They don’t actually make members of Congress more socially conservative than now-former Indiana U.S. Representative Mark Souder.
With his 100 percent National Right to Life rating, and his 94 percent rating from the Family Research Council, Souder was in the forefront of fights against reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and even-reasonably-useful sex education.
As the House’s chief champion of abstinence education, Souder regularly informed his colleagues that: “The fact remains that the only fully reliable way young people can protect themselves from pregnancy or STDs is by abstaining from sex until in a committed, faithful relationship with a partner who is also free of STDs.”
A few years ago, when then House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-California, held a hearing where it was suggested that it might be wise to throw in a little bit of counseling about condoms, Souder growled: “I’m really disappointed that the Democrats squandered an opportunity to take an objective view of abstinence education and instead staged a ‘show trial’ so as to please their liberal base. This hearing wasn’t about the science of the issue—it was about politics.”
Souder always argued that men and women should not have sex until after they are married. And, technically, he held to that view.
He is married. And he has been having sex.
Unfortunately, at least one of his partners wasn’t his wife.
Souder announced last Tuesday that he is quitting the House after it was revealed that he was having an affair with a female staffer. Amusingly, it is being reported that the staffer helped Souder produce pro-abstinence videos.
The comedy quotient of the whole affair spiked when, in admitting to the affair and announcing that he would leave the House Friday, Souder said he was doing so at least in part because he thought critics might ridicule his pro-abstinence campaigning.
Actually, there’s no point in ridiculing Souder. He’s out of politics, permanently. And his seat, while reasonably Republican, is a lot more “in play” today than it was yesterday.
Besides, picking on Souder would require the embrace of an unrealistic assumption: that advocates of abstinence-based education have any sense of irony. As has been well illustrated by Souder’s congressional career -- which began in 1995 after he was swept in with the “Republican revolution” of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another social conservative who preached more than he practiced family values – to be a social conservative does not require much in the way of social awareness.
In fairness, Souder deserves some credit.
In a city where it has become commonplace for social conservatives to rant and rave about everyone else’s sex life, get caught in an act of glaring hypocrisy and act as if nothing untoward has occurred, the gentleman from Indian a displayed an admirable recognition of the fact that he had shamed himself. And he responded with at least a measure of contrition.
After all, Souder quit. There are plenty of “family-values” Republicans – a special shoutout to Louisiana Senator David Vitter and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons – who got caught with strange bedfellows and decided to continue serving as examples of how far hypocrisy can take a politician.