Feature

Mark Sanford's Argentine adventure

South Carolina's missing governor reappears—but he wasn't where aides said he was.

What happened
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford came home on Wednesday after vanishing for five days, and causing a political uproar in his state. Sanford, who has been suggested as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said he had been in Argentina, not hiking the Appalachian Trail, as his staff had said. The reason for Sanford's trip remained unchanged—he said he wanted to clear his head after a bitter fight with rivals in his own party on how to spend the state's share of the federal economic stimulus package. (Columbia, S.C., State)

What the commentators said
"So, which is it? Mountain or molehill?" asked Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post. A senior Republican consultant says Mark Sanford's mysterious disappearance will hurt him politically, because it reinforces the impression that the governor—who once brought live pigs to the state House to embarrass legislators over pork barrel spending—is "one strange dude." Maybe, but a lot depends on what Sanford does next.

It will be hard for Mark Sanford to erase the horrible image his disappearance projected, said Allahpundit in Hot Air. His staff said flatly that he was hiking, and the governor's own wife didn't know the truth. "Eccentric disappearances are bad enough, but eccentric disappearances plus lies?"

"It's too early to reach any sweeping conclusions about Gov. Mark Sanford’s disappearing act," said the Columbia, S.C., State in an editorial. But it's not too early to say that "the feigned hysteria was whipped up by some of the governor’s fiercest political enemies and some of the staunchest allies of the man who is supposed to act as governor if the governor is unavailable, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer." Still, the governor has responsibilities, and Sanford invited "legitimate questions" by shirking them.

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