Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
Indiscretions and bizarre indiscretions
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – The special election for a congressional seat in South Carolina was never within reach for a Democrat although Elizabeth Colbert Busch made a valiant effort with the borrowed star power of her brother, Stephen Colbert. Former Governor Mark Sanford won an easy victory, confirming that even in the Deep South Bible Belt, family values matter less for some voters than sending another Republican to Washington.
This is the second time around for Sanford to represent South Carolina’s 1st congressional district. He held the seat before he became governor and disgraced himself by lying about an affair. He instructed aides to say he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, a cover story exposed when a reporter spotted him at the airport returning from a visit to his then mistress in Argentina.
What two consenting adults do is their business, but sometimes how they do it becomes the public’s business. Sanford used state funds to pay for his travel; he left state business unattended when he disappeared mysteriously, and he wants voters to believe that these personal lapses do not lessen his zeal for cutting the deficit and reducing the public debt.
Sanford separates his personal life from his business life, and he wants voters to do the same. He also wants voters to forget that when he was in Congress the first time around, he voted to impeach President Clinton. His moral outrage at Clinton’s behavior was loud and clear.
Too much emphasis is placed on the personal lives of politicians and not the work they do, so Sanford has a point, although it’s one that he makes selectively to give himself an out for past behavior. What he did in having an affair while married, and while holding office, is not unusual – in fact, it’s almost commonplace among the ruling class.
It’s how he did it and the bizarre nature of his behavior that makes his comeback newsworthy. The voters in South Carolina had lots of choices – there were 16 candidates vying for the seat that Sanford won. The field was narrowed to two, and then it was Sanford versus Colbert Busch.
Polls showed there was no love for Sanford, and a late in the race charge filed by his ex-wife for trespassing in her home should have sunk Sanford. He had an affair, no big deal for a lot of people in the modern age, but how he went about it made you wonder if he has the maturity to regain the public trust.
In Washington as a member of the GOP caucus, Sanford will become just another Republican vote. There’s nothing to suggest that he will stand out in any way, and the Republicans seem a bit embarrassed that he’s back in their fold. The GOP did nothing to boost his candidacy, but then, he didn’t need any help other than the GOP label in the heavily Republican district.
Political comebacks are supposed to make us feel good about the person who demonstrates the resiliency to reclaim what was lost. Sanford has won the office he sought, but has yet to win back the respect he lost.
A simple indiscretion is something most people understand; an oddball indiscretion is another matter. Sanford got past the ridicule and the late night jokes, setting an example for another politician who is trying to make a comeback after being laughed out of office. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., wants to be mayor of New York. He crossed a line as a congressman and as a married man when he sent graphic pictures of himself over the Internet to women he didn’t know. Will the voters of New York be as quick to forgive as the voters in South Carolina? There are indiscretions, and there are bizarre indiscretions. Do voters make the distinction? Do they care?
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND