Wait a sec — so now WE’RE the ones acting oddly?

Now his office is saying the governor will be back on Wednesday. I will believe that when I see him, or when reliable third-party witnesses report that they have seen him, and not before, given the bizarre ways in which this has unfolded.

His staff, and some of his few remaining supporters, now that they’ve come up, very belatedly, with the “somewhere on the Appalachian Trail” explanation, are now trying to make like this is the most natural thing in the world, and that if there’s anything wrong with anybody, it’s with the people who are saying Where the hell is the governor? Spokesman Joel Sawyer put it this way to the AP, about a call the office had received from the boss this morning: “It would be fair to say the governor was somewhat taken aback by all of the interest this trip has gotten…”

Oh, come on. Whatever else might be said about all this, the idea that those asking where the governor is are acting oddly, to the point of being a source of bemusement to the imperturbable Gov. Sangfroid,  is a decidedly specious line of reasoning, appealing only to those who really, really want to believe in it. Let’s review the way this has unfolded. This sequence leads to the conclusion that this is one of the strangest gubernatorial developments in South Carolina in decades. Not the biggest or most important or anything like that; just one of the strangest:

  • Last Thursday, the governor drove off in the special blue-light-equipped SLED car that is supposed to be driven by his security escort. From the reports I’ve seen (mainly at thestate.com, which I consider to be reliable), this was without the knowledge of anyone at SLED.
  • Sometime late last week, the governor turned off or removed the battery from his cell phones (once again, I’m citing The State’s sources). The last trace possible on his whereabouts places him in the Atlanta area. Now folks, even if you leave out everything about this story, this is strange enough on its own. Maybe you can come up with an explanation for this behavior by the governor of a state who has fled his security detail — his phones got wet and he was drying them out, or some such — but this one act is so suggestive of the term “fugitive” that it’s hard to explain away. This is double-naught spy stuff. Jason Bourne stuff. People do things like this in movies, or in paranoid dystopian novels about protagonists fleeing the authorities in totalitarian future societies (and yes, I realize that folks of Mr. Sanford’s political philosophy sort of believe that government is that way in real life, but action upon such a believe to this extent would be really out there). As far as anyone (anyone who would come forward with information, that is) was able to piece together by early Monday afternoon: He ditched his security, left the state, and dropped off the radar screen.
  • On Saturday, Jake Knotts — who has every reason in the world to embarrass the governor, a fact that does NOT mean he’s not onto something this time — calls the head of SLED and confirms that they don’t know where the governor is with their car. Two days after he took off.
  • On Monday, before they came up with the hiking-in-the-wilderness thing, the best his office can come up with is this to explain the governor’s absence since Thursday: “Gov. Sanford is taking some time away from the office this week to recharge after the stimulus battle and the legislative session, and to work on a couple of projects that have fallen by the wayside. We are not going to discuss the specifics of his travel arrangements or his security arrangements.”
  • Also on Monday, Jenny Sanford is interviewed by The Associated Press. Now I don’t even know why the First Lady commented at all, but what she said was that her husband has been gone for several days and she did not know where, that he was writing something, and that she was not concerned. That’s what’s been reported. I’d like to see a transcript, because those pieces of information don’t fit together very well.
  • Late Monday afternoon, we learn from the lieutenant governor’s office that they have been assured by the governor’s office that it “now knows where he is” (quote from thestate.com). Why would the governor’s office tell the lt. gov’s office that, when they were not quite as forthcoming with anyone else up to that point? Because Sanford’s people don’t want Andre Bauer having an excuse to say that he’s in charge. That is so say, I choose to do them the compliment of assuming that was their motive.
  • Late Monday night, with this blowing up into a national story (at one point I was in contact with someone from The New York Post because they were looking for someone to string a story for them, but nothing came of it — the Daily News, however, did produce a story, as did somewhat less excitable news sources), his staff produces the Appalachian Trail explanation. Of course, we know that all South Carolinians first go to Atlanta and erase their tracks before going on the Trail…
  • This morning, we are told the governor checks in and wonders what all the fuss is about. Yeah, OK.

