Wednesday, June 24, 2009

South Carolina's Sanford joins Republicans with adultery problems

Remind me: Which political party is "decadent" and "sick"?

Mark Sanford's zipper problem is yet more proof that Republican conservatives are just liberals in right-wing drag
By Joe Conason
June 26, 2009

Whenever the latest Republican politician is caught with his zipper undone, a predictable moment of introspection on the right inevitably ensues. Pundits, bloggers and perplexed citizens ruminate over the lessons they have learned, again and again, about human frailty, false piety and the temptations of flesh and power. They express concern for the damaged family and lament the fall of yet another promising young hypocrite. They resolve to restore the purity of their movement and always remember to remind us that this is all Bill Clinton's fault. What they never do is face up to an increasingly embarrassing fact about themselves and their leaders.

They're really just liberals in right-wing drag.

The proof is in the penance, or lack thereof, inflicted on the likes of Mark Sanford, John Ensign and David Vitter, to cite a few names from the top of a long, long list. For ideologues who value biblical morality and believe in the efficacy of punishment, modern conservatives are as tolerant of their famous sinners as the jaded libertines of the left. Even after confessing to the most flagrant and colorful fornication, the worst that a conservative must anticipate is a stern scolding, followed by warm assurances of God's forgiveness and a swift return to business as usual...

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina rose through the Republican ranks over the past decade, from congressman to governor to potential 2012 presidential candidate.

S.C. Governor Admits Extramarital Affair
By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 24, 2009

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said this afternoon that he has been involved in an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina and "spent the last five days of my life crying" in that country, speaking at a rambling and emotional press conference that capped days of speculation about his whereabouts after he disappeared from the state capital for nearly a week.
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Q&A, Transcript: Gov. Mark Sanford Admits to Extramarital Affair, Resigns Post

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Sanford, who became a hero to fiscal conservatives in rejecting federal stimulus funds and has often been mentioned as a possible presidential prospect, said his trip to Argentina last week was to visit a woman with whom he struck up an e-mail relationship eight years ago. That correspondence led to a close friendship that went into "serious overdrive" when he saw her three times this past year, he said. His wife of nearly 20 years has known about the affair for five months and he is trying to reconcile with her, he said.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said. "I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth in advice on one's life there and advice here. But here recently, over this last year, it developed into something much more than that."

He added: "And as a consequence, I hurt her, I hurt you all, I hurt my wife, I hurt my boys, I hurt friends. . . . I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize."

The nearly 20-minute press conference was an extraordinary turn in one of the more unusual political episodes of the year, which began when questions about Sanford's whereabouts started circulating early this week. He had left Columbia in a state-issued SUV Thursday, and his office said over the weekend that it knew his location, adding on Monday that he had simply gone off to "recharge after the stimulus battle." But the state's lieutenant governor expressed concern about whether staff members really did know where Sanford was. Sanford's wife told reporters Monday that she did not know his location, speculating that "he was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids."

On Monday evening, the governor's office said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. But this morning, Sanford stepped off a plane from Buenos Aires at the Atlanta airport, before making his appearance at the press conference in Columbia.

The episode has ramifications for the national political landscape. Sanford had emerged as one of the most visible and forceful critics of President Obama's agenda, to the delight of conservatives nationwide and to the chagrin of many in his own state, who despaired over his rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding at a time when unemployment was surging in South Carolina. Forced to step down after his current term by term limits, he was seen as a likely contender for the 2012 nomination.

Instead, he now finds himself as the second prominent Republican ensnared in revelations of adultery this month. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) acknowledged last week that he had an affair with a former staff member. Ensign stepped down from his leadership position in the Senate; Sanford said today that he is stepping down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, but did not address a shouted question about whether he would step down as governor. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will take over the governors' association post.

Sanford is known for his quirky personality, and he took an unconventional approach to his remarks today, beginning with a lengthy preamble about his love for hiking on the Appalachian Trail and the need for getting outside the "bubble." Later, he said that he had in fact suggested to his staff that he was headed to the Appalachian Trail...

Only then did he announce the "bottom line," that he had committed adultery. And he proceeded to elaborate in much detail about how the relationship developed with the woman, whom he did not name. He said that it was "ironic" that the relationship had started when he was counseling her to stay with her husband.

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