A Ku Indeed!

Spitzer Again: WWCD?

Posted in Analects, Chinese Philosophy, Politics by Chris on March 13, 2008

I’ve come across a number of pieces on the web, and shows on television, that bring up the issue of Spitzer’s wife standing next to him as he gives his press conferences (both the one where he acknowledged his prostitute issue and his resignation one). A difference of opinion has emerged in the commentary.

1. Spitzer’s wife is a worse prostitute than the one he slept with (I heard similar claims made about Hillary Clinton after Monica Lewinsky). She’s in it for the power and the prestige, money, etc. Here, there is no self-respecting position that doesn’t have her cursing him out and filing the divorce papers while he’s in the middle of his press conference.

2. Spitzer’s wife is demonstrating a commitment to family. She’s not happy one bit,  but she is standing by the marriage through what might turn out to be the toughest battle it’s ever gone through.

So I was thinking all the while…what would Confucius advise? Would he say that Spitzer’s wife should refuse to stand with him? Or divorce him? Or stand by him? Some other option?

Any guesses (with Analects to back it up, if you’ve got em’)?


5 Responses

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  1. Mark said, on March 13, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    2.17: “To know what you know and know what you don’t know – this then is wisdom.”

    I don’t know Spitzer. I don’t know Spitzer’s wife. I cannot examine their motivations or really see what their actions are outside of what the media tells us, so I can’t speculate, you know? I think that’s how Confucius would respond.

  2. Chris said, on March 13, 2008 at 5:53 pm


    LOL — that’s probably true.

    But I was thinking more in terms of the larger point, for the sake of argument. Clearly Confucius does give general advice, or at the least he’ll say “well, I could surely see where X might be appropriate in certain circumstances.” Some argue that there really aren’t any circumstances where it might be right for a wife to stand next to her husband in this kind of situation without her turning into a wimp or a prostitute herself (pimping out her dignity for gain, say). On the other hand, some argue that it may well be a proper response — that it is conceivable that a good, non-self-deceived wife might act this way, and rightly so.

    That’s more what I’m wondering about — is the wife, from a Confucian standpoint, led to refuse to stand on the stage.

  3. Manyul Im said, on March 13, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Mark and Chris,

    Here’s more knowledge of Silda Wall Spitzer for you; maybe it helps in thinking through this (from an AP news story on yahoo: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080314/ap_on_re_us/spitzer_wife;_ylt=Agf1c9p9vDImfsckii9rY0Cs0NUE):

    Silda Wall, a hard-charging, young associate lawyer in Manhattan with the brightest of futures, married Eliot Spitzer in 1987, but she became Silda Wall Spitzer only in 2006, as he was running for governor. The bow to the tradition of taking the husband’s last name, the way Hillary Rodham added Clinton to hers, was thought to play better in more conservative upstate.

    Wall Spitzer gave interviews about collecting jellies and jams, and tasted regional cuisines of the state. The traditional governor’s wife stories were almost painful to those who knew the self-assured woman who could stifle Spitzer with a mere glance over the breakfast table.

    Behind the scenes, she played a more familiar role. She would step in at critical junctures, when Spitzer’s famously small inner circle of Ivy League male lawyers wasn’t enough.

    When the iron-jawed, tough-talking attorney general had to trade subpoena power for political diplomacy, it was Wall Spitzer who told him he needed to soften up. She helped shape and edit some of the television ads widely credited as the best tool in Spitzer’s campaign, showing New Yorkers a soft-focus version of Eliot Spitzer. Instead of the fast-talking Ivy League son of a millionaire who often used legal jargon, he was the caring father speaking quietly about the needs of children and the elderly.

    In Manhattan, Spitzer’s skull sessions with advisers were often on weekends and late at night in their Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park. Silda was there, giving and getting. But she wouldn’t focus solely on law, although she knew it; or on policy, although she knew how to shape it.

    She found out about the prostitution ring on Sunday. Her first recommendation was to fight.

    “He thought he should resign from the very beginning,” one close aide said. “It was really family and others’ suggestion that he should hang on.”

  4. Chris said, on March 14, 2008 at 6:20 am


    Thanks for the link. I read the rest of the Yahoo piece, and I think it actually contains more in the rest of the story that’s central to the question, so I urge others to click in and read it.

    Still, I think at least two questions are important (when sorting through this information):

    1. What is the role of a spouse?
    2. When is public remonstration necessary or acceptable?

    I wonder whether at some point (I’m sure of it, actually) the requirement for keji (self-overcoming) included in (1) puts limitations on (2) at least with respect to certain motivational patterns that might lead one towards public remonstration.

  5. Million said, on March 16, 2008 at 12:28 am


    As much as this has turned into a public affair I’m not convinced that it’s the only way to look at Spitzer’s “mess.” The Analects points out a lot of things on the personal side that would influence this discussion too.

    First, there’s the instance of “Straightbody.” C seems to emphasize protecting family above the law. While there was a personal betrayal here there is also a degree of backlash from the public as well. Certainly, there is some incentive for his wife to stand by him while dealing with the public at large.

    There’s also the issue of love. If the relationship is still good – albeit with some problems – then there would be an extra incentive for her to stay too. This is largely personal as well.

    On the other side of things his wife might be able to interpret C’s passage about “giving up” because he has not met someone who loves “virtue as much as beauty” in the opposite way. She could take her husbands actions, contrast it with the passage that tells you not to have a friend who is not equal to yourself, and pack up. Because he isn’t virtuous, and because in many ways the spouse is a best friend, then his wife would have some personal reasons to leave.

    I’m not sure but there seems to be arguments for each side

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