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June 24, 2009

Governor Sanford...Hero?

That's what you might think if you turned on MSNBC right after his press conference this afternoon without knowing what the topic was. The anchor at the time was some random guy that I didn't recognize, and of course he had on a parade of pundits and analysts to dissect Sanford's statements. I had to start making notes because I couldn't really believe what I was hearing.

Here's a sampling. (For what it's worth, in the segment that I watched only one woman was asked to comment - all the rest of the talking was done by men.) Some of this is paraphrased cause I couldn't write fast enough while also yelling back at the TV.

~Over and over, people kept saying that Sanford deserved 'points for his candor' and 'credit for being honest'.

~There were multiple references to the moments when the governor got emotional, with one commentator describing Sanford as a "wounded man". An NBC News correspondent described the press conference as "a painful truth told by a tearful man".

~A few people remarked on Sanford's bravery in coming forward, with one person saying that "he showed a lot of courage today", and another commenting on how difficult it must have been for Sanford to look into the camera and face everyone and tell the truth.

~Someone floated the idea that by holding a press conference and admitting the truth, Sanford had "taken responsibility" for his actions.

~The cherry on top of this lovefest came from South Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts, who said of Sanford, "I admire him. It took a man to stand up there and admit that." [Much as I hate to give Fox News credit for anything, I was watching when Knotts tried this line during an appearance on Fox not too long after I first heard him say it on MSNBC, and Shepard Smith immediately came at him with a tough question about everything Sanford has done wrong in this situation, which is more than I can say for Random MSNBC Guy.]

Okay, refresh my memory. What was it that Governor Sanford did that was so courageous and responsible and honest and admirable? Oh yeah, he held a press conference to admit that the reason why he disappeared for a week, leaving his staff confused about his whereabouts and unable to contact him in case of emergency, and leaving his sons without a father on Father's Day, was that he had to fly to Argentina to hang out with the woman that he's been cheating on his wife with for a year. How laudable.

Maybe coming out and admitting the truth was a difficult thing for Sanford to do. Maybe his emotional moments during the press conference were genuine. But I don't feel bad for him. I do feel bad for his wife and kids, and you can definitely make a reasonable argument that these private family matters should be kept private. But in this case it was Sanford's misuse of the office of the Governor that forced his private family problems out into the public eye, and Republican notions about "family values" contribute to a culture in which these stories are considered "scandalous" and newsworthy.

I also don't think that he did anything admirable or brave today. I don't really get the idea that we're supposed to give him all kinds of credit for honesty, when he admitted that the affair has been going on for a year, and it's pretty clear that he only came clean because his totally mishandled "vacation" got so much attention and forced his hand. And I'm not going to give him a pat on the back for "taking responsibility" just because he held a press conference. (Resigning as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association was a step in the right direction on the responsibility front, though.)

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that he should resign (from his post at the RGA or as governor of South Carolina) because he had an affair. I do think that the fact that he had an affair makes him a hypocrite, because he opposes same-sex marriage (as a Congressman in the 90s he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act), civil unions, and gay adoptions, and because he was highly critical of Bill Clinton for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, saying at the time that "the bottom line is that he lied under a different oath - the oath to his wife". [Insert cheesy joke here about how if all of the hypocritical politicians had to resign, there would be nobody left to run any government anywhere, ha ha.] If he did resign, it should be because of this:

By leaving the country without formally transferring power, critics said he neglected his gubernatorial authority and put the state at risk. It wasn’t clear how his staff could reach him in an emergency.

Again, I'm just having trouble figuring out which part of this I'm supposed to "admire". And as far as the "it takes a man" comment - I'll translate from Southern Republican white guy speak and assume that by "man" he means "mature and responsible person" - I'd say that it takes a man to be faithful to his partner and not carry out a secret affair with another woman and lie about it for months, and it takes a man to be faithful to the office that he holds and the commitment that he made to the people that he was elected to represent. It should take more than one tearful press conference to turn someone from a cheater and liar who showed horrible and irresponsible judgment into an honest, brave, admirable, shining example of a man.


Not Hannah said...

He's a wanker. A lying wanker.

I don't buy the idea that our politicians should be held to a higher standard, but when a dude lies about lying about what is essentially another lie AND belongs to a party trying to sell itself as the last stand against the moral turpitude of the other one, well...barf.

Heather said...


Hybrid Hopes said...

He can screw over the sanctity of marriage with massive lies, but my gay friends can't get married. booo.

Chomskyite said...

This is an old story, but I'm commenting on it because I can't help but think about Steve McNair when I read this. Before I get started, I'm in no way condoning his murder; lying and cheating doesn't mean you deserve to die. However, I'm having a big problem with all this "focus on the good things" and "hero" crap that sportswriters are currently trotting out.

Steve McNair made a choice to get married and have children. I'd be willing to bet a year's pay that he promised fidelity when he made his vows to his wife. As for his relationship with his young mistress, I can only go on what her family has said and the typical way these relationships are handled. He had apparently led this woman to believe that he would be divorcing his wife and marrying her. It's not uncommon for the married man in these scenarios to lie and say his marriage is in "name only," just to get the young woman into bed. Neighbors said he was at her house so often, they thought he lived there. I tend to believe that either he finally told her he would never leave his wife or she came to realize it on her own. An unstable person is likely to react to such deception in unstable ways; she certainly did. So, he lied to, betrayed, and toyed with two women. Nothing heroic here, folks. I feel horrible for his wife and kids. While I don't think he deserved to die, I have a hard time feeling quite as bad for him.

On a bit of an aside: any woman who enters into a relationship with a married man is a fool. So, he'll lie to his wife, but you don't think he'll lie to you? Please.