Parsing The Book Of Mark
Sanford's 'Story,' Interpreted

By Hank Stuever and Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 25, 2009

"So let me lay out that larger story that has attracted so many of y'all here. I am a bottom line kind of guy. I will lay it out. It's gonna hurt and we will let the chips fall where they may."

-- Gov. Mark Sanford

Wow. Was that a press conference or was that a press conference? That genteel lilt of hubris, sorrow, guilt! But other than a very slow, meandering build to I just needed a little strange, what did it all mean? What language was South Carolina's Republican governor speaking yesterday as he forlornly told the world of his travels and travails, of how sorry he is to his wife, to his sons, to his staff, to "the Tom Davises of the world" (not the Virginia one, all the other ones)? Is it a new Pat Conroy novel? Is it a megachurch sermon? Is it the language of couples therapy? The metaphysics of Oprah? Shakespeare? The psychobabble of cheating husbands? (Note all the passive constructions, the avoidance of first person.) "Evita"? ("I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina . . .")

It's all of those things, and deliciously more, squeezed into 18 seemingly improvisational minutes. Herewith, Style's annotation:


Things that make you go hunh?

"I used to organize hiking trips, actually, when I was in high school. I would get a soccer coach or a football coach to act as chaperone, and then I'd get folks to pay me 60 bucks each or whatever it was to take the trip and then off we'd go and have these great adventures on the Appalachian Trail."

"Tom Davis came over to the house. He drove up from Beaufort. And he has been an incredibly dear friend for a very long time. In my first race for governor, he moved up and he lived in the basement of our house for six months and we called it Jurassic Park, because it was the kids' dinosaur sheets and all kinds of different folks were living there during the campaign."

"Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake."

"Where's Gina Smith?"


Weird! Dull! Weirdly, dully endless!

"I had the most, you know, surreal conversations a number of weeks ago with my father-in-law, laying some cards on the table."

"To give you way more detail than you'll ever want."

"I was a campus representative for the Eastern Airlines and could fly free, which meant I'd fly different places around the world, get myself a job, carry $100 of emergency money and either find a job there with the locals and come back or come on home."

"There's a certain irony to this. This person, at the time, was separated and we ended up in this incredibly serious conversation about why she ought to get back with her husband, for the sake of her two boys, that not only was it part of God's law but ultimately, those two boys would be better off for it."


Their hearts aren't the problem

About six minutes in, after his trips in college, the Jurassic Park sheets, etc. -- finally: "So the bottom line is this. I've been unfaithful to my wife."

"It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do. In just a casual e-mail back and forth in advice of one's life there and advice here."

"We developed a remarkable friendship over those last eight years. It was discovered five months ago. At that point, we went into serious overdrive in trying to say, 'Where do you go from here?' "


A cross between the language of prayer groups and Oprah metaphysics

"I am here because if you were to look at God's laws, they are in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. . . . It's not a moral, rigid list of do's and don'ts, just for the heck of do's and don'ts. It is, indeed, to protect us from ourselves."

"And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self."

"That sin is in fact grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else."

"God's law, indeed, is there to protect you from yourself and there are consequences if you breach that. This press conference is a consequence."

"I've been to a lot of different [meetings] of what we called C Street when I was in Washington. It was a, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study with some folks that asked members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important."

"I would say that I am committed to trying to get my heart right. The one thing that Cubby and all the others have told me is that the odyssey we are all on in life is with regard to heart."


Laugh lines (I'll be here all week)

"About a year ago, it sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then. During that whole sparking thing."

"Everybody ready? I won't begin in any particular spot."

"My love of the Appalachian Trail."

"It was interesting how this thing has gone down."


Join me on my special journey toward healing

"I am committed to that process of walking through [this] with Jenny and the boys, with the Tom Davises of the world, or with the people of South Carolina in saying, 'Where do we go from here?' "

"You know if I think about this process, not only does it begin at the family level, but it begins with the family of South Carolinians. And so that means me going one by one, and town by town, to talk to a lot of old friends across this state -- in what I've done and -- me asking for their forgiveness."

"The one thing that you really find is that you absolutely want resolution."

"How do you, again, be honest?"

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