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June 25, 2009

But for the Grace of God

Call me naive, call me old fashioned and unrealistic, but I yearn for the days when government was so small that if a governor disappeared for five days, it really didn't affect all that much, and a politician's private life, if it didn't impact on his job, was totally off limits.

- Commenter "Pete"

I guess I'm a hopeless romantic.

I've been trying to puzzle out what so offended me about the feeding frenzy over Mark Sanford's absence the other day. Part of it, undoubtedly, was the notion that it's anyone other than the Sanford's business what arrangements they make regarding their respective activities. Like Miss Attila, I didn't find it the least bit odd that Jenny Sanford either didn't know exactly where her husband was, or chose not to pass on what she did know. Either way, her business. And judging from my own 30 year marriage, hardly unusual. I've always thought of marriage as more a partnership than a prison sentence:

... I just don’t get the male culture these days, and that’s part of what set me off about the early stages of the Sanford scandal, while the media was in the process of happily pounding nails into the coffin of the good governor’s marriage: the suggestion that men are supposed to ask their wives’ permission before they can do what they like. Does my husband ask me before he trains for a marathon or goes to visit his family? No. Of course not. I mean, he might double-check to make sure there’s not something on our mutual calendar that he’s forgetting, just as I do with him. But . . . permission? Say what? Is he eight years old?

Back when we lived in the hills I actually got asked things like, why did I let my husband smoke in the house? “Let”? Um, how about, he contributed half of the downpayment on the place, and was paying 100% of the mortgage at the time, and I knew when I married him that I was getting a smoker? He exiled himself to the balconies when he was trying to quit, and I supported that, too. Whatever makes him happy. Now he’s a non-smoker. Good, but that wasn’t my project.

I mean, isn’t there some kind of middle ground, here?

My husband does lots of things I'm not crazy about. I do things that don't fill him with delight either. But I don't think either of us, when we spoke those vows back in the nineteen seventies, thought that we would spend the remainder of our lives joined at the hip.

Together? Certainly. But I think both of us always understood that no one human being can fill all our needs. I think we also understood that the quickest way to kill desire is to make a prison of love - to demand that a loved one slowly chop off tiny parts of himself until he is made over into your ideal fantasy lover. This applies equally, if not far more so, to women for after marriage we often surrender ourselves to domesticity and child rearing. We forget the girl he fell in love with; the free spirit he pursued and finally won (but not easily).

This may sound as though I'm excusing Sanford's adultery. I'm not, though. One can accept the utter wrongness of his behavior and yet understand the very human impulses that led him to this pass:

Power corrupts because of the temptations it offers. Sanford’s allowing himself to cheat on his wife is just another example of allowing feelings to excuse bad behavior as was previously debated.

Sanford may indeed love his wife, but in marriage love isn’t the most important thing, it is trust. This is why all the handwringing when he first “disappeared” didn’t concern me at all. I gave the Sanfords the benefit of a doubt that if Jenny wasn’t concerned then no one should be concerned.

Love can ebb and flow in a marriage, but if trust is betrayed it is rarely recovered.

Adultery in politics is nothing new. What is relatively new, at least for the American press, is the vicious pleasure we take in exposing the human frailties of those in power; in dragging their families through the muck with them, compounding the hurt, the sense of betrayal, the embarrassment. It is this sickening sense of entitlement that allows ghouls like Andrew Sullivan to attack Sarah Palin's underaged daughters, to cast aspersions on the paternity of a tiny baby with Down's syndrome. No one is safe from our leering eyes and ears. Not even children and innocent spouses.

Contrast this with the forebearance granted to JFK:

We all know that JFK was a ladies' man but it's never boring to remind ourselves quite how many ladies the man had, continuously - he told Harold Macmillan he got a headache if he didn't go to bed with someone once every three days - and from a young age.

Here he is at 19, writing to a friend about how his father's private secretary had, on a holiday in Cape Cod, "got us some girls thru another guy - four of us had dates and one guy got f---ed 3 times, another guy 3 times (the girl a virgin!) plus myself twice."

After he married, the compulsion for quick, random sex continued unabated. A woman friend said he was as "compulsive as Mussolini. Up against the wall, Signora, if you have five minutes, that sort of thing." Another woman he dated just before he became president was told, "I wish we had time for some foreplay."

Perhaps the most frequent question I've read from disappointed Republicans has been, "How could he? He had everything."

Oddly, I don't find that one difficult at all to answer. He screwed up because he was human. The disturbing truth is that although there can be no excusing a betrayal like this, we don't know what led up to it nor what words were exchanged between Sanford and his wife.

Nor should we. None of this sad affair is any of our business. And what strikes me most forcefully in all of this is that Sanford didn't do the easy thing.

The expected thing.

Pundits and commenters alike seem outraged that this man didn't grasp at the standard male excuse for extramarital dalliance:

"It didn't mean a thing. I just used her for the sex."

