THE PLANK MARCH 10, 2008
Today’s wiretap bombshell
implicating New York Governor
Eliot Spitzer in a prostitution sting could result in a resignation as
early as this evening, according to several sources. Spitzer’s likely
successor, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, would be only the third black
governor in American history, and the first blind one.
Paterson, who is totally blind in his left eye and has only partial sight in
his right, would join the handful of other blind politicians who have held positions
of national prominence.
Eugene Saulsy of Indiana
his sight at the turn of the last century, making him the first blind American
senator. Thomas Pryor Gore—grandfather of Gore Vidal—was blinded in a childhood
accident and later served three terms as the senator from the new state of Oklahoma. And the year
that Paterson won his current position, another blind
politician, Kristin Cox, ran for Lieutenant Governor in Maryland.
David Blunkett, a blind man who served as both Education Secretary and Home Secretary
under Tony Blair in Britain, wrote a series of diary entries published in the Guardian in 2006, ruminating on the experience of living and legislating in a sighted world.
One of the problems of not being able to see is
drinking orange juice
when there is a wasp in it. This happened to me. I had it in my mouth
and was about to chew it when something told me to spit it out. I did
so, but it stung me and my mouth, face, arms and hands all started to
swell. It was one of those frightening experiences when you think:
"There's no one around, what do I do?" Living on my own is sometimes
In many ways, not being able to see required me to
be much more alert and alive to what was going on around me, as well as knowing
when people wanted to intervene and being ready to sit down and allow them to
raise a question or make a point. It is possible to work out where someone is
most likely to be sitting. It is possible to know from their voice who they
are. Question time, which for departmental questions is once a month and lasts
for an hour, I always found easy. After all, the secretary of state has the
Bringing it all full-circle, Blunkett, perhaps today's most well-known blind
politician, was himself embroiled in a public sex scandal
when his married and pregnant mistress decided to end their three-year affair.
Blunkett was permitted to stay in Blair’s cabinet for a time, however, and returned to
remained in public service afterward--setting a precedent that perhaps preempts Paterson’s succession.