Tomorrow, they promise to produce him. I hope they do. I hope he’s OK, despite all the indications to the contrary.

But folks, even the very rosiest scenario you can paint from the available facts, you are still left with this: Mark Sanford is the kind of guy who would disappear like this, and then act like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Which it is not.

Now folks, all of those bullet items up there are pieced together from a number of unsatisfactory sources — from people who don’t like the governor, or people who aren’t speaking for attribution, or people who don’t particularly want to be forthcoming.

And if you’ve got better information that refutes any of it, it will be welcome. I just hope it’s better than the sudden, reluctant announcement after four days that the governor is taking a hike.

41 thoughts on “Wait a sec — so now WE’RE the ones acting oddly?

  1. Doug Ross

    Pure speculation on my part but I would bet he’s hiking with one or more people who DO have cellphones and can be contacted in case of emergency.

    If that fact comes out later, all this phony crisis “news” will seem very silly and (once again) the sheep will have been led to slaughter again by the politicians who run the state.

  2. Ron

    Brad, do you remember when you enthusiastically endorsed Sanford for governor seven years ago? And you also endorsed George W. Bush – TWICE – for president. Any regrets?

  3. Randy E

    Doug, drop the bias for a moment. The GOVERNOR disappeared. His cell phone was turned OFF. He has responsibility for running the state. If you had an employee who simply disappeared with his cell phone off while ON DUTY you’d having a freakin cow.

    Square peg into a round hole, that’s what you are attempting with your defense of Hollow Man.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Oh, and a Christian Science Monitor blog reports that one of the days that the governor has been missing was Naked Hiking Day:

    We’re not suggesting that the formerly missing Governor of South Carolina specifically ditched his family and security detail to go hiking on Naked Hiking Day. It’s just that one of the days he hit the trail also happened to be the aforementioned holiday. [Editor’s note: This paragraph was changed to make clear that the governor’s timing was a coincidence).

    Yes, thank you for making the coincidence thing completely clear…

    No, that’s not an important fact. But it’s a pretty fair example of how the rest of the country is viewing this strange set of developments. Maybe you haven’t been getting “your governor is weird” messages from friends across the country, but I have…

  5. Doug Ross


    Gee, I thought you’d be glad Sanford wasn’t out there implementing vouchers all over the state over the weekend.

    What duties did Sanford miss out on? The legislature was not in session. Were Harrell and Leatherman on call over the weekend also (since they run the state)?

    Until you know for sure that he was not reachable, why do you continue to rely on YOUR bias against him?

    If you can point to a specific rule or law that Sanford broke while out of contact, please do. Otherwise, NOTHING HAPPENED.

  6. Doug Ross


    Simple question:

    Tommy Moore or Mark Sanford?

    You answered it emphatically once before. Would you do it again right now?

  7. Brad Warthen

    Oh, and by the way, just to make this point again: The governor is only “formerly missing,” as the CSM blog and other sources are putting it, according to sources. We were told, at long last, that someone knows where he is. And that’s all we know.

    Randy raises an interesting point, which has to do with the lengths people will go to to defend “their” guy even when his behavior is indefensible. The extreme case: the people who defended Bill Clinton for behavior in the workplace with an employee that would have gotten most CEOs in the country fired (and many of those brushing off “just sex” were the very ones who had been totally OUTRAGED that Clarence Thomas had allegedly made suggestive remarks).

    Here we have a pale shadow of that. Yes, Randy, you’re right: People are not allowed to run off, without explanation, in state property and erase their tracks.

  8. Mike F.

    “Hope he’s OK, despite all indications to the contrary”

    What indications are there that he’s not “OK”? You list none above. Playing hooky, sure, but not OK?

  9. Brad Warthen

    Fortunately, Doug, we don’t have to choose between Mark Sanford and Tommy Moore at this point.

