If I hear one more tearful apology from a politician caught humping like a dog in a cornfield with some beguiling pretty while his wife was home trying to keep the tuna casserole warm I think I’m going to be sick.
The image of a cheating bastard standing at a podium with the brave little woman at his side looking very much like Grand Wood’s solemn farmer in “American Gothic” is more iconic than anything even Norman Rockwell ever produced and it’s becoming tiresome.
What Mark Sanford, a God-lovin’ Republican, did was take off and get himself laid and he did it with his eyes and his fly wide open. He’s sorry because no one but me believed he was on a hike in Tyrolean shorts, yodeling his way over some of the roughest terrain in the Western Hemisphere and through deserts that kill camels. When he was found out it was tears, forgiveness and move on.
Sanford left the statehouse one bright South Carolina morning on what turned out to be one hell of a long hike that took him through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, down the eastern coast of Mexico through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Brazil and along the Peruvian coast into Argentine.
I suspect that he might have hitched a ride here and there but even so it gave him plenty of time to think until he suddenly and inexplicably found himself in a motel bed with Chiquita Banana. Only then did we learn it had been a long-term affair linked by emails dripping with sex and sugar that further ramped up the vomit quotient.
To then drag his humbled wife to the podium while he sobbed an apology was the moral equivalent of wanting his cake and eating it too.
Sanford wasn’t the first American pol to get caught with his pants down. Almost equally as dumb as the Louisiana Gov was former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart who, in 1987, was considered the Democratic front runner for the presidency until he was caught romancing a good friend named Donna Rice.
He might have gotten away with it but then he challenged reporters who, tipped to his marital infidelities, were tailing him. “Follow me around,” he dared them, “I don’t care if anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored.”
They followed him, photographed him with Donna on his lap aboard a yacht appropriately named “Monkey Business” and that was the end of his presidential dreams.
Even the noisiest Republicans do it. Newt Gingrich was having an affair as he was leading the impeachment movement of Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but I’ll bet that if Clinton were to run for president again the women of America would reelect him and possibly arrange to meet him in a motel somewhere, lining up outside from Kansas to New York City just to see if all they heard about him was true.
Locally, we had our own wildly grinning Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who got himself a little nookie from TV reporter Mirthala Salinas. Turned out he was covering her while she was covering him. When their affair was exposed, they parted, she got canned, he wept and now he’s said to have another female TV reporter, but I don’t care.
Finally, the most pathetic of the mea culpas came from peanut farmer Jimmy Carter who wanted to be a part of the fun but all he could come up with was telling a reporter that he’d lusted in his heart. Huh?
He was talking about the erotic fantasies everyone has but I guess when you’re a born again Christian it’s almost the same as having done, you know, “it.” Maybe he regrets now in his old age never actually having a sexual affair and getting to appear in public with Rosalyn at his side to tearfully confess that while he didn’t actually get laid he thought about it a lot.
Tears, forgiveness, applause, a Nobel Prize for meaningless moral apologies and then on to a mess of pok chops, grits and a down home okra pudding.
Al Martinez is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times, author of a dozen books, an Emmy-nominated creator of prime time television shows, a travel writer, humorist and general hell-raiser. Try him. He’s addictive.
Republished with permission.