Friday, June 26, 2009

The Deed Unshaped Him Quite

In a state like ours, a democratic republic, the press has an important job. We need them to investigate and report on the activities of our elected officials as well as all the non-elected people who do our business and make decisions that affect our lives.

When the Governor of a state goes missing, that's fair game. When that Governor is also considered a likely candidate for President, it adds to the story's interest. For a couple of days in this past week, the apparent disappearance of the Governor of South Carolina was a strange, interesting political story. Was he okay? Where was he? Who was running the state government?

The story, of course, got stranger. He wasn't where his staff said he was, he had been seen at an airport getting in a plane, his vehicle was found, and so on. It became an intriguing story about a public official who was behaving oddly.

Reporters investigated and they found out what was up more quickly than the Governor's own security detail. As they found out what they found out, and as I read in news reports, the story evolved very publically into something that was very much not my business. But by then it was too late.

This won't be the routine commentary on the downfall of yet another moralizing politician. We know that bit and by now that song has been sung, again, on every news show and internet news site.

The emails, oy. Did I really need to read them? Did they need to be published? Do I need to know the identity of the Governor's mistress in Buenos Aires? Not really.

For some reason, I went back and watched his press conference. The morning he came back, he had been met at the airport by a reporter, and by lunch time he knew that his affair was going to become public, so he made a press conference and announced it himself. I did not watch it that day because it was none of my business.

Yet for some reason, I don't know why, I watched his press conference later. I heard it was different, and so it was: messy, unscripted, genuinely emotional. He rambled. Besides the usual political disclosure of extra-marital hijinks and the terse apologies, he went into detail about the relationship. He needed to talk and, oh God, he was doing it publically instead of with a counsellor.

It was remarkably adolescent, the feelings he described and the language he used to describe them. ("That sparking thing" is one phrase he used.) This is not the story of a politician who got caught with a hooker or an intern. This was, in fact, a romance. He had been in the grip of feelings so powerful that he was put into a conflict with his professed beliefs, and had questioned the commitments he had made. He actually ran away from the Governor's office and fled the country, secretly, to confront his own passion. This is not your run-of-the-mill political sex scandal.

Is this any of my business? Have I not gone crazy for a moment, had a meltdown, and upset the people closest to me? We who watch this happen to someone else, while on the dais of public service, can spare some human compassion for the person. He is in a lot of trouble, and deserves it; but he is not Tartuffe. He is not at all the kind of hypocrite we see in the Larry Craigs and Newt Gingriches of our politics. Governor Mark Sanford is more of an Angelo, a man who preached rigid morality and insisted that people should be uncomplicated. Now life has given him a taste of how complicated we really are, and like Angelo, he has been quite unshaped.

It is painful to watch and wonder how he was spared this messy but important teaching for so long. But is it any of my business? As a member of the public, not even a citizen of his state? The only part of this that is any of my business is human compassion, for him and his family.


Anonymous said...

Well said.

Pam said...

I have more compassion for his family. I did watch the news conference and was, frankly, appalled.

Perhaps I had a female reaction. But, I was thinking "what a pompous ass!" That news conference was all about him and it was both appalling and sickening to watch.

Hypocricy and power are, sadly, nothing new. Powerful men of all ilk seem to think they can behave any way they wish and get away with it.

Powerful, yet stupid. In this day and age how could they think they could get away with it?

I'm not shocked. I'm just tired of men behaving badly

Of course, women are perfect.... :)

Kelly said...

I can understand what you're saying here, Algernon, however....

I didn't watch the news conference so I all know is what was reported in various news services. First of all, I'm not making any judgement on his "affair". Sadly, that's nothing new in the world of politics (entertainment, religion, etc.)

What does concern me (especially if I were a resident of his state) is that he just disappeared for a number of days. Am I correct in that No one, including his Atty. Gen. or other staff members knew where he was during this time??

Yes, we've all had our crazy moments (or most of us, anyway), but for someone with that kind of responsibility to just disappear...

Algernon said...

From what I understand, nobody knew although it is likely a staff member or two suspected where he had gone and what he was doing.

And of course nothing written above reduces his complete responsibility for his actions and their ramifications. It gets worse, as apparently he saw her on at least one publically-funded trip. There will be consequences and he has earned them. So it goes for all of us.

quid said...

It was TOO MUCH INFORMATION. It was sad and a little ugly.

OMG, how I love Tartuffe and Measure for Measure.