Curiouser and Curiouser

CB040855One of the weirdest political stories in some time is so bizarre, not because it’s political (it’s not), I am somewhat gobsmacked at how it’s unfolding.  The story is the disappearance  of the South Carolina Mark Sanford, one of the most ardent opponent of the stimulus bill.  This weird-ass story sounds like it’s straight out of a novel, except, the excuses have been lame.  If you want a more well-rounded picture of the story, go to the TalkingPointsMemo site.  They have been following it pretty closely.

I am saying this because I do not want to be accused of not showing my facts.  I want to talk about the Sanford thing, not from a political point of view, but from a humanity point of view.  However, after reading the comments on both sides on the disappearance (many on the left saying he got what he deserved if he fell to harm and many on the right saying it’s the liberal media smearing…something, can’t a man have some alone time that includes not telling anyone where he is and happens over Father’s Day).

So.  Let’s recap.  Governor Sanford was last heard from on Thursday of last week, two days after the legislative session ended–and all ten of his vetoes got overturned by the legislature.  La la la…over the weekend–nothing.  Monday, the story gets leaked that his cell phone was pinged in Atlanta somewhere.  His wife said she didn’t know where he was, but he had to get away from the kids (on Father’s Day weekend) and go ‘write something’ .  Then his office said that he was tidying up some paperwork that had fallen by the wayside during the legislative session.  Then, we were informed that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail (which received stimulus money).  Then, we found out that Sunday, the solstice, was get nekkid and hike! day on the Appalachian Trail (as the yummy Lewis Black said on Olbermann’s show tonight, who goes hiking naked?).  It seems highly unlikely that Governor Sanford was one of those nekkid hikers.

In addition, South Carolina has a weird thing in which the governor has to transfer power to the lieutenant governor.  There is no automatic turnover of power, and only in a state of emergency can the lieutenant governor take over.  What constitutes an emergency?  I don’t know, and Andre Bauer, the lieutenant governor (whom I’m watching/listening on/to Rachel’s show as I type) doesn’t know, either.  Bauer also said many of the South Carolinans are appreciative of their whimsical governor who does things his way and that others are worried and concerned for the governor, not to mention worried about, um, who the hell is in charge of the state with Governor Sanford making like Waldo and disappearing.

Today, an unoccupied state vehicle (the one that Sanford was presumably driving/in) was found near the main airport of Atlanta, and a fed says he saw Sanford board a plane at some point.  Then, Sanford’s office released a statement saying that Sanford had called and said he would be at the office tomorrow.  Interestingly enough, his wife was interviewed today, and she said she still hasn’t heard from her husband.

That pretty much is where we are now.  Of course, jokes about hiking the Appalachian Trail have flourished, as they should.  People have come up with some pretty interesting theories as to what the hell happened to Governor Sanford.  Oh, and apparently, he’s slipped his handlers before, but never overnight.  Anyway, some of the more rote stories are that he’s having an affair or that  he’s off on a bender.  Mental illness has been floated, too.  A few more creative stories such as stashed money, and just now, I read on a BJ thread something about Allen Stanford’s arrest.  There’s the obligatory, he’s going galt.  And, apparently, it’s his wife who has the money, so maybe she’s noticed unusually large amounts of withdrawal from one or more of their accounts.

Nevada’s congressman, John Ensign has to be silently thanking Sanford for taking the heat off him.  Although, Ensign returned to the Hill today to a round of applause from his fellow Republicans.  They called him a stand-up guy for the way he’s dealt with the situation, and there is no sign that they will be pushing to have him removed.  He is being investigated for dodgy employment practices, though, as he should be.

Anyway, this is what I really want to say about the matter.  I don’t feel comfortable writing it elsewhere, so I’m going to write it on my own blog.  Apparently, Sanford has been found as is returning.  This means he’s safe.  Which means I can go back to mocking and scorning him when I actually see that he’s back in the office.  However, when the truth about his whereabouts were fuzzier, I felt very concerned about him.  From what I’ve read, he’s had a habit of taking off from time to time.  From a political stand point, I don’t think that’s wise.  I mean, he’s the head of his state, for god’s sake.  He needs to be able to be reached at all times, whether he likes it or not.  In addition, the lieutenant governor was right when he said that it would be a big coup to certain people to, say, kidnap or beat up a governor.  There is a reason that politicians have security detail.

