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July 19, 2009

My Sins Make Me the Star of a Cosmic Drama
Posted by Patrick at 12:45 PM * 84 comments

Mark Sanford is still sure it’s all about the exciting story of Mark Sanford and God:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, still clinging to office after admitting to an extramarital affair, wrote in an opinion piece released Sunday that God will change him so he can emerge from the scandal a more humble and effective leader.
This is, remember, the guy who earlier, resisting statewide calls for his resignation, compared his involuntarily-outed affair-at-state-expense to King David’s with Bathsheba, explaining that David “fell mightily, he fell in very very significant ways. But then picked up the pieces and built from there.” An Orthodox priest who blogs as “Father Stephen” had some interesting comments a few days ago about this particular maneuver:
[T]his past week’s revelations of yet another politician’s infidelity offered one aspect worthy of comment (or so it seems to me). That is the use of the Bible as a means for reflecting on one’s personal situation in life.

There is a long history of just such usage. The pilgrim fathers who came to America read their situation into the Bible (or the Bible into their situation) with the result that white pilgrims were seen as fulfilling the role of the Israelites in this, the Promised Land, while native Americans were cast in the role of Canaanites. Thus generations of Joshuas arose feeling Biblically justified in the genocide of America’s native population. Some of that Biblical reading continues to echo in the popular imagination to this day. It was bad theology in the 17th century and it is bad theology today. Stated in a fundamental way: you are not a Bible character. […]

The problem with such use of Biblical imagination is that it simply has no controlling story. Nothing tells us which story to use other than our own imagination (which is generally a deluded part of our mind). A governor gets to play King David, and, surprise, he should be forgiven and not resign his office. A group of white settlers get to play conquering Israelites and feel no compunction about murdering men, women and children. A priest, likely in need of therapy, plays the role of Jonah before a crowd who has no idea they are in a play. The gospel is not preached—souls are not saved—the Bible is simply brought into ridicule.

Or, as that equally perceptive theologian Jon Stewart said to Governor Sanford the last time he did this, “God killed Michael Jackson to save your ass and you gave another interview?”
Comments on My Sins Make Me the Star of a Cosmic Drama:
#1 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 01:41 PM:

If Sanford's King David, which of his sons is Solomon and which one is Absolom? And presumably he's going to marry his Bathsheba, after killing her husband, that she no longer has -- Bathsheba, who, incidentally was mother of Solomon, and schemed most successfully to have David name Solomon king after him? (And what happened to the mothers of David's other sons? Not to mention his daughters ... for whom things turned out very badly in at least in the case of the pitiable Tamar.)

Puzzled by identification with Old Testament saga characters, here in the 21st century.

Love, C.

#2 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 01:41 PM:

Watching Sanford is a little like being trapped at a party with someone who wants to tell you the entire plotline of his epic, generation-spanning political-thriller-in-space novel, or movie, or miniseries. At first I felt a touch of human sympathy, but that rapidly dissipated until I feel like that kid in Airplane, frantically gesturing and dying while the nun sings on regardless.

#3 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 01:44 PM:

OK, it's the AP so consider the source, but why do press dispatches insist he's clinging to his job after an extramarital affair? He walked off the job for the better part of a week to pursue this extramarital affair, without reassigning his duties. I don't care if he walks off the job to rescue his mother from Somali pirates, it's dereliction of duty, and he should at least be impeached.

Is SC a weak governor state or something?

#4 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 01:56 PM:

The "redemption racket" worked for Jimmy Swaggart; why should Sanford expect anything different?

#5 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 02:36 PM:

Header reminded me of this SMBC.

#6 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 03:20 PM:

Although there's a lot of people in SC who are disgusted from Sanford's behavior, the majority of voters are hardcore Bible thumpers who will swallow any explanation he uses to rationalize his marital transgressions, especially if he wraps himself in the "God did this to test me" whargarrbl.

The legislature is solidly far right wing and unlikely to try an impeachment that would become a public spectacle; they'd really like Sanford to just STFU and sit out the rest of his time since that lets them avoid having to judge one of their own (you know, that old 'he who is without sin can cast the first stone' type of thing). There's plenty enough support for Sanford still (think Swaggert's "I have sinned" speech a few years ago) that I doubt he's going to be impeached unless he does something else stupid.

#7 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 03:33 PM:

My Sins Make Me the Star of a Cosmic Drama

Well, in fairness, mine do too, in the little universe inside my head that revolves around me, so I kind of feel him on that. I'd certainly prefer to think whatever contrition I've been able to scratch up goes a fair distance towards getting me off the cosmic hook.

Sadly for him, though, Sanford's Governor in a less-personal universe, where the consequence of not doing your job and using company funds for gold-plated accommodations on your naughty weekends is frequently getting fired even if everybody forgives you a really lot.

After all, Mehmet Agca's still in jail, and he was forgiven by a real pro.

#8 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:01 PM:

This is all working up to his next press conference, in which Sanford is going to do a cover of Hallelujia.

#9 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:13 PM:

It's like the inverse of the Mary Sue impulse.

#10 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:13 PM:

#8, Albatross: I've been expecting that myself. If he walks up to the podium with a lot of rope and a kitchen chair, I'm turning the TV off.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:17 PM:

My Sins Make Me the Star of a Cosmic Drama

Cosmic dramas like the ones Jim Starlin used to write inthe 1970s? Sanford would then Adam Warlock. Would the mean mainstream media be Thanos?

#12 ::: hapax ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:41 PM:

The problem with such use of Biblical imagination is that it simply has no controlling story. Nothing tells us which story to use other than our own imagination (which is generally a deluded part of our mind).

Hmm. I think it's less a case of Bible as Rorschach test, and more of a case as Bible as wompom.

#13 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:54 PM:

From his letter to "The State"

Finally it is at your funeral that you in many ways not only can see most clearly the things that really matter in life, but also get the best glimpse of who your real friends are — and how much they matter. For that reason, I want to thank so many for their kindnesses and support over the years and for their kindness in this latest chapter in our book together as South Carolinians.