    UNfortunately, we have no choice at all. This guy is the only governor we have. And he just went missing for four days, and apparently his position is that that’s OK. Which it isn’t. Not in a SLED car, after ditching SLED.

  10. Randy E

    Doug, I have two simple questions for you.

    1. Did your family wish you a happy Father’s Day? I’m betting they did. I’m also betting you celebrate at least some of these “made up” holidays such as Easter and Christmas (in terms of Santa, bunny, eggs, etc.), bdays, and Valentine’s Day. With this in mind, missing Father’s Day especially when your family “does not know where you are” and “have not spoken to you” is WEIRD at the very least.

    2. If a catastrophe hit the state – tornado, large explosion in a public building from something like a gas leak, terrorism, etc. are you suggesting that his presence and oversight is meaningless?

    I find it amusing that Doug, the libertarian who hates taxes of any kind, finds a public servant disappearing for a few days like that to be perfectly acceptable.

  11. Doug Ross

    Keep reaching, Randy.

    As a libertarian, I would LOVE it if all the politicians stayed home all the time. Then they might see they don’t really do anything of value.
    Plenty of states have part time legislators. Somehow New Hampshire is able to exist with legislators who get paid a couple hundred bucks a year. And they have no income tax or sales tax. How can that happen? I was just there a few days ago and there was no mass hysteria, no broken down school systems, no bums on the street begging for money.

    Let’s stick to the facts. NOTHING HAPPENED THAT REQUIRED THE GOVERNOR’S INPUT OVER THE WEEKEND. You can play the what if game all you want. Until you know for 100% sure that the governor
    was completely unreachable, quit speculating. Otherwise you’re going to look more foolish when he returns.

    Why do you want Mark Sanford to conform to your ideas regarding Fathers Day? What bothers you so much about him not being like you? What do you care if my kids said “Happy Fathers Day” or not? If I say they didn’t, does it matter? They say “Happy Fathers Day” to me everyday by being who they are. Maybe they can give me a Red Carpet Award or one of their Soccer Participation Trophies so I can feel better about myself.

  12. Dan Moran

    After 10 veto overrides, the legislature essentially told the governor to go take a hike. And he took their advice. Now that’s news!

  13. Lee Muller

    A lot of areas in the mountains of GA, SC, TN, NC and VA have no cell phone coverage. You might as well turn off the phone and save the battery for when you do have coverage.

    That is what I like about camping up there, where you cannot see an electric light or get a phone call.

    I wish the media would put this much effort into trying to locate Hussein Obama’s birth certificate.

  14. Randy E

    LOL @ Dan.

    Doug, you parry with the best of them. I’m not surprised you didn’t answer my questions.

    There’s no way you could have taken a hike (and some of us on this blog have suggested you do so) on Father’s Day without your family knowing where you are and not hearing from you for DAYS.

    As far as contact, his phone was OFF! So if the teacher of one of your kids leaves the classroom for the entire period and nobody gets hurt it’s ok? riiigggghhtttt…..

  15. Doug Ross


    Right. No harm, no foul. That’s what I learned in my high school basketball days.

    If you care to know, I have planned to do the full hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine one of these years. I’ve done all kinds of research on the process involved. I’ve got DVD’s, books, websites, etc. on how to do it. And when I do it, I won’t be available for days at a time. And I won’t have a cellphone. And the world will keep spinning.

    You brought up the whole “terrorist attack” nonsense. Let’s go hypothetical here. If something like that were to happen and Sanford said “As governor, I say we do X, Y, Z” Guess what would happen? Bobby Harrell and Hugh Leatherman and Jake Knotts would immediately say “No, we need to do A,B,C…” and start talking about how Sanford won’t compromise… or talk about piglets… or talk about doing a study to determine what the best course of action would be.

    They created a figurehead governor. Live with the consequences. They own the future of the state, not Sanford.

