It’s hard enough for a woman to deal with the revelation of her husband’s infidelity in the privacy of her own home, but I cannot begin to imagine the emotional toll that must come to bear when this breach of the marital contract is brought forth on a national and international stage.
Silda Wall Spitzer, the wife of recently resigned New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has become the latest political spouse charged with the unenviable task of publicly “taking one for the team.”
Male politicians and their wives have always supplemented their marital union with a stoic agreement of professional partnership that subliminally implies “’til death, but not by scandal, do we part.”
It is virtually impossible to reminisce about the almost mythical era of the Camelot presidency without aligning the sophisticated Jacqueline Kennedy with John. Despite the abundant rumors of his infidelities, Jackie’s smiling face, tailored Chanel suits and haute couture hats remained synonymous with the JFK presidency.
The difference between Kennedy and Spitzer, however, is that Kennedy’s dirty laundry stayed in his private hamper, while Spitzer’s was splashed across TV screens and the Internet within hours of its discovery.
The Eliot Spitzer fall from grace is especially compelling when you take into account his previously heralded reputation as the second coming of his namesake, Eliot Ness, the U.S. Treasury agent credited with bringing down Chicago gangster Al Capone.
Spitzer had risen to state and national prominence as a vociferous watchdog of Wall Street corruption and organized crime, and even prosecuted prostitution rings. His squeaky-clean image proved an impressive platform from which to emerge from the position of New York State’s attorney general to the office of governor for the Empire State.
With Spitzer’s professional resume marked by uncompromised morality and etched with his own signature of ethical responsibility, it is hard to believe that his image is now corrupted with the revelation of sexual liaisons with professional call girls, and spending upwards of $80,000 in eight years of extramarital escapades.
If the average citizen is disgusted and dismayed with this woeful tale of hypocrisy and betrayal of the public trust, how must his wife feel?
Standing in the glare of the media lights and in the shadow of her unfaithful husband, Silda Spitzer became the newest member of the ever-growing sorority of betrayed, yet still supportive, political wives.
The sorority boasts a venerable “who’s who” of the political spouse landscape, with no member more notable than Hillary Clinton.
Just as the senator from New York stood beside her man, Bill, when his indiscretions with Monica
Lewinsky became public, so, too, did the former first lady of New York when it became public knowledge that her husband, Eliot, possessed a salacious alter ego known simply as “Client number 9.”
Her drawn face and distant gaze as Spitzer acknowledged that he had violated his or “any sense of right and wrong” made me wonder just what was going through her mind.
It must have angered her that she, herself a Harvard Law School graduate and former in-house counsel for Chase Manhattan Bank, had put her lucrative career on hold in 1994 to support her husband’s political ambitions.
It must have saddened her to accept that her crusading knight in shining armor was secretly getting his “groove on” with prostitutes and living a secret life that she had reluctantly been drawn into.
It must have concerned her that the federal investigation that exposed her husband’s very active participation as a client of the high-end prostitution operation known as the Emperors Club, also revealed that he had an articulated preference for consummating sex acts with women without the benefit of a condom.
It must have shattered her world to think that here she stood like so many before her on public display as she pondered the fate of her three daughters and the future of her marriage.
If there is any consolation for Mrs. Spitzer, it is that she has quite a few women that she can turn to for counsel and consolation.
In fact, all she need do is turn to Dina Matos McGreevey from the neighboring state of New Jersey, who stood at a similar podium in 2004 as her husband, and then New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, disclosed to the country that he indeed was a “gay American” and had been having a clandestine homosexual affair.
In the wake of the Spitzer scandal, critics of the “stand by your man” philosophy have been abundant.
According to Pennsylvania State University professor and author, Nichola Gutgold, this “outmoded tradition” of spousal support should anger women and wives everywhere.
Though the sentiment is understandable and Eliot Spitzer’s acts are reprehensible, we should all be cautious in criticizing his significant other.
After all, who are we to judge?
Richard McCulloch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.