think we can say Eliot Spitzer stayed loyal to state products—it
was a New York-based call-girl ring he used—but he was disloyal
to the people of the state and most painfully of all,
to his wife.
have disappointed and failed to live up to the standards I
expected of myself.”
He may have been sincere. I expect he was.
But after-the-fact apologies are the occasional consequence
of an it’s-better-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission mentality.
There’s always the chance you won’t get caught and won’t have
to cop to your culpability.
His marital infidelity showed faithlessness to his constituency
as well. And when does faithlessness ever bring about anything
other than heartbreak?
So New Yorkers, and maybe especially the women of New York,
are left asking the sorry, clichéd questions: Are all politicians
liars? Do all men cheat?
We would rather have these questions debunked by anecdote
and incident rather than further ballasted by the facts.
But it is, sadly, all too familiar a picture: another brilliant
woman standing behind the man who shamed her. Silda Wall Spitzer
has been drafted into the unfortunate rank of women whose
men have caused them staggering personal hurt and painful
And, pity for her, it’s her actual endurance in standing by
her man that some voices are assailing. Blogs galore are filled
with sharply worded reproaches: She should not have shown
up for the press conference. She should leave the bastard.
She should tell him she wants to keep the Mansion. Morals
maven Dr. Laura Schlessinger weighed in, allowing as to how
women bear some of the blame for cheating men—which I think
is probably true sometimes. I think infidelity is sometimes
as comprehensible as Spitzer’s was reprehensible.
Because, pity for him, he can’t even protest to his wife that
he was ‘really in love.’ That she wasn’t spending enough time
with him so he found someone else who wanted to listen to
him and care for him. He simply doesn’t have that out. “Kristen”
and “George Fox” were complete strangers to each other and
this was just about sex.
Ah, “just about sex!” Is that supposed to make it better?
Doesn’t it really make it worse? Sure, it may have been purse-pinching
just-about-sex for Governor Spitzer. But I’d wager—oh, just
about everything—that it wasn’t just-about-sex to his wife.
And I don’t think there is a woman in New York state—and maybe
many men, too—who doesn’t grieve for Silda, including the
ones who are telling her to give him the old heave-ho.
Yet the last thing any woman wants is to be pitied. Ever.
No woman wants to feel that 50 isn’t as good as 30 for the
man who says he loves her. No woman wants to be caressed by
hands that have caressed somebody else’s body. No woman wants
to fear that her husband can’t travel for business without
trolling—sparing no cost—for just-about-sex. I mean, where
does that stop?
Because it’s never just-about-sex for the victim’s of a spouse’s
infidelity. And for those brave or foolish or scared enough
to stand by their men, there are never easy answers.
No man is likely to say, “I did it because I’m a selfish prick,”
even though odds are good that’s what the woman is thinking.
So many women have stood in Silda Wall Spitzer’s shoes and
at their man’s side. But the unanswered question of ‘why?’
always hangs in the air. So that beyond assailing the heart
and body, infidelity assails the mind with maddening self-doubt
and self- righteous anger both. It leads to self-pity and
Infidelity leaves scars. While the Spitzers may be able to
rehab their marriage and to retool his political career, they
won’t be starting from scratch anymore. They can only start
Even as it can’t have been just-about-sex for his wife, it
isn’t just-about-sex for New Yorkers, either.
The initial tendency—once you get past the it-can’t-be-true
part—is to try to rationalize it as a temporary madness or
business-as-usual for the man in power, or a moral infraction
made large by media. But the sad truth is that even if it
is all of these things, it is not only these
things. Just as Eliot Spitzer has broken covenant with his
wife, he has broken covenant with New Yorkers.
He has armed the Republican party for years to come. He has
imperiled his senator’s presidential campaign. He has shown
himself to be sublimely hypocritical, to the sorrow of those
who supported him, voted for him, welcomed him to Albany and
believed him to be a man of high moral mettle who would bring
political renewal and change.
He has played Santa to the religious right wing, giving them
still more reasons to paint New Yorkers and Democrats as morally
tainted, liberal wackos disrespecting marriage, licensing
illegal aliens and trafficking in the flesh. Sad to say, on
the last one Eliot Spitzer is guilty as charged.
This isn’t a victimless crime. New Yorkers have been betrayed.
And this emperor has no clothes.