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Assault on America, Day 257: Mark Sanford run the epitome of a #NeverTrump fool’s errand

Mark Sanford Announces
He's (or she's) in it to win it. It's something we hear a lot in sports, culture, politics and life. Heck, even grade schoolers at a spelling bee only take part because they figure on being the last one standing.

With all the media hubbub over the firing of Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton and the Democrats’ third presidential debate last week, the news concerning the Republicans' own budding presidential nomination scrum received little mention or notation. Much has been written about the possibility of -- and in some circles, the need for -- a Republican primary challenger for President Donald Trump next year. Well, Trump got a semi-legitimate one in the form of former South Carolina governor and representative Mark Sanford.

Of course, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and one-term former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh had already declared their candidacies, but those two weren’t afforded much fanfare by media outlets. Sanford’s announcement was taken seriously, if for nothing else because he plans to force the president to address a topic he’s clearly not interested in worrying about, namely the growing annual federal budget deficit and its contribution to the practically unmanageable national debt.

Whether Sanford’s truly “in it to win it” is quite another matter. Trump remains exceedingly popular with Republicans. So why bother with the gesture, Mark? David Sherfinski reported at The Washington Times, “Former Gov. Mark Sanford … said he will mount a primary challenge to President Trump in 2020, jumping into the race after publicly toying with the idea for several months.

“He said there needs to be a ‘conversation’ on what it means to be a Republican. ‘I think that as a Republican Party we have lost our way,’ said the former South Carolina governor on ‘Fox News Sunday.’

“Asked if he honestly thinks he has a shot at winning, Mr. Sanford said: ‘I’m saying, you never know.’ ‘The thing that has been lacking in this debate has been an earnest and real conversation on debt and deficits and government spending, and I find it astounding to watch the number of Democratic debates that I’ve seen and no mention, no conversation on where we’re going with regard to debt,’ he said.”

About the last part, Sanford is most definitely correct. Democrat presidential candidates are much more preoccupied with spilling their multi-trillion dollar proposals to “fix” the world climate and provide universal “free” healthcare to talk about the 800 lb. gorilla in the treasury building. While it’s true they’ve all more or less happily talked about hiking taxes on the “rich” to pay for their big government boondoggle fantasies, I don’t recall a time when they’ve been directly confronted with the subject of reducing government spending, services and/or doing something drastic to alter the debt equation.

Fret about borrowing way too much money? That’s so yesterday! Besides, there’s a virtual non-stop supply of cash to fund everything the Democrats want, right?

Maybe it’s because the three polling leaders -- Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren are all in their early or late seventies and figure the debt calamity is something succeeding generations must grapple with long after they’d assumed permanent residency in their final resting place at a presidential library. There’s comfort in knowing it’s someone else’s problem, and the immediacy of dealing with each fabricated “existential crisis” trumps any terrestrial concerns over money and financing.

Accountants will handle the numbers. Hand them an invoice and they’ll make sure it’s paid. Doesn’t matter if it’s a bill for copier supplies or an order for a trillion bucks for a sparkling new federal giveaway program. We need votes! We need votes! Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Such is the eternal motivator of Democrats, whose default position is taxing the wealthy to “pay their fair share” and the alternative is to blame the federal government’s fiscal dilemma on Republicans and too much defense spending. Everyone with a brain understands the big entitlement programs -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- are the true drivers of federal red ink, but touching the proverbial third-rail of politics is distasteful to members of both parties.

Trump isn’t immune from criticism on this issue. He’s had several opportunities where he could’ve made a bigger stand against the irresponsible spending ways of the swamp (which certainly includes the leaders of his own party) and instead made deals with the devil(s) to preserve political expediency. Wall money, big Pentagon boosts and the like is great, but what about the billions wasted every day of the year?

So maybe having Sanford nip at Trump’s heels on spending will turn out to be a good thing. The notorious South Carolina reformed lothario will get all the media time he seeks from the anti-Trump cable news channels. It’s a stretch to think there will be Republican intra-party debates, but who knows, if Sanford were somehow able to corral about five percent of the GOP primary vote (based on polls, but will any be taken?), it’s conceivable there’d be some interest.

