Americans love a juicy scandal spiced with sex, intrigue, lies and ultimate redemption, especially when it involves a rather high-profile person such as Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
It would not surprise me if in Sanford's high school yearbook he was voted the least likely senior to have an affair, let alone writing steamy emails to his paramour at a time his political party was considering him on a short list for vice president of the United States.
In his public persona, Sanford exuded Republican family values and strong religious beliefs with his chief cheerleader, his wife Jenny, working alongside him frantically to bolster his political career.
It is crystal clear today that Sanford's private side is a train wreck illustrated by his rambling confessional of a press conference he held yesterday on the state's capitol rotunda. Let me also be clear. I don't believe an extra-marital affair by a politician is grounds for resignation or impeachment nor do I believe it has anything to do with him being a Republican. Sexual dalliances know no political boundaries.
But (I love that word in these kinds of discussions), the man is a hypocrite for espousing religious and moral standards in voting for President Clinton's impeachment and removal of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker, both involved in various forms of infidelity.
More important, Sanford ditched his office for five days not telling his staff or security team where he was going and leaving the lieutenant governor holding the bag without the transfer of power to do anything should it arise.
But the granddaddy of questions is who the hell considered him presidential timber?
Once he went missing this past weekend, the balloons were launched and, among others, Howard Fineman of Newsweek and MSNBC said he was known in Republican circles as an "odd duck."
By yesterday's end of his press conference, we learned he was a nasty chap to deal with in personal relationships with his legislature. He once brought two pigs onto the floor of the legislature to illustrate his point against pork-barrel projects. One crapped on the carpet, we are told. He is known for being private and vindictive. But, in context of presidential ambitions, we learn from news coverage that the constitutional powers of governor in South Carolina are extremely limited. That could explain more than principle why he was forced to accept the federal stimulus money in a ruling from the state's supreme court. He challenged the governing power system and lost.
Americans will never accept a presidential candidate considered a flake. Mark Sanford is a flake, and not a very lovable one. His timing couldn't be worse. He disappeared on the Father's Day weekend for a more "erotic" trip to visit his mistress even though at his press conference he apologized and called his sons "jewels." I feel sorry for his sons, the youngest 10. I can imagine that pain if my dad, also the father of four sons, announced one night he had a mistress. It's one of those world shaking events that never are completely repaired.
As for Republican supporters whining they lost another presidential aspirant, I say thank your lucky fortunes. And, what the heck was Rush Limbaugh lamenting "he coulda been another JFK." The only similarity I can determine is both had extra-marital affairs. He called the Argentinian "the girl from Ipanema" in a trashy tone. Wow!
Another thing. If his family knew about the affair five months ago, why did he flee unannounced to Argentina at this time? To end the relationship?
And, those emails. They appear to say he is smitten with Maria and all the king's horses and all the king's men can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
And, why did the South Carolina newspaper The State sit on those emails since last Christmas?
One of the Argentine trips was paid by the state but what about the other two or three he admitted?
That's the trouble with press conferences. They raise more questions the more one talks and Sanford rambled for nearly an hour.
I suppose the only winner out of this mess is the great pub bestowed on the values of hiking the Appalachian Trail.