The thing is, Mark Souder is — how to put this? — unattractive.
Which is not to say he’s ugly. No one’s rushing to carve him in marble, but on the grand continuum of looks, he falls somewhere in the middle, like nearly all of us. If middle age should hold any consolation, it should be that we’re no longer judged on our hawtness quotient. Anyway, I’ve known many objectively homely people who prosper sexually, and I bet you have, too. Good looks isn’t all it takes to be attractive.
Let’s not discuss what Mark Souder looks like today, because really, that has nothing to do with his unattractiveness.
He does not, in the strictest sense of the word, make one want to draw near. Politicians should have at least a modicum of charm, and Souder has none. In my opinion, anyway, which you should maybe discount, because he was elected once and comfortably re-elected six more times, so obviously somebody liked him. But everything about him, to me, just…grated.
He was a right-wing, family-values Christian elected during the 1994 GOP sweep, back in the Newt Gingrich/Contract With America days. He said from the beginning he believed in term limits (the whole Class of ’94 did, remember?) and wouldn’t run for more than three. When it came time to walk the talk, he reneged, saying the census had redrawn his district, so the pledge was nullified. He lost some supporters then, but not enough.
And even if I weren’t inclined to despise him for his politics, there were his campaign ads. In years when he wasn’t being seriously challenged (most of them), he bought up chunks of talk-radio ad space in the fall, and he’d deliver these 30-second cornball sermonettes, in his unattractive, Porky Piggish voice, about the lessons he learned as a boy growing up in Grabill — hard work, faith, family, etc. In what should have been an early hypocrisy alert, it should be noted that when Souder grew up and could live anywhere, he chose not to live in Grabill.
Grabill is a small town in suburban Fort Wayne, Amish, very conservative, that has in recent years thrown in with agri-tourism, in that there are many antique stores and olde-tyme shopping opportunities. Chief among them is Souder’s General Store, run by guess-who’s family, where you can buy penny candy and Amish clothing and the like. The story goes that Souder became a conservative when, as a teenager, he helped with payroll and was appalled at how much the government required they withhold from employee checks. He was, however, also a member of the Apostolic Christian Church, one step to the left of Mennonites and traditionally pacifist. This gave young Mark the best of both worlds — bedrock conservatism and an open-and-shut case for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War.
But guess where he stood on the invasion of Iraq? Shock and awe, bitches! You can see, perhaps, why I find him so deeply unattractive.
(I covered a lot of this territory a couple years ago, here. Read if you’re so inclined.)
As his time in Congress lengthened and his seniority gave him more power, he used it for some frankly awful ends. He’s in favor of the endless drug war, and is author of the Drug-Free Student Loan Amendment, which bars federal financial aid for any student convicted of a drug charge, down to simple possession of marijuana. (He claims it was misinterpreted by the evil Clinton administration, and was only supposed to apply to students so convicted while in college. Oh.) He’s one of those northern-state congressmen who likes to chastise Texans who don’t want to build a giant fence with an accompanying army on their southern border. He’s pro-intelligent design, anti-gay marriage — you know the drill. I see via his website that he’s also opposed to online video poker. Hallelujah, there’s something we can agree on.
He’s also pro-abstinence education, but I’ll leave the chuckling over that to the folks at TPM.
I have to say this: Of all the things I thought might bring Souder down someday, sex is the last thing I would have considered. Money, yes. Sex, no. He’s just not attractive enough. Again, set aside his looks and tell me, what part of this man’s personality, style, affect would be attractive to any woman? Does he seem like the kind of guy who can tell a good story, even a good joke? Do you get the sense all his time in the corridors of power has left him with even a modicum of sophistication, someone you wouldn’t mind being seated next to at a dinner party?
The most interesting thing I ever read about the man came not long after his election, when the Contract With America was proceeding through Congress, and it came time to cut arts funding, so that no museum would ever display another Robert Mapplethorpe photograph again. Souder, I read, was having second thoughts; he’d recently started learning French horn, and was being taught by a member of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. He was troubled to learn that slashing arts funding would hurt a lot more orchestras and children’s theater groups than it would gay photographers and the curators who loved them. Now that’s something I could have talked about with the guy, but when the time came? He voted with the herd. So much for the arts broadening a man.
