Of COURSE Sanford wanted Jenny to run his campaign…


The quirks of SC politics continue to fascinate national media.

The most recent edition of Slatest leads with Mark Sanford having wanted Jenny to run his congressional campaign.

Personally, when I heard that a week or two ago, I really didn’t think much of it. I was like, Of course he wanted her to run it; he has no clue how to run for office without her telling him what to do.

Jenny was always the brains in that outfit. Here’s my favorite anecdote illustrating that, which I’ve  probably already told here before…

Early in the process of running for governor — probably in late 2001 or early 2002 — Sanford asked to come see the editorial board and tell us about his economic proposals (in a nutshell — reduce or eliminate the state income tax). Fine, we said. So when he came, Jenny came with him. I went down to greet them in the lobby, and Jenny handed me a basketful of cookies (message: I’m not Hillary). I was sufficiently nonplussed that I thanked her, then handed them back to her. Which wasn’t very gracious of me; I just wasn’t prepared to be presented with cookies (to which I’m allergic, anyway).

So I led them upstairs, Jenny still carrying the cookies. When we got to the boardroom and sat down and started the meeting, Mark said something like, “Jenny’s going to make the presentation; this is her plan, after all.” And she, having ditched the cookies somewhere along the line, proceeded to run us through a Powerpoint presentation.

Another anecdote, illustrating the way she ran his campaigns with an iron hand… I forget who told me this; it was probably either Tom Davis or Kevin Hall…

Anyway, they were running that same campaign out of the Sanfords’ Sullivan Island house. Whenever Jenny was mad at someone in the campaign and wanted to have a private chat to unburden her mind on the subject, she would have that campaign staffer meet her in a secluded part of the house. I think it was near the backdoor or something. Anyway, there was a rack for multiple hats on the wall in that location, loaded with the boys’ baseball caps and such.

Thus, when one campaign worker told another he’d been “taken to the hats,” it was understood that he was in the doghouse for the moment.

Anyway, it’s hard to imagine a Sanford campaign without Jenny, so his request is understandable on one level. The other thing to understand is what Josh Voorhees of The Slatest intuited: “that Mark Sanford still hasn’t figured out how personal relationships work.”

Anyway, the subject was brought up by this profile of Sanford in New York magazine, if you’d like to go read it.

44 thoughts on “Of COURSE Sanford wanted Jenny to run his campaign…

  1. bud

    Brad, after the cookie anecdote I lost interest in reading the rest of what you wrote. Why not just say you were allergic to the cookies and suggest she give them to someone else? Did you think she was trying to “buy” influence? Not sure what makes that so very offputting.

    A second thought was why bring up the cookies thing here in the first place? It seems completely out of place. This bit of rambling seems not just pointless but counterproductive to whatever point you’re trying to make.

    1. Silence

      If he got elected as a congressman and two-term governor I doubt he’s much on the autism spectrum, honestly. Do we have any further evidence or anecdotes about behaviors that might link him to this condition?
      Maybe: counts toothpicks, does complicated math problems in his head, can tell you what day of the week any particular date falls on, likes Dick Clark, only drives on Sundays, never misses Jeopardy?

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I like my cookie story. I like the symbolism of her bringing them, since the whole Hillary-doesn’t-bake-cookies meme was still in people’s minds in those days. And I like the irony of it, since she was every bit as much of a “twofer” teammate with Sanford as Hillary was with Bill.

    The cookie thing is meant to be understood in counterpoise to the fact that the reason she was there was that SHE was the policy wonk, the one would explain the economic plan to us, NOT the candidate.

    As for the part about me handing them back, when I do something socially awkward, I can’t help telling on myself. I also tell that part so it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to criticize Jenny by saying she committed a faux pas handing me the cookies. My faux pas was at least as big as hers.

    See what I’m saying?

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    The cookie story says a lot. It doesn’t seem in character for Jenny in general. She doesn’t come across as Betty Crocker. She comes across as someone who would have her staff bake cookies and hand them over in a basket (rather than, say, a paper plate covered with plastic wrap– who brings cookies in a basket besides Martha Stewart?) to make a point, as Brad says, and curry favor.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thank you, Kathryn, for understanding my cookie story.

      Now that you attach importance to the basket, I wonder: WAS it a basket? I suppose it was, else why would I have typed that… I seem to recall feeling the texture of the basket as I took it from her. But I couldn’t swear to it.

      But I’m quite sure it wasn’t a paper plate with plastic wrap over it. It was a nice presentation…

  4. Doug Ross

    Trying to understand why taking the cookies would have been anything but polite… you could have thrown them in the trash or put them in the office for others to eat.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Absolutely. Keeping the cookies was the gentlemanly thing to do. To use an archaic word, I was being a bit of a scrub in handing them back. But I just did it without thinking. Then, when I saw the surprised look on her face, I didn’t have the presence of mind to take them back again.

