Hardball | February 19, 2013
>>> more recently i have experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes, but in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a god of second chances, and be the better for it. in that light i humble bistep forward and ask for your help in changing washington. i'm mark sanford , and i approve this message.
>> welcome back to "hardball." that's former south carolina governor mark sanford who is trying to resurrect his political career with a bid to fill the open house seat in south carolina 's first congressional district . to refresh your memory about this mistake he references in the ad here is a clip from his famous june 2009 press conference.
>> i have been unfaithful to my wife. i developed a relationship with a -- what started as a dear, dear friend from argentina . it began very innocently, as i suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth in advice on one's life there and advice here. but here recently over this last year it developed into something much more than that.
>> well, now mark sanford is trying to use his transgression as a building block , if you will, for a revived political career telling politico, i probably have more to offer now as a human being than at any point in my life because there's an added level of reflection, of empathy. joining me is michelle cottle of "newsweek" and the daily wiest and john nak colonels of the nation. you're laughing, john. this is serious business. let's get started here. michelle , this is interesting because the use of the word mistake is fascinating. i mean, you can do an exegesis of that word. was the mistake falling in love and going off -- he's apparently still with this woman. he's been divorced. what was the mistake he acknowledges here? i can't even figure out how to discern what he's talking about sometimes with these guys but he's learned a lot from it and he has much better empathy and much more reflective in life.
>> that's right.
>> so he made a mistake but he's somehow better for it. explain how that works.
>> you have to focus on how he's learned, chris. he's grown, he understands humility and self-reflection and compassion. this is a guy who didn't just cheat on his wife. this is a guy who cheated on his wife, loo i had to his constituents, told them he disappeared from office and then humiliated himself and the state by rambling on and on and on about his soulmate and how he had fallen in love. so it takes -- you have to unravel this whole thing to even begin to understand kind of what he's apologizing for.
>> yeah, i'm not sure the word mistake is applicable here. and i am having a little fun with this because i think it's ridiculous -- not that politicians have emotions if they make moral errors and they sin or whatever, but that they had the craziest way of write being it and talking about it with the voter. john nichols , was the mistake when he thought he was on the appalachian trail somewhere down in the united states along the mountains, he was actually in buenos aries . i thought i was on the appalachian trail . that's a mistake. that's when you make a mistake. his mistake was he fell in love , fine. what did he do that he considers a mistake and what does he benefit in terms of the voters going back to d.c.? is he bringing the woman from argentina with him back to d.c.? where does he stand on this thing?
>> well, it gets pretty wild, doesn't it, because all the questions you ask are appropriate ones. and the first question really is, if he had made a bigger mistake, if he had done something worse, would he be better qualified for congress? because that seems to be the argument he's making. and, of course, the reality of it is the biggest mistake he made was lying. he lied to his own staff. he lied to the people of south carolina . and he got caught in an enormous way.
>> what should he have done? now that we're doing this, now that we're meantoring him in reverse, in retrospect, what should he have done? told everyone i was down in buenos aires with this woman i met and it got serious and i guess i'm in a situation. would that have worked?
>> here is a tip. if you're going to buenos aries to have an affair, at least acknowledge that you're going to buenos aries . don't claim you're out hiking on the appalachian trail .
>> okay. now, just to put this in perspective, newt gingrich is always useful in putting things in per sec tiff. there are a lot of ways to attempt a political comeback. newt gingrich used a different approach to explain his infidelity in a 2011 interview. this is only two years ago. let's listen to the newt sister becau ster because he beats the band when it comes to this stuff.
>> there's no question at times in my life partially driven by how passionately i felt about this country, that i worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.
>> so he was too patriotic. he cared too much about the country. he worked too hard for the country and then things happened because he was patriotic and worked too hard for the country. what is that? is that a mistake or is that some kind of way of talking?
