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Gov. Sanford admits he wasn't on Appalachian Trail but in Buenos Aires!


Talk about a political meltdown.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, en route back to work after a mysterious four-day absence, confessed this morning that he had spent the past week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he claimed he was alone.

Cornered at the Atlanta airport this morning by reporter Gina Smith from the State, South Carolina's leading newspaper, the Republican governor said he had considered hiking the Appalachian Trail after his state's bruising legislative season (think fights over accepting $700 million in funds from President Obama's stimulus package) but decided at the last minute to hop a plane to Argentina.

"I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford explained, calling Buenos Aires "a great city."

As Ticket reported Tuesday, the governor's absence left the state in a state of chaos. The lieutenant governor had no idea where he was. Political foes raised questions about dereliction of duties. And First Lady Jenny Sanford said she had no idea where the governor was but expressed no concerns. "He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," she told the Associated Press before heading off with their four sons to the family's Sullivan's Island home -- over the Father's Day weekend.

But it turns out Sanford -- whose staff at one point announced he was hiking along the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail -- was actually driving down the coast of Argentina with the wind in his face.

The story raises a lot more questions than it answers. Was the two-term governor trying to dodge the media by parking his black Suburban SUV at Columbia Airport and flying out of Atlanta? Is his political career over? His marriage?

En route back to South Carolina, Sanford added, "I don't know how this thing got blown out of proportion."

-- Johanna Neuman

In this picture taken June, 26, 2008 South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, center, accompanied by unidentified persons, arrives to the government house during his visit to La Plata, Argentina. Sanford admitted that he'd secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he'd been having an affair. during a news conference in Columbia, S.C., Wednesday, June 24, 2009. Sanford will resign as head of the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo)

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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