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A Vice, A Sin, A Confession, A Difference? A Tale of Two Confessions

A Vice, A Sin, A Confession, A Difference? A Tale of Two Confessions

Here is a clip from Obama’s most recent press conference in which he confesses to sneaking out and grabbing a smoke and messing up.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

It may not be as big as “read my lips,” but it’s shaping up as a notable broken campaign promise: Barack Obama’s pledge to his wife that he would quit smoking if she let him run for president.

More than two years later, he’s still sneaking cigarettes like a middle-schooler. The model of self-discipline who can zap a fly with the accuracy of a tree frog and sink a three-pointer with Kobe-like grace can’t beat his most public vice.

“I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. I don’t do it in front of my kids, I don’t do it in front of my family, and I would say that I am 95% cured, but there are times where . . . I mess up,” President Obama confessed when asked at his news conference Tuesday if he’s still puffing away.

Here is the video clip or South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in which he confesses to an extramarital affair:

The questions here: Are both confessions any different? Which vice/sin is more damaging and to whom? And do Republicans and Democrats see both confessions differently or the same?


  1. Which sin is more damaging? I think I will have to use my abacus for this one..hold on…okay the calculation is complete, it’s adultery 🙂

    Yes. Republicans are not unfairly dragged through the mud just unequally with democrats.

  2. Not being a Democrat or Republican – I am neither surprised nor particularly bemused at Sanford’s public disgrace because at this point I assume that most politicians who traffic in “family values” are most likely hypocrites and the more pompous they are the more they probably have to hide.

    Having said that, I really don’t feel that personal relationship foibles should disqualify someone from running for office and could care less about this when voting for someone.

    With both Sanford and Ensign my biggest criticism would be how both handled what they had done. It looks like Ensign engaged in potential extortion and Sanford’s attempt to conceal this was so amateurish one has to wonder about his overall intelligence.

    I equally could care less about Obama smoking. Frankly, if the guy wants to have a smoke now and then why on earth should anyone care.

  3. Tucson Vice says

    I would imagine that more people can identify with and understand a smokers struggle, and the occasional relapse. It is also a victimless crime.

    Cheating on one’s wife is less understandable, especially given the risk as a prominent political figure. People are more likely to say “what were they thinking?” Pile on to this the five victims of Gov. Sanford’s debauchery and the hypocritical nature of another family values republican gone bad (people are really getting tired of that) and I think the answer to your question is clear.

  4. The weird thing about Sanford — a total nutjob, if you watched his whole performance — and you who posted this, is you seem to think his romantic relationship is the problem.

    No, the problem is dereliction of duty. He left the state several times without telling anyone: his family, the lieutenant governor, even his own staff.

    When Obama takes a cigarette break, he’s presumably hanging outside the Oval Office. Unless he’s secretly getting on plane and leaving the country without telling anyone every time he has a need to smoke.

  5. As a former pack a day smoker who falls off the wagon a few times every month, I can relate to what Obama is going through. The psychological addiction to cigarettes is far more powerful and harder to break than the physical. If his wife is as understanding as mine when this happens, it is not a big deal in their relationship.

    As for Sanford, none of us can presume to know what goes on in the marriages of other people. He and his wife may have been distant from each other for some time and infidelity is not just a problem for politicians. If every man (or woman) who strayed from their marriage vows had to resign their job, the unemployment rate in this country would be at a staggering high.

    I do not hold Mark Sanford to a higher standard than anyone else when it comes to marital issues. If he in any way betrayed the public trust in this matter, especially if he used tax dollars to travel to Argentina, that is another thing entirely. After all, the issue with Clinton’s affairs was not that he had them, but that he committed and suborned perjury in a court of law when asked about them, thus violating his constitutional oath.

  6. I love this quote from MSNBC’s Keith Olberman, “Where does this place on the list of recent presidential vices, you know among duplicitous war-starting and interns? Where does smoking rank against those two?” http://www.newsy.com/videos/the_800_lb_cigarette_in_the_room Although he seems to think it’s not a big deal, that’s not the perspective of all news organizations.

    The only problem I would have with it is if young teens began to look at smoking as the “cool” thing to do because the president does it. However, they probably would not have known if the media hadn’t exploited it to such a high degree.

  7. The main problem with Sanford is he leaves the state of South Carolina hanging. He doesnt tell anyone where he is going, he just leaves. The Lt. Gov isn’t told, no one! And he admitted he used South Carolina Tax payer dollars one time for these flights to Argentina… Those are the real problems.

