A Mark Sanford Senate Quest Is Not Congress's Biggest Scandal

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's former scandal would only put him at home in Congress.

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South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford talks about the effects of his executive order requiring the Workers' Compensation Commission to use objective standards when awarding disability payments Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, in Columbia, S.C.

It's not the ideal personal resume for someone running for office. Here's a man who was governor of his state, disappears mysteriously, saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Then it emerges he was seeing his girlfriend, an Argentine woman the married office-holder calls his "soulmate." Then he leaves office, divorces his wife, and gets engaged to the girlfriend-slash-soulmate.

That appears, however, to be the path former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is pursuing. Sanford is considering running for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott, who's been nominated to replace departing Sen. Jim DeMint.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

The first response to Sanford's quest is, seriously, guy? Do you really think you can have a public mid-life meltdown and then ask your former constituents to give you another shot at public service?

Well, why not? Others have done it. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana surfaced on a list of patrons of a prostitution service. He's still in office. A congressman, Scott DeJarlais of Tennessee and a doctor, had affairs with two patients and pressured one to have an abortion—even though the lawmaker opposes abortion for other women. He was still re-elected last month.

We've had other lawmakers under federal investigation or under serious ethics investigations. They've come back to Congress. Former New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer—once the state's attorney general, making him the state's chief law enforcement officer—patronized prostitutes. And while he was forced to resign, he was given a prime TV spot.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the David Petraeus Scandal.]

Those scandals may be in the eye of the judger, and they may arguably have little to do with how someone behaves as an actual negotiator and lawmaker. It is arguably a much bigger scandal that Congress is ready to take the country over a fiscal cliff of tax hikes and deep spending cuts simply because some of them think they should get their own way, all the time. It may not be as good gossip fodder as an extramarital affair, but it's a scandal, all right.

So why deprive Sanford of a shot at rejoining the team? He'd fit right in.

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