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Miserable Failure


I think we can say Eliot Spitzer stayed loyal to state products—it was a New York-based call-girl ring he used—but he was disloyal to the people of the state and most painfully of all, to his wife.

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standards I expected of myself.”

He may have been sincere. I expect he was.

But after-the-fact apologies are the occasional consequence of an it’s-better-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission mentality. There’s always the chance you won’t get caught and won’t have to cop to your culpability.

His marital infidelity showed faithlessness to his constituency as well. And when does faithlessness ever bring about anything other than heartbreak?

So New Yorkers, and maybe especially the women of New York, are left asking the sorry, clichéd questions: Are all politicians liars? Do all men cheat?

We would rather have these questions debunked by anecdote and incident rather than further ballasted by the facts.

But it is, sadly, all too familiar a picture: another brilliant woman standing behind the man who shamed her. Silda Wall Spitzer has been drafted into the unfortunate rank of women whose men have caused them staggering personal hurt and painful public scrutiny.

And, pity for her, it’s her actual endurance in standing by her man that some voices are assailing. Blogs galore are filled with sharply worded reproaches: She should not have shown up for the press conference. She should leave the bastard. She should tell him she wants to keep the Mansion. Morals maven Dr. Laura Schlessinger weighed in, allowing as to how women bear some of the blame for cheating men—which I think is probably true sometimes. I think infidelity is sometimes as comprehensible as Spitzer’s was reprehensible.

Because, pity for him, he can’t even protest to his wife that he was ‘really in love.’ That she wasn’t spending enough time with him so he found someone else who wanted to listen to him and care for him. He simply doesn’t have that out. “Kristen” and “George Fox” were complete strangers to each other and this was just about sex.

Ah, “just about sex!” Is that supposed to make it better? Doesn’t it really make it worse? Sure, it may have been purse-pinching just-about-sex for Governor Spitzer. But I’d wager—oh, just about everything—that it wasn’t just-about-sex to his wife.

And I don’t think there is a woman in New York state—and maybe many men, too—who doesn’t grieve for Silda, including the ones who are telling her to give him the old heave-ho.

Yet the last thing any woman wants is to be pitied. Ever. No woman wants to feel that 50 isn’t as good as 30 for the man who says he loves her. No woman wants to be caressed by hands that have caressed somebody else’s body. No woman wants to fear that her husband can’t travel for business without trolling—sparing no cost—for just-about-sex. I mean, where does that stop?

Because it’s never just-about-sex for the victim’s of a spouse’s infidelity. And for those brave or foolish or scared enough to stand by their men, there are never easy answers.

No man is likely to say, “I did it because I’m a selfish prick,” even though odds are good that’s what the woman is thinking.

So many women have stood in Silda Wall Spitzer’s shoes and at their man’s side. But the unanswered question of ‘why?’ always hangs in the air. So that beyond assailing the heart and body, infidelity assails the mind with maddening self-doubt and self- righteous anger both. It leads to self-pity and paranoia.

Infidelity leaves scars. While the Spitzers may be able to rehab their marriage and to retool his political career, they won’t be starting from scratch anymore. They can only start from scarred.

Even as it can’t have been just-about-sex for his wife, it isn’t just-about-sex for New Yorkers, either.

The initial tendency—once you get past the it-can’t-be-true part—is to try to rationalize it as a temporary madness or business-as-usual for the man in power, or a moral infraction made large by media. But the sad truth is that even if it is all of these things, it is not only these things. Just as Eliot Spitzer has broken covenant with his wife, he has broken covenant with New Yorkers.

He has armed the Republican party for years to come. He has imperiled his senator’s presidential campaign. He has shown himself to be sublimely hypocritical, to the sorrow of those who supported him, voted for him, welcomed him to Albany and believed him to be a man of high moral mettle who would bring political renewal and change.

He has played Santa to the religious right wing, giving them still more reasons to paint New Yorkers and Democrats as morally tainted, liberal wackos disrespecting marriage, licensing illegal aliens and trafficking in the flesh. Sad to say, on the last one Eliot Spitzer is guilty as charged.

This isn’t a victimless crime. New Yorkers have been betrayed.

And this emperor has no clothes.

—Jo Page

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