    Obama when he has a smoke isn’t leaving the country.

  8. Interesting local connection to the Goldwater Institute

  9. Basil St. John says

    I think it’s all this talk of gay marriage that has led Sanford and Ensign to stray. The idea of gays committing to each other weakened their own wedding vows. This is why gay marriage is so bad for America! WE MUST STOP IT!

  10. Smoking < Adultery. It’s that simple.

    To try and compare the two is a complete joke. Adultery is one of the 10 commandments. Smoking, not so much?

    Don’t try to rationalize this.

  11. Basil is spot on. Gay marriage is clearly the cause of the adulteries of Ensign and Sanford.

    What Basil missed is that gay marriage also leads to smoking cigarettes.

  12. I would have thought the liberalization of marriage has lead to redefining it to mean anything you want – including polygamous relationships.

  13. red renaissance says

    I live for the day when we finally agree on what the standard should be for public officials sexual behavior. Is it “just sex” as it was under Clinton, or is it a career ending betrayal of public trust as it seems to be applied to Republicans. I personally am against infidelity, and I think it betrays a character flaw, but a standard needs to be applied evenly to both parties. It saddens me to see otherwise good Republicans being forced out of office while similar behavior from Democrats is treated with a wink and a nod. Equally sickening is the fake indignation on the part of the media when a Republican messes up. Either go after everyone or else leave the sexual issue alone.

  14. red renaissance:

    The problem with your argument is Sanford called on Clinton to resign and now when he does it is ok? He needs to have the same standards for himself as he has for the other party. That is one of the main reasons people are going after him for this.

    Also he spent TAXPAYER money to go to Argentina last June! The people of south carolina deserve better.

  15. To compare the two Obama would have to disappear for four days and have no one running the county. I don’t condone smoking as I think Obama is setting a horrible example but adultery, leaving the state leaderless is a million times worse.

  16. It’s bizarre to see each party’s responses to each type of behavior. Liberals lean heavily toward smoking as a cardinal sin and believe it should be heavily regulated if not banned altogether. These folks are quick to excuse sexual proclivities by members of their own party but be the first to excoriate Republicans over the same activity.

    Frankly, both personal behavior issues are none of anyones business – unless it involves taxpayer dollars. In the case of Sanford, he is deeply at fault.

    On a much broader scale, Obama and his congressional followers DO want to affect the entire tobacco industry and make everyone pay for it. Essentially, they want to tax the sin of smoking.

    There are some intellectual inconsistencies.

  17. Tucson Vice says

    So the republican party and all of it’s fallwell/limbaugh lunatics can legislate salvation but democrats can’t tax sin?

    Christian republicans can make decisions on and penalize the “sins” of abortion and gay marriage, and this does not present a problem. Dems tell you how much you will pay for your cigarettes, and it’s a call to arms.

    Yes. There are some intellectul inconsistencies.

  18. Tucson Vice,

    I think there’s a huge difference between depriving someone their right to life and creating a right to smoke or a right to a method of having sex. To those libs who “personally oppose” abortion but still believe it’s necessary, instead of subsidizing the practice with tax dollars, why don’t you put a tax on it and use the dollars to help women who choose to have their babies?


    And while we’re at it, why don’t we tax every other type of behavior that poses a burden and cost on society? (All of which I oppose)

    Now that would be intellectually consistent.

    If you think I’m illustrating my point through absurdity, you’re correct. But don’t be surprised if the new administration creates another “czar” to regulate or tax another corner of our lives.

  19. “I would have thought the liberalization of marriage has lead to redefining it to mean anything you want – including polygamous relationships.”

    Hardly. Liberals want marriage to be about equality for all people, but that also means upholding marriage as a partnership, equality between two people. Such a thing is impossible in polygamous relationships. Plus, they only occur in situations that are inherently sexist (or at least patriarchal) and unjust for women and children. Can’t say the same thing about monogamous homosexual relationships.

  20. Tucson Vice says

    Yes, SA. Lets tax abortion seeking rape victims. That’s about the answer I would expect from the christian conservative right.

    No, it isn’t about that at all, actually. It’s about legislating salvation, christianity and other such destructive nonsense, to the detriment of the greater society.

    Then again, I’m sure god has left it to the radical limbaugh right and SA to decide which personal, private decisions are best made by snake handlers, which are to be left alone, and when it is and is not hypocritical, because they say so.


  21. The rest is silence.

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