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July 02, 2009

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You know-and this might be considered treacly sentimentalism- maybe the guy just truly fell in love.
Most people will roll their eyes at this, but it is possible.
Even if he did, his sanctimonius grandstanding during the Lewinsky episode stifles whatever pity I feel for him, even if I dispense with cynicism and look at things in the light most favorable to him.

I'm not sure where I picked up the insight, but it has served me well: for most people, their strongest virtues are intimately linked to their most dangerous vices.

Me for example: I'm very loyal. It is a good thing.

But the flip side of that is that I'm very stubborn. That has served me poorly from time to time, not only by convincing me to stick with a bad thing in my life for too long (I hope you aren't reading but if you are you know...) but also because it caused me to defend certain things too long after normal people would have thrown in the towel (I'm looking at you Republican party).

Similarly a developed sense of justice can be a very good thing, and it can also turn you into an intolerant ideological zealot with respect to people who disagree with you even a little bit.

Actually I do think I know where I picked up the idea: it is an extension of some ideas of C.S. Lewis from "The Four Loves" where he talks about how many of the worst things we do to each other come from perversions of the laudable versions of love.

@Sebastian: The same idea is prominent in 'The Scarlet Letter'. Rev. Dimsdale's impressive sermons against immorality are rooted in his own secret affair.

@stonetools: Based on the flood of information Sanford has unleased recently, I'd agree with you. It feel like it would be better if he'd just ditch the governorship (it's not like he was really spending much time on it anyway) and head to Argentina. I mean, when you say that your mistress is your soulmate, but you're trying to fall back in love with your wive, something is wrong.

Life is tragedy and comedy, within a drama. The disappointment in this for me is twofold:

First, that somehow the "Lewinski thing" is not recognized as actually less palatable than many of these others, the nature of the offense to virtue is different.

Secondly, while there is no greater disappointment than the preachers sin, it is no more of a sin than anyone elses. It is only more disappointing because it reminds us that all of our leaders are human, we hate that.

I feel for most of those who have to live out their personal failures in a public spotlight, it is a necessary evil to allow yourself to be judged if you would be a leader.

Another way of putting it, and I think more to the point, is that many successfull politicians are high achieving sociopaths. They crash when their sense of what they can get away with fails them, and they have no moral sensibilities to fall back on.

Another hand raised for loyal/stubborn.

Mostly unrelated, but I watched Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for the first time last night, and was delighted to recognize the lead-in music as Seamus, by Pink Floyd.

There just can't be many riffs on Shakespeare featuring Pink Floyd as accompaniment, I think.

My phrasing:

"Those faults which we hate the most, are those which are our own."

& R&GAD--where did you get a copy? I've been looking for years since I moved away from the local video store that had it on VHS.

I like digby's take here. Brett Bellmore is quite wrong when he says that Sanford doesn't have moral sensibilities to fall back on - his moral sensibilities are just no help to him. It's a general problem with the particular moral sensibility that says: marriage is a war against feeling.

Secondly, while there is no greater disappointment than the preachers sin, it is no more of a sin than anyone elses.

I think it makes a difference what attitude the preacher's attitude toward sin is. Jesus had some very strong things to say about passing judgment on others, and I think it's fair to keep them in mind when looking at a preacher's sins. A preacher who teaches us to treat sinners with compassion and forgiveness deserves compassion and a chance of forgiveness for his own sins. But one who condemns sinners deserves the same condemnation for the same sin.

I haven't been in too many relationships, but the ones I have had only outlived the end of physical passion by a year or so.

Maybe that says something uncomplimentary about me, or my significant others - but I think it's more possible that physical passion is what helps people overcome a lot of the inevitable rough times. And I think that's because physical passion is both incredibly basic and incredibly transcendant: it does amazing things to bond people to one another.

Pam Spaulding made a point similar to Digby's: it's not that lust destroys people, necessarily; it's that ideological/ theological prohibitions against physical passion even between married couples prevent them from forming a deeply powerful, transcendant bond.

Without passion, marriage really does become (as Jenny Sanford said) a duty, a lot of work, something you have to labor at; just another of life's endless "shoulds."

Passionless lives, passionless marriages also leave you wide open to losing your sh*t if you ever do encounter real physical passion. Sanford's only the latest example of this, and an excellent example of it he is.

If your moral sensiblities are NO help, it's because you don't have 'em. They certainly weren't enough help in his case, which is why I conclude they're deficient.

Look, a momentary impulse won't buy you a plane ticket, and get you to the airport. This took plenty of planning, which means, plenty of time for his morals to kick in... If he had much in the way of them.

