Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Best Job In The World

Being governor of South Carolina must be the best job in the world. 

I thought I'd ranted about this last summer, and I even looked through my back posts for the last year or so, but I can't find it.  So if I'm repeating myself, I apologize; but I can't let this one pass without comment.

The South Carolina legislature in its infinite wisdom has just decided that Gov. Mark Sanford's actions last summer don't constitute an "impeachable offense."  

Let's just recap what the governor did:  he left the state for 5 days, not telling anyone (including his lieutenant governor and his security detail) where he was going, and flew to Argentina to be with his popsie.  When he came back and state officials said, where the hell were you, he said he was "hiking the Appalachian trail," a euphemism that makes actual Appalachian (and other) hikers wince.  Only later did he admit, with many crocodile tears, what he was actually up to.  His wife is now suing for divorce.  He went AWOL from his post as governor of the state and left no one in charge.  But he's "not impeachable."

I know of no other situation in which you could abandon your job for 5 days - not show up, not call in, nobody knows where your are or when you're coming back - and then step back into place without any penalty.  In most corporations, not showing up for a week with no explanation is a firing offense.  But this is government, so it's OK.  

It's the government of South Carolina, too, which means that it's heavily tilted toward men.  I got curious and wondered how many of the legislators who voted on this issue were women.  I found one, Joan Brady, who was in office as of June 2009.  I found an online editorial in the Anderson IndependentMail from 2008 which suggested that South Carolina might actually end up with no women in the legislature; Ms. Brady's presence suggests that didn't happen, but apparently it was close.

You think the vote on the governor's impeachment might have been different if the percentage of women in the legislature had matched the percentage of women in the population?  Just asking.


  1. I dunno, is a man's private sex life anyone's business?

    I thought we'd settled this issue during the Clinton Administration, when the Republican Senate tried to impeach him for lying about getting oral sex from Monica. I mean...what the hell does it have to do with governance? If and when the day comes that female high-office-holders are caught cheating, what will that tell us? That people are human?

    I imagine that someone did know how to contact him, but that that's been kept secret (to protect the perpetrators). If he had in fact taken a hike in the Appalachians, would we care about this at all? Or are we really more concerned about marital infidelity? Probably both.

    I don't admire the guy for cheating on his wife, or possibly abandoning his office for a long weekend incognito, but I think we may be trying to be indignant for the wrong reasons.

    Bad governance is 1000 times worse than reprehensible private behavior, even if it's the occasion of hypocrisy, as the case of Larry Craig. If Dubya had cheated on Laura, would his crimes against humanity have been any worse?

    Was Kennedy a lesser man--or President--because he had a "secretarial" couch in that anteroom of the White House? I don't think so. Was Clinton a poorer, or less reliable, or less trustworthy, President because he had wandering eyes, and curious fingers? I don't think so.

  2. I don't give a tinker's damn about his private sex life, and I think his wife is handling the situation about right.

    Bill Clinton screwed around on company time and premises but AFAIK he never missed a meeting or a deliverable. You're perfectly correct that Dubya's evident marital fidelity doesn't excuse his actions in office; since we bring up Dubya, nobody ever called him officially on what I considered excessive vacation time, and I think they should have.

    If Sanford had in fact taken a hike in the Appalachians, I would still have written this piece. This is about his ability to walk off the job for personal reasons, without notifying anyone, and get a pass from his supervisors (the legislators represent the people who hired him by electing him). I do feel the situation is WORSE because he was engaging in reprehensible behavior in his time off but he would still be guilty of job abandonment even had he just gone hiking. I disagree, by the way, that some people knew where Sanford was and were covering; I remember the coverage during his absence and afterward quite clearly, and I think I recall that he admitted telling no one.

    My strong feeling from the reports I heard on NPR were that the (exclusively male) legislators who commented on this were thinking privately, "There but for the grace of God go I." OK, I'm a sexist. But so are they.

  3. hedera:

    No, you're not a sexist. There's nothing in your post or comment which would suggest it.

    But I believe the media is more concerned--in its prurient way--with marital infidelity and cheating, than it is with official business. My guess is--and I have no doubt this has got to be true--that governers and congresspeople and administrators "disappear" all the time, but that no one cares or even notices unless they're caught doing something naughty. Giuliani was known to keep a private limousine (paid for by the city) in which he kept his private extra-marital liaisons. That "chauffeur" was probably the only one who knew where Giuliani was on HIS long weekends away from business.

    I would suggest that we're buying into the media's prurience if we care more about marital infidelity than the quality of performance in office. Did Sanford's actions indicate that the public trust and reliance on him was compromised? Really?

    The Republican criticism of Clinton was that if he could lie about something like this under oath, the lie (and what it implied about his veracity) was more important than the policies he espoused, or what he actually did as the office-holder. I was deeply frustrated with this attitude--I didn't care if Clinton had 10 affairs going, as long as did the right thing for the country.

    You can be clean-cut and attend church regularly, and still break the law and bring misery and hardship and death to tens of thousands of innocents, as Dubya did. He should be prosecuted, along with Cheney, and sent to jail for a decade or more. That's what I think of as a sense of proportion.

    How about a formal censure for Sanford? Or a fine of, say, $20,000?

  4. Boggart4:21 PM

    His sex life is his, his wife's, and his popsie's. That he vanished from his post, no matter the reason, for several days with no communication to the government of S.C. tells us something. His presence isn't needed for the S.C. government to run as smoothly as it ever runs. Basically, he is superfluous, a figure-head, almost a non-entity. It doesn't really matter if he is there or not, unless they need a ribbon or two cut. I'd say having his disappearance more or less ignored was a statement in itself, if the man has enough perception to realize it. He probably doesn't.