Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MAKING IT PERSONAL. I'm of two minds about Mark Sanford. On the one hand, of course, ha ha ha. On the other, it is something to see a person with so much money, power, and status -- not to mention a strong identification with the Christian faith -- so unmanned, as it were, by passion. All of us have seen, and some of us experienced, l'amour fou, and know how disruptive it can be, but it's still a surprise to see even so titanic an ego as a successful politician must possess shattered by it. You don't have to think much of Sanford or his probity to marvel at the bizarre lengths to which this largely epistolary romance drove him.

Of course Sanford has picked up the pieces as well as can be expected, and put on an interesting show in his press conference. Aside from blunting the impact of his admission, the strategy of devoting so much time to self-analysis and a survey of all the people he'd "let down" and "hurt" -- which really made Clinton's TV confession look austere by comparison -- put the emphasis on his character outside his unfaithfulness, and his sincerity, such as it is. This may, once the shock wears off, help at least some of his supporters get past this. Even I was temporarily distracted from the fact that Sanford had concocted an elaborate scheme to conceal his actions, and only spoke up because he had no other options left. It was not so much a Swaggart strategy as an Oprah strategy: when it's over you hope the audience learns enough about you to focus on that, and not what you've done.

There's been a lot of praise, from left and right, of the decision to keep Mrs. Sanford off the bandstand, but even if (as I suspect) it was her decision rather than his, it was probably good for Sanford, considering how much attention has been lavished on the humiliations of Silda Spitzer, Dina Matos McGreevey, et alia.

As to the way operatives will work it, The Perfesser is a reliable indicator of rightwing spin, and his link to a comment at Roger L. Simon's blog is very instructive:
Think carefully, now. In all honesty, what’s going on here -- and what Simon says -- is exactly the purpose of the media’s initial stories here...

...if the Republicans and their supporters and associates form up a circular firing squad and fall into an orgy of self-loathing and recrimination, that will totally destroy their effectiveness in opposition to Team Obama and his media whores. Take them totally off message. It will be like Abu Ghraib all over again...
The novel comparison of Sanford's Argentine mistress and Abu Ghraib aside, the right will fall back on its traditional position that any conservative's malfeasance, even one that cuts to the heart of their alleged religious principles, is merely another point of proof that liberals and their media enablers are the real source of all evil. You can hardly blame them. The mysteries of the human heart can be very frightening, and the temptation to solve them with an easy answer very great.

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