TERRE HAUTE —
If Mark Souder is capable of sexual misconduct, it could happen to anyone.
— Penny Nance, Concerned Women of America.
Actually, no, it can’t happen to anyone.
Sexual misconduct — a.k.a. cheating on your wife for several years with a woman who is cheating on her husband — is not something that “happens” to a person.
Catching a cold happens to you. Being broadsided by a texting driver happens to you. Getting food poisoning in a 5-star restaurant happens to you. Discovering that your husband — the one who makes speeches about God, family values and the virtues of sexual abstinence — is a cheater? That also happens to you.
But cheating requires a transitive and active verb. Cheating is predicated on a conscious choice and action. Each and every time an adulterous assignation is made, kept and not revealed, deliberate choices are made.
Penny Nance, the CEO of the conservative Concerned Women for America, was not alone in her misuse of verbs when she talked to the Indy Star about the resignation of U.S. Rep. Mark Souder. The 3rd District Indiana Congressman has had trouble, himself, articulating what happened versus what he consciously chose to do on his own.
From the get-go of his May 18 news confessional in Fort Wayne, Souder seemed disinclined to use the active voice. Ten sentences into his resignation speech — half way — he finally got around to saying he’d done something wrong: “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.”
No “extramarital affair” or “infidelity” for Souder. Typical of the tone of his entire statement, he euphemized his sin into “a mutual relationship.” Worse, the revelation was preceded by a fair amount of self-aggrandizement, including the declaration that the “honor” of his eight terms in Congress was “a blessing and a responsibility given from God.”
That should come as a surprise to the voters of the 3rd District who wrote campaign checks and showed up at the polls to send Souder to Washington all those years. If they’d known God had stacked the deck, they could have stayed home or funneled their contributions elsewhere.
Souder’s admission also was preceded by whining that teetered on victim-speak. Of his part in “the battle for freedom and the values we share,” the GOP representative lamented, “It has been all consuming for me to do this job well, especially in a district with costly, competitive elections every two years, I do not have any sort of ‘normal’ life — for family, for friends, for church, for community.”
News flash for Souder: Most Indiana districts are competitive and costly for those who want to represent one in Congress. Likewise, nobody in the House or Senate has a “normal” life. After 16 years, Souder knows that. Mentioning both as he inched closer to confessing his infidelity, indicates he considers them mitigating evidence for his behavior, which they most surely are not.
All of that, however, was just a warm-up for the blame-shifting, full-blown victim-speak that Souder employed in the second-half of his statement.
“In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain,” he said. “I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.”
Wrong voice again.
The poisonous atmosphere of Washington did not cause adultery to happen to Souder and his girlfriend, Tracey Meadows Jackson. Souder did not choose to resign because Washington’s partisan politics seize upon and twist any personal failing. Like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (who doesn’t live in Washington), Souder chose to resign because the options are few when somebody squeals on a holier-than-thou, family-values zealot and outs him as a cheating, lying, hypocritical politician.
Sanford dragged it out. Souder didn’t. Does the latter deserve a gold star? Both men’s choice to preach one path and follow another caused the major damage to their families. Anything after merely dictates how long the wrong-doer stays in the floodlights.
Even when Souder did manage some active voice and transitive verbs in his statement, he neutralized them. Noting that he is “sick of politicians who drag their spouses up in front of the cameras rather than confront the problem they caused,” he then shaved the edges off by insisting that his family had been more than willing to stand with him.
After finally uttering “… the error is mine and I should bear the responsibility … I am so ashamed to have hurt those I love. I am so sorry to have let so many friends down …” Souder couldn’t keep the whiner and braggart quiet: “By stepping aside, my mistake cannot be used as a political football in a partisan attempt to undermine the cause for which I have labored all my adult life.”
Oh, please. A family-values proponent is immortalized on video discussing the wonderfulness of sexual abstinence with his extramarital lover. Nobody needs a football. The game is over.
