Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 7, 2009

HOW TO SURVIVE A SCANDAL IN SOUTH CAROLINA.... Mark Sanford clearly made a bad decision last month when he left the country for a week, without telling anyone, to spend time with his mistress. Things got worse when he returned, and acknowledged his adulterous affair during a bizarre press conference. Things got even worse when he acknowledged having "crossed lines" with other women, had to pay back taxpayer money he'd used to fly to Argentina, and began calling his mistress his "soul mate."

And things got even worse still when prominent South Carolinians began questioning whether the governor is mentally sound.

But that was last week. This week, Sanford seems to have convinced Republicans to let him stick around.

The South Carolina Republican Party voted to censure Gov. Mark Sanford Monday -- rather than call for his resignation -- an outcome that makes it likely the GOP governor will be able to weather the storm surrounding his extramarital affair and remain in office.

The vote of the state GOP executive committee took place late Monday night following a nearly four-hour-long conference call and three rounds of ballots aimed at getting a majority of the committee to either censure, support or ask the governor to resign.

The censure finally agreed to by the committee called the governor's behavior a breach of "the public's trust and confidence in his ability to effectively perform the duties of his office."

Sanford was also criticized by the committee for failing to adhere to the "core principles and beliefs" of the Republican Party, though the censure noted that "barring further revelation" Monday's action would be "the party's last word on the matter."

The final vote was 22 to censure, 10 calling for resignation and 9 supporting the governor.

The party chair said in a statement that "now is the time for healing," which is apparently a subtle way of saying, "We're going to stop calling for his resignation." Indeed, the Politico reported that the party's censure vote -- which has no practical meaning and is effectively a rhetorical slap on the wrist -- may ensure Sanford's "outright political survival."

It's not quite the course of action I expected. In fact, just last week, most of the Republicans in the South Carolina Senate were on record asking Sanford to resign, as was the state party chair, who called for the governor's resignation (twice).

I suppose the moral of the story is, wait. When officials demand your ouster, say, "No." When they demand it again, say "no" again. Eventually, you might get impeached, but it's just as likely, if not more so, that your critics will get bored and move on.

Eliot Spitzer has to be kicking himself right now for resigning so quickly.

Steve Benen 3:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

Steve, IOKIYAR

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 7, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

The National Party of Repig Hypocrites strikes again.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on July 7, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it would have been tough for Eliot Spitzer to refer to a call girl as his "soul mate."

Posted by: Old School on July 7, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Same old story....all a republican has to is repent to God and everythings OK.

Posted by: Fred on July 7, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

What the first guy said.

Seriously, did anyone on here really think that the SC GOP would impeach one of their own?

Posted by: Disputo on July 7, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Eliot Spitzer has to be kicking himself right now for resigning so quickly."

Yeah, but Spitzer is a Democrat, and the GOP never recognizes a time for healing when it's not one of their own (see Clinton-Lewinsky). Also, most within the Democratic party aren't as comfortable with rank hypocrisy and the GOP rank and file.

Posted by: bdop4 on July 7, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Eliot Spitzer will probably never be able to go one TV without being asked about his scandal. Same for Edwards or Greevey. Not a problem for Sanford, Ensign, Vitter, Gingrich, etc. And that is one reason the Republican party will have lots of corruption scandals for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Danp on July 7, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose the moral of the story is, wait.

citizen_pain got it in one. The moral of the story is, IOKIYAR.

Posted by: Gregory on July 7, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

It certainly helps if Michael Jackson dies and takes the media spotlight off you.

Posted by: doubtful on July 7, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Spitzer also broke the law--a law that he prosecuted others for breaking. Sanford's actions were unsavory, but not (except for possibly the improper use of gov't funds) illegal.

Posted by: Dave on July 7, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

You don't suppose that Alaska and South Carolina could work a trade? Governor for governor plus a senator to be named later? This would get Sanford a lot farther away from Buenos Aires and get Palin into the lower 48. Win-win.

Posted by: Greg Worley on July 7, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Jack Cafferty does his 6:00 question about Sandord. Here's his money quote:

Just to be clear, Sanford’s own party is saying they don’t trust him and don’t think he can effectively perform his duties as Governor; but it’s okay with them if he continues in South Carolina’s highest office. Pathetic.

