All right. Let’s just jump straight to the main—seemingly only—argument against electing Mark Sanford: his affair. I’m not going to rehash all the details or make excuses for him. I was devastated. But the statehouse press conference where he stepped up to the plate and poured his heart out and out and out planted a kernel of forgiveness in my heart, because unlike other politicians that give a made-for-camera bite-the-lip-and-give-a-sniffle apology, I knew Mark Sanford was completely sincere and extremely humbled. No one could possibly have given that presser and been acting. It wasn’t typical politician.
I was willing to wait and see if his words of sincerity would translate into action—and what I saw was Sanford try to ease out of the limelight as much as possible, letting everyone take potshots at him unanswered, letting everyone vent their venom, anger and disappointment, as he went about what was important to him: trying to repair and resolve the relationships in his life out of public view. When he would emerge into the spotlight, however briefly, he would be asked the inevitable question about the affair, how could he have done it, and every time, he would answer anew with deep reflection, sincerity and humility—never lashing out at others or trying to make excuses, never acting like “c’mon, I’ve already answered this.” Time and again, his actions matched his words. Over time, I fully forgave him.
Here is a man that has had a very public fall from grace, such a spectacular fall and with such circumstances that I believe it was a once-in-a-lifetime screw-up. I actually trust that he has worked to put his life back together in a way that assures me it won’t happen again. He is ready to move on, and so am I along with a multitude of #SC1 voters.
While he has been a big enough man to bear all the slings and arrows hurled at him, he hasn’t been too big to still humble himself before us and ask for a second chance, in an extremely personal way. Mark Sanford needs us. He needs us to give him the chance to fully redeem himself, and I think that makes him even more beholden to us in a deep, almost spiritual way. I believe he has something to prove to us now, to make things as right as he can possibly make them in this lifetime. We could be vindictive and withhold redemption from him, make it so that no amount of effort to regain our trust would ever be good enough, but I don’t think his sin comes anywhere close to deserving that punishment. I’m willing to give him the chance to go the next step and make amends to us, because South Carolina’s 1st district needs him. America needs him.
Now let me tell you why.
The Sanford Record
Mark Sanford is the fiscal conservative’s fiscal conservative. He was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. Outside of his fall from grace, Sanford had a stellar record of public service.
When he was in Congress from 1995 to 2001, he actually returned a quarter of a million dollars to the US Treasury every year, which he had personally slashed out of his Congressional office’s operating budget. This was money allocated to him, approved by voters to spend, but he took it upon himself to protect the voters further, pinching every penny and looking after voter wallets.
This attitude was also reflected in his Congressional voting record, making him ranked as the most fiscally conservative member of Congress by both Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union.
Then, as a two-term Governor of South Carolina, when Obama came to office and was shoveling our money out of the doors of the White House, Sanford was the first governor to reject the stimulus money–$700 million of it. This is important not only because he was standing on his fiscal conservatism principles (and withstanding the onslaught of leftist and media howling), but by his very act of stepping forward and having the courage to lead on it, other governors around the country were emboldened to follow his lead, to compete to see who could be declared the most fiscally conservative of the fiscal conservatives.
Wouldn’t it be a great thing to have that repeated over and again in Washington–contests to see who can spend less instead of the quest, even by Republicans, to spend more? It takes bold leadership, someone that can withstand the pressure to cave, to do this. It’s something Bostic has no record of doing, and no record of even claiming to be interested in doing it. (His campaign mantra has become “Sometimes you just have to say yes” as they jeeringly call Sanford “Mr. No.” When it comes to the insatiable appetite that Congress has for spending our grandchildren’s tax dollars and Chinese loans, I want Mr. No casting my vote any day.)
And Sanford is not afraid to take on his own party. While Boehner and the House leadership keep telling us that they’ll get us a better deal next time every time they cave, Sanford is one that won’t cave. The Republican-dominated South Carolina legislature and he had some mighty famous battles, with Sanford constantly vetoing their spending bills and forcing them to override them to pry the money out of the SC coffers. (Understand that and you’ll understand the background of the trumped-up “ethics charges” his opponents love to tout.)
He made the GOP majority squeal with indignation when he brought two little piglets, Pork and Barrel, into the statehouse to bring attention to their spending spree. We NEED more politicians with the guts to stop the spending in opposition to their party’s good old boy backscratching system.
Due to Sanford’s storybook record of reigning in state spending, the CATO Institute ranked him as the most fiscally conservative governor in America. (Can Bostic come anywhere close to these prestigious accolades? No.)
And the Tea Party needs Sanford in their ranks. Not only because he would be a solid vote with them, if not a leader. They have had difficulty in getting leadership to go their way, mainly because so many are freshmen and sophomore backbenchers. Sanford, however, by virtue of his previous three terms in the US House of Representatives will immediately reenter Congress with seniority over nearly 60% of his colleagues. He will be hard to ignore, and in a position to press the Tea Party perspective.
The Bostic Record
Personal injury lawyer Bostic presents himself as a Christian family man. I believe him. Most of Bostic’s support is coming from the extreme-wing of the religious right, whose sole focus is on Sanford’s divorce with much less concern about spending reductions and liberty issues. In fact, their tactics have been cause for alarm by some, including the leader of a local Tea Party group. (As noted in today’s Morning Jolt from Jim Geraghty at National Review, Bostic describes himself as a creationist, but declines to elaborate on how he defines that. If some GOP are worried about Sanford being promoted to the general election because of the national media jokes about the Appalachian Trail, just wait till they sink their teeth in on creationism.)
