Commentary: Romney might wish to decline Haley's endorsement

Issac Bailey is a columnist for The Sun-News, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Issac Bailey is a columnist for The Sun-News, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. MCT

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney would have been better off had he won the endorsement of President Barack Obama instead of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.

Haley officially began backing Romney a couple weeks ago, was with him in Myrtle Beach recently and will surely be in town stumping on his behalf again between now and the Jan. 16 Republican presidential debate.

But Obama, the commie-socialist-Kenyan-terrorist-Manchurian-candidate who wants the federal government to kill old and disabled people in death panels – I’ve heard him described in those terms, and worse, by readers – is more popular in deep red South Carolina than Haley, the woman the national media still portrays as a rising star and influential with the types of voters Romney needs to win the state’s Jan. 21st primary.

There’s just a small problem with that analysis. South Carolinians of all stripes have soured on Haley in seemingly-record time.

According to a Winthrop University poll, Obama’s approval rating in South Carolina is 44.8 percent.

Haley’s is 34.6 percent, with only a little more than half of Republicans, her base, approving.

That’s in a state in which every statewide elected official’s seat is filled by a Republican; a state that has two Republicans representing it in the U.S. Senate and only one Democrat, compared to five Republicans, in the U.S. House of Representatives; a state where the GOP has essentially controlled things in Columbia for the past quarter of a century.

Political analysts cite Haley’s rough relationship with the General Assembly and the struggling economy as reasons for the low rating. But those don’t make sense, given that former Gov. Mark Sanford’s relationship with legislators was more intense – he famously took a couple of piglets into the Statehouse to illustrate what he deemed pork spending – and the state’s economy has been weak for quite sometime.

I think it’s simpler than that. Haley doesn’t seem genuine.

She ran on a platform of transparency, of making sure the public could easily discern the choices their leaders were making and why, in order to better be able to judge and assess their performances. And she claimed to be a stalwart of the people’s money.

But since her swearing-in, she’s done just about everything to make it impossible for the public to know what she is doing and why, even going out of her way to hide or delete emails or using personal accounts to dodge open document requirements.

What’s worse, she’s allowed what seems like a non-stop campaign built upon empty rhetoric to undermine her own image and waste public dollars.

We now know Haley created a sham of a health care committee to supposedly study the feasibility of South Carolina creating an insurance exchange that will be required under the new health care law. Experts believe such exchanges, if done well, can provide the type of competition needed to help stem the tide of out-of-control health care costs.

In March, Haley established by executive order a non-partisan “South Carolina Health Planning Committee” to build trust and determine if South Carolina should establish its own health insurance exchange, which will be required under the Affordable Care Act.

But a few weeks later, Haley wrote about her real intentions in an email her office tried to hide from The Charleston Post & Courier – in clear violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

“The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange,” Haley wrote.

Her actions are disturbing on a variety of levels. She wasted the time of people in this state who are sincerely trying to make health care access more widely available statewide. She essentially forced the group to waste at least $100,000 of a $1 million federal grant – wasted taxpayer money.

Her obstinacy has made it more – not less – likely the federal government will have to put together the insurance exchanges, robbing the state of the opportunity to design it with the unique contours of South Carolina in mind. Just last week, the Health and Human Services Department said states will take the lead in determining the benefits that every health plan will soon have to cover, according to The Associated Press. That means committees such as the ones Haley used as a political foil will be even more important.

And the email exposes an unserious mindset concerning health care reform in a state where roughly a fifth of the citizens have no health insurance and its population is among the unhealthiest in the nation.

If she wasn’t serious about reforming South Carolina’s health care system – maybe because she thinks it would be too hard or not worth her time – she could have simply turned down the federal money.

She could have continued an all-out public, rhetorical attack on the federal health reform legislation, which would have pleased many in her base.

She could have been honest.

That wouldn’t have solved a critical important problem, but at least it would not have created others.

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