TODAY   |  February 19, 2013

Sanford: ‘I never failed the taxpayer’

Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie that even though he failed in his personal life, he never used taxpayer money for trips to see his now-fiance. Sanford’s sons, he said, urged him to make a political comeback.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> mark sanford is with us now exclusively. governor, good morning. good to see you.

>> you as well.

>> let's cut right to it. a lot of people are watching saying, you know, everyone does deserve a second chance. everybody deserves a chance to rebuild their life, but not everybody is entitled to run for public office when it relies on public trust especially at a time when our washington institutions have lost so much respect. what would your response be to that?

>> twofold. i have had conversations with a lot of friends back home. the reality of our lives, if we live long enough we're going to fail at something. i absolutely failed in my personal life and my marriage. but one place i didn't ever fail was with the taxpayers. if you look at my 20 years in politics, what you would see is a fairly remarkable consistency in terms of looking out for the taxpayer. the ill that's before us as a civilization, if we don't get our financial house in order, there will be incredible consequences for the dollar, american way of life , all that and more.

>> couple of things about that, though. number one, you paid a fine. ethics charges related to misusing taxpayer funds. you don't have to get into the nitty gritty about it.

>> sure.

>> but doesn't that go against your --

>> no. if we were to get into the nitty gritty , you would find there was no admission of guilt with any of that. in many ways a lawyer would settle a case -- you're a lawyer by training -- this happened but by no means did we agree this happened. and the house, by no means fans, absolved us of all of that.

>> to the larger issue, do you really need to run for public office ? what is this about? you care about debt and deficit. these are issues well discussed in washington .

>> that's just the problem. they are well discussed but all too often too few choose to take real action. and i was actually rated number one in the united states congress by the taxpayer union, citizens gest against government waste, raised the most fiscally conservative governor in the united states . it points to one thing. many people talk about our spending problem in washington , all too few are trying to do something about it.

>> the price of re-entering politics is drudging up all the things we saw. it may be embarrassing to you but to the people around you, including your ex-wife, your family. is it worth it?

>> no. there's definitely pain in the clips you were just showing. but i sat down with the boys. we had a conversation. i said what do you want me to do? if you don't want me to do it, i'm out. their point is no, dad, you've long cared about this stuff. you ought to do it. i also would say i've been on something of a personal journey. i believe if you live long enough, you will fail at something. the higher you rise, the bigger you fall. i failed. in some ways i've come to learn that ultimately our brokenness as human beings is ultimately our connection. and that goes to a larger article of faith and a lot more.

>> and you have been very introspective these past few years. you've talked about that. have you asked yourself, what is this really about? is it about these issues of debt and spending or is this about seeking some kind of personal, political redemption?

>> i think we all hope for redemption in our lives. that is one of the great journeys of our respective lives. but i would say my focus is crystal clear , which is, is part of the cost of re-entering politics a discussion about my personal failure and the consequences thereof? yes. is that painful to me and a lot of others that i love? yes. but i keep going back to we are at a tipping point as a civilization. if we don't get our financial house in order, there will be unbelievable consequences to the folks watching this show right now.

>> mark sanford , it's great to have you here. thank you