Atlantic Monthly

A Mayflower Compact

DC’s Mayflower Hotel was grimly quiet last night, dulled by a silence befitting the undertakers‘ convention it happened to be hosting, or a wake for the political career of its most famous guest in the last month, Eliot Spitzer. In the bar, guests sank into velvet cushions and speculated loudly about what a $4300-prostitute looks like. But their conversation eventually wandered back to other matters, and before long the bar had no reminder of the Mayflower’s newest notoriety, other than a single news crew outside the window, and a CNN ticker about a “DC hotel” in the background on the TV, with sound and subtitles conspicuously off.

Spitzer has taken the first blows in what promises to be a long gauntlet of indignities. Today reporters are after him, and he delivered a statement whose very wording one could have predicted, Kreskin-style (“I must now dedicate some time to …my family”). This stage of the gauntlet is pillow-fighting compared to what the prosecutors have in store: They may charge him with financial crimes and violations of the splendidly named Mann Act.

But the indignities are not only his. There is the indignity of having strangers wonder if your body is really worth $4300 — which, incidentally, is well over what Spitzer makes in a week, before taxes, as governor — and of knowing that it’s just a matter of time before your picture’s in the news, and the public gets to decide for itself. (That said, “Kristen” sounds undeluded about the nature of her work, and if that’s so, it’s tough to see why she shouldn’t be able to sell herself at a price of her choosing.) And there is the indignity of being a resident of New York, and knowing that for now, anyway, the moralizing loudmouth at the center of your politics is nothing but a hypocrite and a jerk.

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