Monday, June 29, 2009

Simply put: I am disappointed

Bluffton Today

Like many of you, I am saddened and disappointed by the recent revelations concerning Governor Mark Sanford. My personal inclination is to let this matter evolve on its own without further comment. However, considering the volume of interest and concern expressed in the many calls and emails I have received on this, it seems that I need to devote this one, and only one, column to this dispiriting matter.

In my view, we need to bisect our treatment of last week’s disclosure. There is the personal side, which is one of undiluted sadness, and then there is the political/professional side, which is another thing altogether.

From my personal point of view, this whole international soap opera is very close to excruciating for me. With the exception of the woman from Argentina, nearly every one of the characters involved is a personal friend of mine. I like and admire both the governor and the first lady. Their family reminds me of my family, which was a gaggle of rambunctious boys with two loving parents. I also know most of the staff people in the governor’s office who are now under the glare of constant media. Even the security team that lost their charge for nearly a week are folks that I think highly of and chat with from time to time. While I feel bad for them all, it is Jenny and the boys that have my most heartfelt sympathy. They didn’t deserve any of this.

The political/professional side of this mess is not nearly so problematic for me. Simply put: I am disappointed. The bad behavior of the governor has created an unfortunate distraction for those of us who take seriously our commitments to deliver our state to higher ground above the current flood of economic distress. I wanted to write a column this week on what a great job Doug Robertson is doing on the Ports Authority Board. Instead, you get to hear me rant about the fallout from our governor’s big adventure.

Eventually, the General Assembly will have to sort through all the nagging questions that flow from this incident. Was public money misspent? How do three agencies tasked with protecting the chief executive manage to lose him for almost a week? Was staff complicit in the “disappearance”? How did the tracking device on the state vehicle driven by the governor become disabled?

I would prefer to use our legislative time figuring out how to educate our children, or protect our waterways, or how to create a proper tax structure that won’t collapse under financial strain, than sort out the particulars of the governor’s mid-life crisis.

Many of your calls and emails asked whether Gov Sanford should resign, be impeached, or allowed to stay and try to redeem himself. My answer is this: Your representative will not join any effort to impeach or force the governor to resign. My sense is that the succession is potentially so troublesome, we would be better off with the governor for the next eighteen months.

What may occur is the international soap opera may very well continue to grow until the Sanford family will have no chance at peace or reconciliation until the governor leaves the stage. Summer is a slow time for news and this affair has been a gold mine for the 24-hour news outlets. When you overlay the left-right battle between Fox and MSNBC, we have a story that will have long legs. All the while, our state is viewed internationally in the light of shame and ridicule.

In short: the governor can stay, but the story needs to go.