No exuses. He took a vow, he broke it.

I can hold two thoughts in my mind simultaneously and chalk it up to .... life is strange.

One: I would find it romantic and thrilling if Sanford, dressed as a Tango dancer and with a rose stem gripped in his mouth and castenets in his hand, bid farewell to all at the door of a plane and flew off to Argentina to live happily ever after as a gaucho ..

... and Two: maybe number one isn't such a good idea, given the children involved.

It would help me to help him if he too could hold two thoughts in his mind simultaneously.... that maybe government and taxes, and debt isn't the optimum way to run things, but sometimes people are out of work for a long time and require help from Washington in the way of extended unemployment benefits paid for with higher taxes.

It's not that he IS a hypocrite that bothers me ... it's his failure to embrace his hypocrisy... and mine.

"If your moral sensiblities are NO help, it's because you don't have 'em."

Sometimes the moral sensibilities are what got you into the mess in the first place. And, alternately, on any given issue, people have clearly ineffective moral sensibilities. People who believe in turning the other cheek can also support torture.

It's not that he IS a hypocrite that bothers me ... it's his failure to embrace his hypocrisy... and mine.

Thullen's been on a roll...

"But one who condemns sinners deserves the same condemnation for the same sin."

I'm sure Jesus wouldn't have agreed with this part.

(I hate talking about actual religion, it was really supposed to be a metaphor(?))


I've been too busy following the Michael Jackson Is Still Dead story to keep up with the Sanford-Belen Soulmates story, so I have a question: is the lady quite as much of a god-botherer as her gubernatorial paramour? Was the cosmic connection between their souls established on a firm foundation of Bible-verse pillow talk?

I only ask because I like to know both sides of any story, and the missing side of this one seems to be: what did she see in him?

--TP

"They crash when their sense of what they can get away with fails them, and they have no moral sensibilities to fall back on."

I can totally agree with the first part of Brett's statement and still disagree with the second. I remember thinking, when the Clinton fiasco first started to become public, that there was no way Clinton would have done this. He was too start a politician to risk getting into a situation like this.

But I now realize that althoguh my judgement was probably correct it was based upon Clinton actually thinking no one would ever find out. It was that failure on his part that caused the problem. And I think this is true of many of the more successful and prominent people. Their ego, which was part of what drove them to their lofty positions, also blinds them to their own vulnerability.

I am not going to judge Sanford or say whether it was love or lust or a combination of both. I am not even going to accuse him of hypocrisy.

I do feel sympathy for his wife however. How difficult it must be to hear him talk about the other woman as his soulmate. And even worse, to some degree, is that he apologized for hurting the other woman before apologizing for hurting his wife or children.

Sanford's behavior is totally consistent as one of the "newly chosen." It is no accident that he compares himself with King David. This is not a tongue-in-cheek reference but a sincere expression of his version of the Christian faith.

Jeff Sharlet's investigative journalism tells it better than me. Here are three links to check out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_(Christian_political_organization)

http://www.alternet.org/rights/87665/?page=entire

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106115324

This last link is an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air broadcast day before yesterday. That is the easiest place to start, but there are many other supporting links.

Jeff Sharlet is a meticulous journalist, not given to exaggeration. When he says he was there, it means he was really there, not that he happened to be in the lobby sniffing around.

Governor Sanford's actions are disturbingly consistent with a tortured expression of faith to which he has made sotto voce reference several times since affair(s) became public.

Lust and Hubris.

There is nothing in the worst of us that is not in ALL of us.

Maybe he did fall in love, but, jeez, at least show a little respect for your wife with whom you still have some kind of commitment and don't embarrass her in public. I wish in all of the comments about this there was a little more outrage expressed at his complete lack of decency as a human being.

Roy Romer did this same thing in his waning days as governor of Colorado in 1998 -- got up to come clean about his affair and, after babbling for awhile about how it wasn't a sexual relationship primarily but a "passionate relationship." I remember seeing newspaper photos of Bea Romer standing behind him while he went on about this and my thought was that although I have endured terrible pains and misfortunes in my life, none is as bad as that must be.

"There is nothing in the worst of us that is not in ALL of us."

But there may be something missing in them, that's present in the rest of us.

I'd like to join Mr. Bellmore in a concurrence about sociopathy, and even extend it to most of the god-botherer politicians empowered by the Religious Right. But I'm going to attempt to craft a dissent instead, acting against my kneejerk reaction.

<sympathy>
In his most recent appearances, I don't see a man with no moral code. I see a man whose moral roadmap, chosen either from genuine devotion or political expediency (or that weird American combination of both), has failed him. He's clearly in uncharted territory now. His wife must be his soulmate, yet he's found another. God is supposed to magically make marriages stay stable, yet he and his wife have drifted apart.