      Remember the other day I said something about how realistic the film of “All the President’s Men” was, because some of the dialogue — particularly in tense interview situations — didn’t follow logically? A character would say something, and what the other person said back wouldn’t quite make sense? Actually, I guess the term for that would be “naturalism” rather than “realism” (English majors, help me out). It made it more like real life. So I think my handing back the cookies was kind of like that.

      The closest thing to a logical explanation for it was that I was a little embarrassed there in the lobby, in front of newspaper employees who didn’t work in editorial, accepting a gift from the wife of a candidate. Silly, but it flustered me a bit…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Riffing a bit more on the “All the President’s Men” thing…

        That gave viewers a glimpse into how journalism is done out in the real world. I recall that in the past when I would put up video or audio from an interview with a newsmaker, some of y’all criticized me for the awkwardness of the conversation — comparing it to the smoothness you’re used to hearing on TV.

        What you see on TV is a show. It’s something put on by people who are very good at keeping something flowing. But a typical interview is more poking around and hemming and hawing. Rather than going in with a set of questions and moving through them in an orderly fashion, you’re listening and deciding as you go what sort of questions you want to ask. You’re not thinking about the flow or how it sounds; you’re thinking about the information you’re trying to get, and deciding as you go along just what sort of information you actually need. You go down blind alleys and stop and start and back up a good bit…

  5. Doug Ross

    Does Vincent Sheheen come up with his own economic policies or does he hire people who do that for him? I don’t expect a Governor to be an expert on everything. I expect a Governor to surround himself with the smartest, most ethical people possible. Sanford was the big picture guy in my view. He failed miserably with his personal decisions but up til then I was very satisfied with him as governor. Better than Beasley and Hodges by a long shot.

  6. die deutsche Flußgabelung

    Lets also not forget he is tight with his money. He probably thought he could get a discount from her. Who could’ve forgotten about that asinine story on WIS TV last week about him and his plywood signs.

    Do campaign staff (or in Sanford’s case his spouse) usually present the candidate’s ideas to the editorial board and not the candidate themselves? I guess I was under the impression that that was the responsibility of the candidate.

    Jenny sounds like she is to Mark what Dick Cheney was to George W. Bush; the brains of the operation.

  7. Mark Stewart

    I’m surprised Doug missed that. Policy can be formulated by hired guns, can not should, but candidates have to make the pitch. They have to close.

    Actually, you were right to hand back the cookies at an editorial board meeting. It would have been right if you served cookies and drinks; but not the other way around. Actually, I think I am shocked that Jenny Sanford would do something so idiotic, so ill bred.

    I am trying to imagine someone coming into my office to pitch business in a formal meeting and bringing in a snack. Bizarre. It’s not like sending a barrel of popcorn at Christmas or something.

  8. Doug Ross

    I guess I was raised different. To reject the gift even if you thought it was bizarre was a bigger mistake than offering it in the first place, in my view.

    Poor old dumb Mark Sanford… all he ever did was become a multi-term Congressman and a multi-term Governor. Let’s check his Wikipedia page: Eagle Scout, BA from Furman, MBA from Virginia – all before meeting Jenny. Yep, just one of those country bumpkins. Probably didn’t understand all those big words Jenny was using in the presentation.

    1. die deutsche Flußgabelung

      Last time I checked being a congressmen or governor doesn’t necessarily make you genius.

      Secondly if you are running for office you, yourself, should be the person making the pitch to the editorial board not your employed staff (or your spouse). Yes you can hire people to help craft and give you suggestions on what your platform should be, but you, as the candidate, should be the one to deliver it. Just as I wouldn’t expect the CEO of a car company to know every detail of how to build the car (thats what you hire engineers for), I do however expect the CEO to sale the company’s vision to the public and investors. So yes its no big deal if Jenny came up with and designed the economic policy, however its another thing when she and not her husband is the one presenting to the editorial board.

      So Brad’s vignette may not tell me whether or not Sanford is dumb it does tell me he comes to meetings unprepared and that he appears to like leaving the heavy-lifting to his underlings.

  9. bud

    Good grief Brad and Mark. You are making an enormous issue out of really nothing. I agree with Doug on this one. Does anyone really think a few cookies would influence the editorial board at The State? Then again given some of the bizarre endorsements perhaps that’s as good an explaination as any.

  10. Steven Davis II

    Everybody piling on and bashing Sanford… this has to be Brad’s best day ever!!!

