One 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.