Also, I haven't dug into the timeline of this business, but if he wasn't involved at the time of the Lewinsky business, he's not necessarily as much of a hypocrite as he appears. If lightning struck in the intervening time, well... it's different when the passions are yours. Some people might even have learned a lesson from that. We'll see if it makes a difference.
</sympathy>

On the other hand, I still maintain that the King David analogy was a poor one. David probably was "forced to resign" if later tragic events are taken as long-term fallout from the Bathsheba matter. One of his sons rebelled against him, and David had to flee the capital. He regained his throne, but only after suffering and death had struck again ("O Absalom"). Then again, if Sanford is a standard fundamentalist-style churchgoer, he probably hasn't ever read the details. Whoops, kneejerk.

Yes, indeed, blithering on about his "soul mate" for his loved ones to hear and be hurt by is just indecent.

Cripes, these guys can make even honesty look bad.

Which it can be sometimes, which doesn't compute for literal absolutists.

I'm sorry, (no, I'm not) but in the area of parsing behavior, I preferred Bill Clinton's agonized lying to the public about Monica, to Jimmy Swaggert's righteous, honest blubbering about his motel trysts.

Surely the Bible must say somewhere "Shut up, already!"


"But one who condemns sinners deserves the same condemnation for the same sin."

I'm sure Jesus wouldn't have agreed with this part.

"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
--Matthew 7:2 [NKJV]

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
--Luke 6:37

So in fact, the statement in question isn't a completely off-the-mark paraphrase, though it's usually taken as a warning that God will judge you in the manner you judge others (there's a possible runaway feedback loop, otherwise). The sentiment is quite an obscure one, given how much time modern fundamentalist Christians spend pointing out other people's motes.

"& R&GAD--where did you get a copy?"

You can get the DVD here.

You can also get it from Netflix.

Sometimes the moral sensibilities are what got you into the mess in the first place.

That's very clearly true here. The man's "moral sensibilities" evidently wouldn't allow hims to contemplate a quiet, civilized divorce and remarriage, although if that had happened, say, a year ago, nobody would have thought twice about the matter. But, evidently, his moral sensibilities wouldn't allow that, so he decided to make a national laughingstock of himself instead.

Surely the Bible must say somewhere "Shut up, already!"

"Oh, that you would be silent,
And it would be your wisdom!"
--Job 13:5

"And he said, 'Yes, I know; keep silent!'"
--2 Kings 2:3

"So he answered, 'Yes, I know; keep silent!'"
--2 Kings 2:5

"And let us be silent there.
For the Lord our God has put us to silence
And given us water of gall to drink,
Because we have sinned against the Lord."
--Jeremiah 8:14

I find Gov Sanford to be too honest about his illegal actions: which surprises me.
He came out and told everyone about this affair: he wasn't caught in some FBI sting or whatnot. And then he admits to flirting with other women.

Contrast this to other political figures who get found out doing something naughty: they deny, deny, and deny.

O.K., mds, now go find "shut yer bloody gump ya cloth-eared beet" in the Bible.

Mark Sanford must have it in those exact words. ;)

mds,

I'm going to leave the religion to ya'll. You hit it one the head (Both God as judge and the infinite feedback loop).

Isn't adultery illegal in his state?

South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 16:

SECTION 16-15-60. Adultery or fornication.

Any man or woman who shall be guilty of the crime of adultery or fornication shall be liable to indictment and, on conviction, shall be severally punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than one year or by both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.

SECTION 16-15-70. "Adultery" defined.

"Adultery" is the living together and carnal intercourse with each other or habitual carnal intercourse with each other without living together of a man and woman when either is lawfully married to some other person.

SECTION 16-15-80. "Fornication" defined.

"Fornication" is the living together and carnal intercourse with each other or habitual carnal intercourse with each other without living together of a man and woman, both being unmarried.

I don't know what the case law in SC is on the meaning of "habitual."

Apparently one or two night stands are legal, though, fwiw. :-)

Speaking of law about sex, by the way: yay!

Gary, what if he never committed adultery in South Carolina? Does the statute apply? I mean, all we know about is that he committed adultery in South America, right?

"Gary, what if he never committed adultery in South Carolina? Does the statute apply?"

Beats me; ask a South Carolina attorney. I mean, on the one hand, the statute doesn't say anything about the fornicating having to take place in SC -- maybe the intent isn't to allow folks to go out of state to do their fornicatin'; on the other hand, there could be a general jurisdictional issue; IANAL, and this question goes beyond my limited knowledge.

