Is The Governor Sanford Affair Really a Tragedy?


By now anyone with a heartbeat is aware that the quirky Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford,  enjoyed an extra-marital affair.  I say enjoyed, because anyone who would put his career on the line, especially when the career had presidential aspirations, must have really been in love.

Most by now have at least watched soundbites of Sanford’s rambling apology and explanation.   He hemmed, hawed and fumbled about in a Joycean stream of conscious admission of his wrong doing.   The admission capped off several days of speculation where Governor Sanford was missing and incommunicado.   Depending on the time of day, his office reported him to be either hiking the Appalachian Trail or writing.   On the weekend that included Father’s Day.

This would not be such a big event for a guy who wasn’t a father.   In fact, it wouldn’t hardly be noticed if the person was your run of the mill flake.   But in Sanford’s case, his flakiness is labeled as eccentric, due to the stature of his political office.   We tend to do that, substitute quirky and eccentric for flaky and irresponsible according to one’s stature in society.   But I digress.

What makes Sanford’s affair particularly peculiar is that this is the guy who stood firmly on family values.  He is a devout Christian with strong family values and a steadfast belief in integrity and keeping his word and bonds.   He was a man who judged others for straying, and straying they are, these politicos.   The list of of lawmakers who have conducted extramarital affairs is getting longer every day.   On both sides of the aisle.   Homosexual affairs.  Heterosexual affairs.  Come one.  Come all.  Often on the public money.

But back to Sanford.   The news pundits are all over this.   The analyze it, assess it, rate it, label it.   They have said what a shame it was, fighting back a laugh here and there.   Many, including the liberal pundits, have solemnly pronounced this a “tragedy.”  A tragedy.  Mind you.   Iran is beating the hell out of its citizens, and North Korea wants to nuke the world.  But here is the tragedy.

The fact is this is hardly a tragedy.   It is one more politician either being exposed for the sham, or so caught up in a romance that he lost all control of his family values and sense of proportion.  Take your choice.  Either way, it happens.  Obviously, it happens to those who condemn such behavior, as well as those who philander on a regular basis.   But it’s the self-righteous who squirm a little more in the spotlight.

But this poor guy, after years of steadfast and rigid beliefs, finally got to know himself a little bit better than he had ever supposed.  He came to terms with himself.  He found out he was flawed and not as disciplined as he once believed.   He found love, it seems, and through that  he came to a recognition.  In some ways he transcended the boring black and white, simplistic values he so adamantly enforced such a short time ago and discovered the greater complexities of love and life.   It’s an awakening, and hopefully he will use this recognition for a better purpose, for for no other purpose than to love more fully.

As for the supposed tragedy–what tragedy?   On the macro level, Sanford couldn’t handle his own romance.  Something that finally got under his skin, steamed his sexual engines and made the righteous lifestyle a little more obscure, has in a sense liberated him.   But it also demonstrated it is questionable at least that he can’t handle a crisis.  Sanford was a candidate for President of the United States.

And you know when that phone rings at three AM or you get a collect call from Argentina, you better know how to handle it.   It appears Governor Sanford is incapable of handling that proverbial call.   In a sense it is well in keeping with my general take on rigid people with rigid perspectives.   They simply aren’t flexible enough to deal well when life throws them a curve.   George Bush in the classroom; Sanford in love.

So at the end of the day we caught a break.   This man could have been President and in a crisis issued the same style rambling explanation of just what was going down.   He could have messed up big time.   Now he won’t get the chance.

He can spend his time reassessing those rigid values of his.   He can spend the time fixing  his life.

Intelligent Intelligence and the Iranian Presidential Elections


As I write this Iranian citizens have taken to the streets in protest of what appears to be fixed elections.   I say appears to be in the same way someone lying dead  in the street appears to be dead.   Unfortunately, in the West, to paraphrase one of my favorite political pundits, Ayaan Hirisi Ali, we refuse to recognize the obvious.   Therefore, the recent Iranian Presidential election, despite all appearances, may not have been fixed at all, only a lapse in our intelligence sector.

To put it another way, often in the West when someone spits in our face we tend to pass it off as rain.  It is easier and not confrontational and helps us in a belief we are compensating for our alleged sins of the past, recent or distant.   It is part of our propensity for overcompensation.  At first we are the tough guy, and then we ease off;  the good cop and bad cop all rolled into one.     Having come off the somewhat insensible “bring it on” mentality of recent administrations, we are now into diplomacy first and giving peace a chance.   That even keeled balance for us, is often difficult if not elusive.

