Spitzer’s Other Moral Lapse

The political world is reeling from the explosive revelation that New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was a client of a very pricey prostitution ring. The news sent shockwaves across the political landscape and you could almost hear the schadenfreude on Wall Street. Those who had felt the censorious weight of the former Attorney General’s moral umbrage were understandably, which is not to say justifiably, delighted to see him involved in a corrupt enterprise, even if only as a customer. None of yesterday’s news should detract one iota from Spitzer’s remarkable record as Attorney General. Cleaning up corruption, especially the kind of corruption that defrauded small investors in order to reward those already drowning in wealth, was a noble task and Spitzer did it well. The public is generally quick to forgive sexual misdeeds. Witness Bill Clinton’s continued high approval ratings throughout the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But, I wish the public would become far less forgiving of one aspect of these dreadful news conferences when sexual misdeeds are discussed. I cannot bring myself to forgive Spitzer for dragging his wife in front of the cameras today. Spitzer is not the first to put his family in such an awkward position. When New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey revealed he was "a gay American" he did it with his wife and father standing there. The wife was distraught, but the Dad was so obviously mortified that he looked like he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him. Idaho Sen. Larry Craig announced his retirement (which he has still not acted upon, incidentally) after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct in an airport men’s room at a press conference surrounded by his entire family. There is a functional reason that the wives and family members of these men were present. No one was going to ask Gov. Spitzer anything specific about the sexual misconduct with his wife at his side. And every politician’s worst nightmare is to be asked an embarrassing question about sexual misconduct with the cameras rolling. There is no good answer. It would make the humiliation of the powerful politician complete. But, there is a moral reason why the wives and family members should be excused from this gruesome ritual. They did not do anything wrong. Nor were they elected to the kind of office that results in one’s sexual sins being the subject of a televised press conference. It is cowardice that makes these men hide behind their wives and family to avoid the grilling the press corps would like to deliver. It is not clear whether or not Gov. Spitzer will stay in office. And, I have no opinion as to whether he should resign because of the underlying charges. But, perhaps he should consider resigning for forcing his wife to stand at his side as he confessed a sin (and likely a crime) that he undertook all on his own. Michael Sean Winters
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10 years 7 months ago
Is Hillary going to show solidarity with the NY governor's wife or is she going to keep silent about it (while silently hoping she doesn't lose another superdelegate vote)?
10 years 7 months ago
I had not considered the morality of dragging innocent family members through news conferences as a way of diverting unpleasant questions. This is an excellent point, and I thank you for raising it.

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