Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Politician's Infidelity

Of all the things going on in the world today, what with genocide in Darfur the Iranian crackdown on vote protesters, and Kim Jong Il's wild threats, you would wonder why I'd choose to talk about Mark Sanford's sleazy infidelity.

Why? Because like this article says, his confession is so fundamentally different from those politicians before him that it is unexpected and unique. An aberration. Unlike the genocide in Darfur or the Iranian voting scandal (whose outcomes are tragic and unfortunate, yet sadly predictable), Mark Sanford is perhaps showing genuine remorse for his actions and laying out everything. His confession amounts to political suicide and perhaps marital suicide.

As the editorials below mention, most politicians caught in an infidelity engage in a typical pattern of minimizing it as a short lived lapse or personal failure, showing remorse, and then trying to convince people you still love your dear wife and God has forgiven you. You avoid accountability until it becomes politically imperative to do otherwise, explain it away as a short mistake, and then go on the offensive when your adversaries or the press exploit it. I won't rehash how Clinton and Edwards tried to pull off this script. (To say nothing of GOP Senator Larry Craig's laughable "wide stance" whopper when the vice squad got him in the bathroom).

While his political opponents are right to point out his hypocrisy (he voted to impeach Clinton on what he described as moral grounds and moralizes about the sanctity of marriage in his position on same-sex marriage), I also kind of think many have been too quick to judge and condemn. Perhaps there is a time and place to consider his behavior and the discrepancy between what he says and does.

But based on his confession, here's a guy who is obviously broken and torn up about the whole thing. He obviously senses the ramifications of his actions not only to South Carolina and his family, but to his colleagues and even his mistress. Unlike Craig or Clinton, who immediately launchrd into a cynical, calculated damage control to salvage their careers, could Sanford actually be taking it all in and figuring out how to do the right thing?

Heartless: The Disturbing Glee at Mark Sanford's Downfall, by John Dickerson

Something Real: Did Mark Sanford Admit to a Sin Worse than Sex? by William Saletan

Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic on Mark Sanford

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