It is hard for me to imagine any greater insult to a wife than to say, "I risked everything for a cheap one night stand. I didn't even have that much respect for you." But Sanford, though it makes his adultery no less wrong, didn't throw his lover under the bus. It appears that whatever else he may have done, there was something more there than casual lust. This may be the biggest tragedy of all, because all I could think when I heard the news was, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

No, I would never cheat on my husband, and I have never done so.

That's why I think rules are so important. Sometimes they are all that stands between us and self destruction. But if I have not erred in this fashion, I would never think to pretend that I am perfect or that I don't have it in me, given the right circumstances, to allow my heart or my mind to stray. Knowing right from wrong is a great bulwark against human frailty but it is hardly an infallible one. Somehow, I can't find it in my heart to rejoice at the misfortune (much less the misbehavior) of others.

Maybe that's why I find myself increasingly disenchanted with so much of what I read these days. I am left with only sorrow for everyone involved in this train wreck. And I only wish we had the decency to leave them alone while they sort this all out.

Posted by Cassandra at June 25, 2009 07:26 AM

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"Leave them alone" you mean like the Clinton family was "left alone"?

Posted by: Pat in IL at June 25, 2009 08:59 AM

"I would never think to pretend that I am perfect or that I don't have it in me, given the right circumstances, to allow my heart or my mind to stray"


But here's the question you have to ask yourself: Given how much you love and respect your husband, how would YOU handle the situation? In an honorable way that shows love respect for your family or by disregarding your vows and dishonoring those you love? And if you're going to hold yourself to such a standard why make excuses for people who won't (not can't) honor their commitments?

I'm not saying we should shun or stone adulterers, I just don't think we should make excuses for them.

Posted by: wickedmess at June 25, 2009 09:08 AM

Where did I make excuses for him?

When I said, "Nothing can excuse behavior like this?"

Or when I said that I "accept the utter wrongness of it"?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 09:14 AM

FWIW, I did not condone the nastiness surrounding the Clinton/Lewinsky affair.

Also, there is a major difference between this situation and the Clinton situation. Democrats love to claim that Clinton was "persecuted" because he had an adulterous affair.

Not true.

There is a rather enormous difference between a serial adulterer who is sued for sexual harassment, lies under oath, and has also been accused by two other employees of sexual harassment and a man who has one affair and (so far as we know at least) has neither broken any laws nor been accused of breaking any.

But if it makes you feel better to ignore inconvenient facts go right ahead :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 09:23 AM

After watching the blood lust on the Internet and on television in the last few days, I must agree with your post.

It is wrong, utterly wrong. It should be a private matter. And there, but for the grace of God (or something), go I.

Posted by: Peter Conover at June 25, 2009 09:25 AM

"One can accept the utter wrongness of his behavior and yet understand the very human impulses that led him to this pass"

Sorry, but I must have read more into that than I should have. I guess because I can't understand it, or maybe I just refuse to try. Obviously I have issues in this area. ;-P

My apologies, Cass!

Posted by: wickedmess at June 25, 2009 09:26 AM

Oh gosh, no apologies necessary :)

I think the guy behaved very badly. I wouldn't (or at least I hope I wouldn't) behave that way in his place.

I guess that I have just lived long enough to know that we don't always know what we're capable of - a person can believe something to be wrong with all his mind and heart and yet, when the time comes, still choose the wrong path.

Nothing makes that right, and it doesn't mean he shouldn't have to face the mess he's created.

But I don't understand publishing private emails between the two of them, or gleefully rehashing the details over and over. He has a wife and sons, and they have not done anything wrong. Why cause them more pain?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 09:33 AM

It's not the same, sometimes, when you're a public figure. When I read the Starr report, much of what I felt was pity for a trapped, middle-aged, somewhat deadened man trying to recover some genuine feeling, and a young woman pretending that this infatuation could ever lead to something satisfying. But I'd have been happy to leave them to work it out in private if Mr. Clinton hadn't embroiled himself in sexual harassment lawsuits with his employees, and then caught himself in perjury while in high office.

Sanford didn't call down the attention of the press and the public by perjury, but he ought to have realized that a high-profile politician isn't likely to get away with a stolen weekend of vacation from reality unless a lot of people are skillfully cooperating to cover for him. And because Republicans are still associated with principles of honoring the traditional family, he set himself up for allegations of hypocrisy, with predictable consequences from an innately hostile press.

Here's my theory. I think people get numb, and try to get by. Then something happens that wakes them up, and they find the surge of life completely irresistible no matter how dangerous or wrong the trigger. Getting numb feels like dying. Your whole soul can start fighting back in surprising ways, just for a chance to live.

If we don't find a way to stay alive inside with good things, we're sitting ducks for the bad ones. It's a terrific way to wreck your life.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 09:35 AM

I'd have been happy to leave them to work it out in private if Mr. Clinton hadn't embroiled himself in sexual harassment lawsuits with his employees, and then caught himself in perjury while in high office.

Exactly. I both hated and was embarrassed by that whole incident, and also by the nastiness on the right and the unbelievable dishonesty (the President of the United States is immune from perjury laws or from being held accountable for sexual harassment? REALLY???) of the left.

No one came out of that looking good.

he ought to have realized that a high-profile politician isn't likely to get away with a stolen weekend of vacation from reality unless a lot of people are skillfully cooperating to cover for him.

