No minimum standard

Author: Barrett Rainey

The election of South Carolina’s Mark Sanford to Congress raises some questions at our house. But his victory answers only one of them: there IS no moral minimum to be elected to Congress.

Statistically, Republican Candidate “X” would be the odds-on favorite in Sanford’s district, as if ”X” lived in Idaho or Utah. So Republican Sanford had the situation pretty well locked up just by seeing his breath on a mirror. From a party preference point of view, no surprise.

But, as I said, we had some questions. For starters, Sanford is an admitted adulterer and liar. Not just one foolish, drunken time. Or one foolish, drunken lie. But over a period of a couple of years. He lied to his wife – his own staff – his Republican Party – voters – media – everyone. No mere cover-up. Lied. Repeatedly.

His Republican peers in South Carolina government found him guilty of misuse of public funds for financing his first-class affinity for repeated amorous flights to Argentina for his long-term, intercontinental trysts on the taxpayer dime. His wife divorced him and even had to get a restraining order because he kept hanging around her backdoor. His former backdoor. And he violated that court order – more than once – by showing up again and going through that backdoor.

Now, in the little Oregon town where I grew up, any guy like that in elective office would’ve been lucky to have escaped a lynching and would’ve been bounced out of office by some irate voters. Oh, he might have been the center of attention at one of the logger bars for awhile. But, even there, he would have eventually slid into well-earned oblivion.

But – sizeable baggage and all – not in the First Congressional District in South Carolina. Not the heavily Republican-dominated First District.

Which brings up another question. As an Independent, I’m often derided by Republican friends for not having an “official” set of beliefs – political, philosophical and/or moral. Not true, but they keep saying it. In other words, as someone who moves back and forth with my vote, I’m accused of being susceptible to the “changing popular tide” and not following “Party precepts.” Not “standing for something permanent and good for the country.” No “moral code.” You know the B.S.

For the last couple of decades, these folk have preached one of their adopted “principles” more often than the others. “We’re the party of family values – we love our children and we’re standing on firm Christian ground to raise them to be good, loyal and moral Americans.” You know the B.S.

Henceforth, I can bring future conversations challenging my voting wishy-washiness (I’d rather think of it as “informed selection”) to an immediate halt with just two words: “Mark Sanford.”

Many on the astro-turf Right chatter incessantly about the Founding Fathers. “Good Christians.” All “men of God.” That’s a sure tipoff that most who spout that gibberish have never studied the documents or checked out some of those “good Christian men of God” or they would’ve known more about the Deists and Atheists among their number.

But suppose – as we’re so often told – those guys really were all the divinely inspired, morally informed gents a lot of the strident voices believe they were. If they were such solid citizens. – so high-minded and moral – why didn’t they include some language in their founding documents about suitability to serve in Congress or other elective position? With the spread of intellect and worldliness among them, why didn’t they set some character guidelines – speak to the issues of morality and conduct? Excepting Ben Franklin, of course.

If Sanford had been running for mayor or city council or dog catcher in most communities, his abhorrent personal behavior would’ve likely kept him off the ballot – much less from being a winner. We’ve enough morally bankrupt folk in public office already that previously got by us at the polls. So we should tend to be more reluctant to add an admitted liar, adulterer and violator of government fiduciary trust to their number.

Henceforth to be known as the “Sanford Qualification Bar For Public Service.” Set very, very low.

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