Sanford uses Jedi mind trick to get out of speeding ticket

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who admitted to an affair with an Argentine mistress and is facing possible impeachment hearings, has a new crisis: He apparently charmed his way out of a speeding ticket.

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Ricky Bobby, where are you when we need you?

First, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer decided to buy a Smart ForTwo mini-car – top speed: 70 miles per hour – after getting stopped twice for driving over 100 m.p.h. on South Carolina roadways. (Presumably, he won't be driving it like this.)

Now comes news that the state agent in charge of driving Gov. Mark Sanford, apparently thinking he’d taken an exit straight onto Darlington Raceway, was stopped this week for going 20 miles over the speed limit on I-385 near Columbia.

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But it gets worse for Governor Sanford (if that's possible). After Mr. Bauer was stopped, Sanford made the point of criticizing him for using his influence to get a favor from a cop.

Sanford said he and his cabinet “believe very strongly that preferential treatment should never be a factor when enforcing the law,” according to the South Carolina politics site, FITSnews.com.

Which makes what happened this week on I-385 a bit of an embarrassment.

This is how the stop went down, according to a press release from state public safety director Mark Keel:

Police Lance Cpl. R. S. Salter stopped a Crown Victoria with tinted windows, and "an individual, who exited the Crown Victoria and approached Salter, identified himself as a State Law Enforcement Division agent. When asked why he was speeding, the agent said he was transporting the Governor.

Trooper Salter approached the Crown Victoria and found the Governor to be a passenger in the vehicle.

“Trooper Salter then returned to his vehicle without issuing the SLED agent a speeding citation."

One detail the official version left out: The trooper did shake Sanford’s hand.

Charleston City Paper, for one, likened Sanford’s roadside influence to Obi Wan Kenobi’s Jedi mind trick suggestion to a pair of storm troopers in the first Star Wars movie: “These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along.”

Of course, City Paper changed it to: “These are not the grounds for impeachment you’re looking for. Move along.”

South Carolina State Police have retroactively decided to issue a speeding ticket to Sanford’s driver, but in many ways, the political damage has been done.

“Everyone instinctively gets that the speeding incident is not a big deal, especially on that stretch of road, but it’s the exposure to another charge of hypocrisy that hurts,” says Will Folks, Sanford’s former press secretary.

The speeding incident comes as the governor is fighting an ethics investigation and possible impeachment hearings following a secret rendezvous with an Argentine mistress this summer.

Sanford isn’t likely to get a break from the press on the incident. After a heated press conference a couple of months ago over the Argentine affair, the governor infuriated the Columbia press corps by issuing a press release for an event in Greenville, S.C.

He sent the press release one hour and 40 minutes before the event began.

Greenville, of course, is a two hour’s drive from Columbia – at least, if you're driving the speed limit.

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