Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Out of Albany

I was putting on sparkly pink blusher in Sephora on Lexington Avenue and 58th street with Little Babe when HOBB showed up to escort our youngest home from his nearby dental appointment so I could attend my client's gala dinner at the nearby Harmonie Club.

I was surveying the effect of the irridescent powder on my cheeks when HOBB asked me if I had heard about our governor, Eliot Spitzer. No, I shrugged, blending in the make-up, wondering if I also needed some undereye concealer to revitalize my late afternoon face before heading over to the cocktail party.

Regarding me as one would regard someone who just asked, "Barack who?" HOBB broke the news that the entire world has been trying to digest ever since yesterday afternoon: the tough on prostitution, former DA, married, Jewish, seemingly squeaky clean and moralizing father of three, not to mention GOVERNOR OF FREAKING NEW YORK STATE had solicited the services of a high-price call girl. For a chunk of change. In our nation's capital.

Within hours, Eliot Spitzer would be known by a variety of media-appointed monikers: The Luv Gov; Eliot Mess; "John" Spitzer; and most infamously, Client #9.

Late night television was just given a treasure trove of material for the foreseeable future, rich compensation for the previous months' writers strike.

Fresh from my revelation at Sephora, I ran over to the Harmonie Club where the temptation of loshon hara* was largely and admirably avoided, though each kiss-kiss greeting was accompanied by a "can you believe it?"

And in truth, no, I could not believe it.

Nor could anyone, judging from the utter monopoly this story had over the news. Returning home just before 11, I joined HOBB on our couch where we filled our brains with punditry and politicians and pronouncements and porn of a sort we are not used to seeing.

The pornography of the disintegration of high profile public life.

Headline news that out-tabloids the tabloids.

A scandal that hearkens back to the good old days of Boss Tweed.

Tragedy cloaked in titillation.

Stating the obvious: this particular scandal is built on the backs of private people, Spitzer's family, in particular his wife Silda, his three daughters and his parents.

Seeing Silda standing by his side at his press conference replayed scenes of wives past (Dina, Hillary, Mrs. Craig, et alia) standing stoically next to their disgraced spouses, knowing that the entire world is secretly wondering just what sexual defect they might harbor that drove their husbands into the arms of a hooker/intern/guy in the next bathroom stall, wondering why they are even publicly supporting the SOB, wondering where their self-esteem is.

And his poor parents. Just as we harbor high hopes for our children, so, too, we squelch our fears for their future. Of all the horrific scenarios to dread as a parent, surely, "my son the Governor of New York who solicited high-priced hookers at a DC hotel," is up there in the Hall of Parental Shame.

Right beneath, "my son the murderer."

It is the morning after the revelation of the scandal and this story has pushed out anything else in the news. It is front and center, occupying pages and pages of newsprint and valuable cyber real estate. The reasons for this story's power are obvious and this is hardly a case of a tempest in a tea pot.

This scandal is the Katrina of contemporary American politics.

But the thing about it is that it just doesn't make rational sense. The ultra-sordid particulars, the paper trail, the money, the illegality all point to a Catch Me If You Can impulse that is based not in defiance but pathology.

Or maybe both.

With a little bit of magical thinking or invincibility.

Plus a touch of desperation.

At the end of the day, the Eliot Spitzer Sex Scandal is not really about sex.

And aside from what further scandalous details might yet emerge, Part Two of the saga will be the revelation of why Eliot Spitzer chose to end his public career this terrible way.

*gossip, literally, evil speech

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