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June 29, 2009
President Mark Sanford
Is Still Possible in 2012
“No one’s going to save us dude. It’s up to us and us alone.”
These are the words of a text message I received from a fellow
conservative upon the revelation that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford
had disappeared for a few days to spend time with his mistress in
Argentina. After the cumulative disaster that were the 2008 GOP
primaries, conservatives desperately thought that, for once, we might
have an ardent conservative – particularly a fiscal conservative – run
and actually capture the White House in 2012.
And this was not your garden-variety, self-proclaimed “conservative”
Republican who interpreted conservatism as an ideology of merely slower
government growth. No, this guy was the real deal. He fought to keep his
state from accepting dirty “stimulus” funds from the federal government
while other governors gobbled up the money in complete disregard for
their supposed principles and for the well-being of the younger
generations that must repay the debt. He has attended legislative
sessions with piglets under his arms in demonstration of his ardent
opposition to pork. He has walked the walk, and is still doing it.
Indeed, media personalities couldn’t be more frustrating when they
proclaim that Sanford’s blunder is yet another blow to an already-aching
GOP. The fact is that many conservatives didn’t regard Sanford’s
affiliation with the GOP as anything beyond an annoying necessity. They
viewed Sanford as being in the mold of Pat Toomey, Jim DeMint, Tom
Coburn and Jeff Flake – you know, the guys who spend much of their time
combating the Republican establishment. They are the guys who never see
a scandal in their voracious hunt for smaller government and against
politicians’ abuse of public office. The fact that Sanford made
conservatives doubt even this already tiny group of political stars is
Sanford’s sin, like that of any adulterer, is absolutely nauseating –
and, absent repentance, is deserving of a deeper circle of hell than
Dante would ever ascribe to it. This is why only a few conservatives
would trust Sanford again unless he cuts off all relations with his
mistress, demonstrates genuine contrition, works fervently to rebuild
his family and earns the forgiveness of his wife and kids.
And indeed if Sanford’s conversion is accepted as sincere even by his
most wounded wife, who are we to deny him our support for any political
pursuit based on this sin – especially when he has excelled more than
most at his job as governor? Democrats never asked Bill Clinton to step
down when he cheated on his wife, even when he explicitly lied under
oath and to the entire country. Likewise, few if any Republicans
withheld their vote from “heroic” John McCain in 2008 for cheating on
his wife – and proceeding to marry another woman.
far as affairs go, Sanford’s story is not among the worst – which does
not take away from its intrinsic immorality, but raises questions as to
why his treatment has been worse than usual. Some credit the difference
to his supposed use of state assets for personal reasons. But the best
his opponents have been able to find is that, on a completely legitimate
commerce trip he took to Brazil and Argentina last year, he apparently
made time to see his mistress. Yet politicians use such opportunity of
being in a distant location for personal reasons all the time – and it’s
only logical (unlike, say, dropping up to a quarter-million dollars
solely to take the First Lady on a hours-long date in NYC).
From a public-duty perspective, Sanford’s greatest lapse of judgment was
disappearing without much contact, but rhetoric and attack dogs aside,
it’s really not that appalling for a governor to be unavailable
for a few days – at least not a big enough deal to disqualify him from
the presidency. It’s not like he hung out with a terrorist, or for 20
years espoused a church run by a conspiratorial bigot.
But it’s not really all about cheating and disappearing, of course. By
sticking to the laws of economics and fiscal integrity, Sanford has
managed to build enemies on both sides of the aisle. Since Obama’s
election, but especially since Sanford’s rejection of porkulus funds,
Democrats have feared Sanford as a definitively non-McCainiac
presidential candidate who could energize conservatives against
President Obama in 2012. They have been running ads against him. The
third-ranking Democrat in the House played the racism card in response
to Sanford’s statement that printing a lot of money could lead to
hyper-inflation à la Zimbabwe.
The New York Times wildly sensationalized
an article about Sanford by titling it “Governor Used State’s Money
to Visit Lover,” while it went on to explain that he merely met up with
his mistress while on a legitimate business development trip to
And, a bit surprisingly, it seems that some simply have not overcome the
embarrassment dealt to them by President Clinton. Also in the New
York Times, Gail Collins
wrote about a “lesson” to be learned from the Sanford story: “I’m
thinking it’s time for the Republicans to apologize for putting us
through the Clinton impeachment. We seem to have pretty well established
that sexual stone-throwing is a dangerous sport.”
Wow. Never mind that Clinton was impeached on grounds of perjury and
obstruction of justice. What is most disturbing is the apparent
admission that the heat launched at Sanford is a form of revenge for
what Clinton brought unto himself. This behavior makes even more sense
in light of a recent
Gallup poll showing that Democrats are five times as likely as
Republicans to believe that marital infidelity is morally acceptable.
The fact is that even if Sanford was the only politician who has cheated
on his spouse (which he most certainly is not), he still would not rank
anywhere near the bottom of politicians’ ethical scale. Not because he
is a moral giant, mind you, but because all the others are so, so far
from being one.
great majority of politicians, from both parties, continuously engage in
wasteful spending, pork and other abuses of taxpayer money. They
subsidize the businesses of their campaign donors and choke the rest.
They take actions that they affirmatively believe will harm the economy
if it will help their re-election. They are dirty.
Putting Sanford’s marital infidelity aside, the governor has been a hero
to anyone who has ever paid taxes, and more importantly, anyone who
wishes to live in a prosperous country. It may be for this reason that
only 18 percent of South Carolina voters, even after the recent
hullabaloo, say that Sanford’s ethical standards are lower than most
politicians’. It is incredible then that so many seem to care more about
Sanford’s sin in Argentina than about the hundreds of remaining
politicians putting every American into debt for decades to come. Our
priorities are more than skewed.
a Mark Sanford presidency would look anything like the Mark Sanford
governorship, and if Sanford would respect the small-government roots of
the U.S. Constitution like he respected small-government principles in
South Carolina, America would be better off than it would be under
nearly any figure in the American political scene. Much, much better
And it is still possible. Following the debacle, Sanford said: “What I
find interesting is the story of David, and the way in which he fell
mightily, he fell in very very significant ways. But then picked up the
pieces and built from there.” Any Christian, and most Americans must
believe that aside from whether or not he will actually do so, Sanford
is capable of picking up the pieces and rebuilding. He might never again
be regarded as highly as he once was. But he could unquestionably be
regarded higher than most in his league.
© 2009 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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