According to Sherfinski’s article, in addition to talking about debt, Sanford said he wants to “start a conversation” on tariff and trade policies as well as “humility” and a general approach to politics.

Speculating on what such a “conversation” would sound like, here’s thinking it’d be a short one. Sanford: “As a country we need to talk about the money we’re spending and the impact it’s having on our kids’ and grandkids’ futures, the ones who will shoulder the burden of paying it back after we’re long gone. We also should take a good hard look at the tariff and trade practices of the Trump administration since the new ways represent a radical departure from what Republicans have always advocated for -- free and fair trade and good relations with our economic partners.”

After shooting Sanford a nasty look, Trump clears his throat and says: “You’re a loser. I’ve got a 94 percent approval rating among Republicans and yyuuuggeee crowds at my rallies which proves people think I know a lot more about this subject than you do. The fact is when you had the chance to do something about these problems our people are facing you were off in Argentina, no one knew where you were and now you have no credibility. You and the other two stooges (Weld and Walsh) should stop joining with the enemy of the people, the fake news media, and quit lying about me and my drive to Make America Great Again.”

Wild applause erupts as the frustrated moderators work feverishly to make Trump look like a dunce. It wouldn’t work.

As someone who likes and appreciates Trump’s never-back-down style, it’s easy to see how little time this “conversation” would last. Sanford won’t get far and the most likely scenario is he'll get a little bit of attention in the beginning and be forgotten long before January 1, 2020 hits.

Nevertheless, some respectable commentators actually think it’s a good thing Sanford’s making the attempt. Erick Erickson commented at The Resurgent, “There are a lot of Republicans looking to cast protest votes because they are tired of the drama or they never embraced the President. But that protest vote would have to come in the general election.

“Mark Sanford is a good man whose issues played out in public. He is unquestionably conservative and unquestionably devoted to smaller, more responsible government. He also is probably wasting his time, but I commend him for trying.

“Those serious about protesting the President from within the GOP should not waste their time with Joe Walsh. They should look at Mark Sanford instead.”

Here’s where most conservatives depart with the still respected Erickson. It’s just as big a waste of time getting behind Sanford as it is Walsh or Weld. For the reasons addressed above, conservatives would welcome a “conversation” about spending and the national debt but it’s not going to be fostered through Don Quixote-like charges at political windmills.

Just like with every other presidential primary race, you have to envision where Sanford’s support would come from. Trump boasts near unanimous backing from every GOP “lane” there is, save for the perpetually disgruntled swampy establishment one. But even there, a problem doesn’t really exist. Paul Ryan is back in Wisconsin and Mitt Romney hasn’t said a whole lot lately. It could be Mitt’s realized there isn’t much to do as a junior senator in a legislative body that moves at a snail’s pace.

#NeverTrumpers in the media -- such as George Will, Max Boot, Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol -- might go nuts with excitement at Sanford’s gutsy but futile run, but none of them command measurable influence with the grassroots any longer.

Erickson likely recognized at some juncture it was pointless to continue objecting to Trump just for the sake of getting his complaints on the record. Trump wasn’t the first choice of many of us but he clearly was superior in a two-person race to Hillary Clinton. And his presidency has been a pleasant surprise to many. Sure, there’s been turmoil (like the hasty ending to John Bolton’s tenure) but the swamp needed someone like Trump to come in and stir things up.

While it’s correct that spending and debt aren’t given enough credence a good number of lingering problems are being worked on by Trump and his people. Do you think immigration policy would be better under Mark Sanford? Or Bill Weld? Or Joe Walsh? Or any of the 20 or so Democrats left on their side of the stage?

How about judicial appointments? Or the promotion of all-things energy production? Foreign policy? Would Sanford make NATO pay its fair share?

One can’t necessarily blame Mark Sanford for challenging Trump in the 2020 GOP primaries, but it’s open to debate whether it’s a net positive or just a fool’s errand. The “conversation” regarding debt and spending needs to take place either way -- and who’s to say Sanford should lead it?

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