Holy crap. The man stabbed so many of his friends in the back, and he's got the ego to lecture people on how he found out "who his real friends are?". The asshole lied to his state, screwed up his party's reputation, hurt his wife, hurt his kids, and generally was a giant asshole, and he's hinting about how upset he was that people might have abandoned him in what he's painting as HIS time of need?

Cluebat: If you f*ck over your friends, they're not abandoning you, you abandoned them by lying to them, and you should be begging forgiveness of the people you *think* abandoned you, and be understanding that they did so, because you're the cause of that, not them.

What a narcissistic asshole. He should share a room in hell with Mike Blagojevic.

#14 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 04:54 PM:

Jeeze, was he upset that Michael Jackson's death knocked him off the front page? He should have kept his head down, counted his blessings, and hoped he had a shot---not that it's likely---at future political redemption.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 05:16 PM:

Josh Jasper @ 13: Alas, such people -- and I have to deal with a few of them socially, hereabouts -- can only be affected by a cluebat if it's made of silver and enchanted to at least +2. (The hard-to-find "Bat of Cluefulness" does 1d4 damage but causes an equal increase in WIS, to a max of 18, for 2d6 turns.)

Otherwise... no, it's all about people they thought were friends turning on them. Real friends wouldn't get so hung up on trivial things.

#16 ::: incandescens ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Now I saw that they still went on in their talk. For after Mr. Great-Heart had made an end with Mr. Fearing, Mr. Honest began to tell them of another, but his name was Mr. Self-will. He pretended himself to be a pilgrim, said Mr. Honest; but I persuade myself he never came in at the gate that stands at the head of the way.

GREAT. Had you ever any talk with him about it?

HON. Yes, more than once or twice; but he would always be like himself, self-willed. He neither cared for man, nor argument, nor yet example; what his mind prompted him to, that he would do, and nothing else could he be got to do.

GREAT. Pray, what principles did he hold? for I suppose you can tell.

HON. He held that a man might follow the vices as well as the virtues of pilgrims; and that if he did both, he should be certainly saved.

GREAT. How? If he had said, it is possible for the best to be guilty of the vices, as well as to partake of the virtues of pilgrims, he could not much have been blamed; for indeed we are exempted from no vice absolutely, but on condition that we watch and strive. But this, I perceive, is not the thing; but if I understand you right, your meaning is, that he was of opinion that it was allowable so to be.

HON. Aye, aye, so I mean, and so he believed and practised.

GREAT. But what grounds had he for his so saying?

HON. Why, he said he had the Scripture for his warrant.

GREAT. Prithee, Mr. Honest, present us with a few particulars.

HON. So I will. He said, to have to do with other men’s wives had been practised by David, God’s beloved; and therefore he could do it. He said, to have more women than one was a thing that Solomon practised, and therefore he could do it. He said, that Sarah and the godly midwives of Egypt lied, and so did save Rahab, and therefore he could do it. He said, that the disciples went at the bidding of their Master, and took away the owner’s ass, and therefore he could do so too. He said, that Jacob got the inheritance of his father in a way of guile and dissimulation, and therefore he could do so too.

GREAT. High base indeed! And are you sure he was of this opinion?

HON. I heard him plead for it, bring Scripture for it, bring arguments for it, etc.

GREAT. An opinion that is not fit to be with any allowance in the world!

HON. You must understand me rightly: he did not say that any man might do this; but that they who had the virtues of those that did such things, might also do the same.

GREAT. But what more false than such a conclusion? For this is as much as to say, that because good men heretofore have sinned of infirmity, therefore he had allowance to do it of a presumptuous mind; or that if, because a child, by the blast of the wind, or for that it stumbled at a stone, fell down and defiled itself in the mire, therefore he might wilfully lie down and wallow like a boar therein. Who could have thought that any one could so far have been blinded by the power of lust? But what is written must be true: they "stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed." [1 Peter, 2:8.]

His supposing that such may have the godly men’s virtues, who addict themselves to their vices, is also a delusion as strong as the other. It is just as if the dog should say, I have, or may have, the qualities of the child, because I lick up its stinking excrements. To eat up the sin of God’s people, [Hos. 4:8], as a dog licks up filth, is no sign that one is possessed with their virtues. Nor can I believe that one who is of this opinion, can at present have faith or love in him. But I know you have made strong objections against him; prithee what can he say for himself?

HON. Why, he says, to do this by way of opinion, seems abundantly more honest than to do it, and yet hold contrary to it in opinion.

GREAT. A very wicked answer. For though to let loose the bridle to lusts, while our opinions are against such things, is bad; yet, to sin, and plead a toleration so to do, is worse: the one stumbles beholders accidentally, the other leads them into the snare.

-- from The Pilgrim's Progress

#17 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 06:04 PM:

I wonder if he's considered that God's given up on changing him, and is currently working to change the governorship of South Carolina to make it a better state?

Serge (#11): I shudder at that thought, if only because Starlin's storylines so often got half the galaxy destroyed before things were finally righted.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 06:25 PM:

Adam Lipkin @ 17... It might be a good idea to make sure Sanford gets nowhere near the Infinity Horn.

#19 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 07:02 PM:

A Republican politician? AND a narcissist? How can this be?!?!?!

Are there any Republican governors who are NOT narcissists with severe delusions of adequacy? Maybe they just keep their names out of the news?

#20 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 07:34 PM:

Father Stephen rocks. And the quote from Bunyan is so dead on (thank you, incandescens), it makes me think I should read PP again -- except that when I try, every five years or so, I just cannot get through it. Sigh.

I picture Jesus returning, looking very sternly at Sanford, and say "Dude, it's not about you."

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 07:47 PM:

By the way, have you noticed that God never says to any of these penitent politicians, Give up your power and position and spend the next 20 years teaching history to bored 8th graders. Or running a soup kitchen on Skid Row. Or raising money to build houses for people who have none. Or running a free clinic.

#22 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 08:05 PM:

Lizzy L @ #21, that's your God. Their God says, "go ye forth and become a corporate lobbyist, and amass unto yourself shekels upon shekels, and, should you be tempted, then don't let ME know about it, you idiot."

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 08:08 PM:

Their god says "You're entitled to whatever you can get, and forgiveness for anything you do wrong, not that it's wrong if YOU do it, because you're special."

