No, of course it's not too soon! Marshall "Mark" Sanford's abject, prostrate confession this afternoon was wrenching to watch, and has already inspired some outbursts of much-needed sympathy from the punditocracy. It's best to be prepared for a backlash.
The conventional wisdom is of course that Sanford's career is dead. The National Review is reporting that a move to impeach him is inevitable, and that he will have to resign. But Sanford did everything right in his confession—he admitted to what we knew, confirmed what we suspected, took full responsibility, threw himself at the mercy of his god, and seemed to maintain some sense of wounded dignity throughout. And while it's hard to fault the man for doing it right, his crying game is already paying off in some quarters:
That's Slate magazine's John Dickerson swearing off Sanford coverage via Twitter. Hasn't the man been through enough?
Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet sees targets of opportunity in Sanford's story, but is clearly sympathetic to the man's troubles:
And the Corner's Mike Potemra lays out the bones of a comeback argument:
This dramatic news conference was the first time I had ever watched him, and he came across as a very sincere, humble, and impressive person. If you come across this well on the worst day of your life, you must be doing something right. Is his political career "over"? I frankly don't care about that. I'm just glad to have seen somebody standing up and doing the right thing, being honest about sin and responsibility.
Still, other folks you might expect to be dislodged far enough from rationality to defend Sanford's disappearing from his job and family for a week-long international swan song with his Argentinian mistress are so far stayin hard-hearted: Michelle Malkin's take is headlined, simply, "Bastard." And Red State, which yesterday insisted that Sanford's wife and staff knew all along that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, is mourning his loss as a 2012 Republican contender.
But Sanford's clearly good at snowing people. Here's Mark McKinnon—yesterday—writing in the Daily Beast that a week-long fictional jaunt on the Appalachian Trail makes him a perfect presidential candidate:
Mark Sanford unplugged. Literally. He decided to take a hike. And he told his security detail to take a hike as well.
Guy wanted some alone time in the woods to clear his head.
Here we have a guy in politics who actually likes to get OUT of the spotlight. How exceedingly normal.
And Hannity hasn't even been on yet! Even if Fox throws him under the bus, how long will it be before Sanford becomes a "tested politician" who can be trusted because he's been through the crucible of a family crisis and came out the other side stronger? How much will we make this family go through before we let him get on with his life? This was an attempt at a Checkers speech, and we all remember how that worked out. So look out.