He came out and told everyone about this affair: he wasn't caught in some FBI sting or whatnot.

Not the FBI, but there was a press scoop.

O.K., mds, now go find "shut yer bloody gump ya cloth-eared beet" in the Bible.

Job 13:5 again, only from the Manchester Modern Translation.

The man's "moral sensibilities" evidently wouldn't allow hims to contemplate a quiet, civilized divorce and remarriage

His wife's fortune probably played an important role there. Sanford's political career was built upon a foundation of matrimonial money.

I think it's never a good idea to have a serial adulterer in high office, at least in America.

There are a few reasons why I say this.

First, not being able to keep it in your pants reflects rather poorly on both self-control and judgment. Only an idiot would think this kind of risky behavior in a high profile position would go undiscovered. Just consider how many high level pols from both parties have been caught in the last few years.

Next is the hubris factor. Sorry Publius, but I see little about getting your ashes hauled in Argentina that's "tragically beautiful . . . in an ancient Greek/Shakespearian sense." This is simply tawdry over-reaching by a public figure. Eff 'em.

Finally, there's the sheer hypocrisy of a pol like Sanford being exposed given his "do as I say, not as I do" public moralizing. There's nothing in the slightest "tragic" about rank hypocrisy.

Oh, i wish they would attempt to prosecute him for adultery and fornication, because the obvious defense would be that such prosecution violates his constitutional right to privacy--see Lawrence v Texas. :)

I think the easiest (and cleanest) way to get him out of offcie is a "dereliction of duty" charge. No need for morally loaded arguments or obsolete sex laws. Let the sex destroy his standing in his party but keep it out of legal procedures. And unlike the Clinton case (imo) here the actions indeed influenced his job.

"Let the sex destroy his standing in his party"

What, like David Vitter's dedication to visiting hookers, or Rudy Giuliani's affairs, or Newt Gingrich's affairs, have destroyed their standing in the Republican Party?

"What, like David Vitter's dedication to visiting hookers, or Rudy Giuliani's affairs, or Newt Gingrich's affairs, have destroyed their standing in the Republican Party?"

Two of those three no longer hold elective office as Republicans, and the third will probably follow once his term expires. I'd say that qualifies.

But you do have a point: Sanford's probably got a good career ahead of him being interviewed on TV.

And the amphibian got "true" religion only after his (numerous) transgressions.
At least with the current state of party and state none of the mentioned GOPsters has any chance of becoming POTUS via the GOP and regular elections.
Maybe I should have typed: '...destroy his standing with the (religious) base of the party', that would have been more precise.
---
Had Sanford made a clean break (=staying with his mistress while do the apologizing dance), he might have stood a chance with the general public. His actual behaviour isn't going to help with anybody (of importance).

"Had Sanford made a clean break (=staying with his mistress while do the apologizing dance)"

He can't make a clean break from the mistress, in favor of the woman he's actually MARRIED TO, instead? This would certainly be more popular with the part of the general public *I'm* aquainted with.

When did it become de rigeur for politicians caught in adultery to treat us all to a tearful sermon about the loving forgiveness of Jesus?

Can't they just say "I screwed up, I'm sorry" and move on?

I'd blame Swaggart, but he wasn't a politician.

"what did she see in him?"

I heard she had a heavy jones for pecans.

"Cripes, these guys can make even honesty look bad"

As always, Thullen nails it in 10 words or less.

"Two of those three no longer hold elective office as Republicans, and the third will probably follow once his term expires. I'd say that qualifies."

I'm sorry, but Rudy Giuliani was one of the top contenders for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in the most recent election, over a decade after he ditched his (second) wife in a press conference, marched with his mistress in a public parade after having secretly had an affair with her for a year, while giving her official police chauffeurs duriing that time the affair wasn't public, and then after ditching Donna Hanover in that press conference -- her first notice that Rudy wanted a divorce -- went through a divorce so mutually hostile that a court order was issued forbidding the former mistress, Judith Nathan, from either entering Gracie Mansion or meeting the Giuiliani kids.

And Rudy wasn't just a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in last year's election, he gave one of the most publicized speeches at the Republican convention for which he was greeted with rapturous applause and cheers, second only to Sarah Palin (a far more enthusiastic response than the base/delegates gave the actual presidential nominee.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich is one of the other top five visibile and respected Republican talking heads, and is also still talked about as a possible future presidential nominee of the party. He offers commentary on the Fox News Channel approximately 214 times a week, more or less. He was a leading speaker at the most recent CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) as well as the year before, and the year before that, and so on. He was a featured speaker (invited by Jerry Falwell!) at Liberty University's graduation ceremonies in 2007. That's the same distant past in which his book Rediscovering God in America came out, as well as a film made from it.

