After an icy two-minute-and-45-second speech that mixed his trademark indignation and what seemed like strained remorse, Governor Eliot Spitzer walked out of public life this afternoon.
His lantern jaw clenched, Spitzer stood at the podium in a blue suit, white shirt and blue-green tie next to his wife Silda Wall Spitzer, whose eyes looked drained and nearly lifeless above a gold red and blue scarf.
“In the last few days I have begun to atone for my private failings with my wife Silda, and my children and my entire family,” began Spitzer, to a small room in his Third Avenue executive chambers packed with dozens of television, radio and print reporters. Some of his aides stood, arms folded, against a wall in the back of the room, next to a riser crowded with television cameras. Some looked as if they had been crying.
“The remorse I feel will always be with me,” Spitzer said. “Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me.”
Spitzer tried to demonstrate humility, but his delivery was stern and wooden.
“For those to whom much is given, much is expected,” he said. “I have been given much, the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.”
With an eye towards his legacy, he said, “I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been. But I also know that as a public servant, I and the remarkable people with whom I worked have accomplished a great deal. But there is much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work.”
Then, he resigned.
“Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct,” he said. “I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor. At Lieutenant Governor Paterson’s request, the resignation will be effective Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition. I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings our greatest glory exists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
At this point any situation in which Spitzer rises again seems incredibly unlikely, a fact that Spitzer acknowledged.
“As I leave public life,” he said, “I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family. Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move towards the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children. I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend David Paterson as he embarks on his new mission. And I thank the public once again for the privilege of serving. Thank you very much.”
He and his wife walked towards a door in the corner of the room from which they entered. One reporter shouted a question about whether he ever thought it would “come to this.” Andrea Peyser of the New York Post yelled, “Silda, are you leaving him?”
Then they were gone.