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June 25th, 2009
12:56 PM ET

Let's leave Mark Sanford's family alone ... as long as he leaves our families alone

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

Every human being who witnessed or heard about the spectacle of Governor Mark Sanford's press conference yesterday had to feel extraordinary sympathy for the Governor's wife and family.

Everyone, that is, except for Governor Mark Sanford, Senator David Vitter, Senator John Ensign, former Senator Larry Craig, and former Congressman Mark Foley.

Despite the sex scandals that each one of these right wing "family values" politicians brought on themselves and their families, they have made a career of dividing families. The pain that Mrs. Sanford and her children are experiencing is a salient reminder to many other citizens and families who have suffered as a result of the divisive rhetoric and discriminatory policies of these self-righteous and hypocritical politicians.

These elected officials and their colleagues in the self-proclaimed "conservative moral movement" have used faith to preach fear and polling data to justify prejudice. Throughout their political careers, they have tried to dictate the definition of a moral American and a proper family. They have tried to create laws that restrict a woman's decision about her health and body and have denied personal rights and human dignity to gay and lesbian Americans. These are reflections of the immorality of their movement.

That is the true scandal. Their personal behavior not only traumatized their families, but their official conduct in public office violates our principles as a just and caring society.

Now I know that many will bring up the scandals regarding the personal behavior of former President Bill Clinton, former Governor Eliot Spitzer, former Governor Jim McGreevey and former Senator John Edwards. As wrong and destructive as their behaviors were, these men did not try to dictate to us how we should live our lives, nor did they try to manipulate the United States Constitution to force their own moral agenda on our country.

The Sanford family deserves privacy and prayers during this very difficult period. The American family will survive these demagogues. In fact, this latest scandal can serve as an important call to action in standing up to government officials that use the pretense of "morality" to divide and discriminate against the American family.

soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. suzelle

    This country glorifies extra-marital affairs. Ask the woman who slept with my husband and is suing me.

    June 25, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Those who live in glass houses should not throw rocks......I hear a lot of shattering glass the last few years. I wish the best for the families but I hope we don't hear from these men again.

    June 25, 2009 at 10:11 pm |
  3. Elle - Las Vegas, NV

    I agree with both Andrea and Melissa. The mistress "Maria" should also be held accountable. She has known him for 8 plus years and knew he was married so this was no mistake for either of them, and it just didn't suddenly happen a year ago. They both knew what they were doing and they both got caught! That is the only reason Mark Sanford is sorry, he was caught! I have no respect for any women who go after married men, they are lower then hookers and should be treated as garbage.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  4. Leo

    This was a very well written article, Robert. The only fitting end to this fiasco is for the Governor to resign in disgrace. Anything else would be a traversty of justice. Public school students in South Carolina are in schools not fit fot a third world country and yet, Governor Stamford could afford to abandone his responsibilities in such a manner. If any state employee had behaved this way, they would be fired. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:52 pm |
  5. fran frank

    I hope he has the decency to resign for the sake of the state and his family. What would have happened had their been a state emergency that required the Governor to call in FEMA or the National Guard or declare a region a state of emergency. It is absolutely incredible. If his wife wants him that's her decision. I just don't know how the people of South Carolina could want him in charge.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  6. Sherman

    I concur with Zimmerman. I'm beginning to think that Republican definition of "family values" is value your family for what they can do for you (like help get you elected), while you do whatever you want.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  7. Richmond Pam

    I am tired of feeling sorry for all the wives! The dereliction of duty is beyond my wildest comprehension This story would not even be believable as a Lifetime Movie on the true story night.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm |
  8. Judy

    larger issues like, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and their ongoing conflict of interest with housing, banking and medical care concern me much more than anyone's infidelity to their partner........

    June 25, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  9. David

    Individual moral failures do not constitute failure of sound priciples like "family values". Your outrage is very selective. Billy Clinton got a pass from NOW on his sexual abuse when they should have been calling for his head for abusing a young woman that way. Utter hypocrisy. Where were you then? You are just like them Robert, you line up your shots based not on principles but on what side of the aisle your target sits on. Get back to reporting news and politics and leave the selling of the hard left to those who bear no responsibility for "fair and balanced" reporting. CNN is writing your paycheck, not the Huffington Post. You are nothing more than a shill for the dems. Fox is looking better every minute...

