An Evil Ritual

I am normally a fan of meaningless ritual and tradition. I like the way that it creates continuity within a community, serves to set off certain times and spaces as special, and if done correctly provides the pleasures of a spectacle. Spitzer’s implosion, however, makes even my inner-Burke recoil at the wanton cruelty of the wronged-wife-at-the-press-conference ceremony. Conventional wisdom among the spin-oriate insists that when a politician is caught with his pants down or otherwise stepping out on his wife, it is all important that he hold the press conference at which he expresses regret for the pain he has caused his family, talks about his regret for his private failings, and makes similarly contrite noises. It is absolutely vital, say the PR flaks, that the wronged wife stand dutifully behind her man for the cameras.

Why in the name of all that is holy do we have this horrific spectacle? When Sptizer required his wife to go through this exquisitely humiliating ritual, he was already a political dead man walking. Was her obligatory stand-by-her-man appearance supposed to revive his political fortunes? Were his political fortunes worth inflicting such an experience on his wife? I realize that for most chivalry is passe at best and misogynist at worse, but is it too much to hope that a man might at least have some decency toward his wife. Talking about this with the Obamican to whom I am wedded over breakfast, she pointed out that Michelle Obama does not stand by her man. She introduces him and then leaves the stage. I pray that she sticks to her guns, and that if Obama is caught with an intern, Congressional page, airport-haunting under-cover cop, or high-priced hooker, she responds to his request for The Press Conference, with, “You selfish bastard, go have your own damn press conference.”

Call it the audacity of hope.

[Photo credit:]

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9 Responses

  1. Howard Wasserman says:

    The imposition on the wife and the way it forces her down is even clearer when we look at a close recent comparator of Spitzer: David Vitter. Several years ago, Vitter’s wife had said that, if her husband did what Bill Clinton had done, she would not have persevered the way Hillary did (she suggested something about Lorena Bobbitt, actually). Yet, when David Vitter was implicated in the D.C. Madam investigation, there she was by his side at the press conference.

  2. 05 says:

    When Sptizer required his wife to go through this exquisitely humiliating ritual, he was already a political dead man walking. Was her obligatory stand-by-her-man appearance supposed to revive his political fortunes? Were his political fortunes worth inflicting such an experience on his wife?

    What makes you think he “required” her to do it? There’s an interesting op-ed in the NYTimes by the former first lady of New Jersey on this subject.

    Mrs. Spitzer should have been able to tell Mr. Spitzer to face the music on his own. The “PR flaks” are probably right when they say that it makes it easier on the guy when his wife is there, but she’s within her rights to tell him to leave her out of it.

  3. John C says:

    My wife and I had the same exact conversation on the way to work today. She said “Michelle Obama would never stand for that. She’d kick Barack out of the White House, President-be-damned!”

  4. Larry Sheldon says:

    Seems obvious to me. She is setting up her run for Governor whit all the Executive Experience, handling the 3 AM calls nonsense and such.

  5. Chris Bell says:

    At least get a multi-million dollar accessory, like Mrs. Kobe Bryant.

  6. Anyone notice the missing $80,000? says:

    Given that Silda pushed him to fight on, perhaps, I don’t know, SHE WANTED TO BE THERE. But, no, women can’t think for themselves. They’re just itsy-bitsy victims. Yeah, and she had no idea her husband was diverting $80,000 to screw hookers. It’s all a terrible shock.

  7. reader says:

    I’m with the last commenter. The implication of this post that she was helpless to say no and was forced on stage by Spitzer just plays into the helpless woman stereotype. Why do you assume he forced her up there? You write about how she should feel without considering that she may have already thought about it herself and come to a different conclusion.

  8. Seth R. says:

    Another thing to consider is that a lot of Americans are looking at this “upper-class” scandal through middle-class sensibilities. There’s a lot more at stake for a politically elite family than just the dad’s ego.

    A mom in an upper-class politically moving family has a lot of things to consider, of which, her husband’s reputation is only one. What about her kids? Are they going to get the connections to get admitted to that elite college and then get hired by that elite law firm or lobbying group. Are they going to be good marriage material for other elite families?

    We saw this with Hillary Rodham Clinton years ago. She stood-by-her-man too. And now she’s running for President. Hmmm…

    I don’t pretend any real insight into the Clinton’s personal feelings. But I’m just saying, it’s perfectly plausible to view Hillary as not giving a damn about Bill personally one way or the other and still doing everything she did. She was attempting to rehabilitate the FAMILY image. If she hadn’t, her own political career would not have succeeded and who knows what sort of taint Chelsea would have at this point.

    When you are a high-powered family of political movers, middle-class concerns don’t always factor in the same way. These women are trying to protect a dynasty in which the lives of their children and their own fortunes are inextricably connected.

    Isolated middle class Americans don’t understand this. For them, they like to maintain the illusion that the world works on fairness, merit, and personal affection. It doesn’t always. And that becomes very clear when you enter the highly interconnected world of money and politics.

  9. Miriam Cherry says:

    What if Hillary were elected president, had an affair with a much younger intern, and then dragged Bill through the press conference announcing her sins? It would be the ultimate irony and perhaps would signal that gender parity has arrived… or perhaps, on a more modest scale, we could just continue to increase the number of women running for (and winning) elected office.