What a public relations nightmare Mark Sanford’s revelations about his affair present to the GOP.
But I suggest that we not concern ourselves with public relations, or with sympathy for Sanford. And we should certainly not follow the path taken by Democrats, whose betrayed wives, like Elizabeth Edwards, go on a book tour or try to rationalize their husband’s affairs, as Hillary Clinton did.
Sanford’s affair proves that one’s personal life — contrary to the claims of the “Clinton lied but no one died” contingent — does affect one’s ability to govern. Sanford’s disastrous press conference revealed that he is a man still torn between his mistress and his wife. That as a governor he could take off for Argentina and place his state in jeopardy proves that the emotional turmoil of an extramarital affair clouds one’s thinking and actions. It gives the lie to the claim that one’s personal life has nothing to do with job performance. It proves that politicians’ personal lives should be the subject of scrutiny. Only a conscienceless person could carry on an affair without it clouding his thinking. Of course, there are the sociopaths, but we don’t want them in office either.
Sadly, this revelation provides fodder for the left-wing attack corps, whose favorite charge is “hypocrisy!” — especially when the cheater promotes family values and has gone after the opposition for the very same sins, as Sanford did during Clinton’s impeachment. There is nothing more that the left would like to do than disprove conservatives’ contentions that high moral values are important. There is nothing better they would like to see happen than a concession to their idea that morals are relative, that such failings are common and therefore not to be condemned too harshly.
So, even the call, like one from a CNN commentator, for “empathy” (for cheater, spouse, and mistress all alike) should be resisted — even by Sanford’s allies. This is a temptation into the mucky mire of relativism, an invitation to join the fallen gang of bad boys.
To defend Sanford as an otherwise “good guy” or come back with countercharges against Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, and John Edwards is to fall into the same trap. It’s to admit that the standards are the same for them and for us.
Even worse would be to try to take to the airwaves with the occasion as an example of lessons learned. Sarah Palin made that mistake with her daughter Bristol. The eighteen-year-old proffered that perhaps she should have been exposed to information about birth control. The time to interview Bristol would have been when the baby himself was about eighteen, after the mother had demonstrated that she had learned her lesson and had turned her life around. Bristol should have done what other single mothers did in the past: live quietly and bear her added burdens.
Already, only a few hours after the press conference, the psychologists and “sex addiction” talking heads appeared on Larry King Live, spinning the story into one of “sickness.” Political defenders and psychobabblers enable the offender with these sympathetic takes; they should be resisted.
If Sanford were to follow liberals’ footsteps he would embrace his fallibility, go on the talk show circuit and talk about his “struggles” with his “addiction,” and exploit the masses’ prurient interests. That is the liberal way. That is succumbing to the devil’s argument that since we all sin there is no sense in trying to avoid it. Their goal is not to condemn Sanford, but to convince him (and everyone) that what he did was not that bad. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the notion of evil, to institute a relativistic moral code — and, even better, to reward the fallen. Eliot Spitzer is now writing a column in the Huffington Post. Rod Blagojevich and Octomom are in show business. Sadly, this is increasingly the American way.
Sanford’s affair was not only a betrayal of his wife and family, but a failure of leadership. His affair led to a gross dereliction of duties as governor.
As the editorial in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal states, Governor Sanford is incapable of making good judgments at this point and should resign for the benefit of the citizens of South Carolina.
But he should also do it for the party. Republicans should insist on it. In resigning, he will not only spare Republicans the embarrassment of his being in the public eye, but he will demonstrate to the nation that Republicans and conservatives are willing to follow through on our convictions and accept the consequences when we fail in upholding them. True, we are not perfect. But neither are we hypocrites who try to escape consequences or use sin to gain celebrity.
Here is your chance to act responsibly toward your party and supporters now, Mr. Sanford: resign as governor and stay far away.