One of the odder stories of the last week has been the disappearance of SC Gov. Mark Sanford, who reportedly went hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and was out of touch with his staff and family for at least five days. His lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer–a fellow Republican, BTW–publicly freaked over the disappearance. And all sorts of fun-loving amateur sleuths have been all over this (including, according to Josh Marshall, a SC television reporter who’s found a witness who saw Sanford boarding a plane in Atlanta several days ago). Admittedly, you can get in a pretty good hike in at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, but it’s not exactly the best place for getting close to God or nature.
Sanford finally called his staff, and will reportedly return to his office on Wednesday. But Southern Political Report‘s Tom Baxter has been the first to allude to the real mystery:
How, it was asked, could a governor be absent from his four sons on Father’s Day and think he could run for president? How could his wife not be certain of his whereabouts? Under what circumstances could Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer take charge if there were an emergency? And why was the last ping on the governor’s cell phone from a location near Atlanta, when there are easier ways to access the trail?
Perhaps the most puzzling question went unasked, however: How did anyone notice he was gone?
Sanford, who has feuded with Republicans and Democrats alike, and who inquired after he was elected whether he could live in his beach house on Sullivan’s Island rather than the governor’s mansion in Columbia, can lay claim to being – the first word to come to mind is “disengaged,” but it would be more accurate to say, “distant” governor in the country.
I can relate. I won’t name any names, but I once worked for an elected official who sometimes seemed to disappear for months at a time, right there in his office.
Which leads to a philosophical question: If a governor walks in the woods, and nobody’s there to see it, is he invisible?
UPDATE: As you may have heard by now, turns out Sanford was in Argentina, not Appalachia, because he wanted some place “exotic” to recover from the rigors of the SC legislative session, which ended with an assortment of veto overrides by the Republican-controlled legislature. Whatever else this “story” represents, it’s got to be one of the most inept public relations jobs by a major politician since Larry Craig’s explanation of why he got arrested in an airport restroom.
UPDATE II: Southern Political Report says that there’s now talk among SC legislators about impeaching Sanford. This really isn’t working out well for the would-be 2012 presidential candidate.