The GOP — and conservatives in general — have taken the infidelity scandal involving South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford particularly hard.
The reasons are threefold:
1) News of Senator John Ensign’s affair broke less than two weeks earlier. Having another extramarital affair hit the news so soon afterwards is frustrating and disturbing to the party faithful.
2) Unlike Ensign, Mark Sanford was a legitimate 2012 presidential contender and was viewed as one of the biggest rising stars in the party. Seeing his potential thrown away like this is nothing short of tragic for those who had hopes for him.
3) Many conservatives publicly defended Sanford when the “missing in action” story originally broke and he was presumably on an Appalachian hike to get away and commune with nature. They felt particularly foolish and extremely betrayed when it turned out he was in fact meeting his lover in Argentina.
This hostile reaction from within his own party is extremely bad news for Sanford because he already has an uphill fight to keep his job as governor. Not only is South Carolina a Bible Belt state, but Sanford acquired more than a few enemies from within the GOP during the stimulus fight. When you add in the published love letters, pictures of “Maria,” whom the Argentian press has already outed, and with discussion over whether he met with his lover on the taxpayer’s dime still to come, the story still has legs and isn’t going away anytime soon.
Needless to say, it exploded across the Internet as soon as he confessed at his strange emotional press conference.
On Twitter, the sniping was merciless:
David_in_Austin: Sanford outsourcing affair. What a slap to the face of American homewreckers.
Talkmaster: If Sanford had cheated on his taxes instead of his wife he would be a Cabinet member by now. (from a listener)
hcovitz: “I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail” means having an affair.
nayato: from the SA forums: South Carolina’s newspaper headlines should read “Sanford rejects federal stimulus, accepts Argentinian stimulus”
Lileks: It gets worse for Sanford: press now scornfully reporting that the Argentine gal-pal did NOT have toned, sculpted arms
diogenesis: At this rate, first Ensign and now Sanford, Palin will end up as R nominee in 2012 by a process of marital elimination.
snarkandboobs: What? Sanford was only following Obama’s lead: seeking counsel of wise latina!
The reaction from the Rightroots — the conservative blogging community — was less bemused, and the fury and disgust was more palpable.
As the chatter about Sanford’s off-the-wall press conference grew, the wagons weren’t circling around him, they were riding him down:
[Sanford] spends a lot of time — too much time for many commentators — explaining his relationship with his dear, dear friend. I think commentators want the typical playbook call where he disowns the relationship entirely and writes the woman out of his life completely.
He doesn’t do that. I think that’s because he’s in love with her and won’t throw her under the bus.
That doesn’t make it noble or anything. But the media seems to be expecting him to say, “and it’s all over now, and a huge mistake,” etc., etc., and he doesn’t appear nearly willing to say that. The complaint seems to be that Sanford’s not saying the typical, Oprah-approved contrition stuff, and they’re holding it against him that he’s deviating from accepted Contrition Tour form.
I don’t know. This seems a silly complaint. Hold it against him for the affair and etc., but not that he’s deviating from the damage-control PR checklist. …
Obviously his presidential chances are over, and likely his governorship, too, although he only has a year left in his term.
— Ace, Ace of Spades HQ
You know what’s kind of interesting and different about the Mark Sanford story? He got caught like, mid-affair. John Edwards got caught after his mistress had a (obviously his though that’s still denied) child. Eliot Spitzer got caught months later when the madam was investigated. Even Bill Clinton got caught only when Monica told someone, long after it happened. It’s rare that the politician gets caught like this, affair still going on, getting off a plane from getting some Argentinian nookie. … [The press conference is] so much weirder than you can imagine. Most of it is like “what the hell is he talking about?” Is he really not on drugs? Really?
Men … as faithful as their options? I know, I know, I just said I don’t have time to be here in front of this screen … but the baby is sleeping and I am watching this Mark Sanford press conference and finding it hard not to cry. I know women cheat too, but … Do men have any idea what damage they cause when they do this? Sanford could have had it all. I just don’t get that. I’ll never get it.
“He could have been president, now he’s finished: Witness the power of the male libido. … Under different circumstances I think he could have survived this, but it’s a quirk of our politics that voters don’t mind cheating as much as they do inept cheating. Infidelity makes you a cad; unannounced week-long disappearances and rambling confessional pressers about the new lady in your life makes you a cad and erratic, and Americans don’t dig erratic in their would-be presidents.”
— Allahpundit, Hot Air
It’s the only fitting word for a man who abandons his wife and four sons on Father’s Day weekend to indulge his “overdrive” on an Argentinian fling.
Mark Sanford: B@stard.
Really, Mrs. Sanford, just shoot the two-timing son of a b*tch. Please. No jury in South Carolina would ever convict you. While you’re at it, go ahead and shoot that worthless son of a b*tch Lindsey Graham — another guaranteed mistrial, because there would be at least one jury member who’d figure Lindsey needed killing.
It turns out that there’s an elected official out there who is so colossally stupid and so cavalierly indifferent to his duties as an elected official that he somehow thought he could go completely AWOL (on a different freaking continent) for six days and no one would, you know, notice, or care to investigate where he was. Turns out there’s a governor out there who thought it was a good idea to lie to his staff, his family, his friends (including RedState), and everyone who ever worked to get him elected or advance his national stature all in the name of satisfying his libido. Turns out that Mark Sanford is guilty of the most reckless dereliction of duty and betrayal of trust it has been my displeasure to witness in decades. …
Mark Sanford, you have betrayed your family, your friends, your constituents, your supporters, and God, all for basically nothing. You have proven to be the slimiest member of a barrel that is filled with some pretty slimy characters. If you have a decent bone left in your body, resign immediately and hopefully we can soon permanently move past news cycles featuring either your face or your name. Goodbye and good riddance.
— Leon H. Wolf, Redstate
I am sick of these cheaters in high office. I am sick of how they embarrass their supporters. I am sick of how they humiliate their wives. I am sick of how they abuse the public trust.
In the face of this kind of reaction Sanford’s only faint hope at this point is to tenaciously hold on to power for a few weeks without having his approval rating completely bottom out, Blago-style. If he can pull that off, riding this disaster out may be possible.
Then, one day in the future, after his reputation has been rehabilitated, he may have a chance to at least be a senator.
However, at this point, it seems just as likely that he’ll quit and move to Argentina as continue on as the governor of South Carolina. Maybe he can run for president there.