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Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)
Military leader

Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

A retired U.S. Army General, Montgomery Meigs has commanded U.S. and NATO forces overseas and is now President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security.

Dereliction of Duty

Marital fidelity is not the most important issue here. Politicians have strayed and made comebacks. One only hopes that the governor can rebuild his marriage. But with his dalliance in Argentina, he abandoned his office and the executive responsibilities inherent in it.

While he was out of the country and out of communications, what if an event had occurred that to save lives and property required his leadership and his authority to enact emergency measures? Similar dereliction of duty by a senior military officer in command would constitute grounds for immediate relief for cause.

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

 |  June 30, 2009; 11:17 AM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Marital Vows, Constitutional Vows | Next: Forgiveness Is Beside the Point


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Dear General,

Your statement is the only one that absolutely correct. Have an affair? So what? Break your state's constitutional duties? In the now famous words of Trump: You're fired! Maybe even convicted of a felony?

Posted by: poetblu | July 2, 2009 10:01 AM
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Why is it only the military people understand the real issue here ? Infidelity in a marriage is personal; what a public, elected individual does is the people's business (just about 24/7).

Gov Sanford left his state without leaving someone in charge, then feigned amazement his "being missing" was news.

Had there been an emergency there could have been major problems in response time. Unless a "chain of command" had been clearly established, the SC National Guard Commander would have been within his legal rights to refuse any orders from the Lt Governor.

Its been my experience in 99% of government agencies when the boss is away, someone is designated as being in charge. Gov Sanford took off, left no one in charge, left no way of contacting him and told no one how to contact him (even his wife).

Just one more example of what happens when you let "Mr Happy" take over.

Posted by: adipalm1 | July 2, 2009 8:57 AM
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The OSC has the responsibility until a senior shows up. The wheels don't stop turning. Tactical Command to the specialist in that field, depending on the incident.

Should a situation had occured and nothing done, would have represented a failed structure and summary executions for everyone.

Operations can't stand leadership getting in the way.


Posted by: James210 | July 2, 2009 7:42 AM
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Sanford has shown himself to be dishonest both morally and in practice. He used public money to finance his escapade, oh, now he is willing to pay it back. That is what any thief who has been caught is willing to do in order to avoid punishment. In fact, he is a thief and his behavior proves that. If he had got away with it, the public would have paid. Secondly, he has shown himself to be a hypocrite of the first order. How can he be trusted now that he has shown himself to be a certified liar. What is to stop him from the same kind of behavior again. He has shown himself to be dishonest, but of course he says he will reform. That is what the majority of criminals say after they get caught. He simply has shown himself to be unqualified to be any kind of public official. Ask yourself, if someone with his record was applying for a job with you, would you hire him?

Posted by: bikesac | July 1, 2009 1:54 PM
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Bingo. General, have a cigar! You have identified Sanford's sins relative to his office.

He used state money for personal use. Now he says he'll pay it back. Does every other state employee in SC have that option, if caught with hands in the cookie jar?

He failed in the execution of the duties he was sworn to fulfill. He put his interests above those of his state. He misappropriated funds. He did not hand over executive authority prior to disappearing. He lied to his staff about his whereabouts. All of these are offenses relative to his office.

Was the state in grave danger because of this, or suffer from it? No. Doesn't matter. We all know that procedures put in place to provide for the welfare of the state in an emergency need to be followed no matter what. Emergencies cannot be predicted.

His marital infidelity is between him and his wife.

HOWEVER, the Republicans made (to the nth degree, and are still trying to) much political hay of Bill Clinton's infidelity, and Sanford was as self righteous as any. He gained politically by portraying himself as a moral standard bearer. He won votes based on that perception.

Now he is revealed to be as bad as any (and it is shown to be worse every time he opens his mouth). I don't care about his personal life; I didn't care about Clinton's. But the people who voted for this joker have a right to be infuriated, because he swindled them.

And the rest of us who have endured the constant drum beat of self righteousness from the Republican party, the moralizing, the pontificating, are justified in saying to the Republican Party: "Shut up."

Sanford should face the consequences of his dereliction of duty.

He'll reap the harvest of what he sowed politically. His political career lived by it, his political career should die by it.

Posted by: SeattlePete | July 1, 2009 1:10 PM
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I agree he is unfit for duty due to his dereliction, but the security issue is not valid. What is the security risk? Telling Argentina about the upcoming invasion by SC National Guard? And a commander-in-chief is not subject to military justice as every other military member is, otherwise he could be brought before a military tribunal, which cannot happen. The much worse issue is what others have been saying, what if there had been a hurricane, train wreck of toxic chemicals, massive fire, terrorist attack, etc. He willingly left his post with no way to contact him. He should be asked to do that again and never return.

