Jenny Sanford Takes Infidelity, Makes LemonadeS

Back in August, we weren't that impressed with Jenny Sanford's reaction to her husband's "Appalachian Trail" dalliances. But now that she's using his infidelity as a springboard for her own projects, we (sort of) dig her.

Sanford told September Vogue, "All I can do is forgive." But according to Robbie Brown of the New York Times, that's far from all she can do. Her memoir, Staying True, comes out in April. As we mentioned earlier, she's applied to trademark her name for a line of "clothing, mugs, and other items." She's set up her own website (though it appears to be down), she's about to be interviewed by Barbara Walters, and some think she'll run for South Carolina office. Says Robert Oldendick, director of the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research at the University of South Carolina, "Yes, if I had to bet, I think she will run. Just look at what she's doing externally."

Even if Sanford doesn't seek public office, she's enjoying the fruits of her husband's position — without having to deal with him. Brown writes,

By separating from her husband, but remaining first lady, friends say, Ms. Sanford has the best of two worlds as part public figure, part independent woman. She enjoys the perks of political office (a staff assistant, expert advice, ready publicity, admiring colleagues) without the pitfalls (a breakneck schedule of photo-ops and glad handing beside a politically toxic husband).

These perks (which do not, Brown notes, include a salary) in some ways highlight the strangeness of the position of First Ladies. Since they're not elected, what should happen to their official status if their marriages founder? Of course, many political wives probably don't particularly relish their official duties, and would be glad to relinquish the benefits of their position in return for a little privacy. And perhaps the intense scrutiny on politicians' marriages points to the inhumanity of involving their families in politics — though some women (and men) will always choose to participate in their spouses' campaigns, perhaps the official title of First Lady (or "First Dude") should cease to exist.

But it's too late for any such policy change to affect Jenny Sanford. While I'm not usually a fan of turning personal fame into political gain, and while I'd be unlikely to vote for Sanford, I'm kind of happy that, as College of Charleston professor Jack Bass says, "She has moved from promoting him as a loyal spouse to using those same talents on behalf of herself." Too often, women who give up their own careers to support their political husbands seem to be left with nothing when those husbands stray. So it's kind of refreshing that instead of fading into obscurity as though she did something shameful, Jenny Sanford is kicking ass, and making mugs.

From Shadow To Limelight For A Governor's Wife [NYT]

Earlier: What We Can And Can't Learn From Jenny Sanford In Vogue