That's his real cell phone number. (Joshua Drake/Reuters)
That’s his real cell phone number. (Joshua Drake/Reuters)

Remember the Alamo Sanford Campaign!

In a full-page ad appearing in the Post and Courier newspaper on Sunday, former South Carolina governor compared his campaign to the Alamo, described what a tough week it had been (for the Sanford campaign, in case you thought he was talking about something else) and defended himself against the recent leak of court documents showing his ex-wife had accused him of trespassing.

It’s a marvel, reminiscent in style and tone of Sanford’s resignation speech. (“This week’s news caught everyone by surprise as the mechanics of my and Jenny’s divorce had been sealed to avoid the boys having to deal with any of this. Leaving aside the unusual timing of supposedly sealed documents coming to light two weeks before an election — Jenny and I have both agreed that our efforts at raising our four boys are best considered and weighed privately, rather than over the airwaves. Though we may be public figures, we are still human figures who struggle just as so many other families and divorced couples do in getting childrearing right as best you can…. By original accounts you would have thought I was randomly sneaking around the house at Sullivans, when, in fact, I was returning a son from a neighborhood Super Bowl party. I did, indeed, watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14-year-old son because, as a father, I didn’t think he should sit alone and watch it.”) You know that the campaign is going well when you spend a full paragraph explaining that as a father, you didn’t think your son should sit alone and watch the Super Bowl. Especially not the commercials or that halftime show.

He also notes that “I don’t think it’s right for these huge liberal special interest to come in and try and decide the election for us, but the only way I can now win this is for you to run your own campaign against them. I’d ask that you copy this letter and send it to ten friends or call ten friends every time you see one of their ads.”

That will work.

In case, after this, you were still operating under the delusion that the campaign was going well, a few paragraphs later: “The Democrats’ ads will tell you none of this, so if you have further questions call me at the campaign office… or even on my cell,” the letter continues, offering both numbers.

And if you couldn’t guess from that paragraph that things were not going well for the Sanford campaign, the letter concludes with an Alamo comparison. Mark Sanford does realize that, in retrospect, comparing your campaign to the Alamo might not be the most encouraging possible message you could send. After all, once famed South Carolinian William Travis drew his line in the sand, everyone who stepped over it to fight with him, uh, perished horribly.

In fact, I said as much to the former governor over the phone Monday — it turns out that that really is his cell phone number.

When I asked him to unpack the Alamo metaphor a little, he began to laugh heartily. “A number of folks have said, ‘Hey, Mark, you realize, everybody died,’” he admitted. “I guess there was a bigger point I was trying to make there. That guy and those men were ultimately committed to their cause.” “If you take it just the Alamo unit, I get it, everybody perished, but I was trying to make a bigger point with the stand.” But “I get if you get technical in just that one episode of a larger narrative you could certainly read it one way.”

He says a number of people have already let him know that they’re stepping over the line to fight with him.

His phone has been ringing off the hook since the ad began, and he now has aides field the calls when on the road. Sanford says his mother taught him never to call anyone before eight in the morning, but he’s been getting calls starting at six and going all day, and people have not been shy to share what is on their minds with him. “You just sort of leapfrog it as best you can,” he notes.

This is some strange courage. I try not to give out my cell phone number. If pressed, I will give out my college roommate’s number (sorry about those 2 AM phone calls!). Sanford says he realizes it is “unusual by most standards,” which frankly describes the Sanford campaign in a nutshell.

He pushed back against criticism that his letter did not acknowledge that anyone else might conceivably have had a rough week. The nature, he said, of a “public communication that is meaningful,” is that “it is not all things to all people… Other bad things are happening around the globe… It doesn’t mean you don’t have sympathy.” But you’re “not trying to throw the encylopedia out there.”

“I leave you with one last thought,” the Sanford letter ends. “In March of 1863, there was similarly little time. A South Carolinian by the name of William Travis drew a line in the sand with his sword and simply asked those who would stay and fight, to cross it. His efforts, and that of those who died with him there at the Alamo, ultimately inspired Texans to come to the aid of their brethren and defeat Santa Anna’s army though they were outnumbered at the onset by six to one. I’m outnumbered right now, but will fight to the end toward freedom and financial sanity in Washington so important to sustaining it. I’d ask you to cross the line and fight with me.”

By the way, the Alamo was in 1836.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.