Saturday, June 27, 2009

The First Lady of SC Speaks Out

Wowie zowie - Jenny Sullivan Sanford is no wallflower, in case anyone somehow got that impression. No, far from it - she is a strong, independently wealthy, educated, formed Wall Street Executive who ran her husband's campaigns. She is one tough cookie, as is demonstrated in this article from Saturday's Post and Courier, "First Lady Told Him To End It." Holy smokes.

I realize that title pretty much says it all, but here are some of the details to fill it in (from the AP article linked above):
South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford sat in her oceanfront living room Friday, recalling how her husband repeatedly asked permission to visit his lover in the months after she discovered his affair.

"I said absolutely not. It's one thing to forgive adultery; it's another thing to condone it," Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press during a 20-minute interview at the coastal home where she sought refuge with their four sons. They were her first extended comments on the affair.

She said that when her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, inexplicably disappeared last week, she hoped he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, as his staff told those who inquired about his absence. That he had dared to go to Argentina to see the other woman left her stunned.

"He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her," she said in a strong, steady voice. "I was hoping he was on the Appalachian Trail. But I was not worried about his safety. I was hoping he was doing some real soul-searching somewhere and devastated to find out it was Argentina. It's tragic."

The Sanfords had separated about two weeks ago. The first lady said her husband told the family that he wanted some time away to work on writing a book and clear his head. "I had every hope he was not going to see her," she said.

"You would think that a father who didn't have contact with his children, if he wanted those children, he would toe the line a little bit," she said.

The governor, who is staying at the official residence in Columbia, returned Wednesday to end days of speculation on his whereabouts, publicly confess his cheating and emotionally apologize.

Jenny Sanford, a Georgetown-educated, former Wall Street vice president, was not with her husband Wednesday during his pained public confession.

I have to say, it was mighty surprising to read that even SHE thought he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. See, now, given what's coming next, I can say I would have had a hard time believing that one:
Sanford said she discovered her husband's affair early this year after coming across a copy of a letter to the mistress in one of his files in the governor's mansion. He had asked her to find some financial information, she said, not an unusual request considering her heavy involvement in his career.

She would not comment on what was in the letter, except to say "enough to figure out an affair was going on."

She felt "shocked and obviously deeply hurt. I didn't think he had it in him," she said. "It's hard to find out your husband is not who you thought he was."

The first lady said she confronted her husband immediately, and he agreed to end the affair. She said she wasn't sure Friday whether he had done so.

"I guess that's what we will have to see. I believe he has," she said. "But he was down there for five days. I saw him yesterday and he is not staying here. We'll just see what kind of spirit of reconciliation he has himself."

The governor declined to discuss details of the letter and how he handled it with his wife.

Gee, really?? Can't imagine why he would decline discussing the salacious details of his love letters to his paramour. Ahem:
"This goes into the personal zone," Sanford said Friday. "I'd simply say that Jenny has been absolutely magnanimous and gracious as a wonderful Christian woman in this process."

Jenny Sanford cried at the end of the interview, and said the couple have been to counseling.

"When I found out in January, we both indicated a willingness to continue working on the marriage, but there's not room for three people in a marriage," she said. "I've done everything in my power possibly to keep him from going to see her and to really make sure she was off the table, including asking him to leave."

Told you this woman was no pushover, no wallflower, she. It is astonishing that the governor kept asking her to allow him to see his lover, isn't it?? He's damn lucky, it seems, that she didn't throw him out on his keister long before this. Especially when he says crap like this:
About an hour after Jenny Sanford talked of her pain and feelings of betrayal, her husband brushed aside any suggestion he might immediately resign, citing the Bible and the story of David, who continued to lead after sleeping with another man's wife, Bathsheba, having the husband slain, then marrying the widow.

"What I find interesting is the story of David, and the way in which he fell mightily — fell in very, very significant ways, but then picked up the pieces and built from there," Sanford told members of his Cabinet in a session called so he could apologize to them in person and tell them the business of government must continue.

And he said all of that with a straight face?? REALLY??? That takes some kind of disconnected, De Nile, kind of hubris, doesn't it? Seems like there are others, beside his wife, who aren't buying that kind of hooey:
Some Republican leaders have called for Sanford to resign, and some lawmakers and watchdog groups are pressing for investigations into whether he improperly used state money.

Uh, yeah - those of us who pay taxes in SC would like to know that, too. Thanks for asking.

While the First Lady may care about that, too, it is not her overriding concern:
For Jenny Sanford, the focus is the couple's four sons. During her interview, she wept as she displayed the stellar report cards earned by her eldest two sons at their private school in Columbia.

On the coffee table was a collection of devotional books, including a book of commentary on the Bible's Book of Job, the story of a man whose faith God tests to the extreme.

"Parenting is the most important job there is, and what Mark has done has added a serious weight to that job," she said.

I think most people would agree with that, even if we are uncomfortable with this level, or type, of religiosity. But hey - that's this woman's faith perspective, and apparently the place from which she draws strength. Whatever sustains her during this difficult time.