Posted by: bevjims1 | July 1, 2009 11:59 AM
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Why is it that no one in the media is talking about the security issue here. This man is the Commander of the SC National Guard which means he has at least a Top Secret security clearance, which he was given upon election, not after a normal clearance process. Then he has an affair which opens him up to blackmail and extortion. If a US military person does this, they will lose their clearance and be asked to leave the military. There is no question as to his resignation. He is not fit for duty.

Posted by: voldenuit123 | July 1, 2009 11:23 AM
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(By the way, comments are only in caps for IE users. Firefox and Chrome are having no problems...)

Posted by: cschetter | July 1, 2009 11:19 AM
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all the comments are in caps....we're all going to die

Because of the swine flu epidemic in Argentina, he should be castrated and have his passport destroyed, from a national security perspective. Airlines which transport him to any meeting with Chupar should only be allowed to fly him on an Airbus.

Posted by: EliPeyton | July 1, 2009 11:01 AM
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Marital fidelity is not the most important issue here. Politicians have strayed and made comebacks.
This isn't a football game where we cheer for comebacks, and marital fidelity is the most important issue. Unfortunately that issue has been trivialized by the baby-boomer generation. Dereliction of duty in an age of cell phones, blackberries, computers etc. isn't quite what it used to be from the perspective that a commander can stay in touch even though she is not at her desk. Having said that, he should be impeached today for leaving his post and prosecuted tomorrow for adultery.

Posted by: EliPeyton | July 1, 2009 10:51 AM
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WAPO -- all the comments are coming out as caps -- can this be fixed? It looks like we're all yelling at each other.

Posted by: mt23823 | July 1, 2009 10:43 AM
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As someone who is on the left, I'd like to state that if a Democratic governor did what Sanford did e.g., total derliction of duty, I'd call for his or her resignation. As many others have said, I don't give a flying crap about anything else, although it does set him up to look like a irresponsible hypocrite.

Posted by: mt23823 | July 1, 2009 10:41 AM
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*ding ding ding* Someone tell the good General what he's won!

Taking a week-long vacation (as it were) and lying about it to your coworkers/boss/employer would get any one of the 'honest hardworking American folk' Sanford and his party claim to represent FIRED from their job before you could say Appalachian Trail.

Setting aside for a moment the moral hypocrisy this whole thing exhibits, I honestly could give a crap about the infidelity, that's his own personal demon that he's gotta deal with now, and has nothing to do with his fitness for public office. It's that he violated the contract he entered with the people of his state when he put his own personal priorities way above the duties he accepted when taking office.

He should be a true leader, accept responsibility for his inability to uphold the oath he took, and resign.

Posted by: cschetter | July 1, 2009 10:27 AM
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My last post also came up all caps although it was not written that way. Sorry, my bad.

Posted by: dataflunky | July 1, 2009 9:48 AM
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Given the posting times, and the fact that all previous posts were written in caps, I suspect they were all written by the same person.

Posted by: dataflunky | July 1, 2009 9:47 AM
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gmacnaughton1 wrote: "When a politician on the Left screwed up (Clinton) all the Conservative delighted in throwing stones. This week the Liberals get their turn at a Republican (Sanford)."

The two situations are very different. Clinton did not go AWOL. Clinton did not abandon the ship of state. What Clinton did was stupidly lie at a deposition. Sanford on the other hand went AWOL, abandoned the ship of state and used state funds for the purpose of abandoning the ship of state.

I wonder how many service men and women go AWOL and come back with the excuse of falling in love and how many of them are allowed to go unpunished. Monty is right, this was dereliction of duty. Sanford may not have broken a law as Clinton did but he certainly has proven he is incapable of running the ship of state.

He should be relieved, and not by rousting him out of bed in his pajamas and flying him to Costa Rica, which seems in vogue these days. Lets use the SC Consitution to teach the Hondurans how to properly relieve a head of state of his duties.

Posted by: bevjims1 | July 1, 2009 9:46 AM
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Unfit to serve? Yes.
Because of a lack of what George Bush often referred to, simply, as "good judgement."

