February 20, 2013

If you are in South Carolina wondering what that noise is, it is probably Mark Sanford, standing outside under your window with a boombox.

I am not sure what to advise. Now he’s running toward you in the rain in slow motion, holding a hand-lettered posterboard sign.

Now he’s crying into the phone at 3 a.m.

The re-courtship has very much begun.

In case you were not convinced that the disgraced former governor is doing his best to woo you back as he runs for Congress, here is his first ad.

Well, that’s an ad. Or is it more of a DETRACT?

That, I guess, is the question. Where to begin with Mark Sanford?

Where indeed? Argentina? The Appalachian Trail? Or have we moved on?

My best impression of the ad is as follows: “Something something small government something something OH, BY THE WAY, SORRY ABOUT THAT WHOLE THING WHERE I PRETENDED TO HIKE THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL AND WAS ACTUALLY CRYING IN ARGENTINA something something government.”

This is going to be fun.

Mark Sanford’s slow courtship of the South Carolina voter begins. Courting is difficult enough. Courting back? There are certain initial advantages. You know what flowers not to send. But fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice –

How forgiving are we, exactly?

One affair can be regarded as a misfortune, if you look genuinely contrite. Two looks like carelessness. Three — hey, looks like someone’s a player. Just look at Bill Clinton.

At least, this is how the jokes work on late-night television.

We may not forgive, but we forget. We have a very short memory. We have the attention span of a gnat who has just run out of Adderall.  More! Faster! Shorter! He did what? Where? But that was years ago. That was thousands upon thousands of news cycles ago! How were we expected to hold a grudge?

One affair and an apology can sink your name forever. But if you keep moving, if you can generate enough headlines to shovel yourself out of one bad review, nothing can touch you. The past gets buried in the constant stream of Breaking News.

We love a good story of redemption. The New Testament remains popular, centuries after its original publication. Sanford’s banking on that too. We’re pretty forgiving, unless — as I’ve noted — you are a porn star trying to become a science teacher. Then, you’re on your own.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.