When the Sanctity of Marriage Becomes Sanctimonious

Aug 02, 2009 | Updated May 25, 2011

There are few stories I care less about than whether an elected politician has had an affair. Top of the reasons is that it's none of my business. Mind you, I don't like it. But it's still none of my business.

I know that some like to claim that it informs us on the politician's character. But most people start out presuming that politicians are piglickers, so it's not like their character can drop much.

And what it doesn't inform us is the kind of a politician they are - which is the only reason we care about them in the first place.

Franklin Roosevelt had an affair. Given that he helped save the free world, I think most people are OK with him being president. I can give you countless reasons why I detest Richard Nixon. Whether or not he had an affair is not among the reasons.

How we chose our friends is one thing. But if I'm having open-heart surgery, I care only that the person performing it is a freaking-great doctor. Not who he is sleeping with.

That's who I feel about politicians, too. Having an affair is a private matter between them and their spouses. I don't care.

What I do care about is hypocrisy.

Because hypocrisy informs on an elected politician's character in a way that has an actual, direct impact on how he or she will serve in office. It tells us if they believe what they are telling their constituents. It tells us if we can believe them.

If there is any good that can come from this recent avalanche of serial Republican adulterers, it's that maybe the Party of Family Values, the Party of the Sanctity of Marriage will finally be exposed as an empty hole, and its faux-pious "character issue" standard will disappear forever.

That's the issue. Not that Republican or Democratic politicians will have affairs. But that the Republican Party has made it an issue of morality. The resultant hypocrisy is stifling.

It's not that the moralizing-Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) had his affair. Or "crossed the line" numerous times. It's that after having voted to impeach Bill Clinton when he was a Congressman, he's decided to stick around himself. It's that this faux-moralist dares tell the world that his mistress in Argentina is a "soul mate," but he's going to try to make his marriage work out.

Anyone who thinks this "try" is noble, test it out on your own spouse. If you are able to come back in one piece, tell us who gets custody of the kids.

By the way, if "making the marriage work out" after an affair is the criteria for acceptance, the entire Republican Party owe Bill Clinton a really big apology.

The hypocrisy just keeps getting ladled on.

Best of all is Rudy Giuliani insisting that it's all right because, "This happens just as often in the Democratic Party." Now, first of all, I'm not sure if the GOP wants Rudy Giuliani out front as a spokesman on a Sanctity of Marriage issue. Second, though, either your party believes adultery is immoral and a political issue, or they don't. It's not a "yours cancels out mind" kind of thing. And third, name all the adulterous Democratic elected officials in recent years, and line them up against Republicans.

Certainly John Edwards, and Governors Eliot Spitzer and James McGreevey make the list. To get to the Big Kahuna, Bill Clinton, however, you have to go way back 13 years ago. And you need over 20 years to get to Gary Hart.

No doubt there are others. I just don't pay enough attention to these sort of things. But it's when the hypocrisy smacks you in the face, that it's impossible to ignore.

And the pure, recent hypocrisy of the Party of Morals just keeps spewing like Old Faithless.

Forget going back 20 years. Or 13. In just recent times, that list includes, beyond Sen. Mark Sanford - and Mayor Rudy Giuliani -

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), the Republican policy committee chairman, who had called on Bill Clinton to resign, but is not resigning himself, after his own adultery.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), also a former Republican committee policy chairman, and "family values" defender - who the above-John Ensign attacked for his solicitation, though that was before Ensign's own adulterous affair.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is a strong "family values" defender too, all the while he was identified as a client of the D.C. Madam. And also the Canal Street Madam.

And we're not even including Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) because his transgressions (the polite term) with House pages don't really count as adulterous. Though he's way up there with the hypocrites, since he was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.

And we're not even including other Republican leaders if you have to go further back to Clinton/Hart territory. That leaves off the hook people like -

Former Speaker of the House Gingrich (R-GA), who not only has had two affairs (including one while orchestrating Bill Clinton's impeachment), and three marriages - but ran for Congress on the slogan. "Let Our Family Represent Your Family."

Republican presidential nominee John McCain (R-AZ), who cheated on first wife after she was in a debilitating accident, and later divorced her.

No doubt there are others. I just don't pay enough attention to these sort of things. But it's when the hypocrisy smacks you in the face, that it's impossible to ignore.

And that's the point. Not that any of these officials had affairs or divorces or out-of-wedlock children. But that, as a party, they have cultivated an evangelical right-wing base of Morality, Family Values and the Sanctity of Marriage, making "character" their core principal, attacking all who didn't meet their pandering standards -- and time and time again fallen off that holier-than-thou pedestal...ignoring every self-righteous demand they make of others. It's what allows a Republican vice-presidential candidate like Sarah Palin to rail about God and morality and the Sanctity of Marriage for others, yet under her own roof accept out-of-wedlock pregnancy without stopping to catch her sanctimonious breath.

And she should accept it. And so should all those other hypocritical Republicans. Because it's none of our business what anyone's personal life is. Democrat and Republican alike. But it's that pathetic, galling hypocrisy that has helped turn the Republican Party into a floundering, flim-flam religious tent revival meeting.

And in doing so, the Republican Party has single-handedly done more for the cause of gay marriage than any other entity in America, by showing their utter hypocrisy towards the Sanctity of Marriage.

For all this, I truly don't care about Mark Sanford's affair, or any of these affairs. What I care about is the hypocrisy. It touches us all.

In the end, it's meaningful that the Patron Saint of the Party of Family Values, Ronald Reagan, was the first-ever president to be divorced, and whose first child was born seven months after his marriage. The Party of Family Values. Hypocrisy starts early.