Yesterday, President Obama said his smoking habit was an "interesting human interest story." Sorry, Mr. President. It doesn't hold a candle to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's
Appalachian Trail Argentina trip. This is a real human interest story.
Republican or Democrat, supporter or opponent, Sanford's disappearing act is fascinating political theater. Weird? You bet. Fascinating? Of course. Inexplicable? Well maybe. Let's see what he says.
Sanford is holding a press conference this afternoon at 2:30pm to provide us some answers -- maybe. We're going to try live blogging it. We live blogged Rod Blagojevich's guest DJ stint a couple months ago and pulled it off. We'll try again today.
In the meantime, you can click here to read up on the latest. Thar's impeachment rumblings down thar in South Carolina. The Southern Political report writes, "...that some members of the South Carolina legislature are considering an effort to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford after revelations that he spent nearly a week in Argentina without disclosing where he was or providing means of communication."
Gary Karr is with us today. Karr was former South Carolina Governor David Beasley's press secretary. Karr and I served as press secretaries for different governors at the same time. We go back to 1995. Karr has remained active in politics and still has close ties to the political scene in South Carolina.
Karr spent 12 years at the South Carolina state house as a reporter and as press secretary.
"South Carolina voters have generally liked Gov. Sanford more than political elites have, but it's hard to see how his 'catch me if you can' tour will help him," Karr said.
"When you lie to your staff and have them lie, have your wife not know where you are and you leave your sons on Father's Day ... well, let's just say it's not the best way to build political support," he continued.
UPDATE: We're live
Gary Karr on the beginning of the press conference: "Gee whiz did he not think about where he would start?"
Sanford is talking about his love of the Appalachian Trail (where he didn't go) and his frustrations over this past political season.
SANFORD: "I'm a bottom line type of guy. This is going to hurt. I want to apologize to my wife and my four kids."
KARR: Right thing to do right away -- say you're sorry to your wife and boys. That will be what South Carolinians want to hear.
ORR: Sanford is now apologizing to everyone. Wife, kids, staff, his friend Tom. Sanford's voice is cracking. His friend Tom Davis used to live in Sanford's basement.
KARR: I'm not sure I buy that he really cares about his staff, but it's nice to hear a public apology.
ORR: This is an awful long windup. He keeps saying how he's let everyone down. Now he's asking for forgiveness. When is the shoe going to drop?
ORR: Now he's apologizing to people of faith.
SANFORD: "There are moral absolutes and God's law is there to protect you from yourself. There are consequences. This press conference is a consequence."
Here's the bombshell
SANFORD: "I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with someone who was a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently as I suspect things like this do in a casual email.
SANFORD: "But over the last year it developeded into something much more. I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of folks.
SANFORD: "All I can say is that I apologize. I would ask for y'alls zone of privacy -- more for my kids."
ORR: After this long windup, I guess you could expect this. Sanford is now announcing his resignation from Republican Governors Association.
First question: Are you separated from the First Lady?
SANFORD: "I don't know how you answer that. I'm here. She's there."
ORR: Terrible answer.
Second question: Did your wife know about the trip to Argentina?
SANFORD: "We;ve been working through this for five months."
KARR: I'm surprised that he is taking questions. This is jaw-dropping, even in today's times. He keeps saying, "believe it or not." I guess he understands that many people don't believe him right now.
Third question: Only time you've been unfaithful?
Fourth question: Did you break it off?
ORR: As far as we can tell, the governor didn't answer this question. Here's what he said:
SANFORD: "I met this person eight years ago very innocently. We struck up a conversation. I am not justifying. What I did was wrong. We ended up in a conversation about why she should get back with her husband. We had an incredibly earnest conversation. At the end of it, we swapped emails. It began on just a casual basis."
ORR: He's not answering the question
SANFORD: "We developed a remarkable relationship over the years. A year ago it sparked into something more. I've seen her three times during the sparking thing."
