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April 03, 2013

So, Mark Sanford Won the Run-Off

And he'll face Steven Colbert's sister (no, really) in the general.

Although everyone believes his press conference admitting the affair was super-weird n' stuff, I think it was weird primarily for two closely-related reasons.

1, he was being honest, not continuing to lie about. The oddest thing was his candor about it-- which felt strange, because we're not used to seeing candor after a political affair. We know how these things are supposed to go. There is A Script. A, I have sinned, B, I am working on it with my wife, C, I'm talking to ministers and stuff about God and Jesus. We are so used to a fake ritual of feigned, poll-tested remorse (the remorse of someone primarily sorry he got caught) it's strange to see an honest discussion about it.

2, and the weirdest thing was that Sanford included only small nods to point B, "I'm working on it with my wife." He did mention that aspect of it, but it was a strange sort of "working on it with my wife," because he seemed to make it pretty clear he was leaving his wife for this other woman, and "working on it with my wife" seemed to mean "we're trying to figure out a way where everyone's okay with this." He repeatedly mentioned the woman he had an affair with as being among the people he hurt by his actions -- mentioning her before his wife.

The usual script calls for the politician to claim he's willing to do anything to have his wife's trust back again; Sanford's press conference didn't.

I think part of the weirdness was caused by this event happening (due to his being caught away from South Carolina) three-quarters of the way to a decision to leave his wife, and not quite wanting to say that in a nationally-televised broadcast.

Does it matter that he's engaged to the woman he had an affair with now? I've always thought this was an interesting question: Was his bigger sin that he had a sexual affair or that he fell in love with the woman he had an affair with?

I think it's the latter, actually. Partly because such a thing is more of a danger to the spurned wife -- a casual affair might be terrible, but at the end of the day, the decision of whether or not to continue the marriage still remains with the woman. In Sanford's case, that decision didn't lie with Jenny Sanford alone. It's one thing to have a cheap sexual affair; it's another thing to decide the affair is worth leaving your wife over.

And partly because many would say that at Sanford's age, such a thing -- the juvenile excitement of "new love" -- is childish and unseemly. At his age, the thinking goes (I think), he ought to be wise enough to know that the sort of "love" sung about in songs is an intense but ephemeral thing.

And therefore it's unseemlier, even, than an entirely emotion-free sexual affair, like a Clinton-style bejeer in the Oval Office, or a session with a prostitute. It's sometimes a little strange what people will deem as forgivable and unforgivable.

That was the really weird thing in the press conference -- his refusal to throw the woman he had an affair with under the bus and say it was "just a weakness" and that it's all over now and he'll never do it again. He was supposed to say that; it's in the script. He refused to.

Well, he's our guy now. I wouldn't have risked a seat on him (assuming he had any decent competitors), but that's the bet the party has made.

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posted by Ace at 12:04 PM

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