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After South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's admission Wednesday that he wasn't really hiking the Appalachian Trail last week, as his spokesman told the press, but instead was spending the time in Buenos Aires with his Argentine mistress, you've got to wonder if there's a limit to the antics of political officeholders involved in tawdry sex scandals.

Remember Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's toe-tapping come-ons in an airport men's room? New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's out-of-town trysts with a high-class call girl? (He put it on his credit card, for crying out loud.) Or Nevada Sen. John Ensign's dalliance with campaign staffer who turned out to be the wife of one of his own top aides, poor guy (the aide, not the senator)?

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It's enough to make the Starr Report and Monica Lewinsky's stained blue dress seem almost tame.

It would be easy -- and wrong -- to point the finger just at hypocritical Republican conservatives who jabber about "family values" and the sanctity of marriage. This clearly is one area in which true bi-partisanship prevails: Dems seem no less ethically challenged when it comes to keeping their trousers zipped than their GOP colleagues, and they're no less likely to get caught, either.

Gov. Sanford and Sen. Ensign were both up-and-comers in their party, though their prospects for higher office seem considerably dimmed. Still, they set a high bar for those who will (inevitably) follow. The way things are going, the next scandal-prone pol may have to do it all -- tap the foot, bed the staffer, charge the hooker, stain the dress and disappear for a few days on another continent altogether -- just to get anyone to take notice.

(AP photo)

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