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Sanford’s Got to Go

June 28, 2009

By Michael S. Smith II

“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife.”

Those were the last words most Republicans expected to hear from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. For many of us, words like “shocking” just don’t do the trick when describing our feelings about this news. For Democrats, although words like hypocrite may not have been on the tips of their tongues last week, they will be soon enough.

Unlike the political god I presumed he might be when I, then a politically-green 20-year-old, first met “Mark” at his Sullivan’s Island home during his first gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Sanford’s revelations last week demonstrated he is a mere mortal who is capable of exercising exceptionally poor judgment. His intentions to stay in office for the remainder of his term further exemplifies this reality, and this decision is galvanizing his party in South Carolina during a pivotal time for Republican politics.

In their June 26 piece titled “Political Future of Sanford is Weighed After Admission,” New York Times journalists Robbie Brown and Liz Robbins recounted U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford’s response to the news of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky:

“‘He lied under a different oath, and that’s the oath to his wife,’ Mr. Sanford said at the time on CNN. ‘So it’s got to be taken very, very seriously.'”

After watching Governor Sanford admit he has been cheating on his wife, my initial thought was that the governor, given his statements about Bill Clinton’s affair, would be wise enough to recognize staying in office is an option — for the time being — which will only cause more pain for his family and friends, not to mention other problems for his party. However, through an exchange of e-mail correspondences with the governor’s director of communications that day, it became clear my assessment was, in fact, just as baseless as my assumption that Mark Sanford was a leader whose record was beyond reproach. (During the morning of June 24, the day Mark Sanford admitted he has been unfaithful to his wife, I received a call from one of my sources who wanted to provide me information about Mark’s jaunt to South America. The caller advised Mark Sanford was visiting his girlfriend while in Argentina, but I dismissed the information as a disgusting rumor.)

Days later, given the growing rumors of one senator’s knowledge of Mr. Sanford exploits with another “other woman” than “Maria,” I guessed the Cabinet Meeting scheduled for Friday, June 26, would serve as the forum for a resignation announcement. Wrong again.

Since Friday afternoon I have discussed the questions of whether Gov. Sanford should submit his resignation, or whether the General Assembly will muster the will to launch an impeachment if he does not, with Republican state legislators, political strategists and fundraisers.

One prominent political strategist  stated:  “He’s finished, and he should resign.” Then, echoing the sentiments shared by several politicians, and as if to concede some flawed logic inherent in his aforementioned assertion, he noted:  “This is a personal issue, and, as far as I know, he probably hasn’t done anything that will warrant removing him from office.”

Following the news of Mr. Sanford’s decision to reimburse the state for expenses associated with an official state trip to Argentina, on which Mr. Sanford spent time with his mistress, one state senator called me. He explained:  “Unless there is something to the rumor that the administration ignored a request from the State Department that they not send a trade delegation to Argentina, there probably isn’t anything the General Assembly would discover that would merit serious discussions about removing the governor from office.”

The senator then explained it is unlikely enough members of the General Assembly will get behind an effort to impeach the governor in the first place. Why? Taking that step could prompt the press to examine rumors of their own personal lapses in judgment, he said. He then chuckled while adding:  “Trust me: This sentiment is shared by the senior-most ranking members of both parties who are serving in the General Assembly. The political will just isn’t there for very personal reasons.”

Despite the governor’s abhorrent behavior, too many South Carolina GOPers are still demonstrating a desire to follow in the governor’s footsteps — they have followed Mr. Sanford’s path into a state of denial. The guy is actually likening his story to that of David’s in the Bible. This, after his wife repeatedly told Mr. Sanford not to go to Argentina to visit his girlfriend there.

Too many conservatives in South Carolina have become blind to what’s really at stake — public perceptions of both the GOP and efforts to reform state government in South Carolina led by conservatives in the General Assembly.

While discussing the prospects of what Democrats will do to ensure Mr. Sanford does resign in disgrace — something Sanford recently told one state senator he refuses to do because of the legacy that would be left “for my boys” — Republicans seem unwilling to consider their Democrat colleagues in the South Carolina General Assembly will be anything but collegial. They’re wrong.

South Carolina Republicans must realize their assumptions that Democrats will be polite about this matter for much longer are a veritable ticking-time bomb. Their blind hope will fail them.

