Compared with Sanford, Ensign offered little in his mea culpa

When South Carolina Gov. and potential GOP presidential nominee Mark Sanford disappeared this past week, his aides claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Turns out he was hiking up a skirt in the Argentine Gap.

The dad of four must have grown tired of receiving those sappy Father’s Day cards because he disappeared on Father’s Day weekend. His whereabouts were unknown to his wife even as Web reports tracked him to an Atlanta airport.

Now Sanford has admitted he wasn’t getting blisters on the rugged road. He was hitting the happy trail in Argentina with a girlfriend.

The question for us is not whether Sanford can be salvaged politically, but whether this turn of the national media’s head from Nevada to South Carolina helps embattled Sen. John Ensign, whose affair was in the process of being found out by the press when he rushed back to Las Vegas to issue a statement. Ensign has since apologized to his Senate GOP colleagues, but some conservatives are wondering aloud whether he’s sufficiently said he’s sorry to Nevadans.

Conservative activist Chuck Muth sarcastically stated this week in his widely circulated e-mail, "What? He apologized to his inside-the-beltway Senate colleagues before he apologized to the people of Nevada? I’m shocked. That’s so unlike him."

But I think this can only help Ensign, who in part because of his unwillingness to actually face the public has become grist for late-night comics and newspaper smart alecks. There has to be safety in numbers in things like this.

Trouble is, Sanford’s admission also gives the press something with which to compare Ensign’s mea culpa: And the Nevada senator doesn’t measure up, in my opinion.

Forget the small details, such as the fact Sanford didn’t nail the hired help or a close friend of the family. Sanford actually answered reporters’ questions. He rambled on dangerously, but he appeared more candid and less packaged than Ensign.

Of course, it would be hard to appear more packaged than Ensign.

Sanford also said he planned to spend the coming months traveling through South Carolina apologizing to the people for his actions and asking their forgiveness.

Not so Ensign, who perhaps thinks he can hide out in the Senate.

And maybe he can.

REID’S RECORD: The host of "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart, earlier this week confirmed what many Nevadans who watch his program have suspected. Majority Leader Harry Reid was probably his worst guest.

When Larry David joined Stewart as a guest earlier this week, the comedy writer and actor jokingly said his goal was to be Stewart’s "worst guest." Alas, Stewart replied, that spot was already secured by an earlier appearance from the senator from Searchlight.

IRAN SOLIDARITY: Seldom a hotbed of protest, political activity at UNLV has always ebbed and flowed. So it will be interesting to see just how many people assemble for tonight’s campus candlelight vigil and solidarity rally on behalf of Iran’s democracy demonstrators. It’s set for 7 p.m.

MEAL TIME: Three Square’s summer food service program received a boost this week from the Engelstad Family Foundation, which donated the funds to pay for the nonprofit program’s new kitchen.

Three Square’s goal is to serve 1,000 meals a day this summer in its drive to end hunger in the valley. For more information contact

MONORAIL 4 SALE: … Not quite yet. The Strip’s Short Line Express, sometimes called the Las Vegas Monorail, saw its bond rating drop from "C" to "CC" this week. Apparently Fitch Ratings, which measures these things, doesn’t have a category marked "Road Kill."

PAWS CAUSE: In tough economic times, there’s no shortage of pets in need of adoption. With so many dogs and cats left behind because of the rise in home foreclosures, there’s a new nonprofit group designed to assist with this disheartening phenomenon. It’s called Foreclosed Upon Pets Inc.

Check out the group’s Web site at www.foreclosedupon

ON THE BOULEVARD: Longtime Las Vegas Sun reporter Harold Hyman is fighting major health problems with typical stoicism. Longtime locals may remember the stories Harold wrote about scamming "Silver King" James Ray Houston, who ran for Nevada governor and then from the law. Someone should get Harold’s oral history, or encourage him to write his memoir of the turbulent quarter century he covered the murder beat in Las Vegas. It would be a ripping read.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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