Political rivalry and ideological differences find a convenient target
First, for the sake of full disclosure let it be known that I am indeed a big fan of the South Carolina governor, and therefore may have a different view of his escape to Argentina for a few days following a stressful legislative session. Nevertheless, I don’t like that the chief executive for one of our fifty states essentially went missing for five days without apprising people of his current location. I don’t like that, in the case of emergency, staffers were left to make the decision of who to call and what to do. He should have been more explicit, without a doubt.
But to say that his political career is somehow over, that his credibility in terms of that needed for a pursuit of national office is somehow shot is just downright ridiculous.
Let’s go through the many facets of this situation, one by one:
1. What kind of person leaves his wife and four sons over Father’s Day weekend in search of relaxation?
I’ll admit that, at first, this question bugged me as well. After all, as far as I know his picturesque beach house on Sullivan’s Island was placed on the market this spring but has not sold yet. Furthermore, even his detractors note that Sanford is known as a devoted family man, so choosing to leave town–whether it be to the Appalachian Trail or the coast of Argentina–over a weekend traditionally known for backyard barbeques and playing catch with the kids is understandably game for scrutiny.
My wife, however, knows when I am in need of some alone time. Whether it be due to a particularly stressful weekend in terms of studying for exams or in the day or two after a bad semester comes to a close, she’ll happily stay with our daughter at my in-laws’ house to give me a much-needed sanity break. After what has been an extremely difficult legislative session marred by a packed schedule of interviews, correspondence to and from the White House, tea parties to attend, lawsuits to file and more, Sanford needed a break. Knowing what it’s like to have an extremely supportive wife and family myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenny Sanford and the couple’s kids gave their husband and father a much-needed Father’s Day present — a break.
2. This is just the latest in a long line of eccentric behavior exhibited by Mark Sanford throughout his political career on the state and national level.
Eccentric behavior? Included in a piece at Politico.com is a number of examples. I find it interesting what gets passed off as “eccentric” nowadays.
As a congressman in the 1990s, he slept in his office to save money. I don’t know about you, but I like a lawmaker so willing to make a point about fiscal conservatism. If I were to run for Congress now, I certainly would not be able to afford to maintain a residence in Washington, D.C. as well as our home here — I would be forced to live with friends until we padded our savings accounts enough, commuting back and forth on the weekends like a more sane Joe Biden.
As governor, he brought squealing piglets into the statehouse to make a point about pork-barrel spending. And I’ll bet it was the lead story on every evening news broadcast from the Lowcountry to the Golden Corner, too. Fantastic. We absolutely, positively need someone willing to put themselves on the line for sanity in government. Because the story lives on in perpetuity, it’s fairly obvious that Sanford made his point. At this time in 2007, Democrats ceremoniously set up cots on Capitol Hill in a failed effort to force a vote on an Iraq troop withdrawal vote, and nobody throught that strange. Yet barely anybody remembers that gesture, while Sanford and his piglets are the stuff of political legend.
He’s a millionaire, but wears frayed slacks and was even sworn in while wearing a frayed jacket. Okay, so he’s not George Clooney. Whoop-dee-doo. All this does is emphasize the divide between the elite crowd in Washington, D.C. and on the coasts and people like Gov. Sanford. We’ve seen how such fundamental and philosophical differences manifested themselves in criticism of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin–derided for accepting an expensive, loaned campaign wardrobe–so it should come as no surprise that a similar attack is used on another right-of-center politician threatening the liberal establishment.
He walked around barefoot in meetings in the state Capitol and did sit-ups at odd times. Well, our sitting president seems to have a Vladimir Putin-like penchant for being spotted shirtless, and nobody seems to say anything. The media even highlighted his trips to the gym. On the barefoot thing, I don’t know — but I do often see women who take off their heels as soon as they reach the office.
“During his State of the State speech in 2006, he lost his train of thought and admitted he was daydreaming about a fishing trip with a pal.” All the time, we hear people wishing that our politicians could be more like the people they represent. Here’s a guy who would rather be fishing than giving a political speech. I don’t blame him — in fact, I have a friend who just started a charter fishing business in Charleston (I’m working on a story about him for America’s Right) and I look forward to getting out on the water with him next time I visit my future hometown. Besides, isn’t “I’d Rather Be Fishing” a popular bumper sticker? Nevertheless, it was a big political speech; thank goodness for his TelePrompt–
3. Going off for a few days at a time just shows that Mark Sanford is not presidential material.
“To run for president requires a steady diet of crackpot stew,” longtime Democratic Party strategist Paul Begala is quoted as saying in the Politico piece. “Start with borderline narcissism, add a bit of Messiah complex, stir in a dollop of paranoia and blend with delusions of grandeur.”
Hmm. That’s lovely. We see where that particular candidate profile got us. And speaking of the liberal Messiah, it seems to me that our current president–elected by what the American left would like to call a landslide–has a long history of far-left ideology, counts among his friends actual terrorists and terrorist sympathizers foreign and domestic, attained office by questionably forcing others off the ballot, and has significant unanswered questions about his personal life — including missing college records (the media sure liked to scrutinize the records of George W. Bush) and what many consider to be inadequate evidence of even the most basic information about his birth.
Yet Mark Sanford’s decision to take a well-needed vacation while he still can is somehow an automatic disqualifier? Last I checked, the U.S. Constitution mentions nothing of unannounced vacations in Article II, Section 1.
4. But . . . but it’s just weird.
Apparently, Sanford himself admitted that he likes to take “adventure trips” to unwind. The State noted that he has in the past visited Turkey, The Greek Isles and South America, and quoted the governor as saying that he would feel the need to “get out of the bubble I am in.”
Perhaps anyone who doesn’t deem that understandable should ask Barack Obama. The president has, several times since taking his seat in the Oval Office in January, mentioned his need to escape the “fishbowl” of the White House and has indeed done whatever he could to do so — including trips for hot dogs, ice cream and hamburgers out in the D.C. area. Of course, Five Guys is not Argentina, but the concept is the same.
Before we dismiss South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford as a kook or someone otherwise incapable of running for and holding the presidency, perhaps we should look past the superficial idiosyncracies and look at what motivates them. I see a man who wants nothing more than to live the life of his constituents but, because of his profile, can only do the best he can to preserve their way of life from his position in the Capitol or the statehouse.
The man wanted to get away. I don’t blame him. In fact, if I could, I’d join him — frayed pants and all.