Eliot Spitzer, of course, is not a “regular” person as the term is understood, so any advice to him and his family would be different from, say, advising a gentleman arrested in a cathouse in Omaha. Make no mistake. Many Regular Joes have been caught out publicly, but the national televised “gotcha” is reserved for either politicians or those who are enormously rich. His bad luck, soon-to-be former Governor Spitzer is both.
I was surprised, during his brief, televised press conference Wednesday morning, that he did not announce that he was on his way to a treatment center for sex addiction. This is often the first step of prominent men who get caught. It is a way of both wishing to be seen as dealing with “the problem,” and it also gives the wife a way to stand by her man without looking totally victimized. He is going to get well, you see, and who walks out on a sick husband? A Spitzer announcement may soon come that he is on his way to the sex addicts’ wing of a pricey rehab clinic.
I would probably recommend that after Eliot S. goes through a 12-step program for sex addiction that he considers an anger management course. It seems the man has relational problems with just about everyone. When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized Spitzer’s plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, Spitzer exploded at his erstwhile ally: "He is wrong at every level--dead wrong, factually wrong, legally wrong, morally wrong, ethically wrong."
Another possibility for dealing with Spitzer’s downfall was hinted at in the declaration he made that he would resign from office, wherein he also said adieu to public life. To make amends, as well as to try to dim the image of the unseen but presumably lovely Kristen, it would be a constructive move to turn his attention to Good Works, a.k.a. philanthropy. Michael Milken, who actually went to the clink, is now quite respectable, thanks to his foundation. I would think this is about the best thing Spitzer could do. Or he could follow Jimmy Hoffa’s lead when he was released from prison. The former Teamster honcho talked a great deal about prison reform. This, of course, was prior to his disappearance, so there wasn’t really time for him to actually start an organization devoted to improving prisons. In Spitzer’s case, he might consider rehabilitating sex workers, as I believe they are called these days. I, myself, believe that prostitution should be decriminalized, but it would not behoove the governor to make that his cause. It would probably look self-serving.
Mr. Spitzer, in addition to loss of his job and potential legal troubles, faces the difficult issue of Mrs. Spitzer. Or so one would think. It has been reported, however, that she encouraged him to hang on and try to stay in office. Although David Letterman suggested that she seek a divorce immediately, she has thus far chosen to stand by her husband’s side--twice, actually. First, when he made his public acknowledgment that he has “disappointed and failed to live up the standard I expected of myself,” and on Wednesday, when he announced his resignation. This suggests to me that she is supremely understanding, or as they might have said in Damon Runyon’s day, a tough cookie.
Why these men trot out their wives for the cameras is beyond me. I most recently think of poor Suzanne Craig. What is there for these shamed spouses to do but look crestfallen? What does their presence say, anyway? “I forgive you?” “It’s OK with me?” “Is this what they meant by ‘for better or for worse’?” I would certainly never advise a wife to accompany her husband on such an errand, mostly because, I, myself, would not do it. I would instead head for the nearest spa with my return time to be determined. The only instance, now that I think about it, where a wife’s presence had a salutary effect at such a difficult moment was when Hillary Clinton stepped up to the plate for Bill. In hindsight, it appears that maybe she had her reasons, but I don’t doubt that love was one of them. The unspoken issue, of course, when a betrayed wife is exposed is: Why couldn’t she keep him interested at home? This is totally unfair. Silda Wall Spitzer happens to be sexy, smart, and savvy. It is important for people to understand that a man who will patronize call girls for a decade is not comparing them to his wife. He is not thinking about his wife.
The children are the real collateral damage here. Three teenage girls, yet. Why couldn’t they have been toddlers? (Come to think of it, they were toddlers when the shenanigans allegedly began. Oh well, rotten timing.) The only way these kids could suffer privately would be to change schools, along with their names. So, I would recommend therapy and perhaps talking to some now adult children who have lived through this. The LBJ daughters, Caroline Kennedy, and Chelsea Clinton come to mind. Their lives today would show the Spitzer girls that these things blow over. Well, they kinda blow over. Their relationship with their father, if not men as a species, will certainly be conflicted down the line. As a married woman, though, I identify most with Spitzer's wife. Not everyone could get over this. I have a hunch that she can. He may have to do penance for while, including a quick trip to Cartier and regular appointments with a psychiatrist, but few things are so broken they can't be fixed. Forgiveness for major infractions brings with it endless gratitude from the forgiven. (The forgivee?) Sometimes this is enough to rejuvenate a marriage.
As an advice columnist, I wish the Spitzers well. Their future as a family, of course, is still to be determined. If they subscribe to the concepts, I wish them both “closure” and “healing.” For the rest of you, I offer the remark of a friend: “He may have spent $80,000?! Very interesting. One more argument for monogamy.”
Margo Howard writes “Dear Margo” for Yahoo! News and Creators Syndicate.
By Margo Howard