Mark Sanford’s utter contempt for the Republican Party

Mark Sanford on the last night of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Mark Sanford on the last night of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I don’t have much time for blogging today — I was sick all weekend (ran a fever over 100, which for me is high, since I’m normally about 97 degrees) and couldn’t get to some things I wanted to get ahead on, so now I’m way behind.

But since the special election in the 1st Congressional District is tomorrow, and since Mark Sanford is again what he was at the beginning — the front-runner — I thought I’d share an observation.

Over the weekend, in a story about the state Republican Convention Saturday, Andy Shain wrote:

The mixed feelings of party faithful over former Gov. Mark Sanford’s return to politics also were on display.

Sanford did not attend the convention, spending the day campaigning in the Lowcountry ahead of his Tuesday contest against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the 1st District congressional special election. However, Sanford’s campaign had a phone bank operating in the coliseum lobby that was sparsely attended, even after a plea for volunteers…

Sanford wasn’t there. No big deal. After all, he’s busy, right? His political comeback is in the balance, and he’s on an upswing, so he just couldn’t take time out for the convention, as much as he wanted to be there, right?

Wrong. Even in the best of circumstances, Mark Sanford would as soon have a root canal as attend a state GOP convention — especially since he already has the party’s nomination, meaning that there’s nothing more the party can do for Mark Sanford.

Mark Sanford’s contempt for the Republican Party is a palpable thing. Back in the days when I was supporting his candidacy for governor, and for perhaps a year or two after, I used to find it an endearing, although somewhat odd, trait. Because, as you know, I hold the parties in contempt myself.

A couple of incidents from that period:

  1. Right after the bitterly-fought primary and runoff against Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler in 2002 — in which what essentially amounted to the party establishment had done everything it could think of to stop Sanford — the party bigwigs staged a big reconciliation event out in front of state party headquarters. Not only were all of Bob Peelers’ key backers there, but even people who usually took little interest in gubernatorial politics, by which I mean Glenn McConnell (who as senator had little time to spare on such lesser offices as governor). It was quite the lovefest. Sanford showed up for it, but when I tried to grab him afterwards to see how he felt about this show of support after the bitter primary, he was gone. I found Jenny, and she urged me to call him on his cell, as he was on the way back to Charleston. So I did, when I got back to the office, and when I asked what he thought of all those people who had so recently opposed him bowing down and offering their wholehearted fealty, he said something like (I don’t have the exact words in front of me now), “Yes, well… I suppose people do those things.” Which sort of communicates the degree to which he didn’t care about those people, but not quite — you had to hear his tone to get the full effect. Wow, I thought. Even though I have no fondness for parties or respect for party loyalty, I was impressed by his insouciance. Those people had done all that for him, had gathered from across the state to show how much they cared, and he really could not give a flip. I tried to think of it in positive terms, but it was weird.
  2. The next incident that stands out most in my mind occurred at the climax of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. This is a story I’ve told before. George W. Bush was giving his acceptance speech, and partisan passion in the room was at that fever pitch that it only achieves about once every four years. For people who are into the party, this is the supreme moment, so every square inch of the floor and risers of Madison Square Garden was packed. I was standing in the aisle next to the South Carolina delegation, and had other standing people pressing against me on all sides. Even those who had seats were standing, some of them on their chairs. When he bent over to say something to me, I realized that the person pressing against my left shoulder was Mark Sanford. I forget most of what he said, but I made note of what he said, in that usual bored, lollygaggin’ voice, at the moment when the excitement all around us was at its peak: “I don’t know if you’ve read that book, Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds….” I laughed, and said no, I hadn’t. But the overwhelming impression I had at the moment was that there was one person, among all those thousands, who felt even less connected to the pulsating sense of unity in that enormous room than I did, and that was Mark Sanford.

Oh, a word about why Sanford was standing there in the aisle to begin with. He wasn’t an actual delegate. When I said something about his not having a seat, he indicated — I forget the exact words — that no one had offered him one. After the president’s speech, as things were breaking up, I joshingly asked Speaker David Wilkins why nobody had seen fit to offer their governor a seat, and he suddenly looked very serious, and not a little put-upon. He said he had personally offered the governor his seat, but had been refused.