That being noted, with respect to Iran we thought we could best give peace a chance by making nice to the current Iranian regime while hoping the political opposition, the reformers, if you will, would come into power through democratic presidential elections.   To better accommodate our new diplomacy, we have even pulled most of our warships from nearby waters, just to be sure they took our olive branch in good form.   They moved theirs into the vacancy.

As for the elections, our intelligence community estimated that Mir Hussein Mousavi,  had enough support from students and moderates to mount a credible attack against Presidential incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.   There was a belief that it was possible that he could actually win the election.   If he did win, then it was also believed he would be easier to negotiate with than the current nut case.

In my humble opinion, believing Mousavi would prevail over Ahmadinejad is the equivalent of closing your eyes, crossing your fingers, and wishing real, real hard…for a pony.   But then you were probably four-years-old and didn’t base the next moves of your foreign policy on the highly improbable.   To believe that the elections in Iran would be fair is a flight of fancy accompanied by the kind of drugs that are generally illegal, and accessorized by one too many commercials extolling a Kodak moment.

Why?   Why could fair elections not be possible.   Well, for one thing you have a country where happy talk mixed with obstinacy and bravado is considered a viable foreign policy.   It is a country hell bent on developing nuclear weapons while in thinly veiled statements claiming they are only for peaceful purposes.    When not claiming the peaceful purpose high road, the Iranian President is threatening to use its military might against its more traditional enemies plus whomever irks him at the moment.

Now going back to Hirsi Ali’s original comment that the West will not recognize the obvious, you have Ahmadinejad telling his audience at Columbia University that Iran has no issues with gay people since there are no homosexuals in Iran.   This is the same man mind you that the Presidential elections in Iran would be fair and unbiased.   The audience  at Columbia University had the good sense to snicker skeptically at his comment about the absences of gay people in Iran.     The American administration and a good many other political souls lacked the same good sense when it believed the opposition party really stood a chance.

So now the election is over.   Ahmadinejad won, oh big surprise.   Iranian people, understandably, are rioting in the streets, and the police are rounding them up.  Mousavi, the opposition candidate, is reportedly under house arrest.    The crackdowns are major, and the Iranian government has claimed the rioting is the result of outside agitators.  Okay.

Members of the Western governments have made statements as bland as they wish now the controlling religious faction in Iran will recognize that a large segment of Iranian population wants them to lighten up and will accede to popular demand.   They actually wish that.  Fingers crossed and eyes closed, I’m sure.  But no pony.

Considering the Ayatollah Khamenei, and his  religious fundamentalists,  the real controlling factor in Iran, were the ones who started the fundamentalist and highly restrictive movement in the first three places, I’d say it is unlikely that they will suddenly see the ill of their ways and join the rioting crowd for a group hug and a fashion makeover.   In fact, as the protests continue, you can look to further crackdowns on those with the temerity to try and think for themselves.

As for the West, it should be apparent that Ahmadinejad will be even more obstreperous and far less inclined to relinquish his country’s purusit of nuclear weapons.    What the West will do is hard to say.    It will once again be confronting the obvious.    And that is the problem.

Miss California Makes Hay on the Gay Marraige Issue


Carrie Prejean made her television commentator debut recently on Fox News.   Prejean, otherwise known as Miss California,  graced the airwaves as a host on the Fox News Show, Fox and Friends.    Her two male co-hosts were apparently smitten with her as they heaped so much praise on her as a visionary and in possession of the hearts and minds of the people.   I thought I was witnessing a pick up scene in some  Upper East Side Watering Hole where the two stiff suits were trying to woo the hot babe from the eighteenth floor.

Carrie Prejean, as we all know thanks to the media overload, stirred up some controversy when she  while running for Miss USA that she opposed gay marriage.    She talked about family values and the way she was raised.   She talked about morality and virtue.   She didn’t discuss the racy photos taken earlier in her young life that later appeared all over the Internet.  But so what?   We are in the age of digital cameras.    And blind ambition.   What’s going topless in quest of fame?

But being against gay marriage and showing off your much smaller, non-implanted boobs was too much red meat for either side of the issue.  The liberal left reflexively hated her guts.   The conservative right adopted her as a love child and couldn’t support her enough.   Even Sarah Palin stepped forward in support of her fellow Beauty Queen.    Talk show pundits rambled on as they are wont to do, getting paid for their scintillating insight into such matters.

