The Courage of Governor Mark Sanford

Do not throw stones. If you're a Republican, think hard before judging Mark Sanford. If you're a Democrat, do not use Sanford's story to your advantage. Being liberal or conservative has nothing to do with having an affair. But how Sanford handled the situation is very much related to his politics.

If there's one thing that would keep me out of politics (running for office, I mean) -- aside from the fact that I don't have a politically correct bone in my body, so I'd fail miserably -- is the idea of having my personal life under a microscope. We are all human; we all make mistakes; and we all have checkered pasts. Love and marriage, in my opinion, should be off limits. I understand the press eats it up, but I can't understand why we indulge them.

Clinton's case was different. His transgressions were in the Oval Office -- which demonstrated a shocking lack of character. His lack of character isn't because he cheated on his wife but because of the unmitigated gall and disrespect doing it in the Oval Office showed. It's like he had sex in church. It's like he was a child seeing what he could get away with -- and when he didn't, he cowered. Who wants that kind of person running the country? I think Clinton's case matters NOT because he cheated on his wife but because of the way in which he did. And because you can tell a lot about a person by the way he handles his mistakes.

The fact is, we don't know squat about Mark Sanford's marriage -- where or how it went south -- and it's none of our business. His relationship with another woman is none of our business. The fact that he had an affair does not negate whatever he stands for politically. A person can absolutely espouse conservative values and fail in his personal life. Raising the moral bar is a good thing -- even if some of us fail to reach that high. If your child failed a test in school, would you tell her to lower her standards?

What makes Mark Sanford's case so unusual, the reason the press was so shocked by Sanford's words yesterday is because of the enormity of his courage and honesty. Mark Sanford provided FAR more information than he needed to on Wednesday. He gave more details than any one of us would possibly need, in an attempt to explain how a good person can still fail. It isn't whether or not people fail that makes them courageous -- I would challenge anyone to name someone who hasn't failed -- it's what they do with their failings that makes them courageous.

Mark Sanford is in tremendous pain. He knows what he did was wrong. And he tried to explain to millions of strangers why -- when he didn't have to. His moral lapse does not change his character. If I had to place my bets, I'd say he's in love with this other woman -- though he would never admit it because of the pain it would cause his family. Simply put, he's an emotional wreck over a no-win situation. It is no place to be.

If I'm right -- and I'm not saying I am -- leave the man alone. His life is a bona fide mess right now. Falling in love with another person when you're married is not the same as playing with cigars with an intern.

Many conservatives, particularly members of the religious right, will disagree with me. They will argue there's no difference between a casual affair and a serious one. An affair's an affair. It's sort of like the abortion debate. A true conservative believes there's no difference between aborting a 4-week old fetus and an 8-month old baby, and I respectfully disagree. It's not that one situation is "okay" and the other isn't; it's that one situation shows a different level of moral judgment. One shows the gray of life much more clearly than the other.

Bottom line: Affairs are not restricted to any one political group. But how we handle the mess that ensues will show our true colors.

9 Responses to “The Courage of Governor Mark Sanford”:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Did my comment work? Huh? Huh? Are you happy now? Huh? Huh?

  2. Katie J says:

    I am in complete disagreement. Coming clean when you are caught red-handed is not couragous nor impressive. If he had real courage than he would have addressed this situation privately with his family and handled it accordingly. Suggesting that he is of high character is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Anonymous says:

    I have a hard time agreeing here. I heard this morning that his affair carried on for 8 years. That's a pretty big "mistake". He might be in love with this woman, but, get a divorce already. I believe he's sorry he got caught. Yes everyone makes bad decisions, but I also believe that we SHOULD hold our "leaders" to a higher standard. If he is making such a bad judgement call in his personal life, of course it is going to bleed into his public life. Our politicians are making decisions on behalf of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people. Conservative or Liberal, it doesn't matter. It happens on all sides. It's just that the media likes it much better when a conservative screws up!! I think his political career is over. The reason I think that is that conservative Republicans (who voted for him) are less tolerant of this kind of thing than liberal Democrats. (Hence, why Bill Clinton was elected despite reports of his infedilities.

  5. Katie J: He did come clean -- five months ago. He and his wife have been dealing with it all this time; we're just now hearing about it.

    And, no. It's not a stretch to say he has good character. I think he showed a lot of character yesterday. Your standards are just so damn high no one can meet them. (Poor John. Ha.)

  6. Katie J: p.s. I knew you'd disagree. I had you front and center in my mind.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think it highly doubtful that Sanford fessed up yesterday out of courage. It is far more likely that his wife or a staffer threatened to go public with the affair if he didn't come clean. She obviously did not like having to lie for him every time he took off for Argentina. This time, the press wouldn't accept the lame excuses for his absence, and they pursued the story, unlike his previous excursions. He knew that he was about to be 'outed', so he did the only thing he could to control the damage. Too late for that. The fact that he used tax-payer money to pay for his trips to Argentina, and used state law enforcement vehicles illegally to cover his trips to the airport are sufficient reasons to throw him out of office. But the real reason to kick him out is the sheer stupidity he showed with this behavior. No man that dumb should be in charge of a city, much less an entire state.

  8. Katie J says:

    I don't know as many details as you regarding Gov. Sanford. I do know that affairs happen and sometimes realy "love" is involved as appears to be the case with the governor. I also know that it takes a lot of lies and deceit to carry on such an affair...lies and deceit that crossover from family to office matters. No, not every detail of a man's personal life is relevent in his career, but being able to carry on such deception is not an admirable trait in anyone, let alone someone holding public office.
    And weren't you the one a few blogs ago saying that the last thing we should be doing is lowering standards? In fact, it was in regards to teens having sex, if I remember correctly. So should we have high standards for teens and low ones for adult public officials?
    All I'm saying is that he should have finished one order of business (his marriage) before allowing himself to indulge in another (his girlfriend).

  9. Erica says:

    Integrity is integrity. When you lose your integrity in one aspect of your life it calls your integrity in all other aspects into question. That doesn't mean it can't be regained, but that you can't expect people to just believe your say so.

    He had (or allowed) his aides to lie about his whereabouts so he could go visit his mistress. The people of South Carolina have a right to be angry and question his judgement.