Sure, the S.C. senator wrote a 2300-plus-word breakup post on Facebook that reads like a romance novel--but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to see his kids
Being a hideously tone-deaf oversharer and terrible husband does not necessarily make you a bad father. An embarrassing one, yes, but not a let’s-keep-him-away-from-the-kids one. I’m speaking, of course, of South Carolina Senator Mark Sanford and his latest Facebook rant.
There are so many things wrong with the way the Senator runs his personal affairs. First and foremost, he too often seems lose sight of the “personal” part of that phrase. He justified his 2300-plus-word Facebook post of Sept. 12 by saying he believes he owes the taxpayers of South Carolina an explanation: “In as much as you sign my paycheck and you have elected me to represent you in Washington, I think I owe you my thinking on this personal, but now public matter.”
This feels a little like a butcher forcing his or her customers to watch him make the sausages, because later they’re going to buy them and eat them. No, really, sir: we’re fine.
The “sausage,” in this case, is that Sanford and his wife, Jenny, with whom he split after falling in love with an Argentinian women, Maria Belén Chapur, are fighting over how much access he has to their four sons. Attorneys are involved, and while Sanford proclaims a huge aversion to the legal profession, he’s decided to lawyer up. (Jenny’s side claims he always had a lawyer.) All of this, one would think, might merit a crisply worded 250 word press release, noting that the Senator, having tried all avenues to reach an amicable settlement with his former wife, has retained legal counsel and blah blah blah et cetera. Nothing to see here; move along.
But no. The public has to endure another in a series of Heartfelt Sanford Outpourings, which–for those who haven’t been following along–so far include the one about how he was not on the Appalachian Trail but with a woman (June 24, 2009), and how Maria Belén, the woman he was with not-on-the-Appalachian-Trail, was his soulmate and how theirs was “a forbidden, tragic love story,” (July 1, 2009).
These communications always seems to come from the Harlequin playbook, full of emotional pleas and heartsore teeth gnashing. “No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter,” writes the former Love Guv in his latest post on Facebook.
The one difference is that Harlequin novels are blessedly brief. As one wit noted, Sanford’s post contains more words than the Senator has uttered in Congress this year. It’s a small mercy that there is no accompanying video to go with this announcement, as that’s where Senator Soulmate really seems to let his emotions get the better of him.
It’s clear, though, that this post too was written in the heat of the moment and without much forethought. One sentence uses the word “way ” four times. Other phrases in his Facebook tome, with their references to faith, smack of that kid in a church youth group who always used prayer requests as an excuse to gossip about other kids in the youth group who weren’t in the room.
Still other pieces of this confessional quilt have enough lashings of self-pity to make Uriah Heep throw up a little in his mouth. “It seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict,” writes Sanford. Quick, alert the Nobel Committee: Mark Sanford, Peacemaker at a Price.
What transpires is this: Sanford and his wife continue to tussle, legally, over how often he gets to see his sons. He’s accusing her of playing dirty pool–all pretty standard high-conflict divorce shenanigans–and it is stressing him out, people. As a result of this, he’s calling off his engagement to his Argentinian soulmate, whom he has “always loved.” (Not quite enough to let her know in advance of the announcement, though, reports say.)
But while Sanford may be about the most ridiculously inept and cheesy cheating ex of all time, none of it should disqualify him from being able to see his four sons. He says, somewhere in there among all the crazy, that he didn’t get to see one of them for 17 weeks. It’s hard to tell if that’s just the anguish speaking or if it’s true and it’s generally a fool’s errand to try and second guess the family courts. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances. But if true, that’s too long. There’s already enough fatherlessness in the land.
Custody battles can be ugly messy businesses and can end up in disaster and tragedy. Posting a public tear on a well-visited social media site about a mean ex-wife is clearly bad for the kids (and avert-your-eyes embarrassing for everyone else), but it does not disqualify someone from being a dad. One definite upside of regular contact with one’s offspring is that they’re not afraid to opine on how irrevocably lame attempts at social media are. Now that is advice which Sanford desperately needs to hear right now. And which we, the public, need him to hear.