things in SC
From Andy Brack in Statehouse
"But in November, control of the
board could shift to Sanford if a few things fall into
place. Supporters say that would boost the power of
the governor, which he needs to put his platform into
place. Critics say it would increase gubernatorial meddling
in day-to-day governance, something at which Sanford
hasn't shown to be too adept. And they say if Sanford
controls the board, it could cause college building
programs to grind to a halt and affect how state employees
are hired and fired."
From Dan Hoover in the Greenville
the battle within a battle. And perhaps because the
vote is indirect, with future control of the State Budget
and Control Board at stake on Nov. 7, it's the forgotten
piece in the 2006 election puzzle."
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