#24 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 08:37 PM:

especially if he wraps himself in the "God did this to test me" whargarrbl.

Um, God did this to test you, moron, and you failed the test.

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 10:08 PM:

Inside my head there echoes the voice of Dana Carvey, garbed as the Church Lady, declaring "Now, isn't that special!"

#26 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 11:06 PM:

If Mark Sanford thinks his situation is comparable to King David's, he needs to think harder.

1./ He should remember that the Governor of South Carolina is *not* an anointed king, presumably for life, and for the duration of the lives of his sons and their sons' sons for generations to come... one of whom, it is prophesied, will be the messiah.

2./ He should read farther into 2 Samuel 11 than verse 13, where David says "I have sinned against the LORD.". He should read the next several verses. Here they are, from the King James Version, via the Bible Gateway website:

13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.

16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.

17 And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.

18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. ...

Even after David repented, his sin had serious consequences! He didn't die, but other people suffered. It was only after that first baby died that

24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.

#27 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 11:39 PM:

It's a wonder that I always read threads like this without taking a drink. No, never mind.

Madeline, so true.

Fragano, that is so true.

Governor Sanford, here's your White Courtesy Clue Phone, please pick it up. (BANG!)

#28 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2009, 11:59 PM:

David's family troubles: The idea that $PERSON2 is $BADTHING:[killed/ diseased/ raped/ mutilated/ exiled/ @call=badlist.txt] to punish $PERSON1 poisons much of these stories. Particularly when it's used to justify current behaviour, especially to women.

#29 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 12:23 AM:

Chris Quinones @ #3: Apparently it is, at least for the present. Whether that's by intent remains to be seen.

Earl Cooley III @ #4 It's questionable how well that worked for Swaggart. I remember his being castigated here in Texas after that stunt (by which I mean his televised "confession," as his sexual escapades had been the topics of rumors for years). In addition, his denomination, the Assembly of God, became the subject of (even more) ridicule among the general church-going establishment, as they were known as one of the more judgmental toward personal failings. After that, the practice that had already begun, but was previously rare, of local Assemblies changing their names in order to become unrecognizable as such (e.g.: from First Assembly of God to Open Arms Church, and from Gardens Assembly of God to Believers' Worship Center), became so widespread as to be almost universal. Swaggart's reputation may have finally recovered, but it was more a case of time healing wounds. At the time, he was a subject of incredulous ridicule, even among conservatives. "Up North," among those whose interest in him was more political and less religious, there may have been more forgiveness; my observations are as a Southerner.

Wyman Cooke @ #14: I think it was Princess Sarah who was more pissed at Jocko's pushing her off the front pages. Poor Mark Sanford was just so in luuuuurrve with Maria that he couldn't keep his mouth shut. And still is. I'm not sure where I first read it--maybe it was here--but he's made it clear by his statements that he really needs to just quit his job, get a divorce, and go to his beloved. He's been struck by The Lightning Bolt and needs to follow his bliss. (Sorry about the lame linked ref--it was the best I could find without spending hours.)

Josh Jasper @ #13: I disagree. Blagojevich committed not only the sin of being a grifter bastard in a position of Major Power, but also that of pride, as he continues to attempt to be A Public Personality. And the fact that he's already tried to appear on a "reality" show based on his notoriety, justified, at least in press releases, by his denial of guilt that's so obvious to all but the blind and deaf, or Laplanders, just amps the arrogance up, exponentially.

Sanford doesn't seem to be all that proud of himself. He seems more to me to be a complete victim of his own lust and attraction. And he obviously views his attraction as so overwhelming (to himself, of course) as to automatically excuse any effect his behavior should have on his (current) family. It's as though he can't understand that everyone who cares for him might not be overjoyed that he's found his "true love." That he's also addicted to his gubernatorial position comes as much from his Neocon cheering section as his familiarity with the power he has and the popularity he's enjoyed in the past. How intent would he have been in his insistence on refusing the Fed's proffered stimulus funds had he not had a starring role in Rush's Radio Refusal Resistance in the offing, reinforced daily? His urge to be a star of the reborn Republican Party is only natural to a politician; its sway is only noticeable when there's a strong competitive power in motion, and of course the power of redemption is one he wouldn't recognize.

#30 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 12:24 AM:

Chris Quinones @ #3: Apparently it is, at least for the present. Whether that's by intent remains to be seen.

Earl Cooley III @ #4 It's questionable how well that worked for Swaggart. I remember his being castigated here in Texas after that stunt (by which I mean his televised "confession," as his sexual escapades had been the topics of rumors for years). In addition, his denomination, the Assembly of God, became the subject of (even more) ridicule among the general church-going establishment, as they were known as one of the more judgmental toward personal failings. After that, the practice that had already begun, but was previously rare, of local Assemblies changing their names in order to become unrecognizable as such (e.g.: from First Assembly of God to Open Arms Church, and from Gardens Assembly of God to Believers' Worship Center), became so widespread as to be almost universal. Swaggart's reputation may have finally recovered, but it was more a case of time healing wounds. At the time, he was a subject of incredulous ridicule, even among conservatives. "Up North," among those whose interest in him was more political and less religious, there may have been more forgiveness; my observations are as a Southerner.

Wyman Cooke @ #14: I think it was Princess Sarah who was more pissed at Jocko's pushing her off the front pages. Poor Mark Sanford was just so in luuuuurrve with Maria that he couldn't keep his mouth shut. And still is. I'm not sure where I first read it--maybe it was here--but he's made it clear by his statements that he really needs to just quit his job, get a divorce, and go to his beloved. He's been struck by The Lightning Bolt and needs to follow his bliss. (Sorry about the lame linked ref--it was the best I could find without spending hours.)

Josh Jasper @ #13: I disagree. Blagojevich committed not only the sin of being a grifter bastard in a position of Major Power, but also that of pride, as he continues to attempt to be A Public Personality. And the fact that he's already tried to appear on a "reality" show based on his notoriety, justified, at least in press releases, by his denial of guilt that's so obvious to all but the blind and deaf, or Laplanders, just amps the arrogance up, exponentially.

