Dan Balz's Take
The Fallout from Sanford's South American Adventure
Wednesday, June 24, 2009; 4:08 PM
For Mark Sanford, the summer adventure to Argentina -- no, he was not on the Appalachian Trail as his aides incorrectly told reporters -- is now a major personal embarrassment, a story of infidelity and confession that has become all too familiar from political leaders.
But it is more than personal. For a Republican Party down on its luck, Sanford's mysterious trip and subsequent apology to everyone he could think of draws more unwelcome publicity to a party that needs but can't seem to get any good news.
The enterprising State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., cracked the case of Sanford's whereabouts by staking out the Atlanta airport, where one of the paper's reporters found the absent governor upon his return to the United States. After days of misinformation, the real story of his whereabouts is out.
"I wanted to do something exotic," he told the State newspaper Wednesday morning upon his return from Argentina. When the full story came out, he was not so flippant. "I've let a lot of people down," he told a packed press conference in Columbia in the afternoon.
Put aside what Sanford's wife and family knew. That is a between husband and wife. Whatever his wife or friends knew, it was a serious mistake in judgment for the leader of the state to simply drop out of sight for nearly a week.
It is also a major problem that he suggested to his staff that he planned to hike the Appalachian Trail while on his unreported absence, rather than telling them the truth about his whereabouts. And it was a serious oversight on his -- and his staff's -- part not to inform other relevant state officials that he was away. Even worse, no one had accurate information about the governor's absence when questions arose.