Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Governing the Ungovernable

My resumé includes a couple of years working in the Albany legislature and several as a presumed sex expert, so I feel more than qualified to comment on the Eliot Spitzer mess. Women on TV talk shows are worrying aloud if all husbands stray, and if his wife should stand by him or not. My answers: probably, and I don't care.

Elected officials depend on the approbation of others not only to get into positions of power, but also to stay there. Regardless of their political leanings, their egos are monstrous, and always need to be stroked with exactly the kinds of strokes they like. And people of great accomplishment, like Spitzer, are likely to feel that the usual rules don't apply to them.

That's why Albany hotels are filled with trysts paid and unpaid when the Assembly is in session. It's why Bill got into trouble with Monica. Two or four or six years is apparently just too long to keep it zipped.

Especially for someone whose sexual tastes don't run to the vanilla. There's a high level of prurient interest in the Spitzer case because people are wondering what would make a prostitute worth $4,300 an hour. Easy: he can ask her to do things he either can't bring himself to ask his wife to do, or she's already said no to. If those activities are on the "special" price list, he gets charged more. It's a simple transaction with complicated results.

Some of the people I have loved most in my life have had unbearable urges that they felt shame about and had great difficulty sharing. But when they did, they admitted that once they'd enjoyed the satisfaction of their specific desires, nothing less would really do.

Powerful, dominant men are well known for their apparently paradoxical desire to be dominated and humiliated in private. It makes sense to me: where else are you going to be able to not run things?

I have no idea what Spitzer's particular peccadillo is, though I'm sure a battalion of tabloid reporters is interviewing prostitutes far and wide to find out. And I don't think he's been a particularly effective governor. But I don't agree with the woman who told Maureen Dowd that this would never happen with a woman president. Women are just better at convincing themselves that they're not interested in sex (which society has a vested interest in them doing).

I wouldn't want a woman in the White House who'd disport herself with the Rose Garden greenskeeper. But I'd sure appreciate having someone there with enough of a twinkle in her eye that you couldn't rule it out.

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