I think I’ve read too many novels, because when these things happen, when powerful men take proactive steps that they know hold the seeds of their destruction, I want to get inside their heads. Why, Tim Goeglein? Why, Mark Souder? Why, in one’s 50s, when the hot blood of youth has cooled considerably, does one take up with a married woman? She’s no hot-fudge sundae of erotic possibilities, just your basic cute northeast Indiana Republican hausfrau, with a bit more polish than the ones you see shopping at the mall in Christmas sweaters. Maybe, like a lot of guys who fall well short of the George Clooney looks standard, he thought that he would never again find a woman other than his wife willing to go to bed with him, and decided not to deprive himself of the experience. Or maybe he was, like Mark Sanford, actually in love.
But here’s the thing these guys will never, ever understand: It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re all adults here. We know how hard it is to stay married, particularly when you’re separated from your family all week. Everybody’s human, and we all have feet of clay. If you were a Democrat, you might have gotten away with this. (At least, at this writing. The reports are saying this fling would have landed him before the House ethics panel, which suggests it was more than a little slap-and-tickle between adults.) They don’t get that all that family-values crap is a double-edged sword, and if you live by it, you can die by it, too.
Or maybe he’s not that complicated at all. From his statement:
It has been a privilege to be a part of the battle for freedom and the values we share.
Apparently he sees himself as a warrior, too. And that “share” part? Whaddaya mean “we,” white man? I don’t cheat on my husband.
In honor of this happy day, a bloggage fest of Soudernalia:
Souder equates consensual teen sex to date rape.
The youthful indiscretion had been going on six (!!!!) years (!!!!!!!). Trysting spots were public parks, probably because he couldn’t afford a $50 Red Roof Inn room on a congressman’s salary. The rumors were hot and heavy, which I have to assume means much of the Fort Wayne media knew about it. His paramour, “a strawberry blonde, also worked as a Mary Kay cosmetics consultant and is married to a successful homebuilder and Kosciusko County Commissioner. On Facebook, where she maintained a profile, she routinely sent high-fives to Souder — clicking “Like” –when he posted his congressional activities on his page.” All of which I had to learn from the Washington Post. (I expect a weaselly Kevin Leininger column by the end of the week, full of Scripture and admonishments not to judge, etc. And that will be the end of it.)
But let’s luxuriate in it while we can, eh? And now, I click a big Like for all of you, and turn it over to the snark.
Julie Robinson said on May 19, 2010 at 10:32 am
The News-Sentinel coverage was amazingly sparse for such a major story. But I think deadline is at 9 or 10 am these days, and the staff is so small they prolly didn’t have anyone to put on the story. Inexcusable.
My favorite part of the resignation speech is when he blames the “poisonous environment of Washington, D.C.”, where “any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain”. But he used his supposed personal purity for political gain in every election. His evangelical Christianity was pretty much all he had to offer. That and an ambition to name everything after Ronald Reagan, from roads to the nickel.
Souder always reminded me of the kids from Student Council in high school. There were a few who cared about making changes, but most of them were misfits who learned that relentless hard work could gain them power.
On NBC news last night, Souder’s resignation story was less than a minute. Apparently holier-than-thou politicians getting hoisted on their own petards is so common now as to make barely a blip on the political radar.
I’m also thinking he didn’t have the financial resources to fight ethics charges in the House. According to his recently released personal finance statement, he lived mostly on his congressional salary and his outside investments earned him less than $13,000 last year. So much for the success of Souder’s General Store. http://www.jg.net/article/20100515/NEWS03/305159915
Dave said on May 19, 2010 at 10:46 am
I wonder why he decided to come clean at this point. Was there someone who was ready to blow the whistle?
Holly said on May 19, 2010 at 11:01 am
This is off subject but it made me smile. Google Kwibi the gorilla and then watch the video.
Deborah said on May 19, 2010 at 11:04 am
Never underestimate the power of power. It seems to be a huge aphrodisiac to a certain kind of woman. The guy was a congressman, he had to have quite a bit of power in certain areas. Looks, brains, talent, wit, sexual appeal don’t mean a thing to some people, I guess.
moe99 said on May 19, 2010 at 11:29 am
Amen to that observation, Deborah. It’s amazing how acquiring elective office can change one’s personality.
And now for something completely different, an interesting take on the question of ‘whither journalism and whither the internet?’
ROgirl said on May 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm
I’m still mulling over the concept of stoner cuisine, as described in the NYT Food Section today, whereby the innovations of some chefs are derived from the creative result of that age-old question, “What’s good to eat when you’re high?”
Chris said on May 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm
Just a question about the Souder thing – he called it a “mutual” relationship. What is that supposed to mean? I mean its assuemed two people where involved – hence mutual – unless ‘he likes to – well I won’t go there
Colleen said on May 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm
Wow. Kevin was masterful today…first paragraph about forgiveness and the Bible, later on in the story about Souder, he manages to skewer Obama and call him a liar.
alex said on May 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm
moe, that article on the nothing economy was fab. I could easily become a fan of her writing.
