Mulling Presidential Run, Mark Sanford Says Government’s Precarious Finances Are Nation’s Biggest Threat
WASHINGTON – Back home in South Carolina after a mid-week trip to New Hampshire, former Rep. Mark Sanford said Friday he was pleased with how things went in the Granite State and his decision on whether to mount a primary challenge against President Trump will be made by Labor Day.
“It won’t be long now,” a relaxed and decidedly upbeat Sanford told The Well News.
Asked if the trip helped to crystallize his thinking about a run for the White House, he laughed.
“Let’s say I’m slowly moving toward crystallization,” he said.
“I’d say the response to my coming to New Hampshire was the whole bell curve,” Sanford said. “The full buffet. I mean, there were some folks who thought my running for president was a great idea. Others disagreed. But I in general I’d say it was more inviting than I would have thought.”
A fiscal conservative whose two stints as a congressman from South Carolina bracket the two terms he served as the state’s governor, Sanford maintains the odyssey he’s been on since early summer, when speculation over his intention began to grow, is about policy, not personality.
As he says in a video posted on his website and on YouTube, he believes the nation is in, “its most precarious financial position since the era between its founding and the Civil War.”
He says not dealing with that situation “could crush our economy, wipe out savings and even destroy our Republic.”
“There has never been so much debt. So much spending. And so much of our debt in the hands of foreign countries,” he adds.
“You get on a TV show and it’s inevitable that they try to tweak the conversation and make my decision about Trump,” said Sanford, who lost his congressional seat last year after the president endorsed his primary opponent, Katie Arrington.
A Democratic newcomer, Joe Cunningham, ultimately defeated Arrington, and flipped the long-time Republican district blue in the process.
“I always try to take the conversation back to the core message which for me is, ‘We’re spending our way into the most intensive financial storms we’ve ever seen. One that will hurt the savings, the retirement and the job prospects of working folks across our country,'” Sanford said.
“And what’s amazing to me is, the Democratic presidential candidates aren’t talking about it. The Republicans aren’t talking about it at all. I mean, we’re literally sleepwalking our way there,” he added.
Sanford said the possibility of his running for president only came about after he considered other options — like forming some kind of advocacy group — and at the urging of friends.
“They said, ‘You’ve been walking and talking about this stuff for years, what’s another couple of months of your life?'” the former representative recalled.
“I said, ‘That’s easy for you to say,’ but they continued to bring it up, saying ‘at least if you run you’ll get some degree of a microphone.’ But I said, ‘Maybe. Maybe not. I could just wind up being a piñata.’
“And that’s really what this time of consideration is all about. Trying to decide whether I can meaningfully get the word out about something I truly am concerned about,” he said. “We’re trying to get this down, going back and forth on that front.”
If he entered the race, Sanford would face steep odds to obtaining the Republican nomination, as Trump retains the support of about 90 percent of GOP voters, according to recent polls.
But he does have the bona fides to talk about the issue. He was rated the most financially conservative governor in the U.S. by the Cato Institute, and he regularly received high marks from fiscal watchdog groups like the National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense when he was in Congress.
“I guess it was Milton Friedman who once said, ‘the ultimate measure of government is what it spends,'” Sanford said. “It’s not the only measure, but it’s a very important one because it obviously drives the need for taxes. It drives future deficits. It drives the way you finance the government or don’t. And I think it’s the big issue that’s being left off the plate in this presidential debate cycle and I think it needs to be on the plate.”
The conversation then took a turn to the hypothetical. It’s one thing to espouse something on the campaign trail, it’s another to turn those promises into legislation.
Sanford was asked, if elected, he could work with centrist and fiscally responsible Democrats, to address the government’s fiscal situation in a bipartisan fashion.
“Certainly,” he said without hesitation. “I mean, when I was first elected governor of South Carolina, I inherited a billion dollar financial hole and the way we got out of it was to work together, in a bipartisan fashion, and get ourselves out of it.
“That said, I think the first thing that has to be done is educate the American people about what needs to be done and that falls on the executive, because, you’ve got the microphone,” Sanford said. “Right now, I don’t think the American public thinks we have much of a problem. They think things are pretty good. But as Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff once said, ‘the biggest threat to American life isn’t the Russians, it’s not the Chinese, it’s not the Taliban, it’s the American debt.
“So the first thing we have to do is get this issue front and center in people’s consciousness, so that they say, ‘Oh yeah, we do have a problem.’ And the beauty of the American people is that when we get together on seeing something is a problem, we’re able to fix it.”
Sanford said the same goes for the breakdown in civility in Washington.
“It’s when people get together and have a shared understanding of a problem that bipartisan legislation becomes possible,” he said. “The problem is, we’re not having those conversations. I think it was Isaac Newton who said, ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ Well, Trump, honestly, has a forceful personality that can be caustic and grating and when he’s that way to you, you’re that way right back. Now, that may be good for causing a sensation or stirring up your base, but it’s not at all good for moving the legislative process forward to make a difference in people’s lives.”
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