    June 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  10. ANDREA

    How about the governors' mistress, shouldn't she be held accountable also? She knew he was married and is just as much at fault. If women would quit having affairs with married men, the problem would end. Both people in any affair are extremely selfish, and only act like they care about who they hurt, when they get caught. All people know going into an affair, that they will be causing great pain to their families. They are just tossing the dice, hoping their families will forgive them when they turn on the fake tears. Let's just be honest about this.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  11. Mark Sanford

    I hope he didn't use any taxpayers money to fly to Agrentina and have a romantic affair, pay for the hotel, food and intertainement, at our expenses.
    What a fool.

    Get him out asap!
    Thank you.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  12. Eleanor

    I know that he didn't care about his wife and children because if he did, he wouldn't have let them endure this public shame.

    I wonder how much can he care about South Carolina?

    June 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  13. michael martin

    BRAVO, Mr. Zimmerman! The audacity of legislating and prostheytizing "family values" and the protection of the "sanctity of marriage" is what makes these particular dalliances so grievous. Neither side of the aisle is any better (or worse) than the other for showing their human frailties, but these 'holier than thou' politicians need to wake and smell the humanity of it all.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  14. Kate

    Well put, Robert. Of course I find it no surprise that politicians who disrespect women as a class also behave disrespectfully to the individual women in their lives.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  15. Sharon,Daniel Island, South Carolina

    This guy is known for being cheap around the office,yelling at staff when he finds discarded paperclips on the floor, so to set a good example he takes a trip to south america at the states expense.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Melissa

    Writing your signature on the wrong line on a form is a mistake. Clicking the wrong button when you are buying something online is a mistake. Forgetting your blinker when you are turning a corner in your car is a mistake.

    Cheating is NOT a mistake, its blatant lying and a slimeball thing to do.

    You do NOT trip and your erect "member" "falls" into the other persons "space" multiple times in a row until you're both in the throws of passion.

    When you cheat, you know exactly what you're doing, and you can stop yourself. Its not a "mistake". Mistakes are accidental.

    Stop trying to make excuses for the cheaters in the world.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Wy

    I believe that we should be in prayer for our governor's wife and family. Yes, Sanford needs prayer, but he will pay the consequences. I wish nothing like this to happen to any family, but God have mercy on his soul. Amen !!

    June 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  18. Grant E. Wilson

    Xtra marital affairs by politicians are not unusual. The French model to not high profile them except if it involves national security, is a reasonable practice.

    Otherwise, cheap journalism becomes the order of the day, and detracts from more important situations such as: The American economy, Iran, N. Korea, national disasters, failing infrastructure, medicaid, ...

    Dirty linen is best washed in private and hung indoors.

    June 25, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  19. B-Rad

    Gotta agree with Vanessa.... the actions of this man and a few others do not speak for his party or its values. Yes, Sanford is a hypocrite, but name one person who isn't or hasn't been at one time of their life. Are you liberals here saying that because a person can't completely live up to certain ideals and principles that they shouldn't try? No one is perfect, but we should all strive to better ourselves and live up to high standards. In my opinion, it's better to have high standards and fail than to have none at all!

    By the way, just to knock the noble liberals off their pedestal, hypocrisy is rampant in the Democrat Party as well. For example, isn't it hypocrisy for someone like Al Gore to lecture about reducing your carbon footprint while living in a mansion and flying around the world in a fuel-sucking jet? Is he not pushing his values much like Sanford?

    June 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  20. Mo

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Sanford family and even with Maria. If I was Gov. Sanford's wife and listened to his speech, I would have known that it will be very hard, if not impossible, to make a new start in my marriage. He placed the State, his staff and Maria, before he spoke his apology to his wife and children. He loves this woman; emotionally and physically. The kind of eroticism expressed in his emails were certainly telling of an intimacy that he may not have shared with his wife. Most of us get complacent and allow our marriage to slide into a comfortable pit. You'll admit that, if you are honest. It is up to each one of us to find time to be vulnerable to each other, to laugh and play, and be truly "one" spritually, eroctically; sensitive and joyful with someone you vowed to love in all things. It may be too late for that with the Sanfords. I truly hope not for their sakes, I hope they can find a way to rebuild trust and love and intimacy. If not, this man will forsake everything and choose his new love...for better or for worse. Best wishes Sanford family. Maria – if you truly love him, I hope you will give him the chance to see if he can truly build a stronger commitment to his wife and children. The State will survive, it is the family that is important.

    June 25, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
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