There was another article about First Lady Sanford in Friday's paper, "Tough, Astute Jenny Sanford Let Her Man Stand By Himself." It makes an interesting point right off the bat:
To those accustomed to watching betrayed first ladies smile stiffly through their husbands' public confessions, the absence of Gov. Mark Sanford's wife at the soul-baring news conference where he admitted to an affair with a woman in Argentina was striking.

Instead, she issued a tough-minded statement saying she had thrown her cheating husband out and told him to stop speaking to her while she tries to deal with his infidelity.

That came as no surprise to those who know this independently wealthy, Georgetown-educated former Wall Street executive. Around the state, Jenny Sanford is regarded as a strong-minded figure, accomplished and politically astute.

Jenny Sanford doesn't have it in her to play the "namby-pamby Tammy Wynette," said Donald Aiesi, a political scientist at Furman University in Greenville, the governor's alma mater.

"She has very strong faith, very strong family values," said Marjory Wentworth, a family friend who was appointed South Carolina's poet laureate by the governor in 2003. "There's no gray area about the things that matter to her."

Many of Jenny Sanford's counterparts have stood beside or behind their spouses for similar moments of scandal: When New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey outed himself as gay. When former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer acknowledged he was the client of a call-girl ring. When Idaho Sen. Larry Craig denied trying to elicit sex in an airport men's room.

Some of these political wives were bitterly criticized for subjecting themselves to such humiliation, as was Hillary Rodham Clinton, who stood by her husband, figuratively, if not literally, during some of the most fraught moments of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

You know, I wonder how these women would have conducted themselves had they not been BLINDSIDED by their husbands' infidelities, had they not been in shock at the time of these "confessions"? If they had had five or six months to hash this out with their husbands the way First Lady Sanford did, they may have chosen differently, too. I don't know that much about many of the women listed above, but Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards were also successful women in their own right. They may have chosen to be absent from those press conferences, too. Instead:
Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston, said Jenny Sanford was wise not to appear at her husband's side.

"The women receive a lot of criticism and even mocking on 'Saturday Night Live' skits, criticism from woman's groups and other folks," she said. "People doing a lot of speculation about their expressions, what they were thinking. And by not being present, she removes all of that speculation."

As for whether Jenny Sanford's absence hurt her husband, Stewart said: "I'm not really sure any more damage could be done."

In fact, the political scientist suggested that the 49-year-old governor might have helped himself somewhat by taking his lumps by himself, and not making his wife stand there the way other politicians in peril have done.

"In a way, I think the husbands took even more flak for their actions," Stewart said, "because everyone had to watch their wives humiliated while they apologized."

Uh, yeah - no kidding. Because they hadn't already been humiliated enough, of course. But the matter was different with the First Lady:
During the painfully frank news conference, the governor said the first lady had known about the affair for five months. In her own statement, Jenny Sanford said: "We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage."

Unlike other political wives, "she is laying down conditions at the outset and being very specific and emphatic that he's got to toe the line," Aiesi said. "The other wives sort of stood there like submissive somehow. She didn't take that approach. She said, 'I love him. I want him back. But it depends on him.' She's holding the cards."

On Thursday, Jenny Sanford spent part of the day with her husband at their coastal home. Later, she left with some children in her car for what she said was dinner and a boat ride. Asked if she would be staying with her husband, she said: "It's a goal."

"I'm going to do my best to work on my marriage," she said. As for her husband's political future: "His career is not a concern of mine. He'll have to worry about that. I'm going to worry about my family and the character of my children."

Yes, that does seem to be the prevailing them for her - her children. But she, like many partners who have been cheated upon, still loves her husband. I'm guessing he's going to be doing a whole LOT of work to keep her, though. As mentioned above, the First Lady pretty much has it going on all by her own self:
Born Jennifer Sullivan, the first lady grew up near Chicago. Her grandfather founded the Skil Corp., a power tool manufacturer. She graduated from Georgetown University in 1984 with a degree in finance, then worked for the Wall Street investment banking firm Lazard Freres & Co., where she was a vice president in mergers and acquisitions. Mark Sanford was also working on Wall Street.

The couple have four school-age sons.

This will continue to be an unfolding saga, no doubt. And it is hard to deny the pain this woman, and her children are going through. But as many have pointed out, while all of this "Peyton Place" drama has been playing out all over the nation, there have been a whole bunch of things going on in Washington. Add in the deaths of three major cultural icons, and I would check my bank account balance were I you (you know, because the Prez and Congress have been left on their own in DC to do as they wish).

No doubt, some of my esteemed fellow writers will be dealing with just some of those goings-on, so for now, I can say that the First Lady may be a woman scorned, but she sure isn't taking it lying down. Too bad these other women didn't have the "luxury" of knowing about THEIR husbands affairs beforehand, too - maybe SNL wouldn't have heaped more insult to the injury. Yeah, right.

(Photo above by National 9/11 Memorial)

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