South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford not only had an extramarital affair with a woman named Maria from Argentina, he also sent and received some very romantic e-mails. Like a giddy kid with a schoolboy crush, Mark Sanford traded e-mails with his Latin lover, Maria Belen Shapur. Given his restrained and meek mannerisms, who knew the Governor had it in him?
But more importantly, when will politicians learn not to leave anything that can be remotely connected to them on something that retains a particular image or message? Are they so self-preoccupied and egomaniacal that they believe themselves invulnerable to getting caught doing things they should not? Or is it, as some psychological experts believe, some deep unconscious guilt-driven desire — not manifesting itself to their conscious awareness — to be ultimately found out in the end?
Because Mark Sanford left a trail — a trail of e-mails, of love missives that are not only embarrassingly personal but also, now, embarrassingly public. The State, a South Carolina newspaper, the very same newspaper that received a tip that the Governor of South Carolina was on an Argentina flight and confronted Sanford when he deplaned in Atlanta, published several of the e-mails. They told CNN that they had the e-mails since December but withheld them from publication because of lack of corroboration.
The person who leaked the e-mails to the The State is unknown, but it is known, according to Sanford himself, that his wife found out about the affair about five months ago, which closely corresponds to the time of The State’s having received them. The e-mails derive from Sanford’s personal governor’s office e-mail account.
Could the governor himself have unknowingly sent them out? It is difficult to say.
One romantic message printed by The State read: “I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light – but hey, that would be going into the sexual details we spoke of at the steakhouse at dinner – and unlike you I would never do that!”
He talks about a giving Maria a gift: “I do not want to raise expectations, when I say I will send something insignificant I promise I will do as I say! It won’t be worthy of bedside placement… was just going to find the movie the Holiday as we had spoken of it last Thursday.”
In one e-mail, he mentions not being able to be with his mistress because of speculation as to his becoming a vice-presidential candidate and having to meet with Senator John McCain in Colorado. To make up for it, he suggests helping Maria’s oldest son meet some “film guys that might help his career etc”.
But Mark Sanford is not the first politician to find his e-mails front-page news. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick found his affair with his chief of staff not only headline news but also the center of a political debate that would ultimately oust him as mayor and send him to jail. Electronic messages between Kwame Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty not only shined a light on Kwame Kilpatrick’s infidelity but also on his perjuring himself during a high-profile wrongful dismissal case that cost the city of Detroit millions.
The old adage about history unlearned being repeated bears noting in Governor Sanford’s case. But history is a tough subject for some…