I will buy off on that, I suppose, on the theory that he was dumb, and also that he didn't handle it at all well.

But for Pete's sake - the idea that the state of SC was going to fall apart without him is just silly. Most politicians are so freaking useless that the country would probably run a whole lot more smoothly if they all went to Argentina.

something happens that wakes them up, and they find the surge of life completely irresistible no matter how dangerous or wrong the trigger.

Yep. And he should have been stronger. He wasn't.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 09:49 AM

...all I could think when I heard the news was, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Should you ever consider running for governor of South Carolina, we *will* conduct an intervention!

Posted by: BillT at June 25, 2009 10:05 AM

Some media outlets have become little more than perverted voyeurs who revel in their self-loathing by celebrating human frailties in others. Disguising their reporting as the exposition of hypocrisy in others they feel better about their own lack of spirituality.

It must scare the daylights out of them to think someone, someday might shine the bright light of discovery on their own closet full of skeletons.

Pity them! Leave Sanford, who talks too much, and his family to their personal grief and reconciliation. All else is tantamount to feeding Christians to the lions for amusement.

Posted by: vet66 at June 25, 2009 10:12 AM

Should you ever consider running for governor of South Carolina, we *will* conduct an intervention!

I'd make a very poor politician, Bill :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 10:21 AM

He didn't break any laws. Adultery isn't a crime then? At least, not one punishable by law except divorce and whatnot...

I am not bored with this as much as I am 'so what else is new?' except that as a Republican, he is *supposed* to have higher standards, and that is what the media is feeding on; the hypocrisy of it all, according to them.

How DARE we impose a standard to define and defend marriage when people are unfaithful to their spouses?

I am speaking in general terms here.

Posted by: Cricket at June 25, 2009 10:29 AM

I'd make a very poor politician, Bill

I suspect you'd make a dynamite stateswoman, though.

Posted by: BillT at June 25, 2009 10:34 AM

The progressive take is pretty stupid.

It's not hypocrisy if you condemn someone else's behavior and then condemn your own when you violate the same standard. Some people are just morons.

This is the Prejean fallacy again, writ large. Displaying human fallibility does not "prove" you are wrong to uphold a standard. We have standards, not because people are perfect, but because they are manifestly imperfect and standards help at least some of us to do the right thing even when we're tempted otherwise.

That's why the standard is needed.

If a person who thinks adultery is wrong commits adultery, that doesn't make adultery "OK". It just illustrates that human beings sometimes have trouble living up to what they believe is right. It also doesn't make him a hypocrite, unless he refuses to admit that what he did was wrong, also.

It doesn't mean human beings are incapable of living by their principles either, because so many men demonstrably do NOT cheat on their wives.

People love quick, easy generalizations. It's so much easier to get your self-righteous thang on if you don't think too hard. :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 10:38 AM

I believe that you should do one thing at a time. If you think your marriage is not giving you enough thrills and you're tempted to start playing the field, be a grown-up and finish one thing before starting another. Sanford should have negotiated a divorce so he was free to be on the prowl. He should have to face living in a one-bedroom apartment with cinderblock and particle-board shelves until he can re-establish himself, if his dalliance doesn't work out. But he was a chicken, wanted to dabble in something outside of marriage, and, if it didn't work, still have his comfortable nest undisturbed. Jerk. I am very glad his wife kicked him out.

Clinton was not mistreated by the Right. The unfair treatment he received was at the hands of those who have covered for him his whole life. He has been prevented from having to grow up, so he has reached the age of 62 without maturing past the emotional age of 17.

Clinton was a serial philanderer and abuser of women, his wife knew it and participated in threatening women who dallied with her husband (or were assaulted by him). I believe that when you're aware of a crime (rape) and help to cover it up (Hillary Clinton threatening Juanita Broaddrick) you are an accessory after the fact. I believe both Clintons belong in prison, not in "public service".

Clinton, as President, participated in phone sex on an open phone line. Our enemies do all they can to electronically listen for such things, so that they have ammunition with which to blackmail a person in power. Bill Clinton put our nation's security in jeopardy with his hide-the-sausage games. For that he should have resigned. We should not have had to impeach him. When my husband worked in Intelligence, such behavior would have caused him to lose his security clearance and be subject to prosecution. Clinton had much more ability to damage the nation's security than did my husband, yet Clinton did not pay any price for his atrocious judgment and behavior.

If Clinton had been a man, he would have committed seppuku and saved the nation the spectacle of learning about his human humidor.

Posted by: MathMom at June 25, 2009 10:39 AM

"But for Pete's sake - the idea that the state of SC was going to fall apart without him is just silly. Most politicians are so freaking useless that the country would probably run a whole lot more smoothly if they all went to Argentina."

*hopes my fear and loathing of legislatures, when in session, and cynical views towards politicians in general is not rubbing off on the Blog Princess?*

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 25, 2009 10:40 AM


I agree with everything you said, save one... It is not possible to embarrass the Clinton's. Or if it is, the subject of that embarrassment has yet to be discovered.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 25, 2009 10:47 AM


I don't think the impeachment was mistreatment, but I have listened to a lot of pretty regrettable remarks about not only Clinton but his family for years. That is what I was referring to.

