The sudden death of Michael Jackson has pushed the saga of the missing governor from South Carolina off the front pages of America’s newspapers. But as the public’s attention drifts away from the pop star’s death, the calls for Mark Sanford’s resignation will once again take on a life of their own.
Already, some fellow Republicans have called for the governor to quit—not so much because of his indiscretions, but because of the circumstances surrounding them. The affair itself is not grounds for resignation. It is a fundamentally personal matter unless there is evidence he has violated his oath of office. However, Sanford disappeared without notifying his subordinates and lied about his whereabouts. As commander-in-chief of the National Guard, this is inexcusable. In addition, there is mounting evidence that state funds were used to finance the affair. That alone could be grounds for some kind of sanction from the state legislature.
The governor’s double standard and that of the Republican party is also at issue here. During the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings, as a member of Congress, Sanford voted to impeach on three of four counts and asked the president to resign. A political commercial from a recent Sanford campaign has surfaced, showing the governor insisting on the importance of family values in the conduct of public office. Add to this the recent similar scandals associated with other GOP politicians like John Ensign, David Vitter, Larry Craig and Mark Foley, and there are grounds for concern about the gap between Republican values and behavior.
You can argue that the Democrats have no lessons to give. Indeed, no political party has a monopoly on virtue and the Democrats have had their share of scandal. Why the Sanford incident is grounds for resignation has a lot to do with trust and credibility. The Republicans are, after all, the ones who preach family values and there should be a price to pay for hypocrisy. During the Clinton impeachments hearings, the Republicans lost two senior leaders, Majority Leader Bob Livingston and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, after the pair admitted to extramarital affairs.
The Republicans are having enough trouble getting their message across without these tabloid-type scandals. Who remembers and, more importantly, who cares that Governor Sanford took a principled stand against the stimulus package coming the Obama White House? On a personal level, this story has legs much to the detriment of the real victims, his wife and children. Sanford is so far refusing to quit, claiming he can regain the trust of his constituents. But his real problem will be with his family. As for remaining as governor? Using state funds and lying about his disappearance is enough to merit resignation. He should just go for the sake of his state, his party, his office and ultimately, for the love of his family.