Posted by: Sophie2008 | July 1, 2009 9:42 AM
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When you are an executive, your first responsibility is to those whom you have been chosen to serve. Remember when George W. Bush had surgery, and he signed papers that transfered command to Richard B. "Dick" Cheney? It's pretty basic.

In South Carolina, when Sanford disappeared, even the Lieutenant Governor was asking "Where is he?" and "What do we do if we need to make an executive decision?" He did not automatically have the power to do so, even though he was 2nd in command.

The hypocrisy and sex and lying and using taxpayer funds is not unimportant, but it is secondary to the MUCH larger issue of dereliction of duty.

Posted by: LeroyTheRoadie1 | July 1, 2009 9:12 AM
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Dereliction of duty? Yes. Infidelity? Yes.
Hypocrisy? Yes. Fit to serve? No.

The real story here is that Liberals can be just as intolerant, self-righteous, and judgemental as Conservatives.

When a politician on the Left screwed up (Clinton) all the Conservative delighted in throwing stones. This week the Liberals get their turn at a Republican (Sanford).

But it does leave me wondering. We evolved from apes. Does it matter that some of our species reverts back to our ancestor's natural behavior? Really? Why?

Animals never make moral judgements about duty, honor, fidelity, hypocrisy, adultery. Why should we?

Unless we have something animals don't have. A soul.

Posted by: gmacnaughton1 | July 1, 2009 9:08 AM
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Politicians, as a rule, are hypocrites. They're hypocrites when they act saintly, they're hypocrites when they cheat on their partners. They're hypocrites when they call each other out for various misdeeds, and they're hypocrites when they rant against gays while looking for sex in bathrooms or with underage pages. Politicians are generally greedy hypocrites who are in the game for personal gain. The myth of the altruistic politician is just that, a myth. From Nixon to reagan to Clinton to Bush, they lie, they enrich themselves and their friends, they sacrifice sacred lives for power. Governor sanford is no better and no worse than all of the other greedy lying hypocrites who "govern" this country. Is he unfit for office? yes! But so are 99% of his cohort.

Posted by: mtnmanvt | July 1, 2009 8:26 AM
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Yes, he should go for being AWOL (dereliction of duty). It is this simple. There is no comparison between Bill Clinton and Mark Sanford. There is also a hypocrisy factor at work. As my mom says, these things go on all the time. It is human nature, Most people do not like it. However, the Republicans have made a big deal over marital fidelity. They overreached so much during the Bill Clinton scandal, that Bill Clinton's job approval ratings even went up as hypocritical Republicans left office.

Last fall, one of the major party candidates had a background of infidelity. Guess which party? This same party trotted out a former mayor of New York City, who had the same problem. Newt is also all over the airwaves with his infidelity background. Is there no end to the party of hypocrisy?

Posted by: EarlC | July 1, 2009 8:26 AM
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Why should a man be trusted with the government and the responsibility for it affairs at the highest level when he can't even be trusted by his own family?
Sanford has lied, cheated, abandoned his official responsibilities, lied many times over, repeatedly demonstrated terrible bad judgement in his official and personal life, and apparently used taxpayer funds for very personal purposes. As for comparing him to other politicians, he seems to be weaker, poorer in judgement and more untrustworthy than any other recent hypocrite we have come across. And he appears to have a very good woman and 4 fine boys who he has disgraced. This weak loverboy and lying scoundrel needs to resign immediately if any repair is to begin for him personally.

Posted by: enough3 | July 1, 2009 8:19 AM
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There seems to be a concensus here that Sanford should go for hypocricy, going AWOL, misrepresentation, dereliction of duty, treating the public purse as his own and oh, by the way, adultery.

As shameful as the whole Clinton public pillorying was, maybe it has provided the U.S. with the opportunity to confront its own false values. The voyeurism of the press and television is on a par with any sexual "misconduct" of elected officials. If anyone reads "The Gilded Age" he or she can see that corruption and philandering are not new to U.S. politics and the elected representatives must really be judged for their honesty and political decisions, not for their pseudo-Christian "morality".

All that being said, it's time for Sanford to "take a hike".

CB in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | July 1, 2009 6:42 AM
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Well, the reason he is unfit for command of a public leadership position is that you never would know when he might need to run off with a mistress and abandon the ship of state.

It is clear that he is not reliably in charge of the position to which he was elected; he is not reliably in charge of his role in his marriage...for goodness sake, he is not even reliable in charge of his hormones...er, himself.

Who could trust this guy? Probably not even his mistress!

