I’ve spent the past 36 hours dramatically changing my thoughts about how I might speak to the unusual story of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s mysterious disappearance. Mark was the head of the Republican Governor’s Association (now headed by Haley Barbour), and considered a potential candidate for the 2012 Presidential nomination.
First I thought, after hearing that he had been missing for several days after driving off in a bodyguard’s SUV, that this guy was a little weird. I could, at that point, conceive of only one type of circumstance that might explain this behavior, and that would be some kind of kidnapping or other threat by an outside party. Barring such a circumstance, I figured running for President didn’t sound like something that could be on his calendar… disappearing on purpose and intentionally avoiding everyone with no explanation just didn’t sound like an event that would instill anyone’s confidence. The good news, I thought, is that he certainly hadn’t disappeared because of an extramarital affair. No one would draw this much attention just so they could spend time with an alternate squeeze.
Later on I heard he was hiking in the Appalachian Trail. Clearing his head, evidently. According to his staff, this was not unusual, so my thoughts about the man didn’t change much, just continuing to seem very odd and unlikely to be a kidnapping but rather just some eccentricity. South Carolina officials were discussing passing on the powers of the office to the Lieutenant Governor Andrew Bauer. His staff stated they could reach him is necessary. Of course, the more this went on, the more convinced I was that running for President wasn’t going to work out. But at least it can’t possibly be an affair.
Then this morning the news came out that the Governor had returned to South Carolina from… Argentina.
That was enough, just the one name of a location other than the one that had been portrayed by the staff, that convinced me that we are suddenly going to find ourselves in the middle of yet another political catastrophe.
Sure enough, this afternoon came the news from a press conference that Sanford had been having an affair. With a woman from Argentina.
I’m sad, really sad, that yet another American leader has been exposed as being unable to maintain the most important and personal commitment a human being can make: the commitment to give one’s entire remaining lifetime to another. Anytime anyone breaks this promise, it saddens me. The sadness is magnified when a leader, one whom people should be able to look to as an example of integrity. By breaking faith with their wives they’ve also proven that they’re promises are meaningless.
The Left has been quick to harass both Sanford, as well as Senator John Ensign. Their harassment is not, however, based on an outrage for their behavior. No, it is simply because they had been such strong critics of President Clinton when he was fighting off the Monica Lewinsky issue.
This kind of reaction is very frustrating because while they are quite right that this kind of hypocrisy is outrageous, the hypocrisy only makes the original criticisms by Sanford and Ensign, of President Clinton, worthless.
The Left is lost because all they can do is sputter about how if Clinton is wrong, then Sanford, Ensign, Limbaugh, Gingrich and others are wrong as well. But they say this in a rhetorical manner… they sputter because what they are really trying to say is that since there are Republicans who have failed their spouses, therefore Democrats who do the same are okay… what they do off the clock is okay. The end result of the Left is to normalize this kind of behavior, while sounding pious.
But the disappointment comes from two things:
- Sanford’s decision to stay in office
- The continued support of Sanford
I don’t know how anyone can take the time and trouble to tell the world how badly they have failed in keeping the promise of their marriage and then turn and ask the world to not only forgive them but continue to trust them. It should always be the simplest decision to end the farce and leave. Even though he resigned as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Sanford should also resign as Governor of South Carolina, and do it now.
But Sanford can and will continue on in office because of the continued support of various “leaders” in the Conservative Movement, and ultimately the people of South Carolina. Conservatives and Republicans together should stand up for Integrity, for Marriage, for appropriate Trust. Demand he resign, as I do now.
Sanford asked for forgiveness, and although perhaps not explicitely, asked for forgetfulness. Mark, I have no problem forgiving you. But I wouldn’t trust you any further than your wife will. For the sake of South Carolinians, Republicans and Conservatives who want to desparately move critical national agendas forward, resign. Let it go.