Political news out of the Palmetto State these days could serve as the plot for a new Woody Allen movie. Who else could come up with such scenarios?
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer threatens to run for governor in 2010 unless Gov. Mark Sanford resigns within 30 days.
After weeks of declining interviews because she wants to shield her family from the press, S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford grants an interview to Vogue, posing in a beach coverup. In addition to flashing a come-hither smile and showing beaucoup leg, Mrs. Sanford bemoans that her wayward hubby didn't show her the passion he proclaims to have for his Latin “soul mate.”
Our Guv calls a press conference every other day to proclaim his commitment to duty, which consists mainly of his mea culpa tour of the state, asking forgiveness from Rotarians, and holding press conferences to announce — once more — that he won't resign.
In truth, not even Woody Allen could dream up this stuff. If sanity somehow were to return to state politics, half the gag writers in New York and Los Angeles would be out of work.
What's needed now is a graceful way for Sanford to exit the Governor's Mansion, for Jenny Sanford to get on with her life and for South Carolina to quietly slip into the backwater of political backstabbing and incompetence to which the state long has been accustomed.
Given our penchant for reliving historic disasters, perhaps a way to end South Carolina's Great Embarrassment can be found in the past. I therefore want to float a solution I call the Duke and Duchess of Windsor Scenario.
It's unlikely that readers under the age of 50 remember that pair, but they were headline material for much of the 20th century. Before she became Duchess of Windsor, Bessie Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson was a twice-divorced American, who had slept her way through higher social circles on several continents and an unknown number of principalities. Among the smitten was an heir apparent to the British throne. Their romance became a sticky wicket upon the death of his father, the king.
The United Kingdom was aghast that its new monarch, Edward VIII, wanted to marry a woman with — not one but two — living ex-spouses. Indeed, the marriage would have sparked a constitutional crisis, since as head of the Church of England, the king was forbidden from entering such a union. The crisis was averted when Edward announced in a 1936 radio address that he was abdicating, rather than rule without the support of the “woman I love.”
That speech forever enshrined the Duke and Duchess in the pantheon of romantic heroes — resulting in a bonanza for book publishers and makers of movies and made-for-TV flicks. After all, how many men would forsake a kingdom for the woman they loved?
Cynics point out that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were two of the most notorious social parasites in modern history. For the remainder of their lives, they were noted mainly for the parties they attended and the lavish estates they graced with their presence.
So how does this relate to the current standoff in Columbia?
Gov. Sanford calls yet another press conference and announces that he will surrender his post to be with the woman he loves.
It would be unlikely, of course, that someone with an ego like Sanford's would slip quietly from the public stage. Moreover, since he's had his nose in the public trough most of his adult life, he will need a new career so he can support himself and Mrs. Sanford II.
Herein lies the beauty of the plan: Mark and his Argentine bride become the hottest ticket on the conservatives' calendar. When they aren't signing copies of their best seller, “Passion on the Pampas,” they appear regularly on Fox News or as featured speakers at state and local GOP meetings. These new darlings of the right will be paid big bucks for pontificating on the virtues of small government, school vouchers and flying first class on the public's nickel.
Goodness knows, the rest of us are tired of hearing it.