Other than that, I agree with most of what you said - especially the point about the security risk. That's a point I've made many times to Clinton defenders. The guy swore to uphold the law (in fact, that's what the chief exec *does*) and then thought he was above the law.

Doesn't work that way. When you start groping women without their permission, it changes from a private affair to a public one. The amusing thing is that it was the Left who pressed so hard for sexual harrassment laws and then didn't want them to be used.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 10:47 AM

I feel sorry for Chelsea Clinton; she is the only real victim in the whole Clinton-world disaster. She has to suffer for the sins of her parents.

And Juanita Broderick.

Other than that, I agree with Mathmom wholeheartedly.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 25, 2009 11:11 AM

Chelsea is who I was thinking of.

I can't understand why no one ever thinks of the children of politicians. When people's private problems become the means to destroy them politically and when the media actively go after children, what responsible person will enter public service?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 11:16 AM

"I don't understand publishing private emails between the two of them, or gleefully rehashing the details over and over. He has a wife and sons, and they have not done anything wrong. Why cause them more pain?"

Cass, I certainly agree with that but at the same time, Sanford should have expected this from the media and the public. That's one more reason he should have, at the very least, put off a physical relationship with his mistress until he was divorced from his wife. Self control IS possible, though not common these days. Although it wouldn't eliminate the pain that his family is feeling now they wouldn't be dealing with all this scandal, mud slinging and the media camped on their front porch. Instead Sanford ignored what was best for his wife and children in the most selfish manner possible.

The media is doing EXACTLY what we all have come to expect the media to do and Sanford didn't do a damned thing to prevent it or protect them. Oh, except for that lame "please respect my mistress' privacy, oh and my family too". They were pretty much an after thought in his rambling, narcissistic press conference. They've been an after thought in this entire thing.

Posted by: wickedmess at June 25, 2009 11:38 AM

Regarding Chelsea, I think she should have been off-limits until she was an adult, or until she inserted herself into public life. I think she was a homely little girl, but that is neither a crime nor her choice, and it is not an excuse to attack her.

Unfortunately, the Clintons themselves used her as a human shield after Monica. And I lost some of my concern for her after reading in Gary Aldrich's book about her disdain for her Secret Service detail, calling them her personal, trained pigs.

Gary Aldrich reported that as America’s First Lady, “[Hillary] had a clear dislike for the agents (U.S. Secret Service), bordering on hatred… Two Secret Service agents heard Hillary’s daughter Chelsea refer to them as ‘personal, trained pigs’ … The agent on the detail tried to scold Chelsea for such disrespect. He told her … he believed that her father, the president, would be shocked if he heard what she had just said to her friends. Chelsea’s response? ‘I don’t think so. That’s what my parents call you’ ” (Unlimited Access, p. 90).

But in all, I believe that she is the result of really bad parenting, and should have been left alone. Even with bad parenting, however, there comes a day when you are free to choose how you will live your life. If you choose to remain a low-life, it's your own fault.

She became fair game when she began to campaign for her mother last year, IMHO.

I have always cringed when people on the right attacked Hillary based on her figure and ankles, when there is such an abundance of bad judgment, bald-faced lies, and a total lack of character with which to impugn her. You dilute solid arguments when you resort to nastiness about a physical characteristics beyond a person's control.

Posted by: MathMom at June 25, 2009 11:53 AM

Why, indeed, do people have affairs instead of ending their dead marriages and starting over with someone else more honestly? (Or, for that matter, bringing their dead marriages back to life if divorce is too awful a prospect.) I know there are obvious reasons why this sometimes seems like the only choice, even though I reject them: someone imagines that the affair can remedy an acute void of some kind (sexual, emotional, whatever) and that it will be possible to get this need filled without turning one's life upside-down. Maybe no one will find out. Maybe no choices will have to be made. Maybe financial ruin and the shattering of ties with children can be magically avoided.

I've talked to many a man or woman who was separated from his or her spouse and had gotten involved with someone new without even waiting for the divorce to be final. I know this is a lot less dangerous and damaging than an outright affair, but it seems to go along with the inability to come to grips with what it means to choose either to be married or not to be married. Also with what it means to use a third person as an outlet for tensions (or a palliative for deadness) that may have more to do with what's going on between the original couple. It gets crowded in there.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 11:54 AM

I can't help but think of Paul when things like this happen.

From The Message paraphrase:
Romans 17-20: But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

For if gold (Paul) should rust, what then should iron (Me) do?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 25, 2009 11:56 AM

Texan99 -

I agree with your concern about starting a relationship while waiting for a divorce to become final. If you meet on the last day to sign papers, and you suddenly realize the magnitude of the step you are about to take and decide to try again, you are bringing a new complication to an already fragile situation.

