The Mark Sanford Emails: A Textual Analysis

Illustration for article titled The Mark Sanford Emails: A Textual Analysis

Last night, The State released a series of e-mails between Mark Sanford and his Argentinian paramour, a woman said to be a 43-year-old agribusiness exec. We analyze Sanford's communiques from a literary, cultural, theological, and numerological perspective, after the jump.

From: Mark Sanford

To: Maria

Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2008 03:09:44 +0000


You are glorious and I hope you really understand that. You do not need a therapist to help you figure your place in the world [1]. You are special and unique and fabulous in a whole host of ways that are worth a much longer conversation. To be continued ... [2]

Have been having a few email problems as I am getting email through an aircard at the farm, where access to computer world is more than tough [3]. Please let me know if you have gotten my last two eamils (sic) [4]so I know it is working in getting to your part of the world ...

Another glorious day outside. Hope you are doing well, and am anxious to hear about your week. Know that I miss you. Unbeleivably (sic) hard to imagine it has been a week [5]. Please also send your mailing address as I want to send you an insignificant something next week when I am back in civilization that I think you might find interesting given our conversation.

Want to write an indepth note with some thoughts on our visit when I know you are getting these emails. Hugs and much love. M


1. Here the speaker asserts himself as an expert in mental health, an assertion rendered highly dubious by the rest of the text.
2. Perhaps a reference to a phrase commonly displayed at the end of a variety of contemporary television program known as the "soap opera," a type of program which this text resembles in other ways.
3. The speaker attempts to make himself sound "rugged," an impression belied by the fact that he knows what an aircard is, and has one on his "farm."
4. The State's decision to draw attention to every one of the speaker's misspellings with the use of the word sic is both a source of humor in this text and a reminder to the audience to spellcheck e-mails lest they be made public as part of an international sex scandal.
5. The speaker's distorted concept of time foreshadows other cognitive distortions.



Subject: RE:

Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2008 01:42:46 -0400

Beloved back to you...

Got back an hour ago to civilization and am now in Columbia after what was for me a glorious break from reality down at the farm [6]. No phones ringing and tangible evidence of a day's labors. Though I have started every day by 6 this morning woke at 4:30, I guess since my body knew it was the last day, and I went out and ran the excavator with lights until the sun came up. To me, and I suspect no one else on earth, there is something wonderful about listening to country music playing in the cab, air conditioner running, the hum of a huge diesel engine in the background, the tranquility that comes with being in a virtual wilderness of trees and marsh, the day breaking and vibrant pink coming alive in the morning clouds - and getting to build something with each scoop of dirt [7]. It is admittedly weird but one of my more favorite ways of escaping the norms, constant phone calls and formalities that go with the office - and it probably fits with my weakness in doing rather than being - though you opened up a new chapter last week wherein I was happy and content just being [8]. Last point worth further discussion. Afternoon projects had me outside and by days (sic) end I pretty much looked like a homeless person ... but in this case a very content one. Enough about my love of heavy equipment and woods at sunrise ...

While I was getting exhausted with one project after another at Coosaw work week, you were basking (I'm certain gloriously) on the beach..

Sounds great, hope to hear more about what sounds a great spot.

Will now finally get some sleep and write you a longer note with a few more profound thoughts tomorrow or Wednesday. In the meantime I send my love and hope you know I am thinking of you.. M

P.S. I do not want to raise expectations, when I say I will send something insignificant I promise I will do as I say! It wont (sic) be worthy of bedside placement ... was just going to find the movie the Holiday as we had spoken of it last Thursday. Its music was pleasant and made me think of you - its mood and the notion of a holiday (wrapped up in our case over two days) certainly fit as well [9] ... (though our visit in some ways for me was as well less of a holiday than it was uncovering and realization of some things and feelings that again are worth longer conversation)

Had also hoped to find the cd of a song that played as I was flying home and also20made (sic) [10] me think of you. Who knows if I can find the music ... so all you may be stuck with is a long released movie - and if you put it by your bed I really be worried! Love you, good night and kisses back to you ...

6. The speaker repeatedly refers to the dichotomy between civilization/reality and the "farm," revealing his ignorance of the fact that rural environments are, metaphysically speaking, "real."
7. More "ruggedness" (see [3]). The "country music," the "excavator," the "scoop of dirt" are all signifiers of a particular group of conservative American values. Interestingly, these values include marital fidelity.
8. Psychobabble. Perhaps related to the speaker's earlier assertion of psychiatric expertise. Studies show that the use of such psychobabble is inversely proportional to the actual mental health of the user.
9. The comparison with the movie The Holiday appears to be a variant on a phenomenon usually found in adolescents, commonly known as "thinking every song is about your love."
10. In numerology, the number 20 means "I am about to throw away a promising political career for an ill-advised extramarital affair." This may be significant.

From: Mark Sanford

To: Maria

Subject: RE:

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 00:24:54 -0400


It was indeed a long day. I am most jealous of your salad under the palm tree [11].

Three thoughts in one note now that I have a moment [12]. One the travel schedule is about to get real busy (and this distresses me for the way it may well make it more difficult to get your notes over the next few weeks), two unfortunately all the feelings you describe are mutual, and three where do we go from here?

One, tomorrow leave at 5 am for New York and meetings. Will think about you on its streets and wish I was going to be there later in the month when you are there. Tomorrow night back to Philadelphia for the start of the National Governor's Conference through the weekend. Back to Columbia for Tuesday and then on Wednesday, as I think I had told you, taking the family to China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Thailand and then back through Hong Kong on world wind tour [13]. Few days home then to Bahamas for 5 days on a friends boat for the last break of the summer. The following weekend have been asked to spend it out in Aspen, Colorado with McCain - which has kicked up the whole VP talk all over again in the press back home.

