JEFF PEARLMAN

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Mark Sanford: Charles Barkley’s inspiration

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When Charles Barkley was arrested two months back for DUI, my first reaction was, “Any hopes this guy has of running for governor of Alabama in 2014 are dead.”

I stand corrected.

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina and a man Rush Limbaugh considered to be “our JFK” admitted that he had been engaged in an affair with an Argentinian mistress. At the same time many were led to believe the governor had spent last weekend—Father’s Day weekend!—hiking on the Appalachian Trail, he was actually overseas, with his honey bear. His wife and four sons? Home in South Carolina.

Personally, I don’t care whether elected officials cheat on their wives, their kids, they dogs, their elks. But if you’re gonna cheat, don’t be a self-righteous, marriage-is-the-bedrock-of-society morality spewer like Sanford and John Ensign, the Nevada senator who, it turns out, was also gettin’ fr-fr-freaky.

So why does this help Sir Charles?

When Barkley runs—if Barkley runs—he will inevitably lay all the cards on the table. “Yes, I spit on a 13-year-old girl and threw a dude through a glass window. Yes, I’ve slept with many women and I drove drunk and I gambled and gambled and gambled. Yeah, I’ve lined a so-called sinful life. But guess what? I’m human. This is what humans do. We make mistakes, we hurt people, we lack temporary judgment. What I can tell you—promise you—is that I will never, ever spew any of the moralistic bulls%$t—that you’ve come to expect from your leaders. That era is over. I’m as imperfect as anyone else, and here are my scars. Come take a look.”

Perhaps I’m wrong. But I think people are tired of this morality play; of the commercials featuring an aspiring office holder catching butterflies on a beautiful spring day with the wife and kiddies; of hearing about so-and-so going to church every Sunday and believing in Jesus with all his heart. Thanks to Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich and Larry Craig and John Edwards and Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart and Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and Sanford, we’ve learned, well, what we already knew.

We all screw up.

It’s human.