I was among those who were shocked and thoroughly dismayed by the report that Eliot Spitzer had been busted for frequenting a prostitution service. I also should admit that dismay can turn to laughter very quickly when you start following the story in the blogosphere, not least at the Wonkette. If you go there, you can peruse some of the advertisements from the Guv’s high end whore house, otherwise known as The Emperor’s Club. (Did someone forget to tell Eliot that he’s a governor, not an emperor?) Spitzer deserves to be the the butt of every single joke that is made in the next year, but that’s not why I’m writing today.
As usual, some bystanders will have been hurt as well. If Hillary Clinton is one of them, you can understand why she might be really, really tired of this kind of news. Tired of, but not as sad as Silda Spitzer.
Photojournalism provides a record of the art, rituals, and performances of political theater. This photo is one of many that we can classify as portraits of the political wife. I saw the image for the first time yesterday afternoon and it stayed with me through the rest of the day and into the evening. Whenever I thought of some aspect of the scandal, I soon would be back to her standing there, taking the hit. Eyes down, hands behind her back, face and neck exposed to the camera’s glare, she is a picture of vulnerability. The contrast with him is all too telling: his stance remains combative, and although caught in the glare of publicity he’s still maneuvering, still fending off his opponents while protected by a lecturn that bears the great seal like a shield.
Although close beside him, she appears to be a study in isolation. She could be a statue, and one that surely would be able to represent not only loss and grief but also duty and loyalty. That probably should be admired for what it is; I also look forward to the day when the ritual changes and the emperor has to stand there alone. But that is not this day. She has chosen to stand beside him, however far away she may wish to be. Her response is not to fight back but to reflect, perhaps to think about how she got here, or what she still can hold on to, or just to remember better days. Perhaps she might be remembering a day like this:
She’s even wearing the same pearls.
Photographs by Patrick Andrade/New York Times; Jim McKnight/Associated Press.