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Unfit to Serve—the Arrogance of Governor Mark Sanford

November 25, 2009

In American politics, there is a long list of ethical scandals at all levels of government and on both sides of the aisle.  These breaches stretch back to the founding of this nation and seem to be growing at an alarming rate.  They serve as a reminder to voters and arrogant lawmakers of the fallibility of those elected to lead, and of the number of lawmakers currently engaged in ethical lapses.  Whether it be the more recent ethical breaches by Sanford, Ensign, Fossella, Paterson, Spitzer, Mahoney, Craig, Vitter, Sherwood or others, the public airing of the transgressions, the cover-up and rambling justifications only legitimize the behavior in the minds and souls of Americans.  Tolerance and acceptance of ethical indiscretions should not extend to those elected to serve the public.  Instead, they should be stripped of their ability to lead and at best allowed to scurry away into obscurity, to mend whatever fences are still standing at home or elsewhere.

Clearly, impure thoughts are not a crime, or we would all be in jail, some of us for longer than others.  But when lawmakers convert impure thoughts into overt action, they have voluntarily chosen to cross into the dark side, from which there is no public return or redemption.  Although it’s not a criminal offense, infidelity embodies the holy trinity of sins—lying, cheating and stealing—and America should not accept it, but instead consider such a breach a punishable offense, with resignation and its accompanying self-loathing and self-pity as punishment.

This is not to say that lawmakers who choose to breach the public’s trust should not be forgiven, they are simply unfit to serve.  Let them toil on other fronts, wondering what may have been if only they hadn’t traded virtue for vice.  There are far too many morally fit men and women treading water, ready, willing and able to serve the public in place of those who are morally bankrupt.

Every time South Carolina Governor Sanford is in the media, it reminds Americans of his sense of arrogance and entitlement.  People are angry, not that he was balling an Argentine mistress, which unfortunately happens with great regularity amongst lawmakers, but that he failed to live by the moral standards we expect all elected officials to embody.  Us commoners that succumb to temptation correctly employ a double-standard for our elected leaders, who are role models for young and old and who have voluntarily assumed the responsibility of moral superiority that accompanies leadership and elected office.  Regardless of the fact that Governor Sanford is now being pursued with charges of 37 ethical violations, the simple fact that he is a liar should be enough for the Republican Party and the general public to rebuke him and demand his immediate resignation.

Morality is non-partisan, but an ethical breach stings even more when it happens to Republicans, who have heretofore sanctimoniously proclaimed the mantle of moral and religious righteousness.  Regardless of political party, lawmakers are elected to lead by example, and when they voluntarily yield to immorality and breach the public’s trust, they must do the right thing and step down.

We all have temptations as human beings and a choice to resist or acquiesce.  If we do not distinguish between desires and actions, condemning them both with equal punishment, there is no accountability for those engaging in immoral behavior, or recompense for those that don’t.  When an elected leader trades right for wrong, he or she chips away at the moral underpinnings of society.  For those elected to serve the public, who choose to acquiesce to such temptation—and lie, cheat, and steal—they should be run out of office on a rail, as unfit to serve.

A. Muser

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