Oh! what a tangled web we weave when fox runs its chirons

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By Wendy Binnie

We learned, by way of Rush Limbaugh, that Mark Sanford’s sex scandal was President Obama’s fault. If it weren’t for the administration’s economic policies, the argument goes, Sanford would have been more optimistic about the future, wouldn’t have cheated on his wife, and wouldn’t have secretly left the country to see his mistress. Who can argue with airtight logic like this?

Limbaugh’s right-wing colleague, Michael Savage, takes it one step further. Obama didn’t just inspire Sanford to betray his family; the White House conspired to make this scandal happen in the first place. "The fact is, Obama’s team is taking out potential (2012) rivals, one after another," Savage argued. "Just last week, the media jumped on the story of Sen. John Ensign (R) of Nevada and his infidelity. He was considered to be a possible Republican presidential candidate. Sanford, who had similar ambitions, was caught too. "This is politics at its worst, brought to us by the worst administration, the meanest administration, the most closed administration, the most incompetent administration in American history." (Aside: sounds suspiciously like the previous administration.) In reading this it’s unclear whether Savage thinks Obama made Sanford and Ensign have sex with these women, or whether Obama was spying on Sanford and Ensign, learned of their adultery, and brought it to public attention. But even from the perspective of a twisted right-wing worldview, how does an incompetent administration pull off a feat like this? Wouldn’t it take an enormous amount of competence to secretly hatch such an elaborate conspiracy?

It could have been worse.

The only thing to be said about the Republican loss of the ‘family values’ high ground is that it could have been worse. What if Sanford returned claiming to have been kidnapped by alien creatures who told him to be ready for an alien occupation? Of course, that news would have convulsed everyone. Imagine this coming from a bastion of conservatism, someone labeled by his own Republicans as “strange” and vindictive. Here is a guy who didn’t want to take the stimulus money, claiming the moral high ground while poor students in the state were studying in schools cutting back on lunch programs and structurally falling apart. How noble of him to make such sacrifices. If he had claimed an alien affiliation, maybe it would have represented a step up, some hope for a party that is looking increasingly as if it has no place to go, no lessons to impart, no benefit of history.

The party of no may need extraordinary measures and maybe having a leader who was literally transparent would mark a profound improvement. What if he had become president and he pulled stuff like that? Would his supporters still be tolerant of his aberrations? So, it’s okay to be missing as long as you don’t take stimulus money. So what if the people need it. So what if the people need jobs. That clearly isn’t on the priority list as long as you have your travel documents and a girlfriend thousands of miles away and a bunch of patsies willing to pay for your indulgences. Mom also warned us to watch out for those who always wanted to make you a better person by setting an example of moral rectitude. The unfortunate part is that this is how it usually works out! So much for the new self-serving sanctimonious right wing of the Republican Party. It still behaves a lot like the old right wing. When a proselytizing fanatical theocratic evangelical sins, it’s because they are human and have the same weaknesses that God gave everyone. Whereas when anyone else does it, it’s because they’re evil, liberal, anti-God, unpatriotic, anti-American, and pinkos. The problem these politicians have is playing holier-than-thou when it has happened to other politicians; read Democrats. You can’t have it both ways. Either you are a God-fearing Christian who believes in his marriage vows or you’re not. If you stand on a national stage and condemn someone, you should expect to get the same when you do the same. Governor Sanford condemned Bill Clinton and said he should resign. Clinton ignored him, especially since he was found not guilty!

At the core of the Sanford and Ensign episodes is the cloud of "hypocrisy" that hangs over any Republican who strays from the bonds of their marriage. (Quickly forgetting that all who commit adultery are hypocrites, having taken a solemn vow of marriage.) And if you’re part of a party that hails itself as the political arbiter of virtue and morality, it’s going to be a bigger deal when some of your party’s leading figures get caught in sex scandals. If you help run Mothers Against Drunk Driving and you’re caught drunk driving, it’s going to be a bigger deal than the typical DUI. If you’re the local fire chief and you’re caught setting a fire, it’s going to be a bigger deal than the typical arson. If the party doesn’t want to be held to higher moral standards, they ought to stop lecturing everyone else about them. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Sanford said he considered resigning but after speaking with “close spiritual and political associates” they advised him to fight to restore the public’s — and his family’s — trust in him. "Resigning would be the easiest thing to do," he said. For the good of the party — we presume? When Democrats stray from ‘family values’ it’s a sure sign of moral turpitude and they resign.

Fox News was at it again. In 2006 they ‘misidentified’ Mark Foley as a Democrat when the GOP congressman resigned after sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage males. Clearly, network producers couldn’t imagine a Republican doing anything scandalous and assumed Foley must be a Democrat. An honest mistake, right? Well it’s a ‘mistake’ Fox News has made again; while broadcasting the news conference of Mark Sanford admitting to cheating on his wife, Fox ran a chiron identifying the weepy South Carolina governor as — you guessed it, a Democrat. Oops!

As I was saying . . .

Wendy England Binnie a novelist and op/ed columnist lives in Oak Trace.