Think Mark Sanford's remarkably rambling confessional press conference was an embarrassment to himself, his party and the Religious Right? Peggy Noonan and Kathleen Parkerappeared on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos to tell you you're wrong . The conservative pair made it all so clear: Sanford didn't abandon his state, leave his wife and children on Father's Day weekend, and commit adultery because he's a bad guy. No, to the contrary: it just shows what a great guy he is! Why, if anything, it's the fault of Bill Clinton, his lover, the media, and those who lack the requisite self-righteousness before straying.
Noonan began by noting that Sanford's rambling train wreck of a press conference showed him to be "touchingly unhandled." Parker made sure that we knew that Sanford's behavior was "way out of character... No one that knows Mark Sanford thought that they would ever hear those words come from him, that he had had an affair."
Noonan attributed any harsh reaction to Sanford's behavior, to the Clinton era, which "unleashed" a new "devilishness" and "meanness" in the media - get that? It was all Clinton's fault!
When the issue of hypocrisy came up, Parker would not hear of it: "I don't think hypocrisy is the big issue for Mark Sanford." Then she took on a softer look, gushing: "I take the romantic view... he's truly in love." What a guy! I guess he couldn't help himself; it must have been his lover's fault! How noble! She goes on to say how she remembers how that felt, and that you feel invisible. Conservatives usually blame liberals for focusing too much on feelings - "empathy" becoming a dirty word in Sotomayor's nomination. Now, the issue is not Sanford's behavior, but his feelings, being one we all share.
Parker went on: "This is not a bad man," not "using women and casually discarding them," or acting as Mark Foley and Larry Craig did. Oh, yes, Kathleen, I'm sure his wife and four sons didn't feel discarded on Father's Day weekend.
Noonan argued vehemently for not abandoning the Religious Right self-righteousness of the GOP, just because they can't live it themselves. Paul Krugman helped explain the two women's protestations well: rather than being evidence of hypocrisy, the fallen behavior of self-righteous Religious Right Republicans is simply cancelled out by their valiant attempts to prevent others from falling. Michael Eric Dyson's take was that when liberals mess up, they are doubly criticized as messing up on their way to Hell.
Parker summed it up well: The person who "most wants to be good, falls the hardest." That's it! Don't you see! Sanford's embarrassing press conference just shows what a good guy he is!
With all the focus on sex and love, it's stunning how little time was spent on the fact that Sanford abandoned his gubernatorial responsibilities, regardless of what he did it for. This only goes to show how much the media has internalized the Religious Right's version of morality: They become so wrapped up in a public servant's fall from grace in they eyes of God, that they forget whom they could have hurt in the process: say, if a natural disaster had hit South Carolina when the governor was unreachable. And they become so consumed with the harm done to "God's law" as Sanford himself put it, that they spend little time on the harm done to Sanford's wife and children.