To the Contrary

A variation on an infamous old speech

Those of us involved in the fight against cancer have every reason to be upset with Governor Mark Sanford's veto of an increase in the S.C. state cigarette tax. In his explanation, Gov. Sanford gave the following reasoning.

"We've been calling for an increase to the cigarette tax for five years, but the question has always been what happens to the money. While I'd applaud the General Assembly for finally moving a cigarette tax proposal to my desk, I can't in good conscience sign off on something that both increases the overall tax burden and is completely irresponsible in the way it expands a host of Medicaid benefits without any way to pay for them in future years. That gives state government three alternatives to keep providing those benefits -- raise taxes, cut other programs or start encouraging people to smoke more to foot the bill."

I think he just said that while he is for it, he is against it. This reminded me of another example of political double speak. With apologies to Noah. "Soggy" Sweat (1923-1996), I have rewritten his famous 1952 "Whiskey Speech" for Governor Sanford:

"I would like to start out by saying that I am always willing to state my convictions. You have asked me how I feel about tobacco. All right, here is how I feel about tobacco.

"If when you say tobacco you mean cigs, smokes, butts, dead soldiers, stogies, coffin nails, bummers, grits, picayunes, gaspers, death sticks, 'baccy, honeydew, Ol' Virginny, cancer sticks, or those things that we acknowledge as vile, disgusting, expensive, stupid, crazy, habits that defy logic, that go against all reason, destroy families, create illness and drain peoples pockets, cause childhood illness, lead to emphysema, cancer, heart attack, stroke, wrinkles; if you mean the broad leaf scourge that has led to the second fall of man, then certainly, I am against it.

"But ... If when you say tobacco you mean the relaxing, meditating, herb of such an infatuating nature that fills men's hearts with its' sirens song, if you mean that provider of sensual pleasures, the Havana gem, the energizer of the fatigued, the cloud that makes people calmer, more relaxed and generally happier, and allows them to lead a fuller life. If you mean that blessed plant that gives you sex appeal, controls cough, has no unpleasant after taste, helps you to keep a slender figure, is packed with pleasure, and is naturally gentle and mild, that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that product, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide care for our sick, our friendless, and our needy; to build bridges and sewers and provide clean water for our citizens, then certainly I am for it.

"This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."

I have informed Gov. Sanford that he no longer has my support.