Posted by: MathMom at June 25, 2009 11:59 AM

I took the silly hysteria over the inability of South Carolina to survive without the firm hand of its daddy-surrogate at the wheel of state to be nothing more than an excuse for salacious curiosity. Many people suspected an affair as soon as it became clear the Governor couldn't account for his whereabouts, and an affair is always fun news if you're interested in ratings or in attacking a public figure who's likely to be embarrassed by it. In that kind of game, the family are unimportant bystanders.

Whether or not it was fair to expect the Governor to account for his whereabouts at any moment, if he's a grownup he has to recognize that there are going to be consequences if he starts exposing himself to blackmail by indulging in guilty lies and secrets.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 12:02 PM

MathMom -- but also, it's hardly fair to the third person, to whom one is appearing in the guise as sort-of-available-but-not-quite. Assuming one has even been honest about the ambiguous status! Next thing you know, you're in the trap of "no matter what I do, I'll hurt someone badly."

Yu-Ain -- There's no doubt in my mind that it's a lot easier to talk about resisting temptations than actually to resist them. But every time we give in to an urge to do something like cheat on a spouse, we create a big mess that it then becomes our obligation to clean up. It's always a good idea to keep as clearly in our minds as possible just why we're about to create a big mess, just how awful it's going to be, and just how limited is likely to be our ability to fix the harm afterwards. In contrast, the strong tendency in many eras, and particularly the current one, is to assert the notion that sexual fidelity is not very important, and that people in the grips of strong emotions can't really be expected to master them and behave with integrity anyway. Knowing that we've likely to fail if subjected to very strong strains, there's a good deal we can do to nip some situations in the bud before the strains become intolerable.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 12:13 PM

I don't really know any other way than to say that I don't condone what he did. I am not arguing with you all.

I do realize that self control is possible :p I have been apart from my husband for at least 5 years of our relationship, and it wasn't lack of temptation that kept me faithful.

If I didn't believe adultery was wrong there would have been nothing holding me back. Oh. Except the thought of hurting someone I love dearly.

People do dumb (and wrong) things. That doesn't excuse it when the press do cruel and needless things.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 12:24 PM

Of course I don't bring much experience in this matter to the table, but every time I see something like this--particularly if it's more than just a fling--I can't help but ask one question: How did it get to this point? It's a long serious of steps (many taken several times) that brings a married person to the point of consummating an affair.

I've never had an affair with a married man, but in my friendships with married men I've always been aware of lines and borders and conversations or levels of emotional intimacy that signal danger or that should never be crossed. There are so many opportunities to say, "This is a dangerous path," so many red flags. It's not an oops moment, it's a long path they've taken over a period of time.

It's like that in so many wrong things we do. It's not as if we're on the straight-and-narrow and suddenly out of nowhere the road opens in front of us and we fall into a pit. And so I have such a hard time finding much sympathy for the cheating spouse.

But then again, I'm not bringing to the table in this conversation the experience of having been married myself...

Posted by: FbL at June 25, 2009 12:36 PM

I don't mean to be arguing with you either (was that for me?)! I totally agree with you about the press, but I suppose I keep changing the subject because the adultery engrosses me more. Although I'm in complete agreement with you and most posters here about the morality of adultery, I never get tired of trying to sort through how and why it happens and what it means. It's sort of morality in a microcosm for me. Every generation wrestles with it, and it seems like we make the same mistakes over and over, trying to figure out how to balance flexibility and personal freedom with the importance of ethical standards and the ability to keep promises.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 12:41 PM

I don't think we're being hypocritical as much as we are saddened. He has decided to (the horror!)
take responsibility for his actions. We call that accountability. So, to go back to your original point about not breaking any laws; he did. He lied, he cheated on his wife and made others lie for him. He could make the decision to lie and cheat, but he could not choose the consequences, so he at least made the decision to step down.

Now here is the big question: Did he step down because he got caught or because he was truly sorry for what he did?

Posted by: Cricket at June 25, 2009 01:15 PM

Fuzzy, you got it. It is a series of small steps; crossing lines and pushing the limits.

When I was a young newlywed, there were a couple of fellows in the Engineer's unit that told him to his face his wife was a babe and that he had better watch out or I would be cheating on him.
To his credit, and mine, we never ever let go of our committment we made when we were married.

That meant not going out when he was in the field (I did go to the coffee group meetings and then straight home after they were over), and when I came back to CONUS, he kept the same rule.

So many times I was told by other wives that I had no right to question him if he strayed; I was not allowed to judge my husband's behavior because he was in a stressful situation. EXCUSE ME? The military, strictly speaking, does not condone adultery, but there is a double standard about it, nonetheless.

I had neighbors who had 'friends over for drinks' when their husbands were gone, and these 'friends' often didn't leave until the next day. It sickened me and made me worry for the morale of the unit....

I digress.

You are correct and I am going to shut the helk up.

Posted by: Cricket at June 25, 2009 01:24 PM

I don't think husbands and wives need to be joined at the hip or ask permission of each other for everything or always know where each other is (are?). But Sanford had four children. To me, if you have minor children - and based on dates it looks like at least some of Sanford's children must be under 18 - you shouldn't be totally out of touch unless it's unavoidable. That doesn't mean you can't go off by yourself and ask your spouse not to disturb you unless it's an emergency, it doesn't even mean you can't travel somewhere cell phone service isn't available. I just don't think you should be completely unreachable except when absolutely necessary. Maybe this is just me having a parent die at an early age but it seems irresponsible.