Chris, I also thought “mutual relationship” was a strange way for Souder to describe it. From a Freudian standpoint, I can only speculate that maybe this was his first such.
On edit: Just checked out Kevin Leininger, Colleen, and the jab at Obama was, as usual, gratuitous and made absolutely no sense in the context in which it was placed. He manages to call the president a liar or a socialist no matter what he’s writing about. I thought the biggest stretch was the time he was writing about an adult novelty store in New Haven and managed to make it about Obama. His work has become pretty much like that of the proverbial padded cell inmate smearing his feces on the wall.
Julie Robinson said on May 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm
Most of the time I don’t even read Leininger as he is just too absurd. But aside from the inevitable Obama remark, I thought he came down pretty hard on Souder, and that surprised me. I’m already getting tired of the whole thing, and I’m ticked off about the amount of $$$ needed for a special election. I actually think Leininger has a good point there.
Colleen said on May 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm
Julie…me too, that’s why I hated how the whole gratuitous Obama remark detracted from the otherwise good points he was making.
paddyo' said on May 19, 2010 at 3:43 pm
Hey, all you Fort Waynnnn. . . ians? ites? ers?
Whichever . . . I’m wondering about this gent Leininger. When you made references to reading him this morning, I went looking at the FW paper online, assuming he was a columnist or something. All I could find initially, though, were a couple of news stories about the Souder affair, with him as the reporter. Only after searching for “Leininger” did I actually find the offending COLUMN. (No listing or heading or tab that I could find, BTW, for “columns/opinion” on the paper’s website, but that’s a separate quibble . . . )
So, OK, he’s a columnist. How come he’s covering the story as a reporter one day, then columnizing about it the next? I know it’s a big local story and all, but I’m guessing the keepers of the News-Sentinel must not think it’s any big deal to have staff writers crossing back and forth between facts and commentary, eh? Or is it just that they don’t have enough bodies to cover big local stories anymore (if they ever did)?
alex said on May 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm
Well, paddyo’, one of the criticisms I’ve heard leveled at the local media regarding the Souder story is that we no longer have any investigative journalists in the Fort and supposedly this story has been floating around for some time.
And, yeah, just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable to have a columnist reporting on the same things he’s opinionating about. This changed notably during the 2008 presidential campaign, when Leininger both covered Obama’s visits to Fort Wayne as news stories and wrote derisive, shoddy opinion pieces about Obama. Of course, a few years ago it was unthinkable that any local columnist would be allowed to write the inflammatory yet incoherent dreck that guy produces, but times have changed.
paddyo' said on May 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm
Thanks, Alex, that’s kinda what I figured. It was once a fairly firm separation in newsrooms (I know, I know — except for sportswriters who also dabble in columns, but they shouldn’t get a pass, either), but I’ve worked a place or two where the “political reporter” also got to play “political analyst” and “political editor” and . . . well, it was pretty clear it was opinion, whatever the title.
Like everything else, that old separation has eroded badly in these “do-less-with-more” times (shout out to David Simon and The Bal’mer Sun of “The Wire”!), hasn’t it …
paddyo' said on May 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm
Oops, previous comment: “do MORE with LESS,” I mean! (Though some would argue that at a few still-fattish papers, my original wording might apply . . . )
LAMary said on May 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm
I know it’s a midwestern thing, but I can’t deal with the ad above the Leininger article which says “so you think you’re good at cornhole?”
I never thought any such thing.
Sue said on May 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm
Dave @ 2: Pence tattled.
brian stouder said on May 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm
I never thought any such thing.
Mary – I believe you just won the thread!*
Although I WILL say, I think that this whole cornhole thing came from our Buckeye friends, and wan’t a native Hoosier thing.
*and indeed, it was sly of you to make end the last thread on 69, but we digress!
nancy said on May 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm
Alex summed it up pretty well, Paddy. Bottom line, not enough bodies, and Kevin does have a loyal, although dwindling, following of right-wing boneheads who like him and write letters to the editor about him. If you took out the utterly gratuitous Obama dig, that column could actually be something I could agree with. But they don’t have many editors worth their paycheck at that dump anymore, either.
Dexter said on May 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm
Henry Kissinger , designer of the latter war effort against the country of Viet Nam, was banging starlets two at a time, just like the infamous Fredo Corleone.
Nothing wrong with that…Henry was single and entitled to great joys in bed.
