By Sandra Kobrin
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
A governor's high-profile confession of using a prostitute should not require his wife's presence, says Sandra Kobrin. She's told her own husband that he's on his own if anything like this happens to him.
(WOMENSENEWS)-- As news of the "Eliot Mess" started to break on Monday, I looked at my husband and smiled.
"You know our deal," I reminded him. "If anything like this happens to you don't expect me to stand beside you and suffer public humiliation. You do something stupid like this, you're on your own."
Then we continued to watch Spitzer's press conference.
"It looks like she's reading his statement," my husband said, as he studied Silda Wall Spitzer's controlled response. He said her eyes were focused on her husband's script.
"Probably so," I answered. "I'm sure she was the last to know and is doing her best to know what's going on this time."
I, like everyone else, was stunned by the idea of New York State's Wall Street-busting crusading governor Eliot Spitzer apparently destroying his career by breaking the law and patronizing prostitutes.
On Wednesday, Spitzer resigned.
Many of us in the news business, or the political business or the business business spent the day waiting for news of his resignation, poring over the details of Spitzer's D.C. assignation and replaying what may have been the world's briefest press conference.
But as we talked among ourselves my friends and fellow journalists were saying it's not just a question of what's wrong with him. We' were also asking "What's up with her? What is she doing standing there by his side at the press conference?"
"Governor's Wife Stands by Her Man" was one of AOL's rotating home page headlines Tuesday. "Would You Do the Same Thing?"
Our answer: an unequivocal no. We all agree we're suddenly tired of seeing the silent woman standing by.
In every case, of course, it's the particular wife's personal business how she sorts the matter out. But why should she appear at the face-to-face with the cameras' glare? That seems to send the message that good wives are expected to put up with far too much.
As my colleagues, my family and I pored over the coverage Tuesday, one thing that popped out here was that "client 9"--the new moniker for the man once known as the Sheriff of Wall Street--was sometimes considered "difficult," for the prostitutes at the Emperor's Club, a high-end brothel where Spitzer had an account.
In the smoking tape made of the phone call between the prostitute and her "booker" after the encounter the booker said "client number 9" sometimes asked for things that weren't always that "safe."
The mind reels. In Victorian novels when asterisks are put in the place of curse words the reader spends much more time wondering what the real words might have been--and probably coming up with worse--than if they'd been spelled out. Thoughts of all kinds of kinky sex went through my mind.
But another colleague offered a possibility at once more obvious and more serious: condoms. Perhaps, she said, it meant that Spitzer refused to use a condom.
If so, then he's put his wife in danger as well as the high-priced sex workers he apparently regularly patronizes. All of them should be seeking medical attention and testing, if they haven't already.
A friend told me that her feelings about women who stand by their men are somewhat mixed. While she admires loyalty and being a friend in need, she doesn't like the idea that dishonest men are worth putting up with.
But when the question of condoms and safe sex came up she says she suddenly got the point. In this case the wife should have been given a doctor's excuse to miss the photo session.
Why is it that our society is repulsed with lying and dishonesty in a public capacity but accepts lying and dishonesty in a marriage?
There are editorials flying and talking heads screaming for Spitzer's resignation, but there's no one screaming, "Hey Silda, walk away from that lying dirt bag who put your health at risk and your reputation in the toilet! Take the money and run. You'll do fine on your own."
Silda Wall Spitzer is a Harvard-educated lawyer and the founder and chair of the board of New York-based Children for Children, a nonprofit organization that fosters community involvement and social responsibility in young people. She has three daughters ranging in age from 14 to 18.
Well listen up Silda. You are entitled to your own decisions but you and your daughters don't have to stay.
In any event, please don't let Hillary Clinton be your role model, even if your husband has endorsed her candidacy.
Yesterday, the presidential contender told reporters she was sending her best wishes and thoughts to the governor and to his family. Oh boy. I understand she didn't want to lose a possible super delegate but, puh-lease.
Clinton is used to public humiliation; she was a doormat when it came to her philandering husband and his infidelities since he was Arkansas governor.
In Carl Bernstein's recent book on Clinton, "A Woman in Charge," he writes that she really was the last to know the truth during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and livid when she found out.
In a 1992 interview, Clinton said she stayed with her husband because she loved and respected him. OK, but let's see if Silda Spitzer is also contemplating a run for office.
Even Dina Matos McGreevey, the still-in-a custody-battle wife of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, has piped up. The author of "Silent Partner" bore up through the press conferences when McGreevey's admitted a gay affair with a state employee and stood by him until he resigned three months later.
She says Silda is right to stand by her husband as she is protecting her daughters and shouldn't be criticized.
Bull. The best way to protect a daughter is to be a role model and despise lying and dishonesty and divest from it in public as well as private life.
Federal prosecutors rarely charge clients in prostitution cases, generally seen as state crimes.
But the 1910 Mann Act makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution, and the woman Spitzer met up with traveled from New York to Washington.
Someone on the Web site of the Feminist Law Professors says this might be raised in the context of legal quid pro quo for the so-called DC Madam, whose sex workers consorted with Republican Senator David Vitter last year. He is not on trial but her trial begins April 7.
"As the DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, is prosecuted in federal court for running a prostitution ring, it will be interesting to see how things develop with Governor Spitzer," writes a contributor on the Feminist Law Professors site. "One of the DC Madam's big gripes is that, though the government has the names and identities of plenty of her customers and *ahem* female contractors, only she--Deborah Jeane Palfrey--is being prosecuted."
In a press statement Tuesday, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International said the recent revelations about Spitzer demonstrate that men who sexually exploit women come from all walks of life.
"Sexual exploitation has no place in a society that values equality for girls and women," the statement read.
That's the kind of thing a good wife, mother and presidential candidate should be saying around now too.
Sandra Kobrin is a Los Angeles writer and columnist.
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The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International:
Intl. Herald Tribune: Transition in the Works for Spitzer's Departure:
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