This was Mark Sanford’s relationship with his party in a nutshell. From the moment he became his party’s nominee, through his entire time in office, he gave loyal, dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, people ready to bend over backwards for their governor, the back of his hand.

Given my own disdain for parties, it took me awhile to connect his lack of caring about other Republicans with what I came to know as his utter lack of concern for anyone other than himself. I didn’t realize what a narcissist Sanford was until June 2009; that came as a shock. Why was it such a shock? Because Mark Sanford was always so different from any other politician I had ever encountered that it was hard to know what to think of his actions.

Once I did, his contempt for his party seemed itself contemptible, and I actually had some sympathy for the party loyalists whom he had repeatedly dissed.

Usually, people who go into politics are to some extent people people. With Sanford, that’s just not the case. He basically has no use for people other than himself, and that included Republicans.

What is bitterly ironic about this is that he is likely to win tomorrow for one reason: That district was drawn to elect a Republican, any Republican, and there are thousands of voters who will pull the lever because Sanford has “Republican” after his name. Because they think he is one of them. When in actuality, he would probably be amused by their assumption, by their unthinking loyalty, if he bothered to care about them at all…

68 thoughts on “Mark Sanford’s utter contempt for the Republican Party

  1. bud

    He basically has no use for people other than himself, …

    He seems very fond of his Argentinian soul mate. Then again, maybe he’s just using her in some narcisistic way too.

    1. Steven Davis II

      “He basically has no use for people other than himself, …

      change that to “himself and his immediate family” and you have Jim Clyburn.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I used to think he cared about his wife and kids. In fact, even when I had no more use for Mark Sanford politically, I would have said he was a good family man. Until he disappeared on Father’s Day weekend in 2009.

    Since then, I don’t assume that he cares about anybody.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    Very good post. This line (which I believe is the core thesis of your post) is very interesting.

    “Usually, people who go into politics are to some extent people people. With Sanford, that’s just not the case. He basically has no use for people other than himself, and that included Republicans.”

    I can think of another current politician who is often described in a similar manner.

  4. Steve Gordy

    It will be amusing when future sequester spending cuts that affect the 1st District kick in and the voters learn that their congressman doesn’t give a flip about their wishes. None so blind . . .

  5. die deutsche Flußgabelung

    Sanford contempt for the Republican Party makes plenty of sense considering what an ideologue and purist he is. American political parties are big tent parties with plenty of factions, and Sanford has never been much of a coalition builder, more of a loner. Its his messiah complex which really prevents him from being an effective leader. I mean just name one major piece of policy he passed as governor.

  6. Doug Ross

    Geez, if he could just get people to like him enough to vote for him. It must be crushing to have to win so many elections yet feel so alone.

    Show me a politician and I’ll show you a narcissist. Sanford is the anti-Graham. Lindsey NEEDS to have people think he’s important.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I wouldn’t think it would require explanation. In a field of 16 candidates in which he was the only person 99 percent of the voters had ever heard of, what do you expect to happen?

          1. Doug Ross

            That wasn’t his first primary. He’s won them all. Has he ever lost an election? If not, then he’s got SOMETHING enough people are willing to get behind. I know that boggles your mind – that some people might think government is doing too much – but we exist – in numbers far larger than the people you hang out with comprehend. I have friends who work for the VA, sell software, replace hips, run banks, work at nuclear power plants, etc. – they all think there is too much government. These aren’t dumb lemmings.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            The idea that some people want less government does not boggle my mind. The idea that anyone would vote for Mark Sanford does.

            Do you see the difference?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      People who run for office do tend to be full of themselves.

      But when I call Sanford a narcissist, I mean that if I would call only one politician in the world by that label, it would be Mark Sanford. He truly stands out in this regard.

      It’s something that I didn’t fully realize until June 2009. And I’m not talking about his famous confessional press conference the day he returned from Argentina.

