Sanford Reax

John Cole props Dickerson’s piece at Slate.  I think Dickerson is very wrong in one part of his argument…this one:

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.failed to acknowledge a grain of the fundamental human carnage we were witnessing.

This is, frankly, bullshit.  Not the last sentence or two — but the claim of fact in the first one.  It is simply untrue, though it certainly fits Dickerson’s seemingly pre-arranged narrative.  Take, for example, Josh Marshall’s response.  Marshall takes second place to no one in his eagerness to mock the mockably corrupt and hypocritical — and Sanford is certainly the latter.  But here’s what he had to say as part of his live blog of the now-notorious Sanford presser:

2:28 PM … This is genuinely painful, sad … moving on to discussion of “God’s laws”.


2:38 PM … In what I can only call a very human discussion, Sanford is explaining that he went to Argentina on this trip was essentially to break off or end the relationship with the woman in Argentina and that he’s committed to trying to reconcile with his wife.

And here’s Josh’s immediate post-presser reaction:

Well, I’d say that that presser definitely answered a lot of questions. In fact, while Sanford probably saw the end of his political career today and obviously deceived a lot of people — and just acted profoundly irresponsibly with respect to his job as governor, let alone with respect to his wife and family, which is his own business — I can’t not give the guy some real credit. Unless there’s a lot more we don’t know, and it’s hard to imagine what more there could be, he just came up there and leveled with his constituents. I’m not sure he had much choice. But that sounded pretty frank and total.

It’s not a matter of ignoring or papering anything over. But it’s worth remembering whoever it was who said that none of us deserve to be known or remembered only for our worst moments.

The very first comment on the Daily Kos liveblog of the presser was titled “Trainwreck” and read, in its entirety, “I feel for his kids.”

And so on.  There are certainly a lot of mocking comments around the web, and a lot of “Sanford has been throwing stones for a while” comments — a true statement.  More pointedly, John Cole’s commenters make the obvious point that the damage Sanford has done to his wife and especially to his kids with his presser performance was entirely self inflicted.  No one made him get up there and tell the world his business in the way he chose, or felt compelled to do so.  A simple  “I messed up my marriage, now hope to repair it, and am resigning my governorship to do so…good bye…” would have got him out of the public eye on his own terms.  If there hasn’t been enough sympathy for Sanford to suit Dickerson — well the explanation may not be simple meanness.

But all that is besides the central issue for this post.  The point is that Dickerson has chosen to spin at least part of the assignment of moral failing in this story to those unnamed cruel folks who did not meet his standards of human charity.  And to do so he has chosen to ignore those prominent examples of people who did extend Sanford the kindness of acknowledging, amidst all of his real, not-going-away sins, pride, bad governance, bigotry, sexual authoritarianism (no gehs need apply, and all that), that this was a very sad man who had f*cked up in ways that humans do.

All this to advance a false narrative:  that the story here is that people on the left are mean, and not that another politician who has built his career, in part, on ostentatious piety and an intolerance for those who lead lives different from his own, has in his own life demonstrated the ill-match of those “values” with human existence in the real world.

No, no, no, no.  The old doctor’s aphorism is appropriate here:  the patient is the one with the disease.

And last:  I feel for Mr. Sanford’s family.  I sympathize with the pain he is himself going through.

But remember:   it is long past time to note that the fact that even those who most stridently speak of “values” can’t keep their pants zipped confirms what our side has been saying:  no one’s consenting-adult private life is the fit object of state power.  That’s why gay civil rights matters, that the meaning of supporting a woman’s right to decide what happens in her own body, the whole shebang.  Mr. Dickerson:  keep your eyes on that prize, and don’t worry if those of us who oppose what Governor Sanford has worked for don’t share your vision of proper table manners.

That is all.

Images: Jacques de Gheyn, “Venus and Cupid,” c. 1605-1610.

John William Waterhouse, “Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid’s Garden,” 1904.

Explore posts in the same categories: blogospheric tail chasing, Journalism and its discontents, Recklessness, Religious follies, Republican follies, Sex

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