Mark Sanford's press conference was riveting in its wobbliness. Most pols clutch tightly to a short, prepared statement after a scandal erupts; Sanford just winged it.
He "um, um, um"-ed his way through much of the press conference before getting the hook at the end from ashen-faced staffers. He followed them hesitantly out of the room in a mumbling, open-mouthed, and stunned state.
The press conference eclipsed even the eager expectations of chortling staffers at MSNBC. On Tuesday, they had gigglingly explored the possibility that Sanford was stumbling around the Appalachian Trail on its annual "nude hiking" day.
Nope, he had wanted to do something more "exotic," as he put it to reporters. Like visit his mistress in Buenos Aires.
Reporters before the press conference puzzled over his earlier statement that he had visited Argentina to "drive along" its coastline -- a strange aspiration for a tourist given the paucity of coastal roads in the Buenos Aires area. But perhaps Sanford wasn't lying; maybe his mistress lives along the coastline and he was indeed eager to drive down it.
In any case, what exactly is "exotic" about adultery at this point? Monogamy looks more singularly exotic these days.
It was boring to hear Sanford, a self-described "bottom-line" kind of guy, engage in the usual post-adultery drivel about the "process" of forgiveness and the like, and that the affair began "innocently" enough. Who cares? His comments about simple "selfishness" and the price to be paid for violating "moral absolutes" were more to the point.
Naturally, a salivating press corps didn't want to hear about "moral absolutes," tripping over themselves with glee to file stories about the GOP's "family values" brand taking another hit. They never tire of this sophomoric harping on hypocrisy, which never applies somehow to the Dems' many instances of it.
If committing sexual sins means that the offender (and his political party) is henceforth duty bound to endorse sexual sins or recuse himself from all issues related to them, shouldn't that same logic apply to Barack Obama and smoking? Shouldn't Obama endorse smoking and recuse himself from all tobacco-related legislation? How come he gets to pass a stringent anti-cigarettes bill while puffing away at them furtively in the shadows of the White House garden?
Obama's retort to this cheap point would be that he knows firsthand the dangers of tobacco addiction and wouldn't want others to acquire it. But when have the Dems ever allowed their opponents to make the same valid point in other, less PC, areas of harmful behavior? The goal of their hypocrisy-harping is to get the GOP to live up to its standards perfectly by never having any.
Liberals doing somersaults of joy over GOP hypocrisy proudly project an air of moral superiority. But why do they assume that standardless self-indulgence is a higher moral state than "hypocrisy"? Would Obama be a better person if he smoked then encouraged children to do the same? Would that make him more "honest"?
No serious moral philosopher has ever considered shameless but non-hypocritical sinning to be a higher moral state than hypocrisy. Aristotle called the former group "scoundrels" and considered them more dangerous to the commonweal than the hypocritically "incontinent."
"The self-indulgent man," he wrote, "is not apt to repent; for he stands by his choice; but the incontinent man is likely to repent…the self-indulgent man is incurable and the incontinent man curable; for wickedness is like a disease such as dropsy or consumption, while incontinence is like epilepsy; the former is a permanent badness, the latter an intermittent badness."
The incontinent man, he continued, is like a "city which passes all the right decrees and has good laws" but fails to put them to use, whereas the licentious man is like a city which passes "wicked laws and puts them to use."
If the GOP solves its "family values branding problem" by abandoning family values and cooperating with the Dems in the construction of that wicked city, it will deserve a permanent vacation.