Spitzer, Stop Torturing Your Wife

Maggie Gallagher
|
Posted: Mar 12, 2008 12:01 AM
Spitzer, Stop Torturing Your Wife

My husband has a collective term for the antics of men like New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer: "stupid monkey tricks."

As in, "Now there's a really stupid monkey trick," as he greeted me with Monday night.

Last week in Boston at a conference sponsored by the Marriage and Abstinence Education Partnership, presenter Rozario Slack explained that he tells each of his own kids, "You are not an animal."

Right. No animal would plan for its mate as exquisite a humiliation as Eliot Spitzer inflicted on his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, Monday afternoon in broad daylight, in front of us all.

I don't have a lot of hope for the public morality. I don't suspect this is the last time a man entrusted with high office will descend into a sex scandal, or even break the law (as Eliot Spitzer did) to get what he wants. (And in his former role as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" -- i.e., a white-collar crime specialist -- Gov. Spitzer was unusually well-versed in the laws that he was breaking: laws against prostitution, against transporting a prostitute across state lines, against "structuring" or moving money to avoid federal reporting requirements, to name just three.)

But can we at least end this barbaric practice of dragging your wife before the cameras while you confess your shameful guilt? If she wasn't there in the hotel room when you did your crime, don't ask her to do your time.

The practice began relatively innocently as something an accused man might do when he denied the allegations . A man's wife at his side showed that she, at least, believed the guy when he said he did not do it.

It was former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, I believe, who began the modern practice (Can we ban it along with waterboarding?) of parading the little wife before the cameras to hold your hand as you confess your guilt. The goal is to get the shell-shocked wife to demonstrate to the public that the offense is forgiveable. If his wife forgives him, how mad can you be?

But the practice requires a man to turn the best instinct of his wife -- to unite behind the family in crisis -- into an instrument of her own public humiliation.

And another thing: Can we end the public practice of trying to shame these wives into divorcing their husbands?

There's a reason we feel impelled to do this these days. Adultery has been redefined as a "private matter," as Spitzer put it in his vain, Clintonian attempt to redirect attention from his crimes to his sin. Because we no longer have any public punishments for adultery, we have turned wives into instruments of the public morality: If she doesn't punish him by divorcing him, he will go unpunished, which is intolerable. (Without some punishment, won't all husbands stray?)

I'm tired of this transference of the sins of the husband onto the wife. Leave the wives alone. Let's forget about standing by the man, but can't we at least agree to stand by the woman?

Look, I'm not a moron. I understand that men will use prostitutes for their own purposes without caring what happens to them, but can't we expect a little higher standard of behavior from an outrageously guilty husband toward the wife he has just embarrassed and betrayed?

Eliot, you are famously one big, tough dude from the Bronx. An "f-ing steamroller." Can't you go out in front of the cameras and face it like a man?