Mark Sanford and the trail of no return

When last we left Mark Sanford, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, he had gone for what he claimed was a long walk on the Appalachian Trail, and somehow ended up in Argentina.  With a mistress.

But now he’s back, and wants to run for Congress.  He’s prepared a campaign ad to re-introduce himself to voters as a man who made some “mistakes,” but has now learned a lot about “grace, and a God of second chances.”  Give him that second chance and he’ll change Washington.

An incredulous Jen Rubin of the Washington Post bears the heavy burden of remembering what Mark Sanford actually did, and isn’t about to let him write it off as a little “mistake”:

He???d like to characterize his misdeeds as ???personal,??? but they were anything but. As you may recall, Sanford used public funds for a tryst. This is a small-government conservative careful with the taxpayers??? money? Moreover, he doubled down on his misbehavior, insisting for some time that he had used his own funds. Eventually, he was forced to repay $9,000.

There is no reason the taxpayers should feel obliged to put such a character back in government. It is a measure how odd social conservatives have become that they would disown a candidate who favored gay marriage but rise to the defense of a home-wrecker and abuser of public funds. And the idea that there is no one else is belied by the crowded field of fiscal conservatives, none of whom took public funds in office and lied about it.

Conservatives correctly derided the mainstream media for trying to help Democrats hide the Bob Menendez saga (an effort that appears to have conclusively failed.)  There’s no way to reconcile such a relentless crusade for clean government with history revisionism on behalf of Mark Sanford.  Whatever his other virtues as a politician may have been, he threw his career away when he abandoned his post, in an incident so bizarre that he might be hoping voters convince themselves they hallucinated the whole thing.

Only a few hundred Americans get to sit in Congress; we should, as a non-partisan matter of principle, insist on the highest standards for those we allow to serve.  It’s painfully obvious we haven’t been doing that, but we should.  And that means there is no return from the trail Mark Sanford took out of office.