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Love, the Heart and Politics

March 26, 2013

Everyone experiences heartache.

The pain, the anguish, the grief.

Many years ago, I sought refuge from one of my oldest and dearest political pals, who said to me, “Not even Napoleon could conquer a broken heart.”

Indeed, he was right.

There have been many hit songs about love and a broken heart (What Becomes of the Brokenhearted); the iconic Love Story was a number one best seller and blockbuster movie, and the issue of love and the heart is always front and center in politics.

Some say it began when former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter told everyone what was in his heart during a Playboy Magazine interview while campaigning for President in 1976.

He was quoted as saying that he had “looked on a lot of women with lust”, and added that he had “committed adultery in my heart many times.”

Carter went on to say that people should not necessarily condemn someone for leaving their wife, or “shacking up with someone out of wedlock”. This was shocking stuff for its day, yet for the first time, in modern politics, someone was talking about the issue of love, the heart and politics.

He was referencing the Bible, where Christ said, “I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.”

There have been numerous political scandals since, and such interviews with candidates are blasé today, especially in a 24/7 news cycle.

One of the more intriguing love stories involving politics is the story between former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and his girlfriend “Maria” from Argentina.The former Governor is back in the news these days as he is running in a special election for the First U.S. Congressional District seat in South Carolina, and his Argentine girlfriend is campaigning with him and right at his side.

In 2010, things were different for Sanford. He disappeared for six days telling his wife and staff that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when all the while he was in Buenos Aires visiting his girlfriend.

He tearfully recounted the purpose of the trip in a press conference upon his return – which was to end the romance. “I just spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina,” he said.

Pundits were aghast at the Governor’s candor, but for many, it made all the sense in the world. He was not worried about his political career or what his political friends and opponents might say, he was expressing himself as anyone would while suffering the effects of a broken heart.

Many people didn’t understand how he could throw away a political career over someone he loved. But to understand the Governor, one couldn't look at it in political terms, but in emotional costs. He was in love, and to him, that’s what mattered most.

Here are two e-mails written at the time between the Governor and his Argentine girlfriend, which laid out their feelings and emotions for all to see. It's quite revealing, isn't it?

Governor Sanford to Maria:

“Since our first meeting there in a windswept somewhat open air dance spot in Punta del Este, I felt you had that same rare attribute. Above all else I love that inner beauty about you. That gift is going to make a tremendous difference in (sons’ name) – and in anyone’s life who is blessed to be touched by yours – you need to rest comfortably in that fact. 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’s so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself in the faded glow of the night’s light – but hey, that would be going into sexual details.”

The e-mail continues, “While all the things above are true – at the same time we are in a ….. hopelessly impossible situation of love …. How in the world this lightening strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure. “

Maria to Governor Sanford:

As I told you before, you brought happiness and love to my life and I will take you forever in my heart. I wasn’t aware till we met last week, the strong feelings I had for you, and believe me, I haven’t felt this since I was in my teen ages, when afterwards I got married. I do love you, I can feel it in my heart, and although I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to meet again this has seen the best that has happened to me in a long time. You made me realize how you feel when you really love somebody, and how much you want to be beside the beloved. Last Friday, I would have stayed embarrassing and kissing you forever.”

As I wrote in 2010, my heart told me they would one day be together.

So, it is no surprise that Sanford’s Argentina girlfriend is with him every step of the way while he campaigns in an attempted return to politics in South Carolina. How far his political comeback will go is anyone's guess.

My strong hunch is that he’ll win the South Carolina congressional race.