By Andy Brack
Letâ€™s give a big hand to gubernatorial candidate Andre Bauer: Heâ€™s wrapped up the intolerant, racist, elderly vote with recent comments linking government assistance to stray animals. Maybe all the lieutenant governor now has to do to garner the GOP nod is expand his base by speeding more cars, crashing more planes and punching more walls.
What he really should do is save the state from four years of being the continuing butt of national jokes. How? By dropping out of the governorâ€™s race. Regardless of your political party, South Carolina just canâ€™t afford Bauerâ€™s immaturity and mouth to get in the way of where the state needs to go.
After years of bad behavior with planes and cars, Bauerâ€™s mouth has finally caught up with him. At issue is his deplorable comment last week on taking away government assistance for people who didnâ€™t pass drug tests or attend PTA meetings. At an Upstate political gathering, Bauer recalled his grandmother telling him to stop feeding strays: â€œYou know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better.â€
In a Sunday story in The Greenville News, Bauer said he didnâ€™t regret the comments, but said using the â€œstray animalsâ€ comment probably wasnâ€™t the best metaphor.
By Tuesday, the spin was in full control. He told The State in a story printed that morning that he regretted the comment because it was being used as an analogy, not a metaphor.
By Tuesday afternoon, he was throwing more gas on the fire by â€œexplainingâ€ his comment about strays to the S.C. Radio Network: â€œâ€œIf you canâ€™t take care of them, take them to the animal shelter. But what happens when you feed them all the time and they become dependent of the food and you go on vacation? Theyâ€™ve learned how to not take care of themselves. Theyâ€™ve become dependent on you, so what happens to them? I should have never used that metaphor. I never dreamed people in the media would try to turn this thing around instead of saying â€˜hey letâ€™s have an honest discussion.â€
Bauerâ€™s words have been roundly criticized and are, as the Times and Democrat of Orangeburg wrote â€œnot some kind of Democratic overreaction.â€ The Rock Hill Herald said he was reckless and used â€œspectacularly insensitive language.â€ Bauer was â€œnot only cruel and derogatory, but counterproductive,â€ according to the Myrtle Beach Sun-News. And Warren Bolton at The State, who said he ate free lunches when he was in school, noted Bauerâ€™s remarks were â€œan affront to every parent and child who might not come from financially stable homes.â€
Whatâ€™s bothersome, though with Bauerâ€™s cycle of telling the comment to a friendly Upstate audience followed by not regretting it, regretting it and then saying it again, is the very real possibility that what he did was a calculated political move to inject some life into a dull, somewhat sputtering campaign.
Like him or not, Bauer long has been a determined, savvy campaigner who shouldnâ€™t be underestimated. Just ask Sen. Phil Leventis or former Rep. Robert Barber, both of whom narrowly lost to Bauer in statewide races.
But Bauerâ€™s brand of unenlightened, retail politics isnâ€™t what will move South Carolina forward. Leaders of all political stripes are calling for real leadership in wake of the disaster of the Sanford years. And real leadership is not something that Bauer has shown through the years. Instead of governing, heâ€™s been the eternal candidate who has run his mouth.
South Carolina deserves better from its next governor than someone who kowtows to the lowest common denominator. After the last week, it deserves just about anybody but Andre.
Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report. He can be reached at: email@example.com.