I would be delirious with joy to have never known about Sanford's affair which is why I keep wondering why he felt the need to talk - and talk and talk - about it in his press conference. I haven't been following the news about him today so this is the first I've heard about emails - perhaps he knew they were going to come out and wanted to be the one to tell everyone what was going on. Personally, I would have been perfectly happy with an "I'm sorry I worried everyone, I just needed to get away" or, failing that, an "I've been unfaithful to my wife, I want to (work it out with her, divorce her and marry my inamorata, joint a monastery), I apologize to her and my children and everyone I've hurt, thank you very much".

I certainly agree that the "I betrayed my wife for a quickie" is insulting but having watched Sanford's press conference, I don't think his revealing himself as an infatuated puppy who can't resist the temptation to talk about his beloved mistress even when he's supposed to be apologizing to his wife is what I would want to see from my husband either. I agree that no one is perfect - and I'm been dreadfully imperfect more times than I like to remember - but much of his press conference seemed less like an apology and more like a fond trip down memory lane. Ick.

Now, having said all that, do I think the feeding frenzy surrounding all this is out of line? You betcha. As far as I could tell from what little I read over the last few days, the people who made a Federal case out of this were not deeply concerned about Sanford's safety or about the safety of the state of SC - they were political opponents looking to score points. I think it's perfectly legitimate for the news media to report that a state governor seems to be out of pocket but the hysteria and conspiracy insanity that went on is pathetic.

The best thing I read - and I'm sorry I can't now remember where - was someone who said that as soon as word came out that Sanford had been in Argentina he felt sorry for the demonstrators in Iran: the Sanford story would pretty much guarantee that media attention would focus on the vitally important story of where the governor of SC had been rather than on the trivial matter of who was slaughtering people in the streets of Tehran.

And there's no question the right thing to do is to leave Sanford's family alone. His wife and kids really do not need to read - or even read about - emails between him and his sweetie for Heaven's sake. The sad fact is, though, that if media outlet A doesn't publish them then media outlet B will. And media outlet B will get the readers. It's just like the trashy tabloids they sell in the check-out counters: the only reason they print the garbage they do is because there are people eager to read it.

Posted by: Elise at June 25, 2009 01:37 PM

Cricket, he may have broken moral laws but that is not the same thing.

As we've discussed before, law and morality are not always the same thing.

I don't want to get into an argument about a situation I don't really understand. It seems very odd to me that he told her 5 months ago about this and yet she just threw him out of the house 2 weeks ago and told him not to contact her (but it's his fault for not letting her know where he was). Now personally, if my marriage were in danger, I don't think I'd head on out to a foreign country to visit my girlfriend - not if I had any notion that there was anything salvageable back home. But again, we don't really know what was said between them, do we?

No matter what, I agree with the commenters who've said you end the marriage before commencing another relationship. But I also find her behavior extremely odd.

I can understand - with difficulty - why she didn't throw him out immediately. I can imagine saying (if he refused to give up the other woman) "you have to move out".

What I completely *don't* get is, "You have to move out AND you can't contact me, but hey - we're going to try to save the marriage." Riiiiiight. That just seems looney tunes to me.

I have to be honest here: if I ever found out that my husband were cheating on me, *I* would be out the door so fast it would make his head spin. Now it is possible (depending on circumstances) that I might agree to try to make the marriage work but that would by no means be a slam dunk.

I do not think that I could share my home with someone who cheated on me for 5 months. I would need a LOT of time alone to figure out whether I even wanted to try to save the marriage.

Something here doesn't smell right to me. As I've said many times, nothing excuses his behavior but I suspect there's more going on here than meets the eye. He failed to handle it honorably.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 01:38 PM

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think they had much of a marriage to begin with. Her behavior makes no sense to me. To say that *his* behavior makes no sense seems so obvious that I have perhaps not emphasized that as much as I should.

Again, to me that seemed to go without saying.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 01:43 PM

Agreed. Ick.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 01:46 PM

I just don't think you should be completely unreachable except when absolutely necessary.

Maybe I am weird.

Maybe it's because I'm military, and grew up in a Navy family.

But I have never "depended" on my husband in that sense. Due to his job, there have been many, many, many times when I had absolutely NO idea how to reach him. When he left for Iraq a few years ago, I didn't know how to reach him (nor where he was) for weeks.

I have always trusted him to do the right thing, and he has ALWAYS let me know where he was when it was practical for him to do so. But we didn't even own cell phones until a year or two ago. Never needed them. Or wanted them.

To me, trust is either there, or not. But when you ask someone not to contact you, it seems a bit weird to expect them to ... contact you. I find it difficult to believe that absolutely no one knew how to get ahold of him. My bet is that someone did, and had there been an emergency, that someone would have contacted him.

