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Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford Joins Ranks Of Republicans Running Against Trump17:09
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Former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford speaks with attendees at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's annual fundraiser on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, in Anderson, S.C. (Meg Kinnard/AP)
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford speaks with attendees at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's annual fundraiser on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, in Anderson, S.C. (Meg Kinnard/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Republican presidential candidate Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman, is with us.

Guest

Mark Sanford, Republican candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination, challenging President Trump. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years. Governor of South Carolina from 2003-2011. (@MarkSanford)

Interview Highlights

On why he's decided to run against President Trump

"I think he's taking us in the wrong direction. I think we need to have a serious conversation, as Republicans, about what it means to be a Republican. Because I think we've lost our way in a whole series of different things, that begin first with the way in which we're spending money. [Financial conservatism] was historically a linchpin to what the Republican Party was allegedly about."

On whether he believes the Republican Party has built a cult of personality around President Trump

"Yes. I mean, ideally, whether you're a Republican, Democrat, independent, you have a set of ideas and ideals that drive your political agenda. What's interesting — I'm a very conservative Republican, I voted with the administration overwhelmingly. And, yet, only in this moment in time that we're in right now, is that enough. Because the president is viewing me as an enemy, as an opponent. I mean, I love my brothers and sisters, but I don't agree with them all the time. And, yet, we still have a relationship. We carve things out, we do things. That's the way it ought to work. Politics ought to be about ideas. And what it is on all too many days, seemingly, at the White House is: 'Are you for me or against me as a person?' He wants personal loyalty, as opposed to idea loyalty."

"I think he's taking us in the wrong direction. I think we need to have a serious conversation, as Republicans, about what it means to be a Republican."

Mark Sanford on President Trump

On his extramarital relationship

"I did have an extramarital affair, and it proved incredibly costly. But, unlike Donald Trump, who said there's nothing for which he is apologetic or sorry for, for my last year and a half of the governorship, I went on something of an apology tour. And, you know, people were finally like, 'Shut up. We got it Mark.' But, I think it was very important.

"And I think that in the wake of public failure, you can learn a level of humility and empathy toward others that you don't have when you've only seen success in life. And, so, I had a rather public failure. But, it's something that is an amazing personal journey to go on, back here at home, wherein people who know you best, in the wake of all that, say: 'Look, we know you, we trust you, we don't approve of how you handled that particular chapter of life. But, because we know you, and trust you, we will actually send you back to be our emissary to Washington. We'll send you back to the United States Congress.' That's a rather humbling journey to go on.

"And, so, what I would say to folks [is], by all means, that's a part of my history. But we all have history. And the question is, do you learn from the mistakes of your life? Or, are you blatantly unapologetic about mistakes, as the president is? And, so, I'd say I guess I boil it down this way: I'd ask that people not judge me on the worst day, or chapter in my life, any more than I'd ask to judge me on my best day. Look at the totality of my time in politics, and the totality of my life and make a judgment on that."

"I did have an extramarital affair, and it proved incredibly costly. But, unlike Donald Trump, who said there's nothing for which he is apologetic or sorry for, for my last year and a half of the governorship, I went on something of an apology tour."

Mark Sanford

On whether he would vote for President Trump in the general election

Sanford appeared on MSNBC’s "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on Aug. 12, and said he would vote for President Trump in the general election. "Or, I will look at that election, at that time, based on the issues that are at play," he said.

"I think the complexity of the question is this: what I hear from my Democratic friends is that [Joe] Biden ultimately won't be the person standing. It's more likely going to be [Elizabeth] Warren or Bernie [Sanders]. That's what they tell me. Who knows? There's a long time to go between here and there. I think that it would be difficult for me to vote for, let's say Bernie Sanders, simply because of the number of different costly proposals that he's laid out with a concurrent pay for. And then you go into the question of engagement, the rest of world, institutions, tone, all those different things.

"But, I would say the center of the bull's-eye for me, as it relates to issues, is the way in which we're headed toward a financial hurricane. Nobody is talking about it on the Republican or the Democratic side. And I think that that issue needs to be elevated. I'm trying to do that. And, then, if somebody’s asking, 'who would I vote for?' it would be the person closest to dealing with that financial hurricane, that is, I believe, coming our way."

