The Politician's Good Wife.

by Meredith O'Brien


Sanford. Edwards. Spitzer. Clinton.


What do those names have in common? First of all, they’re the surnames of nationally prominent politicians, three of whom ran for president (both Clintons ran), two of whom once held U.S. Senate seats and one of whom served in Congress. What else do they have in common? They also happened to be the last names of wives who’ve been betrayed by their husbands. Publically so. Humiliatingly so. In a Star Magazine-tabloid TV kind of way, and in the case of three of the wives had the “other woman” (or “women” as the case may or may not be) rub salt in their wounds by giving splashy interviews about their affairs with politically powerful men.


When news of the affairs became public, these four political wives not only had to figure out how they were going to handle it personally -- Should I stand by his side at the press conference? Should I kick him out? Should I make my own statement? -- but they had to determine how to shield their children from the torridly public sins of their father, particularly when loud criticism was directed at the moms by those who didn’t necessarily agree with their choices.


The New York Times’ Lisa Belkin, after watching Jenny Sanford, wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who ran off to Argentina – sparking a nationwide scandal when he went missing – to canoodle with his mistress, said that married women feel quite invested in the decisions made by these “betrayed political wives.”


“We have been waiting, impatiently, for the ending we want. We – by which I mean married women – have watched the parade of press conferences, heard the mea culpas, been unmoved by the tears and held out for the plot that turns out differently. Because while the cameras are always focused on the errant husband, we are transfixed by the wife. From Clinton to Craig to Spitzer to Edwards to Ensign we wonder: Why does she take this? Why do we take this?”


Belkin said when women see a political wife standing, literally, next to her man despite the fact that he cheated on her, the reaction is, “We wouldn’t do that, we tell one another. We would leave. We would throw him out. We certainly wouldn’t support him with our presence in our Hermes scarf and pearls.”


“Why in the world would she stay with him?” people ask one another. After all, how many articles have you seen asking that question about Hillary Clinton? Or Elizabeth Edwards?