Frankly, I haven't worried too much when I didn't know where my husband was b/c I knew that if there were an emergency, the Marine Corps would find his butt for me :p And then there's the fact that whenever he travels, he almost always finds a way to catch an earlier flight home, even if it costs him extra.

I don't nag him about his whereabouts b/c he has always gone out of his way to tell me on his own. But no matter how angry I was at him, I could never tell him "Don't contact me".

Not while we were still married.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 01:56 PM

But my comment wasn't about trust, it was about kids. My feeling Sanford shouldn't be out of touch had nothing to do with his wife and everything to do with his kids. Yes, there are times when a parent is unavoidably out of touch but it seems irresponsible for a parent to choose to be out of touch. But then, I learned early that bad things happen at the darnedest times.

As for the "don't contact me" stuff, I haven't really followed the story today so I'm not sure of the context. I can say that if my husband had been cheating, told me about it, and then told me he wanted to see his sweetie one more time (even to break it off), I'd probably say, "Fine. But if you go see her, don't bother calling me."

Posted by: Elise at June 25, 2009 02:33 PM

Yes, but the question remains: how do you inform someone who has told you not to contact them of your whereabouts? :p

I agree with your point, Elise. I guess I'm just seeing some inconsistencies in the narrative that's floating around.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 02:36 PM

On a slightly different note. Politicians missing in action still have the ability to screw things up. Please note our legislature here in California has been MIA for about 10 years now, and see where that has led. That bit of debt will come due next week.

As to Sanford, I had never even heard of the guy until the last month or so. The only question I had was: why the heck is the SC governor travelling so much to Argentina, that he has the time to meet and start an affair with someone?

Posted by: Allen at June 25, 2009 02:36 PM

It's always a good idea to keep as clearly in our minds as possible just why we're about to create a big mess, just how awful it's going to be, and just how limited is likely to be our ability to fix the harm afterwards.

I absolutely agree. But that's kind of the point isn't it? Paul knew the right thing to do, and yet still couldn't do it. He knew the wrong thing, and yet did it anyway.

That doesn't excuse the behavior, but it does speak to his exclamation: I obviously need help!

And if we're honest with ourselves. So do we all.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 25, 2009 02:36 PM

Amen, Yu-Ain.

A long marriage has a way of teaching you not only that you don't completely know yourself, but that you will never completely know the other person either. Some may find that alarming.

I find the notion oddly comforting. It's getting too comfortable that I worry about.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 02:40 PM

I may not be too smart, but even I know not to have an affair with someone in another continent. Even a quickie takes all day, requires two airline tickets and means taking the red-eye home. If you can't do it during lunch, what's the point?

Posted by: Homer at June 25, 2009 02:54 PM

PPppphhhhhhttttthhh :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 03:04 PM

I am not arguing, just making a distinction regarding them and the results.

I had a thought about it...which is why I brought up the way the right and the left view things. We right wingers (and there are those on the left who do too) tend to have a higher standard or subscribe to a moral law in behavior, and we hold to that regardless of who or what.

The fact that he is out with the truth means that there will be serious fallout and he can't choose what that is going to be, but so far it looks as if he is going to take it.

Posted by: Cricket at June 25, 2009 03:15 PM

The fact that he is out with the truth means that there will be serious fallout and he can't choose what that is going to be

Yeah. I kind of think that was inevitable from what I've read, but maybe that's just me. I also think Homer is asking for it :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 03:21 PM

I agree with you about behavior and not knowing all the facts. I know that the anguish I would feel would be so deep that I would probably forbid contact, but I would never cut him off from our children.

The only time you don't have contact with your spouse is if you are on a mission or you are doing something you don't want him/her to know about. What blipped on my radar was that he allegedly 'went alone' on this jaunt...and I put two and two together, about 24 hours before the story broke.

It takes two...

Posted by: Cricket at June 25, 2009 03:23 PM

Yu-Ain -- no question about the help -- the irony being that when you most need it, you may be least likely to ask.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 03:28 PM

If you can't do it during lunch, what's the point?

In response to which I can only quote Erma Bombeck:

I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.

Posted by: Elise at June 25, 2009 03:39 PM


I never eat lunch. Sex, on the other hand...

*running away*

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 03:42 PM

but also, it's hardly fair to the third person, to whom one is appearing in the guise as sort-of-available-but-not-quite.

Texan99 -

You are absolutely right.

Posted by: MathMom at June 25, 2009 05:03 PM

Well, with the deaths of both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, Gov. Sanford will be left to his family to repair, to heal.

Funny how things work that way.

Posted by: Brad S at June 26, 2009 08:16 AM

Heh :)

I often wonder why we obsess so over the lives and deaths of celebrities. Is it because it's so much easier than thinking about difficult topics like the war on terror, the economy, or Iran?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 26, 2009 08:21 AM

If Clinton had been a man, he would have committed seppuku and saved the nation the spectacle of learning about his human humidor.


A guilt culture says that if others believe I am guilty, and I believe myself to be innocent, I will act in such a way as to defend myself. Also, a guilt culture will ensure that if you believe yourself to be guilty, yet others proclaim your innocence, you will still publicly accept punishment rather than to try to avoid such.