  16. Bill C.

    This is what Brad lives for… one more way to bash Mark Sanford. This man-crush he has on Sanford must make his wife jealous.

  17. Bart

    Why is everyone in such a dither about Sanford going AWOL for a few days? Is the state government so damn incompetent that if an emergency arose there is no one capable of stepping up and taking charge? Andre’ Bauer for all of the bashing he takes is after all, the Lt. Governor and unless I am totally off base, he is next in line if something goes wrong, right? (at least the ENTIRE state had the option of voting for Sanford and Bauer, only the district where Leatherman resides decided on his election to the senate)

    For all of his detractors and opponents, you would think there would be dancing in the streets and a celebration over the premature death of any future political ambitions for Mark Sanford. This one incident has placed a label on the man that will not be removed and any legitimacy he may have had has been completely destroyed. Nothing Hannity, Rush, or any of the other right wing talk show hosts tries will help. He is toast, like it or not. There are already hints or speculations about his mental well being. Remember Eagleton?

    Don’t ever think for one moment Jake didn’t know what he was doing when he raised the issue to anyone who would listen and better yet, get it out to the press. This was his golden moment and he seized it with great enthusiasm veiled under the guise of “concern”. It is a rare moment when one has their opponent in a vunerable position and this was one.

    As one poster commented earlier. This is political theater at either its worst or best but theater none the less.

  18. Bart

    Randy E, to use your own choice of words, your comparison to Sanford and a teacher leaving the classroom unattended for an hour is “specious” to say the least. If a teacher leaves the classroom, there is no one in the classroom to cover in case of an emergency. In the state government, if the governor leaves the state, even unannounced, there are people in place to take over if necessary.

  19. jfx

    Doug, I’m used to watching you shine Sanford’s shoes on this blog, but I’m actually surprised to see you slog this far into the rhetorical wilderness with the man.

    One of the reasons Jim Hodges got booted out of the mansion back in the day was because he botched a hurricane evacuation.

    But, at least Hodges was present, on the job, attempting to fulfill a requirement of his public service position.

    I’m not sure how Mr. Sanford would coordinate anything if he’s alone in the mountains. There’s been absolutely no indication he was with anyone, and if he was indeed hiking the trail, he would definitely be out of touch by cell.

    We’d make do just fine if a catastrophe of some sort occurred that required someone acting in the governor’s stead to call some shots and get on the horn with FEMA. The rest of the governmnent public service and emergency management service apparatus would step up. But you can be sure that by the time Mr. Sanford descended from his hike and changed socks, his political career would be over, and we’d likely have grounds for impeachment.

    “But nothing happened, so it’s OK” is a fairly hollow rationalization.

    I listened to the first 15 minutes of the Rush Limbaugh Comedy Show at lunch today, and Mark Davis was filling in for Rush. This is a right-winger, on right-wing talk radio, and he took time out to speak directly to South Carolinians, and implore us to (I’m paraphrasing) “figure out what’s going on with the governor”. Davis went on to say that he’s a big fan of Sanford, but a good explanation needs to come out. And if it doesn’t, strike Sanford’s name off your 2012 list. Davis’ sentiments today, on right wing radio…not mine.

    He also used the word “weird”. And he made the point that you can’t have this “weird” stuff going on if you’re going to stay politically viable. So now the lefties on MSNBC, AND the righties on talk radio, are all singing the Sanford is Weird song in unison.

    Doug, you’re having a pity party for poor Mark. Oh, poor Mark’s been abused and marginalized by the legislature! Oh, poor Mark’s a hero of pure intention and forthright principle who’s been treated badly by the system!

    Ever stop and think that maybe poor Mark made some really poor choices over the last few weeks and months? Maybe poor Mark is in some way responsible for his own floundering image?

  20. Cliff

    If u step back a moment, u see this is really a joke…just a funny, odd episode that shows our obession with those in power.

    Sanford is a serious guy. Bauer is a fruit loop. Be careful what you wish for, as you may end up with Andre and ? in the Gov’s mansion.

