You have to give it to conservative Republicans. When they decide to self-destruct, they seek maximum detonation. The admission by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that he had an affair, though disappointing, is by no means the kiss of death in today’s political environment. Just ask former President Bill Clinton. What makes Sanford’s situation so salacious is the circumstances that led to the revelation. Sanford went AWOL from his post, leaving aides to tell reporters and inform the public that he was hiking along the Appalachian Trail. As it turns out Sanford was on a long-distance rendezvous with his mistress in Argentina, taking to new heights the very notion of a “booty call.” In the vernacular of the street, Sanford was “whipped.” His wife apparently knew of the affair but not of Sanford’s whereabouts, and to top it all, the governor left his son alone on Father’s Day. So much for the GOP’s family values.
This is the same conservative who just weeks ago claimed he was standing on principle in rejecting federal funds from the economic stimulus package, and years before stated President Clinton should resign over the Lewinsky scandal. This is a rising star of the right from the same party that just last week saw another of its flock, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, admit to an affair with an aide who is married to a friend. And you thought Democrats had all the fun! Throw former Senator Larry Craig, former House Speaker Bob Livingston, his predecessor Newt Gingrich and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the room and you have the new edition of the Player’s Club. Not even the Mack had this much game! Forget running for the presidency, the GOP just needs an annual “Player’s Ball” to crown the Pimp of the Year.
Yes, I know Democrats are no better. Just look at former New Jersey Governor Jim “I am a Gay American” McGreevey whose rendezvous with a lover are the stuff of political legend and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the defender of ethics who somehow put his on the nightstand when he sacked a call girl. It’s just that these conservative Republicans are so much more fun to bash because of their self-righteous chirping on moral issues. You would think they would have learned by now. Yet, here comes another one down Hypocrisy Road making a right turn onto Has Been Lane. After so many conservatives have failed this driving test, you think someone would have learned not to get behind the wheel. But here they go again.
After apparently lying to his staff, who in turn lied to the media, and skipping off to his Argentinean hookup, the best Sanford could do was take his turn weeping before the camera and resigning as chair of the Republican Governors Association. South Carolina voters should call for his immediate resignation. Its bad enough Sanford tried to deny the state much needed federal aid out of the stimulus package, there is some question as to the source of the funds that paid for his overseas junket. It seems like the only stimulation Sanford care about was his own.
With each one of these incidents, the Republican Party digs the trench out of which it must climb just that much deeper. Keep it going and hip boots will be required attire for party members. At the same time, the GOP faces a population shift that sees its angry white, conservative base losing ground quickly as younger voters move toward the Democrats and Blacks and Latinos looking at Republicans in their rear view mirror. With the downfall of Ensign and Sanford, two of the GOP’s potential 2012 field, Sarah Palin is looking like the head of the class. Talk about lowered expectations. At this point, the party may need to send out an e-vite to find vetted and relatively clean politicians to serve as a backbench.
Though I poke fun at the situation, it is truly no laughing matter when an elected governor goes missing for seven days and then shows up only to confess his indiscretions. The people of South Carolina elected a Governor and they deserve better. Mark Sanford needs to do the right thing by the people of his state and tender his resignation.