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N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer does the expected and resigns

March 12, 2008 |  8:46 am

Eliot Spitzer, the uncaped crusader who built a political career out of taking on all manner of legal miscreants, just resigned, effective Monday, as governor of New York after he was implicated as an alleged customer of a high-end call-girl ring.

"There is much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failing to disrupt the people's work," Spitzer said in a brief statement at his New York office. He will be replaced by Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, New York's first African American -- and blind -- governor.

There has been, and will be, lots of dissections of this dramatic fall of a political figure often compared to Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey, who also turned New York-based crusades for reform and against corruption into political careers. But they managed to avoid temptation, as it were.

Our colleagues Louise Roug, Jennie Jarvie and Stephanie Simon teamed up for a story in today's paper in an intriguing piece on reaction to Spitzer's wife, Silda, and her stoic stance at Spitzer's side Monday as he apologized for transgressions he did not detail but that were already leaking out. Apparently, Silda Spitzer was urging her husband not to resign. She was at his side just now.

Silda Spitzer isn't the first politician's wife to stand in the spotlight glare while her husband acknowledged a very personal betrayal. A bit of history in today's story:

The Spitzer apology followed the script established by New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey, who declared himself "a gay American" with his wife smiling at his side; Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who brought his wife with him on TV as he tried to explain away suggestive e-mails to his chief of staff; Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who admitted to "very serious sin" after his phone number was found in a madam's little black book; and Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, whose wife hid her face behind oversized sunglasses as he spoke of his arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover officer in an airport men's bathroom.
 
"That's what politicians' wives do," said Sherman Smith, 53, an accountant in Atlanta. "It's about wealth and power. She loses too if she abandons him."

Then there's perhaps the most famous stoic wife of them all -- Hillary Clinton, who stood by her man despite serial adulteries. As many women told our colleagues, that's a hard-to-fathom decision.

-- Scott Martelle

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