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June 25th, 2009
09:48 AM ET

Bennett: Sanford affair hurtful to Republican Party

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN political contributor Bill Bennett says Sanford's affair is hurtful to the GOP."]

Governor Mark Sanford was a rising Republican star before yesterday's stunning admission that he was having an affair. But does his bad behavior reflect on the Republican Party as whole? Is there a credibility issue?

Bill Bennett is a CNN political contributor and radio host of “Morning in America.” He spoke with Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.

Kiran Chetry: These are things people just don't want to hear about in the midst of huge domestic problems. South Carolina has a double digit unemployment rate of 12.1% right now. Governor Sanford became the face of opposition to wasteful spending. And now his constituents find they were left in the lurch. He was in South America with his girlfriend. How does that affect the credibility of conservatives?

Bill Bennett: It doesn't help in South Carolina at all obviously and it doesn't help the Republican Party. I don't know about conservatives but it sure hurts the Republican Party. It's just too much of this, too many of these. Family values are an important part of American life. The Republican Party was founded to combat, as we said in 1854, the twin relics of barbarism – slavery and polygamy. So that was a stand for family values. But it hurts the party when you have so many, if you will, defecting from the cause. Mark Sanford was regarded as a future leader, not anymore. It’s a sad and regrettable thing. Obviously it happens on both sides. But Republicans do hold these values dear. It’s part of our charter. So it's a hurtful and harmful thing, there’s no question about it.

Chetry: You're right, it does happen on both sides. The reason I'm asking about the problem is because it's been a bad few weeks for the GOP. We heard also from Nevada Senator John Ensign, he admitted to an affair. Both of them are conservatives. And both of them not afraid to inject morality into the public discussion so then the question of hypocrisy comes in. How do you maintain that credibility when there seems to a double-talk problem?

Bennett: The short answer is – you live it. Edgar Guest, the old poet, said “I don't want to hear a sermon, I want to see one.” Don't tell me about it, live it. So I think that's the final version, that's the ultimate answer. But look, hypocrisy means that people don't live up to their standards. And it's better to fall short than not to have any standards at all. But it sure is regrettable when you fall short, but particularly when you fall this dramatically short as happened here. The point is to pick up, move on and do better. Look to other people and look for leadership that, if you will, teaches by example and not just by lecture.

Chetry: Let’s switch gears and talk about health care. Republicans are arguing that possibly 119 million people could lose their private insurance. It's according to a study by the Lewin Group that 132 million people would get government sponsored insurance. There's a lot of numbers here, including the $28 million currently uninsured but this public plan could possibly also result in problems, meaning people who are happy with what they have may find that changing. What are your biggest concerns when we talk about finding ways to give health care for everyone and be able to pay for it?

Bennett: It’s an enormously complex issue and if you notice every part of it seems complex. Even the polls are complex. People would like to see all the uninsured have the possibility of being insured. But most Americans are very happy with their health care. And what the president said last night, you know, people are more comfortable with the devil they know than the devil they don't know. Most people do not regard the health care situation that they are in as "the devil." They think it's pretty good.

The risk, obviously, of a government plan is that it crowds out all the private plans. And the advantages of private plans are so clear to people who have them that this is the worry. There’s also increasing worry on the part of the public about the spending that's going on, unbelievable spending, and what effect this will have on the economy. But most Americans, about 80%, like their health care plan. They do think something should be done for folks who don't have it but there are alternatives to that.

The question is what will we get? The president says we're going to get something, but there's still a heck of a lot of disagreement on what that will be. Our worry is let's not trade something that's pretty good…let's not make perfect the enemy of the good. You're not going to get the perfection that many people are dreaming of and you can very easily make things worse and more expensive. That's the position we're taking.

Filed under: Controversy • Politics
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Bernice

    Benefit the vast majority?? I have no clue what vast majority that you are speaking of! They are trying to stop him from doing harm (more than he has already done) to our country! Anyone who does not see this is just blind! $348,000 to terrorise Manhatton with his toy airplane, and then blamed his child for stealing it? You get to pay for that joyride picture!! Billions lost through GM! What a joke! Look what he did to GM! Lost Billions again in Wallstreet! Giving away BILLIONS...trillions before he is done ....all to go to other countries just to help THEM do better? What about the American people who are at the highest unemployment rate EVER! And, you better be watching his unusual companionship with the company known as ACORN! After they ruin the housing, and business( which they are not trying to dismantle) then they are going to destroy the US Constitution! Then what will you say? He is stealing the money off of our children and grandchildren, and refuses to answer any questions about it! Anyone having an affair hurts the country! Our morals went to the pot! But, it is not just the reps! We forget Bill? We forget JFK and Marilyn Monroe? It is ALL of them! BUT, the republican party and people who love thier country, better pull together to stop this administration before they cause full bankrupsy to overtake our country! Who will you blame then? You will have NOONE to ultimately blame but YOURSELVES! Wake up America! I was once a demorcrat! They will NEVER have my vote again! They are just tooooo dangerous with our money and our freedom!

    June 26, 2009 at 8:54 am |
  2. Bob in Florida

    I don't think the Sanford affair is going to hurt the GOP. The continuous attempts to prevent the Obama Admin from getting things accomplished that will actually benefit the vast majority of Americans is hurting the GOP much more.

    June 26, 2009 at 8:13 am |
  3. jerry smith ii

    I'm sorry but eIected officials to do a job. The individual sexual practices are not my concerns, if they do the job elected. I am tired of seeing politicians put to beauty queen standards. It take big Kahunas to this job, and if they do this with being discreet, leave them alone. Focus on what their records are for the common good, versus the scandal the media needs to make. If they fail the public by their indiscretions, then they should fall by the electoral process. But if they are doing the electorate the service elected, then let them be to do the job. History has shown that politicians have a sex drive, apparently it makes them good leaders. I would rather have a leader who makes policy stick, than a stickler not making policy. American Puritanism must be removed to work on greater tasks, otherwise we dilute the issues though petty politics, which is really what is the frustration of most Americans is, not sex.

    June 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm |