- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

Stand by your man?

What is a political wife to do when the time comes for her cheating husband to announce his infidelity to the world? Stand by his side during the press conference where he lays out the affair in excruciatingly detail? Tell him to “get out” and hole up in the state-provided estate? Or get busy writing a book about it?

South Carolina’s first lady Jenny Sanford is taking the second option. She gave a statement to the press after Mr. Sanford, a Republican, made his far-flung affair with an Argentine woman public saying she told him to leave two weeks beforehand as part of a trial separation.

He left, without telling anyone where he was going, while she stayed, for a while anyway, in the governor’s mansion.

Donna Hanover did something similar in 2000 when then-New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, admitted he was in love with another woman. She took over the Gracie Mansion, forcing him to bunk with a gay couple he knew and other friends. Ms. Hanover even got a judge to bar Mr. Giuliani from bringing to the mansion Judith Nathan, the other woman who is now his current wife.

It seems most other cheated-on political wives end up staying with their husbands, opting to support their husbands in varying degrees.

Hillary Rodham Clinton famously defended husband President Clinton after the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky surfaced. She even lashed out at critics, claiming the reporting was part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” working against their Democratic agenda.

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is still married to his wife Elizabeth after telling “Nightline” about his affair with Rielle Hunter. Mrs. Edwards didn’t participate in his tell-all interview but later wrote her feelings about his transgression in a book that she has promoted on the talk show circuit.

Former New Jersey first lady Dina Matos McGreevey opted to lend moral support to then-Gov. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat, in August 2004 by appearing with him as he told reporters he was gay and had a sexual affair with the state’s homeland security adviser. Ms. Matos and Mr. McGreevey continued to live together in Drumthwacket until he stepped down two months later and they went their separate ways.

Other wives have not only taken the press conference stand but have stuck with their monogamy-challenged husbands as well, such as Silda Wall, the wife of former Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and the wives of Republican Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho and David Vitter of Louisiana.

Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Vitter both violated the vows of marriage with prostitutes. Mr. Craig, on the other hand, pled guilty to engaging in disorderly conduct in a men’s bathroom stall during a gay sex sting.

The fate of Mr. Sanford’s marriage, however, along with that of Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who recently admitted an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer, is unclear.

Mrs. Sanford indicated in her statement she’d like to give Mr. Sanford another chance. The Ensigns are said to be working on reconciling their marriage.

Quotable Norquist

The admission by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, of lying to his family and staff about his whereabouts to meet with his mistress in Argentina is a crippling blow for fiscal conservatives who admired his stance against President Obama’s stimulus bill.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist admitted to the Washington Independent, a Web-based publication, Mr. Sanford’s affair was not helpful to his crusade to reduce government spending, but nonetheless tried to put some happy spin on the sordid situation.

“It does indicate that men who oppose federal spending at the local level are irresistible to women,” Mr. Norquist said.

RNC women’s outreach

While Washington reeled from the news about the Sanford affair and what it would do for Republican credibility on family-values issues, the Republican National Committee launched a new effort to attract more women to the party for 2010 elections.

The RNC held the first meeting of its new Women’s Interactive Network (WIN) at the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday, bringing together more than 280 female party members to encourage them to build women’s programs in their state.

“The Democrats may have captured portions of the women’s vote in the last election, but I believe Republicans represent the views of a vast majority of women on many issues,” RNC Co-Chairman Jan Larimer said. “Reaching more women in their local communities and having Republican women talk with them, not to them, about our shared core values and conservative principles will enable our party to grow and win elections.”

To fire the women up, the WIN arranged speaker panels with Republican all-stars such as Liz Cheney, former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and Dana Perino, former Bush White House press secretary.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com

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