I am just echoing sentiments in this thread confirming that it is power that is the “Spanish Fly” around Washington. Yeah, when ‘People Magazine’ was 35 cents, Kissinger would frequently make the cover, in black tie, a strapless-gowned babe with shiny white teeth ear to ear hanging onto his arm at some big dinner banquet. And Kissinger was/is one UGLY sumbitch.
nancy said on May 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm
Dowd called Souder a “goober.” That’s him in six little letters, for real.
nancy said on May 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm
Those of you wondering who Mr. Souder was stepping out on, a shot of the generally happy-to-be-in-the-background Mrs. S, via Dexter.
Disclaimer: I do not approve of extramarital activity on the grounds one’s wife has become frumpy. She’s his age (60) and his equal in looks.
LAMary said on May 19, 2010 at 7:19 pm
Mr. Souder is not good looking and devoid of sex appeal. Conventional good looks don’t do much for me these days, though. The ex was/is a very good looking man, and he’s the ex. This guy can come over and peruse my pantry any time:
MichaelG said on May 19, 2010 at 7:21 pm
Dexter, I absolutely agree with you about the jerk who claimed to be a Viet Nam Vet. That’s a mortal sin. Period.
I just looked at that Leininger article and there’s nothing about “cornhole” to be seen. Maybe somebody told them.
What these jerks never seem to get is that it’s the hypocrisy. I don’t give a hoot who is bonking whom. It’s none of my business. It’s the bloody hypocrisy and the “that stuff only applies to the little people” attitude.
brian stouder said on May 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm
Well, I read the Leininger thing, down to the cheap-shot at the president, and then that was it.
Add him to the list of definitive examples of a “goober”.
I listened to about 10 minutes of local talk radio yesterday afternoon, which was wall-to-wall about our disgraced and fundamentally dishonest congressional philanderer, and that was enough of an excursion into gooberdom to last me a long, long time. Our “new” local rightwing radio gasbag was all serious and stentorian, with heartfelt exhortations to one and all to remember that none of us are perfect, and all of us have things we’re not proud of, and so on and so forth, ad nauseum. No doubt, he’d be equally sensitive and heartfelt if some tawdry scandal overwhelmed one of those damned Democrats that somehow managed to steal whatever elections they won. Right?
The rank hypocrisy (to use Leininger’s word) was almost overpowering; it was time to shut off the radio.
If I was a local reporter, Id go to work on a numbers story. Specifically, how much is the special election going to cost? How much money is in Souder’s campaign warchest? How much does he get to keep outright, and/or how much must be utilized for campaigns (and controlled by him, no doubt). How much is his pension going to be? When does it start paying out?
Plus, I’d dig up every damned quote I could find, wherein he attacks Democrats for moral failings and “hypocrisy”, and after every dozen, I’d repeat his phrase in his resignation speech about the “poisoned atmosphere” in Washington.
By the way – a couple friends and I were discussing that somewhat bizarre exit speech of his, and they pointed out something I hadn’t noticed: his two departures from his prepared text were both somewhat self-righteous and combative (most strikingly including the one about being ‘sick and tired’ of politicians who drag their wronged spouses into the bright lights with them, for such terrible speeches) – and it seemed to us that THAT really encapsulates Souder’s problem.
He had the prepared text – he knew what he had to do – and then at crunch time he couldn’t resist giving free reign to his feelings and impulses; he had to assert that really, he’s the better man, afterall. Local talk radio was surely nodding vigorously in agreement
alex said on May 19, 2010 at 8:51 pm
And as Nance said in the last thread, why should we believe his wife didn’t tell him to go twist in the wind by his own damned self? Why should we believe anything he’s telling us? But the yadda yadda about how good of him to have spared his wife got a lot of play in all of the watercooler conversations I heard today.
nancy said on May 19, 2010 at 9:11 pm
Someone just suggested I visit his Facebook page. Under his profile picture: “Poke Mark.” Ha ha ha. Several photos of him with the missus, one at Mt. Rushmore, where they went to lobby to have Reagan added.
I think we should put his paramour up there, to thank her for taking him out of Washington.
Jeff Pruitt said on May 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm
I guess anyone can get laid in “Worshington” these days
alex said on May 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm
Jeff Pruitt, the only vote I’ve ever given the man was “least likely to.” He has disappointed me and hundreds of thousands of others.
Kim said on May 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm
Just like the old Bible taught us, pride comes before the fall. God knows there was plenty of pride in advance of the 60-y-o sexpot’s spectacular tumble. Which, I admit, I am enjoying very much only because of Nance’s mentions of the guy – so thanks for that. As for the sex appeal factor, De gustibus non est disputandum, right? Though even that’s a stretch.
