As Gov. Mark Sanford continues his "apology tour" across South Carolina, his constituents are asking if he is really up to the job of leading the state. It seems less and less likely, given the increasing number of ethical questions he faces, the diminished status of his agenda, and his own self-absorption.
The governor claims to be in focus and on the job, but that contention is belied by his apparent quest to apologize to everyone who lives in South Carolina for his extramarital affair and related irresponsible behavior.
Simply put, the sackcloth-and-ashes routine is getting stale. If Mr. Sanford hopes to convince his constituents that he has the capacity to get something accomplished over the next 16 months, he'll have to have a better message than "I'm sorry."
Last week, the governor's apology tour traveled to Rotary Clubs across the state, stopping in Summerville, where he outlined his expectations for the remaining months of his term and, of course, apologized. Based on our report, it seems safe to say that club members received him with something less than enthusiasm, asking only a couple of questions following his speech.
Maybe they'd heard it all before. We sure have.
And like Gov. Sanford, we're sorry, too.
We're sorry he had an affair, that he disappeared from the state for nearly a week without telling his staff of his whereabouts. We're sorry about his disastrous press conference and even more disastrous interview during which he expounded upon his personal problems. We're sorry that those woes have diminished a worthy conservative agenda.
But right now, most of all we're sorry that he keeps apologizing. It's a measure of his continued distraction and an indication that he's not up to the mark to lead South Carolina during the current economic crisis. Can he recover during the remaining 16 months of his term? Sorry, we don't have the answer to that. But it's looking doubtful.
The governor's extramarital affair may be over, but he faces a variety of other problems. His use of state aircraft has raised questions about whether he violated the state's ethics law prohibiting personal or political use.
The latest shoe to drop came Friday in a report by The Associated Press that the governor took 35 flights on private aircraft without disclosing them on ethics or campaign forms, as required by law. The governor's staff defended that omission, saying the flights were paid for by political groups or the governor's friends and were exempt from disclosure rules.
In contrast, a spokesman for the State Ethics Commission said that the disclosure requirement applies to flights on private aircraft. If so, each flight could represent a violation of the law.
Gov. Sanford is finding himself to be increasingly vulnerable, with predictable consequences. Legislative interest in impeaching the governor is intensifying. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison is moving ahead with the preliminaries in anticipation of the next session, beginning in January.
The governor's spokesman maintains that the AP is being "selective in their view" of Mr. Sanford's travel. A statement Friday insisted that his travel record will be justified "as the full story gets out."
The governor deserves a chance to have his case heard. The State Ethics Commission would do the state a favor to expedite its investigation. Meanwhile, the governor would do the state a favor by ending the apology tour.
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