Rep. Mark Souder has announced his retirement from Congress, citing his affair with a female staffer. The Indiana Republican has been a staunch advocate of conservative social positions such as abstinence-only education and blocking gay marriage laws. "I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff," he said in a statement. "I am so ashamed to have hurt those I love." When Souder told GOP leadership of the affair, he was asked to resign. How does the congressman's history inform this incident?
- Souder: Washington's Role The congressman's statement accepted most of the responsibility. "In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. ... I am resigning rather than put my family through that painful, drawn-out process. Diane and my family were more than willing to stand here with me. We are a committed family. But the error is mine, and I should bear the responsibility."
- He's No Partisan Republican The New York Times' Carl Hulse calls Souder "an evangelical Christian who frustrated Republican leaders when the party controlled the House by sometimes breaking from the party line on spending and other issues. ... Souder was unlikely to find much support from the leadership, which is focused on trying to recapture the House in November and has taken action against other members who have been accused of misconduct."
- Had Shaky Electoral Prospects The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake report, "The revelations regarding Souder come two weeks after he survived a serious primary challenge from car dealer Bob Thomas who spent considerable sums of his own money on the race. Souder won the primary with less than 50 percent of the vote." They say GOP leadership will select a replacement, one who is presumably more electable.
- His All-Consuming Anti-Gay Rights Fight AMERICAblog's Joe Sudbay chronicles that "Souder has long been a crusader in the House against same-sex marriage. This year, he signed an amicus brief in a case against D.C.'s new marriage law. ... He also stated, 'I'm a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third.'" Sudbay also says Souder "explained how gay marriage was going to take over the country."
- The Dark Irony FireDogLake's Teddy Partridge fumes, "This career-ending dalliance is especially ironic given Souder’s witch-hunts, fake audits, and harassment of San Francisco AIDS prevention agencies early this century, which diverted scarce resources and may have cost lives. ... The AIDS prevention non-profit agency I worked for early this century was almost destroyed by ‘family values conservative’ Mark Souder’s witch hunts and prurience. He was, filling some undeserved chairmanship role in the GOP House, convinced that our HIV/AIDS prevention messaging to sexually active adults was too explicit and violated the odious Helms amendment preventing sexually transmitted disease prevention messaging from, um, talking about sex."
- Didn't Buy Own 'Family Values' Positions Talking Points Memo's Justin Elliott calls Souder "a champion of abstinence education and traditional family values. ... Fox News, which first reported the development, suggests that there may be ethical impropriety of some kind. The eight-term Indiana congressman is, of course, a vocal proponent of traditional family values. He has been married since 1974 and has three grown children." Elliott reports that Souder and his mistress previously recorded a Web video espousing abstinence.