Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Will Be the Political Impact of Sanford’s Disappearance?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from South Carolina.

As you may have heard by now, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is missing - or at least was missing and will resume his duties tomorrow.

Apparently he left South Carolina on Thursday after losing his battle with the State Legislature to block stimulus funds from being spent. Sanford has long argued that South Carolina should not accept money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

So without telling his family, security detail, or Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, Sanford left for the Appalachian Trail to hike and “write something”.

The Vote Blog at the Christian Science Monitor also pointed out that Sanford’s disappearance to the hiking trail coincidentally happened during Naked Hiking Day - when some hiking enthusiasts go nude for the summer solstice. We won’t make any speculations as to that coincidence.

His wife also told the press yesterday that she was not worried and Sanford just “wanted some space to get away from the kids.”

He had no communication with anyone in South Carolina until today. Finally, law enforcement officials (or someone) tracked his cell phone and found it was somewhere outside Atlanta. Then he called his Chief-of-Staff today to “check-in” and the Chief-of-Staff presumably told him what a panic he had stirred.

Now the Los Angeles Times is asking “did the governor’s walk in the woods doom his presidential hopes?”

It was definitely a strange thing for a sitting governor to do: taking off without telling anyone exactly where he was going or for how long. Also strange is the fact that he was trying to “get away from the kids” during Fathers Day Weekend.

As one blogger wrote today:

“A governor cannot just disappear. He has a state to, you know, govern…[that’s] especially important if Sanford is serious about having presidential ambitions. A president cannot just leave suddenly, to go on a hiking trip. Can you imagine the ads his opponents will run? Images of people in a panic, ‘where is Sanford??’ followed by a shot of Humpty Dumpty Sanford taking a hike, with a silly grin on his face.”

We couldn’t agree more - regardless of whether or not you think it was a bad decision because he was neglecting his duties, you have to agree it was a dumb move politically. Just like Sen. Ensign’s (R-NV) recent sex-scandal did in his presidential ambitions, this episode of Stanford’s will be impossible to forget. Even if the typical voter forgets (if they even heard about it) political professionals will not.

Also interesting is how this will affect South Carolina politics.

From an article in Politico:

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, [a Republican], who was elected separately from Sanford, issued a statement to POLITICO after a day of frenzied national speculation about the governor’s whereabouts.

Bauer said he called Sanford’s office Monday and requested an “immediate phone conversation with the governor.”

“That request was denied because the governor’s chief of staff does not know where the governor is, and has not communicated with the governor since he left South Carolina last Thursday,” Bauer said. “I cannot take lightly that his staff has not had communication with him for more than four days, and that no one, including his own family, knows his whereabouts.”

Meanwhile, state Senator Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) told The State that he called the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) [which acts as Sanford’s security service] and confirmed that the governor “has frequently been eluding SLED agents and disappearing at odd times.”

But these GOP reactions have sharp political motives behind them.

From yesterday’s article in The Hill:

Sanford allies say his enemies — most notably Bauer and…Knotts — are simply taking advantage of an opportunity to get under the governor's skin, and that Sanford has a habit of going underground when he takes time away from the office.

Knotts has been a long-time critic of Sanford, and Bauer intends to run for governor once Sanford’s term-limit is up while Sanford appears to be supporting another Republican.

Like in many states - though it is seldom admitted - the dominant party in the Palmetto State is divided into camps. It appears the Sanford Camp of the South Carolina GOP is in a bit of an awkward position after this extraordinary lapse in political judgment.

UPDATE: In another bizarre twist to this story, it turns out that Sanford was in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That's right - while everyone thought, and told us, he was hiking in the Appalachian Trail he had actually gone that old South American way.

UPDATE #2: Another shocking twist to this continually developing story. It turns out that Sanford was having an affair with a woman he knew from Argentina!

From Politico:

“I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina,” Sanford said.

“I’m a bottom line kind of guy I’m just gonna lay it out. It’s gonna hurt and I’m going to let the chips fall where they may,” Sanford said.

Sanford apologized to his wife, Jenny, and his children. “To Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 40 year of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side in campaign, after campaign, after campaign,” he said.

“I’ve let down a lot of people, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.

Like Ensign just a few days before him, we can say with virtually-complete certainty that Sanford has truly lost all hope for furthering his political career and making it to the White House in 2012.


Jason Haas said...

What I'm wondering is, did he make any trips to Argentina on the taxpayer's dime? I have not yet seen that be addressed.

Dave said...

He actually did make 3 trips to Argentina using taxpayer money.

haas414 said...

Wow, thanks, Dave. Who knew the state had such libidinous interests?