Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I’m sorry but I just can’t get my head around some things politicians do. I had always thought whenever you left a lofty political position in disgrace, it was almost impossible to suddenly regain your position in political life — all within months. Most of the time, it never happens.
That’s why with a heavy heart, I am about to comment on ex-governor and ex-congressman Mark Sanford’s re-entry onto the political stage after leaving in dishonor. He didn’t actually leave; he served out his time as a lame-duck governor. In the process, he saturated the state and national television with his “apology tour.” He just could not resist talking about his newly found Argentine love. I said at the time he should have limited his conversation during the aftermath to only two words. “I quit!” He didn’t, however, and continued to embarrass most South Carolinians until the day the moving truck pulled out of the gate of the Governor’s Mansion. We thought we were finished with him.
I was once an admirer and supporter of Mark Sanford. I thought he brought a sensible and realistic approach to the problems of our state and nation. I believed he was the right man for the job in each step of his political journey. His political and even moral ideals matched pretty well with my own. But he let me and several million other South Carolinas down. And, we don’t easily forget that fact. I cannot avoid recalling the words of one-time presidential candidate, Ross Perot, when speaking of marital infidelity: “If his wife can’t trust him, why should I?”
That’s why I was surprised that he has self-anointed himself as a candidate for U.S. Congress for the 1st S.C. district.
In a letter of announcement for his candidacy, he says, “I have failed miserably in my personal life at the end of my term as Governor. I have repented, apologized and done everything I could to restore trust that was broken …” Many of us have failed to recognize exactly what he has done to “restore trust.”
Let’s take a look. He ran off to another continent following his hormones to spend time with his paramour. None of us believe he went down to Argentina to hold hands with his new-found love. He turned his back on what most folks perceive as a loving and lovely family. He lied to his family and to the citizens of South Carolina by claiming he was spending time alone on the Appalachian Trail but, indeed, was seeking some self-induced mid-life fulfillment with a woman half a world away who was not his wife.
The press busted him at the Atlanta airport on his way back to the Governor’s mansion in Columbia. He subsequently publicly apologized but in the process embarrassed his family (and I think himself) by declaring to the world that he had met his “soul mate.” How embarrassing is that to a wife of many years and the mother of his children? He has since announced his plans to marry the South American love of his life. He refused to leave the office of governor and served out his time much to the embarrassment of S.C. voters.
And, now he wants the citizens of the 1st S.C. Congressional District to return him to high office. What gall! I realize that if elected he would have much common company among Congressional colleagues but should the voters of S.C. be content with that?
What comes next? John Edwards re-enters the race for president of the United States in 2016?
The first question I expect to be asked is, “Don’t you believe in redemption and second chances?” Of course I do, but like most folks we want to see solid evidence of repentance and restoration. Not many folks attempt to point out examples of this in the recent life of Mark Sanford except by his own words. Perhaps I have missed something but most of us are still waiting for tangible evidence that he has shed his mantle of narcissism as proof of his restoration.
Sanford continues to claim that a multitude of citizens daily encourages him to run for office. He apparently travels in quite different circles than I do. Of course, there will always be political toadies who will latch onto the coattails of prominent political personage. Look no farther than the example we have in the Oval Office shenanigans of Bill Clinton. In the eyes of many, he did no consequential wrong in succumbing to the sexual charms of a barely post-teen government intern.
No, Mr. Sanford, I think you may be counting on very short memories of South Carolinians. William Faulkner once wrote that in the South, “The past is not dead, it isn’t even past.”
But on the other hand, politics is an unpredictable spectacle and who can accurately predict the public mindset in an era when shame has exited the political arena?
I do believe, however, that the mindset of South Carolinians is well predicated.
John Brock is a retired college professor and newspaper editor/publisher who lives in Georgetown County and can be reached by mail at this newspaper or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is: www.SouthernObserver.com.
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.