Scandals turn politics into persecution in pursuit of perfection

By Kathleen Parker
Sunday, June 6, 2010

When a long-ago South Carolina legislator described his state as "too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum," he might have added, "but just perfect for a bordello!"

Perhaps it is the humidity. Throw in a cocktail, stir with human nature, and you've got that ol' fleeting magic.

But what's with all these kissy-boys spilling the beans on their paramours? Whither chivalry? Whither, alas, manliness?

The women in these romantic imbroglios are steel magnolias to the weeping willows of their undoubtedly regrettable (and perhaps forgettable) dalliances.

No one needs to be reminded of Gov. Mark Sanford's tearful confession of infidelity with his Argentine soul mate. Now-ex-wife Jenny Sanford has turned his betrayal into a cottage industry of feminine empowerment. She's written a book, appeared on talk shows and become the ex officio leading lady of the tragedy formerly known as victimhood.

I am woman, hear me call my lawyer.

In a twist that would be ironic if it weren't so overpoweringly icky, Sanford protégée and Jenny favorite-for-governor Nikki Haley is essentially being branded a harlot by two men claiming to have "known" her. In politics, as in love, timing is everything. These alleged trysts apparently came to mind just as Haley was leading the Republican pack in the final countdown to Tuesday's primary.

Haley, a married mother of two, has denied the claims of both men. One of them is former Haley political consultant Will Folks, who for a time was also Gov. Sanford's director of communications. The other is lobbyist Larry Marchant Jr., who until recently was working for Lt. Gov. André Bauer, also a contender for the governorship.

Like Folks, Marchant claims to have had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with Haley. He felt he had to tell because, oh, he just had to!

Bauer, who paid Marchant $50,000 in consulting fees (before firing him), has challenged Haley to a polygraph test to prove she has been faithful to her husband. Seriously, Mr. Hawthorne?

To outsiders, this is the sort of delicious material that allows comedy writers to sleep in. To South Carolinians, these unfolding events are a blight, a pox, a Deepwater Horizon of gushing shame.

It bears mentioning that the players in this little drama are not equals. I've known Folks, a take-no-prisoners political blogger, for years and take him at his word when he says that a story was about to break about his alleged relationship. Recently married and a new father, he says he was attempting damage control when he broke the story himself.

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