America loves a good spectacle.. and an amazing comeback. Several may be in the works. In Augusta, where azaleas perform their annual rites of spring, where Amen Corner has prompted the silent prayers, the heroic escapes and rallies by such as Palmer, Nelson and Snead, there is the return of Tiger Woods to the Masters. Major titles for Tiger are elusive of late. Overtaking the storied record of 18 majors by Jack Nicklaus may be slipping away. Sports fans have short attention spans, though. If Woods were to win his fifth green jacket, the headlines would roar: Tiger’s Back! Even though it would be his first major since 2008. Even though at 37, he’s reaching an age where topping Nicklaus becomes increasingly remote. Even with a game plagued with injuries and a scandal that still follows like a silent gallery, Woods is one putt away from a comeback.
Victory changes all. Some think golf is a tough game. They haven’t played politics. Two men are seeking redemption at their own Amen Corners, their careers interrupted mid-ascension by sex scandals. Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor who honed metaphor out of mountain by “hiking the Appalachian Trail”, with an Argentine paramour while leaving his state and wife in the lurch, is running in a special congressional election May 7. He won a primary against 15 other candidates and celebrated with his mistress by his side. Forgiveness rolls off his tongue with a frequency equal that of fiscal conservatism and thus far, it’s an act that’s working. If, and if in this race is a viable qualifier, he wins against challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who brings the full arsenal of a Democratic party smelling blood on Republican waters, then Sanford will have upended at least a generation of GOP theory where an elected official caught with his pants down, followed the same trajectory among conservative voters.
He will bring new meaning to redemption for Republicans and a new playbook for political damage control experts. All accomplished with a moon-dog look and unabashed use of phrases like ‘soul mate’ and ‘true love’. Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic Congressman from New York who will live in infamy, and late night comedy, in a pair of boxers and boner is coming out. Out in the media first. Out in politics, later.. maybe, as a mayoral candidate in New York. He is testing the waters of public opinion with tearful and emotive interviews with his wife Huma Abedin. She was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when Weiner exposed himself publicly. She was also pregnant with their first child.
The New York Times Magazine offers a lengthy and well written dissection of Weiner’s fall, and orchestrated political path to redemption, with Huma by his side. The political wisdom would seem to be that for either, win or lose, the first race after a catastrophe is a burner campaign, a chance to air the past and put it behind you. These two would not be the first politicians to lie to their constituents, bring disgrace to their families and somehow return again to prominence. In this age of ever shrinking news cycles, it is no longer just fifteen minutes of fame, but infamy as well. To repurpose the great Mencken: No one ever lost an election by underestimating the attention span of the American public. But in the case of fallen politicians, to my knowledge, no one has won one either.