Sanford slaps back at Obama, DNC over stimulus

The South Carolina governor, the subject of a DNC ad attacking his opposition to the bill, asks the president to call a halt to the spot.

Published March 16, 2009 6:30PM (EDT)

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford apparently wants to keep his battle with Democrats over the stimulus going, at least for now. And why not? He's become the GOP's most prominent anti-stimulus campaigner recently, and -- for now, at least -- that can't hurt him if, as expected, he throws his hat in the ring come 2012.

Last week, Sanford announced that he'd seek a waiver to use some of the stimulus funds directed to his state not for new spending but to pay down debt, and compared the stimulus to Zimbabwe. Then, the Democratic National Committee released an ad hitting him for his opposition to the legislation, accusing him of playing politics while running a state with the nation's second-worst unemployment rate.

This week, Sanford struck back, issuing a statement in which he accuses President Obama of breaking his promises to change politics:

Over the past year, candidate Obama promised a break from "politics as usual" -- something that I joined with millions of Americans in indeed hoping for. I did so because my entire time in public life has reinforced how needed change is from "politics as usual," and because for better or worse I have always tried to debate ideas on their merits.

My opposition to the stimulus bill was based on the merits as I saw them and has been well-chronicled, but rather than engaging our administration in that debate, Obama's Democratic National Committee instead chose to launch a political attack ad against us for not supporting the stimulus plan exactly as the Obama administration saw fit...

Equally disturbing is the fact that this ad was launched before the White House even bothered to respond to our request to use just one quarter of the available stimulus money to our state to pay down a portion of our high state debt... I don't think this approach of targeting ads against anyone who sees an issue a little differently represents the kind of so-called "change" many people were voting for in November.

In his inaugural, President Obama proclaimed 'an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.' It's in that spirit that I'd respectfully ask him to end this ad, as it shatters the idea of change he so well articulated this fall - and to ask his Democratic National Committee to put an end to this mudslinging and get back to an honest debate about the future of our country.

As you might expect, the DNC isn't exactly rushing to pull the ad. "At a time when South Carolina is suffering from the second highest unemployment rate in the country and more and more families are facing foreclosure, leaders from both parties have asked Governor Sanford to stop playing politics with $700 million in federal funds," spokesman Brad Woodhouse responded. "South Carolina’s working families cannot afford for their governor to be distracted by empty political posturing."

Update: The AP reports that the Obama administration has now officially rejected Sanford's request for the waiver.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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