RachelWatch: The Appalachian Trail Gets Surprisingly Steamy

Today: An update on Iran and maybe one or two things about Governor Mark Sanford

Scarlet E-Letters

Rachel started off with the very most cringe-worthy part of the deeply-hilarious-turned-deeply-embarrassing Governor Sanford affair: The electronic mash notes.

[For those of you just emerging from meditation retreats or comas, Governor Mark Sanford (R – South Carolina and south of the border) was missing for several days. Then word got out via his staff that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, so of course on Wednesday he got off a plane from Argentina.

I guess when he went hiking he forgot his compass. Fortunately, the lover he was visiting had one.]

Rachel blushingly showed a screen shot of an e-mail from Sanford to his special friend rather than reading it, and from the bits and pieces of the e-mails I’ve picked up, I can’t blame her. At least you can’t fault the Governor for not being in touch with his feelings.

Rachel was quick to point out that the e-mails are news because it appears that Sanford held his tearful confessional press conference not because of a crisis of conscience or even because of being totally busted at the airport instead of in the woods, but because he knew the paper was about to make the e-mails public.

I’m kind of torn about the public revelation of the e-mails. On the one hand, Sanford has been no friend to the LGBT community and has told other politicians in the same position to resign. I would love to take every possible opportunity to collapse into helpless, snorting laughter while he squirms.

And I see the amazing chance the e-mails offer Mrs. Sanford. It’s rare that an injured spouse gets to sit back and watch the national news media extract such lavish revenge.

I’m not in favor of political sanctimony, and I’m not in favor of causing pain to your spouse and kids.

I am, however, in favor of dumb love letters and the people who risk revealing their foolish, imperfect hearts in writing them. In the midst of all the fun, Sanford has had something excruciatingly private publicized and mocked on an international scale.

I see the points of the people who say it serves him right and the ones who say that no one deserves to have that small shred of privacy taken away.

And while I waver between them, I worry that the Internet postings and the dramatic readings and the literary criticism have created a chilling atmosphere for other, perhaps more legitimate romantics who may now hesitate to take to pen or keyboard.

Do we really need another reason to keep the shields up?

Aside from the strangeness and the sleaze, Sanford’s affair has illustrated all too painfully that infatuation makes you stupid. I hope the infatuated will ignore this massive breach of one man’s privacy (justified or not) and continue to write dumb love letters anyway. If you’re not willing to risk sounding stupid, you’re not all in.

Foreign Affairs

The press conference and just about anything else about the Sanford affair, however, are totally fair game, so let’s get back to the joy of well-deserved ridicule.

Nobody can analyze an overwrought press conference like Rachel.

You can really see her foundation in academic work here: She gives a quick overview, scrutinizes the major themes, takes a closer look at a few telling details one might otherwise miss, and then synthesizes it all back into one magnificent, bizarre whole.

Sanford and Sin

Did you think Rachel was going to miss Sanford’s hypocrisy? Never fear, it gets a whole segment. Rachel welcomed Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who always sounds surprisingly levelheaded about these things. Listening to him on this show, I can never quite believe he was an advisor to Bush.

McKinnon has it right: Other than the heartache Sanford is causing his family, his hypocrisy is the real sin. And one that really seems to send the karmic boomerang flying.

Elected officials of any stripe, never forget while you are doing your moral grandstand dance that the Universe has a marvelous sense of humor.

Of course the way to solve this and let sordid, painful political affairs stay sordid and painful on a small scale is for everyone to stop running for office on stupid “family values” platforms that absurdly suggest that the ideal politician lives his or her life like an Ozzie & Harriet rerun with more praying.

And maybe to stop getting up on those moral high horses with a boost off the backs of people whose lives are a little more Showtime.

Frankly, if one of our elected officials can figure out a way to get a viable single-payer health care system going, he can start seeing a mistress, a mister, or the Flying Wallendas for all I care.

As long as he shuts up about it, doesn’t buy the tightropes and whipped cream with public funds, and doesn’t try to legislate other consenting adults out of forming relationships of their own, we’ll be fine.

And when his wife hits him with a frying pan, he’ll be able to get that taken care of right away.

The Mission

Rachel reported on a wave of violence that’s hitting Iraq even as we’re nearing the Tuesday deadline for U.S. troops to pull out of cities and remain on military bases.

She also noted that Iraq is auctioning off oil contracts to foreign countries for the first time since the country’s oil industry was nationalized.

After Rachel’s closing “Mission accomplished?” I had to pause to chip the icicles off of my television.

Martial Law

Meanwhile, things have gotten even scarier in Iran. Reza Aslan of The Daily Beast joined Rachel to discuss the shockingly vicious tactics the Iranian government seems to have adopted and the ongoing cyberwar.

Here’s hoping we all have a lot more peace and dumb love letters in our lives.