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Transcript: Excerpts of June 4 Sanford Interview Recalling President Clinton's Impeachment

The following is a partial transcript of an interview Gov. Mark Sanford with FOX News earlier this month in which he talked about the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair. Sanford at the time was a member of Congress and voted for three of the four impeachment articles.

QUESTION: What about impeachment? Was impeachment the-- looking back, was that the work-- the necessary work of Conservatives and the Conservative movement? Or was that a detour and a distraction from what Conservatives really should've been-- been doing at that time.

SANFORD: It was blown into a huge constitutional issue which if a president's lying, it's a big deal. It is a constitutional issue. But it missed the larger point of human nature. You ask any guy, particularly one in office, you've been screwing around on your wife -- maybe there's 1 percent or maybe there's 2 percent or maybe there's 5 percent. But 95 percent of the time, whoever it is, is gonna say 'no.' And so, I think the public said no matter what Clinton did, whether he did or he didn't do whatever it was that happened with Monica Lewinsky, is that guy gonna stand up and admit it. They said no, he's not.

QUESTION: And so -- I think it -- it-- it -- there was a disconnect between supposedly a constitutional issue and just a real sort of common sense, common nature -- recognition of the American public, saying -- what do they expect this guy to say? Not -- and -- and so, I think we got bogged down probably in retrospect in the whole impeachment thing.

SANFORD: The conservatism, if you -- if you boil it down to the absolute basic, it is about maximizing individual liberty, maximizing individual freedom, of preserving a political system wherein one is able to make free decisions, some of which will be stupid, some of which will be smart and to live with the consequences of those decisions. And, and so I, I think we took ultimately the eye off the ball. It was important. I can't even remember the details of the debate. It seemed awfully important at the time. But in terms of the real march of conservatism, was it really related. No, I don't think so.

QUESTION: So, how then did it happen? Because you, you guys certainly had a number of shots across the bow. It was going on forever. Clinton was doing well in the polls. You -- I don't know if -- if the GOP lost seats in '98, but they certainly didn't perform as well as -- as one would have expected them -- the -- the-- the opposition party to perform in the-- you know, that last -- national election .. of Clinton's presidency. But they went ahead. You guys went ahead anyway. Was that based on sort of individual constituencies of the -- of the -- of the representatives? Or was it a sense that we have to do this because it's the right thing to do? We've been put in a tough pos-- how-- how actually--

SANFORD:
Do what? Do-- do what?

QUESTION: Vote for impeachment. Because no-- no one believed-- I shouldn't say no one believed. But a lot of people didn't think that after the -- the '98 elections in November that there would be an impeachment. They thought was a referendum on impeachment, right?

SANFORD: Again, I myself am cloudy on the timing of all that. I--

QUESTION: But what-- what was your sense that I have to do this, or were you getting political pressure from groups at home to vote for it? Or?

SANFORD: I would say it was-- something that people were excited about back home. People were talking about it. Again, the people you hear from at times, they-- they can be a vocal minority. But people were incensed. I mean, I think that there were enough sordid details to get people genuinely ticked off at-- the irreverence for the office. 

You know, if somebody's getting (oral sex) in the -- the Oval Office -- that's enough to tick off pretty much every soccer mom in America. And a whole lot of soccer dads. If you've got the secretary of energy saying that -- what's it take for me to get this -- Monica Lewinsky a job, and she's saying -- I don't want to actually work. Just give me the job-- that's enough to tick off a lot of folks.

So, people were I think genuinely offended -- from either an ethical or moral -- standard on what had gone on. But that still separates it from it fundamentally being about the march of conservatism. And I think that probably our undoing had less to do with what went right or wrong with conservatism than the relatively grand expectations -- that were built and the disconnect between those expectations, and what was actually being worked on in -- in the Congress.