By MATT MOFFETT, TAOS TURNER and MATTHEW COWLEY
BUENOS AIRES -- The headline in the newspaper Clarin called it "A love story as thrilling as it is impossible."
It was talking about the relationship between South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and an Argentine woman whom he traveled here to meet last week, causing a stir back home about his whereabouts.
Argentines tend not to get as worked up about political sex scandals as Americans do. Still, some tongues are wagging about America's rising political star who jeopardized his career over a daughter of Argentina.
Unconfirmed reports in the local media have named the woman and said she is 43 years old and separated from her husband. She lives with her two teenage children in a modern apartment building in Palermo, a leafy, affluent neighborhood, right across the road from the Buenos Aires zoo.
But the woman is no celebrity and it appears she doesn't want to become one. Since the story broke, she has disappeared.
Argentina is a hotbed of Freudian analysis, so the case is producing its share of armchair interpretation. In the U.S., an extramarital affair is "seen as an effort to destroy the very idea of family," said Sara Moscona, a psychologist, who wrote a book on infidelity. Argentines are more flexible and forgiving, she said. Love motels are common even in the best neighborhoods.
Ms. Moscona said Argentines tolerate infidelity among their politicians, "just as long as it's not too ostentatious."
Carlos Menem, Argentina's president through most of the 1990s, was a politician whose alleged philandering became the stuff of public jokes, not to mention epic battles with his wife at that time, Zulema. Mr. Menem once issued a decree ordering her to leave the presidential residence, then locked her out.
Some Argentines thought the prying coverage into Mr. Sanford's personal life by the media was perhaps as big of an offense as anything the governor did himself. "Poor guy. He's thrown away his political career," said Cristina Garre, a retired lawyer.
Asked if she was surprised that Mr. Sanford had dated an Argentine, however, Ms. Garre perked up. "Argentine women are great!" she said, throwing her arms wide open. "We have a lot of qualities."