    Step back people…and wait till tomorrow.

  21. bud

    The extreme case: the people who defended Bill Clinton for behavior in the workplace with an employee that would have gotten most CEOs in the country fired

    Hardly the extreme case. Bush lying us into war was THE extreme case.

  22. Randy E

    In a chain of command, there are certain decisions that can ONLY be made by the person in charge. There is a contingency provided to empower Speed Racer (aka SC2) formally. In this situation, Bauer was not granted authority so certain decisions would be left to Davey Crockett as he blazed a trail through the mountains.

    Consider the uproar about Alexander Haig when he claimed to be in charge. If he had tried to make a decision there would have been delays and uncertainty.

    Given that certain decisions could not be made by anyone but the governor, the analogy with the teacher is valid. I’ll throw in a paraprofessional sitting with the students while the teacher was gone. It simply is not acceptable. As Brad indicated, if you are in charge you can’t simply take off. The brazen attempts to defend him are comical.

  23. Doug Ross


    Nothing happened.

    I don’t have to be a Sanford apologist if nothing happened.

    It drives some people nuts that he won’t conform to the good old boy, government bureaucracy.

    And he would be elected again if he had the same opportunity to run as Harrell, Leatherman, Knotts, etc. do.

    I think that drives you even more nuts to realize there are many people who smile when Sanford gives the Legislature the proverbial finger.

  24. bud

    Certainly the part about the SLED vehicle was weird. And the first lady’s comments don’t seem logical. Maybe he took the boys on a hiking trip and she just didn’t want anyone to know. Caught off guard she made up a cover story on the spur of the moment. I’m sort of with Doug on this it’s a bit strange but not really shocking and certainly not illegal. At least not yet.

  25. jfx

    Doug, giving people the finger is the EASY thing to do.

    It’s much tougher to put aside personal animosities and work within a system to change the system for the better. But Sanford isn’t good at that. He’s not good at communicating. He’s not good at working with others. He’s not an effective leader.

    Giving people the finger FEELS great. It’s instant gratification. But it doesn’t help much, and it often makes things worse.

    Doug, maybe you’re not an apologist. Maybe you’re just a dittohead. He flips the bird, you give a thumbs up. Rinse, repeat.

  26. Ralph Hightower

    SC Governot Mark Sanford will really hit the big time media when The Onion reports on his disappearance.

  27. Greg Flowers

    Talk about a slow news day! This has got to be one of the biggest non-events I have ever witnessed. The Governor is not unstable, he is not trying to emulate a secret agent, he is taking a few days off in a slow time to recover from an unimaginably stressful period. He’s coming back now, let’s move on.

  28. jfx

    “He’s coming back now, let’s move on.”

    Haha! Yay, we talked him down off the mountain. Now we just have to get him to step away from the SLED car, drop the keys, and kick them over to us.

  29. Doug Ross

    From The State:

    S.C. Constitution

    Article 4, Section 11 of the S.C. Constitution says the lieutenant governor becomes governor upon the impeachment, death, resignation, disqualification, disability or removal of the governor.

    Further, the lieutenant governor has have the full authority to act in an emergency, disability or temporary absence of the governor. Neither the Constitution nor state law details what is an emergency or a temporary absence.

    Therefore, Sanford did nothing wrong. Had something happened and he was unavailable, Bauer would have been right to step in.

    Maybe this points to the need for South Carolina to make the Lt. Governor position an appointed one by the Governor. Then Sanford would be working with someone who presumably was on the same page
    and not trying to use a benign situation to promote his own campaign for Governor.

    What do you think Bauer would have done had Sanford told him last week that he was heading for a short vacation in the mountains? You think he would have been able to keep that a secret?

  30. Doug Ross

    Just read that in Texas, the legislature meets for five months out of every two years.