Posted by: Danp on July 7, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Those Republicans - live by the sword, and then ask for a do-over! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on July 7, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, they still want Bill Clinton's head. Both of them.

Posted by: slappy magoo on July 7, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

But Peter King (R-NY) has to make a big deal over Michael Jackson's fiddlings - so MJ wasn't completely sober in his dealing but, likely never meant any harm and didn't go too far, IYKWIM (IMHO.)

So the King of Pop is gone,
Republicans leave us with theirs:
The King of Poop (Rush Limbaug)
The Queen of Popsicle (Sarah P.)

Posted by: NB on July 7, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

IYKWIM??

I'm afraid I don't know that one.

And citizen_pain was right in the first comment. Filthy hypocrites, all of them.

Posted by: Michael W on July 7, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Spitzer also broke the law--a law that he prosecuted others for breaking. Sanford's actions were unsavory, but not (except for possibly the improper use of gov't funds) illegal.

If memory serves me right, adultery is illegal in South Carolina.

(And the improper use of government funds -- which would, of course, be traveling to Argentina to see his lover on the taxpayer's dime -- is a mighty big exception at that.)


Posted by: Gregory on July 7, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad he's sticking around--he was one of the loudest anti-Anything President Obama Might Want GOPers, and now he's been disgraced and is a total joke.

First, Jindal makes an ass of himself with his childlike rebuttal speech. Then Sanford implodes, then Palin quits. If I were Rush Limbaugh* I'd think Obama is systematically bumping off all his most vocal competition.


(*of course, if I was Rush Limbaugh, I wouldn't be able to type because of the Oxycontin-induced haze)

Posted by: rob! on July 7, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Sanford-Palin in 2012! (Or maybe it should be the other way around, Palin-Sanford in 2012!)

Either way, it's good news for Democrats. Provided, that is, that Obama doesn't forget some of his minor promises, from universal healthcare with a public option, to ending the war in Iraq by a date certain, to supporting to gay rights, to...oh nevermind! You can't win no matter what.

Crankily yours,

Posted by: The New York Crank on July 7, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Sanford-Palin in 2012! (Or maybe it should be the other way around, Palin-Sanford in 2012!)

Either way, it's good news for Democrats. Provided, that is, that Obama doesn't forget some of his minor promises, from universal healthcare with a public option, to ending the war in Iraq by a date certain, to supporting to gay rights, to...oh nevermind! You can't win no matter what.

Crankily yours,

Posted by: The New York Crank on July 7, 2009 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

What can you expect from this GOP? They impeached Clinton in an attempted power play. It backfired. But with Sanford, well, it's let's forgive him. No threat to national security or the legal system here.

They make me sick.

Posted by: Darsan 54 on July 7, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

"If I were Rush Limbaugh, I'd think Obama is systematically bumping off all his most vocal competition."

Is this the GOP version of Harper's Island?

Posted by: KTinOhio on July 7, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

What exactly does it take for the GOP to eat one of its own - besides criticizing Sir Rushbo that is?

Posted by: ckelly on July 7, 2009 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

It would have been an entirely different ball game if Palin hadn't elected to implode on July 3. Michael Jackson dying helped as well, but Sanford really ought to be sending Palin boxes and boxes and boxes of chocolates.

In a competition between Palin and Sanford, Sanford doesn't look half so crazy as he did on his own.

Posted by: karen marie on July 7, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, wait til South Carolinians find out he's planning on using the Fed stimulus money to pay for the erection of the Argentine Wing on the State House.

Posted by: bushwahd on July 7, 2009 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

First, Jindal makes an ass of himself with his childlike rebuttal speech. Then Sanford implodes, then Palin quits. If I were Rush Limbaugh* I'd think Obama is systematically bumping off all his most vocal competition.

You left out Ensign! The list of GOP presidential hopefuls' recent humiliations is so long that it's easy to forget one or two.

And what karen marie said. Sanford would've been strongly pressured to leave by the SC GOP were it not for Palin.

