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Tarnished Shields


Some columns are easier to write than others.

This is one of them.

Providing all of my research were the “family values” Republicans.

This week, second term Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina disappeared for six days, leaving the state without a chief executive who could make decisions in an emergency. His Republican lieutenant governor didn’t know where he was, and had not been given any authority to make decisions in his absence. The state police said they had not been informed. His wife told the Associated Press she didn’t know where he was, wasn’t worried about him, and thought he was “writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids” over the Father’s Day weekend. His senior aides said he was walking along the Appalachian Trail to “clear his head.”

But it wasn’t his head that he was clearing. When he returned, after first lying to a reporter for the Columbia State who caught up with him on his return to the Atlanta airport, he finally admitted he went to Argentina to meet with a long-time lover. His wife, who was not by his side when he held an early afternoon press conference, later said she and the governor had separated two weeks earlier. The State later produced e-mail love letters it had been keeping since December.

The rising young star of the Republican party who was seen as a presidential contender in 2012, the man who was head of the Republican Governors Association until the day after he acknowledged his extramarital affair, the man who had wanted to deprive his state of $700 million in federal stimulus funds as a political message to President Obama, the man who had established himself as a beacon for the sanctity of marriage and the values of the oh-so-pure Religious right, who a decade earlier as a congressman had strongly condemned Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair, was not only an adulterer, but for at least the second time had left his state at risk since there were no contingency plans of how to reach him in an emergency.

Alas, Gov. Sanford isn’t the only “family values” philanderer. Slightly more than a week earlier, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted he had a nine month extramarital affair with one of his campaign staff. Ensign, who was contemplating a run for president in 2012, had been chair of the Republican Policy Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Like Gov. Sanford, Sen. Ensign only admitted to the affair after information had been leaked to the media.

This is the same John Ensign who, as a congressman, had curled his lips in revulsion at Bill Clinton’s affair, and demanded he either resign or be impeached. “He has no credibility,” Ensign told the Las Vegas Review–Journal in 1998. Six years later, now a senator, Ensign supported a federal ban on same sex marriages by declaring, “Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded . .  . . [M]arriage, and the sanctity of that institution, predates the American Constitution and the founding of our nation.” Ironically, Ensign is active in Promise Keepers, an evangelical group.

Also vigorously calling for President Clinton’s impeachment, while having had their own extramarital affairs and covering them up or lying about them, were:

? Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chair of the House judiciary committee and the “house manager” for the impeachment, who lied about his own four-year affair with a married woman and then when a newspaper published details in 1998 called the affair in the 40s nothing more than a “youthful indiscretion.” He retired in 2007 after 17 terms in the House.

?Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who was the first legislator in Congress to call for Clinton’s resignation and then became one of the leaders of the impeachment movement. Barr’s background, however, wasn’t family values pure. He never denied committing adultery with his second wife, and later, while married to his third wife, was photographed at what passed as a charity event licking whipped cream off the breasts of two women. Barr left office in 2003, after four terms.

? Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), who was one of the first to call for Clinton’s resignation, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that God had pardoned her sins for her six-year extra-marital affair. Chenoweth left office in January 2001 after keeping her promise not to serve more than three terms.

? Fourteen term Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind), chair of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, who not only had a long-time affair with a state employee but had fathered a son from that affair. His website once screamed, “Above all, Dan Burton believes the people have a right to principled leadership and that character does matter.”

? Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who told Tim Russert on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” in 1999 that “The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy—a naughty boy. I’m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.” However, Craig himself was a “bad boy.” In September 2007 he pleaded guilty, and then tried to withdraw his conviction on charges that he solicited a man in the Minneapolis–St. Paul airport. Several gay men later told the Idaho Statesman that Craig, who was married since 1983, had previously tried to solicit them or had sexual relations with them. Craig resigned in September 2007, and then reversed himself, staying in office through 2008. He did not run for re-election.

? Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), House speaker from 1995 to 1999, who may have had an affair while his first wife was in the hospital recovering from cancer. Gingrich later cheated on his second wife with the woman who became his third wife during the time he was pushing for Clinton’s resignation.

? Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who was Gingrich’s designated successor until he admitted his own infidelities and eventually resigned from the House.

? Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who was elected to Livingston’s House seat and served three terms before being identified in a prostitution scandal in Louisiana. In 2004, he was elected to the Senate, three years before Hustler magazine linked him as a client of a prostitution service in Washington, D.C.

? Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa), who had a five year affair with a woman 35 years his junior. She later charged that Sherwood had assaulted her several times. He eventually settled for what AP reported was about $500,000. Among those who supported Sherwood during his primary re-election were Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), one of the leaders of the conservative coalition who in November 2005 said that “Compassionate Conservatism relies on healthy families,” and President George W. Bush who went to northeastern Pennsylvania to help raise funds for Sherwood. However, in the general election of November 2006, Sherwood was defeated for a fifth term.

? Rep. Vito Fossella Jr. (R-N.Y.), who, as a first term congressman with a 100 percent voting approval record from the Christian Coalition, was morally outraged at Bill Clinton’s personal conduct. A decade later, he was arrested for drunken driving in May 2008. Upon intense media scrutiny, he also admitted that while still married he had fathered a girl, now four years old, with an Air Force congressional liaison officer who was the woman who came to his assistance the night of his DUI arrest. After six terms, Fossella chose not to run for a seventh term.

? Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who had delivered a passionate plea to the Senate on why he planned to vote to convict President Clinton, citing legal issues. However, McCain had previously acknowledged his own several extramarital affairs in the 1970s, and had accepted the blame for the deterioration of his first marriage and estrangement from his children.

Add to the list of morally bankrupt Republicans:

? Five term Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) who resigned in September 1995, three years before the Clinton impeachment, after the bipartisan Ethics Committee unanimously recommended his expulsion following charges of sexual abuse and assault by 10 women, most of them either former staffers or lobbyists.

? Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), a six-term congressman, and co-chair of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, who had sent sexually explicit e-mails and text messages to a 16 year-old male Congressional page. Foley resigned in September 2006, two months before the general election, long after the Republican leadership had failed to discipline him, and only after a blog ( and ABC-TV news exposed his hoped-for affairs may have included other staff dating back at least a decade.

? Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), publicly homophobic founder of Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union, who admitted he had solicited sex with a 16 year old male. Bauman lost the general election in 1980 and later declared himself to be gay.

? Rep. Donald Lukens (R-Ohio), who was convicted in 1989 of a misdemeanor for having sex with a 16-year-old girl. The “affair” may have begun three years earlier. Lukens finally resigned in October 1990, after having lost the Republican primary several months earlier.

Republican leaders aren’t the only ones who commit adultery, nor are conservatives or members of the Religious Right, including preachers, solely the ones to have violated the seventh and tenth Commandments. Democrats also have a litany of their own scandals. But, it is the “family values” Republican leaders, who have led the party of right wing moral indignation; it is the Religious Right that has overtaken the party and wears the now-tarnished shield of righteousness to protect itself against anyone who doesn’t share their own views of the world, including moderate and liberal Republicans, and anyone belonging to another political party.

The hypocrisy and moral turpitude of the leaders is just one reason why only 21 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans.

WALTER BRASCH is author of 17 books, a syndicated columnist, and professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award. You may contact him through his website,



Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

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