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South Carolina's Mark Sanford: 'with a more contrite, humble spirit'

July 20, 2009 |  8:07 am

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose stealth trip to visit his mistress in Argentina set off a political uproar

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose stealth vacation to Argentina in June was a boon to late-night comics and Sunday preachers alike, has now apologized to the people of his state.

And Sanford says the whole experience -- ditching his security detail, telling staffers he was hiking on the Appalachian trail, spiriting off to Buenos Aires to visit his mistress -- has made him a humbler person. In fact, Sanford, a onetime presidential contender who bruised a lot of legislative egos this year by refusing to accept President Obama's stimulus funds, even predicted a smoother relationship with the legislature in his remaining 18 months in office. In an op-ed in South Carolina's state newspaper, he wrote:

All that has transpired will be particularly relevant in the way I deal with the legislative body and other state leaders going forward. Micah 6:8 asks us to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly, and as I begin these steps into the last 18 months of this administration, it will indeed be with a more contrite and humble spirit.

Not everyone is buying it. For one thing, Sanford was a harsh critic of President Clinton, urging him to resign for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, making contrition a difficult sell. For another, well, there are those bruised feelings at the state capitol.

"He's a helluva writer and a promise maker," said Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts, a frequent adversary. "But he doesn't keep promises to the state of South Carolina like he doesn't keep promises to his wife."

And that was a Republican talking. Listen to Carol Fowler, chair of the state Democratic Party:

Mark Sanford's vague apology in Sunday's papers is fine as far as it goes, but he doesn't say what he's apologizing for. Turning his back on the people of SC? Abandoning his family? Dumping his responsibilities for weeks? Or 6 1/2 years of ignoring our public schools and the children in them?

As for the governor and his wife, they were on vacation last week, an effort to patch up their marriage of 20 years. No word from the staff about where they went, but it's probably a safe bet that Argentina was not on the itinerary.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Mary Ann Chastain / Associated Press

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