      The sheer depth of his narcissism wasn’t apparent until the following week, when he granted interviews with the AP to talk about his “soul mate.” Before that, it looked like the nation was moving on, what with the death of Michael Jackson. Just another scandal, nothing to see. Sanford went out of his way to draw attention back to himself and his Great Personal Drama. It was like nothing I’ve seen before or since. It was staggering.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        That was exactly when I realized it, too. Like Jon Stewart said,” God killed Michael Jackson for you. All you had to do was shut up!”

      2. Steven Davis II

        “People who run for office do tend to be full of themselves.”

        How does this make them any different than journalists or lawyers… all three have that “look at me” or “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You mean, before it was settled who the nominee will be…

      I’m not saying the guy hasn’t attended party functions in the past. I’m saying that if you think Mark Sanford is a guy who was MISSING his GOP buds on Saturday, you’re mistaken…

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    Mark Sanford needs people to be the mirror in which he is reflected. His narcissism became so evident after his “hike.” He just had to keep talking.

    He is not a glad-hander, to be sure, but he needs the limelight. Other people’s shows, like the legislators’ or the national party, are not about him, so pffft!

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    No one understands what I’m talking about here more than GOP True Believers who have had exposure to Sanford.

    One longtime GOP strategist wrote to me a few minutes ago via Twitter DM to say, “Oustanding piece on Sanford. Spot on.”

    I’m not naming the guy since it was sent as a DM rather than as a public reply…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        No, I get along with most of the players, and have positive respect for some of them. Almost all the people I respect in politics are either Democrats or Republicans, because almost all of the people in politics are either Democrats or Republicans. Or, in the case of Tony Blair, Labour.

        And I don’t hate the “game.” I hate what the parties and simplistic ideologies have done to distort this magnificent system of representative democracy…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          The sad thing is, people who are not Democrats or Republicans never get into public office, or even contend seriously, and therefore don’t get the opportunity to earn my respect as politicians.

          There are exceptions. Bill Barnet, who came out of nowhere to become mayor of Spartanburg a few years back, is someone for whom I have great respect, and if he has a party affiliation, I’m unaware of it.

        2. Doug Ross

          Politics has always been like it is today. We just have more methods of communication to watch it, hear it, read it, blog about it.

          If I got just one thing out of “Team of Rivals” it was that politics is politics no matter when it happens.

          The only difference now is the amount of money (tax dollars) that are on the table for the players to lie, cheat, and steal from.

        3. Doug Ross

          So if Push Digital pushes enough digits into enough orifices to get Sanford over the proverbial hump, is that a good thing? Because their success will likely lead to more of the same.

        1. Doug Ross

          Sorry, but I don’t love Sanford. The minute he returned from his AT “hike” and didn’t resign, I lost all respect for him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with his philosophy when it comes to government nor his distaste for the “quid pro quo” politicians who trade influence for personal gain.

          He’s FAR better than Nikki Haley ever will be. I think he scares certain people in that he doesn’t feel the need to placate them and stroke their egos.

  9. Mark Stewart

    What gals me more is Mark Sanford’s utter contempt for the principles he says he believes in.

    In 2011, his family entities placed a $2.5 million conservation easement on their plantation – Coosaw. That’s great, I believe these are in the best interest of the state of SC. But what irritates me is that Sanford’s land lies under the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort’s no development overlay as the plantation sits across the river from the end of the main runway. The plantation can never be developed as long as the federal government owns the airbase. And yet Sanford claimed the developable value on his plantation anyway.

    It’s like listen to what I say; don’t pay attention to what I actually do.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Sounds like feeding on the public to me, Bryan. Does this strike you differently?

        1. Doug Ross


          Can you provide more details on how Sanford benefits from this easement? I’d like to understand what it means.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Conservation easements, while a net positive for the state as I said, have been one of the most abused legislative acts. Conservation easements enable land rich owners to convert the potential future value of their property into current tax credits. The landowner can either use these credits to offset their income taxes payable into the future (until the amount of these credits is used up), or they can sell these credits for cash to an entity – individual or corporation – with high income tax liabilities.

