It's too bad that Mark Sanford's cover story wasn't true.
Of course, his gallivanting down to Buenos Aires for an assignation, 6,000 miles away from wife and sons on Father's Day weekend, was singularly stupid and not easily forgiven.
And leaving South Carolina without telling his lieutenant governor and public safety department where he was going or how he could be reached in the event of an emergency was the height of irresponsibility. If Sanford were running a private company, he likely would have been shown the door by now.
But everybody knows all this already. Getting back to his cover story, which was that he spent the weekend hiking the Appalachian Trail, escaping from the pressures of office and a tense legislative session.
If that were all that Sanford had been doing, it would have been OK. In fact, it would have been a good example for other elected officials.
Sitting governors, and the president for that matter, ought to take occasional outdoors sojourns away from the pressures of office and the hothouse politics that permeate seats of government like a miasma provided, of course, that responsible officials are informed and the vacationing chief executives can be contacted on short notice.
There is no better way for people in high office to gain perspective than spending some time immersed in natural sights and sounds. They might come out of the woods with new energy and a renewed sense of purpose
Edmund Morris' book "Theodore Rex" tells the story of President Theodore Roosevelt's Western trip of 1903, which laid the groundwork for his later conservation achievements.
Worn out from fights with both Congress and a flu bug, Roosevelt headed west in the spring of 1903 to relax, see the country, and greet the folks.
He hiked and went horseback riding in Yellowstone, and talked about the "essential democracy" of national parks protected for and open to all citizens to enjoy.
He visited the Grand Canyon and told a crowd at the edge of the great chasm to "leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."
TR hectored townspeople in Santa Cruz, Calif. to remove unsightly advertising posters from a majestic redwood tree and to keep beauty "unmarred by vandalism or the folly of man."
He camped for days in Yosemite with John Muir, talked over balancing utility and preservation with the great naturalist, and came out of the granite wilderness exclaiming, "I never felt better in my life!"
The country was better off for TR having recovered his vigor in the West.
Now, thanks to Sanford's escapade, snickers are likely to greet a politician announcing a genuine trip into nature to get away from it all. That would be unfortunate. As Theodore Roosevelt's example makes clear, such trips could do the leader and the commonweal a lot of good.
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