THE PARTY THAT ROOTS FOR SCROOGE
Today's New York Times brings word that South Carolina's GOP governor, Mark Sanford, has decided at the last minute not to deprive jobless state residents of unemployment benefits:
Just hours before the unemployment benefits fund was to run out in South Carolina, the state with the nation's third-highest jobless rate, Gov. Mark Sanford relented Wednesday and agreed to apply for a $146 million federal loan to shore it up, after weeks of refusing to do so.
The governor's position had drawn rebukes even from fellow Republicans in the Legislature, one of whom denounced Mr. Sanford as "heartless," and from newspaper editorial pages. On Wednesday, The State, the daily newspaper here in Columbia, accused the governor of playing "chicken with the lives of the 77,000" who are unemployed in South Carolina....
This is in keeping with Sanford's overall philosophy of government (and belief in self-aggrandizement):
Mr. Sanford once carried two piglets onto the floor of the House chamber to symbolize his opposition to what he considered wasteful spending. One of the piglets promptly defecated; lawmakers were not amused. Indeed, though Republicans dominate both chambers, they have overriden hundreds of his vetoes on spending over the years, including, in one recent session, money to expand children's health insurance, indigent defense, and to provide cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees.
After one special session last year, the legislators overrode 228 out of 243 of the governor's vetoes, restoring money Mr. Sanford had rejected for H.I.V. prevention and health programs, and for state parks and beach reconstruction.
This mean-spiritedness, of course, has made Sanford wildly unpopular in a party that desperately needs to regain credibility, and in a state where voters are hurting.
Mr. Sanford, a wealthy real estate investor, is often mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, in part because he is seen as an exemplary adherent of the party's low-government, antispending philosophy. He recently wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal saying he was opposed to a "bailout" for states....
Up until now Mr. Sanford's antispending stance has, if anything, appeared only to enhance his popularity in this conservative state.
He's being criticized now, a bit:
"He's going to make the people of this state suffer for his agenda," said Henry Wright, 53, a laid-off carpenter who said he was on the verge of being evicted from his home. "The only thing I got to live on" was his unemployment check of $207 a week, Mr. Wright said.
Cynthia Bruce, 52, an unemployed mobile-home saleswoman, was also critical. "He's turned a deaf ear to the needs of the people of this state," she said.
But, reading this story, I see no sign that this is a Blagojevich-level error that's going to drive Sanford's approval ratings into the basement. I see no sign that he's now forgone any chance of winning the GOP nomination in 2012.
This is treated as something that's cost him a bit of political capital, but not all that much. In a very, very Republican state, and in the modern Republican Party nationwide, you can be as mean a sonofabitch as you want to be, even in a state that's hurting worse than most during horrible economic times, and you're still seen as presidential timber. Ladies and gentlemen, there's your modern Republican Party.