            The problem is that, unlike say with low income housing construction credits, there is no actual market valuation to apply to these lands. The net upshot is basically that the landowner and its legal advisors are pretty much able to claim any value that they believe that they can “justify”. So it has been a pretty heavily abused process, as you might imagine. What they do is calculate a potential future “developable” value of the property, then subtract the actual current land value (farm, trees, wetlands, etc.) to get the amount potentially available as a credit. The landlowner then selects an amount less than the modeled potential future value so that they look like they are being good guys and honest stewards.

            Net result? Elimination of income taxes for some period of years (decades likely) or the cash sale of the credits if the owner is land rich only.

            Looking at the aerial map one can see that Coosaw Plantation lies within the development exclusion zone buffering the military airbase runways. It might be a very nice piece of rural property, but I don’t see where there is legitimate developable value there – until the airbase is permanently closed. Sanford has always said he doesn’t like income taxes. Here, he found a way to avoid them for himself and his family. You tell me if it was justifiable…

    1. Silence

      Mark, this is a topic on which I have a little knowledge, but just enough to be dangerous.

      Does the plantation’s conservation easement fall within the CZ or the APZ of the MCAS-AO? Just looking on the Beaufort County GIS and their community development code, it looks like the CZ doesn’t cross the river, and APZ-1 doesn’t either. APZ-2 does barely, but only just barely.

      The CZ cannot be developed, but based on my reading of the code, it looks like you can develop single family homes within APZ-1 and APZ-2, with a requirement that the buyers sign a form that they have been informed that they are buying in the APZ. So it looks like the plantation could have reasonably been developed, if the family so wished.

      1. Mark Stewart

        When the F-35’s arrive the APZ will be extended, as I understand it (and the new planes are louder). Could have been why Sanford placed the easement in 2011- after the Marine Corps announced the F-35s would be coming to Beaufort in December 2010?

        The current APZ does include the deepwater fronting portion of the plantation. The rest still falls under the landing flight path. Silence, you tell me what the developable value is of property directly under fighter planes’ approach path? These are far louder than commercial aircraft and 24/7.

        Do you really see a Spring Island like development on Coosaw plantation?

        1. Silence

          Mark, don’t confuse the AICUZ APZ with the AICUZ noise zones. The APZ probably wouldn’t change with the arrival of the F-35 (assuming it ever actually arrives). Yes, the noise zones will expand, possibly significantly. The 65 dB DNL noise zone currently goes across Coosaw, and the 70 dB DNL level touches the southern edge. Just FYI, 70 dB is about the volume of your shower.

          There are significant issues with using DNL to model noise. DNL is an average of noise level spread throughout the entire year, with a penalty for nighttime noises (10 P.M.-7 A.M.). Peak noise levels more accurately reflect the issue here. I haven’t looked at the EIS for the F-35 program in a while, but the peak noise is probably 150-160+ dB on launch. I know that they are significantly louder than the F/A-18’s.

          There’s a program that the DoD operates where the services pay to place conservation easements on private land to provide a buffer for military training activities. In one of my former lives I worked on this MCUB (military compatible use buffer) program. We used federal dollars to purchase easements from private landowners. The easements were then held by local conservation trusts. Some landowners voluntarily placed their land into an easement for the tax benefits, rather than selling the easements to the land trust/DoD. The end result is that high density housing developments don’t impact the military’s ability to train on military bases. Particularly smaller bases in the Eastern U.S.

          Sounds like Sanford & Co. may have accomplished the same thing at Coosaw, wittingly or unwittingly. Many conservation easements used inflated values – highest use values – to claim the maximum possible tax benefit. A lot of golf courses were placed under easement to derive tax benefits, even though you’d never pave over the course or build houses on it, I think some of the more egregious easements were disallowed eventually.

