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Good-mood conservatives

"Good-mood conservatives" Continued...

Issue: "Into the light," Dec. 3, 2005

Then Mr. Sanford did something that doesn't get mentioned much in his official biographies: Already in his 40s, at a time when many career military personnel are retiring, he joined the Air Force Reserves. Asked, "What in the world were you thinking?" he laughed and said, "My wife asked me that, too." Then he answered seriously that as a member of the International Relations Committee, he often traveled with military escorts: "I would end up on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf or with troops in Germany. I just became profoundly impressed with the United States military."

Mr. Sanford also said he came to believe that we had "disconnected the rights that go with being an American from [the] responsibilities that go with being an American." He said he wanted his four boys to know they had a responsibility to serve, and he wanted to lead his boys with his example, not just his words.

Leading by example, and striking the right chord with words, image, and action-these are hallmarks of Mr. Sanford's record as a public servant. One of his first official acts as governor was to go to Orangeburg, S.C., and apologize to a mostly black audience for the infamous Orangeburg Massacre, a nasty incident of racial hatred that had long been a blight on the state's history. When he wanted to cut state spending, he exercised the line-item veto more than 100 times on the state budget, but the legislature overrode most of his vetoes, so he brought two pigs into the rotunda of the state capitol in Columbia to make the point that there was too much pork in the budget.

South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins called the pig stunt "childish" and "insulting," and the state's liberal media delighted in Mr. Wilkins' outrage, saying it proved that the governor couldn't even get along with fellow Republicans. But Mr. Sanford had the last laugh, or squeal: He managed to keep spending growth to 1 percent, cut the state's budget deficit by more than 90 percent, and saw most of his revolutionary 16-point reform package passed.

What Time magazine called the governor's "conspicuous frugality" underlay its recent designation of him as one of the three worst governors in the country. But the American Conservative Union has honored him as the "most conservative" governor in America, while the Wilkins-led House of Representatives gained Citizens Against Government Waste's badge of shame as "Porker of the Month" for June 2004.

Mr. Sanford replied to the newsweekly's designation by saying, "I have read Time; I will still read Time. They may be left-leaning, but it's good to check in with what the left is thinking." He continues to push for using the tax code to effect social change, with his proposed "Put Parents in Charge Act" as a prime example: Under it, South Carolina residents could claim tax credits for private-school tuition, homeschooling expenses, or contributions to scholarship-granting organizations.

-Russ Pulliam is an Indiana columnist; Warren Smith is publisher of The Charlotte World

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