This was all, of course, well after dumping two previous wives, and having multiple affairs, having dumped one wife while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer.

Here is Robert Novak, right after the last election, with a column all about:

Newt in 2012?

In serious conversations among Republicans since their election debacle Tuesday, what name is mentioned most often as the Moses, or Reagan, who could lead them out of the wilderness before 40 years?

To the consternation of many Republicans, it is none other than Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to run for president in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader of their party who has shown the skill and energy to attempt a comeback quickly.

[...]

Republicans seem chastened by the failure of seeking moderate, independent and even Democratic votes. They are ready to try going back to the "old-time religion."

[...]

Nobody in Republican ranks, however, matches Gingrich's dynamism.

[...]

What one GOP critic calls Gingrich's "unlimited energy supply" must be overcome by anyone opposing him. Several old Republican hands feel that Gingrich in 2012 is no more outrageous than Ronald Reagan was in 1980.

And lastly, David Vitter remains not just a Republican Senator, but in the top leadership as deputy whip!

Contrary to your claim, he's running for re-election:

Vitter began fundraising for his 2010 reelection run in December 2008.[16] He has raised $731,000 in the first quarter of 2009 and $2.5 million for his 2010 campaign.[17]
This after:
[...] Vitter incurred significant legal and public relations expenses in his efforts to avoid giving testimony in the Palfrey trial and to respond to the ethics complaint. Consequently, his attorneys sought permission from the Federal Election Commission to use campaign funds to pay for these expenses.[41][42] The Commission, along partisan lines, couldn't agree whether funds could be used for reimbursing costs related to the Palfrey trial but did allow them to pay for expenses connected to the Ethics Committee complaint.
What did Republican Senators do after his prostitition scandal?
When Sen. David Vitter, R-La., showed up in Washington, D.C., again last week after hiding with the equivalent of a paper bag on his head, he was welcomed back to a closed Republican Senate luncheon with a loud standing ovation.

Vitter had fled after admitting that he was included on a private telephone list of johns made public by the so-called "Washington madam," Deborah Jean Palfrey, whom law enforcement officials accuse of running a prostitution ring. Vitter didn't publicly deny anything, saying only that he had sinned and was sorry. He is refusing to discuss the subject further.

Woo-hoo!

And in a double-header, David Vitter was -- after the prostitution ring outing -- Chairman of Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid!

You can't make this freaking stuff up.

But Brett Bellmore claims that "I'd say that qualifies" as these guys having "destroyed their standing in the Republican Party."

Riiiiiggghhht.

"He can't make a clean break from the mistress, in favor of the woman he's actually MARRIED TO, instead?"

But his mistress is his soulmate.

By the way, no one has, remarkably, yet mentioned that Sarah Palin is resigning as Alaska governor as of the end of the month.

She's "passing the ball for victory!"

Palin:

"I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time go to waste just so I can hold the title of governor," Palin said.
Who can argue?

Her whole bizarre announcement.

Russell:

"I heard she had a heavy jones for pecans."

I wish I'd written that.

"I wish I'd written that."

Well, man, you made my day.

Brett, just returning to his wife would have made Sanford just your common caught adulterer. Coming out publicly and tearfully that you found out that your true love was not your wife (anymore) while agonizing about your pain about that sad truth could at least appeal to public sentimentality and pity. Someone else mentioned Edward VIII. already as somewhat of a precedent (foregoing power* for love).

*OK, 'just' the throne. Not much actual power to that.

Ok, you're definitely running in a different circle than I do, Hartmut. That crap really does not sell around here.

I don't say that any of these options are good but some are worse than others. It's a matter of damage limitation.
I (unfortunately) know too many people that would fall for the sentimentality line (and someone obviously buys all those press products for the adult infantiles infesting the newsstands). And Sanford is no Gingrich who could get away with callous cruelty and could actually profit from scandal*.
Rational people imo react to Sanford's behaviour with one of three emotions:
a) amusement (+ Schadenfreude)
b) embarrassement
c) disgust
But rational people are, alas, not common enough these days and the 'rest' (a majority) can be 'played' at least to a degree with appeal to irrational emotions irrelevant ot the actual case.
As I said, his emotional life should not be the basis for kicking him out but his dereliction of the duties of his office could.

*also the amphibian 'got true religion' after the scandals, an option Sanford hasn't anymore.

I would say most politicians are narcississtic, rather than sociopathic. Although I believe some are sociopathic.

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