We’ve seen it so many times recently, the shamed politico addresses a legion of reporters, and flashbulbs pop as he admits to his adulterous crimes. As he steadfastly apologizes into the camera, a figure stands off to the side. Cowed by the lens, the blinding flashbulbs, and millions of judgmental eyes, there stands the wife — there to shield her husband from the glare.
Suzanne Craig donned sunglasses to stand by her man as he denied playing footsie in the men’s room, Dina McGreevey gave a tight smile as she shared the stage with her husband when he came out of the closet before millions (psst, she’s written a book about it all). Wendy Vitter got her hair done and wore a sexy dress to stand by her hooker-loving husband, and Carlita Kilpatrick held her man’s hand and remarked, “it is very difficult for me to talk to you at this moment,” as she stared into the screen. “I am angry, I am hurt, I am disappointed – but there is no question that I love my husband,” then she said “this private matter is between me, my husband, and God.”
I respectfully disagree. I know where Mrs. Kilpatrick is coming from, believe me. I’ve see the grevious wounds infidelity can leave on a relationship at extremely close range. The neighbors whisper. The eyes of the community are on you. Everyone knows your deepest hurt. Your self-esteem shatters into a million fragments. It really is a time for privacy, introspection, and communication between the husband and wife. But, by taking public office and presenting themselves as these ultimate family men, these philandering politicians have put their business on front street. By ignoring their responsibilities to the communities they represent and destroying the sanctity of their marriages, then addressing the onlooking public with their wives by their side; they’ve helped to create an additional public spectacle.
Whenever it happens, I can’t help but stare at the wife’s face. It’s always the picture of internal agony — mouth tight, eyes cast downward and probably shining with unshed tears. I don’t know how they do it. I just know I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Seriously, if that was me and that mofo tried to ask me to stand beside him at a press conference, he better expect a barrage of cusswords. I’d be like, don’t even dare come around to ask me to stand next to you right now. Much less on television. Go to hell, you pathetic bastard.
The AP addresses the phenomenon in this article about Cindy McCain (which seems premature to me… John McCain hasn’t admitted guilt to any infidelity yet, has he? As far as I knew, he’d just been accused of an allegedly questionable relationship. Which is still super sketchy, don’t get me wrong, but he hasn’t exactly been caught with a hand in the whore jar just yet). The AP article turns to Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at City University of New York, who says few political wives are considered strong women, and admits the reaction “depends on the allegation, and it depends on the spouse.” Hillary Clinton appeared on 60 Minutes in 1992, and declared “I’m not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man,” but that’s basically what she did — she adopted a typically calm appearance, and she stood by him twice as he faced the media firing squad.
Now we’ve got this Eliot Spitzer case, which is just scandalicious. The tough-as-nails former Attorney General and govenor has sent quite a few criminals down the pike in his time. I wonder if any of them were prostitutes, or madams? Will they now be released in light of this federal investigation? He’s being accused of violating the Mann Act, and his finances are coming into question. Looks to me like someone’s due for a long vacation at Club Fed. Meanwhile, his wife Silda gets to wear what the New York Daily News calls the ‘stand by her man’ pantsuit, and show us all her agonized expression as he gazes directly at a sea of reporters and admits his guilt. Spitzer said “I apologize first and most importantly to my family,” without even turning to address his wife standing beside him. I’m sure he spoke at length with his family beforehand. I’m sure they’ve had private shouting matches about it. They’ve been married for 20 years, they’ve got teenage daughters (who, if they’re anything like I was at a teenager, probably aren’t talking to dear ol’ dad much right about now). It’s gotta be so gutwrenching. You stand by somebody’s side and help them build a respectable career for two decades, and then what do you get? Client 9 of an international prostitution ring calling for a special pre-Valentine’s day screw? Eff THAT. He doesn’t deserve her public support, in my opinion.
Most political wives who get caught in these situations say they stand by their men for the kids. On Oprah’s couch, Dina McGreevey explained, “I thought about it, and I thought, well, I’ve stood by his side all these years. We have a daughter together, and one day she’s going to hear about this or read about it, and she’s going to ask me, ‘Mommy, why weren’t you at Daddy’s side?’” she says. “So I was there for my daughter’s father. And I also had nothing to hide. I had done nothing wrong.” That’s true, she didn’t do anything wrong. And in my opinion, that’s exactly why political wives shouldn’t endure that scrutiny, or share the stage at that painful, terrible moment. I’m the kind of daughter who wound wonder the exact opposite — why would you let Daddy make you stand at his side after he was a total jerk to you?
My heart goes out to these women who have had to endure public humiliation by their spouses, and I’m not trying to slam their decision to put on a brave face for their family and political legacies. I’m just saying that just once, I’d like to see one of these guys face the firing squad alone. I’d like to see them sweat and squirm and apologize solo, without a reassuring hand on their knee or sympathetic eyes to turn to. I’d like to see a shamed politician just once admit, “my wife refused to stand by my side today. And she was completely right to do so. I don’t deserve her support right now, because I am pond scum.”
Maybe these incidents get under my skin because I have strong personal feelings about infidelity. What do you think, bellas? And what do you think should happen to Elliott Spitzer?