Comeback for Mark Sanford?

posted at 5:25 pm on August 23, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

At one time, Mark Sanford was one of the rising stars of the Republican Party.  A firm fiscal conservative, the South Carolina governor impressed people with his commitment to ending government pork while working inside the party establishment well enough to become chair of the highly influential Republican Governors Association.  A walk on the wild side with an Argentinian mistress later, along with some bizarre behavior, and Sanford quickly imploded.  He managed to finish his term in office but disappeared from public view immediately afterward, attempting to come to grips with a divorce and humiliation.

ABC News’ Gregory Simmons interviewed Sanford this week, who is looking to make a comeback — but not as a candidate:

Noting a political climate fixated on fiscal restraint, some have said Sanford’s record as a congressman and then as governor of South Carolina show he was “Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.” …

Sanford disappeared from the public eye after his term as governor ended in January and has only recently re-emerged. In the past two weeks, he has appeared on a few political talk shows and given several media interviews, saying repeatedly he is deeply troubled by the spending trajectory of the United States, an anxiety he cites as the impetus for his decision to speak out once more:

“I still care deeply about the fiscal path of this county,” Sanford said. “I have been relatively sequestered but I spent 20 years of my life immersed in these issues. I have a lot of thoughts specifically on the debt and spending.”

Sanford said the Tea Party is “onto something.”

“They are certainly tapping into underlying angst,” he said. “There is a deep anxiety driving the Tea Party that I think is justified. It’s a question of equity and whether life will ever return to the way it was before. I think their instincts are right on about sustainability.”

The former governor admitted that transitioning back into the media spotlight has been difficult, saying, “I am climbing out of my cocoon. It’s pretty scary and I don’t want to get my head chopped off again. I don’t know where my life goes next but I do know that hiding out on a farm doesn’t get you there.”

In terms of any political future, Sanford was frank in his assessment. “I’m a realist and I see my options being very limited,” he said of his political future.

I’m one of those who see Sanford as something of a Greek tragedy.  As a principled fiscal conservative, Sanford was Tea Party before Rick Santelli’s rant launched the movement in early 2009.  Sanford famously carried two piglets into a South Carolina legislative session to protest the budget produced by both parties, outraging legislators that overrode Sanford’s line-item vetoes — more than a hundred of them — but making his point with voters, who rewarded Sanford with a second term.  (He named the piglets “Pork” and “Barrel”.)  Sanford went on the road spreading the conservative philosophy of small government and fiscal discipline and looked like the kind of Republican who could both challenge the establishment and work within it for real change.

Unfortunately, Sanford completely undid himself with his affair.  It wasn’t the affair itself that created Sanford’s problem; politicians have had affairs and survived them, most notably and notoriously Bill Clinton, who not only had an affair with an intern but lied about it under oath.  Sanford mysteriously disappeared from the state without anyone knowing where he was, leaving his staff to tell the press that he was hiking on Appalachian trails when he was really out of the country with his girlfriend.  He abandoned his post and the trust of South Carolina voters, and then made a series of strange media appearances that completely undermined confidence in his leadership and raised questions about his mental state.

I hope that Sanford is in a better frame of mind, because when he speaks about fiscal conservatism, he is a compelling and inspiring figure.  But it will take a lot of work to make people forget the summer of 2009, and that goes straight to his credibility no matter what role he wants to take in politics.  Sanford is right to conclude that he has no real future as a candidate, but if he’s past his strange midlife crisis, he could provide some intellectual firepower as an activist for the limited-government movement.

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Call me in 100 years.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on August 23, 2011 at 5:29 PM

Love the guy on policy. Family matters is another story.

taney71 on August 23, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Unless it cripples you for life.

SlaveDog on August 23, 2011 at 5:31 PM

People call Bachmann a flake, but Sanford is the one who actually left the country, while on duty, without letting anyone know of his whereabouts, to cheat on his wife and kids, then acted like a character from Shakespeare in the park as performed by Larry the Cable Guy about his soul mate (not his wife).

Sanford is right to conclude that he has no real future as a candidate, but if he’s past his strange midlife crisis, he could provide some intellectual firepower as an activist for the limited-government movement.

Agreed.

