By amarkow

Dignity has been returned to politics, and it has arrived from the heart of cordiality – the South.  Jenny Sanford has walked out on her philandering husband, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.  Mrs. Sanford’s departure from the governor’s mansion in Columbia, SC, was a very public moment viewable in video clipss on sites such as the Washington Post and UTube, and recorded in news stories published by McClatchy Newspaper and the New York Times, among others.

I find Jenny Sanford’s actions refreshing when compared with the “stand by your man” mentality that generally afflicts political wives.  Most emblematic may well be former Arkansas and U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton’s support of Bill displayed during an infamous 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace on the “bimbo eruption” that marked his run for presidency.  The fact that the public rewarded Bill with the Presidency and nearly did the same for Mrs. Clinton shows why most politicians – performers all – believe that “the show must go on,” whatever pain and suffering may have occurred on a personal level.

Because another political wife had so little to gain personally, it’s difficult to know why Silda Spitzer, wife of the disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, literally stood by her man as he confessed to sexual indiscretions that must have roiled her Southern Baptist sensibilities.  But this accomplished woman (a lawyer and civic leader) remains committed to her felonious hubby, who made his name as the top law enforcement officer for the State of New York.

Yet another Southern spouse – Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the oh-so-good-looking presidential candidate and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards – suffered her humiliation while she was also suffering physically from incurable breast cancer.  Yet her instantaneous best seller about the betrayal and her excruciating interviews on Oprah and Today contained nothing but praise for her cheating husband’s political ambitions.

Hence Mrs. Sanford’s actions stand out as dignified, rational and right to Americans who uphold their marriage vows.   It’s hard for most of us married guys to imagine standing up at a press conference, loving wife beside you, to announce that we’ve just had a fling with a bimbo from Buenos Aires.  Yet political wives seem to be required to do just that.

Is it any wonder, then, that we have come to expect wide-ranging scandals to infect our political process?  Worse still, we’ve come to accept such disgraces.  Perhaps a few more Jenny Sanders standing up for themselves and their families would remind us that politicians are accountable for more than just their next election.

Mrs. Sander’s statement that the marriage is on rocky grounds acknowledged her pain without a trade off designed to protect her husband’s political ambitions:

“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. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.”

It’s interesting that all the women mentioned above have a connection with the South – home of that role model of scalawags, Rhett Butler.  Mrs. Sanders, on the other hand, has upheld the feisty independence of Scarlett O’Hara.  And that’s quite an achievement given the emphasis on success over propriety in our world.  Let’s hope South Carolina’s voters hold Governor Sanford to higher standards than those of the inglorious cadre of philandering politicos who have been unable to keep their zippers – or their mouths – shut.

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