          I dont’ know enough about the specifics of the area to know if Coosaw is particularly suited to residential or other development. I just haven’t spent any time there, other than passing by MCAS on my way to HHI.
          All that said, I would not buy a house near MCAS Beaufort or any other air base’s flight path. It’s too noisy!

          1. Mark Stewart

            I think you were sandbagging earlier!

            For anyone lost in Silence’s military acronyms, APZ is “Accident Potential Zone” – where the military is concerned it’s planes have the highest probability of crashing.

            I think someone down there mentioned to me that the APZ may be increased, per the Marine Corps, because Beaufort is going to get the two training squadrons for the F-35.

            All I know is that when looking at commercial real estate, things like crash zones and fighter plane noise buffer areas crush land values.

    2. Doug Ross

      If you don’t like giving money to the government, why WOULDN’T you do everything legally allowed to do that? He didn’t create the laws that allowed him to do that, did he?

      This is what always bugged me with the outrage at Mitt Romney’s tax rate. He paid all the taxes he owed and paid far more in a year than most of us will pay in a lifetime. If you don’t like the laws that are in place, change the lawmakers.

      I would hope you do everything legally possible that you can to minimize YOUR tax bill, Mark.

      1. Mark Stewart

        I wouldn’t make up imaginary values to do so, Doug.

        Just because it is a legal structure, does not mean that a conservation easement is not an abusive tax structure. The slipperiness of these things in in their nebulous nature. There is nothing black and white about them; it just depends on how far one wants to push the envelope.

        1. Doug Ross

          So why doesn’t the government do something about this abusive tax structure? It would seem like easy pickings for generating tax revenues.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Because they sound so good – protecting the environment and all.

            I’m not saying that they are all or even mostly corrupt. I’m just saying that these easements are an ideal avenue for some to abuse the legislation and remain well-covered in the spirit of good intentions.

          2. Silence

            Conservation easements are a good idea. You are able to preserve land that might otherwise be developed, keeping it as greenspace, habitat, natural, etcetera. There are certainly some aspects that should be fixed with regards to valuations and reasonableness or likelihood of development. It’s also a good way for people who are land poor to see some value from their land without having to subdivide and sell portions of it. Would you rather live next to a forest, or a Wal-Mart?
            The program that I worked on was particularly good. We developed a model that ranked parcels on a number of criteria – picking out ones that were interesting based on conservation value, potential mililtary training impact, likelihood of development, etc. When you consider how the military bases, particularly in the Eastern US were developed, they were never intended to support training for modern warfare and current or future weapon systems. Couple that with development around the base, which then encroaches on training, and you have a good BRAC candidate. By restricting development through a combination of zoning, easements, and maybe a few strategic land purchases, a community can ensure that a local base has value to the training community for the long term.

    3. Kathy

      If Sanford is anything more than a narcissist, he’s a hypocrite. I love all the “in-your-face Christian” family Christmas cards while he was shagging the Argentinian chick behind Jenny’s back. Another example: State employees were ordered to stay at the local no-tell motel when on state business; however, the Luv Guv thought it was perfectly acceptable to fly to Argentina on the taxpayers’ dime. He’s vermin.

  10. Doug Ross

    Don’t know if you realize it, Brad but your blog ads now include many very partisan political ads. Just saw one that said “Do you hate Republicans? Click here to see what secrets they are keeping from you” Another one was anti-Sanford.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Those are Google ads, and you and I are probably not seeing the same ones. For instance, I haven’t seen the ones you’re talking about.

      I keep getting ads for products I’ve looked up recently, such as a particular iPad cover. When I was in Memphis a couple of weeks back, I got ads for gambling joints in Mississippi.

      On the one hand, Google ads has a downside because I have no control over what appears. On the other, it distances me from the advertiser. Political ads are a natural for this blog, but how do I call somebody to sell them an ad, then write about them, without them getting really confused? This way, there truly is no connection between me and the advertiser, which is more like what I was used to in newspaper days.

