WWJD (What Would Jenny Do?): The new standard for wives of wayward politicians

This morning at breakfast at my usual location, a wag suggested that soon someone would be selling bracelets saying WWJD, for “What Would Jenny Do?”

I sort of hate to pass on something like that said in a jocular manner, because the state of mind of the state’s chief executive — and the inevitable impact it has on his family — is no laughing matter, and it’s getting less funny day by day.

But you know what? I seriously think that after what we’ve seen the past week, someone ought to have a bunch of those bracelets printed up and distributed to political wives. I say that because Jenny Sanford has been a class act from the beginning. I don’t think she’s trying to be a class act; I don’t think she gives a rip what the chattering class think about her. I think she’s just trying to do the right thing, with some self-respect and most of all with the welfare of her children in mind, and that’s what makes her a class act.

I dropped by the offices of the Palmetto Family Council today. I had seen the story about their support-Jenny movement, and since I was stopping by Starbuck’s on Gervais anyway, I thought I’d walk up and say hi to Oran Smith and the gang. I had never seen their digs before. (That’s a great, cool building they’re in, which is owned by my friend Hal Stevenson.) I mentioned the bracelet idea to them, just sort of half-seriously at the time, and when they showed a little interest I said if they followed up on it, they needed to give my friend who thought of it credit.

Something that not everybody realizes about Jenny Sanford that makes her “let-him-take-his-own-medicine” stance more remarkable: She was in her own way sort of the Republican version of Hillary Clinton. Electing the Sanfords, the state got a two-fer. I’ll never forget the time, at the start of the 2002 campaign, when Sanford asked to come present his economic plan to our editorial board. We said fine, and when I went downstairs to bring him up to the board room, there was Jenny. She was holding out a basket of cookies to me, which I took as a very conscious effort to say, “I’m not Hillary Clinton, even though it may look like I am once we get upstairs.” In the board room, Mark Sanford kept deferring to Jenny on the economics theory, letting her explain the pie charts and other stuff on the Powerpoint presentation.

She managed his campaign, and was a tough manager. I remember Tom Davis — who lived in the Sanford’s basement during that campaign — talking about “going to the hats” when he’d done something wrong. If he’d screwed up, Jenny would ask him to step with her into a part of the house where there were a bunch of ballcaps and such belonging to the boys hanging on the wall. “Going to the hats” was an experience to be avoided.

In other words, one would be forgiven for assuming that Jenny was every bit as politically ambitious as Mark. Yet she didn’t do a Hillary (or a whatever-Spitzer’s-wife’s-name-is). She didn’t do a Tammy Wynette.

And women everywhere should bless her for it, as many are doing.

12 thoughts on “WWJD (What Would Jenny Do?): The new standard for wives of wayward politicians

  1. kbfenner

    Elliot Spitzer’s wife is Silda. Remember Jenny has had several months notice on this, too.

  2. SGMret

    Jenny Sanford for Governor in 2010!

    (Since we’re comparing her to Hil Clinton…)

    Alas, she’s probably too smart and not egotistical enough for the job, but we can hope for some adult leadership for a change. Of course, she’d also put raising her sons first (imagine that – putting your family fist!), so I guess it’s a forlorn hope.

  3. Dave S.

    Mrs Sanford may have had several months notice but that doesn’t change the fact that she continually shows inner strength, humility, and maturity that unfortunately our elected officials and (some of) their spouses do not.

  4. RalphHightower

    Uh, it would be Jenny or anybody else, other than Mark Sanford for 2011. SC gets a new governor on January 12, 2011. That’s 558 days remaining.

  5. RalphHightower

    PS: Do we really want Mark Sanford in the Governor’s mansion again? Just imagine if Hillary Clinton were President instead of Obama.

  6. Lee Muller

    Right now, 70% of the population would take anyone for President other than Hussein Obama.

  7. SGMret


    You got me! You’re right; the new governor takes office in January, 2011. Gee, what ever was I thinking?

    The election is November the second, twenty-ten. “Jenny for Ten!” As in a classically lame campaign-type slogan…

    What I was thinking was that most folks could connect the dots. Maybe some would even see the implied contrasts between Jenny Sanford and Hil Clinton. S’pose it was all just too much though.

    Guess I thought wrong.

  8. SGMret

    And just to be clear: No, I really wouldn’t want Mark Sanford back in the Governor’s mansion.

    However, I think the difference between those two scenarios would be that while Bill would actually be back in the White House (probably lurking in a broom closet down the hall from the Oval Office waiting to pounce on some intern), Mark Sanford wouldn’t actually be in the Governor’s Mansion. I think he’d be out in the backyard in the little house with the other dawgs.

    (That’s another one of those kinda implied contrasts between Jen and Hil that was probably lost on some folks.)

  9. Bart

    Dave, I trust Rasmussen over Gallup for accuracy and for being nonpartisan. (yes, I know Rasmussen is on Fox News a lot but so is Zogby and some of the others) He mainly uses voters or likely voters for his polls, not just adults. Obama’s latest overall approval rating stands at 53% and his disapproval at 46%. The strongly approving (32%) vs strongly disapproving (34%) is at a negative 2 points. At this point, any politician of any stripe should count their blessings to be able to receive any favorable ratings at all.

    However, I recognize the fact that polls are run by people who do have preferences and it does make a difference whether we want to admit it or not. I think the truth is that the average American is disappointed in Obama’s performance as president but still like him as an individual. I liked George Bush as an individual but his performance in his last term sucked to the bone. We all want our favorites to have high approval ratings and look for evidence to validate our support. Friendly pollsters are a good source.

  10. Lee Muller

    Obama only has a positive poll number in the nebulous “approval rating”, but it has fallen from 83% at inauguration to 67% in February, and 53% in June.

    On every specific issue, Obama is well below 50%.

    Only 32% “strongly support” Obama – below core Democrats number of 36%.

    83% think he has already spent too much.

    84% do not want their health insurance situation changed.

    53% think his economic policies have accomplished nothing.

    64% are worried about inflation and tax increases.

    33% of independent voters say they would not vote for Obama again.

    – Sources: Rasmussen, Gallup, NBC and CNN polls

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