Anyway, the statements weren’t adding up to me.  When it was thought that he was on the Appalachian Trail, I was actually worried about his physical and/or mental health.  Here’s the problem, I felt like I was being an emotional wussy girl for caring about him.  Over at BJ and most of the lefty blogs, there was much snark (which I can appreciate) and much speculation as to the salacious nature of his disappearance (which, I admit, I thought of many of the same ones myself), but there was very little real concern, except from a handful of commenters and from two of the front pagers.  What’s more, a majority of the commenters derided those of us who expressed any compassion or concern for the governor.  Even today, on a Sanford thread, one commenter was being snide about the ‘fake concern’ that he felt some of us had for Sanford yesterday.

It bothers me that to show any concern for Sanford’s well-being is mockable.  I get that he’s a shithead and an asshole, but he’s still a person.  If he had had a mental breakdown or was physically injured, or worse, I would have felt terrible about it.  No matter his politics, he’s still a human being.  Now, some would say that I care more about him than I do, say the protesters of Iran, but that’s simply not true.  I care way more about the protesters of Iran as a group, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be concerned for a person I don’t particularly like, too.

It’s not that I’m asking everyone to be a gushing blood heart liberal like me.  Indeed, I don’t think the world could handle so many emotional wimps, but I don’t like the fact that to show such concern is viewed as stupid, silly, hypocritical, weak, and/or invalid.

What I realize, though, is that every group has its own culture.  When I visit Washington Monthly, I expect the comments to be thoughtful, well-written (except for the trolls, and they seem to have more, probably because the people are less snarky), passionate, and not profanity-laced.  At TBoggs, it’s all snark all the time.  Lots of swearing.  Very little back and forth.  Mudflats is the place for a cuppa and a nice cozy chat–no swearing at all.  Balloon Juice is massive snark, much witty debate, compassion for the downtrodden, and merciless mocking that sometimes borders on cruelty.    We love our animals more than we love people, sometimes.  And, sometimes, we flat out fight.

In other words, there’s a groove that happens at a site lik e Balloon Juice.  Certain beliefs are reinforced while others are discouraged.  It’s not a conscious thing, and it’s not unique to blogs by any means, but it’s something that I notice wherever I go (online or in real life).  BJ is unusual in the fact that many of the commenters and the front pagers are willing to be challenged in their ideas further than on other sites, but there is still an invisible line that most people won’t cross.

So.  Back to Governor Sanford.  I was worried about his disappearance and the fact that none of the statements added up.  If it turns out that he is safe and just took off for one of the usual nefarious reasons, I will be right there mocking him and laughing at him.  In the meantime, I’m just gonna take a quick second to be thankful that nothing untoward happened to him.

10 Responses to Curiouser and Curiouser

  1. If it turns out that he is safe and just took off for one of the usual nefarious reasons, I will be right there mocking him and laughing at him. In the meantime, I’m just gonna take a quick second to be thankful that nothing untoward happened to him

    Underlying a lot of the mockery of his bizarre behavior was, at least in my case and I’m sure in others’, an assumption that he was basically all right. (For example, if he was in an airplane that was missing, the greater likelihood of tragedy would probably have toned down the humor.)

    As happy as I am that he turned up safe, the fact that he undertook such risky actions alone is grounds for criticism and more. If anything *had* happened to him, who would have known?

    A person with the kind of responsibilities he does — as a father, let alone Governor of a state — has no right to nick off to Buenos Aires without telling his family. If any of us regular people blew off our job for a couple of days with no word at all, we’d end up fired. If I were to nick off out of town for a couple of days and never told my lovely wife, she’d rightly be angered at my thoughtlessness and irresponsibility.

    Sanford’s behavior is so bizarre, though, that while I presume there’s some suitably juicy and salacious reason for his actions, they’re so strange and so *obvious* that one has to wonder if there’s some deeper problem afoot here. But that’s a matter for himself and his family to deal with, and not something the people of South Carolina should be forced to tolerate.