>> this once again is a selling point. it's the, you see, i love my country so much i just -- i kind of lost my head and, oops, i'm so sorry i left my wife for another woman. it's unfortunate.
>> when you say something which is as full of malarkey as that, who do you expect to believe it, that you were too patriotic, that you couldn't remember who your wife was or -- i don't want to make moral judgment i'll just talk politics here. i don't understand why they think people have such dunce caps on out there, oh, that's a point. he really is too patriotic to be faithful to his wife. i mean, what are we talking about with these people? that's why they don't trust politicians.
>> maybe he wanted to make mark san forward look good.
>> congress is running 15% approval because people talk like this and they say things like i made a mistake.
>> they're providing some thin veneer of cover for people who want an excuse to go back and believe in them. you know, you need some way to justify yourself --
>> you just described a criminal defense . somebody told me to take the
>> we're not talking about politics.
>> let's talk turkey. i want to know if the guy can win. i'm hearing different reports he could easily win in a very wide field. there is a runoff though. runoffs are always dangerous for people with troubles. you eventually have to run against one other person for your party's nomination. it's a republican district but he has owe to beat one republican. can he be a congressman again despite everything we've been kidding about here?
>> the truth is this is a very good ad. it's a well-done ad. and down in that district he has been getting a reasonably good response. now, it's a very crowded field, almost everybody seems to think that mark sanford will come through the initial primary. he'll face one other candidate, but it is possible, certainly not certain, possible that the other candidate he faces might be ted turner 's son.
>> and namesake.
>> and if mark sanford attaches ted turner 's record to ted turner 's son, yeah, i could see a moment where mark sanford might get through a runoff and get to congress.
>> so an embarrassment beats a legacy.
>> exactly. he's not high name recollection and erick erickson was one of his biggest detractors and the minute he started this confessional tour, ericsson is i forgive him, let's be graceful and give him other shot.
>> it's not rural south carolina . it's not cottonland. it's very beautiful charlton, one of the most beautiful cities in the world i think. are those people up to this kind of level of life? this sort of way of looking at things, this kay sir ra sir ra. do they have enough of that to vote for him? mark? i'm sorry, not mark, john. we're talking about mark.
>> it is within the realm -- that's okay. although i hope my wife doesn't make the comparison.
>> no, you're not mark.
>> it's within the realm of possibility, and understand that charlton, like new orleans , is a pretty sophisticated city, and there will be some folks who may want to try and forgive, but also who may want to try and look the other way. one thing that's important to understand is mark sanford aside from his incredible bumbles on this, you know, back in 2009 , has always been a very capable politician and by comparison to some of the other candidates he comes off pretty well for folks in charles to be.
>> i think the most forgiving city in the country is new orleans . i think when you're fourth or fifth divorce you go to new orleans . you have been through new orleans , they say come in and have some fun. in the "today" show sanford touted his record of looking out for taxpayers. let's listen.
>> the reality of our lives is if we live long enough we're going to fail at something. and i absolutely failed in my personal life , in my marriage, but one place i didn't ever fail was with the taxpayer.
>> the south carolina state ethics commission doesn't agree. sanford settled charges he broke ethics laws by using state and campaign money for personal travel guess where, including travel to argentina by paying a $74,000 fine. yet, the state reported in the graeme the ethics commission issued a public reprimand and disagreed with his argument that he broke no laws. well, there we have it, right?
>> yeah. in this way he can lump this all in with his personal transgressions and say jesus has forgiven me and so should you.
>> maybe he has. that we don't know. that last thing you said. anyway, thank you michelle cottle and thank you john nichols for this serious report on an unserious man.
>>> we have much more on mark sanford 's tour on our website. check out -- it's on facebook as well.
>>> up next, that sad saga from south africa where oscar pistorius , the world's most famous pair olympian has been charged with murdering his girlfriend. buzz bissinger said it's time to stop this unwarranted veneration of sports figures we have grown up with. he joins us next, and this is "hardball,"