DrAllecon on August 23, 2011 at 5:33 PM

I live in South Carolina.

I have all the respect in the world for Sanford – once his mess unraveled – he did make every attempt to be honest.

His wife (“it is said”) was a nightmare – for what that is worth.

I wish him well – just not in politics.

jake-the-goose on August 23, 2011 at 5:33 PM

I saw Hannity interview him a few days ago and I got the impression he would love to come back to some sort of office, but I think it is to soon for him to try. He was such a disappointment to his state and the Republican party and those wounds take a while to heal.
I would tell him to get a real job and relate more to the people.

SgtRed on August 23, 2011 at 5:33 PM

The Tea Party needs an advocate in Mark Sanford like Barney Frank needs a wife.

crushliberalism on August 23, 2011 at 5:35 PM

I’m one of those who see Sanford as something of a Greek tragedy

Wrong, he’s a lying, cheating scumbag who didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut after he got caught.

I’m not interested in anything Mark Sanford has to say. Shame on you Ed for even wasting bandwith on him.

Knucklehead on August 23, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Too soon. Better a behind the scene and invisible advisor

AH_C on August 23, 2011 at 5:36 PM

It just hit me that Sanford probably thinks that if the American people will accept Obama and his obvious dislike of Americans, they might also accept him!

SgtRed on August 23, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Ugh. I have not one scintilla of interest in anything this train wreck has to say, and I am begging him, if he ever cared about his country, please, please, please do not praise the Tea Party. His cheerleading services will not be helpful.

Rational Thought on August 23, 2011 at 5:37 PM

No.

Don’t soil yourself further, Mark Sanford. Sheesh. Isn’t it enough that you had to be catapulted from office?

/Like a re-run of Seinfeld. Without Seinfeld.

Yay.

Key West Reader on August 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

He made a huge personal mistake, huge…but he didn’t put the country in jeopardy, did not forsake his constitutional promise.
Horrible what he did to his family…but he was right for the country.
Here is the dilemma…
Obama is apparently a good family man…but look what he has done to the country.
Sanford was a horrible example of a husband and father…but look what he was doing to help the country.
It’s things like this that make you wonder…maybe politicians should only be judged by their actions in office…

right2bright on August 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

I find him a sympathetic figure. I believe him when he says he is passionately in love with this woman (as opposed to Clinton’s bimbo eruptions and trysts involving cigars). Passionate love is not an excuse for adultery. Regardless of any of that, the man needs to find a new line of work.

Ted Torgerson on August 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Err..

Question.

Why is this cretin associating himself with the Tea Party? Is he doing that? I don’t think so.

Key West Reader on August 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM

His wife (“it is said”) was a nightmare – for what that is worth.

jake-the-goose on August 23, 2011 at 5:33 PM

So now it’s the wife’s fault for his cheating cause she was a “nightmare”?

Have you ever heard of divorce? Are you my ex-husband?

Knucklehead on August 23, 2011 at 5:42 PM

It’s things like this that make you wonder…maybe politicians should only be judged by their actions in office…

right2bright on August 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

His actions in office included at least in part skipping the country unnanounced and putting himself in a situation most blackmailers can only dream about.

Yes, most of his work in office was good, but character just can’t be ignored.

DrAllecon on August 23, 2011 at 5:43 PM

Knucklehead on August 23, 2011 at 5:42 PM

No – I am sorry if that was the message.

I simply meant to imply that we cannot walk in his shoes.

That’s all.

jake-the-goose on August 23, 2011 at 5:46 PM

MSNBC anchor.

faraway on August 23, 2011 at 5:47 PM

There’s always Dancing with the Stars. Tango!

It’s big in Argentina.

SlaveDog on August 23, 2011 at 5:48 PM

He needs money.

Key West Reader on August 23, 2011 at 5:49 PM

Ron Paul/Sanford 2012…!

Spathi on August 23, 2011 at 5:37 PM

/

Seven Percent Solution on August 23, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Its too late. He should have jumped in when the jumping was good. /sarc

Sharr on August 23, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Take a hike, Sanford.

