Rest assured -- Gov. Mark Sanford's Christmas was merry, his turkey was fat, his gravey was rich. This multi-multi-multi-millionaire had nothing to fear in this season of awe and wonder. The state had an 8.4 percent unemployment rate -- the third highest in the nation -- and it is headed well into double digits, according to some economists.But the Guv polished off his Christmas pudding with gusto and slept well on Christmas night.
Yet even as he slept, the state unemployment benefits were running out for tens of thousands of South Carolinians and Sanford said he would not accept a federal loan to provide further benefits.
His fellow Republicans had a few words for him: "It is inconceivable that Governor Sanford hasn't already made this request of the federal government and it would be tragic if he allows jobless benefits to run out, particularly at this time of year," House Speak Bobby Harrell wrote last week in a statement which included criticism from Senate President Pro-Tem Glenn McConnell. "Make no mistake," Harrell wrote, "this is totally his decision."
"I have been in the Senate 28 years," said Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the Senate finance committee. "Never have I seen a more heartless and cruel act by a governor. ... I call upon him to end this reign of emotional trauma and request the loans."
Without the federal loan, benefits to 77,000 residents will run out at on December 31. But Sanford says he has his reasons for not accepting the federal money. Being a conservative, he does not want to accept the federal loan and incur the debt, which must be repaid to the U.S. Labor Department.
Of course, that's all well and good for Sanford. His life is not hanging in limbo with the thousands of jobless people in this state. What is hanging in the balance is Sanford's White House ambitions. What he is doing now is nothing but a ploy to burnish his conservative credentials for 2012. At the next Republican convention, you can be sure that no one will remember or care how many South Carolinians went hungry or lost their homes in 2009. All they will know is the Sanford didn't take the federal money and they will know it because he will be there crowing it from the rafters.
This is a perfect case of ideology trumping common sense and decency. Isn't that what George W. Bush was all about?