The School for Wives: On the Spitzer Apology

The School for Wives: On the Spitzer Apology

Maxine Phillips on Spitzer

Does somebody coach political wives on how to look when that moment comes, as it seems to frequently, that they must walk to the podium with their erring husband and strike just the right pose between stricken and supportive? As Silda Wall Spitzer stood by her husband’s side this week, after disclosures that the governor, former state attorney general, was linked to a high-priced prostitution ring, she looked plain shell-shocked.

Whenever I see this tableau, I try to imagine a different scene. A moderately attractive, maybe not even that attractive politician, but a female one, stands at a podium and offers an apology to her family, her friends, and the voters, for having let the aphrodisiacal power of power get the best of her. Next to her, perhaps holding her hand, is her husband.

But imagination fails. What woman would be that stupid? What woman’s career would last long enough after such a revelation for her even to get to the podium? What woman who had a history of sex outside her marriage would have been elected to office? And what man would stand there looking supportive when he’d just been publicly cuckolded?

So here’s another scene. Assuming that no laws have been broken and that the affair took place with a peer (i.e., not an intern, lobbyist, or employee), the couple approaches the podium, and either the man or the woman announces that they have an egalitarian, open marriage; they love each other; and really, this is not any business of the voters or the press and has no effect on her/his ability to perform the duties of the office. Here, too, imagination fails.

How about this one? The male politician strides to the podium. The wife is nowhere in sight. He makes his apology, reading the cue cards with just the right catch in his voice. He says that he has no wish to bring further pain to his family and therefore has not asked them to be with him today/this afternoon/tonight.

Or…he apologizes and says that his wife is not here because she will make her own statement to the press in her own good time.

Somewhere, I hope a coach is taking notes.

Maxine Phillips is executive editor of Dissent.