Republicans must encourage Mr. Sanford to reconsider his position, if for no other reason than a forced-resignation will only further disgrace the governor’s legacy, along with that of our party.

Much as it is time for the South Carolina General Assembly to begin tackling the hard issues confronting our state, it’s time for Republicans to deal with the primary issue confronting their party in South Carolina. That issue is the need for someone among them to get the following message through to Mark Sanford: It is time to resign.

The public rarely appreciates the sorts of equivocations emerging from statements issued by far too many South Carolina Republican “leaders” in recent days. What’s more, the DNC wants blood. And it is foolish for Republicans to believe the DNC will not be sending the following message to all Democrats who are or will be running gubernatorial campaigns in South Carolina: Don’t count on much help from the national party unless Mr. Sanford’s is spilled.

Once the real debate begins there will be little room for anything but decisiveness from members of the S.C.GOP. Before that debate begins, they need to decide what values are important to their party. After all, as Democrats will submit to the public in the weeks ahead:  Mark Sanford, the foremost representative of the S.C.GOP, “lied under a different oath, and that’s the oath to his wife. So it’s got to be taken very, very seriously.”

A resident of Charleston, S.C., Mr. Smith, a Republican, is a former copy editor and features writer for the Evening Post Publishing Company. He is editor of The Palmetto Times. (www.palmettotimes.com)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2009 3:52 AM

    June 24, 2009
    The Last Straw

    Governor Mark Sanford, one my personal heroes and the man I truly believed would one day be President of the United States, is now the straw that broke my political back.

    It turns out that Governor Sanford was not hiking the Appalachian Trail to clear his head and gather his thoughts as first reported by the Governor and his staff. Governor Sanford was in fact visiting his mistress in Argentina.

    I have praised Governor Sanford to everyone I know. Since this news broke and since I have been writing this post, my phone has not stopped ringing. My friends and family are calling to ask how in the world this could have happened. Sanford has been the man who has kept my faith in politics and belief that not all politicians are alike.

    Maybe it’s unfair of me to expect a politician to be as faithful to his wife and family as Winston Churchill was. Maybe it’s unfair of me to expect more out of our leaders. Maybe it’s unfair, but at this point, I don’t really give a damn about fair.

    I am simply sick and tired of the nonsense and flummery that clouds the lives and actions of so many of our elected leaders. I am sick and tired of cheating, stealing, and lying politicians. I am sick and tired of the hypocrisy. I am sick and tired of politicians touting Christian values on one hand and gallivanting around with Argentinian mistresses on the other.

    Harry Truman used to talk about wanting to surround himself with one-armed economists. Well, I want to start electing one-armed leaders so I won’t have to watch politicians say something on one hand and do the exact opposite on the other.

    In the end, I am just sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    I am more aware than most of the sinful nature of human beings. In the words of one of the most powerful hymns of all time, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found.” Being found and discovering the salvation of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean we walk away from the sinful nature of being human. However, it does mean that we fight sin with every ounce of our heart and soul. It does mean that we learn to hate and despise everything about sin.

    When it comes to today’s political leaders, even the ones who pronounce themselves as devoted followers of Christ, the battle against sin is being fought with kid gloves.

    As the great Samuel Johnson once said in a letter to his good friend and fellow scholar Joseph Baretti, “Keep always in your mind, that, with due submission to Providence, a man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself.”

    No matter if you’re a ten year child watching your favorite baseball player get busted for steroid use or a thirty-year-old commercial real estate broker watching one of your political heroes confess to an affair, being disappointed really stings.

    I will pray for Governor Sanford and his family and will hope that this confession will rekindle his fight against the vices that so aggressively attack us all.

  2. Chris permalink
    June 29, 2009 11:34 AM

    Mr. Sanford is used to privilege and is not willing to give it up for the good of his party or the people of South Carolina. This kind of arrogance is all too typical of politicians who forget that they REPRESENT the people, that they were elected to SERVE and that when they cease to behave responsible they must resign.

    By the way, wasn’t the quote above regarding breaking God’s law in reference to Robert Livingston (the adulterous congressman outed by porn publisher Larry Flint)? When Sanford was a member of Congress he demanded Livingston’s resignation on moral grounds. Now Sanford wants a pass for having done the same!

    If Sanford is allowed to stay in office it will be the fault of the people of South Carolina for not demanding more of their leaders.

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