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Tarnished Shields: The Morally Bankrupt 'Family Values' Republican Leadership

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by Walter Brasch 

          Some columns are easier to write than others.  

         This is one of them. 

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          Providing all of my research were the "family values" Republicans. 

          This week, second term Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina disappeared for six days, leaving the state without a chief executive who could make decisions in an emergency. His Republican lieutenant governor didn't know where he was, and had not been given any authority to make decisions in his absence. The state police said they had not been informed. His wife told the Associated Press she didn't know where he was, wasn't worried about him, and thought he was "writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids" over the Father's Day weekend. His senior aides said he was walking along the Appalachian Trail to "clear his head." 

          But it wasn't his head that he was clearing. When he returned, after first lying to a reporter for the Columbia State who caught up with him on his return to the Atlanta airport, he finally admitted he went to Argentina to meet with a long-time lover. His wife, who was not by his side when he held an early afternoon press conference, later said she and the governor had separated two weeks earlier. The State later produced e-mail love letters it had been keeping since December.

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.            The rising young star of the Republican party who was seen as a presidential contender in 2012, the man who was head of the Republican Governors Association until the day after he acknowledged his extramarital affair, the man who had wanted to deprive his state of $700 million in federal stimulus funds as a political message to President Obama, the man who had established himself as a beacon for the sanctity of marriage and the values of the oh-so-pure Religious right, was not only an adulterer, but for at least the second time had left his state at risk since there were no contingency plans of how to reach him in an emergency.

           Alas, Gov. Sanford isn't the only "family values" philanderer. Slightly more than a week earlier, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted he had a nine month extramarital affair with one of his campaign staff. Ensign, who was contemplating a run for president in 2012, had been chair of the Republican Policy Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Like Gov. Sanford, Sen. Ensign only admitted to the affair after information had been leaked to the media.  

          This is the same John Ensign who, as a congressman, had curled his lips in revulsion at Bill Clinton's affair, and demanded he either resign or be impeached. "He has no credibility," Ensign told the Las Vegas Review Journal in 1998. Six years later, now a senator, Ensign supported a federal ban on same sex marriages by declaring, "Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded . .  . . [M]arriage, and the sanctity of that institution, predates the American Constitution and the founding of our nation." Ironically, Ensign is active in Promise Keepers, an evangelical group.           Also vigorously calling for President Clinton's impeachment, while having had their own extramarital affairs and covering them up or lying about them, were: 

          ● Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chair of the House judiciary committee and the "house manager" for the impeachment, who lied about his own four-year affair with a married woman and then when a newspaper published details in 1998 called the affair in the 40s nothing more than a "youthful indiscretion." He retired in 2007 after 17 terms in the House.

           ●Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who was the first legislator in Congress to call for Clinton's resignation and then became one of the leaders of the impeachment movement. Barr's background, however, wasn't family values pure. He never denied committing adultery with his second wife, and later, while married to his third wife, was photographed at what passed as a charity event licking whipped cream off the breasts of two women. Barr left office in 2003, after four terms. 

          Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), who was one of the first to call for Clinton's resignation, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that God had pardoned her sins for her six-year extra-marital affair. Chenoweth left office in January 2001 after keeping her promise not to serve more than three terms. 

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          ● Fourteen term Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind), chair of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, who not only had a long-time affair with a state employee but had fathered a son from that affair. His website once screamed, "Above all, Dan Burton believes the people have a right to principled leadership and that character does matter." 

           Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who told Tim Russert on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" in 1999 that "The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy-a naughty boy. I'm going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy." However, Craig himself was a "bad boy." In September 2007 he pleaded guilty, and then tried to withdraw his conviction on charges that he solicited a man in the Minneapolis St. Paul airport. Several gay men later told the Idaho Statesman that Craig, who was married since 1983, had previously tried to solicit them or had sexual relations with them. Craig resigned in September 2007, and then reversed himself, staying in office through 2008. He did not run for re-election. 

          ● Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), House speaker from 1995 to 1999, who may have had an affair while his first wife was in the hospital recovering from cancer. Gingrich later cheated on his second wife with the woman who became his third wife during the time he was pushing for Clinton's resignation.  

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Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of (more...)
 

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