Columns 2008

The moral turpitude perp walk

I think I will spit up if I have to see the picture one more time – a seemingly contrite politician who has been caught with his pants down apologizing for his betrayal of the public and his family’s trust. And behind him, circles under her eyes, grim expression on her face, stands his wife.  Why, if she isn’t an accomplice, does she have to do the perp walk with him? Why, when he has already embarrassed and humiliated her in the worse way possible, is she now expected to publicly stand by her man and become a victim twice violated?

Just once I’d like to see the scumbag who betrayed her NOT ask her to be by his side. Just once I’d like to see her spared the public humiliation following the private devastation.

Barring that, then just once I’d like to see her reach her hands up to his throat as he makes his pathetic announcement of shame and disappointment in his behavior and have her throttle him until he wets himself in public. Then it would seem at least a little fairer.

I don’t have any doubt as to why the men in these situations ask their wives to stand by them. I think it’s clear that they have an extremely inflated opinion of themselves as somehow being above and outside the laws that govern us mere mortals.  When you have that kind of bloated ego, there is no question that you would assume that your wife will stand beside you no matter what. These men figure that in America there is always a second act and theirs will be easier if they can convince their wives to be loyal to them.

But my real question is what are these women thinking? Or are they thinking at all? If you look at the pictures of Mrs. Spitzer, she looks like someone in such shock that she doesn’t yet realize where she is or what she’s doing. Maybe someone pushed her onstage and she just went where they pointed…the good little wife of a powerful politician. Otherwise, why would she be out there on that podium being publicly shamed by the fact that her husband doesn’t feel she’s enough woman for him.

Check out pictures of Hillary Clinton during Bill’s public mea culpa. She has a look in her eye that should have caused Bill to sleep with the door securely locked and as many secret service people as possible surrounding him. Hillary doesn’t look abashed or humiliated. She looks very, very mad. If a woman chooses to go public with her husband during this kind of bad time, that’s at least a better look.

There was a time when men indulged in this behavior with impunity because of an unwritten agreement with the media to close their eyes to what was going on. This is probably the only thing that kept Jackie Kennedy from the humiliation of the same sad fate. But ever since Gary Hart, the gloves have been off and any politician worth his salt knows that his peccadilloes are fair game for press coverage. And the press has figured out they should most closely scrutinize those who protest the loudest about the sad level of morals in this country. It seems that the louder the politicians’ scream against homosexuality, promiscuity and drugs, the more likely they are to be indulging in all three.

Last week I wrote a column about a powerful woman in this state. There is probably not a snowball’s chance in hell that we will ever see the First Dude standing beside her as she admits to illegal acts of infidelity.  (Well, honestly, where would she find the time?) But the fact is I don’t know of any instance in which we have had a female politician doing the moral turpitude perp walk with her husband by her side. It’s an area in which I hope women never catch up with men.

My dream is that no woman is ever again asked to stand by her husband’s side while her humiliation becomes the subject of late night comics. But if the inevitable occurs, I hope the men can find enough honor to leave their wives out of it. And women, if you feel obligated to stand by their side, at least take a page from Hillary’s book and give him a look that makes it clear his public penance is nothing compared to what he’s about to pay privately.