Sanford returns home to impeachment rumblings
Did South Carolina's missing governor commit a 'serious offense' by going underground in Argentina?
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A tough year for SanfordSkip to next paragraph
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Sanford has had, by all accounts, a tough year. He scored big points with conservative Republicans nationally by refusing to take some federal stimulus money for his state (ultimately losing that battle in court), but he’s faced criticism from and fought with state Republicans over budget cuts.
“It’s fairly evident that Sanford has had a rough go of it here with the stimulus, the budget, the recession, and really sort of rank disagreements between a Republican governor and Republican legislators, all exacerbated by his being out of the country and not telling people," says Charles Bierbauer, dean of the University of South Carolina's communication department and a former political reporter.
“It’s a head-fake, a diversionary tactic,” Mr. Bierbauer continues, “where we could’ve had the whole [US] Forest Service out marching the Appalachian Trail looking for this guy, when he was down in a bodega drinking Argentine wine and having a nice steak – not huddled out on the trail eating beans out of a can.”
Not exactly 'chaos'
“Look, he waited until the end of the legislative session. He knew he was going to get his teeth beat in [by the legislature], so he planned to get out of town as soon as the session was over and he did. I haven’t seen tanks in the streets. You could’ve fooled me that we were in chaos.”
Sanford, when reached Tuesday by his staff, was apparently taken aback by the furor over his mysterious absence.
No help for national party
The now-solved case of the missing governor comes at a difficult time for Republicans. Already struggling to fashion a message for an ever-more-diverse country, they are seeing some of their top names stumble on national TV, a la Bobby Jindal, and feud with network stars, a la Sarah Palin with David Letterman. Now there's Sanford's disappearance to Argentina, a country known for its legacy of the politically “disappeared” during the “Dirty War” in the late 1970s.
For at least one South Carolina politician, impeachment would be a mistake. State Sen. Ralph Anderson, a Democrat, says Sanford's absence did not rise to the level of serious misconduct. He says he would personally filibuster any impeachment hearings.
“Impeachment would create the worst image of South Carolina throughout the nation than anything else," said Senator Anderson, in a phone interview. He blamed the governor’s problems on his unwillingness to compromise with the legislature.
Whatever happens with impeachment talks in South Carolina, Sanford’s decision to leave the state is likely to have national political consequences.
“The worry is that this is going to come back as the governor who went walkabout,” says Bierbauer at University of South Carolina.