THIS, then, has become our theme of the week: You work in political journalism! If you are not personally responsible for the Attention Deficit Disorder and the Scatology and the hypocritical Small Town School-Marmishness you have at least acquiesced in exchange for a paycheck, quite possibly for your entire career, since it describes the Press in general for at least a quarter-century. At the very least you might lay off the shocked finger-pointing and sad head-shaking when typical Press behavior is on display. Compared to you guys the American Psychological Association is a model of transparent motivation and self-criticism.
Take that back. Compared to you guys everyone else is a model of transparent motivation and self-criticism.
If Why didn't the President talk about Iraq? is a sick joke, coming from two major Bush administration lapdogs, Won't someone consider that Mark Sanford is a human being? is scribbled on the latrine door. And not just any latrine, but the Worst Toilet in Scotland. Roy makes the case more eloquently than a thousand Slate monkeys ever will, but without the suggestion that challenges to the human heart should trump political concerns in cases where Beltway insiders think they should. Disturbing glee? Only if you were also disturbed this morning when you noticed a large yellow ball of fiery gasses in the eastern sky. C'mon, Dickerson. It's Slate! It's the home of the Special Reverse Twist Counterintuitive Contrarianism masquerading as Just Common Sense. At what point in the distant past did You All Are So Heartless! Think of the Children! become as stale and phony as the Sexual Hijinks du Jour it supposedly disdains? Excepting that the Sexual Hijinks in question are generally of the Factual sort, often with added Hypocrisy of the "loudly campaigns and votes to prohibit just this sort of behavior" variety, whereas the "Oh, his Poor Family" routine is at best a (standard) argument and at worst a barely-concealed attempt to deflect a problem. And just because someone's crying--literally or figuratively--doesn't mean he's not a crocodile.
Mark Sanford is no longer missing, but he's obviously lost. The South Carolina governor's press conference was excruciating: apology, followed by self-flagellation, followed by apology. It was like watching a man light himself on fire. I thought about his kids mustering up the courage to watch it on YouTube some day. I thought about his wife having to suffer the anger and the loss. Perhaps even worse, she's also going to have to endure the armies of pity and the people like me trying to guess at what her feelings are.
So what th' fuck compels you to?
The scandal has ended Sanford's national political career. If the affair wasn't enough to do in Sanford as a presidential candidate, his erratic behavior was. He may be forced to resign as governor. Even if he stays in office, Democrats will figure out how much to exploit the scandal for their advantage.
Okay, again, this is news like The Dawn is news. You can't help speculating about a woman you don't know in the slightest, but Democrats are cruel jackals with a whiff of carrion in the breeze. Fucking choose one.
The personal impact of the Sanford affair is more gripping than the political. Sanford has done a horrible thing to his wife and family and friends. He seemed to know and feel this more profoundly than other politicians we've seen go through this familiar apology exercise before. That doesn't excuse him. Not that he was asking that anyone excuse him. He seemed to be trying to take all the blame, as he should. Some might think his explanations were excuses. To me they seemed like a man confessing the details of a crime.
Albeit one who had but two choices: face the cameras, or resign and try to hide out. Sanford chose to go weepy. He chose to make it about his "failures" and his staunch Christianity. He could have made it about the unique legal responsibilities he'd actively sought from the people of South Carolina, without anyone holding his precious family hostage, and then flaked on. And if he had, he would have resigned. There's a distinction between "confessing the details of a crime" and turning yourself over to the police to face the music, John.
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.
So, it didn't occur to you while you were typing that Amy Winehouse has never tried to throw anyone else in jail for public intoxication?
stopped for a moment to even nod to it. My thoughtful colleague William Saletan and Andrew Sullivan were exceptions.
"Liberal" Republican Pundits Longing In The Wake Of The Total Collapse Of Their Party To Find A Closet Big Enough To Crawl Back In for Sanford 2012!
Maybe there are others.
But finding them wouldn't advance my point.
Maybe people expressed these views in private conversations. But in the e-mails and Twitter entries and blog posts I read in the aftermath, Sanford's human ruin was greeted with what felt like antiseptic glee. The pain he's caused, the hypocrisies he's engaged in, seemed like license to deny him any humanity at all.
First that big glowing ball in the sky, now callous indifference by email and Twitter! Has the world turned upside down?
Sanford's fumbling efforts to explain how he's tried to rescue himself with his faith offered some people an opportunity to make fun of his religion, as if a confused, lost, flawed person were the right spokesman for anything.
So unfair, especially in light of the fact that the professionally religious--such as Mark Sanford, pre-last Thursday--never, ever, ever seize on anecdotal occurrences to advance their agenda. It's like they're being forced to fight with one hand tied behinds their backs, really.
People tend to think the most awful thing about a person is the most true thing.
Some do, no doubt, not that this comes as a revelation. Personally, I believe the most awful thing that comes out about a person in public life generally serves the same purpose that hush puppies serve for a pack of baying dogs.
They also apparently think it's the most true thing about his or her associations. So an e-mail arrived asking, "[I]s there any Republican not sleeping around?" Maybe Sanford should have been a presidential candidate. He apparently represents an entire party and an entire religion.
Not to mention the fact that this unfair tar job comes from The Party That Likes To Kill Little Babies. Well, at least we got to your real complaint before time ran out. So, no, John, you're right; one fallen hypocrite with Presidential aspirations does not represent the entire party and the entire religion. I think the actual question is whether the five-hundred forty-seven we now have lined up might begin to suggest a pattern.
One more John Dickerson quote, before we spend the rest of the day swapping salacious emails:
There are a couple of ways to get out of saying what the truth is. One is to say, well, I've got to get back to the business of the country. The problem is, he's not the president, he can't say that. He's also on recess. And the other thing is to attack your attackers, so they have attacked the media for going after him on this story. It's a legitimate story, though, and he's not coming up with the answers that he called for when President Clinton was in a similar fix.
That'd be Dickerson on CNN, July 6, 2001, taking about Representative Gary Condit. Ah. Simpler times.