But I Loved that Man . . . .

by Pamela Goode

Mark-Sanford-Piglets expI hate politics. Always have. There isn’t a sentence you could utter about any politician on earth that I wouldn’t believe, no matter how bizarre, how far outside the bounds of credible human behavior. Except Mark Sanford. I loved that man.

I uttered as much to the father of my children last week, and he replied, “I feel the same. He was my Tar Tudent. Character matters, and I hope he has boatloads. He’ll need it.” Indeed.

When the kids were 3 and 4, they attended Happy Time School in Georgetown, SC, run by the our local Teacher/Goddess/ Dispenser of Love and Emotional Health, Peggy Wheeler. Miss Peggy had a bulletin board placed at kid level as you walked in the door, with Star Student spelled across it. Each week, one of the kidlets was chosen to be the Star Student — not based on any accomplishments, but simply as a rotating honor. The children brought in photos of themselves, family, pets, vacations, drawings — whatever they wanted — and they were posted for that week surrounded by stars. When it was daughter Ashley’s turn, she excitedly reported that she would be the next Tar Tudent. We’ve used the phrase for Special People ever since.

Mike Sanford was one of those, a true Tar Tudent, and I knew it from the first time he was introduced to us by a mutual friend. Sanford was not your garden variety politician. In fact, it seemed he wasn’t a politician at all. A proponent of limited terms, tough love and straight talk, it seemed he was one of those lovely men of character who have better sense than to dally near the political arena. It seemed he was a candidate no party would support, because he refused to be a pretty face with a big smile and a push button for regurgitating party agendas. Mark Sanford was his own man and nobody’s mouthpiece. Dangerous? Only for the status quo, I thought.

When Hubby first mentioned the news last week, I immediately refuted the claim — didn’t even give the possibility a split second in my psyche before spitting the ludicrosity right back out. “No,” I said. “He would never.” And then my daughter, who, at 22, has grown a CNN appendage with a hearty Economist diet. “It’s true.” I stared at them blankly. But I loved that man!

A week ago, I scoured the news. I read transcripts of the curious press conference, Jenny’s boldly gracious response, and emails that made my teeth hurt. I tried to understand. Surely there was some emotional breakdown that obliterated his judgment, erased his memory of a wife so supportive that she served by his side as campaign manager, shrouded his dedication to four strapping sons.

After a good day cutting tile and shaping the colors into a glorious red as red heart, I walked up the front steps this afternoon with newspaper in hand, uncharacteristically glancing down through the bluish plastic rain cover. “Sanford Admits to More Liaisons,” read the headline. My jaw dropped. And then the caption beneath his chagrinned face, “SC Gov. Mark Sanford says he’s trying to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny.” Only the sight of our 13-year-old by the door kept the sound from my fury.

Momentarily.

Well fuck you, Mark Sanford. Fuck you. It isn’t enough that you’re whining about love instead of sharing it with your spouse and your children, it isn’t enough that you’re whining about the fishbowl of politics instead of governing the state, it isn’t enough that you’re flying your “trusted spiritual advisor” to New York for dinner with your curvy-hipped lovedrop, but you have the gall to say, publicly, as if this scandal isn’t pain enough, that you’re trying to fall back in love with your wife, Jenny. Just fuck you. I hope she douses you with gasoline and gives you one last kiss so electric that you burst into the flames of hell. And I’m not given to that sort of talk.

So there were others. I no longer care. I will no longer try to understand. I dump you into the scum pond of politicians who feel they are not only above the law, but above any notion of human character. American politicians have become the laughingstock of the nation, if not the world. The concept of service is dead. We could let them finish out their terms on I Survived a Japanese Game Show and get as much out of them as we do in Washington and our state capitals. I am ashamed. So very ashamed.

I loved this guy, and I’m not the naive type. I’m so not-the-naive type that trust is excruciatingly slow for me. I look, I listen, I wait, and maybe in five or ten years, I trust. But I trusted you Mark Sanford. And you are not a Tar Tudent. Turns out your character was somewhat less than boatloads. Too bad for both of us; for all of us. And now I’m done.

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