In the midst of a season where national unemployment is pressing against 10 percent, where GM is about to eliminate 4,000 white-collar jobs, where the number of mass layoffs (50 or more employees from a single employer) is at record levels, where a new President “sharpens” his rheotric on Iran but is powerless to do more, where Congressional Democrats attempt to cram-down radical legislation on energy and health care and where crises loom large and small, this question captivates national attention:
Where was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford for four days? He was spotted in Atlanta. He was believed to be on a “secretive Appalachian Trail hike.” Or in Argentina. He may have been somewhere writing, clearing his head, or otherwise relaxing after the close of the tough legislative session.
His whereabouts nevertheless prompted pundit speculation on the network news that the getaway seriously damages his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Term limits prevent him from running for reelection in 2010. One of the politicians most alarmed by the governor’s absence is the lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, who wishes to succeed him and who may not be Sanford’s choice.
Those who might like to see Sanford’s presidential prospects aborted early make much of his disappearance without staff or security. While no President should try such a getaway, the universe doesn’t revolve around a governor, any governor. Even on the Appalachian Trail it’s possible to keep up with the news and thus be informed whether there’s a crisis or some emergency that requires a governor’s attention. Naturally we’re all curious. And when he returns to work today, some explanation is warranted. But, really, it’s no crisis. It’s a celebrity-watch story.
Two governors — Sanford and Sarah Palin — are in that phase of their political lives where every action is magnified to high drama. Palin, for example, elected to reimburse the State of Alaska $8,143.62 for air travel accompanied by her children. An ethics complaint filed against her alleged that she’d abused her power by charging the state for them on 19 trips that were of debatable state interest. The Alaska Personnel Board found no wrong-doing. But, hey, she’s a serious contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The fleas come with the dog.