Conservatives I Love and Why I Love Them

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 05, 2005 9:39 AM

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana:

Mr. Pence has a strong pro-life record and has displayed support for faith-based initiatives. When the Bush administration was trying to figure out how to get federal grants to faith-based groups, he joined with other members of Congress in suggesting the simpler approach of tax credits so that citizens could send money right to the charity of their choice. "When I give $1,000 to a rescue mission, I've probably given four times [more] than if I sent the money to the bureaucracy in Washington," he says. "It actually reaches the homeless man and pays for a meal for him."

With his mix of social and economic issues, he is showing the capability for uniting Republicans in a way that took Ronald Reagan to the presidency. While the Giulianis and McCains appeal to economic conservatives, the key to GOP leadership, as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have shown, is appealing to both wings of the party.

And, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford:

Already in his 40s, at a time when many career military personnel are retiring, he joined the Air Force Reserves. Asked, "What in the world were you thinking?" he laughed and said, "My wife asked me that, too." Then he answered seriously that as a member of the International Relations Committee, he often traveled with military escorts: "I would end up on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf or with troops in Germany. I just became profoundly impressed with the United States military." ...

When he wanted to cut state spending, he exercised the line-item veto more than 100 times on the state budget, but the legislature overrode most of his vetoes, so he brought two pigs into the rotunda of the state capitol in Columbia to make the point that there was too much pork in the budget.

There's a slight buzz about Pence someday becoming Speaker of the House and a slighter buzz about Sanford running for President. They're both smart, inspiring, appropriately self-deprecating, and gutsy (Sanford's pushing to reform Medicaid and the South Carolina public education system at the same time). I don't doubt we'll hear more from both of them. I look forward to it.

My first experience with Pence was when I saw him give this speech in 2004.

Sanford earned a special place in my heart for all time with that pig stunt. I was living just a few miles north of the South Carolina border in North Carolina when that happened, and the sputtering outrage from big-spenders and newspaper editorial pages around the state was priceless. On the other hand, all the regular South Carolinians I knew got the point and were laughing along with Sanford.