The announcement by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford that the “mystery” about his whereabouts stemmed from him being in Argentina conducting an extramarital affair will likely end his political career — and not just because he had an affair. There are two other specific factors that will make him a dream for any Democrat at any level to run against at any point in his life:
1. He was away having his fling on Father’s Day. His emotional press conference where he talked about letting his family down didn’t note the timing. One bad choice of several on his part.
2. He was a key figure in saying he would reject the stimulus money and was basically forced to accept it. Sanford was praised among some GOPers for originally saying he would reject the money on principle. But here, again, the affair now puts his assertion in the worst possible light:
The stimulus money would have filtered down to people who needed it — whether homeowners battling foreclosure, or funding that touched on families and kids. And where did Sanford go? Not to Georgia…Florida….or even Oregon. He hopped on a plane to Argentina — a hugely-costly airfare…money spent at a time when many residents of his state were wondering how they would survive, and he was a key Republican saying he would reject on principle money that might have helped them.
A blogger at the Daily Kos wonders if stimulus money may have indirectly paid for his trip to see his mistress — if so, the money would have been put to use for a form of stimulus, to be sure. But the accuracy of that remains to be seen.
The bottom line is that imagery counts in politics and it’s hard to see Sanford having any kind of elected political future in his state or the nation due to the dual images of running off to Argentina for a fling and being there on Father’s Day and originally nixing stimulus money for residents of his state who needed it and then spending a bundle to fly to Argentina.
And if it was somehow not his own money? Then he’ll be moving to a new address real soon.
FOOTNOTE: The one Republican who seems to be pristine (as other top potential candidates for 2012 get bad publicity, put their foots in their mouths or battle late night comedians) is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Sometimes a lower profile is better.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.