A Cautious Man
July 02, 2009
Tunnel of Love
I can feel the soft silk of your blouse
And them soft thrills in our little fun house
Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us
You me and all that stuff we're so scared of
Gotta ride down baby into this tunnel of love

- Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love.

I tried to resist giving in to temptation, but I couldn't resist the "sparking". So, a brief post about Governor Sanford of South Carolina. Talking Points Memo sums up his dilemma pretty well -

After days of assuring the public he was firmly in control after admitting a scandalous affair, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford detailed other encounters with his Argentine "soul mate," dalliances with women before her, and his struggle to salvage his 20-year marriage.

Sanford, who last week used a televised news conference to throw himself on the mercy of the public, state leaders and his wife, chronicled his affair and tortured emotions in interviews with The Associated Press Monday and Tuesday. This time, he said, he wanted to "lay it all out."

But as more details of his private life spill out, what Sanford has done in the name of love is too much even for some of his friends in state government.


"I don't want to blow up my time in politics," he told the AP. "I don't want to blow up future earning power, I don't want to blow up the kids' lives. I don't want to blow up 20 years that we've invested. But if I'm completely honest, there are still feelings in the way. If we keep pushing it this way, we get those to die off, but they're still there and they're still real."

He has trouble, he said, shutting down the love he feels for Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine woman he first met in 2001.

Sanford also said he's "crossed the lines" with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with Chapur and not since the two met.

"Without wandering into that field we'll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation," he said, referring to his affair with Chapur.

He insists he can fall back in love with his wife, Jenny, even as he witnesses his "own political funeral."

There is just So. Much. Wrong. There. Leaving aside the whole hypocrisy thing, where he's "defending the sanctity of marriage" while making plans for weekend trysts, it's the post-discovery piling-on. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo put it yesterday -

In part two of his leave-no-rock-unturned interview with the Associated Press, Mark Sanford says that at least he will "be able to die knowing I had met my soul mate,"... . And if that's not enough, he says that for all the grief his affair has caused, that if the affair means he can never run for president (think the ship's sort of sailed on that one), that it will have been worth it.

I know there are a lot of people who are genuinely questioning Sanford's sanity at this point -- when you put together the furtive trips and the endless new revelations. But am I the only one who thinks that he appears to be deeply in love with this woman and should just go be with her?

Of course, when you're a middle-aged man facing the collapse of your life's work and abandoning hope of being with the woman you call your 'soul mate' rational decision making or a clearly considered plan may be too much to expect. But it does seem like there are two guys here. One saying he wants to serve out his responsibility to his state and reconcile with his wife and another using the press to broadcast a free form love poem to the girlfriend in Argentina.

I wouldn't go too far down the "tortured soul" road. Look, I know that marriages break up, but I also know that we can make choices in life. We can choose to do things that help keep our marriages strong, or we can do things that weaken or detract from them. Governor Sanford decided that a woman whom he saw infrequently, but who he corresponded with via email, was more "real" to him than the woman he had courted, married, been helped in his career by, and parented children with. Instead of spending time thinking about how exciting things would be with "Maria from Buenos Aires", he could have tried to think of ways to enhance the life he was living with his wife. For crying out loud, he was a successful, rich and popular politician, so his life wasn't that miserable to begin with.

He may fallen victim to the age-old failing, the confusion of love and lust. Emailing his far-away innamorata may have been more "thrilling" than his everyday life (but see the part above about being rich, successful and popular in that "everyday life"). In Book 2, Chapter 2 of his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote of his former life with words that could have come from a Governor Sanford presser -

But what was it that delighted me save to love and to be loved? Still I did not keep the moderate way of the love of mind to mind--the bright path of friendship. Instead, the mists of passion steamed up out of the puddly concupiscence of the flesh, and the hot imagination of puberty, and they so obscured and overcast my heart that I was unable to distinguish pure affection from unholy desire. Both boiled confusedly within me, and dragged my unstable youth down over the cliffs of unchaste desires and plunged me into a gulf of infamy. Thy anger had come upon me, and I knew it not. I had been deafened by the clanking of the chains of my mortality, the punishment for my soul’s pride, and I wandered farther from thee, and thou didst permit me to do so. I was tossed to and fro, and wasted, and poured out, and I boiled over in my fornications--and yet thou didst hold thy peace, O my tardy Joy! Thou didst still hold thy peace, and I wandered still farther from thee into more and yet more barren fields of sorrow, in proud dejection and restless lassitude.

In case it's not evident yet, while I feel sorry for the Sanford family as a whole, I'm on the side where there's little sympathy created by the pathetic spectacle that he's been presenting.

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above
If you want to ride on down
In through this tunnel of love



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