First it was New York, where bickering lawmakers have been unable to decide who is in charge of the State Senate. Now it’s South Carolina doing its part to make New Jersey look good in comparison to the other 49 states.
For this we can thank South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford whose whereabouts were a mystery for a few days. According to initial news reports:
- Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, who is second in command, did not know where Sanford was, and she was not put in charge of the state during his absence.
- The governor’s wife Jenny and their four children did not hear from him for several days, even on Father’s Day.
- Calls placed to Sanford’s cell phone went straight to voice mail, and he did not respond to text messages.
- The State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for the governor, was unable to reach Sanford.
- Several days after the governor disappeared from public view, his spokesperson, Joel Sawyer, said he had not spoken with Sanford nor was he aware of any other staff member who had. Sawyer did note that the governor told his staff where he was going planned to check in, but said little else about his whereabouts.
The mystery surrounding the governor came to an end on Wednesday when he returned to work and announced that he had been in Argentina and had been having an affair with a woman from the South American country. Earlier in the week, Sanford’s staff had told reporters that he was been hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
We’ve had our share of well-known missing persons in New Jersey – from former State Senator and Assemblyman David Friedland who faked his death and vanished in 1985 after his conviction on racketeering charges, to Atlantic City Mayor Bob Levy who was missing for nearly two weeks in 2007 in the aftermath of allegations about false claims in his military records.
But to the best of my knowledge, New Jersey has never had a governor go AWOL – not that some haven’t tried to escape the public spotlight from time to time.
Governor Whitman apparently was quite good at the practice, according to a lengthy Star-Ledger profile published during her 1997 re-election campaign. The story recounts tales of the governor climbing out of a window in her office, donning a wig and hat to sneak past State Troopers, and even dropping down into the moat and climbing over a stone wall to escape to a local pub during a national governors’ conference.
Living under a microscope cannot be fun, so it is no wonder that public figures relish their rare opportunities to enjoy the type of privacy that is afforded to the general public. President Obama recently said that’s one of the reasons he takes pleasure in playing golf. For six hours, he gets to feel normal, the president told Harry Smith on CBS’ Early Show. “There are a whole bunch of Secret Service guys, but they’re sort of in the woods,” he said. “It feels as if you you’re out of the container, and actually – I realize now – as close as you’re going to get to being outside of this place.”
Obama’s point is well taken. Everyone, including presidents, needs a break every now and then. And every public figure also has a personal life and the issues that come with it. But presidents, governors, mayors and other elected officials also have obligations to the people they serve – and that means taking proper steps and following proper procedures. We shouldn’t stand for anything less in New Jersey – and neither should the citizens of South Carolina or any other state in the union.
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