As you can tell from the above, I’ll leave people’s faiths to themselves. My focus is on our country’s debt and spending, and it is in those areas that things give me pause with Bostic.
First, while Bostic served on Charleston County Council from 2000 to 2008, its spending increased 25%–significantly outpacing inflation and population increase. Bostic argues that Charleston County voters themselves voted for the increase. I reply, yes, but he went along with it and voted for every single big-spending budget. He championed no cost-cutting measures, and some complain that he even added in projects such as the long-running I-526 extension boondoggle without subjecting it to voter comment or diverted tax revenues to his own pet projects, such as the Greenbelt Plan.
Taking the spending thing further, Bostic refused to sign a pledge to reduce federal spending—even though most of the other candidates in the primary signed it. It was just him, the Democrat general election candidate Elizabeth Colbert-Busch and two other small percentage voter getters that spurned the pledge. Bostic and Sanford both signed Grover Norquist’s ATR pledge to not raise taxes, and that’s a good thing, but we are drowning in debt. We must reduce spending if we are to save America. Our spending is unsustainable, and it should have been an easy thing to pledge to do.
Bostic has also refused to timely file his FEC disclosure form indicating the amount and sources of his income. He has filed for an extension that will put this knowledge out of reach for the runoff Republican voters but will be laid bare for general election purposes. How do voters know what’s in it, especially since he deems it too complicated for his CPAs and law firm to be able to figure out? What kinds of nasty surprises await us? Both Sanford and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert-Busch managed to get their forms in on time.
Finally, the most disturbing thing is that Bostic has repeatedly canceled or refused to appear in debates and forums before conservative, libertarian and Tea Party groups. It’s quite troubling that Bostic had to be dragged to have a one-on-one conversation with Sanford on the issues facing South Carolina’s 1st District and America.
During his eight years on Charleston County Council, Bostic also missed an average of 20% of its twice-monthly meetings. The Bostic campaign took great offense to Sanford’s noting this during their first one-on-one debate, with Bostic saying that his wife suffered from cancer twice during his tenure, implying he had to miss county business in order to tend to her needs. Quite understandable, of course.
However, the SC Patch looked into a sampling of Bostic’s attendance records and found:
Patch reviewed the minutes from 11 of the meetings during Bostic’s time on council. Those minutes are attached to this article. On nine occasions he was either was out of state, out of the country or out of town. On two occasions his absence was unexplained.
His attendance ranges from 67 percent in 2005 to 93 percent in 2001. Most years on council it ranged around 80 percent.
When another media outlet asked the Bostic campaign to confirm the absences were directly related to Mrs. Bostic’s illness, they declined to respond. The Huffington Post also notes that the indignant tweets that his son, actor Daniel Bostic, tweeted after the debate (and served as fodder for various right-wing blog attacks on Sanford) have since been deleted.
North Charleston Patch added that his son, Daniel Bostic, tweeted: “Not gonna lie – I’m still infuriated over Sanford attacking my dad for missing council when my mom was dying.” As of Friday afternoon, the tweet was no longer on Daniel Bostic’s account.
The broad picture here is that Bostic has left the #SC1 voters with many questions: on his finances, on the issues, his beliefs and principles, on whether he can withstand the withering attacks that would come his way should he advance to the general election. He’s asking us to just blindly trust him. Bostic’s record is full of secrets. With Sanford, we know all his secrets.
On top of that, Bostic has a history of not showing up, and when he has shown up, he has voted for bigger budgets and said he would support background check gun legislation and a Constitutional amendment to make traditional marriage the law of the land (does he really believe that, with some states already approving gay marriage, an amendment could ever get ratified? or does he just think it sounds pretty to low-info voters?). Worst of all, he’s said he wants to be non-partisan and work across the aisle.
If he’s been so fearful to let the voters see how his positions contrast with Sanford’s, how will he stand up to politicians in Washington that are going to want him to just shut up, sit down and vote the way they tell him to?
We know Sanford will have the fortitude to stand up for us, against both Democrats and Republicans. He’s been there in the heat and glitz of Washington; he knows the games played and how not to get played. This is no time to be sending a rookie in during the middle of the game. We need someone that can be a strong voice, have some seniority and lead others to vote the right way.
The Closing Argument
There’s an old story about the 1884 presidential race between anti-corruption fiscal-conservative New York Governor Grover Cleveland and the Republican Senator from Maine, James G. Blaine. Blaine made his status as a devoted family man a centerpiece in his campaign, and his campaign had the dirt on Cleveland and an illegitimate child Grover had fathered out-of-wedlock years before but had supported financially.
The Blaine campaign taunted him with the slogan “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House. Ha, ha, ha.” The scandal was embarrassing indeed.
Yet, when it came to soberly assessing the race with logic instead of emotion, one observer noted (as related in Irving Copi’s classic text Introduction to Logic):
Since Cleveland has a terrific public record but a blemished private life, and Blaine has a storybook private life but a checkered public record, why not put them both where they perform best—return Blaine to private life and keep Cleveland in public life.