The S.C. House of Representatives formally opened hearings Tuesday into whether or not disgraced S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford should be impeached.
A House Judiciary subcommittee met for almost an hour on the subject, a mostly perfunctory hearing during which lawmakers sparred over whether Sanford’s five-day absence from the state in June – and subsequent misleading of state officials and the public as to his whereabouts – constituted “dereliction of duty.”
“It may constitute something, but it doesn’t constitute dereliction of duty,” Rep. Walt McLeod (D-Newberry) said. “The concept of absent without leave is a military term, it doesn’t apply to civilians.”
Rep. James Smith – the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee – disagreed.
“A commander-in-chief should be held to the same standard as a soldier in the field,” said Smith, who is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
The subcommittee did vote unanimously to broaden its inquiry and include the preliminary report of the S.C. State Ethics Commission, which became public earlier this week. That report found “probable cause” that Sanford committed thirty-seven violations of state ethics law, charges which Sanford’s attorneys have dismissed as “technical questions.”
State Rep. Greg Delleney – the author of the House impeachment resolution – made an impassioned case on behalf of his , noting how Sanford admittedly misled his staff – and by extension other state leaders and the public.
Delleney said Sanford’s conduct has brought “great shame and ridicule” on the Governor’s Office and the State of South Carolina.
That “shame and ridicule” continued Tuesday, as a new Washington Post column (actually entitled “Where’s Sanford’s shame?“) blasted the governor’s ongoing refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing.
“I guess … the distinction between right and wrong, lawful and outrageous is lost on a man who thinks nothing of leaving his four sons over Fathers Day to travel to another time zone for a tryst with his mistress,” Post editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao wrote. “And I guess that someone who thinks the public is so stupid that it will buy a phony story about hiking the Appalachian Trail will be clueless enough not to recognize real wrongdoing.”
“Too bad the citizens of South Carolina can’t do what Jenny Sanford did: just pack up and leave,” Armao added.
Nonetheless, the one “swing vote” on the committee – Rep. Jenny Horne (RINO-Dorchester) – began to stake out her rationale for opposing the resolution.
“There wasn’t an emergency” during the time Sanford disappeared, Horne said, thus rendering Sanford’s absence moot from a Constitutional standpoint.
The subcommittee scheduled at least three additional hearings over the next two weeks to review affidavits and receive testimony.
Delleney said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the hearings.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he told FITS.