Don’t Cry for Mark, Argentina

(Update/Letdown/Spoiler Alert: He was just having an affair, the big idiot.)

I put on my Facebook page that I was loving the unfolding saga of the Mysterious Disappearing Governor of South Carolina. I mean, now that we know he’s alive and well, what’s not to love?

(Well, see the first line of this post. Other than that. . .)

Governor Mark Sanford had a difficult legislative session. His Republican-majority legislature (and he’s Republican) over-rode ten—count ’em, ten—vetoes of his, including the ones to reject federal stimulus dollars despite the fact that his state had, at the time, the highest unemployment rate in the nation. A teenage girl beat him in court, suing him over his plan to turn back ARRA money meant to refurbish sub-standard school buildings. After this taxing period—in the south, is it bad to be beaten by a girl?—he needed some time to “recharge,” according to his staff, so he went away.

He told his wife that he needed “some space” because he had to “write something,” and he drove off the Thursday before Father’s Day in a black government-issue SUV. His government-issue cell phone and his personal cell phone were turned off, although someone got a signal hit from a repeater tower near Atlanta Georgia, so I guess his phone was on then. On Monday, when people started asking where the governor was, his staff said he was okay but they hadn’t really talked to him. Then the story leaked, and the rest, as they say. . . was mystery.

Late Monday afternoon his staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Someone else reported that the black SUV had been found in a airport parking lot. His staff clung tenaciously to the Appalachian Trail story.

On Wednesday, when the governor flew back, he said he had been in Argentina, saying that Buenos Aires was “a beautiful city” and that he’d spent some time “driving along the coast.” The South Carolina newspaper The State observed that a scenic drive along the Argentina coast could be frustrating since there is no coast highway.

The governor also tossed his staffers to the wolves without a second’s hesitation, saying he didn’t know why they’d said he was hiking the trail. (Could it be because you didn’t bother to give them a decent cover story before you Judge-Cratered, you ignoramus?)

So, he planned to go hiking, decided at the last minute to go to Argentina—how convenient that he had his passport—and, once in Argentina, drove along an imaginary scenic road, missing Father’s Day with his four sons who supposedly mean the world to him.

Imagine what a great story is could have been lurking behind the lame lies in this story. An eccentric governor who ditches his security team to go walkabout, a long-suffering wife who’s. . .maybe not so suffering? Wouldn’t that make a great novel?

It would, and it has, or at least a great character in some novels. Carl Hiaisson’s grimly comic weird-Florida books have this reclusive, gallant whack-job who periodically comes out of the ‘glades to help the protagonists and slap around the bad guys. He lives in a decommissioned lighthouse, I think. Periodically, a beautiful, stylishly dressed woman in a 4-wheel drive vehicle with State House plates visits him. He is a retired governor—or maybe a governor who just went walkabout and never came back.

I know he shows up in Skinny Dip and maybe in Sick Puppy. I’m sure there is a book devoted to him and his story, but I don’t know which one it is. I invite you to explore.

Now that we know what Governor Sanford was really up to, it makes Hiaisson’s books even more attractive by comparison. Hiaisson has seen the future, and found a way to make it much less tawdry.

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