Sanford doesn't seem to be all that proud of himself. He seems more to me to be a complete victim of his own lust and attraction. And he obviously views his attraction as so overwhelming (to himself, of course) as to automatically excuse any effect his behavior should have on his (current) family. It's as though he can't understand that everyone who cares for him might not be overjoyed that he's found his "true love." That he's also addicted to his gubernatorial position comes as much from his Neocon cheering section as his familiarity with the power he has and the popularity he's enjoyed in the past. How intent would he have been in his insistence on refusing the Fed's proffered stimulus funds had he not had a starring role in Rush's Radio Refusal Resistance in the offing, reinforced daily? His urge to be a star of the reborn Republican Party is only natural to a politician; its sway is only noticeable when there's a strong competitive power in motion, and of course the power of redemption is one he wouldn't recognize.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 12:38 AM:

Hail Incandescens, for coming up with the perfect quote!

I want to know what Sanford did with the frequent flyer miles he earned on all those flights.

Albatross @8: You made Patrick laugh out loud, y'know.

Avram @9: How's that?

Josh @13: And Sarah Palin.

Lizzy @21: That's the real question, isn't it? A religion that always tells you what you want to hear, and never requires you to do anything unpleasant or uncomfortable, is so much cotton candy.

Mad @24: Yes. Exactly.

#32 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 02:21 AM:

Meanwhile, from where I sit over here in the atheist cheap seats, the idea of attacking Sanford for the comparative ludicrosity of his theological inventions is almost as incomprehensible as the anti-pragmatism Sanford seems to be getting away with. I'm genuinely flummoxed by the ongoing spectacles of both his behavior and the general public reaction to it. What to say?

It seems obvious to me that simply attacking the governor for his secular irresponsibility to the duties of office won't move anyone in a useful direction. Hell, a fairly sizable fraction of his constituents probably think that the less time anyone spends in the governor's office doing the governor's business, the better. It's also pretty clear that very few people are much appalled to discover that Sanford was lying about where he was putting his foot down.

So another politician broke a campaign promise— alert the media.

I would think that the very act of Sanford marshaling a theological argument for excusing his misbehavior, all by itself, should be grounds for hounding the savage rat-bastard out of office. The idea of criticizing him first for the poor quality of his theological argument strikes me as presupposing that there might be an acceptable sectarian explanation at all. Really? How would that work?

I realize that people launching these attacks on Sanford likely don't see it the way I do. I imagine them thinking something along the lines of... bad enough you've brought God into this tawdry affair, Mr. Sanford, but could you at least try not to be a total idiot about it?

I'm just saying that, from where I sit, all of the God-talk seems very perplexing.

Why do we let any of Doug Coe's C-street dominionists pretend to be servants of the public interest? This is precisely the sort of behavior that characterize Coe's people and their methods. How come we have to wait for them to flame-out in a tedious adultery scandal, like Sanford, before we will be moved to revoke their electoral credibility? I just don't get that.

I can see why Pilgrim's Progress sorta makes sense as an allegory here, but I'm thinking more along the lines of the Frog and the Scorpion.

#33 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 03:19 AM:

There's a huge amount of bad theology in the expensive seats of US Right-Wing Religion, even before you get to the question of heresy (which is at least party a matter of point of view).

And most of the badness is down to bad reasoning. Most notably, and most dangerously, they pick the evidence to give the conclusion they want.

I don't know that pointing out the bad theology is ging to make a difference: We're not the "in" set who can rule on these things. But it's a clear sign of a fatal flaw in the quality of thought and judgement of the person.

#34 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 06:01 AM:

Those seeking reasons why Mark Sanford somehow remains in power in South Carolina need look no further than the person of his Lieutenant Governor, Andre Brauer, who is generally recognized by both Democratic and Republican politicians to be a dangerous (to himself, if no one else) nutjob.

No one wants him anywhere near a position of authority in the state. He causes enough trouble driving around South Carolina at 100+ MPH and occasionally crashing airplanes on his way to who knows where; put him in the Governor's mansion and he may well declare war on West Virginia or something.

#35 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 06:56 AM:

Well WV did illegally secede from the Confederate States; you know how South Carolinians feel about that.

#36 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 08:18 AM:

Ray @34: But he was so great on Homicide: Life on the Street!

Seriously, there's something familiar about a Republican executive official having someone behind him who scares people so much that the executive remains the lesser evil no matter what.

#37 ::: Tim Silverman ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 08:23 AM:

Lizzie L @21: "... God never says to any of these penitent politicians, Give up your power and position and spend the next 20 years [doing charitable works]"

Not quite never.

#38 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 09:37 AM:

It seems obvious to me that simply attacking the governor for his secular irresponsibility to the duties of office won't move anyone in a useful direction.

I suspect the goal is exactly the opposite.

If the focus is on dereliction of his secular duties as governor, then there is a very powerful reason to impeach him.

But if it is all about his spiritual and personal shortcomings, then there is no reason to act, because impeaching someone for spiritual shortcomings would violate the separation of church and state, and personal shortcomings aren't really relevant to the issues of impeachment.

The legislature in SC is quite conservative, and doesn't want to have to deal with an impeachment scandal against a conservative leader, so they aren't looking for a reason to act, they're looking for a reason not to act.

Sanford is playing to that audience - by making a big deal about how this is about his relationship with God and his wife, he's letting them ignore how it is about his relationship with his duties to the state.

#39 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 10:04 AM:

Ray, #34: So he does have impeachment insurance, his own Cheney after a fashion. Good to know. (His name's apparently Bauer, though, not Brauer.)

Ursula, #38: Same people felt very differently a decade ago on a different stage, didn't they? But the real unspoken offense is holding office they feel you aren't entitled to.

How much does Bauer being unfit for higher office enter into their calculations? Would they be willing to impeach for bad governance if there wasn't a fire outside that frying pan? Or is the very idea that there are obligations a (Republican/conservative) governor has to fulfill to merit continuing in the office repugnant to them? Do they believe in the divine right of governors? Sanford certainly seems to.

#40 ::: DN ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 10:43 AM:

"still clinging to office after admitting to an extramarital affair"

I don't understand either the strange excuse making and bible thumping that happened after the affair became public or the judgement implied in the sentence above. An affair implies nothing about ones fitness at their job, including being president or governor. It's weird that he needs to tell these sorts of stories to his religious constituents and that otherwise liberal people think they should have an opinion about his personal behavior. As far as I can tell his only real failure was in not letting people know he was going to be out of office for some time.