Posted by: shortstop on July 7, 2009 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

bushwahd, please do not ever again use the words "Sanford" and "erection" in the same sentence. Thanking you in advance.

Posted by: shortstop on July 7, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

--To me the lesson is that the focus should have been on the dereliction of duty, the abandoning of his job without notifying anyone and for lying to or having his staff lie.

Instead everyone lets the MF talk about his romantic escapade instead of asking him why he did not follow due and appropriate process to cover his absence. All that titillation was worth nothing in terms of nailing his sorry butt to the wall.

Lesson to future opponents -- focus on the requirements of the job, not the misdirection on the sex. Let the Missus take care of that part.

I feel bad for Eliot Spitzer. But the Democrats have learned a couple of important lessons lately. Do not resign for a venal sin. ALSO - If a Democrat loses an election by a close vote, be sure to sue and resist for at least 8 months to a year -- make sure that there is no early capitulation...

Posted by: Elie on July 7, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I think Palin nobly sacrificed herself to help out Sanford. With her help and his hold on the substantial "Other Woman" voter, he is the GOP's best bet for 2012.

Posted by: bostonian in Brooklyn on July 7, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

So does this mean the Argentine mistress can move into the SC Governor's mansion? The guest house?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on July 7, 2009 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's funny; the way, every time a Republican steps on his own dick, it's "a time for healing", but when a Democrat does anything similar, it's "a time for crucifixion".

Posted by: Mark on July 7, 2009 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK


I believe that despite past hypocrisy, this "pass" given by the SC Republicans pretty much ends even their fake appeal to "moral high ground". It is a weak kneed stance by a party without anything left -- not even its pride.

All I can say is that Sanford must have a bunch on most of them --- what a bunch of cowards! I hope that he moves Miss Argentina right on up into the guest house. Hell, why not right on up into the Governor's mansion!

Posted by: Elie on July 7, 2009 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

When it comes to spectacular implosions, none of them (Palin, Sanford, Spiter) can hold a candle to Blago. Let's here some poetry!

Posted by: ChicagoPat on July 7, 2009 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

The best thing about Blago is that he is the train that just keeps on wrecking -- can't wait for the trial.

Posted by: Disputo on July 7, 2009 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Spitzer's approval ratings were going down the toilet at the time, too.

Posted by: Schtick on July 7, 2009 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK
Steve: "Eliot Spitzer has to be kicking himself right now for resigning so quickly."

I'm glad Eliot Spitzer resigned. It was the right and honorable thing to do, given his circumstances. Now, if he wants to run again for gobvernor at some later date, then I'd support him.

But Spitzer deserves to be commended for owning up to what he did, and shouldn't be ridiculed because he refused to play the part of unrepentant political victim, a la Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin.

Because at the end of the day, Eliot Spitzer proved that even a flawed Democrat like him is still light-years better on almost any level than the most holier-than-thou Republican.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on July 7, 2009 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sanford is just lucky his "soul mate" wasn't a man...

Posted by: Limbaugh's Diabetes on July 7, 2009 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory,

"If memory serves me right, adultery is illegal in South Carolina."

Please. No one has been prosecuted under that law in 100 years. It's effectively a dead letter.

Posted by: Lee on July 7, 2009 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

If Spitzer is kicking himself, Paterson is patting himself on the back. If his "news" had come out now he'd be dead. As it is, getting it out there right away totally defused it. His approach is a better model than Sanford's, at least for demcrats.

Posted by: stevenz on July 7, 2009 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Lt.Gov. is even crazier than Sanford. It's kind of like not wanting to impeach Bush, because then Cheney would be President. Andre Bauer is no evil genius, a la Darth Cheney, he is just a spoiled nutty hotdog like GW. Mark Sanford is quite sane by comparison, being only an egomaniac who has the middle aged crazies.

Posted by: bluewave on July 8, 2009 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Please. No one has been prosecuted under that law in 100 years. It's effectively a dead letter.

So what? The fact remains that, contrary to the previous commentor's claim ("Sanford's actions were unsavory, but not (except for possibly the improper use of gov't funds) illegal"), Sanford's adultery alone was, in fact, both unsavory and illegal.