  2. J. Michael, yeah, I sat it out for the most part. Now that he has been found, however, the gloves are off.

    Greg, I had no problem with mocking his bizarre behavior at all. My beef was with the people who seemed to get upset or mad when someone would express concern about Sanford, such as when the front pagers said, hey, maybe he’s had a breakdown.

    I have maintained all along that no matter what happened, his leaving without telling anyone or handing off the reins to his lieutenant governor was terribly irresponsible. I think he should be impeached or be forced out or whatever, no matter what.

    I was just uncomfortable with the fact that those expressing even the mildest concern were mocked or criticized by several of the regular commenters.

    However–now that his reason for disappearing is disappointingly banal and trite, I will commence with the ripping.

  3. I was just uncomfortable with the fact that those expressing even the mildest concern were mocked or criticized by several of the regular commenters.

    I wouldn’t go that far, and so I didn’t. And I know we agree on his irresponsibility. I would hope that a number of the people mocking him would have felt terrible had it turned out that he had experienced a tragic accident — eaten by a bear, say.

    However–now that his reason for disappearing is disappointingl banal and trite, I will commence with the ripping.

    I don’t know, I wouldn’t call an affair with a woman in Argentina exactly banal, especially considering the Republican track record of late. (I kid!)

    Actually, while not diminishing his irresponsibility and the damage he did to his family (full disclosure: My old man left my mom for another woman), his apology was at least, at least seemingly, sincerely difficult and without any of the mealy “I’m sorry if you were offended” baloney. (Though I was rankled that he restricted his apology to the religious, as if we atheists don’t value sticking by one’s spouse. The word “hypocrite” comes to mind.)

  4. Damn it, I need to check my spelling before I post my comments.

    Greg, I think some of the bluster on BJ is partly because most people just assumed that Sanford had done a bunker. Not a bunker down like I’m doing, but an actual bunker.

    I call the affair banal only because of all the theories that cropped up and given the Republicans’ track record of late. I mean, yeah, she’s married and has two kids, and they met in Argentina, but on the other hand, no wide stance in the Minneapolis airport restroom (aaaaargh! Will we ever stop being known for that?) or anything like that.

    I agree. I said it over at BJ that I think he is, indeed, tormented by what’s happening to him, but his repetition of “God’s Law” really rubbed me the wrong way.

  5. I can see both sides, and I lean more in your direction than the mockers. However, the sad fact is that family values warriors like him don’t really care about bad things happening to the people they demonize. In fact, Sanford didn’t really care what happened to the people in his state, the state with the highest unemployment rate.

    With that in mind, I can at least see where people who mocked concern for Sanford’s well being are coming from. Even if something happened to him, he put himself in that jeopardy, unlike lots of people he has gleefully put in harm’s way for his political grandstanding. It’s not a humane response, but it is a human response.

  6. gex, yeah, me, too. I like the way you put this, especially your last sentence. It’s not a humane response, but it is a human response. So true. I’m just disturbed by what I’ve read on it so far because most people seem to have one response only. Whatever happened to nuance? Still, the thing that bothers me the most are the people who dismiss his taking off without letting anyone on his staff know, or his lieutenant governor, for that matter. It’s just plain irresponsible.

  7. Exactly, Minna. No matter what the reason, the unexplained absence has been disturbing to me. It indicates emotional imbalance or even mental illness.

    An affair may offer some reason for the lack of information. But the way this went down, no matter the reason, shows a complete disregard for the responsibilities someone in his position should minimally fulfill, and in my mind, indicates a deeper problem. He is a public figure, and the rules are different once you accept that role: Public figures cannot just drop off the radar without cause for concern. I think he needs to resign and spend some time on his mental health.

  8. Choolie, I wondered about his mental health as well. He does not look good at all. Regardless, he needs not to be governor of his state. Apparently, he refuses to resign, though, so I don’t think he’s as remorseful as he appeared yesterday.

  9. Well, the mentally ill stubbornly refuse to see their illness…

    We agree. He needs to be forced to step down. He”s incapable of making clear decisions about anything right now.