#41 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 11:38 AM:

John L. at #35: Well WV did illegally secede from the Confederate States;

Define "illegally." It wasn't as illegal than the Confederates' secessions were in the first place. In a way we didn't secede at all: we chose to stay in the Union when Virginia (illegally) did. Congress and President Lincoln pretty much said as much when West Virginia was admitted as the 35th State (June 20, 1863, one hundred forty-six years and one month ago). Besides after the war, and as a result of a legal suit, West Virginia paid Virginia several million good Yankee dollars for what they claimed was our share of the state's debt. It wasn't until well into the 20th century that that got paid off.

-- Lois in Weirton, West Virginia

#42 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 12:08 PM:

West Virginia had to pay alimony?

#43 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 12:27 PM:

Chris @ #39 wrote: Same people felt very differently a decade ago on a different stage, didn't they? But the real unspoken offense is holding office they feel you aren't entitled to.

I'd say it is even more crude than that. Attacks come when it is politically beneficial for the attacker, distraction comes when it is politically beneficial to downplay the actual offense.

They went after Clinton because it gave them a chance to disrupt the Democrats agenda.

They went after Spitzer because it laid the groundwork for the Senate coup and possibly regaining control of the NYS Senate.

They're distracting on Sanford because having attention paid to conservative political negligence looks bad for them. There isn't anyone with significant power in SC to move an impeachment forward who has a political interest in the outcome of a successful impeachment.

As long as liberals look at these controversies and attacks as being purely based on the political competence of the party being attacked, rather than the political needs of the attackers or defenders, we'll keep being blindsided by irrational attacks, or by the predictable political consequences of legitimate attacks, or by the bizarre way that conservatives let themselves be diverted from doing anything about genuine political corruption on their own side.

#44 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 01:24 PM:

@DN #40: Well you have dereliction of duty as a sitting governor that just vanished for what is obviously horrible judgement. Also there is a lot of evidence that he used state funds and functions to allow him to see her.

He used his powers of office to have an affair. That is a huge abuse of power. Also, he can't just vanish because he feels like it.

#45 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 02:52 PM:

Pericat @ #42, alimony or blackmail?

Have you ever noticed there's a flipping box on the 1099 form for golden parachutes? It's true!

#46 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 04:25 PM:

Larry @44: He used his powers of office to have an affair. That is a huge abuse of power. Also, he can't just vanish because he feels like it.

I have never really agreed with the idea that using official powers to carry on an affair is such a big deal. I mean, if he was flying down there to sleep with his wife, it wouldn't be a huge deal, and I don't care who he sleeps with, so why should I care who he flies down to sleep with? I mean, he may have been abusing his position, but the affair is only tangentially involved in that.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 05:01 PM:

Here's the thing.

This is not a man who thinks that we should keep our moralities separate from our public lives. This is someone who thinks, and speaks, and legislates about other people's private relationships, and not in a non-judgmental, compassionate way. He is part of a party that thinks that its moral guidelines should determine whether people get to keep their jobs, their health insurance, their kids.

Now, if I thought that he and his party had learned a little shame, or a little empathy, from this episode, I'd leave it to his electorate. But if morality is the argument of the Republican Right, then let us indeed have this argument.

(I do think there is an irony in this affair matter. Many, many people have been doing a lot of thinking about the institution of marriage in the light of the recent moves toward marriage equality (and the concomitant pushback). And all these rants and meditative posts that people have been brewing while the Republicans make the morality of marriage an issue are now finding their lightning rod.)

#48 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 05:01 PM:

Had he been "flying down there to sleep with his wife," it would have been a big deal if he (1) didn't tell anybody he would be gone, essentially walking off the job, and (2) used government resources to pay for it (if Sanford in fact did so).

I realize this puts me into a hopelessly old-fashioned minority, but here's my problem with infidelity among elected officials: Sanford made an oath to one person and then broke it due to reasons that seemed good to him. He also made an oath to everybody in his state. If I were in his state, would I trust him to keep that oath? No. Even if he hadn't already broken it by walking off the job, I wouldn't.

#49 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 05:23 PM:

Micah @ #46: Well in this case he organized trade missions to the country just so he could have a reason to go down there to hide the affair. My problem comes with him abusing his power and wasting money for a booty call. He also, on the state dime, had trips to NYC for the same reason.

For a man who was so against the stimulus funds and so for fiscal responsibility to do that is a problem. The fact that he so abused his power and took off in the manner he did are problems. He is not just anyone, he is a man who took an oath of office and then discarded it on a whim to be with his mistress. What if he took off and then there was a state emergency? He was elected to be a leader. Between him and Palin doing similar things (different scale) it's kind of disgusting to watch.

I was always taught you don't abandon your duty because something is hard or for personal gratification.

#50 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 06:38 PM:

Wonder who Mrs. Sanford is playing in the cosmic drama?

#51 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 06:56 PM:

Yes, bad theology. Yes, excellent opportunity to make evil Republicans look bad. Yes, great new jokes about the Appalachian trail. Yes, inability to get a clue even if stood in front of the clue machine and given a roll of quarters. I must admit I don't get the outrage.

Trying to refuse the stimulus money, and then trying not to spend it on SCs education system when he was forced to take it, now that called for outrage. The appropriate response here is schadenfreude[*].


[*] and perhaps sympathy for his family, if I were a better person. Which I'm not.

#52 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2009, 09:40 PM:

Lila #50: The audience.

#53 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 02:00 AM:

Ursula L @ 38: Sanford is playing to that audience - by making a big deal about how this is about his relationship with God and his wife, he's letting them ignore how it is about his relationship with his duties to the state.

I totally get that. Given the crazy political milieu in which he's operating, it makes complete rational sense for him to play this gambit. What has me boggling is that it's even possible for him to do it.

