“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” Jesus said when confronted by an angry mob intent on executing a woman caught in the act of adultery.
Democrats should take that advice when it comes to Mark Sanford. The party isn’t crucifying the Republican South Carolina governor for being an adulterer, but for being an adulterer and a social conservative. In other words, for being a hypocrite.
From a public relations standpoint, that’s an effective approach. Democrats will get plenty of mileage out of snickering over the righteous Republicans who can’t keep their pants zipped. And they were eager for any opportunity to take down Sanford, who was becoming increasingly popular as a conservative mainstay and could have proven a decent threat to Obama in 2012.
There’s only one problem — Democrats have built their political house on politicians who make a habit of saying one thing and doing another, so their indignation at Sanford’s hypocrisy rings hallow. In fact, it’s downright hypocritical.
Recall that Bill Clinton was the president who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996. The act defined marriage in federal law as the union of one man and one woman, which is the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding. Less than two years later, news broke that Clinton had violated his own marriage vows (not for the first time, or the last) with a White House intern.
Admittedly, Clinton was reluctant to sign the law, and did so more out of political necessity than principle. But if consistency between a politician’s lifestyle and actions is the goal, how can Democrats square Clinton’s support for the most sweeping federal marriage-protection law ever passed with his disdain for his own marriage vows?
More recently, John Edwards has assumed the Democratic Party’s hypocrisy mantle. The former North Carolina senator, renowned for his fight against poverty, often uses a “two Americas” refrain to draw a contrast between the haves and the have-nots. His personal lifestyle, however, doesn’t match his rhetoric.
Edwards owns a multi-million dollar, 28,200-square-foot home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. During his second bid for the Democrats’ nomination for president, it was revealed that he enjoys $400 haircuts.
Now, federal investigators are probing whether Edwards skirted the law by diverting campaign funds to pay his mistress hefty sums for her videography work, which might have included more than campaign publicity material.
Using the same standard that Democrats have applied to Sanford, is it reasonable to view Edwards as a champion for the underprivileged while he maintains such an opulent lifestyle?
Or take Al Gore as another example. The Democrats’ go-to-guy for all things eco-friendly is known for leaving the lights on. He doesn’t say no to some private air travel, either. But he’s in good company, since America’s first green president enjoys polluting the skies as well (and on Earth Day, no less).
The point of highlighting these Democratic dalliances is not to dismiss Sanford’s sins. He should be forgiven, but actions have consequences, especially when a public figure is involved. If for no other reason than to devote time to rebuilding his marriage and family, Sanford should resign from office.
But if Democrats are intent on lambasting Sanford because his talk didn’t match his walk, they should acknowledge the same behavior among their own. Anything else would be, for lack of a better word, hypocritical.