Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Man Who?

This whole episode with South Carolina governor Mark Sanford disappearing for days kept ringing a bell for me. I think I finally figured out why.

A character in one of the Fletch mysteries by the late Gregory McDonald--the 1983 novel Fletch and the Man Who--engages in similar behavior. Caxton Wheeler, the governor of an unnamed state, is in the middle of a heated campaign to lock up his party's nomination for the presidency. [Seems to me I'd heard Sanford's name mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.] Governor Wheeler has a history of disappearing, regularly, for days at a time. His wife, his family, his staff--no one knows where he goes, except for Flash Grasselli, his trusted driver-valet. Flash is dedicated to The Man Who and as tightlipped as they come. There are rumors of booze, of drugs, of women, but since no one really knows anything, nothing gets reported. As it turns out, there is another woman--sort of. "They think he's with some woman," Flash tells Fletch. "In a way, maybe he is." Before Wheeler was married, he had a relationship with a woman who died young. She owned a remote cabin that they used to enjoy together, which she left to him in her will. So when the pressure started getting to him--three or four times a year--Wheeler would summon Flash and sneak off to the cabin. And what did he do there? Sleep--sometimes for 16 hours at a time. Sleep and read mystery novels. After a few days, he'd tell Flash it was time to go back.

Differences between Governor Mark Sanford and Governor Caxton Wheeler:
-Wheeler didn't lie to anybody about where he was going; he just never explained.
-Wheeler didn't break his marriage vows.

Similarity between Governor Mark Sanford and Governor Caxton Wheeler:
-By the end of Fletch and the Man Who, Caxton Wheeler has no chance of ever being elected president of the United States. Neither does Mark Sanford.

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