Echo Chamber – Jeb Bush Visit Stirs SC Political Pot September 16, 2007Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
ACCUSATIONS ALREADY FLYING A MONTH BEFORE SCHEDULED OCTOBER VISIT
FITSNews – September 16, 2007 – If you could peek inside former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush‘s brain right now, what would you see? After FITSNews broke the story of Bush’s upcoming South Carolina visit earlier this month, two distinct schools of thought have emerged on his imminent role in our state’s ongoing GOP Civil War.
Conservative Republicans allied with S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford say the President’s brother is a lifelong fiscal conservative who is “100% supportive” of Sanford’s agenda and “fully aware” that some GOP legislators will be targeted for defeat in 2008 for their fiscal recklessness. On the other hand, status quo Republicans responsible for South Carolina’s recent spending orgy insist Bush was “duped by the governor” into agreeing to participate in a fundraiser for the pro-Sanford group Reform SC.
Additionally, rumors are swirling that Bush is being pressured to cancel his October visit by U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins and Mitt Romney strategist Warren Tompkins, the two men most responsible for President George W. Bush’s 2000 victory in South Carolina – not to mention the state’s free-spending “Republican” majority.
Current House Speaker Bobby Harrell has even been accused of working with Wilkins to get the Bush visit cancelled, a charge Harrell’s office denies.
“We wish (Sanford) would give us a list because if some of these Republicans are so bad, maybe the (House GOP) Caucus shouldn’t be supporting them,” said Harrell spokesman Greg Foster.
Meanwhile Tompkins, who helped elect most of the liberal Republicans at the State House, has been embroiled in a Campaign 2008 scandal involving potentially illegal negative campaigning directed against former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.
THE SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE STATE
In an e-mail announcing Jeb Bush’s visit earlier this month, Sanford Chief of Staff Tom Davis wrote that “many folks believe that conservative ideas are being advanced in Columbia – but all too often they are not. No question, there are some great conservative legislators serving in Columbia. But there are also far too many who campaigned for election on a conservative platform and then failed to follow through on their promises.”
Davis’ e-mail – as vanilla as it was – nonetheless sparked a firestorm within the S.C. Republican Party as numerous iterations of a supposed “Sanford hit list” began circulating within the Palmetto echo chamber.
Shortly after the Davis e-mail hit on September 5, however, is when our sources say that calls began going out to Palmetto politicos with connections to the Bush family.
Their supposed objective? To either put the brakes on Jeb’s visit entirely or at the very least gum up the works enough to minimize its impact.
A TALE OF TWO BROTHERS
Although bound by blood, there’s no disputing the fact that George and Jeb Bush are as different as night and day when it comes to their commitment to fiscal conservatism. The President just this week was blasted by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan for his refusal to crack down on wasteful spending in Washington, whereas brother Jeb consistently endeared himself to fiscal conservatives during his two terms as governor of Florida.
“Most governors have been committed to the public sector. They grew up knowing and supporting government,” a leading taxpayer advocate in Florida said at the end of ‘King Jeb’s’ reign. “He grew up with a disdain and believed in limited government.”
The Sunshine State cut taxes and government influence dramatically under Bush, and watched its coffers and employment rolls swell as a result. President Bush, on the other hand, presided over a massive increase in federal spending that ballooned our national deficit, slowed the post-9/11 economic recovery and ultimately cost his party control of the U.S. Congress.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE?
Some believe Jeb Bush’s October visit to South Carolina is nothing short of an announcement of his future political ambitions. The younger Bush is not running for President in 2008, but should a Democrat capture the White House next fall (as many believe is likely), his name will doubtless be on the shortlist for the GOP nomination in 2012.
With most political experts agreeing that the next two election cycles will result in fiscal conservative gains in the South Carolina General Assembly, there’s a strong possibility that Jeb is playing to the future Republican majority rather than the current batch of GOP leaders.
After all, as former national Democratic Party Chairman Don Fowler said recently, “Ideologically, the (S.C.) legislature is no different from the legislature 50 years ago when it was Democratic. They changed partisan identity because that’s the way the political winds were blowing. But it’s no different than it was 50 years ago.”
Perhaps Jeb senses the Palmetto State’s political winds blowing once again … this time back to the pro-business, low tax, less government roots of the Republican party.
AN UNDECLARED WAR
With a clash of ideologies clearly brewing, Sanford has already begun exhibiting some of the same reticence that cost him dearly during the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, when he missed golden opportunities to leverage his sky-high approval ratings into the election of a more fiscally-conservative state legislature. With liberal bloggers like Brad Warthen attacking his recent aggressiveness, Sanford remains curiously reluctant to be branded as “running against the legislature,” which is odd considering that’s exactly what his GOP antagonists have accused him of doing since his first day in office five-and-a-half years ago.
Of course with the filing deadline for State House races still more than six months away, Sanford still has plenty of time to stiffen his resolve.
Ironically, our assessment of the governor’s time in office thusfar is that he has actually been too willing to compromise on big-ticket reforms like income tax relief and government restructuring, yet inexplicably inflexible and obstinate on minor fiscal matters that a smart politician would have traded in a heartbeat to achieve larger gains. Supporters of the governor argue that the Republican-controlled legislature has never been serious about real reform, and that horse-trading on small-ticket items would have accomplished nothing.
Either way, the relationship between the governor’s office and so-called Republicans in the General Assembly is now clearly beyond salvage, and with only one election cycle remaining between now and the end of Sanford’s second and final term as governor, every chip must be laid on the table.