Mark Sanford’s Thought for the Day
“God moves in mysterious ways.”
I would like to think that most people, even Republicans, wallow in sex scandals just for the sheer voyeuristic fun of destroying a politician’s career for no particular reason other than that one can. For I otherwise don’t believe that there is a close connection between public and private virtue. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was an execrable father and husband but a transformative mayor, who understood as a gut matter some fundamental principles about the public realm and the responsibilities of citizens towards each other. Not all our Founding Fathers were paragons of fidelity. Bill Clinton’s ability to nudge the Democratic agenda towards a modest repudiation of the welfare state was untouched by his irrelevant womanizing. Sanford’s initial stance on the stimulus package was a valuable one, and it is amusing to see the media left seize on his marital transgressions to discredit it yet again.
A politician’s sex life has only one public relevance: its unavoidable function as a role model. I confess that I would be unwilling to vote for a politician who acted as a serial impregnator of women without marrying any of them, not because I believed that such behavior told me anything about his public character , but because he would be further normalizing a civilization-destroying behavior. There is a big difference between having an extramarital affair and never bothering to marry the mother(s) of your children in the first place–the one at least obeys a crucial norm, however imperfectly, the other destroys it completely.
Sanford did make his private life a matter of public concern, however, by his self-involved failure to secure the chain of command during his disappearance.