    How can a state do that? How can they get all the recognition and resolutions for the Green Bean Queen or the 3A Girls State Volleyball runner up onto the schedule? What do the legislators do for the other 19 months? Work? C’mon now… politicking is a 24x7x365 job.

  31. Bill C.

    Doug, several states meet every other year and complete two annual budgets during that time period. SC legislators wouldn’t be able to do this because they need at least 5 months each year to pat each other on the back.

    What did the legislature pass this session worth of the money spent?

    I just saw Jake Knotts on the NBC Night News… he looks fatter and dumber than he does on local television.

  32. Birch Barlow

    The comments on this post and the two below reminded me of this.

    Link here.

    Q. Are blogs making people better informed, or allowing them to cocoon?

    Well, both. Though Cass Sunstein famously worried about cocooning, research — and my own experience — suggests that people don’t just read things they agree with. For one thing, you have to read people you disagree with in order to call them “asshats,” which is a key aspect to the Internet experience . . .

    More seriously, I find that there are a lot of very interesting and well-informed people on the Internet, but that they tend to be drowned out by the obnoxious trolls. That breakdown in civility — or even in serious debate, since trolls never really debate, they just shout — is a more serious threat than “cocooning.” With cocooning you avoid people who disagree with you; with trolling you notice them but write them off as unserious. The latter, I think, is more dangerous to democracy.

  33. Randy E

    The apologists for Sanford are self-parodies now. The governor of a state disappearing for 5 days is a non-event and is meaningless in terms of how the government would operate.

    “Further, the lieutenant governor has have the full authority to act in an emergency, disability or temporary absence of the governor. Neither the Constitution nor state law details what is an emergency or a temporary absence.” – Doug

    You proved my point. He’s gone, nobody knows where he is, and the Constitution doesn’t spell out exactly what should happen. So the executive branch stuck in limbo is no big deal…for some.

  34. jfx

    Sanford Post-Hike PR Damage Control To-Do List:

    1. Bathe.
    2. Fire Joel Sawyer.
    3. Hire Doug Ross.

  35. Brad Warthen

    Ralph raises an interesting point when he mentions The Onion.

    Frankly, I felt like I was reading The Onion when I saw the first reports on this. Governor takes SLED car, leaving SLED in the dust, disables cell phones, disappears for 4 days, wife says she doesn’t know where he is and isn’t worried — it really read like satire…

  36. Kathryn Fenner

    That’s why so many stories opened with something like “This is not a joke.”

  37. Michael Rodgers

    I just hope that Sanford is OK. Assuming that he is, I wish to add the following to the discussion.

    What Sanford lovers need to understand is that the problem is Sanford’s complete inability to communicate with and work well with people who don’t adore him and with people who he doesn’t have power over.

    Many (probably most) people who don’t like Sanford agree with him on his main issues: The State Legislature has too much power and spends too much money on the wrong things and in wasteful ways. Check, check, check. We agree. Now what? The problem is Sanford and that he won’t communicate and he won’t lead.

    These two columns by Cindi Ross Scoppe, “Mark Sanford and the Promised Land”, “Sanford wrong about court, right about selection system” and this editorial “Mr. Sanford’s great adventure” explain the problem clearly and show how people are trying to move forward on the issues that Sanford supposedly cares about, despite the fact that Sanford’s behavior (his refusal to communicate properly and his refusal to lead) sets our state further behind instead of further ahead. (As Sen. Glenn McConnell often says, “The Governor is good at making headlines but not so good at making headway.”)

  38. Lee Muller

    Cindi Scoppe seems to have contracted Sandford Derangement Syndrome from Brad Warthen before he left the building on Shop Road.

  39. Bill C.

    I was hoping that Cindi Double Last Name would have been one of the six positions terminated at The State earlier this week. I guess she dodged that bullet for another few weeks. The State is on life support and the plug is about to be pulled… expect a For Sale sign shortly on the building.

  40. Lee Muller

    There was a For Sale sign in front of the building on Sunday.
    Maybe it was a prank, and someone moved it there from another location.

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