As it usually goes with these things, the Associated Press reported today that the well-publicized affair of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was even more lurid than he previously admitted. What had been confessed in a painful press conference last week as a one year relationship is now discovered to have started in 2001, turning up the heat on the already boiling, bizarre case of the unfaithful governor.
Over the weekend, the increasingly few Republicans not fighting a scandal were on damage control. With Sen. John Ensign and Sanford getting exposed for adultery and the Larry Craig incident still fresh in the public mind, the GOP was out to combat the impression that the sexual misconduct was a trend. The party’s self-proclaimed title as the center for “family values” was in danger and it was all hands on deck to keep another ship in the Republican fleet from sinking.
On Sunday’s Meet the Press, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney managed to sew a shot at the gay equality movement with his defense of the party’s integrity (emphasis added).
I don’t think there’s any question but that we aspire to the highest standards of ethical conduct and that we aspire to values that’ll make America stronger. There’s no question. But the best think you can do for raising a child is to have a mom and dad love each other in a home. And, and to say that and to say we want to see marriage between men and women, that we want to see families raised with the benefit of people who are married, that’s a, that’s a very important part of our culture. It’s part of what our, our parties believes. We believe in life. These features are important. And do we have people who don’t live up to those standards? Absolutely.
By this point, the Republican spin machine has gotten really good at handling adultery, allowing for opportunities for folks like Romney to exploit emergency to the party’s advantage. But, a decade after the GOP went batshit crazy over an extramarital affair in the White House, are they guilty of hypocrisy?
Romney’s partner on the Sunday news show was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who was quick to point out that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that President Clinton committed had nothing to do with the affair, but with the conspiracy to cover it up. Graham drew a subtle distinction between that adultery and this one, claiming Sanford had done nothing wrong.
But the governor did do something wrong. By focusing so much on the “heartbreak” and “love factor” of the affair, Republicans are safely evading the real issue with Sanford’s irresponsibility: no one was in charge of South Carolina for five days. Not even his wife knew where he was when he ran off to Argentina for one final go with the mistress, and without delegating power to the lieutenant governor, South Carolina was operating without a commander-in-chief.
When impeaching President Clinton, the Republicans said the trial wasn’t about sex – it was about lying. Now a decade later, already on the ropes when the tables were turned, they are deliberately making the Sanford affair about sex, to avoid the real questions about the governor’s absence.
It is a deliberate hypocrisy; a calculated P.R. juke to latch on to the little power the Republicans have left.