(Update: he was in Argentina, which means his staff had no idea where he was the whole time. I feel the presidential hopes sinking Mr. Sanford. And, more importantly, the NYT covered Dream Act Graduation)
While much of today’s news was taking up speculating on and then analyzing the President’s press conference today, there was still a considerable amount of time diverted to the whereabouts of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. No such attention was given to the Dream Act Graduation, meant to draw attention to the plight of immigrant youth in our country (the U.S.), to the disappointment of people actually invested in a better nation and not just silly gossip.
It seems Gov Sanford “went missing” on the Thursday before Father’s Day and had not been heard from again until today, Tuesday. As I wrote earlier, Gov Sanford faced a lawsuit from a teenager over stimulus money aimed toward SC failing schools, a lawsuit that was bolstered by a letter that garnered another SC student an invitation to the White House. On Monday he lost a misguided lawsuit he hoped to have heard by the Federal Supreme Court to refuse stimulus money and then on Thursday’s final legislative session state government officials from all parties actively forced Gov Sanford to take stimulus money, he had practically built a pre-presidential campaign platform around refusing. In response, Gov Sanford left town.
On Thursday evening, unbeknownst to his family, Gov Mark Sanford took a state owned vehicle, allegedly turned off his cellphone after checking in with his staff, and drove away without his security detail. Originally, people in his office said they had not spoken to him and did not know where he was, prompting SC’s Lt. Governor to issue public statements about his concern for the safety and security of South Carolina and its governance. Sanford’s office quickly recovered and told everyone that he was on a hiking trip and that he went on similar vacations regularly without incident. By day’s end, Gov Sanford had issued his own statement saying he did not realize that going hiking was such a big deal and that he would come home by tomorrow.
In the meantime, two piece of info emerged:
- he was allegedly hiking a trail used for nude hiking day on the day in which nudists would be hiking
- the trail he was allegedly hiking was slated for 1000s of stimulus dollars for needed maintenance and security
While this provided endless amount of amusement and eyerolling for media pundits, it was obvious to everyone that the governor had simply reacted badly to a major loss with his own state government over what has become a showy rallying cry for base Republicans with little substantive support in reality.
Governor Mark Sanders, like Governor Jindal earlier this year, is thought to be one of a handful of Presidential hopefuls in the next election. Like Jindal, his milking of conservative talking points at large rallies and to media cooing led him to believe his own rhetoric. In fact, the post I did on Gov Sanford was actually punctuated by video from his own youtube site that seemed to show clearly how little concern he had for the schools on the corridor of shame or for the children being cheated by them. Thus, when he lost his fight to reject money amidst cries from multiple and conflicting constituents about how needed that money actually is in his state, Gov Sanford came crashing down. It was probably a much harder fall than Jindal’s when the world discovered he is simply not camera ready (and why that matters in this world, I will never agree with, but it does).
What is newsworthy then is that:
- Sanders seemingly took conflict with state government so poorly that he left without telling anyone
- He appeared to have made only minimal arrangements for governance in his absence
- both his staff and his wife admitted to not being able to reach him, meaning he may be unavailable in a crisis
- he took a state car for a personal outing after taking a stand on pork and perks
- his behavior was perceived of as erratic enough that state officials from within his own party questioned his competence locally and on national television
And while all of this is important, and should not be forgotten come nomination time, they hours spent speculating about his whereabouts, mocking the statements of his staff, and musing about whether he’d gone naked hiking were far too many on a day in which any number of domestic and foreign stories should have gotten the bulk of that time. Among those stories completely forgotten: the Dream Act Graduation, held outside the White House immediately following a presidential press conference and at other locations around the nation. And while people were willing to muse about Gov Sanford’s clothing, no one even ventured to guess at whether or not the White House story about hot weather was the real reason they moved the press conference inside or perhaps it was a multi-ethnic group of youth in cap and gowns demanding they have the same access to education, jobs, and citizenship that might have been seen in wide shots otherwise.
When Obama took office, both he and the press promised us that the days of suppressing the news were finally done. Today, like so many others in this first 100, the media, at least, has proved that it doesn’t really matter who sits in the biggest chair afterall.