Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why tell the world?

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has copped to having an affair for the last year. Not a total surprise: I figured he was having marital problems given his wife’s disinterest in his whereabouts.

What I don’t understand is why he decided to make a public admission of this. He seems to be saying that he wants to be reconciled with his wife - although I’m not sure he was really definite about that - and if I were her, I’d find such a reconciliation much easier if my husband didn’t spread our personal life all over the media. Even if he doesn’t want to reconcile with his wife, I’d think that part of what he owes her when seeking her forgiveness is helping protect her privacy. A play by play of his affair doesn’t really pay that debt.

Perhaps he didn’t think things through before disappearing for five days, was taken aback by the firestorm of speculation that had arisen while he was away, and felt only the truth could provide a believable explanation for his absence. Even so, I would argue that if his first loyalty is to his wife - or his children - he would have done better to fall on the sword of “I have no excuse, I just needed to get away” rather than to expose their family life to the type of scrutiny it’s going to get. Unless, of course, he believed confessing the affair would give him a better chance to maintain political viability. In which case, his first concern isn’t really his wife and children.

Perhaps he believed that once his visit to Argentina was public knowledge it would only be a matter of time before someone figured out what he was doing there and the best course was to reveal the truth on his terms. Or perhaps someone who knew - it sounds like quite a few people did know - was going to blow the whistle on his affair.

I imagine he’ll eventually explain why he held a press conference to announce his affair. But I sure do wish someone at the conference had asked him for that explanation now.

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