06.25.09

News Shrink: The Lovesick Statesman

The release of Gov. Mark Sanford’s emails to his mistress prove he’s not a Spitzer, a Clinton, or an Edwards—he’s a lovesick adolescent. The Daily Beast gets a psychologist to shrink America’s latest love guv from afar.

Plus, read more Daily Beast contributors' reactions to Mark Sanford's flameout.

The release of Gov. Mark Sanford’s emails to his mistress prove he’s not a Spitzer, a Clinton, or an Edwards—he’s just a lovesick adolescent.

Sanford is “the functional equivalent of a misguided seventh-grader,” said Renana Brooks, a psychologist and director of The National Institute for the Study of the American Unconscious. She based the comparison on newspaper accounts of Sanford, not personal knowledge. In other words, he’s not the typical high-profile philanderer.

Can you imagine Spitzer sending his favorite prostitute an email from work that praises her “magnificent gentle kisses”?

Can you imagine Spitzer sending his favorite prostitute an email from work that praises her “magnificent gentle kisses” and told her he loved “the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night’s light”? As Brooks put it, the language is “very seventh-grade” because Sanford’s completely at sea and “doesn’t know what to do with this experience because it’s in violation of his deep religious beliefs.”

When most politicians have affairs, Brooks said, “it’s not about love, it’s about power or lust.” Apologies for the affair are delivered in monotone. But Sanford actually teared up during his rambling confession. “You’ve never seen an apology with that much emotion,” Brooks said. “This is a man who looks broken and distraught, completely torn up by what he’s doing. That comment, [from his apology] about how ‘I spent five days crying with her before I came back here to cry some more.’ It’s just not something that politicians say.”

In other words, Sanford has revolutionized the way we think of philanderers. As Brooks explained, “We only have one model in our culture of the high-profile politician that has to be brought down from their arrogant ways and we have zero models for this.”