From The Reading List

New York Magazine: "Is Mark Sanford’s Quest for the Mythical Reluctant Trump Voter Noble or Pathetic?" — "The road back to the campaign trail begins with the Look. Do you know the one I mean? The Look is one of searching, of scanning, of wanting. For half a second, the eyes swell with hope — cartoonish, glassy. Every passing person presents an opportunity. Do you know me? the eyes ask. Can I shake your hand, slap your back, kiss your baby?

"Mark Sanford was giving the Look left and right. In the direction of the young couple sitting in a hammock. An older couple on a bench. A man approaching on his jog. A golden retriever.

"It was dusk in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the suburban town six miles from downtown Charleston where Sanford lives. A short drive from his house, there’s the ocean walk — a beautiful stretch of pavement and palmetto-studded grass that extends through the marsh to a pier on the Cooper River. Sanford walked along the path in his flip-flops. He was preparing for a trip to Iowa, a euphemism for declaring your candidacy for your party’s presidential nomination. Some people recognized him, even offered words of encouragement. Others breezed past, unaware or uninterested in the man whom the president was, in fact, tweeting about at that very moment.

"'Can you believe it? I’m at 94 percent approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me. One is "Mr. Appalachian Trail" who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons …,' Donald Trump wrote.

"It can rarely be said that Trump is right, but on this he is, almost: Among Republicans, he maintains sky-high levels of support, though not the 94 percent he claims. According to Gallup, 88 percent of Republicans assess him favorably. When you talk to reluctant Trump voters — not the MAGA-hat-wearing rallygoers but rich white people — they cite the Supreme Court and tax reform as enough justification for their position; that whatever damage he has wrought, these victories denied to conservatives during eight years of Barack Obama are worth it. And besides, many of them think this will all be short-lived. Why bother trying to help a Joe Walsh or a Bill Weld when Trump will probably be defeated in the general?"

New York Times: "Opinion: Mark Sanford Is the Biggest Republican Threat to Trump" — "This weekend, the former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford threw his hat into the presidential ring.

"He is the latest Republican to challenge President Trump for his party’s nomination. He also becomes the latest Republican to be instantly dismissed and jeered and even have his sanity questioned in some quarters.

"But Mr. Sanford enters the race in a vastly different position than Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, and Joe Walsh, the former representative from Illinois — one that could make him a more formidable challenger to Mr. Trump.

"Unlike Mr. Walsh and Mr. Weld, both 'Never Trumpers' — in fact, the latter ran as part of a ticket that aimed to draw votes from both Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — Mr. Sanford is unlikely to be defined by Never Trumpism. His position is more nuanced."

Washington Post: "Opinion: Mark Sanford is a throwback to a different era of Republicans" — "There’s a little bit of a Gary Cooper quality to former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (R). Starting off a phone interview Thursday, I asked him what the reaction in his home state has been to his recently announced presidential campaign. 'Depends who you talk to,' he said. What have the first few days been like? 'Busy.'

"Get him going on a policy discussion, however, and Sanford has plenty to say. On the debt and deficit, he said he’s surprised it hasn’t come up in the Democratic debates and Republicans sure aren’t talking about it. 'First, we need to recognize we have a problem.' He said raising the issue is a test: 'Can we inject this into the political bloodstream?' Where would he attack the problem? 'You have to look at entitlements,' he said. 'Like Willie Sutton, that’s where the money is.' He cautioned that eliminating 'waste, fraud and abuse' isn’t going to cut it. I asked him if, within the context of entitlement reform, he’d consider measures such as raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security. 'I think you have to look at the whole basket,' he said. He added, 'Everybody’s got to sacrifice.'

"Turning to corruption and self-dealing, Sanford said, 'This president is on steroids on a whole bunch of things.' He noted that whatever you thought of the Bush family, they 'didn’t push emoluments to the edge' like President Trump does. 'We’re setting bad precedent,' he warned. He ticked off a list of some recent revelations — the vice president 'weirdly' picking to stay at a Trump property in Ireland, possible diversion of Air Force crew so that the crew lodges at Trump’s Scottish resort. 'I think it has become corrosive,' he said. There may be a need for new laws, but Sanford is convinced that what we need is a change of president."

Dorey Scheimer produced this segment for broadcast.

This segment aired on September 17, 2019.

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