Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crying for One's Self in Argentina

Regarding the sordid episode in the life of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a few observations:

1) Once again, numerous people seem to find no discomfort in expressing exuberance over the personal tragedy of one who happens to be a political opponent. This malady afflicts persons across the political spectrum. One might wish that those who engage in this sort of thing would take a good hard look in the mirror and realize the kind of persons they have become.

2) Some have suggested that Mr. Sanford should be required to resign as a result of his admission of having had an affair, but, of course, this is just a combination of partisan silliness on the left and chest thumping regarding family values on the right. Requiring all office holders who had engaged in such dalliances to resign would necessitate an intolerable public expense for all of the special elections that would have to be called as a result. Besides, while the Governor has committed a transgression that most would find to be repugnant, in so doing he did not do something that made him unfit for office -- not in the narrow sense anyway. More on that momentarily.

3) Those who disagree on item two might counter that Mr. Sanford is unfit as the result of hypocrisy, as he said harsh things about former President Bill Clinton's comparable failures. However, hypocrisy also must not disqualify one from holding office. If it did, all current office holders would have to resign, and there would be no replacements among the living. Besides, everyone surely knows that, whatever the merits of the case against President Clinton, it was never suggested that the President should be impeached for having received services from Monica Lewinsky. Rather, he faced the question of whether he should be impeached for having lied under oath regarding the receipt of such services.

4) For reasons that are not entirely clear, Governor Sanford effectively disappeared for a week in order to wrap up matters related to his dalliance. His failure to temporarily provide for the transition of power during his absence from the country left his state without constitutionally authorized leadership. That is a serious dereliction of duty that must not be overlooked.

The fact of Mr. Sanford's affair gives his family much to think about and decisions to make. The fact of his irresponsibility in the exercise of his office is a matter for the people of his state. It is for that latter reason, not the former, that the governor should resign.

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