Posted by: Ruffles1 | July 1, 2009 6:42 AM
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More disgraceful and immoral are liberal elected officials. When standards of a party commit to the highest moral standards...it also means trust.
Unfortunatley...those lacking in moral character are given the power over our finances...and we are paying the price for this mistake in the trillions of dollars.

Posted by: freeparking | July 1, 2009 6:36 AM
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This is the most relevant point made by any of the writers on this topic, and hence it has the most comments. Though I don't care for the use of military scenarios and metaphors in public civilian life, Meigs is basically correct. The adultery is secondary. The dereliction of duty is more important.

Also more important than the affair itself is that Sanford (like many of his GOP brethren) is being a flaming liar and hypocrite. Every word out of his mouth is suspect.

Ultimately, the people of SC and their representatives will decide whether this situation is acceptable or not. It's their call.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | July 1, 2009 6:33 AM
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I see one element lost in discussions about politicians and infidelity. If a foreign power wanted to compromise one of our politicians or anywone else who had classified information, they simply need to send a bombshell: one with skirts, not with fins. I am not describing a spy movie, this is a real possibility. I care little about someone else's sex life, and given my own history, would be hypocritical to impugn someone for straying. I have been in power positions and have been severely tempted by someone who could easily have requested favors from me if I had became involved with them. My own daddy warned me of just such a problem. He told me he once had female employees who would have put in "overtime" to get ahead in the business.

Posted by: jamesrichard3 | July 1, 2009 5:22 AM
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Absolutely. Other politicians have had affairs and deserve a punch in the nose (or other parts of their anatomy) from their wives, but their failings did not impair their capacity to govern. Leaving a state with no one in charge, when a hurricane, terrorist attack, or any unforeseen disaster might require an instant response, is absolutely unacceptable. For that matter, the recession requires all politicians to be putting in overtime, not wandering off duty!
I don't care what a leader does with his mistresses -- that's his wife's business, and more power to her for giving him what for -- I just care that he leads and does the job he is elected to do.

Posted by: Hypatia3 | July 1, 2009 5:19 AM
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Well said, General. I agree completely. Even if the possibility of emergency was remote, the issue is that Governor Sanford abandoned his post and should be held accountable.

Posted by: ANetliner | July 1, 2009 2:14 AM
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Wow, yeah, Sanford had to be on hand just in case North Carolina invades South Carolina. When was the last time South Carolina had an emergency where they had to move fast, the Civil War? You have to take "dereliction of duty" with a grain of salt. If not today, then tomorrow - this is the South, remember? It'd not like Sanford is ever desperately needed for anything.

I think the worst part is that he misappropriated - STOLE - the state's money to use as if it was his own. The S.C. Attorney General has just ordered an audit of the records of the governor's trips, and I think they should look into his congressional periods as well. I bet there is an endless trail of treachery and theft in his wake.

Posted by: RichardKefalos | July 1, 2009 2:08 AM
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It is the Republican party which has made "family values" and lying about an affair, into a moral judgement that they obviously think is an important criteria for voters to consider in elections. They also think it is so important that they impeached President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. They should hold the same standard for one of their own.

Since lately there have been so many conservatives "sparking" and "crossing the line", perhaps they know realize what hypocrites they are.

Sanford shows poor judgement, bad character, and has a propensity to lie.
Sounds like George W. Bush.....

Posted by: jantigard | July 1, 2009 2:03 AM
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There are many reasons why this man should be gone from public life. First among them:
Hypocrisy. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: stevel1 | July 1, 2009 1:58 AM
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I think infidelity does matter in this case; but for extenuated reasons.

Like i said before when you Impeach others but not yourself it's more than hypocrisy, it's a mental schism. There is a reinforcing connection that "he alone" was "privileged" to violate the other rules mentioned. King David schism complex I guess. There is a vote that can be used to remove him civilly

Beyond that, I hate this man for impeaching clinton but not himself; for the same exact behavior. This I believe is a general consideration in military morale when men are incited by an officer's blatantly unfair acts. The are judgments by superior officers that resolve this.

Otherwise; AWOL is AWOL, He is commander of the state militia etc right? There is military law and order overlapping. Like commander and chief.

Posted by: ryan_heart | July 1, 2009 12:38 AM
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Spot on General. He is a hypocrite. This is not a religious issue as he is seemingly trying to frame it but merely a public official who rorted money from the state for personal sexaul pleasure. At least Clinton did it in his office not in Argentina.

Posted by: Chops2 | June 30, 2009 11:08 PM
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Let's peel back the onion another layer.

