Saturday's New York Times front-page story by Shaila Dewan from Columbia, S.C., was a hostile profile of the state's conservative Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who has been unpopular on the Times news pages ever since he dared challenge Barack Obama's expensive spending ideas.
Dewan mocked Sanford's "extreme" frugality (an odd thing to make fun of in these recessionary times) in "Rejecting Aid, One Governor Irks His Own." Showing her own frugality, Dewan squeezed two insults into her first line: Rich and cheap.
For a millionaire, Gov. Mark Sanford has a reputation for frugality that borders on the extreme.
Former employees say he has been known to require his staff to use both sides of a Post-it note. When Mr. Sanford was a congressman, he slept on a futon in his office and returned his housing allowance. And when, after he moved into the Governor's Mansion here, tax collectors declared his family's home on Sullivan's Island a secondary residence subject to a higher tax rate, he appealed and won.
Funny, you could easily imagine the Times pushing such frugal traits as endearing in a liberal Democrat trying to reduce his carbon footprint.
Left-wing Rep. Pete Stark of California claims a house in Maryland as his permanent residence to save tax money. Yet the Times has shown no interest in exposing Stark's evident hypocrisy. So why is Sanford mocked for being true to his principles?
Now, with his threat to refuse more than $700 million in federal money to stimulate the economy, Mr. Sanford's contrarian streak is taking him from South Carolina, which is second only to Michigan in unemployment, to the national stage.
On Friday, just before the Obama administration's deadline, Mr. Sanford became the last governor to certify that he would accept some stimulus money, but declared that he would not accept the $700 million largely designated for education unless the legislature agreed to use a similar amount to pay down the state's debt.
As much as Mr. Sanford's stance has increased his national stature and stoked speculation that he will be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, it has earned him the fury of many people at home.
The leaders of the South Carolina General Assembly, fellow Republicans, are counting the days until his term ends in January 2011. The state's most conservative newspapers have sharply criticized him. The superintendent of education, the president of the public university system and the director of the State Law Enforcement Division -- a member of the governor's cabinet -- have all protested his stance.
Dewan also carefully noted that two of Sanford's critics in the state senate who she quoted by name were Republican, as if to further isolate him. Not until the very end did Dewan concede at least some in South Carolina admired the governor's stand:
Keven Cohen, a conservative radio show host in Columbia, said that although most of his listeners believed Mr. Sanford should take the money, they respected what they viewed as his principled stand against the stimulus.
"I think it's refreshing in an age where there's so much bring-home-the-bacon for your district, he's been so disciplined with money," Mr. Cohen said. "No matter what your political ideology is, you have to admit that the recession has shown us the need for fiscal responsibility."