Go to her already, Mark Sanford!

The nation urges a middle-aged Christian man to follow his heart. Is this romance -- or shrewd political strategy?

By Amy Benfer
Published July 2, 2009 5:03PM (EDT)

Week 2 in the saga of “The Thorn Birds of Argentina” is upon us, and the shambling, lovesick, undoubtedly soon-to-be-former governor of South Carolina has all the pundits shaking their heads. “What is he thinking?” asks Fox News, noting that the governor has “thrown out the manual” from the politician’s school of adultery  management -- confess, repent, slut-shame -- and instead seems to be “trying to reveal so many details that there is no more muck left to rake.” But it’s high time we recognize our Christian troubadour for who he truly is: a political operative of the most canny sort.

From every corner of our nation, a chorus is rising as one to say: “To your lover -- go!” Just leave us the keys to the governor’s mansion, OK? And remember to visit the kids. Now when was the last time you remember anyone giving a 49-year-old, married, Christian, Republican civil servant and father of four explicit permission to quit his stressful day job and follow his loins and his heart to a warm, sunny place?

Reviewing the now copious wealth of evidence, it’s hard not to conclude that this was the wily governor’s scheme all along. His wife busts him on the affair and his close Christian friends give him advice on how to end it with the mistress: “the first step is, you shoot her. You put a bullet through her head.” He takes that to be a metaphor to mean that he should really take a trip to Manhattan -- accompanied by a “close spiritual advisor” -- to break it off in person. His wife moves out. This time he decides it will really, really be over -- if only he can spend five days “crying in Argentina” first. The media -- perhaps aided and abetted by his now justifiably pissed-off wife -- busts him at the airport. He responds with a rambling, wildly entertaining press conference that turns out to be a vindication of love. When his wife lets everyone know he can come home if he’s willing to “work” on the marriage, he calls the other woman his “soul mate” and damns his spouse with faint praise by saying he’s “trying to fall back in love” with her. “This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story,” he tells a gleeful AP reporter. “A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”

Now who is going to side against forbidden, tragic love? Not even Michelle Malkin, it turns out, who wrote yesterday: “Dear Mark Sanford: Buy a one-way ticket to Argentina already, and be gone.” Even the nation’s marriage counselors have thrown up their hands in defeat. Greg Smith, a South Carolina marriage and family therapist, has said the governor is suffering from the “temporary insanity” of the lovesick, and another therapist said, of salvaging the governor’s marriage, “Boy, it looks more and more every day like a real long shot.” Fox Sexpert Yvonne Fulbright gives the marriage a 30 percent shot at survival, noting drily that “Usually the first step is letting people know that the wife is the preferred partner.” An “insider” in South Carolina has said, “He needs to really go take a hike this time.”

See how that works? Now the whole nation -- and at this point, we strongly suspect his wife as well -- is urging the man to get back on that old Appalachian Trail. To turn off his cellphone, his e-mail, the cameras -- please God! -- to keep those proclamations of love between himself, his soul mate, and maybe his future literary agent. So take a break, Mark. Raise goats. Frolic in the sun with your “exotic” new love. That “sparking thing” may get a little less sparky when it’s not inflamed by long-distance e-mails and romantic weekends. But then again, you know all about that already.

Amy Benfer

Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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