    1. Silence

      “The Insult That Made a Man out of Brad”
      It all stems from the time that Mark bullied Brad, took his lunch money, gave him a wedgie and a swirly, kicked sand in his face, and stole Brad’s sweetheart.

      Brad’s been working out though, with a little help from Charles Atlas. By pitting muscle against muscle, using the patented “dynamic tension” method, Brad is no longer a 97 lb weakling.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, I should probably say that Mark Sanford has never been anything but cordial to me. I’ve never known how much of that is natural unflappability and how much of it is intentional — for instance, I’ve heard that people who have worked for him have seen a different side, the side with a temper.

        But either way, he deserves credit for gentlemanly public behavior — maybe especially so if he has to work at it.

  11. Rose

    Book smarts yes. Social smarts, not so much. Asking your ex-wife who you cheated on and very publicly humiliated to run your campaign = dumb as a brick on relationships.

  12. Mark Stewart

    Bud, I didn’t say it was effective, I said it was idiotic.

    One doesn’t walk into a pitch bearing gifts. End of story.

    1. Doug Ross

      So if John McCain walked in and offered a copy of his book, you’d throw it back in his face?

      It was COOKIES! You know, people sitting around a conference room talking might like to eat a cookie.

  13. Mark Stewart

    No, it was an ill-conceived gift at the front of a pitch. It wasn’t some pointless meeting. It was a pitch. Maybe most people don’t know what a pitch is? Or how many ways they can get sideways if one is ill-prepared or steps off on the wrong foot?

    The real kicker is that it was Jenny Sanford making the pitch for her husband’s campaign for elected office. That’s just silly.

  14. Doug Ross


    Apparently the cookies didn’t have an impact on Sanford getting elected easily. The issue really isn’t about the offer of the cookies it is about the rejection of the offer. Note – the cookies were offered in the lobby, not in the meeting. That makes a difference, too. Would you have done the same thing? Handed them back to her? Or would you just have taken them and left them somewhere to toss later?

    I’ve seen the videos Brad has posted of the endorsement interviews. They looked like people sitting around a conference room table just like a typical business meeting. I don’t think a basket of cookies would have tainted the process in any way.

    Japanese business culture EXPECTS gifts to be exchanged.

    “Before your meeting, tell your business contact that you will be bringing a small gift. Present your gift with both hands. The recipient will most likely open the gift in private, so do not be offended if he does not unwrap the gift right away. Alcohol and chocolate are two good options to give to your Japanese business associates or clients. According to a 2007 estimate, $100 is de rigueur for a business gift.”

    Maybe Jenny was trying to institute some Japanese style culture into Brad’s life.

    1. Steven Davis II

      If it’s an envelope of cash you don’t give it back. That’s how things work in this state.

    1. Silence

      Cookies, cash, potatoes, potahtoes, tomatoes, tomahtoes. Let’s re-elect Marshall Sanford.

  15. Mark Stewart

    If they were just cookies, Jenny Sanford would not have brought them to The State’s editorial board meeting, Doug. You are being obtuse to the tenor of the thing.

  16. Doug Ross


    No, I am not being obtuse. Whatever the motivation was to deliver the cookies, the proper, polite response would be to take them. Or, instead of handing them back without an explanation, say “I’m, sorry, Jenny, but it would not be appropriate for me to take those. I hope you understand.”

    It’s just me, but I bet it Cindy McCain came bearing cookies, they wouldn’t have been rejected in the same manner.

    1. Silence

      If Maria Belen Chapur Sanford shows up giving out spicy Tamales and cervezas, you can bet that everyone will partake and say “ole!” Aye Caramba!

    2. Steven Davis II

      Not only would they have been accepted, Brad would have sat there and gorged himself on them then excused himself, walked to the back of the building and dropped dead from allergic reactions to them.

      I’m sure Brad looked at these cookies like most people would look at being offered a $#!t sandwich.

  17. Doug Ross

    Were there photographers there from the Sanford campaign documenting the exchange to show how domestic Jenny was? If not, then do you really think Jenny Sanford (the brains of the operation apparently) was dumb enough to think that a token gesture would in some way influence Brad?

    1. Steven Davis II

      “a token gesture would in some way influence Brad?”

      Did Brad have that much pull at the time of the visit? Would what he said sway people’s votes?

  18. Mark Stewart

    Completely separate issue. I didn’t knock her for that, but for being insensibly calculating. We won’t ever know what happened to their marriage; but we have strong clues.

  19. Kathryn Fenner

    The point is that Jenny Sanford may be “smart” but smart people make foolish choices and bad decisions all the time. Like I said, do we really think she creamed the butter and sugar for these and lovingly packed them in a basket, just because she’s that kind of person? Seriously!

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