Janet M. LaRue

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has joined the rogue’s gallery of adulterous politicians who appear before the press to confess their “failures” while using their wives as supportive props.

Spitzer’s press conference Monday followed media reports that Spitzer, who as attorney general of New York prosecuted two prostitution rings, has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington, D.C. hotel last month.

Spitzer began his press conference statement by saying that he wanted to “address a private matter.” He included an apology to the public, but didn’t say what the matter involved and didn’t admit to any illegal conduct:

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Mr. Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda at his Manhattan office. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better. … I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.

Spitzer’s wife of 20 years, Silda, was at his side and was visibly upset.

Hopefully, the Spitzer family will experience forgiveness and reconciliation. That takes time and work. But exploitation of the family by the one who broke the trust is hardly the right catalyst.

So why does a man who says he needs to “regain the trust of [his] family, further abuse whatever trust remains by using his traumatized wife as a prop at his press conference or as his defender-in-chief?

Recall the following with wife at his side:

* Former Democratic President Bill Clinton did have “sex with that woman.”
* Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) resigned after admitting extramarital affairs.
* Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) whose phone number appeared on the client list of the “D.C. Madam.”
* James McGreevey, former Democratic governor of New Jersey, admitted to having a sexual relationship with a man.
* Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) who pled guilty to disorderly conduct after trying to seduce an undercover police officer in a public restroom.

What is it, a decency deficit or a sensitivity shortfall?

Even if the wife wants to be there, you’d think they’d have the guts to stand alone and take the heat. It would feel less egregious if he hired another “escort” for the occasion.

But the wife is there because the wimp’s personal ambitions and desire for public rehabilitation apparently outweigh his desire for marital reconciliation. He doesn’t get it—the public ride is over, or should be. He isn’t going to be president.

Public officials who hire a hooker haven’t merely committed a “private” failure. These are people who swear an oath to uphold the law but have violated the public trust. Consorting with criminals opens the door to extortion and bribery.

And to any wife who appears as a prop beside her meandering man because she values status, power, and a lucrative lifestyle more than her self-respect, you might want to reflect on the message you’re sending your children. If he’s guilty, let him stand alone for awhile until he gets it. They call it tough love. After all, he didn’t want you by his side on the night in question, someone else was.

Maybe fallen politicians would cease exploiting family members at these mea culpa press conferences if some reporter stood up and asked, “I’d like to know how you’re going to regain your wife’s trust when you’ve subjected her to public humiliation by bringing her here today.”

Enough.


Janet M. LaRue

Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families. Be the first to read Janet LaRue's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.