There's nothing like a good scandal to send the news media into a frenzy. Until this afternoon, that's all anyone could talk about. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead off with the story of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a rising star in the Republican party, who had an extra-marital affair with a woman in Argentina. The conservative Sanford was a rising star in the Republican party and was considered a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2012. In a press conference yesterday that was carried live on all the cable news channels, Sanford admitted to having the affair with the woman in Buenos Aires, where he spent a good part of last week. He had last been seen last Thursday, and his wife said she didn't know where he was. His staff said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Most of my favorite scandals have involved Democrats, but I welcome Sanford into the club, along with Democrats Rod Blogojevich, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, and Gary Hart. Blagojevich tops the list for trying to sell Obama's vacant senate seat in Chicago. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky gave us hours of entertainment because of the news media's insatiable appetite for sexual dalliances involving politicians, and it topped the previous whopper, Gary Hart's sexual romp on his boat called "Monkey Business." Eliot Spitzer comes in a distant fourth in Democratic screw-ups. His was the pretty standard politician-meets-call-girl story, followed by the obligatory news conference with his wife standing by his side, followed by Kristen Wiig mimicking her on "Saturday Night Live." Sanford recently made news by refusing Obama's stimulus money for his state. He has been seen as a Republican in the mold of Barry Goldwater. While Bill Clinton lied for months about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and Blogojevich still professes his innocence, Sanford, like Spitzer, has admitted his sins and seems genuinely remorseful. His bizarre trip is being called Sanford's "Last Tango in Buenos Aires" and he says that he has broken up with the woman he loved to stay with his wife and four sons. But Sanford, who said he will resign from his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has refused to state whether he would resign from the governor's office. With the media swarming all over the story, and reports have come out today about steamy e-mails in which he professed his love for her body and her "tan lines," Sanford's days are numbered. A story like this can take up a disproportionate amount of news time. Only a major news story can send the media in a different direction.
Unfortunately, as I write this, news of Michael Jackson's death has just come in. A collective shock has come over the nation and throughout the world. No matter how bad the press got over the course of his career, and how odd his behavior became, Jackson's career spanned over four decades, yet he died at the young age of 50. He may not have been bigger than Elvis. He may not have been bigger than the Beatles. But he was around longer. As a celebrity, in this day and age, there's no one bigger. As the news media reflects on Jackson's long, historic, and eccentric career, all other news stories are now put on hold. The economy, global warming, nuclear proliferation, the health-care crisis, Gov. Mark Sanford - all on hold. The world mourns the death of Michael Jackson.