Political Scandals: Basically Always the Wife’s Fault?

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Although it often feels like political couples operate as a unit, there’s only room for one person’s face on the laminated presidential place mat. That is, until someone abuses the power of his political office. Then, apparently, it's time to blame the conniving wife. According to the New York Times, ex-Virginia governor Bob McDonnell only stooped to (allegedly) shilling diet pills in order to satisfy his wife’s appetite for Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton, and Rolexes to engrave and then give back to him as gifts.

“In a 43-page federal indictment of the McDonnells, charging them with aiding a Virginia businessman in exchange for cash and designer baubles, prosecutors portray Ms. McDonnell as the person whose desires for luxury items led the couple to use the governor’s office to promote a contributor’s dietary supplement business.”

Same thing with Jesse Jackson Jr.: yes, it was his campaign’s fund from which he withdrew $750,000, but wife Sandi was the one who told him to run in the first place, so clearly it's mostly her fault. Plus, she got some furs and cashmere out of it. And Newt Gingrich would probably be president right now if his third wife Callista hadn’t “insisted” Gingrich take out a $500,000 credit line at Tiffany and take her to Greece mid-campaign. According to the Times, these women are examples of “the political spouse whose own misjudgment and taste for luxury contribute to an office holder’s downfall.” The Times does make some effort to cast this phenomenon as gender-neutral, but fancy jewelry and expensive vacations are more fun to analyze than, say, Jeannine Pirro’s husband’s tax evasion.