Sanford Channels Nixon
By Marisa Katz
Among Gov. Mark Sanford’s many apologies this week is one with a definite Nixonian ring to it.
Here’s Sanford asking for your forgiveness in a message posted on his Web site.
Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign -- as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise -- that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes -- but that if my spirit wasn't right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.
Their belief was that if I walked in with a real spirit of humility then this last legislative term could well be our most productive one.
Now, consider President Nixon’s explanation, in his interviews with David Frost, for why he didn’t resign along with chief of staff Bob Haldeman and domestic adviser John Erlichman in April 1973:
I must say that at that time I seriously considered whether I shouldn't resign, but on the other hand I feel that I owe it to history, to point out that from that time on April 30, until I resigned on August 9, I did some things that were good for this country. We had the second and third summits. I think one of the major reasons I stayed in office, was my concern about keeping the China initiative, the Soviet initiative, the Vietnam fragile peace agreement and then an added dividend, the first breakthrough in moving toward -- not love, but at least not war -- in the Middle East.
Never mind that Nixon’s China breakthrough had been in 1972 and that the period he cites was marked by such high points as the Arab oil embargo and the Yom Kippur war. There is nothing humble about Nixon's or Sanford’s suggestion that he has to stay on for the good of the people and the public policy agenda. Of course, implicit in any politician’s bid for office is the conceit that he or she can do the job better than anyone else. But it is the ultimate in political hubris to claim that that remains true after you’ve committed a crime or abandoned your state in the interest of personal pursuits.
The Watergate scandal actually threatened several of the diplomatic initiatives Nixon professed to be so committed to. Sanford’s affair and disappearance may not rock South Carolina in quite the same way. But it probably won’t do much good for the state’s unemployment numbers, either.
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