Originally created 11/22/05

Sanford: Hero or villain?



In some quarters, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is being touted as one of the best governors in the United States, a potential 2008 GOP presidential nominee. In other quarters, he's being put down as one of the nation's worst governors.

Which is it? Is Sanford one of the best? Or one of the worst? It all depends on your political perspective.

An article last April in the conservative National Review applauded Sanford's tax-cutting and economic development plans, his call for school vouchers and his support for President Bush's personal account option for Social Security. But it was the libertarian Cato Institute's rating Sanford as one of the country's best chief executives that prompted the magazine article to mark him as presidential timber.

Liberal Time magazine has a different take. It ranks the South Carolinian as the nation's third-worst governor - just behind bumbling New Orleans Gov. Kathleen Blanco and ethically challenged Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. Sanford's blamed for his state's high jobless rate, low per-capita income and Standard & Poor's recent decision to lower the state's credit rating. The article also notes, without naming them, a "growing chorus of critics, including leaders of his own GOP."

Those leaders are probably the Republicans running the General Assembly, where the power really rests in the Palmetto State. Most important decisions - including spending decisions that led to the lower credit rating - are made by the legislature. So, yes, this has led to intra-party feuds with the governor who seeks to curb spending and cut taxes.

Time shot at the wrong target, hitting the governor for what South Carolina's lawmakers did. The state would be quite different if Sanford were really in charge.

Yet Time still wouldn't like him. Governors the magazine most admires are largely big-spending tax-hikers - the wrong mold for Sanford.

The bottom line is that National Review likes Sanford for the very reasons Time dislikes him. It all depends on where you're coming from on the political spectrum. We think NR has it right.