How Michael Jackson Saved Mark Sanford

Timing is everything in politics

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    There is only one story around the world: Whether Sydney, Australia or New York, NY, or Los Angeles, CA, the world stops to absorb the sudden passing of the "King of Pop." Suddenly, a scandal in South Carolina pales in comparison. Sadly, so too does a revolution in Iran.

    Okay, let's mention a name right at the beginning, because odds are you won't see it mentioned much elsewhere on this site -- or other big media sites for that matter: Mark Sanford. Who? Oh, yeah. Remember now? That governor people were talking a bit about a day or so ago? 

    The events of the last 48-plus hours demonstrate one of the cardinal rules of politics: Like entertainment, careers can be made or destroyed because of timing.

    Not to be callous, but had Michael Jackson died on Monday (or Tuesday, at the latest), there's a good possibility that Sanford isn't facing impeachment talk, a career in tatters and the reality of becoming a national joke.

    On the contrary, had Michael Jackson died two or three days ago, Mark Sanford might still be on the "mentioned" list as a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate. Seriously. 

    Why is this?

    Well, as suggested above, it's all in the timing: Hardly any media outside of South Carolina is talking about Mark Sanford the DAY AFTER MICHAEL JACKSON DIED!!!!

    It would have been the same on Monday. In an alternate universe where Jackson died on Monday, the "Sanford is missing" narrative would have never made it to the national press -- or at least certainly not to the same level of interest.

    Sanford's office would have figured out how to keep the local media at bay (hey, they've reportedly been doing it successfully since December when The State newspaper first acquired copies of e-mails between the governor and his Argentine beauty).

    Without the additional scrutiny of the national media, Sanford's office might have bought itself enough time to create a cover story on his whereabouts. Who knows? The Appalachian Trail story might have survived.  The Associated Press might not have been asking Jenny Sanford where her husband was -- and she wouldn't have said, "I don't know," a response that helped spark the national frenzy. 

    Now, back to our real world: Jackson's dying on Thursday has created a completely different ripple effect.  It actually gives Sanford something of a breather. The primary people he has to deal with now are his family, friends, advisers and -- most likely -- local media but not national types.  Michael Jackson will be the story through at least the weekend, as the media overloads on the passing of a cultural icon, the likes of which hasn't been seen since at least James Brown and more likely Elvis Presley or John Lennon. 

    Jackson was an international musical sensation with fans literally from nations in the West, the East, Christian, Jewish and, yeah, Muslim too. 

    That last fact is important as well. While Mark Sanford is happy that the American media is paying attention to something else, so too are the hardliners in Iran. As the Jackson story broke late Thursday afternoon, his death -- like his life -- became a worldwide phenomenon. But, as a result, it was the first time in nearly two weeks that "#Iranelection" (or a related topic) wasn't in the Top Ten of Twitter topics on the popular social media site. 

    Sad as it is to contemplate, if the Ahmadinejad regime wanted to move harshly against the protesters, it might well do so with impunity.  This is currently a moment when the world isn't watching.  It's caught up with the passing of an entertainment/cultural legend. 

    Mark Sanford might take a bit of grim satisfaction that he isn't the subject of much media coverage today because of the passing of an entertainment legend.  Many people in Iran might just be cursing the timing. 

    New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.