The day after a South Carolina legislative panel decided to consider a formal rebuke against him (as opposed to the more severe impeachment) Sanford spoke to reporters about his marriage. Although he and his wife have actually been separated, he says he still wants to make a marriage work. He wouldn't say whether he was still in contact with the Argentinian woman he visited over Father's Day weekend, but he did say, "I'm not going back to June. We've had all those conversations." He added that he had visited his wife and children at the beach house where they're now living: "I mean, you may have missed it, but I mean I was down there last night and dropped by and saw the kids."
While Mark Sanford struggles to rehabilitate his reputation, his wife's star is rising. She appeared on ABC as one of Barbara Walters 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009, where she had the good and bad fortune to be able to make even more public statements about her husband's infidelity. Jenny Sanford seemed a little stiff, but she was candid, saying she was "obviously not" her husband's soul mate. However, she didn't rule out repairing the marriage, saying only, "I think the hurdles are significant."
Walters says she chose Sanford as a counterexample to the "long-suffering wife [...] saying, 'I'm standing by my husband'" and because "she has lived now with dignity and integrity." Jenny Sanford does seem to have some serious backbone — of her husband's infidelity, she tells Walters, "certainly his actions hurt me, and they caused consequences for me, but they don't in any way take away my own self-esteem." She also says the title of her upcoming book, Staying True, reflects her commitment "to myself, to my faith, to the things that are important to me." It's refreshing to see a woman who once devoted her life to her husband's political campaign now making a public expression of strength and self-sufficiency, and Sanford's independence sends an important message that women need not be destroyed by their husbands' indiscretions. Sanford says she has forgiven, but not forgotten her husband's affair, and she provides a very public model for women (and men) who feel that cheating isn't something they have to tolerate.
At the same time, is separation the only way she could have "lived with dignity and integrity?" Is standing by your husband always an undignified act? Sanford deserved praise for offering a new path for the publicly "wronged wife," but by implicitly denigrating the old path, we just heap more shame on these wives. Whether or not she'd chosen to stay with her husband, Jenny Sanford's integrity was never at issue — and maybe one of the biggest problems for wives of famous philanderers is that we continue to find their marriages "fascinating."
Update: Guess those "hurdles" were a little too high — Jenny Sanford is filing for divorce.
South Carolina Gov. Sanford Still Wants To Reconcile With Wife, But Jenny Sanford Is Not Willing [New York Daily News]
Jenny Sanford Talks About Heartbreak After... [ABC News]
Jenny Sanford On Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People [YouTube]