The Sanford Press Conference

I haven’t thought too much about this, beyond being sad at this betrayal of trust by someone I had so respected as a budget hawk and a principled conservative–the sort of person who is so important in a time of runaway spending and irresponsibility passing itself off as “tough decisions.”  I watched the YouTube clip of his press conference, but didn’t want to say anything about what I felt was most striking about it until now.

Today, Slate.com ran this column about the unseemly glee over Mark Sanford’s downfall.  A few words:

The snap judgments failed to acknowledge a grain of the fundamental human carnage we were witnessing. You can laugh at Sanford, as you can laugh at a video of a wrecked Amy Winehouse falling all over her house. But at some point, even though they did it to themselves, you have to feel sorry for them as human beings. You can do that, I think, and not be a fan of adultery or drug use…

What Mark Sanford seemed to be trying to say is that he screwed up, in the biggest possible way, because he lost his bearings. He lost his self-control. He was indulgent. He forgot that there were other humans in the world. Yet in the constant flow of abuse, joke-making, and grand conclusions about his failings, it seemed everyone having a good time pointing at his self-indulgence was also engaging in a form of it.

Look…I realize that conservatives ought to and have to be hard on Republican politicians who cheat on their wives and engage in other sins.  But sometimes I wonder how much of it stems from the fact that we’ve made so much of cheating Democrats that we can’t look like hypocrites now.  What if we are hypocrites, though?  Maybe this is a good time to admit that we have no idea what it’s like for families that go through this publicly.  We can’t really know if the absence of Sanford’s wife is a tribute to her self-respect or a sign of unfortunate–if understandable–bitterness.  Those things are not for us to comment on.  Maybe this is a good time to admit that Republicans and conservatives are not morally superior to Democrats and liberals simply because of their political beliefs.

Anyway, I’ll say this:  the most disturbing part, to me, of the Sanford press conference isn’t Mark Sanford’s speech.  I can’t say what his emotions were, whether praiseworthy or blameworthy.  But I can say that the girl grinning in the background throughout the speech is one of the most ghoulish things I have witnessed in one of these events.  It’s sad that we make so much of politics that we’re willing to rejoice in the pain and anguish of others, no matter how much they’ve brought it on themselves.  May we, as conservatives, never do that (again).

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