A shame culture says that if others believe I am guilty, and I believe myself to be innocent, I am still ashamed in the eyes of others, and thus it is the same as if I were guilty. A shame culture mandates that if I believe myself to be guilty, but others believe that I have acted with forthright impulses, then it doesn't matter what I did, for nobody knows and this is the same as if I were not guilty.

Democrats do not admit to personal flaws or mistakes, not because their standards are higher or lower thus making them more or less susceptible to charges of hypocrisy, but because so long as they are able to convince others that what they did was "right", it makes it right. They have no conscience because they have no guilt. And they believe by making America ashamed of Republicans, they make Republicans guilty of anything and everything.

This can be seen as a fantasy, but the culture of shame exists. It exists in reality, in the reality of people's behavior. It is as real as war or politics. More and more, it is the ideal of personal conscience and guilt that is becoming ever more a fantasy, a dream.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 26, 2009 08:54 AM

I think that's a real problem for us, Ymar. More and more I see conservatives using the way the Dems act as an excuse for abandoning their own standards. I'm not sure we need to beat ourselves up when we screw up. After all, Sanford's apologizing didn't buy him anything in terms of the nastiness letting up.

I guess I just don't want to see us devolve into moral relativists just because we think the other side is doing it :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 26, 2009 10:16 AM

I think Sanford needs to resign his office, and take one for the team. He has given Dems a new, juicy target to scream about, and while they're making noise about Sanford, they are selling the US economy down the river with the Cap and Tax bill they are trying to ram through without reading (AGAIN!!!). Of course, you can go here, type in your zip code and find your Representative,and call his home office and scream about that, urge him or her to vote NO on H.R. 2454 (the Washington phone lines are usually busier than their home office, and it's a local call).

Sanford owes Republicans, big time. He needs to go. Today.

Posted by: MathMom at June 26, 2009 10:49 AM

OK, I agree they deserve to be left alone, but I can't resist admiring Mrs. Sanford for the following public statement, after she explained that she had kicked his ass to the street for the time being:

"His career is not a concern of mine. He'll have to worry about that. I'm going to worry about my family and the character of my children."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 26, 2009 11:40 AM

Personal theory time. I said it before and I'll say it again... she set him up to get caught, and good for her.

In her press statement, she makes it clear she tried to work it out with him when she found out. But he committed the cardinal sin, he didn't just sleep with this other woman, he had fallen in love with her. So she told him to leave two weeks ago.

The State (SC newspaper) had a reporter waiting in Argentina. They had been tipped off he was going there. They also had his email communications with his mistress. Both had come from an "anonymous source". It is my contention that the source was his spurned wife. She's extracting the pound of flesh from him in a completely legal way (rather than just "Bobbit-ing" him, as I'd have been tempted to in her place).

Posted by: MikeD at June 26, 2009 12:59 PM

My wife and I have been married 43+ years. We're partners on the road of life and happy to be that way.

We've had friends and acquaintances who've stayed happy in their marriages--and watched other friends marriages blow up. So the idea that a married man or married woman may have an affair, and even leave a first marriage for a second with the "adulterous" partner isn't news. Stuff happens.

But I am troubled by the new form of press conference seppuku where the perceived "villain of the piece" comes on and crys his eyes out.

These clowns should man up, fess up, and shut up.
"I had an affair. It was wrong. I've hurt others. I don't know where things will go from here. It's time to get back to work, and this is the last I'll have to say about the issue." That's about all that should be said.

Posted by: Mike Myers at June 26, 2009 03:54 PM

If the marriage is no longer viable, for whatever reason, bag it and tag it. But try to do so with some honor and dignity. And fer cheese-grits sake, don't blubber on and on about it.

Or ditto re: what Mike Meyers said...

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 26, 2009 08:54 PM

To what FbL said: I'm been acquainted with men that - did I not know they were married - I would have been very interested in, romantically. But, knowing that they are "unavailable", I was able to not even give in to thinking "what if". I've always looked at it this way: if they cheat on someone else to be with you, and they leave that someone for you, what makes you think the cheater won't do it again, this time cheating on you...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 27, 2009 01:47 AM

Also, re: give the Left "hypocrisy ammo", I get the weekly Change.org emails. From today's email:

Hey Changemakers,

Here's a quiz-of-the-week for you: what do Mark Sanford, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, and Rudy Giuliani have in common?

You guessed it – each are prominent GOP members who tout family values and an opposition to same-sex marriage because of its supposed threat to the sanctity of marriage while they simultaneously cheat on their spouses.

Hypocrisy? Sounds like it to us.

It's not that Republicans have an exclusive claim on adultery. John Edwards, Bill Clinton, and Eliot Spitzer are only a few of the prominent Democrats who have also had their share of very public marital infidelities.

But as Gay Rights blogger Mike Jones explains this week, "family values" politicians who have an obsession with gay marriage and taking away the rights of gays and lesbians to enter into legal unions are a little more difficult to forgive, and might first want to focus on their own marriage before going after others.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 27, 2009 01:50 AM