Before the Breaking Point

The Times goes behind the scenes of the Spitzer resignation

Today’s New York Times features a behind-the-scenes look at the days and hours Eliot Spitzer spent before delivering yesterday’s Press Conference Heard Round the World. The piece—part timeline, part investigative report—has the sometimes stilted feel of bullet points welded together, an incomplete, choppy quality that reflects, perhaps, the surreality of the days it describes. But it’s hard to fault the story for style when it reveals such small-but-telling details as the fact that, having just learned that his indiscretions had been found out—and would soon be known by his family, his staff, and the world—Spitzer boarded an Amtrak train to Washington to attend the Gridiron Dinner, a glad-handing event in which politicians and those in their orbit “pretend that politics is a grand fellowship.” And that he changed into the dinner’s white-tie uniform, tuxedo tails and all, in the train’s bathroom. And that “those who saw him that night say he was ebullient, talking politics with one person after another.”

The story offers little in the way of explanation of Spitzer’s behavior—leave that, apparently, to the psychoanalysts who’ve been making their ways through the musical chairs of the cable shows over the past few days—but that’s of little matter. The piece is worth a read for those strange little details alone. And for serving, through those details, as a trite-but-true reminder that, as we make our jokes about “Client 9” and his “Eliot Mess,” the subject of our laugher is stupidly, awkwardly, achingly human.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.