      But please, keep giving me feedback on what y’all see. I’m still learning about this.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        For me, the last day or two, the top ad has almost always been about Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

        Probably because I recently bought PhotoShop…

        1. Silence

          I was wondering why all the ads I’m seeing were for pornography….suddenly it all makes sense.

  11. Silence

    Here it is folks, the big day, the main event! Who will be the champ, and who will be the chump?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Most likely, Sanford wins. But you know, it would be nice to see something different, something new, happen in South Carolina. Getting stuck with Sanford again is SOP here; we expect no better.

      I’m reminded of what Bill Murray said at the end of “Groundhog Day,” when a new and different day finally dawns. He notices something that varies from all the previous days, and says, with cautious optimism, “Something is… different.” Andie MacDowell says, “Good or bad?” To which he replies, “Anything different is good.”

      Had that been set in her native South Carolina rather than Pennsylvania, Ms. MacDowell would then have said, “Nothing different ever happens here.” Which would have ruined the movie…

      1. Silence

        Even if we got Colbert-Busch, is that REALLY different?

        Also, if she’s 58 years old, shouldn’t she have graduated college in like 1976? Why didn’t she finish her B.A. until 1988?

        1. die deutsche Flußgabelung

          Jeez aren’t we a wee bit elitist. You do know some people go to college later in life. And seeing as there are eleven children in her family I doubt, even with her dad’s well paying job, her parents could afford to pay to send them all to college. She probably had to work for some time in order to pay for school.

          Also just looked at Wikipedia apparently she left USC in ’74 to go back to Charleston after her father and brothers’ death, but nice attempt on your part to imply that she is stupid.

  12. Burl Burlingame

    Doug, that’s the invisible hand of the marketplace lifting all boats. If you want I Love Sanford ads, you’re free to buy some.

  13. Burl Burlingame

    I’ve said it before — every election boils down to choosing between the a-hole and the d-bag. Me, I tend to vote a-hole, regardless of party.

    Good luck, South Carolina.

      1. Silence

        Personally, If I could vote in this contest I would vote for Sanford. I disagree with the things that I believe that the Democrats in Congress and the White House want to do to the country – so I’d vote for the more libertarian candidate.

        1. bud

          A lot of people in District 1 think that way. If Adolf Hitler was the Republican nominee running against Jesus Christ as the Democrat I suspect the Republicans would still win. It’s irrational but that’s just the way it is. And that’s why Mark Sanford will probably win.

        2. Mark Stewart


          Then you are part of the problem as to why South Carolina cannot find a way to move itself forward and to grow and prosper.

          In my opinion that concern is worrying about the wrong thing. The problem is local, it isn’t Pelosi and it isn’t Obama. Sanford is clearly part of that misguided local narrative. Choosing Sanford for those reasons sound more like fatalism than it does adherence to a political perspective.

          1. Silence

            Mark – I think that if the democratic party was to control the Presidency, Senate and House, it would be disastrous. If I can’t have libertarians running the show, then I’d like a bit of gridlock, please. Sanford will provide the gridlock.

          2. Mark Stewart

            It is disastrous when either party controls all three, Silence. There are already a House full of gridlock instigators. Why punish SC when it serves no national purpose?

            Seriously, if Sanford wins SC will have 7 terrible representatives in the House. I’m not sure any other state has a slate across the board as bad as SC would if Sanford wins.

          3. Silence

            SC is #1 in bad governance!

            We’re #1! We’re #1! We’re #1!

            In your face, Mississippi!

  14. Juan Caruso

    Gov. Sanford is a man of conviction, something trial lawyers try to have [pun intended]. I regard him as a dependable governor.

    Ronald Reagan, another man with both first wife problems and solid convictions has been my favorite governor, however. I was a California resident during Reagan’s first term.

    Each time he ran for president, independent voters like me were elated.

    As I have noted here before, the forces (you know who you are) that enabled widespread illegal voting until now have been quashed. Much to the dismay of his opponent’s camp, Sandford has a deserved edge, and irregular absentee ballots as well as poll stuffing will be more suspicious and detectable in a timely fashion than ever before in SC history. Hooray for SC!

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