Don't Cry For Mark, Argentina

BlogHer Original Post

The governor of South Carolina went missing this week, has been recovered, and then, once recovered, managed to totally make up a story about where he'd been, a story which was quickly disputed by those nasty things: facts. It turns out that he wasn't so much hiking on the Appalachian Trail by himself as he was visiting a mistress he's had in Argentina for some time, that his wife recently discovered and kicked him out of the house over. Now, it seems that he may be in danger of losing what little remains of his political career.

Republican Gov. Mark Sanford struggled to maintain political support Thursday, after acknowledging that he used state funds in 2008 to pay for an extramarital tryst with a woman in Argentina.

The governor's spokesman, Joel Sawyer, said Mr. Sanford had no plans to resign. The governor called the meeting to "obviously discuss recent events, and will get updates from some cabinet officials on various news at their agencies," Mr. Sawyer said.

"The purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip," Mr. Sanford said in his statement about the 2008 encounter in Buenos Aires. "I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with." He went on to say he planned to repay the "full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip."

Not that I'm a geography expert, but I remember that Family Channel show, Christie about a young, privileged, New England woman who moved to Cutter Gap to teach the hapless residents of that godforsaken mountain town how to read and how to love, and from my understanding of that fictitious historical account, neither Atlanta Airport nor his apparent destination, Argentina, is really anywhere near the Appalachian trail. But hey, who am I to judge, right? Well, except when taxpayer funds are used to pay for the trip drawing judgment, of course. And when Mark Sanford is an outspoken supporter of "traditional marriage," yet doesn't practice what he preaches.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford Returns To Capitol After Unexplained Trip

There were few people who insist that Mark Sanford is the Future of the Republican Party. The REAL Future of the Republican Party is someone who would probably rather try to eat a live weasel than take the reigns of what amounts to being the last, sputtering death whistle of a sliver of a glimmer of a political party. Mark Sanford is not that man, and I can say that comfortably, as I really never thought of him as that man before. Being a jerk isn't an impeachable offense, but such a breach of ethics has to be punished somehow. 2012 fading off into the distance has to be painful.

I mentioned the outspoken support for "traditional marriage" (quotes, yes, since the definition never seems consistent) because the subject has been particularly touchy recently. Sanford spent the last several weeks loudly voicing his opposition to President Obama's decision to extend certain benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees, preaching that the sanctity of marriage had to be preserved, and that every health insurance benefit extended was one step closer to the degradation of a sacred religious institution. You may or may not agree, but it seems fairly clear from the last several weeks -- this jaunt to Latin America, the selfish antics of Jon + Kate, whose viewed their marriage (and their children) as speedbumps on their road to stardom, and the countless divorces, adulterous relationships and philanderings of public officials we witness on a daily basis -- that same-sex partnerships are not the biggest threat to the institution of marriage in America.

It does seem, though, that our political leaders are having a difficult time admitting that. Even President Obama, who took steps to challenge the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA), seems to be willing to do nothing more than stick a toe in the pond to test the water, to the dismay of some of his supporters.

President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday offering limited benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees failed to quell growing anger in the gay community that gay rights issues were getting short shrift at the White House.

In fact, Obama's promise to offer ancillary employee benefits - such as long-term-care insurance and the right to use sick leave to care for domestic partners - while still denying more valuable benefits, such as health insurance and retirement funds, may have further agitated gay and lesbian activists who were already fuming over other perceived snubs.

"Are they kidding us? Domestic partnership benefits WITHOUT health insurance because of DOMA?" gay fundraiser and activist David Mixner told POLITICO in an e-mail. "It is like rubbing salt in the wound."

It seems strange, right? If you're going to challenge DOMA, and that is what this action clearly intends to do, why only take a baby step? The ensuing litigation will no doubt be the same whether some benefits were extended or all benefits were extended, and in this case, the benefits are not even "some:" they were already available with special approval from the government. For someone marketed as strongly progressive, and moreso as a card-carrying member of a new generation, raised more tolerant and worldly then their parents, President Obama is showing political leanings that are surprisingly like...his predecessor.

Mark Sanford, as Emptywheel at Firedoglake notes, signed his own death warrant by knowingly violating the vows he sought to protect politically. He signed his own death warrant by forgetting that his actions have an impact on the believability of his words and the integrity of the entire anti-same-sex marriage movement.

Obama has an option to avoid the same image problem; he has an opportunity to engage culture, take a large step in a direction he believes is the right one, and fulfill the promises he made during his campaign.

You can read more about Mark Sanford's history on the subject of gay marriage and find a comprehensive collection of his public statements over at Pam's House Blend, where Pam Spaulding has been cataloging the incident and its larger political impact.

Rebecca at OUPBlog has a convincing argument as to why Obama should treat DOMA with care rather than take an all-or-nothing approach, stating that he must step with care or risk losing all of his capital with more conservative members of his own party who are still concerned about repealing the law.

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