The Truth Could Have Set South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford Free

He could have told the truth and salvaged some credibility.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Before this last disastrous weekend's events, South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford needed a new communications director, or a P-R person whose advice he would have taken. There's no way his or any communications advisor could or would have presided over the massive mishandling of his personal travails which began late last week.

In all my years covering politics, I've never seen a star-bound politician's career fizzle with such catastrophic downward velocity. And it all could have been averted, if he had just been honest with the media from the start.

Here's what happened, as most of you already know. The governor took off late last week following a tough state legislative session. His staff told media that he went hiking on the Appalachian Trail to relieve the stress of that session. We learned today he in fact had an extramarital liaison with someone in Argentina.

If he'd just announced before leaving that he and his wife were separating and he was taking time off out of the country, he would not have had to lie his way back into the country. It's possible he could have retained at least a mite of credibility.

Instead, he was forced into admitting the truth after he was photographed yesterday at the Atlanta airport by a South Carolina newspaper reporter. He resigned his position as head of the Republican Governors Association. And he's no longer a potential Christian conservative candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. In fact, he's botched things so badly on wonders whether he can hang onto his governorship.

Come to think of it, that's two down in two weeks. Last week Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign's rising star dulled considerably when he, too, admitted an extramarital affair and resigned his U.S. Senate leadership post.

Both major political parties have witnessed the downfall of party luminaries who were discovered to be cheating on spouses in recent years. But the Christian wing of the GOP has had more than its share of time in this sorry limelight.

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