|Liberals...Not to worry he'll get re-elected|
Sandi Jackson reveals her anguish over Jesse Jackson Jr.'s affair
BY MICHAEL SNEED Sun-Times Columnist
It's a story as old as time: adultery, anguish and atonement. Last Tuesday, when news broke of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s extramarital relationship with a blond nightclub hostess -- kryptonite in the world of the African-American woman -- his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson, inserted a little laughter into the public disclosure.
The venue she chose to publicly thwack her errant husband was her 47th birthday party/fund-raiser tossed by her 7th Ward staff at the Park 52 restaurant in Hyde Park.
|"I'd known about it nearly two years ago because Jesse told me late one night in Washington," Ald. Sandi Jackson said of her husband Jesse Jackson Jr.'s affair.|
"I told them: 'I put my foot knee-deep in his ass and he has been having a very difficult time sleeping peacefully since then.' "
Surprisingly, she did it with her husband in attendance.
"Jesse laughed because he knew it was true," Ald. Jackson told me. "But I also wanted everyone to know I was not taking it lightly."
What Ald. Jackson wasn't taking lightly was how much the public disclosure had hurt.
In an exclusive interview punctuated with tears and laughter at a West Side restaurant Thursday, a vivacious, but intense Sandi Jackson talked about her private anguish; her sea legs as a new alderman in the process of transforming her ward's old Steel Works lakefront, and her commuter marriage to the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose life of service has also been pockmarked by sexual scandal.
"You know, when the Clintons ran into marital trouble, I thought Hillary should leave Bill," she said. "I couldn't stand what Tiger Woods did and how his wife had to suffer publicly.
"But when the 'beast' lands at your door, it can be a very, very different experience. No one really knows what they are going to do until they are in that situation. When it happens to you it's amazing how what you once thought was black and white becomes variations of a color called gray."
Although Congressman Jackson's name had surfaced in the Rod Blagojevich trial involving the alleged sale of President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, word of Jackson's affair, interspersed somewhere in that time frame, did not hit the news until last week.
Sleepless nights and marriage counseling
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Rep. Jackson had asked fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak to buy plane tickets for a Washington woman, Giovana Huidobro, whom the congressman had described as a "social acquaintance" to FBI agents investigating Blagojevich.
But Sandi Jackson had known about the woman before her face appeared on Page 1, she said.
"I'd known about it nearly two years ago because Jesse told me late one night in our home in Washington," she said.
"He said it was over. I was mortified and in agony, but he knew if I found out any other way it would be over. That the only way to save our marriage was to come clean."
"In the beginning I thought how could Jesse do this to me? Our children were so small. I immediately began to question myself. 'Did I work hard enough? Had I not sacrificed enough helping his career? Was it my stretch marks? My pouchy stomach?' "
And it happened when Sandi Jackson was finding her own public voice as an alderman.
"I was juggling motherhood, a commuter marriage, an aldermanic office pushing hard to transform the long vacant South Side Steel Works into a major redevelopment--and being the wife of a well-known politician for whom I work hard as a paid political consultant.
"There were sleepless nights and I started losing hair and I told him I would only consider staying if we got into therapy."
Her husband, she said, "agreed and we got through it."
Before the news broke, she said, "I thought I was done with this. That we could go on with a new chapter in our lives.
"We had the luxury of privacy to undergo intense marital counseling and spiritual therapy to save our marriage," she said. "I thought we had turned the corner. Then this sucker punch in the press -- and having to live it all over again publicly."
Sandi Jackson said it's hard enough keeping a marriage on track, "but when you are doing it with everybody watching, it makes it even more difficult."
Her husband's recent hubris on the "Don Wade & Roma" radio show telling the feds to "Bring it on!" didn't help.
"Look, I'm the one who told Jesse to push back a little when he went on the 'Don Wade & Roma' show," she said. "He had remained silent due to his lawyer's instructions, but I felt it was time he needed to give his constituents -- who needed to hear from him -- a sense of fight."
Her husband "never had an intention to run for mayor" but needed to gear up for re-election to his House seat.
Sandi Jackson said her husband "has been quiet, withdrawn and concerned."
"Everyone has noticed his weight loss. He was fighting for his marriage privately and publicly fighting allegations."
She views her marriage as "a marathon."
"We've been through a lot, but things happen. I had hoped it wouldn't happen to me, but I'm not naive. Vows mean you work to stay engaged and stick it out. I'm not one to cut and run.
"When Jesse told me about the indiscretion, I didn't want details. I know what adultery looks like. I didn't need to visualize it. I needed to concentrate on my kids."
An attorney who was married for 10 years before having her two children -- 10-year-old Jessica and 7-year-old Jesse Jackson III -- nicknamed "Tre" -- she had four earlier miscarriages and a child who died shortly after he was born.
"It's been surreal. I feel bad for Jesse because he is living this thing all over again. He is remorseful over this fire storm he's created around us."
So where is she emotionally right now?
"I don't know except I want to stay focused on my children and doing a good job for my constituents," she said.
She "can't stop working just because of my personal situation," Ald. Jackson said.
"We have a real opportunity to bring in thousands of jobs in the 7th Ward due to the old Steel Works lakefront development and jobs that could last for 20 years."
In her "quieter moments it's very difficult, but there are people out there who have situations far worse than mine," she says. "Mine is a matter of the heart. For many it's a matter of survival. My heart will heal."
Mom taught her how to be strong
Sandi Jackson, whose parents divorced when she was 12, is one of three children who grew up in Akron, Ohio. Her mother, Sarah Stevens, 65, never remarried and lives with the couple in their home in Washington, D.C.
"Jesse lives in Washington during the week, and I reside in Chicago; then we trade routes on the weekend. But my mother is with our children every day. In the summer, we all live in Chicago," she explained.
It was her mother, she says, who taught her strength.
"My mother took on three jobs to support us; working as a nursing assistant in a hospital and cleaning houses on weekends. She taught me a lot about courage and independence. That no matter what happens in my life, I could be strong, too."
As a child in a poor family, she said, her mother "made everything into an adventure."
"When our utilities were cut off, she told us we were going to camp -- inside the house. We'd watch the candles carefully to make sure they'd never die out or touch anything. We'd sleep by the fireplace . . . our campfire. Our gas fireplace. We thought we were experiencing something no one else was experiencing."
Her mother was " always tired, but she was just happy to be with her kids -- that's where Jesse and I are right now."
Sandi and Jesse Jackson were married in 1991 and finished law school together.
"I've worked for congressmen; my father-in-law; my husband . . . and now I've found my own voice working for my ward," she says. "It's now time for me to give back as a public servant -- with my own voice -- and my own decisions.
"The name on my resume is Sandi Stevens Jackson, and I was my mother's daughter before I got married."