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I couldn't agree more with Katha Pollitt on this sex scandal, which I'll admit I'm enjoying to the utmost. The expectation that a political wife must subject herself to the sort of humiliating charade that Silda Spitzer has undegone of late is deeply sexist. The only thing worse is Spitzer's lack of integrity when he failed, knowing as he must that he was doomed as a politician, to look us in the eye and ask what was so wrong with the fact that he paid for sex. As Pollitt says, only in America.

Douglas Presler

Minneapolis, MN

Mar 20 2008 - 10:06am

Web Letter

You mean Spitzer's relationship with the prostitution ring started after he stopped being the attorney general who was most famous for prosecuting prostitutes?

This was not part of his investigations? One report says he has been involved for ten years, even longer than he pursued Bill Gates! Bill Gates was guilty! Spitzer convicted more prostitutes than the FBI!

No wonder they are after him!

Greg Utrecht

San Diego, CA

Mar 14 2008 - 6:23pm

Web Letter

Laura Schlessinger and Phyllis Schlafly were separated at birth, but there's a nugget of truth buried deep in her right-wing fundamentalist assessment of Silda Spitzer's alleged shortcomings as a sex partner to the fallen governor.

The sex-focused romance of a courtship and marriage very often, if not usually, dissipates once children enter the picture, assuming the mother is intimately bonded to her offspring and takes a hands-on role in nurturing her new infant. In my case, after ten years of romantic attachment to my wife, when it was "just the two of us," the birth of our first child rendered frequent love-making an afterthought, and occasional sex a special event. As she shifted her focus physically (through extended breast feeding) and emotionally to our son and sharply away from, in Dr. Schlesinger's phrase, "meeting my needs," I had the perennial choice: adjust those needs according to the "new order" of things in our household, suck it up and "grow up," or gradually consider meeting my needs elsewhere.

Since many if not most middle- and upper-class white men in our culture grow up attached to their mommies as primary caregiver and protector, this primal expectation commonly extends into adulthood, especially when the man, despite his advancing age, physical and professional maturation, often remains an emotional adolescent. Since he irrationally believes that his "priceless" marital commitment entitles him to on-demand sex unencumbered by his wife's moods or stresses, it's indeed the rare man who can easily tolerate the phenomenon of being displaced--let alone replaced--in his wife's affections by a newborn child or children. The pain of that displacement, and the anger and resentment it can ignite, sets many a guy on the path to some form of infidelity, often without regard to the relative risks or consequences to his loved ones. After all, there is a solid basis for the widely held criticism of so many men in our culture, " Your brain's in the head of your d**k!"

Every indication from press stories--what do they really know about it?--is that the Spitzer's have a "real marriage," which I presume is a shot across the bow of the Clinton "fake" marriage, which seems more like an LLC since the Monica fiasco, although Bill was a serial cheater long before Lewinsky (remember Gennifer Flowers?). Since according to the wags, Silda Spitzer is a "real" wife and mom to three young daughters, her public humiliation at the hands of her philandering husband seems all the more tragic and undeserved. Hidden in this scenario, however, is the perhaps more complex reality of Mrs. Spitzer's decision to sideline her own potentially high-powered career in favor of her husband's.

Did this create any festering resentment in Silda that could easily manifest itself over time in sexual distance or detachment? Did the presence of four females in his household, he being the sole male provider/"hunter-protector," create any distorted emotions, resentments or irrational expectations on the governor's part? Did his silver-spoon, privileged childhood and education create a distorted expectation of immediate gratification, where time spent with young, gorgeous, compliant hookers was both an understandable escape from the intense pressures of his public career and a momentary return to the carefree excitement and pleasures of his college days (how many of us can relate to that?) Is it possible the demands of his career--the extended workday, 24/7 availability, constant phone calls, trips away from home--may have caused him over time to become distant from his wife, at least when it came to emotional and physical intimacy? What was the basis, if any, for the early press reports after the scandal broke that she was urging him not to resign? Why would she take such a position... for the sake of her kids feelings or social standing, or for some other reason? These and numerous other truly private questions can't be easily answered by either the likes of Dr. Schlessinger or Ms. Pollitt or me or anyone else not directly inside that family.

What can be said is that Governor Spitzer, as Ms. Pollitt points out, acted recklessly and stupidly in his funding of these trysts. I agree with Alan Dershowitz on very little, but in this case, he's made an insightful point. The idea that these funds--since it was brought to light, a relatively small sum of several thousand dollars (as opposed to the much larger amount Spitzer may have spent across the past several years)--were uncovered by routine banking, due diligence is a crock, another fairytale fed to the press. Someone with an ax to grind, and that could have been any player on Wall Street, "dropped a dime" on Spitzer to the Feds. Nevertheless, he made it so easy for them with the stunningly overt and clueless financial transactions used to arrange and pay for these multiple schtuppings. His arrogance, rank hypocrisy and pathetic lack of judgment brought him down. Why Mrs. Spitzer chose to join him in his mea culpa, and why he allowed her to appear, are more mysterious questions, and ultimately none of our damn business.

Stewart Braunstein

Deerfield Beach, FL

Mar 14 2008 - 2:07pm