Mark Sanford’s Arrogant Humility

Josh Barro is the lead writer for the Ticker, Bloomberg View's blog on economics, finance and politics. His primary areas of interest include tax and fiscal policy, state and local government, and planning and land use.
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Mark Sanford will be the first to tell you he has flaws. The former South Carolina governor talks about his personal failings ad nauseam on the campaign trail, almost turning his rallies into awkward therapy sessions.

But the baring of Mark Sanford's soul isn't true humility. It's actually a form of arrogance: Sanford is confident that he is so awesome, everyone from the voters to his ex-wife to God will forgive him for any bad behavior.

This explains how Sanford decided to make his return to politics after leaving on the Appalachian Trail. It explains how he could think it was reasonable to ask his ex-wife to manage his congressional campaign (she said no). And it explains how he could allegedly think he did not have to follow the terms of his divorce agreement.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Jenny Sanford has filed a complaint in family court against her ex-husband for repeatedly trespassing on her property, in violation of their divorce settlement. Mark Sanford is due in court on May 9, two days after the special election he is running in. The AP writes:

"The complaint filed by Jenny Sanford's lawyer, Deena Smith McRackan, said that Mark Sanford has 'entered into a pattern of entering onto plaintiff's property. Plaintiff has informed defendant on a number of occasions that this behavior is in violation of the court's order and has demanded that it not occur again.'"

Mark Sanford is smart enough to understand that antagonizing his widely liked ex-wife is a bad strategy as he tries to rehabilitate his public persona. The problem isn't that he's stupid. It's that he arrogantly believes he can afford to do stupid things. And if South Carolina voters send him back to Congress, they'll be telling him that he's right.

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