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Rutherford's 'idiots' rant shows lawmakers' frustration

A House lawmaker chided his colleagues during impeachment debate Wednesday, arguing the public viewed lawmakers as letting Gov. Mark Sanford off the hook for his misconduct.

Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, spent 17 minutes arguing Sanford should be punished.

"You idiots can't do any better than to meet four times to talk about something as serious as impeachment," Rutherford said, calling the process a "kangaroo court" and arguing the House would spend more time debating striped bass than impeachment.

House Judiciary chairman Jim Harrison, R-Richland, objected to Rutherford's language, saying it "borders on serious misconduct in this committee." Harrison asked Rutherford to apologize privately after the meeting.

The exchange was a rare public glimpse at private frustration that some lawmakers have felt about the impeachment debate. Lawmakers have said privately that outside political forces - including public opinion, House leadership and lawmakers concerned about the impact impeachment would have on the 2010 governor's race - have hamstrung the process from the beginning.

Rutherford later clarified he was expressing the public perception that lawmakers could not deal with impeachment and other issues at the same time, viewing the General Assembly as "idiots." Therefore, Rutherford argued, impeachment should not be a distraction, nor should it have been handled in four meetings.

The committee has handled the task efficiently, he said.

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After his speech, Rutherford spoke with both Harrison and House Speaker Bobby Harrell during the hearing. Both Rutherford and Harrison said they had smoothed over the issue.

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