Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More Advice for Jenny Sanford

Who is right: Jenny Sanford or Hillary Clinton? Should the wife of a cheating husband stand by her man, throw him out, or try to find a middle ground. Should she hide from the press, defend her husband publicly, or be interviewed by the AP?

These questions continue to animate intelligent debate, especially today when both Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post and Maureen Dowd in the New York Times entered the fray.

I will begin by saying that I subscribe wholeheartedly to the position Ruth Marcus takes. In her mind, and as I have suggested in several posts, Jenny Sanford has maintained her dignity and has earned our respect. She should be a role model for how to deal with a philandering husband. Link here.

Maureen Dowd sees it differently. She seems to realize that if Jenny Sanford has it right, then Hillary Clinton got it wrong. So she rushes to defend her heroine, Hillary Clinton, even when she must defy reason to do so. Link here.

Dowd seems to base her judgment on the fact that Hillary Clinton survived her husband's scandals and maintained her political viability. I am perhaps not the best to answer this question, but women should ask themselves whether they would want Hillary Clinton's marriage, even if it was compensated by political power.

As I see it, and as Jenny Sanford said, the issue is dignity. If your husband has made a career of having sexual relations with other women, not even very discreetly, then the only real way to preserve your dignity is to leave.

If you stay around to enjoy the political advantages the marriage affords you, then you are involved in a political arrangement, not what most women (or men) would consider to be a good marriage.

Dowd may admire Hillary Clinton's political successes, but they were purchased with her dignity.

As for the Sanfords, I am happy to hear Dowd echoing my point (from this post) that Mark Sanford turned his life into a Harlequin romance. But I am less than encouraged to read her view that Hillary Clinton was exemplary for not getting "dragged into the drama" and for not letting her reputation go down with her husband's.

Remember that Hillary Clinton went on the Today show to defend her husband by blaming it all on the vast right wing conspiracy. She acted like a partner in crime working to maintain her own political career. She made no pretense to be a wronged wife trying to get back into her marriage.

I am also not encouraged to read Dowd explain that Silda Spitzer maintained a dignified silence while Jenny Sanford's willingness to tell her own side of the story compromises her reputation.

Silda Spitzer stood silently by. So did Dina McGreevey. Thus, they presented themselves as part of the problem. Jenny Sanford presents herself as part of the solution. Which is really more dignified?

Dowd seems to believe that since Bill Clinton's extracurricular sexual activities did not involve any love, then Hillary was right to stand with him. She adds that since Mark Sanford was in love with his Argentinean soul-mate, his wife should immediately lock him out of the house and never let him back.

If you are tempted to jump on Dowd's bandwagon, ask yourself this: which of these two politicians showed more respect and true affection for women? Was it the man who was accused of abusing Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey? Was it the man who manifestly took advantage of a White House intern? Or was it the man who fell in love with another woman?

Next, Dowd denounces Jenny Sanford for mentioning her children. She may not have put them on the Oprah show as Elizabeth Edwards, but she did make reference to them, and even pointed to their excellent report cards. For Dowd, this makes Jenny Sanford a "stereotypical harridan."

Jenny Sanford was not defending her husband on national television. She was effectively shaming him. I would say she was trying to shake him up so that he might recover his reason and understand who he is.

Surely, Jenny Sanford had broached the issue in private. Just as surely, her husband had paid no attention to her views. Now, in going public, she was upping the ante and the shame.

Mark Sanford allowed himself to fall into an amorous stupor to the point that he was capable of abandoning his children on Father's Day. This should tell us all that he had completely forgotten himself.

If Jenny Sanford believes that her husband was a chronic womanizer or a whoremonger, that would be one thing. If she feels that he is a man who is capable of loving a woman, perhaps the wrong one, and perhaps too much, then she is dealing with a different problem.

As for who most closely resembles a stereotypical harridan, I will refrain from offering my personal opinion.

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