Trust & Consequences
If your spouse was caught fooling around under the covers with someone else, would you go on national TV and stand behind him (or her) and make like its all nicey-nicey now and youre on the road to healing?
Weve seen a parade of political Stepford Wives standing behind their men at press conferences over the past few years. Consider the rogue‘s gallery:
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer spends $7,000 a pop to have sex without a condom with a call girl.
New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey drops the bomb on TV (and his wife) that hes gay.
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig is caught seeking sex with other men in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.
Presidential candidate John Edwards is caught making a baby with his videographer.
Sen. John Ensign? Another “family values“ Republican on this list who gave his mistress tens of thousands of dollars and other perks.
And the latest: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford blubbering on TV about his eternal love for a South American hottie - slash - trade mission destination.
Usually, these Lady MacBeths standing behind these guys look like theyve been chewing on earthworms during their moment at the podium. After their culprit husband makes a confession (blaming the whole thing on sex addiction, alcoholism or a fat head that got the best of him), the wife comes forward and repeats a mantra of forgiveness thats on par with those old newsreels of captured U.S. soldiers confessing their sins under torture.
Thats why Jenny Sanford has become something of a hero to many women.
The first lady of South Carolina, Sanford refused to ‘stand by her man‘ when Gov. Mark fessed up in a press conference that he has been fooling around with a soul mate in Argentina named Maria.
Gov. Sanford, you may recall, went missing for several days and his staff claimed he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail until someone recalled that it was “nude hiking day“ on the trail and he decided to ditch the story as being even more embarrassing than confessing his affair.
But instead of playing the role of a compliant crash test dummy, Jenny Sanford told her husband to go ahead and take a hike. When asked if she was concerned about the governors future, she said no -- she and her kids have their own future to think about -- one without him.
Im glad she didnt stand up there with him, my wife Jeannette says whenever that news clip airs on TV. Why do all of these women go up on stage and pretend everythings alright when you know they hate being there?
One can imagine the calculus of power and loss that goes through a political wifes mind when shes forced to make such a stand. On one hand is all the time served with her narcissistic husband, attending 1,001 rubber chicken dinners and boring town hall meetings on a million miles of roadtrips. On the other hand are the perks of riding in limos, state dinners, living in the governors mansion, black tie parties, trade missions to Japan, and a cushy non-job fronting some charity. Sounds awful, come to think of it.
But you can only imagine that someone in that bag -- say a Hillary Clinton -- saw the last fumes of romance drift away long ago and struck a devils bargain with an egomaniac.
Interesting to note, when Elizabeth Edwards aired the dirty laundry of her relationship with John in her recent memoir, Resilience, she was lambasted by feminist writers such as Tina Brown of The Daily Beast and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, who rushed to her husbands rescue.
Elizabeth Edwards was accused of seeking revenge in her book for dropping tidbits that the affair had made her sick to her stomach. But is there any saint among us who wouldnt have feelings of rage toward a spouse who fathers a child with his mistress?
Perhaps a woman should be writing this column instead of me. But I imagine that Jenny Sanfords example may be even more instructive to men than to women.
When men see the wives of the rich and powerful lining up like bowling pins behind their cheating husbands on TV to have their dignity spun into the gutter, it sends a message that betraying your marriage is no big thing -- all will be forgiven. By refusing to play a groveling sap, Jenny Sanford set the record straight, reminding us that marriage is a covenant of trust -- and consequences.
Robert Downes is author of the round-the-world adventure, Planet Backpacker, available in local bookstores.