Mark Sanford and “Leadership”

By Cliff Springs

I have so many thoughts about the Mark Sanford story that I’m not sure where to begin.  I am frustrated by yet another “conservative” failing our values in such grand, hypocritical fashion.  I am disappointed by the unfulfilled expectations I had when Sanford was elected.  I am perplexed by the arrogance of politicians who think they can do anything AND get away with it.  And I feel for his wife and family who were so completely let down by his actions.


Let me first state unequivocally that if Sanford is repentant, he is entitled to forgiveness—reconciliation with his wife, however is up to her.  We all have our failings, and fortunately, most of us don’t have to play them out in front of a national audience.  I must admit, part of me even feels bad for Sanford.  I know he brought this on himself, but I also am inclined to believe that somewhere along the line he realized just how horribly he screwed things up and that there was no painless way to set things straight.



Do arrogant people get into politics and simply play out their arrogance in front of all the citizenry or do decent people get corrupted by the power and praise heaped upon them in the world of politics?  It’s a legitimate “chicken or the egg” question that I don’t know the answer to.  I just know how disappointing I find the commonality of the end result.


I’ll tell you what I know for certain.  I know that A leads to Z.  In his emails to this mistress, Sanford acknowledges that he crossed personal moral boundaries that he never envisioned himself doing.  I don’t imagine he ran charging full-speed across those boundaries.  Little by little, he violated smaller boundaries, flirting both literally and emotionally with danger by testing his limits rather than respecting the warnings decreed by God since the beginning of time.


As I pondered the series of events that might have led to this downfall, I paused on my soapbox perch to pray—asking God to never let me think I am beyond such temptation.  For the moment that I assume the mantel of stronger-than-thou moral fibre, I could find myself being tested.  It is not my strength that will resist such temptations, but rather the acknowledgement that only through God’s strength can I avoid succumbing to a similar fate.


I have not yet encountered nor battled such a temptation, but I doubt Sanford thought he ever would either.


After Sanford’s press conference, I had discussions with two different friends on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  One friend celebrated Sanford’s demise—happy to witness a hypocrite being exposed.  This friend is not a fan of “family values” politics and felt it only appropriate that Sanford face the music after years of forcing his values on others (his words, not mine).  The second friend called me up furious that yet another conservative added fuel to the liberal fire of finger-pointing politics.  Repeatedly, we witness proponents of family values falling far short of practicing what they preach. 


Obviously, this is a political fallacy and a clever tactic by the opposition.  Of course, politicians are flawed—we all are.  The fact that someone messes up doesn’t preclude them from discussing morality ever again (though it certainly doesn’t help).  It only proves that they’re human.  David, Solomon, and many other great men of the Bible gave into lustful temptation.  Given the choice, I’d always prefer that values be a part of the political discourse—otherwise, nobody is standing up for anything. 


But the ultimate thought that entered my mind—and it admittedly is based on nothing but hopeful conjecture—is what I would like to see in the next conservative Presidential candidate.  I’ve heard others say that we need a conservative with Obama’s charisma.  I’ve said to fellow conservatives recently that I don’t know if the next conservative leader is necessarily on anybody’s radar just yet.  The same way Obama was a non-entity four years ago (as was Bill Clinton in 1992), I believe that we may have yet to discover who will carry the mantel for family values.


But here’s the point that intrigues me:  rather than hoping for a charismatic conservative, perhaps he or she might be just the opposite.  Perhaps this person will simply be a decent, honest person of faith who walks the walk and lets that walk do the talking.  Articulate enough to communicate, but sincere enough that their integrity overpowers slick verbal salesmanship.  Just maybe it won’t be about charisma; it won’t be about ego.  Wouldn’t it be incredible if it is someone who fulfills their purpose perfectly by emulating the greatest Servant to ever live—a leader with all the power in the universe who chose to focus on the needs of others rather than Himself.



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5 Responses to “Mark Sanford and “Leadership””

  1. Boston Bean

    I’m writing to agree with your piece in the State paper this morning. In the beginning of Sanford’d Saga I was somewhat synpathetic. After all people err, they repent and go on. I saw no repentence in his later statements. I saw a man asking us to “understand” the spark that was there, the remark of finding his soul mate had me screaming for Jenny to change the locks!
    My husband and I have shared 46 years of great joy and great tragedy. God lent us three beautiful children to raise in his image and values. Sadly He called home our 19 y.o. daughter after 7 years of cancer. Her oncologist told us at the beginning, one of two things will happen. You will divorce or be stronger. My husband supported and helped me through years of alcoholism. We also shared so much joy. The success of our children and the births of our wonderful grandchildren. This is life, this is marraige. Learn to love his wife again? As my Armenian mother-in-law would say..Itsa Passa (phonetically spelled, after all I’m Irish) or Son af a dog!!!!
    Thank you for your column. Iwill be visiting your site again.

  2. Jude Peck

    I wanted to say how much I appreciated your July 9, 2009 editorial in The State Paper titled The fantasy of the “soul mate”. Thank you for your clear and concise perspective. It is refreshing to see someone expose this fantasy for what it is. I marvel at how many folks are deceived by this false notion. Blessings on your continued work and your family.

  3. Jim

    Your July 9 Op-Ed article was excellent, insightful and well-reasoned . . once again proving that “common sense” is so easy to understand, but hard to practice and sustain. It is one of the best articles I have read on that page in years, including all of the “paid” national experts who make a living trying to tell us what they think we should know. (And it is wonderful that someone thinks the same thing I think about The Bridges of Madison County). When I think of what love and commitment mean, among other things, on a simple level, I remember words from 2 songs – - “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” (Beatles)(which you stated in your next to last paragraph) and “It ought to be easy, it ought to be simple enough, man meets woman and they fall in love, but the house is haunted and the ride gets rough, you have to learn to live with what you can’t rise above, when you ride on down, down into the tunnel of love” (Bruce Springsteen) I know . . it’s cheesy and melodramatic, but at least anyone can sing it.

  4. Tom Goldman

    Knowing this young man personally, I can attest to his commitment to his God. his family and his Country.

    Reading this op-ed I realized I wasn’t the only one embarrased and dissapointed by Gov. Sanfords actions. What is it with politicians that they can’t keep their flys’ zipped????

    More and more the morality of this Country is slipping down to the sewer. Seems like the saying, “Get your mind out of the gutter and come on down in the sewer with mine,” is more the norm than the ab=norm.

  5. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The flesh is weak, the intellect makes poor decisions and our strength in our faith is not always enough to save us from being human. Is one sin greater than another? Obviously we must exclude murder or any other violence, but our politicians lie to us daily. We accept that. Our politicians accept illegal monies daily. We accept that. Our politicians make decisions based on their convenience not our good daily. We accept that. Perhaps it is us, not just the politicians, who set the bar so low. I think everyone is responsible for his own actions. I in no way condone any one’s acts just because everyone is doing the same. I just think the true lapse in faith is common to us all and spiritual forgiveness is there for each of us. There is a difference in spiritual forgiveness and one’s constituents forgiving him for betraying their trust. I love seeing this being discussed by folks who are stronger proponents of their faith than of their political party.


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