The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina admitting that he has been having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina, where he spent the last few days. Sanford's confession in a rambling news conference ended the mystery about the governor's whereabouts. He had last been seen Thursday, and after some contradictory statements, his wife said she didn't know where he was and his staff assured the public he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. But it turns out he was in Buenos Aires, seeing a woman with whom he has been having a romantic relationship for about a year. Sanford, a social conservative who was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party and considered a possible presidential candidate, said he would resign from his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. But he refused to state whether he would resign from the governor's office.
The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the continuing clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Tehran. State media reported that one of the three presidential candidates who had disputed the election results, Mohsen Rezaie, withdrew his objections, which marked the first important division in what had been the opposition's united front. USA Todayleads with a Pentagon survey that reveals around 60 percent of military parents say their children exhibit more behavioral problems and have more fear and anxiety when a parent is sent to war. One-third say their children's grades suffered in school. Another study has shown that these problems don't always go away when the parent comes back. The Washington Postleads with word that problems have been found in the subway's electronic control system, suggesting that it might have been malfunctioning computers that "sent one Red Line train crashing into another." Rails show evidence that the train operator pressed the emergency brakes about 300 to 400 feet before the crash.
It was unclear whether Sanford would have acknowledged the affair had he not been met at the airport by a reporter. Regardless, he did talk about the affair, at length and with "stark frankness," as the WP puts it. The LAT emphasizes that during his tearful apology, Sanford "made a point to speak warmly" of the woman he described as a "dear, dear friend" whom he knew for seven years before their relationship turned romantic. It seems this was their third romantic rendezvous, and there was a strong implication that he had gone to Buenos Aires to end the affair. "The one thing that you really find is that you absolutely want resolution," he said. "And so oddly enough, I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina." Sanford said his wife found out about the affair five months ago. In a statement, Sanford's wife, Jenny Sanford, said they had agreed to a "trial separation … with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage."
Last night, the State newspaper published e-mails that were supposedly exchanged between the governor and the woman in Argentina, identified only as "Maria." The paper had received the e-mails from an anonymous source six months ago but couldn't verify their authenticity. The NYT notes that reporters were skeptical of the e-mails, because "despite the governor's sometimes odd behavior, the whiff of adultery had not followed him." In the e-mails, she calls their relationship "a kind of impossible love, not only because of distance but situation." Sanford made at least one state-sponsored trip to Argentina, when, about a year ago, he met with the governor of Buenos Aires province.
Sanford had recently attracted national attention after a high-profile bid to try to reject some money from the federal stimulus package. He was eventually forced to accept the money after much pressure from legislators and a court order, but he was praised by fiscal conservatives for his efforts. Adding the fact that he had also become one of the most high-profile critics of Obama's administration, Sanford looked like a potential presidential contender. But yesterday, it wasn't clear whether the man who, as a congressman, had voted to impeach President Bill Clinton—"He lied under a different oath, and that's the oath to his wife," Sanford said at the time—even has a political future. Some Republican state lawmakers are already distancing themselves from the governor.
Sanford's confession came a mere eight days after Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who was also seen as a possible 2012 contender, admitted that he had had an extramarital affair. "For Republicans, the long winter continues," writes the Post's Dan Balz. "Personal circumstances over the course of the last week have managed to shrink the front line of the 2012 possible-contender list by 30 percent," said a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. The NYT says Republicans could be forgiven for seeing the label of potential presidential contender as a curse. "One by one, those who have been publicly discussed as possible Republican candidates in 2012 have stumbled."
During Sanford's news conference, it became clear that "he was working these issues out in front of the microphones before he had worked them out in his head," writes the Post's Dana Milbank. And while crisis managers would no doubt dub his confession "a disaster," there was still "something compelling in the raw and messy nature of his confession." Whereas most politicians who are in this type of situation follow a set script, "here was a powerful man wiping tears from his cheeks and talking about the intimate details of his shameful behavior." (Slate's William Saletan writes that Sanford failed to follow the rule that politicians should always minimize their affairs and never admit they loved the other woman. "It beats the hell out of seducing somebody, kicking her to the curb, and pretending she was nothing to you—or really meaning it.")
Iran's supreme leader made it clear yesterday that the election results are final, and he called for the "restoration of order." Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that "neither the system nor the people will yield to pressure under any circumstances." Hours after Khamenei said that "everyone should respect the law," demonstrators who had gathered outside the Parliament were met by a large number of security personnel who appear to have beaten and arrested people indiscriminately. Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife said the situation in Iran was akin to "martial law." Still, the Post says there seem to be "outlines of a political coalition" against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad taking shape that includes the head of Iran's Parliament and Tehran's mayor. The LAT says that Khamenei's statements were widely seen as a way to prevent more lawmakers from defecting to the opposition.
The NYT says that Khamenei's statement suggested that "Iran was now, more than ever, a state guided not by clerics of the revolution but by a powerful military and security apparatus." In an analysis piece inside, the NYT states that the reason why Ahmadinejad seems to have been able to keep such a low profile since the election is because of his success in "creating a pervasive network of important officials in the military, security agencies, and major media outlets." This network is particularly powerful considering it appears to have Khamenei's full support. In a front-page piece, the LAT points out that many analysts believe Khamenei's son, Mojtaba Khamenei, is "orchestrating the crackdown."
Early morning wire stories report that Moussavi released a statement on his official Web site saying that he's being pressured to withdraw his challenge to the election results and complaining that his access to the public has been "completely restricted." Around 70 professors were arrested late yesterday after meeting with Mousavi.
Everyone goes inside with the news that a bomb in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad killed at least 78 people. It was the second bombing in less than a week to kill more than 70 people in Iraq, and came six days before U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq's cities.
The LAT fronts news that the best picture category at the Oscars will now have space for 10 nominated films rather than five. This marks a return to the award's early years and is a clear attempt to broaden the show's appeal after years of sagging ratings. The idea is that Hollywood's biggest night could now include "well-regarded popcorn films," as the LAT puts it. "You know how long the Academy Awards broadcast is every year?" writes the Post's Lisa de Moraes. "It just got longer."
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