Dexter said on May 20, 2010 at 2:08 am
MichaelG: This Blumenthal really got in my kitchen. I woke up this past morning with a seething hatred brewing. Then it became a topic on the XM station I listen to and I called in and told the nation what I thought of him. Thank God it is an XL channel because I used some really bad words.
Well, I felt better after that call, the host thanked me sincerely for calling in, and the out of control anger has subsided. I am not supposed to get all worked up over this stuff. I used to get all up-tight about Nixon, and then I read an article by the late great George Carlin who wrote of having three heart attacks because he kept getting all crazy about things which he had little or no control over.
Long before The Serenity Prayer became my mantra, I would try to not let rampant hate drive me nuts for a day or so.
John said on May 20, 2010 at 8:40 am
In Defense Of Frumpy Looking Women Everywhere: My experience has shown me that tigers often lie beneath the rumpled exterior. Just saying.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 20, 2010 at 9:28 am
I’ve been reluctant to raise my hand or stand at events when veterans are asked to be recognized, and until a few years ago I didn’t join the section of pow-wow openings when veterans are asked to join in a walk around the circle, until a friend of mine smacked me upside the head and pointed out “it’s not about you, idiot, get out there.”
But while I did volunteer and take the oath of enlistment and have an honorable discharge, I only defended Virginia from invasion by Maryland for a stretch, which was much safer to do in the early 1980’s than it was in the 1860’s, and for my minimal and non-hazardous service, other than legal documents for our non-profit board and when donating blood, it just seems odd for me to call myself a “veteran.”
Having said all that, I not only find myself rather put off my Blumenthal’s attempts at rationalization, but I don’t get why more isn’t being made of the closing aside in so many of these stories about his also claiming to be captain of the Harvard swim team. Dude, you went to Harvard. Let it alone!
I can’t feel good about intentionally voting (as I’ve no doubt unintentionally done in the past) for someone who has to trim the truth that closely and still feels entitled to defend their cutting. One or two glancing allusions to Vietnam-era service can get misinterpreted, but that’s not what we’re looking at. This is compulsive resume inflation.
It was quite satisfying to help spike an application for a rather high Scouting award when I served on a committee a few years ago, when I noticed that along with comments about “my friend’s service to our country in Vietnam,” there was elsewhere in the sheaf of documents a mention of his high school work which made it clear he graduated the same year I did, 1978. Uh, no — wearing canvas and leather paratrooper boots on campouts doesn’t make you a Vietnam vet.
Dave said on May 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm
I wonder what percent of our legislators from both sides of the aisle have “fooled around” while serving in Washington. Those, like Souder, who get caught may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Tom Wolf said on May 21, 2010 at 12:06 am
Just wanted to say thanks for letting me comment…for the record I spent a year at Ball State as a photographer for the Daily News and intended to pursue journalism as a career…reality set in and I knew didn’t have the stomach for the behind the scenes crap that went on…ask anyone at the N-S that was there in the 80’s about Don Yeager…nobody in the local media has answered the question as to why Souder wasn’t called out on it…so Alex, please enlighten me why a candidate campaigning on “christian values” wasn’t asked about his mistress when everyone new about it. Spare me the “it was just a rumor” crap. Any investigative reporter worth their ass would have grabbed that tidbit and ran with it.
brian stouder said on May 21, 2010 at 9:22 am
Tom, as John Q Public, let me just say – agreed. This failing within the media and officialdom SHOULD be the next story
And to add insult to injury, I have been taken aback by how proudly(!) so many people stepped forward to somewhat prouldy say something like “oh, I heard rumors and tales about this 6 months ago”. The list includes Steve Shine, the Allen County Republican Party Chairman, and Ryan Elijah, a tv newscaster for Indiana News Center (channel 21 & 33). It seems that they (and others) would rather be seen as in the know and less than zealous about their duties, than surprised (and less than zealous in their duties).
One would think that zeal would trump complicity for somebody around here, sometime;
but one would, apparently, be wrong about that
Suzanne said on May 22, 2010 at 12:46 am
Too bad Larry Life didn’t live long enough to see this. Remember all the Souder noise when IPFW’s Theatre Department presented Corpus Christi?
Heard on the local news tonight that Ryan Elijah has joined the crowd running for his seat, and Liz Brown and Stutzman and maybe David Long.
Gloria said on May 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm
I thought it was hilarious that the Allen County Republican Party staffers had to look out the window and see “Souder Resigns.” Classic.