In my fantasy version of our world— the one where I'm not confused about why the political milieu is the way it is— Sanford would know better than to pull this move, because the split millisecond after the word god came out of his mouth, every person listening to him would instinctively know in their gut that he was grifting them. Maybe they'd be willing to give a guy like Obama a little more slack, but not a tool like Sanford. Everyone would know without a doubt that he's a dominionist screwhead, who has to keep telling lies like a shark has to keep swimming, and the average South Carolina legislator's worst nightmare would be that their constituents might be misled into thinking he or she might be tolerant of Sanford's deeply un-American views.

Instead, I'm living in a world where Sanford can shine the rubes on with some judiciously deployed god-talk and get away with making Schwarzenegger look sensible by comparison and still retain power. I mean, look here: I've lost count of the number of otherwise reasonable people I've seen who've taken the bait and engaged Sanford at the level of his spectacularly bad theology. Yet, it seems to me the ugly fact on the table is that the guy is a religious nut who openly professes to believe that only the elite members of his sect are divinely authorized to exercise sovereign power. Why is that not the most damning thing there is to say about him?

I'm still deeply confused by these events.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 02:24 AM:

My outrage is because, at the same time that this guy wants to make life-changing permanent commitments to not one but two women, he and his party deny my sister the right to do so to even one.

It would be like if my daughter, having taken a toy away from my son with a cry of "Mine," then proceeded to break it and smear poo all over it right in front of him.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 02:53 AM:

abi @ 54... Are people like Sanford (1) doing one thing and saying another because the latter is what plays well with his target voters, (2) hypocrites, or (3) people capable to keep things in separate mental boxes?

No matter what he is, I hope your sister one day gets the right that he and his buddies deny her.

#56 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 07:29 AM:

#49: My problem comes with him abusing his power and wasting money for a booty call.

Gratuitously, too. I'm sure the governor of any state makes more than enough money to afford the occasional plane ticket to Argentina. But why should he pay for something when he can make the taxpayers do it?

His marital problems may be between him and his wife, but using his expense account for non-official purposes is sufficient reason *on its own* to impeach him, IMO. He's stealing from the people of his state and there's no way it wasn't deliberate.

@#55: (1) is an instance of (2), which is a lot easier to do if you are (3). So, basically, all of the above.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 07:36 AM:

chri @ 56... But not everyone in (2) necessarily is (1). Yes, I'm a computer programmer - why do you ask?

#58 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 08:38 AM:

abi @ 54: It would be like if my daughter, having taken a toy away from my son with a cry of "Mine," then proceeded to break it and smear poo all over it right in front of him.

To me, it seems more like if your daughter grabbed the toy, saying "Mine! You're going to break it!", etc.

#59 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 10:00 AM:

Abi@54:

My outrage is because, at the same time that this guy wants to make life-changing permanent commitments to not one but two women, he and his party deny my sister the right to do so to even one.

Yes, but he and they were doing their best to deny your sister those rights all along. That is an outrage. This and similar incidents makes it slightly harder for them to push their policies.

If Sanford were as pure as the driven snow and as honest as a very honest thing (need similes), I still wouldn't want him anywhere near any form of power. Anything that makes it harder for him to get the policies he wants is good news.

I'm not saying his behavior is ok, just that it's not nearly as damaging as the platform he was elected on. It would be hypocritical for me (though clearly not for most people) to be upset now that he's sabotaged his political position. I'll stop now.

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 11:09 AM:

Thomas @59:
Yes, but he and they were doing their best to deny your sister those rights all along. That is an outrage.

Yes, that is an outrage, and in my view it becomes more outrageous when he proves that he's a raving hypocrite.

This and similar incidents makes it slightly harder for them to push their policies

Only if we call them on it. If it goes unmarked, if it doesn't damage their platform, they'll go right on as they were.

It would be hypocritical for me (though clearly not for most people) to be upset now that he's sabotaged his political position. I'll stop now.

I'm not entirely sure how to take this comment. Are you saying I'm hypocritical because I'm making a fuss about the matter? Or that you're above the common clay in some fashion because of your reaction?

There's an...off...tone to this that I'm uncomfortable with, though we are substantively in agreement about a lot here.

#61 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 11:30 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 53:

One of the reasons to engage him on the level of theology is that maybe, just maybe, some of his constituents who don't care that he abandoned his job and misused state funds will care that he's a hypocrite. Hopefully, they'll see that he's misusing something that they themselves hold dearly for his own gain. It'll never persuade everyone, of course, but it might persuade some. That's why we have to focus on all the issues, even if, in an ideal world, some of them should be a lot more relevant and obvious than others.

Also, as abi points out, one rule for thee but another for me tends to grate after a while.

Yet, it seems to me the ugly fact on the table is that the guy is a religious nut who openly professes to believe that only the elite members of his sect are divinely authorized to exercise sovereign power. Why is that not the most damning thing there is to say about him?

Because some people believe that people who are in positions of power were put there by God, and that automatically gives them the right to exercise their power however they like? (I expect to have to remind a couple people I know that they told me this about Bush and so it should be true for Obama as well.)

Whether he's actually Christian or just putting on an act, I really have no idea. I will say that comparing himself to David takes a great amount of chutzpah, especially since he seems to want to skip out of the story before the end. In that story, it turns out that there are consequences for one's actions, even for someone in high office.

#62 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 01:17 PM:

Abi: Are you saying I'm hypocritical because I'm making a fuss about the matter? Or that you're above the common clay in some fashion because of your reaction?

No, I'm saying that I what I actually feel is more like schadenfreude, and it would be hypocritical of me to pretend otherwise. I tried to make it clear that I didn't think people who felt differently were hypocritical -- feeling differently about it is precisely what makes you not hypocritical.

I'm not saying we shouldn't call him on it, either. We should make the most of every chance to stop him and people like him. My point was that I was really surprised that no-one else seemed have the reaction: "Great. What an opportunity!"

Now, given the level of disagreement from people I respect, I'm almost certainly the one who's wrong on this, which was why I was planning to drop the topic. My working assumption, especially in a group like this, is that if most people disagree with me then they are probably right. There are certain technical topics where I think my opinion's at least as good as everyone else's, but this isn't one of them.

#63 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 01:45 PM:

KeithS @ 61 writes: I expect to have to remind a couple people I know that they told me this about Bush and so it should be true for Obama as well.

