My, my, my, Governor Sanford. You really do have a flair for the dramatics. I mean, you took a difficult situation and amp’ed it into something that rivals the antics of my beloved housewives from the great state of New Jersey.
I have no words. Whatever. So he cheated. I sorta can’t bring myself to care some much about that. But flying so far out of control that you go missing for several days – over Fathers’ Day – and your cover story is that you went hiking to recharge your battery? What?! Working in a line from Evita in your presser? WHAT?! Good lord.
Anyway, one of my favorite people wrote this piece on the Sanford issue. As always, she is right on. (G-d damn it! Why can’t I write like this?!)
Resolved: Mark Sanford is a Human Being
by Alicia Menendez
Yesterday we watched Governor Mark Sanford stand behind a podium and wait as long as possible before saying what everyone had come to hear—that he had cheated on his wife. As we all know, this spectacle has become mind-bogglingly common in American political life. It’s almost trite now, something we expect to see every few months like the changing seasons or the emergence of a new GOP 2012 hopeful. But still, we can’t look away when these scandals break. The Sanford story has all the makings of a daytime soap: sex, lies, ambition, betrayal, shame, and human suffering. He lied to his staff. He hurt his wife and sons. All of this from a man who told gay Americans that marriage is “between one man and one woman,” then couldn’t get the math right himself. He is a liar, a philanderer, and a hypocrite.
And the guy’s human. Which is where it gets tricky.
The last three decades have placed a premium on the authenticity of politicians. We say we want elected officials to be real—someone we could have a beer with—and yet it is only in these painful public admissions of failure that they feel like actual people. This isn’t windsurfing or eating a fried pork chop at the Iowa State Fair—it’s love, lust, and heartache. This is as real as it gets, people.
Those raw emotions are what draw us in—the husband’s embarrassment, the wife’s humiliation, the kids’ confusion. Many of us have been on one side of infidelity. We can identify with the cheater, the cheatee, the fling, or all three. Suddenly the governor of South Carolina isn’t someone special, he’s just another human struggling with lofty, intertwined notions of faith and fidelity. He’s just some dude deeply torn between what he wants and what he’s committed to.
But when that veneer cracks and we glimpse the humanness we thought we wanted to see, it’s not exactly comfy. The pundits throws stones and cross their fingers that nobody discovers their own transgressions. The cable news correspondents, who during campaigns beg for honesty from candidates, find themselves ill-equipped to grapple with the range of emotions that course through these pressers. So they move from the discomfort of a broken family to the one thing that makes this conversation clean, neat, and arguably newsworthy: 2012.
But this moment, like Ensign’s, isn’t about 2012. That’s what we tell ourselves to legitimize our interest. It isn’t about the way in which we all found out, ridiculous as it was. It’s about a moment of connection that manifests itself in disgust or empathy, but a rare moment of recognition all the same.
Politicians grapple with the most human elements of society: our reproductive rights, our marriage rights, our health care rights. But somehow it’s almost impossible to think of them as human. They wield tremendous power over our lives, and that can be frustrating, especially when they make judgments about who we love and who we lust after, what we can and can’t do with our own bodies. Many smother us with their own concepts of morality, and so we feel vindicated when they themselves cannot live up to their own standards.
The hypocrisy is enraging. But so is our own.