NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: one of the unlikeliest comebacks in U.S. political history comes to an end. Again.
Mark Sanford was considered a rising star in the Republican Party in the 1990s and even beyond the year 2000. That meteoric rise crashed and burned after lying spectacularly about an extramarital affair while serving as governor of South Carolina.
He left office a little over a year later, convinced his political career was over.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: But less than three years after that, he ran for office again, this time for the U.S. House. A public rift with President Trump last year ended Sanford’s second life in politics. A challenger backed by Trump beat Sanford in this year’s Republican primary.
Warren Smith interviewed Sanford for this week’s Listening In. We join their conversation as the congressman reflects on what he lost and gained during his downfall. Here’s an excerpt.
MARK SANFORD: I will say this: I experienced, um, human grace, which is ultimately a reflection of God’s grace, at a level that I didn’t know even existed. And so it became a very spiritual journey, oddly enough. But there’s a lot of introspection that goes with pain, and there was a lot of pain in that chapter of life. And so what I would say is I probably grew and developed more as a human being. I probably developed more in the way of empathy for my fellow man than I ever had before. You know, in previous steps of life, as you were just alluding, the doors just kept opening. And not, there wasn’t any grand plan. It was God opening doors, and you kept walking through them. And another door open. Another open. You’d have chairman of the Republican Governors Association on and on and on. But all of a sudden, all the doors were closed. And that causes you to look, maybe in ways that you hadn’t ever before, both for God, to God for solace in that chapter of life and to, to, to other dear friends that were with you in that chapter of life. So, um, it’s, it’s one that I still contemplate because your star was on the rise and you feel like, oh my goodness, I’ve just ruined my life and I’ve ruined my boys’ lives. Uh, but then you read the story of Jacob and Joseph and how even that which was intended for bad God turned and made it good. And I would just say without going into lots of detail, there has been, oddly enough, a lot of good that’s come from that bad chapter of life.
WARREN SMITH: Well, I’ll just have to take your word for the good that came out of it. But I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say that there were some, even with all of the good that may have come out of it, the spiritual growth, the introspection and all of that, some pretty horrible consequences for you and for those who admire your policies for the country. And you basically took yourself out of the running forever as being a candidate for president of the United States, which you were very seriously talked about. Do you have a sense of the lost opportunities there?
SANFORD: You can’t dwell on them. It’ll drive you crazy. Um, I think that, you know, you can Monday afternoon quarterback yourself to death. You can look at the would ofs, the could ofs, and the should ofs of life, but you will end up in misery. And so I’ve listened to a tape series by Redeemer Presbyterian Church up in New York City. And it goes into fairly great depth on the Jacob-Joseph story. And I hang onto that, and that’s all you can do because to do otherwise is just to drive yourself crazy.
REICHARD: That’s Congressman Mark Sanford speaking with Warren Smith. To hear the full interview, check out Listening In tomorrow. It’s available on your favorite podcast platform.