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He Seems Nice



I can’t say “memoir by Mark Sanford’s former speechwriter” would rank very high on books I would consider reading, but damned if this doesn’t make a decent case. One thing that makes clear is that Sanford really is a remarkable number of types of asshole. For example, the grammar troll who believes that good writing consists of adhering to arbitrary rules they vaguely remember from grammar school that virtually every good writer ignores:

“He knew bad writing when he saw it, except when he was the author,” Mr. Swaim says. Once, the governor storms into the office, fulminating about Mr. Swaim’s decision to write “towns of Lee County” instead of “towns in Lee County.” He tends to combine absolute certainty with a complete misunderstanding of what he is talking about. “There’s a rule against beginning a sentence with a preposition — conjunctions, whatever — and you can’t break rules,” Mr. Sanford declares.

And we also have more examples* of Sanford being one of the world’s biggest rich skinflints:

Mr. Sanford’s former wife, Jenny, has already provided evidence of his legendary parsimony in her memoir, “Staying True” (in his earlier stint in Congress, she notes, Mr. Sanford brought his laundry home on weekends to avoid paying to have it done in Washington). Mr. Swaim adds more examples: how, at receptions, the governor stuffs boiled shrimp and deviled eggs into his pockets to eat for dinner; how he refuses to send his clothes to the dry cleaners and once wore the same shirt for almost two weeks straight; how he gave an employee a Christmas ornament saying “Merry Christmas! Love, the Peterkins.”

Look, I spent 8 years total in grad school. And since that grad school was in political science my disposable income remains modest to this day. In other words, I like free food and drink at conferences and the like as much as the next guy. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that I have never stuffed shellfish that’s likely to be pretty dodgy in the first place and appetizers involving hard-boiled eggs into my pockets for later consumption. And, unlike Sanford, I actually wash my clothes.

It probably goes without saying that he’s a “capricious, bad-tempered boss” too. I’m sure he has plenty of company in this on both sides of the aisle, but it’s everything else that makes him special.

*my favorite previous ones:

Item 3: Mark and Jenny are newlyweds, and it is Jenny’s birthday. He gives her a hand-drawn card — with a picture of half a bicycle. For Christmas, another card — with a picture of the other half. “Months later, he delivered the gift to me, a used purple bike he had purchased for $25!” Jenny’s initial response, the right one, is “disbelief. . . . In time, however, I came to know this was just part of who he was.”

By the time Mark is in Congress, Jenny is reduced to instructing the scheduler to remind him of her birthday. And there is the touching moment when Mark has a friend pick out a diamond necklace for Jenny, has a staffer hide the present in her closet and faxes notes to Jenny and the boys cluing them in on where to search. A few weeks later, when Mark sees the necklace, he exclaims, “That is what I spent all that money on?! I hope you kept the box!’ ” Mark “returned the necklace the next day, thinking it was not worth the money he had spent,” she writes. “I wouldn’t have felt comfortable wearing it in his presence, so what was the point?”

There’s a line between “being frugal” and “being a dick,” and Sanford passed it about 10 miles ago.

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