I was busy with paying work when news of the Souder resignation broke. It’s been maybe 9 or 10 hours, and it already feels like old news. But, it seems momentous enough that I figure I should comment.
Souder has been committing adultery with one of his staff members (female), and he got caught. Because he got caught, he is resigning. The rumor I heard was that a newspaper was sniffing around about Souder and his mistress getting caught having sex in a public park. But, I hasten to add, if this has been confirmed, I haven’t seen it yet. (TPM Muckraker has a story on this – they say that DNR searched its records and didn’t find an official record.)
Sanctimonious public officials grate on me, so it’s somewhat satisfying when a little petard hoisting sends them packing. But my amusement at this sort of thing is tempered by the realization that Souder isn’t some abstract character in a story. He’s a real person with, and this is the important part, a real family. His family members are no doubt hurting from this, and I have no particular cause to wish them ill.
So, in the course of 5 years, we are seeing a dramatic sea change in Indiana’s Congressional delegation. Of the 11 Representatives and Senators representing Indiana in 2006, only Senator Lugar, Mike Pence, Dan Burton (barely), and Pete Visclosky (if a corruption investigation doesn’t bring him down) seem likely to be serving in 2011. Sen. Bayh is stepping down. Chris Chocola was defeated by Joe Donnelly. Steve Buyer is resigning ostensibly to take care of his wife, but also under the cloud of his sketchy Frontier Foundation funding. Julia Carson passed away in 2007 and was replaced by her grandson, Andre. John Hostetler was beaten by Brad Ellsworth. And Mike Sodrel was beaten by Baron Hill.
I’ve already seen one of the standard defenses to the sanctimonious hypocrite scandal. It goes something like, “it’s not wrong for someone like Mark Souder to proclaim the sanctity of marriage and good, wholesome values even if he falls short in his personal life.” I’m always puzzled by the lack of concern for integrity this defense implies. It’s enough, apparently, that a public figure says the right things about morality and pretends to believe those things because hearing those things and seeing the pretense is “good for us” somehow.
The problem, as I see it, is with condemnation of those who don’t necessarily speak the approved words about proper morality or engage in the pretense that everyone adheres (or should adhere) to that particular code.
If the family values crowd characterized their version of morality as worthy aspirations instead of imperatives, the departure from which is sinful, I would probably agree. And if guys like Souder said that these aspirations were good ideas that he, personally, was lousy at attaining, I wouldn’t have much to hold over his head right now. But there seems to be a judgment of unworthiness applied to others who are not members of the tribe that is rarely applied as vigorously to folks like Souder.
Now, at least, Souder appears prepared to honor his term limit pledge about four years late. Maybe that will allow him to focus on whatever marital pledges he may have made.