Souder insisted his cause is “greater than individuals. It is based upon eternal truths” and values that are “just and right.” In fact, “America will survive and thrive when anchored in those values.”
Like so many fallen “values” politicians, Souder felt compelled to say he is comforted because “God is a gracious and forgiving God to those who sincerely seek his forgiveness as I do.”
Thanks for sharing. If people seeking political office concentrated more on practicing their faith than on trumpeting it, their relationship with God might remain as it should, close and deeply personal. When they stumble, it might not be so clumsily nor their fall so hard.
Souder finished by reciting his plans: To focus “upon repairing my marriage, earning back the trust of my family and my community, and renewing my walk with the Lord.” And he made a request.
“I humbly ask you,” he said to the gathered news media, “for the sake of my family, that you respect our privacy in this difficult time.”
Note the subtle transfer of responsibility, once again. Ask the disgraced Congressman to address his fundamental dishonesty and years of hypocrisy, demand something more than self-serving, blame-gaming clichés, and you — not he — will be guilty of disrespecting his family.
That final request reveals a man who, obviously, needs a lot of training to get in shape for a renewed walk with the Lord.
Stephanie Salter can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
If Mark Souder is capable of sexual misconduct, it could happen to anyone.
- Stephanie Salter
STEPHANIE SALTER: The more things change, the more they … change
What the late, great Pittsburgh Pirates slugger knew, so knew the ancient philosopher, Heraclitus, the Buddha and Andy Warhol.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Making room for the least among us — and their kin
Christmas. Quiet time. Down time. Not exactly the kind of day most folks tend to contemplate their fellow Americans behind bars. And yet, the United States leads the world in percentage of population in jail or prison, far ahead of second-place Russia. About 2.3 million people — nearly one in 100 adults — are incarcerated in this country.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Carols for the worn, weary and wigged out
For those who are agog and aglow with “the season” — you who start bouncing and humming in Toys R Us at the intro guitar notes of “Jingle Bell Rock” — better search elsewhere for a soul mate.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Times change. Things disappear. Toilet paper here to stay
You may have seen an email going around with “Nine Things That Will Disappear in Our Lifetime.”
STEPHANIE SALTER: What I learned on election day
When I identified myself as a volunteer for the non-incumbent mayoral candidate, the woman on the other end of the line cut me off. “Save your breath, dear,” she said.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Of politics, protests, coupons and e-wishes
It’s roundup time again, that periodic hunting down and herding together of items that have but one thing in common: They grabbed me.
STEPHANIE SALTER: ‘Understandable’ not the same as ‘wise’
Because I’m not running for office and don’t plan to, I figure I am free to publicly question the designation of some 30 stretches of city streets as “memorial ways” for police and firefighters killed on the job.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Where have all the protest songs gone?
A telling moment came during the annual Eugene V. Debs award banquet late last month, when the career protest singer and songwriter, Anne Feeney, implored a huge Hulman Center audience to join her for the refrain of “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
STEPHANIE SALTER: It’s business as usual, but what does it cost to stay angry?
As painful and profoundly sad as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has been, I found the actual day a balm.
STEPHANIE SALTER: The unfortunate bottom line … St. Ann’s will close
Ever since word came down that St. Ann Church and Parish have less than a year to live, there’s been much invoking of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief.
STEPHANIE SALTER: The Economy: One complex, thorny, bedeviling issue
No matter how much time and energy I spend trying to understand the Hydra we blithely call “The Economy,” I often worry that its mystery will forever elude me.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Thinking, now and then, about now and then
I am lying, poolside, in a plastic chaise lounge, listening to pop music and watching water droplets dry on my skin.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Thousands of things she would have missed
For several years, until she received an official information packet in the mail, my mother planned to donate her body to medical research.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Marriage? There’s an app for that ... but it’s tricky
As I watched all the happy people celebrating passage of New York’s same-sex marriage law, I couldn’t help but project to a time when Indiana adopts a similar statute.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Back in the saddle — with the usual burr under it
I really didn’t expect to be gone nearly six months, but then, that’s par for the course these days: What I expect to happen and what actually occurs are often about 180 degrees apart.
