Reporter Robbie Brown took an ostensibly humorous look at those wacky South Carolina Republicans for the Sunday Week in Review. The story is facetiously titled, "Thank You, South Carolina," with the quotes in the original, with the headline and perhaps the idea itself cribbed from a segment from Jon Stewart's liberal talk smugfest, "The Daily Show.")
It was only when Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, reviewed his annual list of the year's most notable utterances that he detected an unexpected pattern - a disproportionate number of South Carolinians. Three of the Top 10 "most famous or important or revealing" quotations of 2009 came, he realized, from the same relatively small state. Coincidence? Probably not after the year that South Carolina has endured.
Measured in political scandals and sustained media scrutiny, 2009 was the Year of South Carolina. Consider Mr. Shapiro's list: at the top was "Keep your government hands off my Medicare," a line delivered by a town-hall attendee in Simpsonville. (The state's health-care town halls were among the nation's rowdiest.) The second entry, "You lie!," was shouted at President Obama by Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina during the president's address to Congress; it, too, concerned health care. And the third, "The governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail," was declared (perhaps wishfully) by a spokesman for South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford, who was actually in Argentina conducting an extramarital affair.
Brown noted in passing two other Republican scandals, Sen. John Ensign and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, before returning to South Carolina:
A quick, painful look in the rearview mirror: In March, before Mr. Sanford confessed to the affair and ceased to be mentioned as a future presidential candidate, he became the first governor to attempt to reject federal stimulus money. A fiscal conservative who once required his staff to use both sides of a Post-It note to save money, former employees have said, Mr. Sanford declared the $787 billion stimulus wasteful. He lost the fight and the state accepted its portion, but his stance was an early rallying cry against Democratic spending proposals.
Brown slipped in some steely Democratic partisanship under the "fun" tone.
"We here at the show can't help but notice that South Carolina has taken its rightful place amongst the states that make our lives here at the show easy," the host, Jon Stewart, said.
At year's end, South Carolinians are scratching their heads, searching for theories to explain the publicity. Donald L. Fowler, a former national chairman of the Democratic Party and native South Carolinian, said the state had become "an accentuated microcosm of the hostile, resentful attitude," an extra colorful prism into red-state thinking.