Roundtable on Gov. Sanford's Affair Admission

Roundtable on Gov. Sanford's Affair Admission

By Special Report With Bret Baier - June 24, 2009


GOV. MARK SANFORD, R-S.C.: The bottom line is this - I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.


BRET BAIER, HOST: South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford stepping down as the chair of the Republican Governors' Association after a strange weekend that ended with him at a news conference today in Columbia admitting to an affair, apologizing to his wife Jenny, his four sons, and also to his staff that he said did not deserve blame for misleading statements about where he was - first that he was off writing, and then that he was hiking on the Appalachian trail, and then, in fact, he was in Argentina with this woman.

So what about all of this and the future of Mark Sanford?

Let's bring in our panel, Byron York, chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

We should point out that the state newspaper in South Carolina has just posted, and we have now posted on, some pretty elicit emails between it appears Governor Sanford and this woman Maria that they say they have had since December. It's an interesting read.

We won't go into details here, but Byron, what about this story and how strange it has been?

BYRON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, I think he's toast. It's been a bizarre scene over the last week.

South Carolina has just been a hotbed of rumors. I talked to someone in South Carolina a few days ago and said "What's going on?" And they said, well, the theory is it's either a Susan Boyle-type breakdown or another woman, or maybe both. And it seems to have kind of been both.

He has a large group of social conservatives in South Carolina who never loved him all that much who are very upset about this.

A reconciliation, a public reconciliation with his wife would be very popular with them, but the wife released a statement today saying that she had actually thrown him out a couple of weeks ago, and as part of that arrangement, he was not supposed to get in touch with the family, and thus when he disappeared, went AWOL, she didn't know where he was.

All of this stuff looks really bad, and a number of Republicans in South Carolina are saying this does not look good for him.

BAIER: And Mort, he was at one time considered to be in the running for 2012.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I thought he was going to be the leading right-wing candidate, and he was setting himself up to do that by refusing the $700 million from the stimulus package and all that. It raised his profile among Republicans.

But look, multiple affairs did not stop Bill Clinton from being elected president, but that's because the Democratic Party is a lot more tolerant of licentiousness than the Republican Party is, and that's the rub for poor old Mark Sanford here.

You know, he - this, plus John Ensign's disclosure last week -

BAIER: Senator from Nevada.

KONDRACKE: Nevada - that he had an illicit affair is good news for Mitt Romney, for Bobby Jindal, for Pawlenty of Minnesota, for all the other candidates who might be running in 2012.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I would agree. I think he is toast politically.

And resigning from the Republican Governors' Association chairmanship is not going to do it, and the reason is that there is a dereliction of duty here. I know that's the titillation of the reason for it, but even apart from that, he is the governor of the state.

The governor of the state is chief executive, and if there is a disaster in the state, and this guy is incommunicado, he is nowhere to be seen and he doesn't transfer authority to his lieutenant governor who calls out the National Guard, you cannot recover from that. I think he doesn't last a week in the office of governor.

And the idea that he could actually have an affair in Argentina as an acting governor is sort of insane. If you go to Argentina, you have to have your passport stamped. You can't hide it.

I don't want to play psychiatrist on the show every night. However, the oddity of this and the self-destructiveness would suggest even to a layman that this is a near intentional political suicide.

BAIER: That's what I really don't understand about this story, the compartmentalizing your job as chief executive of state, and then this affair. This is a fair and balanced issue. You have Republicans and Democrats who have done this. But there's something that is going on, Byron?

YORK: He is not thinking straight right now. It's just very, very clear. These emails showed that he was, you know, head over heels for this woman.

He said at the news conference today that "I have spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina." Now, who is that going to appeal to?

So he doesn't seem to be thinking straight.


BAIER: So for Republicans, what does this mean? Does it take a little of the steam, the momentum that perhaps they were gaining as polls were changing?

KONDRACKE: I mean, to the extent that the conversation becomes all about, you know, affairs by Republicans, it's bad for the party.

But, you know, this is going to pass. I mean, we will be back to policy and disagreements and stuff like that in politics as soon as Mark Sanford disappears from the scene, which, I'm sure that his fellow Republicans hope will be soon.

BAIER: And he had, as you mentioned, Byron, a tough run in South Carolina with both Republicans and Democrats. Does he stay in that job?

KONDRACKE: You know, I think that unless there is some further malfeasance that comes up, I think he can survive. The Republicans in South Carolina are not happy, that's for sure. I even heard the state chairman sort of saying that they were going to have to revisit this and reconsider this and talk amongst themselves. But, you know, I think he can survive if he is clearly trying to reconcile with his wife, and, you know, makes further apologies, and stuff like that.

YORK: But members of his own party in the legislature are asking real questions - did his office lie to the people? Were any state assets used in this AWOL trip to Argentina? What was going on - specifically was he lying to his staff? Was his staff lying to the public? They have actual questions they have got to have answered.

KRAUTHAMMER: I agree. It's that trail of events, the construction of stories, the putting them out, the dissimulation, and just the weirdness of it all, which I think makes people think, can he really remain as chief executive of the state? And I think the answer is going to be no.

Even apart from the, again, the titillation and the moral aspects of his behavior is simply the irrational elements here.


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