STEPHANIE SALTER: On the other hand … we’ll have a lot fewer leaves to rake
Editor’s Note: Former Tribune-Star Assistant Editor Stephanie Salter’s column resumes today in freelance form and will appear on this page every other Sunday.
TERRE HAUTE — My neighbor, Andy, had just lowered the bamboo blinds on his front porch when we heard a mournful sound.
This was about as much fun as a doubleheader split could get for Rose-Hulman’s baseball team.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Another batch of my status-quo-defending misinformation on schools
The day after state schools chief Tony Bennett responded to my three-column education series, a longtime friend and veteran teacher called.
“I just read the superintendent’s rebuttal in the Tribune-Star,” my friend said. “All I can conclude from it is that you are a dumbass. Welcome to the club. Anybody who doesn’t buy into his vision of education reform is considered a dumbass.”
Stephanie Salter: One person’s roundup of significant folks lost in 2010
Every late December, as I comb through lists of notable deaths, I swear I will never repeat the process. It takes days of Internet research, mostly because I get distracted by looking up people about whom I know nothing.
Stephanie Salter: I've got some really good news for some of you guys
Of all the sentences I’ve imagined writing in my long, moss-covered newspaper career, this is not one of them: I am quitting my job to get married.
Stephanie Salter: A little history of mandated intermingling among U.S. troops
Back in July 1948, when President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, predictions for its effect on the U.S. military were dire. Sen. Richard Brevard Russell Jr. of Georgia echoed the sentiments of millions of Americans in an address from the Senate floor.
Stephanie Salter: Another wronged woman becomes the nation’s paper doll
A few hours after the death of Elizabeth Edwards last week, the creepy, contemporary American ritual of vicarious grieving began in cyberspace.
“You are with your son now. Rest in peace.”
Stephanie Salter: You’ve heard from me — now, listen to the teachers
As e-mail from Indiana teachers and principals continues to pour into my box, the portrait of this beleaguered group grows more poignant each day.
STEPHANIE SALTER: Have you heard Indiana’s schools are failing? It’s a lie
In Gov. Mitch Daniels’ recent state budget PowerPoint, he put up a comparison chart: The percentage of Indiana public school students who’ve attained an advanced level of math achievement versus “the world.” Hoosiers lag behind the national average, trailing such states as Massachusetts, Oregon and New York, and such nations as Poland and Latvia.
Stephanie Salter: Bashing teachers in the name of education reform
As I read the Tribune-Star’s recent Page 1 news packages about the governor’s push for education reform, I kept seeing faces.
Stephanie Salter: After the turkey and before the pie, a round of giving thanks
As my colleague Alicia Morgan wrote last week, there is no downside to taking time out now and then to list and truly appreciate our blessings.
STEPHANIE SALTER: A story of just one corporate lobby ‘investing in advocacy’
For those of you who know in your marrow that the president’s attempt to overhaul the U.S. health care system proves his socialist agenda, take the day off. What reporter Drew Armstrong of Bloomberg News shared this past week will be of no interest to you.
Stephanie Salter: Inside today’s grab bag …: Stamps, bands and GOP $$$
It’s time for another roundup of items, little ideas that can’t grow big enough for a whole column, but just won’t go away from my field of focus.
Stephanie Salter: Can’t make a decision? Consult strangers on the ’Net
A day after I heard screenwriter and director Nora Ephron talking on NPR about that moment in the aging process when you realize you are no longer cut out to be au courant, that moment arrived for me.
Stephanie Salter: The years may pass, but a friend will always ride shotgun
I should have known there would be a first-aid kit. Susan provided for every contingency.
How like her to have tucked a 106-piece, American Medical Association-approved kit under the passenger seat of her Honda Accord. How like me not to have discovered it until I was deep cleaning the car to get it ready to sell.
- More Stephanie Salter Headlines
- STEPHANIE SALTER: The more things change, the more they … change