Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Invitation To Ridicule

Republican orthodoxy requires obeisance to the interests of the health insurance industry and the energy industry but there is no litmus test on cultural issues. Many Republicans, such as former New Jersey Governor and Bush 43 EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former Pennsylvania Governor (though it cost him the V.P. nod last year) support abortion rights. Former McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt and former Vice-President Dick Cheney support gay marriage, though each having a close family member who is a lesbian has made it a principle of convenience.And one rarely hears a Repub criticize Hollywood anymore (perhaps in part because one of their own is governor of the largest state), presumably a wise tactic in a country in which the death of a bizarre performer has become the biggest news of the month year decade century millenium. Sure, no Repub publicly supports gun control, but few Democrats do either; and enactment of gun control legislation would be a 50-50 shot in the event of simultaneous attacks upon 40 large American cities by Smith & Wesson-armed Muslim terrorists.

So perhaps we liberals should lay off applying the charge of "hypocrisy" whenever a party which once emphasized "family values" is caught in a sexual escapade. The term "family values" is no longer used (except when ridiculing Repubs) and the GOP has demonstrated little commitment to cutting the rate of abortion, eliminating same-sex marriage, or questioning the American fascination with celebrity. It shouldn't come as a surprise, for as Thomas Frank has noted of the GOP elite and opinion leaders "the needs of business stand like a rock; all else is convenience, opportunism, a bit of bushwah generated by some focus group session and forgotten the instant it is no longer convincing."

Still, some Republicans crave vulnerability, begging to be evaluated on the basis of their adherence to a strict set of moral values. Asked by David Gregory on Sunday's Meet The Press about the Mark Sanford affair, Lindsay Graham, the senior Senator from South Carolina and godchild to one of the Sanford children, made clear his criteria for effective governance:

I think if Mark can reconcile with Jenny, and that's not going to be easy, that he can finish his last 18 months. He's had a good reform agenda. And I do believe that if, if he can reconcile with his family and if he's willing to try, that the people of South Carolina would be willing to give him a second chance. But he's also got to reconcile the legislature. If he can get his family back together, I think he can continue out his term and maybe do some good things next year.

If a state employee in South Carolina, as almost everywhere, were to blow off his/her job for a few days, doesn't let anyone know where he will be, when he will return, or even that he's going to be away, he's in big trouble. Some places, they call that "job abandonment." A chief executive does so, and it's okay as long as he gets squared away with his wife, specifically "reconcile with his family."

The Governor on Monday revealed his own lack of seriousness as a public official when, after first suggesting he considered resignation, he claimed

A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise – that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride.”

Personally, as a supporter of then-President Clinton, I don't give a rodent's rear end what the Governor of South Carolina was doing in Argentina or with whom, and not only because there is plenty of tomfoolery (bad behavior, for those of you under 80) committed by members of both parties. But in good times and bad (and, especially in South Carolina, these are bad times), somebody ought to know where the Governor is and when he'll be back; that is the biggest reason most states have a Lieutenant Governor.

Mark Sanford can decide on his own whether to resign. But for him to suggest that God has asked him to stay on, that the deity is favoring him over Mark Bauer, is more than a little presumptuous and invites charges of hypocrisy. Perhaps God does have a dog in this fight; but if he does, Governor Sanford would have no way of knowing.

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