The general problem with the media's coverage of Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner has been the near-fanatical assumption that people care whether their politicians have morally upstanding sex lives. Thus, the news that Spitzer or Weiner is doing well in the polls is greeted with shock or surprise or handwringing about what it says about today's electorate. Now, certainly there are some people out there who really, truly care whether Silda Spitzer has given her blessing to Eliot Spitzer's run for government office. These are no doubt the same Democrats who like to mock Republicans for trying to barge into people's bedrooms, but see it as their business to seek out information about whether, say, the Spitzers still live together. But I don't think there are very many of them. And the ones who do exist should continue to get their political news from People magazine and leave the rest of us in peace.
This problem, however, is what explains stories like the one in today's New York Times about Silda Spitzer. The paper chose to run the piece on the front page, despite its having absolutely no news value. (It's also painful to read). The piece is so strained largely because it forces itself to make a story out of a bunch of non-news. Such as:
When he announced his unlikely return to political life, Mr. Spitzer said the approval of his wife, a stalwart presence in his previous campaigns, was essential before he chose to pursue a potentially career-salvaging run for New York City comptroller.
But so far Ms. Wall Spitzer has been all but invisible, issuing no statement of support and not once appearing at her husband’s side. It is a stark contrast from her days trekking to Niagara Falls and Buffalo to rally voters to his cause.
Then there is this:
Still, Ms. Wall Spitzer’s unwillingness to play the public role of forgiving spouse has complicated her husband’s message and added a dose of dissonance to a campaign that Mr. Spitzer had hoped would follow the familiar arc of political resurrection.
“She is going to be an important part of evaluating the credibility of his candidacy,” said Matthew Hiltzik, a communications executive and former Democratic strategist. “If she even provides minimal public support, that could go a long way.”
Perhaps Hiltzik is merely commenting on how he views the thought process of voters, but remind me again how the personal decisions of Silda Spitzer, who should be able to go about her own life in any way she sees fit, reflect on the "credibility" of Eliot Spitzer, and whether he can perform well in his job? If New Yorkers really do evaluate credibility, whatever that means, in this way, they should be asked by the Times to explain their views.
The piece concludes, as it must, with a story about of how wonderful Silda Spitzer is:
She has not lost the sense of humor that helped sustain her after her husband’s resignation. When she was hired...at a hedge fund in 2008, just as the economy was collapsing, her new colleagues often wrung their hands about the upheaval in the stock market. Ms. Wall Spitzer, months removed from her husband’s scandal, would laugh.
“Ah, this is nothing!” she told them.
This hardly even qualifies as a joke, which is not the fault of Silda Spitzer. But all these pieces about wronged wives must end with stories about how wonderful they are. What we need are fewer of these stories, and less interest in pointless questions about whether the Spitzers still love each other.
Isaac Chotiner is a senior editor at The New Republic. Follow him @IChotiner.