MJBrutus on August 23, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Nooooo, just please go away and leave us alone.

petefrt on August 23, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Maybe Sanford can get a show on CNN..:)

Dire Straits on August 23, 2011 at 5:55 PM

I believe him when he says he is passionately in love with this woman

Ted Torgerson on August 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Are they still together? The article says he’s been living a “monastic” life on his family farm. I don’t remember all the details of the scandal, but wasn’t the mistress married to somebody else too?

AZCoyote on August 23, 2011 at 5:55 PM

OT: Ok. Just look at the title before they change it. That says it all

ConservativePartyNow on August 23, 2011 at 5:52 PM

“Obama is briefed on vacation”

Was that what the title said when you looked at the article? Nice accompanying photo of a rebel fighter… :-)

I saved the page as a PDF.

Mary in LA on August 23, 2011 at 5:56 PM

Did someone say Mark Sanford?

hoosiermama on August 23, 2011 at 5:56 PM

Obama is apparently a good family man

How do you figure that when he spends most of his free time, even on vacation, golfing instead of with his family.

Common Sense on August 23, 2011 at 5:57 PM

Back on topic: The Lord forgives sinners who truly repent and humble their hearts. The electorate, not so much.

Mary in LA on August 23, 2011 at 5:58 PM

Sanford could partner w/ Katie on her new show “Crock of Couric”.

BHO Jonestown on August 23, 2011 at 5:58 PM

Didn’t he insist that there be unnecessary trade missions to Argentina so he could meet up with this coochie-mama? And where is the coochie these days?

Blake on August 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM

I agree with Ann Coulter: Republicans are too quick to engage in self-flagellation over things that Democrats would never be embarassed being caught doing… or would dismiss as being a “Private Matter.” Cheating on his wife is his (and her) business; lying about it was just stupid and childish. But if he can help balance the budget and reduce entitlement spending… I say, “All is forgiven.”

VastRightWingConspirator on August 23, 2011 at 6:02 PM

¿Dónde está la coochie?

Blake on August 23, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Wow. Nice comments!

I am not a Christian. I cannot help but think of the words “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Sanford did something ridiculously stupid – and followed it up with more bizarre and most strange behavior. It will impact him the rest of his life.

Nevertheless, I surely am not one myself to “cast the first stone”…. If the man is trying to redeem himself and do good for society, I do not want to stand in his way. I agree with those who think that he most likely has irrevocably damaged his opportunities for high office. Still – I like to think that Sanford can make a positive contribution from here on.

I can’t speak for others. All I know is that I have made errors in my life, and I am grateful when I am given a second chance to redeem myself.

pbundy on August 23, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Every day, around the world, millions of men make fools of themselves over women. So I’ve heard. That’s what he did, and he’s paid a steep price for it, and continues to pay. He was a fool for love. Poor jerk.

Paul-Cincy on August 23, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Try CNN, Mark, they give whoremongers a prime time TV slot.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it is CNN, so no one will see you.

Why don’t you crawl back under your rock until 2013?

Or at least start palling around with John Edwards so you look acceptable by comparison.

molonlabe28 on August 23, 2011 at 6:14 PM

He’s more sane than the typical Tea Party.

Falz on August 23, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Did he come back from Argentina?

Fallon on August 23, 2011 at 6:24 PM

I can’t speak for others. All I know is that I have made errors in my life, and I am grateful when I am given a second chance to redeem myself.

pbundy on August 23, 2011 at 6:08 PM

He was given several “second chances” and blew it. There is also the problem with the misappropriation of state funds. I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s still filthy rich and has two sons, who I assume still love him.

Blake on August 23, 2011 at 6:25 PM

I can’t speak for others. All I know is that I have made errors in my life, and I am grateful when I am given a second chance to redeem myself.

pbundy on August 23, 2011 at 6:08 PM

I agree. Sanford can redeem himself. In private.

mchristian on August 23, 2011 at 6:25 PM

For years I was on the Mark Sanford 2012 train, but no way. Not only because he turned himself into a joke, but I have serious doubts about his political skills without Jenny Sanford.

galenrox on August 23, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Love the guy on policy. Family matters is another story.

taney71 on August 23, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Who cares about his personal matters if he’s the strongest fiscal con out there?

