Mixed emotions

MIXED EMOTIONS…. Mulling over South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R) press conference, I’m not sure what to think.

On the one hand, just on a human level, it was tough to watch the governor humiliate himself, fessing up to a deeply embarrassing extramarital affair. Sanford didn’t make excuses, he wasn’t dodging any uncomfortable questions, and thankfully, didn’t have his wife standing there next to him. All in all, at least on the surface, the governor acted like a stand-up guy, owning up to his wrongdoing

And then there’s that other hand. A stand-up guy doesn’t lecture others on “family values” and then cheat on his wife. A stand-up guy doesn’t secretly leave the country and blow off his professional responsibilities to more than 4 million South Carolinians.

Indeed, watching Sanford’s confession today, I kept thinking about Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) identical confession just last week. The circumstances are surprisingly similar — during the Lewinsky scandal a decade ago, Ensign voted to remove the president from office, and Sanford voted to remove Clinton from office. When other prominent politicians got caught in sex scandals, Ensign went on the attack, and Sanford went on the attack. Ensign is an evangelical Christian who’s promoted the “sanctity” of marriage; Sanford is an evangelical Christian who’s promoted the “sanctity” of marriage.

A politician’s personal problems are a private matter, but the hypocrisy here is harder to overlook.

Chris Cillizza added:

This is not the end of the story. The problem for Sanford is that he appears to have willfully misled his staff, the lieutenant governor and the people of the state about his whereabouts — signaling that he was likely headed to the Appalachian Trail before hopping on a flight to Argentina. There will almost certainly be some sort of investigation into whether Sanford misused state funds on this trip — remember that he took a state-owned vehicle and parked it at the Columbia airport — that will keep this wound raw for the foreseeable future.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised, given the governor’s popularity (or lack thereof) among state lawmakers, if impeachment talk starts making the rounds fairly quickly.

I’d be remiss if I neglected to add that while sex scandals are always going to generate public interest, the significance of Mark Sanford’s efforts to screw over his own constituents with his neo-Hooverite economic policies is almost certainly more offensive than anything he had going on in his private life.