This week Daily Beast columnist Meghan McCain takes on Mark Sanford — or, rather, she takes on those who are calling for his resignation, writing that he should be forgiven for his affair and that “it’s of very little concern to me who elected officials sleep with.” While I am inclined to agree with her in general, Sanford’s actions, like those of the many other politicians of late, represent an obnoxious hypocrisy which gives them the authority to preach family values while shirking them in their personal lives. Sanford (who McCain has spent personal time with), for example, was a vocal critic of President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky debacle. Nevermind the fact the dude went MIA from his job for five days to romance his darling Maria.While McCain acknowledges those facts in her piece, she puts the pressure on society to “stop requiring that our politicians live at such a high level of moral superiority, as if they are infallible creatures. Let me assure you, they are not.” But I would argue that the public gets upset about these policians’ “fall from grace” when they’ve made a point to exercise their moral superiority over the public — that’s why there’s been such scandal surrounding elected officials like Larry Craig and Mark Sanford, who do not practice what they preach. There are certainly politicians who have cheated on their wives that have not felt a tremendous impact on their careers — Gavin Newsom, the Mayor of San Francisco, cheated on his wife with his campaign manager’s wife, and while it made headlines, he remains in office and is still quite popular. While his personal behavior was bad, it didn’t directly contradict what he was doing as an elected official.That’s the difference.
While reading McCain’s column, I could not help but be preoccupied by her own personal history with politicians having extra-marital affairs. After all, she is the product of a relationship that started as an extra-marital affair. In 1965 John McCain married Carol Shepp, a former model, who bore him one child; in 1967 he was deployed to Vietnam where he was held as a prisoner of war until 1973. In the time he was gone, Shepp was in a horrible car accident which left her severely injured and permanently scarred. McCain has admitted to having multiple affairs during their marriage and was seriously seeing his current wife Cindy while he was still married to Shepp. In fact, he asked Cindy to marry him before he even filed for separation from Shepp. Once the divorce was final, John and Cindy McCain were married and have six children together, including Meghan. I am sure that her parents own history has influenced her opinion on extra-marital affairs and that politicians should not be judged by the actions they take in their personal lives.
Meghan McCain has been an avid supporter of modernizing the Republican Party and is tireless in advocating that the GOP become more socially liberal, which I really respect. I believe her when she writes, “Going forward, I suggest that the party concentrate less on what goes on in the bedroom and more on what is going on in policy.” But when the party has made one of its primary goals be policing what goes on in people’s bedrooms, while pumping out politicians that “sin” like crazy in their own, these scandals will continue to make headlines. While I agree with McCain that what someone does in their personal life should not usually effect public perception of how they do their job, I think that when those actions directly contradict what they preach in their public life, they deserve all the public scrutiny and criticism they can get.