Speed Reads

A house divided

Mark Sanford isn't afraid to criticize President Trump because 'truth matters'

Where once President Trump's unexpected political success seemed to blur partisan lines, since he took office, Congress and Americans more broadly have tended to re-embrace party allegiances rather than flouting them. One prominent exception is Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), featured Friday in a new profile from Politico.

Sanford first came to national attention in 2009, when he was governor of South Carolina. After disappearing for a week, he revealed an extramarital affair with an Argentine journalist, blowing up his marriage and — per common political wisdom — his political career. But eight years later, Sanford is in Congress, and that very history has given him a unique freedom to criticize a president with whom he shares a party but not a philosophy of governance:

All this gives Sanford a unique sense of liberation to speak his mind about a president whose substance and style he considers a danger to democracy. "I'm a dead man walking," he tells me, smiling. "If you've already been dead, you don't fear it as much. I've been dead politically." [...]

Sanford swears he has nothing personal against the new president; in fact, he's heard good things about him personally from several mutual acquaintances. But, he says, he can't "look the other way" as Trump peddles false information to suit his political aims. "I believe in a war of ideas ... and I tell the staff all the time: Look, we're in the business of crafting and refining our arguments that are hopefully based on the truth," he adds. "Truth matters. Not hyperbole, not wild suggestion, but actual truth." [Politico]

The South Carolinian is known for his "professorial" commitment to his libertarian-leaning political ideals, principles that have him criticizing Trump for "fann[ing] the flames of intolerance" and demonstrating ignorance of the Constitution. Sanford rejects the expectation of intra-party deference to the president, and he recognizes the irony in his new role as champion of truth and transparency in politics. "I've got to be careful," he said to Politico, "because people who live in glass houses can't throw stones."