Despite the fact that I don't share the view that God chooses and blesses our executive public officials, I can accept the fact that the vast majority of my fellow Americans do, and trying to persuade them otherwise is rarely possible.

There is, however, a very strange phenomenon underlying this whole situation, and that's what I'm trying to express. Sanford and his sympathizers are saying that God chooses and blesses our executive public officials with only the most superficial involvement of the electorate, and that Christians should exercise dominion over all aspects of governance, i.e. that there is no room in society for the secular, no place or aspect of business where god-talk is inappropriate. They're also saying that Sanford's dereliction of his official duties is a religious matter between him, God and his family, and secular policies for disciplining public officials for misconduct are therefore inapplicable.

How is it possible that there can be no such thing as secular policy while simultaneously there are vast areas of policy that are inapplicable precisely because they're secular? There's such an obvious cognitive failure here that it perplexes me that such a large fraction of Americans can accept it without comment.

#64 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 02:02 PM:

abi: The toy analogy bothers me. I think it's because Sanford has his bliss; he's not taken it away, and then smashed it.

He's denied others the right; said it wasn't moral to even want, and then gone and gotten one for himself, while stll saying it's immoral for anyone else.

And I can't think of a way to anaologise that.

#65 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 02:22 PM:

Terry, I read abi as making the analogy of the toy to the "sacred institution of marriage" that Sanford and his kind are always bleating about. If marriage is so sacred, why should he be so easily forgiven for breaking his sacred marriage vows?

#66 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 02:29 PM:

Thomas #59: If Sanford were as pure as the driven snow and as honest as a very honest thing (need similes)

As honest as a filibuster is long?

I know, that's kind of conflicted....

#67 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 03:08 PM:

Terry @64:

Xopher @65 has my meaning just about right.

Sanford's particular marriage is really none of my business. As a long-married person with her own particular knowledge and experience, I have my own opinions about the wisdom of how he's handling himself. But I am also conscious that I am not perfect myself. (The least among other things is that I share Thomas @62's temptation to schadenfreude.)

But, for better or for worse (as it were), Sanford's marriage has become one of the iconic marriages of this debate, like Britney Spears'. But unlike Ms Spears, I think that he invited this level of scrutiny by, along with his party, making the "sanctity of marriage" a key element of his political platform.

So yeah, he's smearing poo all over the institution of marriage, not just his marriage. All of these pseudo-theological justifications of his actions, if taken seriously*, would be extremely damaging to marriage as a whole.

-----
* A mercifully unlikely circumstance.

#68 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 03:25 PM:

Xopher @ 65 writes: ...why should he be so easily forgiven for breaking his sacred marriage vows?

Because it isn't our place to forgive him for that. It's between him, his family and his god. We're apparently not involved. And because he was chosen by his god to govern over everyone else, and the normal rules do not apply to him.

I've given up believing that pointing out this kind of hypocrisy can be very productive. Once you accept that hypocrisy itself is a vice and fairness is a virtue, it's usually not long before you're forced to confront your own hypocrisy. I suspect many people accept the hypocrisy of their elite bosses for the same reason they agree with economic policies that favor the elites at their personal expense. They want to believe that they may be elevated into the elite someday, and they expect to enjoy the associated privileges, including the privilege to be a hypocrite.

That's why I think if you want to pry authoritarian followers from their social dominance oriented leaders, then you need more leverage than arguments about hypocrisy can provide. You need to focus on the betrayals. Hypocrisy grates, but authoritarianism is literally made out of hypocrisy. Authoritarians eat it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the other hand, betrayals are terrifying.

I don't understand why the message on Sanford and the rest isn't uniformly focused on the betrayal. These men didn't just betray their religious authorities, they didn't just betray their families... they betrayed their constituents. "They betrayed YOU. What else might they be capable of doing?"

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Thomas @62:
My point was that I was really surprised that no-one else seemed have the reaction: "Great. What an opportunity!"

Not in their outside voices, certainly.

Speaking personally, there is often a significant difference between my private musings on a subject and those which I consider appropriate for public discourse. Likewise, there's a difference between my initial, often unfair or unjust take on a matter and the more considered one that I use to drive my actions and my choices.

Perhaps that does make me a hypocrite. I tend to think, however, that it actually makes me an adult, aware of the weaknesses and strengths of the different layers of my thought processes.

This isn't a rebuke of you or your approach; it's just the way that I do things. I think you're your harshest judge here.

#70 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 03:54 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 63:

Despite the fact that I don't share the view that God chooses and blesses our executive public officials, I can accept the fact that the vast majority of my fellow Americans do, and trying to persuade them otherwise is rarely possible.

Wait, wait, wait. That's not what I said. I do think it's the case that a lot of the people he has to satisfy believe this or something like it, otherwise he wouldn't be going for a religious angle. I don't think that the vast majority of Americans believe this way.

The rest of us are just looking on and think that he's making a fool of himself. We're pointing out that he's abused his position of power, he's been irresponsible, he obviously can't keep promises, and he's hypocritical. Each of these should mean something to someone.

Yes, he is framing the issue in religious terms at the moment. Neither you nor I think that that's appropriate for a position of secular power, and is actually a distraction from the real issues. But we can point out that his religious excuse is just as dubious as any other excuse that he's given, and that might mean something to someone too.

As for the rest of your post, I don't think I'm qualified to comment. I don't know what the percentages of Americans who are accepting of it without comment are.

#71 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 03:58 PM:

Lila @50 the grownup.

She's the one who has to explain it all to their kids. She doesn't get to wear a fun costume while doing that.

#72 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 05:34 PM:

KeithS @ 70: Wait, wait, wait. That's not what I said.

I knew that. I didn't mean for you to infer I assumed otherwise.

...I don't think that the vast majority of Americans believe this way."

That's the way I read the polls, particularly the ones concerning American views on the fitness of atheists to serve in public office. It's okay if you don't see it the way I do. I understand.

As for the rest of your post, I don't think I'm qualified to comment. I don't know what the percentages of Americans who are accepting of it without comment are.