The mere fact that Gov. Sanford continues to mount this incoherent, teary defense of his irresponsible, hypocritical and out-of-control behavior demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is sufficiently unstable and detached from reality as to be unfit to hold office.

Posted by: Itzajob | June 30, 2009 11:03 PM
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He's a pathetic liar and a cheat and a thief. And he hardly bothered denying it.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | June 30, 2009 10:34 PM
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As a matter of principle, I disagree with judging civilian leaders by military standards. It sets the concept of "civilian control of the military" on its head.

And, of course, I disagree with using a military title when you express a political opinion, General.

Posted by: DupontJay | June 30, 2009 9:54 PM
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Mark is a man in turmoil. He is trying to purge the 'demons' within and the more he is cleansing, the more he is uncovering. Meanwhile, he is becoming the shell of the man he always wanted to be. It is not a terminal situation, but he needs to get away from the public limelight, and reclaim what he has lost. His self respect, his dignity, his confidence. Until he can find his way, he will continue walking in the dark. You can see he is crumbling bit by bit, and he is not fit RIGHT NOW to continue with the job that the citizens expect. No man is an island, but right now he feels as though he is on a deserted one. And well he should. Before there is healing of any wound, the poisons and bleeding needs to be complete. And he is not through yet.

Posted by: jakesfriend1 | June 30, 2009 9:47 PM
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Didn't he steal $8000 from South Carolina which he is now offering to "pay back"? If I took $8000 from the till at the bank and then when someone noticed offered to pay it back would everyone be cool with that?
Don't think so.

Posted by: charleswheeler1 | June 30, 2009 9:33 PM
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Gov. Sanford fiddled while South Carolina burned!

Posted by: ryan_heart | June 30, 2009 9:23 PM
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Frankly, I don't care if he was having an affair with another woman/women or, for that matter, another man/men. That is his business and all the moaning he has done on TV just makes him look less like someone that should be running a State.

What is critical here is that he abandoned his post without leaving someone in charge. That is called dereliction of duty and makes him unfit to reside in the Governor's Mansion.

Posted by: mehrenst1 | June 30, 2009 9:12 PM
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The chickens are coming home to roost for the republicans who impeached Clinton. They are being hoisted on their own petard. Of course, I'm sure they have no regrets with putting the country through the impeachment so it's hard to feel sorry for them now that they are being exposed as hypocrites. If they hadn't made this into a big issue with the public, I doubt it would matter as much as it does.

Posted by: AnneR1 | June 30, 2009 8:22 PM
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He abandoned his post. The reason he did isn't very important. If he were in the military he would be court-martialed. If he worked in the private sector he would be fired. But he's a Governor, so accountability is evaded.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | June 30, 2009 7:40 PM
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I don't care if he was golfing in Argentina. He left his office, without security and without informing his staff of his whereabouts. When you become the governor of a state, you are on the job 24/7 and can't leave the office for a secret trip to Argentina.

Posted by: kkussmann | June 30, 2009 7:37 PM
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Bravo General. I don't care about Sanford's sex life, just his acceptance of his responsibilities.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | June 30, 2009 7:34 PM
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We are all sinners and we can all give in to temptation. But the Republican Party is the party that campaigns on "family values" and "strengthening the marriage." And Republicans are not slow to call for the resignation of any Democrat who is caught in adultery, even if they are more successfully having having an affair at the same time.

Stanford's affair was of long duration--it was not a one night stand. And all the while he was a member of the Promise Keepers, an evangelical group of men dedicated to keeping themselves unsullied by that type of sin.

Stanford is a liar and a hypocrite: a man who claimed to live a life of sexual purity and loudly condemned those who did not, while he secretly enjoyed the arms of his mistress.

Why is there a question about his fitness for office?

Posted by: chuckv | June 30, 2009 6:50 PM
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well... duhhhh

Interesting that Sanford is so far down the tubes that folks are finding non-adultery reasons why he is unfit.

Posted by: roboturkey | June 30, 2009 6:24 PM
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The primary issue here is as stated in the article..dereliction of duty..this is the fundamental issue that justifies Sanfords resignation or removal. He abandoned his post for almost a week. He left the State without a leader. He was more concerned about his lover and his emotions than his family and the people of SC. In the business world three consecutive days of no call no show constitutes voluntary resignation from ones position without an acceptable reason. This policy should apply here and be even more stringently adhered to at the gubanatorial level.

Posted by: LBCo | June 30, 2009 6:15 PM
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