I’m a John Profumo guy living in a Mark Sanford world.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 8, 2013
Me too. Me too.
John Profumo was the disgraced British cabinet minister who left public life humiliated by a famous sex scandal, and spent the rest of his life redeeming himself through selfless service to the poor. It’s worth quoting his 2006 obituary from The Telegraph in light of Mark Sanford’s victory last night in South Carolina:
Profumo’s story is of a man who made one terrible mistake but sought his own redemption in a way which has no precedent in public life either before or since. No one in public life ever did more to atone for his sins; no one behaved with more silent dignity as his name was repeatedly dragged through the mud; and few ended their lives as loved and revered by those who knew him.
Profumo’s transgression came when the Tories had been in power for 11 years. He was then a promising Secretary of State for War, married to the actress Valerie Hobson, star of the film Kind Hearts and Coronets and one of Britain’s leading actresses of stage and screen in the 1940s and 1950s.
On June 5 1963 he resigned after admitting that he had lied to Parliament about his relationship with Christine Keeler, a call-girl who had been – separately – seeing the Russian naval attaché and spy, Yevgeny Ivanov. The Macmillan government never recovered from the scandal and, for that and other reasons, lost the General Election the following year.
Filled with remorse, Profumo never sought to justify himself or seek public sympathy. Instead, for the next four decades he devoted himself to Toynbee Hall, a charitable settlement at Spitalfields in the East End of London. He began by washing dishes, helping with the playgroup and collecting rents. Later he served with the charity’s council, eventually becoming its chairman and then president – the only other person to have held that office was Clement Attlee.
From his tiny office at Toynbee Hall, Profumo kept up a ceaseless flow of letters to anyone who might be able to speak, give money or do anything to assist the charity in its work of helping the poor and down-and-outs in the East End. Largely through his efforts, Toynbee Hall became a national institution.
That’s not how it is with Sanford, a class act who reportedly asked his former wife, on whom he cheated with his Argentine mistress, to run his campaign (she declined). From CNN’s report from Sanford’s victory party:
“I want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances, because that is the reality of our shared humanity,” Sanford said at his victory celebration after defeating his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace.”
Dude, God forgives him, why can’t you?
To paraphrase Léon Bloy, at this point, the tragedy of Mark Sanford’s life is not to have been John Profumo.