Mark Sanford's only path back to political viability

Resign, repent, reconcile, rehabilitate and return

South Carolina lost a truly great governor today and America lost one its purest conservative voices, at least for a time. I know that Governor Sanford didn’t resign today, but he will within days. And he should. It is a sad day for South Carolina.

The revelation that the first Republican I ever voted for is separated from his wife due to a five-month plus ongoing affair with a married Argentinian disqualifies him from continuing as the Palmetto State’s chief executive under the circumstances.

I don’t expect politicians to be saints and am especially tolerant of the character flaws of legislators who are mere glorified yea/nay voters on written bills for all to see. But as regards executive leadership where character matters in the decisions they make within a wide grant of discretion, the bar must be higher.

I might could be persuaded that a Governor who was not separated from his family and who ended the affair, could remain in office. But when that sworn leader is leading a double life with another man’s wife it is simply beyond the pale. Especially so when that double life has already manifested its effect on the expected dysfunction of the office held by the man.

Moreover, the conduct of the Governor in traveling incommunicado for a week out of the country who, when caught, then holds a press conference in which he praises his mistress and refuses to state the affair is over, I can only conclude that Sanford is not in a healthy emotional state and is unfit. It appears to me that Sanford wanted to get caught.

I am saddened to have to say this. As I have related in two previous columns this week on the missing and then found Governor, I came to respect a man that I had previously been no fan of, even after my conservative conversion in 2000. But his consistent policy positions and stands on principle won my respect and admiration. He was among those at the top of my current preferences for the 2012 GOP nomination for President.

I pray for Mark and his family and friends.

I am confident that, unlike as is usually the case among Democrats, this Republican will accept the logical consequence of his actions. Republicans nearly always discipline their own. Democrats now only usually don’t punish their wrongdoers, they often promote and/or celebrate them. Examples available upon request.

The GOP is also in favor of forgiveness, but forgiveness doesn’t mean you get to keep your current status. Leadership is not a right. No one wants to kick people when they are down, but betrayers of trust kick themselves down.

My hope is that Sanford will repent (change his behavior), reconcile with his wife, and show himself to be rehabilitated enough to re-enter public life before 2016.

In case you are wondering, while I was a Democrat at the time, I would have applied the same standard to President Clinton, but with a caveat. Had he confessed and repented immediately upon the disclosure of his affair, I would have been willing that he stay in office given that he and Hillary were not separated. I would say though that Miss Lewinsky’s age and vulnerable intern position makes this a close call. We have also learned that his affair did affect his attention from the effort to kill Osama bin Laden much as we know that JFK’s affairs were detrimental to his work and this Country.

But after Clinton lied for months even to the point of perjury, I do think he should have resigned. I did not favor removing him from office nor Impeachment, but he deserved both.

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer and Minority Report columns

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson