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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Mark of Failure

Some stray thoughts on Sanford. He's in the feeding frenzy now, and while entertaining, I think that, in a fit of over-dramatization, the longer implications have been widely missed.

1) Despite the buzz, Sanford was NOT a serious contender for 2012. Charmless, melancholic, right-wing, small state governor who had proved too far right even for South Carolina!! Oh yeah, that guy beats Obama! On Hardball yesterday, Matthews and Dan Rather went on about his "nothing but bright skies" future, when it's been pretty clear for months that this guy is largely played out. The GOP-controlled legislature just overrode all ten of his recent vetoes, he lost the fight over rejecting stimulus $$ (where he's depicted himself as a heartless killer of schoolkid dreams in a state that's near the worst in the country in unemployment and education), and he's got no Senate seat prospects, with two relatively young GOPers in those slots already. Even his own state party mates (and staff) didn't respect him very much. How else did those e-mails get to The State--in November? Inside job.

2) Matthews showed a funny clip of Rush looking like someone had just told him there was no Santa Ronald Reagan Claus. "He coulda been our JFK!!!" moaned the Jabba of the Ozarks. Aww. Poor baby. Take a pill. You'll feel better. Just shows that Senor Cigar is as good a judge of talent as he is of character. Well, here's your consolation, Rushbo, he was your JFK, at least in the "adulterous, self-destructive pretty boy" sense. Which is far more of a logical connection than existed before he got caught. Let's face it. Sanford was a lightweight. Being prettier than Huckabee and farther right than the Mittster doesn't a mirror-Camelot make.

3) Remarkably, the dumbest comment on Hardball came from Howard Fineman, who lamented Sanford's fall by describing him as a "really principled guy," a "state's righter," and "not the racist kind," but a "more traditional" decentralized government guy who just thought that as a constitutional matter "as a governor, he was the equal of the President of the United States." Oh my. Oh my. Where to start? OK, let's go obvious. Howie, I know you're not a southerner, but let's pretend you took a freshman history class once, long long ago. The "traditional" form of states' rights is, like it or not, the "racist" kind. Especially if you're the governor of South Carolina and you think that you're the equivalent of the President. For better or for worse (by which I mean, for better), Neo-Calhounianism is not a neutral, "principled" position a century and a half after the Civil War. It's just not. You may have moved on, but South Carolina--my home state BTW--has not. That's why when you see the Lt. Gov giving interviews in front of the capitol building in Columbia he's got a big Confederate flag flying behind him. This is the state (and the party) whose political icons are Strom Thurmond and Lee Atwater. A modern state party built on the backs of guys like neo-rebel AG Charlie Condon and former governor, Carroll Campbell, who first won a seat to Congress by running anti-Semitic push polls against a Holocaust survivor. And remember how Bush secured the GOP 2000 nomination by running push polls in SC about McCain's black babies? Good times. Good times.

4) Since Sanford was never a credible threat for 2012--except in his own mind--the real effect here is to winnow the field a little earlier, yet in the same direction (see also, Ensign, John). Dan Rather, oddly, claimed this would help Haley Barbour. Really? Really? We're going to elect the far right governor of Mississippi, a guy who comes across as a combo b/w W.C. Fields and John Goodman in O Brother!? Not even Republicans are that nuts. What all this does is just clear the field a little earlier for Mitt, giving him a fundraising boost. Hard to see what serious challenge he gets now other than Palin. And she'll flame out fast, especially when the money-cons see her "slutty flight attendant" act coming a mile away. Which means, as much as it hurts for them now, this may be a net gain for the GOP in the 2012 race.

5) Final thought: Sanford was getting vetted by McCain as VP material. Do you think they knew?


At 12:24 PM, Blogger Will said...

"For better or for worse (by which I mean, for better), Neo-Calhounianism is not a neutral, "principled" position a century and a half after the Civil War. It's just not."

... Hilarious!

Nice post, TMcD.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Gina said...

Sanford notwithstanding, is the SC GOP so desperate for warm bodies that it's robbing the cradle? That Lt. Gov. (Light Governor) of theirs looks like he was late to fifth period P.E. class because he stopped to buy Clearasil.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Frances said...

Excellent post, TMcD!!

I guess it's a dramatic requirement for the media narrative to exaggerate Sanford's career prospects pre-fall. But the guy's approval rating in S.C. was a mere 50% BEFORE the scandal.

Only one quibble: Is Sanford pretty? I wouldn't have rated him more attractive than Huckabee. To me, he just looks like an old version of your stereotypical skinny Ayn Rand-toting libertarian undergrad.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Frances said...

As for point #5: I'd doubt that McCain's campaign knew. It's not as though they even bothered to vet their actual VP nominee.

Related thought: why are all the right-wing GOP-hero governors huge, huge nerds? Jindal? - could he be more awkward and gangly if he were 13 years old? Sanford? - sheesh, could you bear to read those drecky emails? Pawlenty? - gravitas is not exactly his strong suit.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Good points: call these guys the Alex P. Keaton conservatives, relics of an era of earnest, youthful, wingnut nerdiness. Which is, of course, why Jindal and Pawlenty have always been non-starters as GOP Prez nominees. Palin's more a "man" than they are, which is the heart of her Marlboro Moose Girl appeal. Q: were Rove and Newt the first of the nerd wave?

On Sanford as "pretty": I'm not the best judge, but he seems like prime GOP man-crush material. Relatively young, thin, athletic, bland but extremist, yet unlikely to render you under gay suspicion, as, say, a Mitt-crush might. Just a theory. Listen to that Rush clip. He certainly yearned of bromance.


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