Madam Secretary

Is Sanford affair causing Clinton to have flashbacks?

There are 597 hits on Nexis for articles in the past week with the words “Clinton” and “Sanford.” Since South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford revealed his infidelity one week ago, the press has been going wild with articles about how women respond when their high-profile husbands are unfaithful. Comparisons between Sanford’s wife Jenny and Secretary ...

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<> the ceremony to lower the Times Square New Year's Eve ball in Times Square on December 31, 2008 in New York City.

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There are 597 hits on Nexis for articles in the past week with the words “Clinton” and “Sanford.” Since South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford revealed his infidelity one week ago, the press has been going wild with articles about how women respond when their high-profile husbands are unfaithful. Comparisons between Sanford’s wife Jenny and Secretary Clinton abound.

I wonder if Clinton is having painful flashbacks to the Monica Lewinsky affair and all the other times her husband’s infidelity received media attention. She’s one tough woman to have weathered it all.

A sampling of what’s being said around the world (in English-language media at least).

Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno:

If Hillary Clinton had an ounce of pride, when confronted by the serial infidelity of her husband, President Bill, she would have stood on the steps of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and declared: “By the way, I’m keeping the House.”

Late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon:

There’s another new development in that Mark Sanford story. His wife, Jenny, kicked him out of their home when she heard about the affair. In response, Hillary Clinton said, “Wait, you can do that?”

Joan Walsh at Salon.com:

[Jenny] Sanford is a talented political operative in her own right, running her husband’s campaigns. Maybe she needs to take a page from Hillary Clinton and stop subordinating her own ambition to his.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus:

[S]pace does not permit me to plumb the depths of spouse-enabling, self-deception and ambition embedded in the examples of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards, except to say that the latest about John Edwards makes Bill Clinton look like the perfect gentleman.

Andrew Davis, former communications director of the Libertarian Party, writing in The State (Columbia, S.C.):

Comparing between the first lady of South Carolina and former First Lady Hillary Clinton shows a stark contrast of two women snared in similar situations, who reacted in remarkably different ways. Clinton stood by her husband throughout the entire scandal, and even went so far as to defend him as a victim of a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” Jenny offered no excuses or defense for Mark’s behavior.

Clinton’s great success as a woman in politics has overshadowed shortcomings in her personal life, and turned her into a symbol of feminist power and prestige. However, feminists would do well to look at Jenny as an unsung role model for women in the movement.

Singapore’s Straits Times (subscription only):

As he sought office in the 1992 presidential election, Mrs Clinton laid down a code of conduct of sorts for the wronged political wife, as she tackled questions of his alleged extramarital affair.

‘You know, I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man,’ she said in a joint TV interview.

‘I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honour what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.’

Mr Clinton went on to win two presidential terms, only to find himself in disgrace and later impeached over a sexual liaison with a White House intern which started in 1995.

Mrs Clinton, a law graduate like her husband, still stuck by him, invoking the need to keep the family intact for the sake of their daughter. Cynics thought she did not want to upset the apple cart in view of her own political ambitions. If that was the reason, the gambit has paid off. With her job approval ratings rising higher than President Barack Obama’s, Mrs Clinton has become an influential public persona in her own right.

Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP

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