Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina confessed to adultery with a woman in Buenos Aires Wednesday, after raising eyebrows by disappearing over the weekend, and then misleading the public about his whereabouts.
But for the New York Times, there was more to the tale than the political meltdown of a promising Republican presidential candidate for 2012. Sanford's affair gave the paper another chance to round up recent (and not so recent) stories of Republican misdeeds and controversies and suggest they (once again) spelled doom for the party. Enter reporter Jim Rutenberg's Thursday story, "Sanford Case A New Dose Of Bad News For G.O.P."
Republicans were just starting to breathe a little easier.
The news that Senator John Ensign had had an affair with a former aide who was married to another former aide was fading. Polls showed some voter impatience with President Obama's policies, if not with the president himself. And the Politico, the insidery Web site that is widely read in the capital's political precincts, even featured an article exploring the possibility of a Republican Party comeback.
Then Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a fiscal conservative seen by many Republicans as an attractive standard-bearer for the next presidential campaign, went missing. Worse, he returned.
The Times has certainly never seen Sanford as "an attractive standard-bearer" for anything, going out of its way to paint him as a stubborn, ultra-conservative eccentric whose stand against Obama's stimulus package was rejected even by his fellow South Carolina Republicans.
His confession on Wednesday that he had been in Argentina with a woman not his wife -- and not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff had said Monday -- was another jolt of bad news for a party that has struggled to get off the ropes all year.
That it was the second such confession in little more than a week from a potential Republican presidential contender -- Mr. Ensign had been exploring a run in 2012 as well -- left party leaders dazed. They spent Wednesday alternating between gallows humor and yet another round of conversations about what the party stands for and who will give it its best shot to retake the White House.
Rutenberg strung together some golden anti-GOP oldies. He aimed some particularly cheap cheap shots at Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family.
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana suffered a political setback after even his fellow conservatives harshly critiqued his televised response to Mr. Obama's prime-time address to Congress in February. The speech, which was supposed to provide a moment to shine in front of a national audience, instead became fodder for late-night comedy.
Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee who was eviscerated by some of her own political aides at the end of last year's presidential race, continued to get national attention, but hardly the kind likely to help convince voters that she would be a substantive candidate. The father of her unwed teenage daughter's baby feuded openly with the Palin family, and the governor exasperated some Republicans in Washington with her off-again, on-again plans for headlining a fund-raiser there.
After basking in glowing reviews among political pundits this year, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, had to apologize for a post on Twitter in which he called Mr. Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, "racist" for saying that she hoped Latinas would be generally better equipped to make judicial decisions than their white male counterparts.
Near the end Rutenberg remembered that sex scandals aren't exclusively Republican, noting that the Democratic governors of New York and New Jersey have both resigned over unusual sex scandals: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer for his involvement with a prostitute, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey for committing adultery with a gay lover. Rutenberg left out 2008 Democratic presidential candidate and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards, who fathered a child out of wedlock while his wife suffered from cancer.
Rutenberg argued that the Spitzer and McGreevey scandals "did not hurt Democrats nationally." Perhaps because the Times and the rest of the media have never made a point to collate them and present them as evidence of pervasive Democratic Party corruption, the way they do with each new Republican scandal.