Did Mark Sanford admit to a sin worse than sex?
I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a—which started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. … Over this last year it developed into something much more than that. … This person at the time was separated, and we ended up in this incredibly serious conversation about why she ought to get back with her husband. … And we had this incredibly earnest conversation. … And we developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years. And then, as I said, about a year ago, it sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then, during that whole sparking thing. … I spent the last five days, and I was crying in Argentina so I could repeat it when I came back here, in saying, you know, while, indeed, from a heart level, there was something real—it was a place based on the fiduciary relationship I had to the people of South Carolina, based on my boys, based on my wife, based on where I was in life, based on where she was in life, and places I couldn't go and she couldn't go.
Dear, dear friend? Something much more than that? Incredibly earnest conversation? Remarkable friendship? Sparking thing? Something real? Where I was in life? Places I couldn't go?
Has Mark Sanford lost his mind? Doesn't he understand that you never, ever, ever admit that you loved the other woman? That you still have strong feelings for her? That part of you wishes you could leave your job and family and go with her?
The cynical interpretation of Sanford's heresy would be that in his case, the appeasement calculus goes the other way: He needs to convey love for his mistress rather than his wife, because his mistress could do him greater harm, perhaps by spilling more details of the relationship. But I don't buy that. Sanford has always been an idealist. A weirdo, but an idealist. I think he loved this other woman. I think he still does. And he won't belittle or renounce that love because it was, and is, something real.
I feel awful for Sanford's wife and kids. But compared with all the cheaters who have gone before him, I don't think less of him for genuinely loving the other woman or for admitting it. It beats the hell out of seducing somebody, kicking her to the curb, and pretending she was nothing to you—or really meaning it.
AP Video: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford Admits Affair
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.