Governors Gone Wild: Sanford's Not the First Governor to Go AWOL

The news that Gov. Mark Sanford had taken off without telling even his wife where he was -- and not letting Lt. Gov. Andrew Bauer ...
by | June 23, 2009

Sanford-woods The news that Gov. Mark Sanford had taken off without telling even his wife where he was -- and not letting Lt. Gov. Andrew Bauer know he was leaving -- has gotten a lot of attention.

It turns out that Sanford is hiking the Appalachian Trail, "to kind of clear his head," according to his spokesman, after a difficult legislative session.

This reminded me of a story a staffer for Christine Todd Whitman told me back in 1997, when she was governor of New Jersey. Whitman was fond of sneaking out some evenings, calling the state troopers assigned to protect her and saying, "It's 11 o'clock -- do you know where your governor is?"

Whitman would always bring an aide along with her during such pranks. It's not clear whether anyone is with Sanford.

All of this makes me wonder whether other states have protocols in place that keep governors from ever being completely out of touch and on their own. It's obvious that governors need to be protected and emergencies make it obvious why they need to be reachable.

In a day and age when it seems like people can't go on vacation without regularly checking their BlackBerrys -- or, in some cases, won't even go to the bathroom -- it seems incomprehensible that someone in a position of real authority, who might be called on to make life and death decisions, would take off for days at a time.

I could see where that constant pressure would get to be a bit much after seven years and you'd just want to take off and get away. It's a good idea to leave someone minding the store, however.

But when there are restrictions on governors, who enforces them? Is some other state employee, at some level, able to play the governor's boss? Or is it just the case that it's politically ridiculous to pull such a stunt -- that this will become what most people associate Sanford with?

Of course, Sanford has pulled stunts before.

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