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Jenny Sanford Departs From The Scandal Script

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The name of Jenny Sanford, the estranged wife of South Carolina's wandering governor, made it onto a number of those year-end lists of most fascinating and admired persons. Instead of standing by her tearful husband, Sanford moved out of the governor's mansion and moved on with her life. Host Scott Simon talks to syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who lauded Mrs. Sanford In a recent post on The Daily Beast.


The name of Jenny Sanford, the estranged wife of South Carolina's wandering governor, made it onto a number of those year-end lists of most fascinating and admired persons. Instead of standing by her tearful husband, Mrs. Sanford moved out of the governor's mansion, moved on with her life. In a recent post on The Daily Beast, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker lauded Mrs. Sanford, who's a former New York investment banker and her husband's brain trust, as a class act. And she expressed the hope that Mrs. Sanford might become a political influence in South Carolina, which Kathleen Parker, who also lives there, calls the same tiny asylum. Her phrase, not mine.

Kathleen Parker joins in our studios. Always good to have you here.

Ms. KATHLEEN PARKER (The Daily Beast): Nice to be here, Scott.

SIMON: How - how has Jenny Sanford wound up, how can I say this, come out, you know...smelling...

Ms. PARKER: Came out on top.

SIMON: Yeah, exactly.

Ms. PARKER: She came out on top by not standing by her man. You know, we've seen that over and over, these women whose husbands have run off with others, standing next to their husbands, biting their lip, looking downward while he talks about forgiveness and redemption and all that. And it's - I think it's why Jenny is so interesting, it's that she has chosen not to take that route and in fact instead of standing next to her man, she went out on the street and handed out press statements. And she is managing her own brand all the way along. She is an interesting woman. She's very smart. She was already a successful businesswoman when she met Mark Sanford at a party in the Hamptons. He convinced her to move to South Carolina, where he would enter politics.

She's essentially run his campaigns from their home. So she's a very hands-on, forward-thinking person. So a lot of people are talking about whether she might enter politics. She says no.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. PARKER: She has no interest in being a candidate, let's say. She does have interest in policy however. And she is well liked, she is respected, and she's a brand new woman.

SIMON: So let me ask you to be profound in a hurry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PARKER: Profound in a hurry.

SIMON: What does that say about what's going on in contemporary political culture now?

Ms. PARKER: Well, I don't know that you can extrapolate from South Carolina to anything else. The asylum reference comes from James Pettigrew, who was -during the secessionist years said that South Carolina was too small to be a republic, too large to be an insane asylum. We have always been an odd little place. But I do think if we do extrapolate, it would be nice to think that Jenny Sanford is a prototype for a new woman who doesn't feel that she has to sort of take what's handed to her.

SIMON: When we cast back to other political wives who have stood by, behind tearfully...

Ms. PARKER: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: ...their husbands as they make that kind of an announcement, or at least metaphorically, if not publicly - in the alchemy of human relationships, though, there are a lot of reasons for them to keep their family together, aren't there?

Ms. PARKER: Sure. Oh, absolutely. I don't think adultery is necessarily a deal breaker for every family. In her case, if Mark Sanford had shut up instead of making these embarrassing confessions over and over again and then making these statements such as - I'm trying to fall in love with my wife again or that this woman in Argentina was my soulmate. I mean these are pushing things beyond a point where most people could tolerate, I think. So this is, again, in a unique place this is a unique situation.

SIMON: Let me take you in another direction. Tiger Woods's wife, Elin, might be his estranged wife at the moment we speak, at least according to certain reports, and according to other reports is in negotiations with a rival athletic shoe company - I'll mention their name, Puma - to become one of their corporate symbols. Is this...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Help us read the tea leaves.

Ms. PARKER: You know, I hate the term "go, girl," but boy, does that ever want to fall off of my lips.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PARKER: I think it's fantastic. She is - she may as well make something out of this. And I think that's what Jenny Sanford has done too. You know, this is my little horror show and I'm going to put in the best light that I possibly can, for my own self-preservation, my own self-respect.

SIMON: Columnist Kathleen Parker, thanks so much. Your most recent book is "Save the Males."

Ms. PARKER: Yes, that would be the most recent one.

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