Two, mutual feelings. I have been specializing in staying focused on decisions and actions of the head for a long time now [14] - and you have my heart. You have oh so many attributes that pulls it in this direction. Do you really comprehend how beautiful your smile is? Have you been told lately how warm your eyes are and how they softly glow with the special nature of your soul. I remember Jenny, or someone close to me, once commenting that while my mom was pleasant and warm it was sad she had never accomplished anything of significance. I replied that they were wrong because she had the ultimate of all gifts - and that was the ability to love unconditionally. The rarest of all commodities in this world is love. It is that thing that we all yearn for at some level - to be simply loved unconditionally for nothing more than who we are - not what we can get, give or become. There are but 50 governors in my country and outside of the top spot, this is as high as you can go in the area I have invested the last 15 years of my life - my getting here came as no small measure because I had that foundation of love and support so critical to getting up in the morning and feeling you could give and risk because you already had a full tank of love in the emotional bank account [15]. Since our first meeting there in a wind swept somewhat open air dance spot in Punta del Este, I felt that you had that same rare attribute. Above all else I love that inner beauty about you. That gift of yours is going to make a tremendous difference in (The State deleted sons' names) life - and in anyone's life who is blest to be touched by yours - you need to rest very comfortably in that fact. As I mentioned in our last visit, while I did not need love fifteen years ago - as the battle scars of life and aging and politics have worn on this has become a real need of mine. You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that is so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) [16] in the faded glow of night's light - but hey, that would be going into the sexual details we spoke of at the steakhouse at dinner - and unlike you I would never do that!

Three and finally, while all the things above are all too true - at the same time we are in a hopelessly - or as you put it impossible - or how about combine and simply say hopelessly impossible situation of love. How in the world this lightening strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure [17]. As I have said to you before I certainly had a special feeling about you from the first time we met, but these feelings were contained and I genuinely enjoyed our special friendship and the comparing of all too many personal notes (and yes this is true even if you did occasionally tantalize me with sexual details over the years!) - but it was all safe. Where we are is not. I have thought about it and in some ways feel I let you down in letting these complications come into a friendship that I hope will last till death. In all my life I have lived by a code of honor and at a variety of levels know I have crossed lines I would have never imagined. I wish I could wish it away, but this soul-mate feel I alluded too is real and in that regard I sure don't want to be the person complicating your life. I looked to where I often look for advice and counsel, and in I Corinthians 13 it simply says that, " Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things" [18]. In this regard it is action that goes well beyond the emotion of today or tomorrow and in this light I want to look for ways to show love in helping you to live a better - not more complicated life. I want to help (one of Maria's sons) with film guys that might help his career, etc. I also don't want you walking20away (sic) [19] from some guy (I take it the younger guy you mentioned a t dinner) because of me - and what we both have to see as an impossible situation. I better stop now least this really sound like the Thornbirds - wherein I was always upset with Richard Chamberlain for not dropping his ambitions and running into Maggie's arms. The bottom line is two fold, my heart wants me to get on a plane tonight and to be in your loving arms - my head is saying how do we put the Genie back in the bottle because I sure don't want to be encumbering you, or your options or your life [20]. Put differently, given I love you, I don't want to be part of the reason you are having less than an ideal week in what sounds like a cool spot.

Lastly I also suspect I feel a little vulnerable because this is ground I have never certainly never covered before - so if you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out please let me know ... In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. I love you ... sleep tight. M

PS. I will make it a point in NY tomorrow to drop by a store and get that movie I promised to send your way ... I am encouraged to know you will not keep it beside the bed least we have tangible evidence of two pathetic figures missing each other far too much to live a few thousand miles apart!

11. A lesser-known sex position.
12. Many more than three thoughts are expressed in this "note." Interestingly, none of these thoughts involve the imprudence of sending said note at all, or the possibility that it could fall into the wrong hands.
13. Presumably the speaker means a "whirlwind tour," and not a tour of the world's winds. The State did not mark this mistake, probably due to fatigue.
14. The content of the text calls into question whether the speaker was ever truly a specialist in this area.
15. Here the speaker reveals he is also not a specialist in metaphor. Readers should be warned of the dangers of putting gas in one's bank account, or love in one's gas tank.
16. It is tempting to assume that the speaker is referring to his lover's breasts, but he may also mean her ass and her elbow, or her duodenum and her spleen. All these body parts are involved in the "salad under the palm tree" position.
17. The speaker is referencing a common South Carolina weather phenomenon, "sneaky lightning." It occurs in mid-summer, during drops in barometric pressure, and "when you least expect it."
18. It is telling that the speaker chooses to reproduce this Bible verse, and not Exodus 20:14, " Thou shalt not commit adultery."
19. Another numerological interpretation of the number 20 is "I write really long rambling e-mails."
20. At this point the number of props and characters in this text has grown so large as to be almost unmanageable. No doubt the effort of mentally juggling an excavator, the Bible, John McCain, his lover's breasts, his mother, The Holiday, the characters in The Thorn Birds, a bank account full of gas, and a genie caused the speaker to commit errors in judgment that he, with his avowed concern for the mental health of others, ordinarily never would have committed.

Exclusive: Read E-mails Between Sanford, Woman [The State]
Maria [Politico]


I feel like a piece of crap for even looking at these emails. It just feels like all kinds of wrong- what an invasion of privacy.

Yes, he screwed up by having an affair but so have many many other politicians in history.

Why is this particular affair such a big deal? Why is it even news anywhere but SC? I don't agree with his politics at all, but this is just ridiculous.