Gov. Sanford's wife not standing by her man

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Jenny Sanford did not stand by her man.

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 South Carolina, 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.

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."

The governor's spokesman, Joel Sawyer, said he did not know if Sanford asked his wife to be at his side.

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."

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.

Jenny Sanford, a millionaire, helped launch her husband's political career nearly 15 years ago, running his campaigns for Congress and governor and putting up with campaign workers living in the basement of their Sullivans Island home.

Though she has stayed largely in the background, it is common knowledge that she was her husband's chief adviser. She has been a regular at his morning meetings with his top aides.

Close friends know her as a warm, bubbly person with an infectious smile. But in political circles, she is seen as a formidable figure, not to be crossed.

"She's a highly organized, corporate-type person," said former state Rep. John Graham Altman, a Republican. "I think Jenny's very calm, very controlled. She's extremely gifted and talented. ... It's clear she was the governor of the governor."

Her more public efforts included overseeing the restoration of a home on the mansion's grounds and promoting healthier living for South Carolinians.

"She has a very good strong political mind and has always been the mastermind behind Mark's campaign, but at the same time she does have a very tender side to her, particularly as it relates to her children," said Mike Campbell, an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006.

"Some people are not quite sure how to take her, that she's really tough, sometimes even cold. But I've always found her to be very personable and gotten along well with her."

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Dixieman
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Dixieman 06/26/09 - 03:34 am
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Can she serve out the

Can she serve out the remainder of his term as governor? I'd like to see that...Lurleen Wallace redux.

ladyjanegrey
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ladyjanegrey 06/26/09 - 06:22 am
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Perhaps this is why Mr.

Perhaps this is why Mr. Sanford found another ladylove......Go South Mark and find happiness!

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 06/26/09 - 06:44 am
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She did right by not standing

She did right by not standing there, I bet she wishes he wasn't even with her and the boys at their beach home. When a person heart is broken by this type of act from the one they are faithful to and love, it's a separation of the heart it kills a person to the core, some people lose their minds behind this. I know she probably wants to beat the crap out of him. She probably can't sleep, eat, cries alot, heart is beating rampantly *UGH* why did he do this.

spdermn78
4
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spdermn78 06/26/09 - 06:45 am
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Question: How do you throw

Question: How do you throw the governor out?? Don't they live in the state mansion? Isnt HE the elected official? Even Better Question- Where do you go if your the govenor and you have been kicked out of the govenors mansion by your wife?..... The Super 8 by the highway?? Or maybe crash on a friends couch.

pantherluvcik
628
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pantherluvcik 06/26/09 - 06:52 am
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Gone Jenny, girl power!!

Gone Jenny, girl power!! Throw him on the street he's an idiot. And what the heck got into him and made him come forward with this. I would've denied it to the end. He should be ashamed for picking that woman over his sons on Fathers Day, those kids will never be the same. He should be fired leaving his post unattended to freak someone.

cparker
83
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cparker 06/26/09 - 07:53 am
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Immorality has no race, no

Immorality has no race, no gender, and address!!

InChristLove
22473
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InChristLove 06/26/09 - 08:04 am
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jackfruit, I agree that she

jackfruit, I agree that she did right by not standing by Mark at the news conference but as a Christian wife she is doing the right thing in trying to save her marriage. It's going to take a lot of counseling and time but I pray that they will seek Christian counseling and that Mark understands if he wants the marriage to be saved, he's going to have to do a lot of trust building. If both parents are honest and open with the boys, I think they will weather this fine. I'm sure Jenny is extremely angry and hurt right now but I pray they can begin to rebuild there marriage. IMHO, there had to be other issues in the marriage that lead up to this point and Satan is always waiting at the door. Mark shouldn't have even cracked the door.

roundaboutway
0
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roundaboutway 06/26/09 - 08:28 am
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He was simply spreading

He was simply spreading "goodwill" to our southern neighbors. Give the dude a chance Jenny.

willistontownsc
55
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willistontownsc 06/26/09 - 11:49 am
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I'll bet that Jenny Sanford

I'll bet that Jenny Sanford will vote for someone more liberal in 2010, though not necessarily a Dem. In the short term, I agree with what DaisyDeadhead had to say: Jenny made him face the press by his own self, too. (good!)

justthefacts
21757
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justthefacts 06/26/09 - 04:27 pm
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DaisyDeadhead appears to be

DaisyDeadhead appears to be illiterate. Well, grammatically challenged is probably more accurate.

willistontownsc
55
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willistontownsc 06/26/09 - 06:16 pm
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DaisyDeadhead is twice my age

DaisyDeadhead is twice my age and far more wise than YOU, justthefacts.

SusieQ
1
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SusieQ 06/26/09 - 06:20 pm
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spdermn78-- I think Jenny is

spdermn78-- I think Jenny is staying at their Coastal Home at Sullivan's Island, not in the governor's mansion! More power to her!! Susie Q

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 06/27/09 - 01:14 am
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If Jenny can't trust him, why

If Jenny can't trust him, why should other South Carolinians think that they can?

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