As for me, I can’t get all excited, either way.   I realize the media is a circus and unlike  spectacles like wrestling that openly wink at its play acting and entertainment value, the news  media still pretends there are shreds of authenticity left in its tabloid soul.   I realize that while I may disagree with Carrie Prejean’s opinion, vehemently, in fact, I will defer to Voltaire in defending to the death her right to it.   Well, maybe not to the death, but you get the point.

Besides, what brand of idiots would resort to a contestants in a  beauty pageant for insights into the complexities of social and political issues?    I mean, to take seriously the geopolitical perceptions of a beauty queen is in and of itself an oxymoron.   Other than their traditional desire for world peace, there is little to offer other than a sneak peak at their silicon boob jobs and a few minutes of mediocre talent.    I swear if Carrie Prejean or any other aspiring beauty queen came out in favor of inter-bestial sexual relations, I wouldn’t feel anymore upset than her view of love being long walks in the moonlight.

What does interest me is how Carrie Prejean can parlay her controversial position into one of a bonafide celebrity.   While she may have done it from the platform of the Miss USA contest, it is still remarkable how she joined the growing list of limited people making the celebrated move from there to here.  This in itself, if not an art form, at least qualifies as something worth noting.

I am not claiming that Carrie Prejean is particularly talented or that a brain trust lives in concealment under that lovely blond hair.   In fact, it is safe to say  she is no rocket scientist and that no missiles will be launched from that brain.   But then her  two fellow hosts on the show are far from what you would deem an Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite.    And yet there they are…commentating.   Or whatever.

Besides, Prejean has the Big Mo going in her favor.    Her momentum based on the fact that somewhere around half the nation supports her.   Americans love a pretty face and a girl that’s both traditional yet spunky.  It’s the natural combination for big time appeal.   This is, after all, nothing if not a country that for some strange reason usually prefers its leaders be mediocre.  Perhaps that way they are less intimidating and more accessible.   There are a number of reasons, but that is the subject of a different feature.

Here, we give credit to a woman who used what could have been adverse circumstances to her favor.  Had she been a liberal, she would have been applauded by the movement for perhaps taking another position deemed equally as risky.  But in fact, sadly, it was probably riskier to voice her views on Gay Marriage than to assume the other position or just keep her mouth shut.   And then to latch on to the dangling rescue lines and be reeled into a position of celebrity as well as notoriety is one of our greatest American art forms.

Ironically, or maybe not, it seems to be the conservatives who best repurpose adversity.   You can name a few.  There was Oliver North who was convicted of violating the Congress and the laws of this land by allegedly engineering the elements of what would be the Iran-Contra Scandal.  He became a talk show host who was revered by his followers.  Same goes for G. Gordon Liddy who was convicted for his participation in the Watergate Scandal and went on to be a talk show host.

Jessica Hahn, church administrator, was spotlighted for being sexually abused by Televangelist Jim Bakker.   She had a radio show, however briefly, made dozens of guest appearances, and posed in Playboy Magazine.   Not bad for a conservative girl who was supposedly a virgin at the time of her abuse.

Rush Limbaugh, famous already, after telling his adoring listeners what harsh treatment was levied on drug users was in fact a major drug user who violated the law.   His punishment was higher numbers and, arguably, the title of the Republican spokesperson for this era.  He was famous already, but after the drug scandal, he was promoted within.

Then there is Dick Morris.  Morris worked as a political adviser to President Bill Clinton, but who resigned  after it was discovered he sought out prostitutes for mutual toe sucking festivities.     He is now a Republican Pundit, appears on countless shows and waxes critically on the behavior of others. It is fair to say Morris is more famous after the hooker told all about the toe sucking than he was as merely a political adviser.

The Democrats have very few who knew how to turn adversity in their favor.   There is of course Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky Scandal.   But he was already the President and therefore famous.   In Clinton’s case, adversity cost him.   Influential people distanced themselves.   He faced public embarrassment, including a vote to impeach him.

Gary Hart, leading presidential hopeful, got caught doodling Donna Rice, and he had to drop out of a race that surely was his to lose.  He lost it.   He dwells now in Media Limbo, making appearances here and there but living overall in relative obscurity.

So at the end of the day, it’s fair to say the Republicans do it better.   They can sin and ask G-d for forgiveness, and remarkably he seems to do it every time.   He even gives them a talk show.   So in the end, contrary to the common opinion that that Republicans are dead or dying as a party, I would say they are far from it.     They are only on hiatus.

As for Carrie Prejean, should she lose her conservative backing, there is always the Weather Channel.