(And again, carving out an exception for "improper use of gov't funds" -- that is, funding his trips to Argentina to see his mistress on the taxpayer dome -- is quite a whopper.)

Posted by: Gregory on July 8, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

When officials demand your ouster, say, "No." When they demand it again, say "no" again.

True. But I'm surprised that you ever thought he'd resign. After all, Rod Blagojevich was caught on-tape asking for bribe money from Senate hopefuls and he managed to stick around long enough to force the U.S. Senate to fold and accept his pick.

The power comes with the office. Once you leave, you're out of options.

Posted by: Jinchi on July 8, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

I feel bad for Eliot Spitzer. But the Democrats have learned a couple of important lessons lately. Do not resign for a venal sin.

Spitzer didn't resign for a venal sin. He resigned because he was a law-and-order anti-corruption guy caught soliciting sex from a prostitute.

Unlike Gregory's example of adultery, people are still being convicted on prostitution charges. Even in New York.

Like Sanford, he probably could have held on to his job, but his chances of passing his agenda were likely finished.

Posted by: Jinchi on July 8, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Once again, I didn't suggest anyone is ever prosecuted, let alone convicted, under adultery charges, nor that Sanford should be. The fact remains, though, that the commenters assertion that Sanford didn't do anything illegal by his adultery is flat out wrong, because adultery itself is, at least technically, illegal.

I absolutely agree that Spitzer should have resigned for patronizing a prostitute, but I'll note for the record that a law-and-order Democrat at least had the decency to resign when his hypocrisy was exposed, whereas these so-called "family values Republicans" by and large don't.

Posted by: Gregory on July 8, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

From looking at reader comments in the Columbia SC newspaper, The State, it has apparently come to the attention of South Carolina's fine citizens that the civilized world regards them and Senor Sanford as a huge joke and they are not happy about it. Given the writing skills of many of these products of the South Carolina educational system, it's difficult to determine whether they’re angrier with Sanford for being a fool or with us for noticing but they're definitely grumpy.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on July 8, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory,

"Sanford's adultery alone was, in fact, both unsavory and illegal."

Whether something is "unsavory" is a subjective value judgment, not a fact.

Posted by: Lee on July 8, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Lee, I'm getting tired of setting you straight, so this will be the last time.

Dave asserted upthread that Spitzer's behavior was unsavory but not illegal. Call it a technicality if you please, but he was simply wrong on the second point, your protestations notwithstanding.

Got it? Dave said A-but-not-B, but since B is actually true, it should be both-A-and-B.

Posted by: Gregory on July 8, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory, I'm getting tired of setting you straight, so this will be the last time.

Whether A is true is a matter of opinion, not fact.

Whether B is true is also questionable. Even if adultery is technically illegal in South Carolina, if he only had sex with the woman in Argentina, he still hasn't broken any laws (at least U.S. laws, I don't know if adultery is illegal in Argentina or not).

Posted by: Lee on July 8, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory,

I stand corrected--this is my real last time:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31582542/

Posted by: Lee on July 8, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Your comparison of Sanford and Spitzer is far off the mark. Let us remember that Spitzer spent more than $80,000 illegally. He gave gobs of money to an illegal crime syndicate - a crime organization of the very type which Spitzer had spent his career fighting. This is one reason he was elected.

Sanford is a silly, love-struck guy who needs a divorce. He is a hypocrit, a fool, and a liar.

Spitzer is a hypocrit, a fool, a liar, and - most importantly - he is a crook.

There is a difference. A big, big difference.

Oh, by the way, despite the "Pretty Girl" qualities of the high-priced hooker which Spitzer engaged, it is still true that prostitution in america is a nasty, dirty, mean, awful, and distructive business for the thousands upon thousands of women that get caught up in it.

Spitzer said he was going to do something about it. He gave them gobs of money.

Can you see the difference now?

Posted by: Edward Bardell on July 8, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Update - "IYKWIM" is short for "If you know what I mean" - my coinage, not in common use.

Posted by: neil b on July 8, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK
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