In an interview with Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on Sunday, CBS’s Bob Schieffer wondered: "Do you think that Republicans now should sort of shift the emphasis, though, from stressing social and family values and shift to more – to economic issues and be a party of economic conservatives rather than putting so much emphasis on these social issues?"
Schieffer began the Face the Nation interview by asking Barbour about the sex scandal involving South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford: "How much damage has it done to a Republican Party that is already on the ropes?...Your chances in 2012? This is the party that’s called itself the party of family values and so on and so forth. You’re going through a series of scandals now. This is not the first. Just like in the past, Democrats – we have seen Democrats involved in things like this. What does this do to the image of the party and how you try to project yourself and present yourself as a party, Governor?"
In addition to wondering about the fate of the party nationally, Schieffer also asked about Sanford’s political future: "Should he also resign as the governor of South Carolina?...This seems to go beyond just the fact that, you know, he became involved in this relationship. He was basically missing in action for five days... Isn’t this more than just a sex scandal here? I mean, this is dereliction of duty, isn’t it?"
It’s interesting that Schieffer never leveled such a charge against Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. While interviewing Republican Senator Orrin Hatch on the September 13, 1998 Face the Nation, Schieffer excused the President’s actions as sleazy, but not worthy of impeachment or resignation:
Senator, a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Zoe Lofgren, told CBS News Friday night the President should be impeached for threatening the Constitution. She says you can't impeach a President because he's a bum, or you ought not to. Hasn't this come down to just about that? I mean, once you get through the Starr report - and I, like you, sat down yesterday and read it from start to finish, all 400-plus pages - once you get past all the sex and the nasty business, there's not much there besides a President who's trying to, and he did lie, to get around a marital infidelity.
Here is a transcript of the exchange:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Then we’ll turn to the scandal in South Carolina involving Governor Mark Sanford. How much damage has it done to a Republican Party that is already on the ropes? We’ll ask the new head of the Republican Governors Association, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who is already being talked about now as one of the possibilities for the Republican presidential nomination next time.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And we are beginning this morning with those scandals back home – the scandal that rocked the Republican Party when governor – the governor of South Carolina suddenly showed up after being missing for five days, and disclosed that he was involved with a woman from Argentina. He said he was stepping down as chairman of the Republican Conference of Governors. He was succeeded by Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Governor Barbour is with us this morning from Jackson, Mississippi. Welcome to you, Governor. You were slated to take over this post. You’re stepping in a little early because Mark – Mark Sanford has resigned as head of the Republican Governors Conference. Thank you for coming. Should he also resign as the governor of South Carolina?
HALEY BARBOUR: Well, I don’t think so, but that’s up to the people of South Carolina. But no, I don’t think so.
SCHIEFFER: This seems to go beyond just the fact that, you know, he became involved in this relationship. He was basically missing in action for five days. He’s the governor of Mississippi, he wasn’t there – of South Carolina. He was not there. People didn’t know where he was. I can remember one time several years ago, Governor Barbour, when you were supposed to be on Face the Nation and you canceled at the last minute, you said, ‘I’m very sorry, there’s a hurricane coming and I’ve got – I’ve got to make sure we’re all set and prepared to do that.’ Isn’t this more than just a sex scandal here? I mean, this is dereliction of duty, isn’t it?
BARBOUR: You know, Bob, I don’t know all the details. But I’ve been in politics a long time. I’ve made it my policy, I just don’t talk about people’s personal problems. I don’t – I don’t think it’s appropriate, I don’t think it’s polite, and I don’t think it – it achieves any purpose. The people of South Carolina will decide that. For us at the Republican Governors Association, we’re just going to keep focused on what we were doing to start with. And I don’t believe what happens in South Carolina will change one vote in the governor’s race in New Jersey. And of course that’s what we’re focused on now, is the New Jersey and the Virginia governors races this November.
SCHIEFFER: But what about the Republican Party in general? Your chances in 2012? This is the party that’s called itself the party of family values and so on and so forth. You’re going through a series of scandals now. This is not the first. Just like in the past, Democrats – we have seen Democrats involved in things like this. What does this do to the image of the party and how you try to project yourself and present yourself as a party, Governor?
HALEY BARBOUR: Well, these issues have been bipartisan issues, as you note, Bob. But for us as Republicans, I think the biggest issue about this or about spending or about other policy issues is Republicans need to do what they say they’re going to do. I mean, that’s the issue. Are you going to do what you say you’re going to do? And I think that’s what feeds this – feeds this. But the good thing for us as governors is we have 22 Republican governors. And on public policy, they have done what they said they were going to do. They’ve – they’ve worked very hard to control spending. You know, governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, we have to balance our budgets. It’s not easy. And you’re going to have to make tough decisions. People expect you to do that, and for a conservative Republican like me, people expect you to try to control spending. In other states where you have got Dem – liberal Democrat governors, maybe they expect tax increases, but people need you to do what you said you’re going to do. And that’s the big thing, regardless of what the issue is.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think that Republicans now should sort of shift the emphasis, though, from stressing social and family values and shift to more – to economic issues and be a party of economic conservatives rather than putting so much emphasis on these social issues?
HALEY BARBOUR: Well look, the American people right now are very concerned about our country’s future. And they’re very concerned about this incredible burst of spending – a surge of spending unlike anything in American history, where every month there’s a new way to spend a trillion dollars. They’re very concerned about taxes. Friday the House of Representatives, by a very small handful of votes, passed the President’s energy policy, which is a gigantic hidden energy tax, plus a whole lot of open energy taxes. People are concerned about when they get trillions of dollars of taxes added onto them. And then they’re worried about the debt that is being generated by this and what it’s going to do to our children. So what should Republicans be talking about? They need to be talking about the issues that are on people’s minds. There are people concerned about social issues. There are people concerned about the Obama administration’s policies, about the Second Amendment and the ownership of guns. But what Republicans and anybody else ought to be talking about are the issues that affect people’s lives.
And right now I think the American people’s greatest concern is about our economy and the policies of this administration which most people don’t think are going in the right direction because they’re very concerned about this incredible spending. After all, Bob, a lot of people realize excess money supply, spending, these were some of the things that got us into the trouble that we’re in – all of this sub-prime mortgage business about lending people money who didn’t have the ability to pay it back. All of this sounds very familiar to the American people and what the Obama administration is doing now.