Genius in the Bottle
As in all great affairs, Mark Sanford fell in love simultaneously with a woman and himself — with the dashing new version of himself he saw in her molten eyes.
In a weepy, gothic unraveling, the South Carolina governor gave a press conference illustrating how smitten he was, not only with his Argentine amante, but with his own tenderness, his own pathos and his own feminine side.
He got into trouble as a man and tried to get out as a woman.
He wanted to get his girlfriend a DVD of the movie “The Holiday,” presumably the Cameron Diaz-Kate Winslet chick flick about two women, one from L.A. and one from England, who trade homes and lives. He was fantasizing about catapulting himself into an exotic life where stimulus had nothing to do with budgets.
With Maria, he was no longer the penny-pinching millionaire Mark, who used to sleep on a futon in his Congressional office and once treated two congressmen to movie refreshments by bringing back a Coke and three straws.
No, he was someone altogether more fascinating: Marco, international man of mystery and suave god of sex and tango.
Mark was the self-righteous, Bible-thumping prig who pressed for Bill Clinton’s impeachment; Marco was the un-self-conscious Lothario, canoodling with Maria in Buenos Aires, throwing caution to the e-wind about their “soul-mate feel,” her tan lines, her curves, “the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light.”
Mark is a conservative railing against sinners; Marco sins liberally. Mark opposes gay marriage as a threat to traditional marriage. Marco thinks nothing of risking his own traditional marriage, and celebrates transgressive relationships. He frets to Maria in e-mail that he sounds “like the Thornbirds — wherein I was always upset with Richard Chamberlain for not dropping his ambitions and running into Maggie’s arms.”
Marco, the libertine, wonders how they will ever “put the Genie back in the bottle.” And in the sort of Freudian slip that any solipsistic pol like Mark would adore, Maria protests in Spanglish: “I don’t want to put the genius back in the bottle.”
Mark is so frugal for the taxpayers that he made his staffers use both sides of Post-it notes and index cards, and once brought two (defecating) pigs named “Pork” and “Barrel” into the statehouse to express his disgust with lawmakers’ pet spending projects.
Marco is a sly scamp who found a sneaky way to make South Carolina taxpayers pay for a south-of-the-border romp with his mistress.
Mark is so selfish he tried to enhance his presidential chances by resisting South Carolina’s share of President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, callously giving the back of his hand to the suffering state’s most vulnerable — the jobless and poor and black students.
Marco is generous, promising to send a memento of affection that Maria wants to keep by her bed.
Mark hates lying. As he said of Bill’s dalliance with Monica, “If you undermine trust in our system, you undermine everything.”
Marco lies with brio, misleading his family, his lieutenant governor, his staff and his state about his whereabouts, even packing camping equipment to throw off the scent from South America. He told whoppers to his wife, a former investment banker who managed his campaigns and raises his four sons (solo on Father’s Day). She put out a statement quoting Psalm 127 to snidely remind her besotted husband “that sons are a gift from the Lord.”
Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press on Friday that Mark had told her he needed time to be alone and write, so she was stunned to learn he was in Argentina on a “Roman Holiday.” Before he left to “write,” she warned him not to skip off to the other woman.
Mark, who disdains rascals, agreed that he wouldn’t. Marco, who is a rascal, skipped off.
Mark went back to work on Friday, giving his cabinet a lecture on personal responsibility and comparing himself to King David, who “fell mightily ... in very, very significant ways but then picked up the pieces and built from there.”
Actually, the one thing David didn’t do after his adulterous fall was build, because he was forbidden by God to construct his dream temple in Jerusalem.
Sanford should give his piety a rest. He told his cabinet that the Psalms taught him humility. (There’s a chance that a younger Argentine boyfriend of Maria’s also taught him humility, by jealously hacking into her e-mail account and leaking the governor’s missives.)
Sanford can be truly humble only if he stops dictating to others, who also have desires and weaknesses, how to behave in their private lives.
The Republican Party will never revive itself until its sanctimonious pantheon — Sanford, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Palin, Ensign, Vitter and hypocrites yet to be exposed — stop being two-faced.