Politics And Family Values
By Celia Murray; Columnist
Last week saw what can only be described as a bizarre press conference by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in which he confessed to having had an affair with a woman in Argentina.
Formerly regarded as a leading Republican contender for the White House, Sanford is resisting calls for his resignation as governor. The fact of the affair was not particularly remarkable. Over the past few years we have witnessed many such scenarios played out in their various forms and involving politicians from both parties – Senator John Ensign (R-NE) and his affair with a campaign staffer, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and his infamous “wide stance,” Senator David Vitter (D-LA) and the call girls, Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) and the male page, Governor Elliot Spitzer (D-NY) and the prostitute, and, of course, President Bill Clinton and Monica.
No one who watched Sanford’s press conference or read the series of e-mails between the Governor and the Argentine woman which were published in The State newspaper can doubt that the Governor is, simply put, in love.
He is undoubtedly a man in pain and crisis as are, of course, his wife and children. Sanford’s tale is, unfortunately, not a unique one, but it does have a couple of uniquely troubling aspects.
First, he is the governor of a state whose staff, for five days, did not know how to contact him in the event of an emergency. The people of South Carolina will have to decide whether that transgression demands his resignation. The second, and more broadly troubling aspect of the Sanford situation, is that he, first as a Congressman and then as Governor, has very publicly championed “family values.” While we all advocate our version of “family values,” it is Sanford’s hypocrisy that chafes. While serving as a U.S. Congressman, Sanford was incredibly critical of his colleagues’ marital misdeeds, including the affairs of former congressman Bob Livingston (R-LA) and President Bill Clinton. Congressman Sanford repeatedly called for Clinton’s resignation, labeling the President embroiled in his own sex scandal an “embarrassment.”
Of course, Sanford is not the only critic of such conduct. Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), another GOP rising star, offered one of the harshest rebukes from within the Republican Party of Sanford himself, suggesting that the South Carolina governor was hypocritical and had damaged the GOP at a time when the brand was already hurting. While adultery is the private misdeed, hypocrisy is the public one.
The GOP does not have a lock on “family values.” Republicans sometimes fall short and Democrats can be virtuous.
On Sunday’s broadcast of "Meet The Press," South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham praised President Obama as a father and declared him a role model for the country in this regard. Perhaps Maureen Dowd of the New York Times summed it up best. “Sanford can be truly humble only if he stops dictating to others, who also have desires and weaknesses, how to behave in their private lives. The Republican Party will never revive itself until its sanctimonious pantheon — Sanford, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Palin, Ensign, Vitter and hypocrites yet to be exposed — stop being two-faced.”
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Party.