Mark Sanford’s Very Republican God Redeems His Career: He Is Forgiven So You Must Forget


Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a love story: a story that peaked with a non-existent hike on the Appalachian Trail that was actually a five-day tryst with his Argentine lover. The Sanford tenure in the state house was sprinkled with lies, deceit, international negative press, ripping off taxpayers, expense repayments, state planes for personal use, numerous ethical lapses for which he paid a $70,000 fine; a multitude of moral lapses, a legislative censure, infidelities (plural) and a shattered family and subsequent divorce. But what the hell, it’s all worth it to find your Argentine spitfire “soul mate”, divorcee Maria Belen Chapur, even if you have to immerse yourself in Rosetta Stone and fly 20-hour roundtrips to see her in her skivvies in Buenos Aires (by way of the Appalachians). It appears Sanford spent most of the “aughts” chasing women.

Putting that chicanery aside, the sweetest song of all is that there’s no political price to pay as Sanford’s church-going, God-fearing, high-morality, live by the Bible, far-right constituents are prepared to return this cheater, liar and skirt chaser to a seat he once held in the House of Representatives prior to becoming governor.

Sanford served 3 terms in the House. At the time, the “no government ever” Cato Institute named him numero uno (so Maria will understand) in matters fiscal. He continued to be a budget-buster as governor, once vetoing 106 of 107 budget line items and another time threatening to shut down the state government over the budget. A very frugal public servant, he eschewed great chunks of stimulus money and proposed spending public school money on vouchers for “independent” schools.

I guess you can be frugal in governance when you’re heir to pop’s fortune as head of cardiology at Johns Hopkins. Most of doc’s swag was in the form of thousands of acres of South Carolina land. Then there’s former wife Jenny, a one-time investment banker. Jenny is a handsome lady in a Jr. League kind of way. But I suspect what really made her appealing to Sanford was the fact she made the heart doc look like a pauper. She snagged many millions of dollars of inheritance from the family Skilsaw fortune. The Sanford’s $2.2 million Sullivan’s Island house was in her name. Jenny was reared in the northern Chicago suburb of Winnetka, where multi-million dollar domiciles are lined up like toy soldiers at FAO Schwarz.

After a brief stint on Wall Street, where he met Jenny, Sanford turned to real estate. There’s little evidence that he particularly stood out in his new pursuit. Fellow agent and broker peers were hard-pressed to name any particular accomplishments other than rarely appearing to do anything. But that boy could get himself elected. Not many people serve in both congress and a state’s highest elected office. As a campaigner, he had few equals. After coming back into the political arena, dragging his “soul mate” behind him, Sanford (now referred to as the “Luv Guv” by local wags), recently entered a Republican primary to fill the House seat of certified looney, Tim Scot who had been hoisted to the upper chamber to replace another certified looney, Senator Jim DeMint.

There were a total of 19 candidates (including Ted Turner’s far right son) squeezed onto the Republican open primary ballot for the right to run in a special election, May 7 of this year. At the same time the Columbia State newspaper reported on a poll that gave Sanford a 30% statewide approval rating. And, of course, there was the tabloid scandal and near impeachment.

But not to worry, Sanford, misleading polls notwithstanding, swept to victory in taking measure of the other 18 candidates. Well, not quite. He didn’t win by the required 50% of the votes to prevent a runoff. His opponent was a former Charleston County Council member who “tut-tutted” about Sanford’s sleazy CV. No matter. Sanford, with his now fiancé Maria at his side, whipped Curtis Bostic by a comfortable 57-43 percent margin.

Two down, one to go; the special election, May 7. The media has made much of Sanford’s Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of famed TV comedian/political pundit and South Carolina native, Stephen Colbert. Businesswoman and Clemson University staff member Busch won the open Democratic 2-person primary by a landslide, but will have her work cut out for her with Sanford, especially since a major portion of the Black electorate has been gerrymandered to a new district. The remaining voters are heavily Republican. The promised campaign participation of brother Stephen could tighten things up considerably, however.

As is almost always the case with hypocritical right-wing do-badders, Sanford sought cover in religion. In his runoff victory speech with his mid-life crisis fiancé at his side, Sanford, with a straight face, let loose with this manifesto; “I want to thank my God. I used to cringe when somebody would say I want to thank my God (author note: but now, any port in a storm) because at that point I would think this is getting uncomfortable. But once you really receive God’s grace (and some hot sessions with Maria) and have seen it reflected in others you stop and acknowledge that grace and the difference He has made in my life and in so many live across this state and across the nation.”

Such political (they have NOTHING to do with God) proclamations have been known to work in the past. During a phone conversation with preacher James Robinson in 1999, George W. Bush announced, “I’ve heard the call. God wants me to be president.” Amazing how the contents of that call quickly spread across the country. And so it came to pass that God’s chosen, with the help of a compromised court and an endless pattern of disgraceful republican diddling with the election process, became president.

There’s the template for political comeback in a red state. Ditch the old lady and (in Sanford’s case four kids), parade the mistress in front of the media, tap into the big money, dazzle the low-information crowd with BS and above all else, have a chit-chat with God.

If a Democratic governor, state rep or senator or Congressperson forgets to feed the cat, it’s all over the print, electronic, Internet and social media in a finger-snap with accompanying demands for resignation, jail or the promise that the so-called offender will never show his or her face in public again. And the left can yell “God” all they want and not a flicker of forgiveness from the right.

One more template that works well. Elect Democrats.

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