The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Should the Right Forgive Mark Sanford?


The Morning Jolt returns today, with a look at Obama’s “Fore!” more years, a controversy or two with this year’s CPAC, and then this question for the Right percolating in South Carolina:

A Question, Mark

I lived in Washington, D.C. when Marion Barry was elected to his fourth term as mayor — after his infamous crack pipe video, conviction on possession of cocaine, and six months in prison. I was pretty unenthusiastic about the mayor who had presided over Washington’s reign as the “murder capital of the world” returning to office, but I saw a silver lining: maybe he would provide a national example that drug use doesn’t have to mean a ruined life and that anyone can come back from their life’s lowest moment.

Of course, Marion Barry went on to be an awful mayor in his fourth term, with city services remaining as dysfunctional, wasteful, and unresponsive as ever.

I’m hoping the comeback bid of Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina now running for Congress in the special election in that state’s First Congressional District, will have a happier ending.

He was kind enough to give me his first interview as a candidate last month. I like the thought that you can make a colossal mistake with your life and come back from it. Lord knows, the world is full of people who make terrible judgments, who do things they wish they hadn’t, who say things they wish they hadn’t, and wish they could have an opportunity to show that their lives and their life’s work is more than their worst moment, their most egregious decision.

However, that trust has to be re-earned. You have to accept the consequences and make amends. I don’t know Sanford well enough to tell voters ‘yes, he’s done that’ or ‘no, he hasn’t’, and everyone probably has their own personal measuring stick for that. Ultimately, this is up to the voters in South Carolina’s First District.

Obviously, the “if” in “if Sanford can go on to have a productive second career, representing his constituents well” is a big one. But I think we all could use a prominent example of redemption and forgiveness at times like these…

Sanford unveiled a new ad Monday:

Washington’s math doesn’t add up, and so for years while many have talked, I’ve fought to do something about it – I’ve cut spending, reduced debt and made government more accountable.

More recently I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes.

But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the better for it.

In that light I humbly step forward and ask for your help in changing Washington.

I’m Mark Sanford, and I approved this message.

One person who is persuaded is Erick Erickson of Red State:

Conservatives take the hardest line and exile their own who have failed them to the sidelines.

They should. We have values and when those values are betrayed by those who fight with us, we must often show them tough love and show them the door.

But we do a terrible job with forgiveness and rehabilitation. Mark Sanford walked out of the Governor’s Mansion and out of public life for a while. He comes back as conservatives in Congress are fighting on all fronts, out numbered, depressed, and needing every man capable of manning the ramparts.

Mark Sanford can man the ramparts. Unlike his opponents, he has a stellar and uncompromising record as a limited government, pro-life, fiscal conservative.

I am willing to forgive him. And I’m willing to be graceful. We need him. There’s no better alternative. He’s with us. I endorse him without reservation. I hope the voters of South Carolina will show him grace and put him back in the fight at this desperate hour for fiscal conservatives.

Speaking for the skeptics, Jen Rubin:

South Carolina’s disgraced and disgraceful Mark Sanford — who lied to his staff and the public, went “walking on the Appalachian Trail,” told no one of his whereabouts and wrecked his family – is running for Congress. He is madly playing for sympathy, telling crowds, “I am equally aware that God forgives people who are imperfect.” This raises the question as to whether the people of South Carolina should forgive him, and moreover, whether forgiveness entails entrusting him with a new public office.

He’d like to characterize his misdeeds as “personal,” but they were anything but. As you may recall, Sanford used public funds for a tryst. This is a small-government conservative careful with the taxpayers’ money? Moreover, he doubled down on his misbehavior, insisting for some time that he had used his own funds. Eventually, he was forced to repay $9,000.

There is no reason the taxpayers should feel obliged to put such a character back in government. It is a measure how odd social conservatives have become that they would disown a candidate who favored gay marriage but rise to the defense of a home-wrecker and abuser of public funds.

During the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, some of us marveled at how many Americans were strikingly hesitant to see the president removed – it’s not like a President Gore would have pursued significantly different policies. One explanation at the time was that a lot of Americans had done something they regretted, and sex was probably a factor in those bad judgments.

Tags: Mark Sanford , South Carolina


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