Oh yeah, social cons care. :/

Notorious GOP on August 23, 2011 at 6:35 PM

It’s the dems who don’t believe in the concept of personal responsibility, some forget that…

Gohawgs on August 23, 2011 at 7:05 PM

And you think Ron Paul is a joke.

Ed, so full of fail.

Aquateen Hungerforce on August 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM

I don’t care if he went to Thailand and had a sex change. I like his politics and seeing him in the race would be a breath of fresh air.

Free Constitution on August 23, 2011 at 7:47 PM

Mark, after John Profumo lost his government position in the Christine Keeler scandal, Profumo spent the rest of his life working quietly with the poor in the London East End.

Chuck Colson started a prison ministry after his Watergate downfall and conviction.

There’s plenty of work to be done in the Lord’s “back forty.”

Wethal on August 23, 2011 at 7:51 PM

I think Mark Sanford’s marriage was more of a business
relationship; no love there.

I think that, human nature being what it is, Mark Sanford
found the love that he had been missing in his life. The
warmth of it probably overwelmed him. In the midst of the
turmoil he made some bad choices, decisions, etc. And it
all blew up in his face.

All I know is that his ex wife looks and acts like the woman
from hell. The book, the tv/radio interviews with sordid
details; this from the woman who was concerned about their 4 sons.
What he did was nothing compared to her blabbing it all over.

Mark Sanford’s troubles in no way equate to Elliott Spitzeer’s
sleaziness and he is on tv acting like nothing happened.
I hope Sanford resurrects himself and finds love and peace in
his life.

One other thing – I bet that those “in the know” said quietly
and privately about his affair – “Good for him, that wife of his
is a b**ch!”

Amjean on August 23, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Amjean on August 23, 2011 at 8:20 PM

*eye roll*

We are all responsible for our own actions. Nobody “makes” you cheat.

Fallon on August 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM

A couple good observations on this thread. Otherwise, a lot of people fearful of guilt-by-association.

Sanford was my rep, winning election by upsetting the very conservative establishment candidate in a very red district. He did not run on family values but championed them even though they were not his primary focus. He was the poster-boy for fiscal restraint in the 1994 Congress. He gave a backbone to Newt’s balanced budget that characterized (ushered in??) a very prosperous economy.

While it would be irresponsible hyperbole to make Sanford more than a bit hero for the example he showed 17 years ago, it is also irresponsible to cast him in the gutter as some kind of perpetual denizen of the Bowry.

Some of you who think you are champions of righteousness are unimpressive as the representatives of the Son of Man. I’ve seen your family values, and I’ll raise you. Now show your true cards, ’cause I think you’re nothin’ but hot air.

Yes, we must exercise judiciousness, but if you are not humble enough to learn from Sanford, it’s only because you’ll never reach his level.

Thanks, Ed, for a balanced review of this. Greek tragedy, indeed.

rwenger43 on August 23, 2011 at 8:42 PM

*eye roll*

We are all responsible for our own actions. Nobody “makes” you cheat.

Fallon on August 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM

Oh come on, get off your high horse and live in the real world.
AND, I never said someone made him cheat. Mark Sanford was the
first one to take responsibility for his actions.

Get over yourself. The world is not black and white, however,
IS shades of grey.

Amjean on August 23, 2011 at 9:44 PM

I may be a biased South Carolinian, but how is it fair that Ted Kennedy had multiple affairs, while married, and had a part in a young woman’s death and yet was elected time and time again? Whereas Sanford had one foulup and he’s banned for life from politics?!? Fellow conservatives, we need to understand that we are human too and not in any way perfect or immune from sin.
He’s apologized and paid a price…
I for one forgive him and say he’s free to run against LaRaza Lindsey Gramnesty next time he’s up.

MechEng5by5 on August 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Sanford was just collecting data and doing recon down in Argentina with an assistant. Why the over-reaction?

leftnomore on August 23, 2011 at 10:48 PM

The Tea Party needs an advocate in Mark Sanford like Barney Frank needs a wife.

crushliberalism on August 23, 2011 at 5:35 PM

Barney Frank has a wife. I think his name is Phil.

Extrafishy on August 24, 2011 at 5:29 AM