Thursday, June 25, 2009

On feeling sorry for Mark Sanford... but, good lord, not TOO sorry!

I do admit to feeling slightly (ever so slightly) sorry for GOP Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

William Saletan has an interesting column in Slate about how Sanford's train wreck of a presser yesterday unfolded in a much more human (and sincere) terms than, say, John Edwards' phony mea culpa. And John Dickerson (also in Slate) notes that there's something really distasteful about the way critics kicked the poor bastard when he was down. (Although, honestly, that was not my experience. And Dickerson missed another notable exception -- Josh Marshall was charitable.)

My view is essentially the same view I had of Bill Clinton's philandering:

It's really none of my business.

The fact that Mark Sanford's political future is over is probably a good thing, but the reason shouldn't be whatever personal upheavals and unhappiness he's going through.

Mark Sanford should be rejected and scorned because he was a nut.

Earlier this year, Sanford made a modest amount of news when he tried to reject the federal stimulus money that congress had alotted South Carolina.

This struck me as a pretty blatant political stunt. South Carolina eventually accepted the funds (at an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, you're goddamn right they're accepting stimulus funds!) but Sanford was able to raise his profile as the "principled" conservative who's genuinely worried about deficits. It was really just a way to get some ink in the national papers and push his name forth as a possible one for consideration in 2012.

Thankfully, that's over.

But there is something ludicrous about the insistence in this country that our leaders and policy makers also be paragons of moral virtue.

I grant you this: There is something exceedingly slimy about a guy who cheats on his wife. It's a grave betrayal. If I found out that one of my friends was betraying his wife I'm not sure they would remain my friend for very long. (And I admit that one of the things I admire about President Obama is that he is a man of such sterling character, who clearly loves his wife, and who doesn't seem tempted into betraying her in such an ugly way.)

So I suppose I understand how we all want our policy makers to be "like us" -- or something. (Or even better than us.)

But really, seriously, when will this country grow up?