I would be a bit less churlish if Jeff Sharlet's, Bruce Wilson's, Max Blumenthal's and Chris Rodda's work were more well-known and the topic of discussion in more mainstream venues than Salon and Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC. The fact that so few Americans seem shocked and revolted by the stories they tell is what leads me to think what I do.

#73 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 09:48 PM:

I think it's too soon to say whether Appalachian Mark has been forgiven. Certainly his peers (Rush, Newt, the other horndog hypocrites) have forgiven him. The SC legislature didn't embrace him, they only decided not to impeach, and they also know they only have to put up with him for a little while longer. I've read that his popularity among the voters is . . . not. He's lost his status in the national Repugnican Party, and has brought further discredit on them when they're already suffering.

And I suspect his home life is decidedly unforgiven. His wife Jenny had already thrown him out, or at least given him an ultimatum, to which he responded by making another trip south. She may well be keeping him around now just to draw out his misery. Or she may not be keeping him around at all.

#74 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2009, 11:18 PM:

Xopher @19: "Are there any Republican governors who are NOT narcissists with severe delusions of adequacy?"

Well, there was the Republican governor of Utah, but he's now Obama's ambassador to China.

Connecticut's Republican governor, Jodi Rell, hasn't AFAIK had any major problems.

#75 ::: Amber ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2009, 12:32 AM:

Y'all have to keep in mind that Sanford wasn't the most popular man in the state /before/ this: the legislature (including Republicans) were screaming because of his continued, boneheaded refusal of the federal stimulus money. In fact, when the first stories broke about him not being wandering through the wilderness, it was a lot of local Republican officials who were gleefully venting their outrage on his abandonment of his duties.

It's like the man wasn't content with shooting himself in his foot, and while his shoe is filling up with blood, he decides, 'what the heck, I don't need that knee, either'.

But it's an amusing day to be a liberal in SC, right now, let me tell you.

#76 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2009, 01:19 AM:

Ah yes. I once looked forward to the day when the RidiculousRepublican Governor of Texas would make a complete and incontrovertible fool of himself. Then, after appointing someone more conniving and corrupt, he bankrupted the country instead.

#77 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2009, 02:06 AM:

Our Republican Governor hasn't done anything really off-the-wall (and she's unmarried, so she wouldn't be likely to show any Sanford-style hypocrisy). She's actually being smarter than the government employee unions are at the moment. In order to fix a projected $786M shortfall, she suggested they all take 3-day per month furloughs. Instead, they're pushing her toward layoffs of up to 1,100 people.

I'd rather have a job with 3 unpaid days per month than no job at all, which is the way it looks right now for all those admin workers.

It may have been a negotiating ploy, but one of the things that has been said here is that 70% of the state's expenses are labor-related. That startled a few folks.

#78 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2009, 09:23 PM:

Linkmeister:I suspect that a lot depends on how you define labor-related. For example, a large part of my state's budget goes on medical care and schools. And a lot of that involves paying doctors, nurses, orderlies, ambulance drivers, janitors, teachers, school secretaries and administrators… The transportation budget, again, includes people who drive and maintain trains, buses, and ferries.

Law enforcement: that's police officers, clerical staff, corrections officers, judges, court reporters and clerks… Yes, the state spends money on construction materials, cars and trucks and paper and telephones and electricity, but a lot of every department's budget is for employee pay and benefits.

#79 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2009, 02:45 AM:

Vicki @ #78, I remember we used to have two line items for labor at the private company I worked at: Payroll (Salary and hourly expense) and Payroll-related (which meant taxes, Workers Comp, Unemployment insurance, Health insurance, and probably a few other items I've forgotten. No pension plans or 401k.). The basic rule of thumb was that the "related" was usually about 20% of payroll.

If you think about it, of course the bulk of government expense is people, although fleets of buses and cars and their maintenance cost a bundle. Physical plant maintenance for those hospitals and government buildings probably costs a pretty penny too.

The 70% number just hit a nerve out here, and this is a state which is more highly unionized and thus pro-labor than almost any other one in the country.

#80 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2009, 09:54 PM:

Heresiarch:

Can you recommend a poll that describes this? A quick Google search led me to this Pew Center poll report, which includes the result that about 3/4 of Americans believe it is very important that a president have strong religious beliefs. That's consistent with the idea that many or most people would think an atheist was unfit for office, but I'd love to see something more specific.

As an aside, I can't imagine many people, religous or otherwise, buy this line. The fact is, Sanford has wrecked his political career and his marriage. He remains in his job only because his party has the legislature and doesn't want to impeach him, but he's not going to be winning any elections when his bizarre statements of the last couple months are available for his opponents' attack ads. He's trying to salvage something, but he's so far out into never-never land that his attempts are simply pathetic and hopeless.

#81 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2009, 11:29 PM:

Labour-related expenses: Possibly the best-remembered episode of Yes, Minister features a newly-built, award-winning hospital open, unused, for over a year. They can't admit patients – there isn't funding to employ nurses, doctors, pharmacists, cleaners, & such. (Season 2: The Compassionate Society)

Yes, Minister (1980-1982) & Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988): still landmark classics of lasting truth & humour.

#82 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:25 AM:

@53: has to keep telling lies like a shark has to keep swimming - what a wonderful turn of phrase!

What gets me about all this is, yeah, the utter refusal to focus on the fact that the man is supposed to be governing, instead focusing on how these trials and tribulations are helping him to grow as a person -- when Sanford himself was baying along with the pack at Clinton's heels in the 90's for an affair considerably less harmful both to the family and to the taxpayer.

Sure, authoritarianism is hypocrisy all the way down, but somehow, making it all so blatant is just striking me as so damned indicative of everything wrong with America today.

Thank God we still don't have cable. Also, more than ever, I'm happy that The House is soaking up my free time. I'm down to four Web comics and I only read news every few days. It's been good living in physical reality lately.

#83 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:30 AM:

SFGate columnist Mark Morford, of the similar name but very different disposition, has an amusing column about Sanford today.

#84 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:54 PM:

Faren, #83: That column contains one of the best metaphors for the Divine I've ever encountered:

"...an unfathomable river of cosmic energy to be supped from like liquid light, while you still take complete responsibility for your own life and choices."

Sadly, the context is how most religions do NOT use that metaphor, and probably never will.

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