Thursday, May 21, 2009
Governor Sanford out of his league on lawsuit
Last week VUI pointed out that Henry McCaster’s attack on Craig’s List could come make him look weak and petty. After Craig’s List fired a lawsuit back at McMaster, it is becoming clear that McMaster’s move on Craig’s List could be a stunt too far in the long run. McMaster had the chance to declare victory when Craig’s List reformed its adult section. Instead McMaster pushed, and now he faces civil litigation as he is almost forced to push would likely be a weak criminal case against the website.
Governor Mark Sanford faces the same problem. Rumors inside and outside the Governor’s Mansion have Sanford running for the White House in 2012. As such, it is understandable that Governor Sanford wanted to make a principled stand against the stimulus money coming from the Obama stimulus package to shore up his standing among conservatives in Iowa and beyond.
If Governor Sanford would have stopped at the veto, he could have claimed that he stood up against his own party, on principle, and vetoed a budget using the Obama stimulus money. Ads could have been crafted without giving major ammunition to other Republican candidates and the Obama team.
Yet, as he has done time and time again, Governor Mark Sanford does not know when to stop. The Governor is reportedly filing a lawsuit in federal court to stop the General Assembly from using the stimulus money in this year’s budget. If he loses, he might still claim something, but if he wins, it will derail his White House dreams.
Here is how. His Republican opponents and the Obama team will portray Sanford as a Governor so hellbent on his own out of the mainstream views that he hired high priced lawyers to make sure kids in public schools did not get the funding that they needed, that public safety officers did not get the money that they needed, and the prison system did not get the money it needed to keep prisoners behind bars. Further, they will talk about the chaos and the cost to South Carolina to have its General Assembly hauled back into session.
Of course, those who support Sanford and those especially who are paid well to espouse his opinion through organizations and websites will tout Sanford’s lawsuit as an act of true courage. Perhaps it is. It also takes courage to set one’s own head on fire. That does not mean that is the smart thing to do.
There is simply no way that Mark Sanford can stand up in Ohio or Florida in the fall of 2012 and explain to the moderate voters there that typically decide the Presidential election that using lawyers and lawsuits to deny money to core services is something they should buy into. The rhetoric and vetoes were a stand of principle. The lawsuit is an act of ego and self political destruction. It evens opens criticism from more conservative elements of the Republican Party that loathes bringing lawsuits into politics.
For all those pundits out there who think VUI is wrong on this, fair enough. We will see come 2012, if not before. Seven years ago, Mark Sanford won despite his eccentric ways because South Carolina is a very conservative state. Add to that, as much as VUI hates to admit it, but Sanford came across as the nicer guy compared to Peeler and then to Hodges. Tommy Moore had no real chance from the start. In other words, Sanford did well hitting the pitches in AA ball.
But the race for the White House is the major leagues. Like in major league baseball, everyone is very good and a mistake is amplified one hundred times more than in the minors. If the Governor pursues his lawsuit, it is a huge mistake, one that will likely even keep him for the Republican nomination. Even if President Obama fails miserably in the next three years, his personal charisma will only allow him to sink so low. Republicans will be looking for a winner. Frankly, it is hard to see that winner being someone who sued his own legislature to cut off funds his people will already have to pay for. The ads will be numerous.
One could read like this, “Governor Mark Sanford hired high priced lawyers to sue his state to cut funding to prisons so thousands of prisoners could be turned loose on South Carolina streets.” Another could read, “With the lowest education performance in the country, Governor Mark Sanford sued his state to make sure teachers were laid off and class room sizes were expanded.”
Sanford and his people play the game of politics like checkers, swapping jumps. The folks in the major leagues of politics play the game of politics like chess, thinking two or three moves ahead. The Obama team and some Republican teams are likely hoping Sanford wins his lawsuit. Ironically, Sanford’s team would probably think winning the lawsuit was a great victory.
If the Governor wants to be President, he is playing a dangerous game and he and his well funded team appear to be out of their league on this issue.