ORR: [Sparking thing will be a new catchphrase]
SANFORD: "You absolutely want resolution. I spent the last five days crying in Argentina."
ORR: Are you serious?
Last question: Did you mislead your staff about where you were?
SANFORD: We talked about this. I said the Appalachian Trail was a possibility. They went on the original information I gave the scheduler.
[He didn't answer the question].
KARR: "The press in SC wants to know if the Sanford staff purposely lied to them or just didn't know the truth. Oh boy I am glad NOT to be on his staff today."
The press conference has concluded.
KARR: "The apologies got a bit much, but obviously they were necessary. His low-key candor is appealing, I have to admit, and I am not a fan of the governor.
"Because of the way he has acted in the governor's office, one easily leapt to the conclusion that he was merely being a flake. Now, one has to think about him just a differently -- but that doesn't mean that he has much of a political future.
"But if he means what he says, then he's doing the right thing -- focus on his family first. The politics, or lack thereof, will take care of themselves."
ORR: Did he say he broke it off with her?
Karr: It appeared that he did to me but it's not clear whether he thinks he'll stay as governor. I think he did but I don't think it's 100 percent clear. it sounds like he wanted to.
ORR: We've got Gary Karr with us. Gary was press secretary for former South Carolina Governor David Beasley. Karr is a bit shocked:
KARR: "Don't think I've ever seen something that jaw-dropping. I spent 12 years in that Statehouse. Nothing comes close."
ORR: Karr and I served as press secretaries for different governors at the same time (make sense?). Coming from this background, it is very important to maintain good relationships with the press. I asked Gary if he were the press secretary now, how he would react.
KARR: Before knowing this news, absolutely furious. If I knew the truth, and was sure I knew, less so after this press conference. But I would probably tell him honestly that his first job is to make sure he protects and guides his family. And if that means that he cannot devote time to be governor, then he should resign.
ORR: Circumstances are different. States are different. You can certainly rebuild yourself after an affair. But how special are these circumstances?
KARR: I don't think we know today, right know. There will be more questions, and more perhaps more revelations. How did they meet? Did he use state resources at any point to meet with this woman? What does Mrs. Sanford -- who is very smart -- say in the near-term?
KARR: Gov. Sanford has antagonized the Legislature, so few legislators are his fans. The real question is, how much do the people of South Carolina want to rally to his side? Or would they prefer the whole drama go away?
I don't think we know today, right NOW (not know).
ORR: How will people in South Carolina react to this? What's your gut, Gary?
KARR: "His fund-raising base was not great, he is not that disciplined a campaigner (which you HAVE to be on a national stage) and he has only a low-key relationship with the religious conservatives.
"I think there will be a lot of people sorry for him and especially for his wife and sons. People in South Carolina are enormously protective of their own, and, to some extent, protective of women scorned
"The key will be what Mrs. Sanford says. She's a strong and smart woman, from what I know. But if it appears that her husband is not taking her into account, well, he's toast."
ORR: Sanford appeared elusive. Like the last question. Did he tell his staff to mislead the press. How elusive did you find him Gary?
KARR: The real Mark Sanford has always been a bit elusive. So actually, I think he was more forthright than I expected.
ORR: Gary, this was a drop-dead serious press conference. I was surprised that he said, "I spent the last five days crying in Argentina." That was a little weird. What'd you think?
KARR: "Yes. It made me think I was seeing a little bit more of a person than I had a right to do so. It's almost as if he was conducting a little bit of a counseling session right there on the first floor of the Statehouse. Talked about his friend the state senator and a pastoral friend almost as much as he did his wife and sons."
ORR: What's Sanford's political future, Gary?
KARR: He's barred from a third consecutive term and he's largely persona non grata in the Legislature anyway. The only question about his future was whether he could mount a credible national campaign.
Today's news conference doesn't kill that completely, but his future is on life support and the heart rate monitor is beeping only infrequently.