03/12/2008 04:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Spitzer v. Fallon: Tales of a Prostituted Press

"The revelation of Mr. Spitzer's involvement with the high-end prostitution ring gripped the nation, and more than 70 reporters and photographers clustered outside the governor's Upper East Side high-rise, separated from the building by a metal barricade erected by the police" ("Spitzer Wrestles over Response," NYT)

Let me begin with a confession. I have for a number of years been involved with the Giant Supermarket near my home. I have also been involved with a barber near my home and I am currently involved with a dentist, an internist and an ophthalmologist. My involvement with these purveyors of services is on-going an unrepentant. I have needs--for groceries, grooming, dental work, periodic medical exams and eye-glasses--and they will be met.

Apparently, Eliot Spitzer has other, and perhaps less savory, perceived needs that have involved him in a "high-end prostitution ring" (even the puns I can't think of are intended!). Mr. Spitzer has now resigned from his office as Governor of New York; perhaps he should go into rehab. These things happen, but what irks me most is that Spitzer's peccadillo pushed the real news right off the front page:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House on Wednesday rejected charges that it quashes dissenting views in the military, an accusation brought to light by the resignation of Navy Adm. William J. Fallon as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East" ("White House Denies Friction with Fallon" )

The top military commander in a theater in which two controversial wars are underway leaves office because he either cannot in good conscience pursue his commander's objectives, or because his commander feels his subordinate is not perceived to be sufficiently loyal to him. I'd like to know which.

This sort of thing does not happen very often: certainly not with anything like the frequency with which our alpha male politicians put peter before probity. So why does our fourth estate drop the one story to pursue the other, even while acknowledging, as the Times does, that the media frenzy--the more than 70 reporters and photographers clustered outside the governor's Upper East Side high-rise, while three helicopters whirled overhead--is the story? This is not to say that the fall of the Governor of New York is not news. The man set himself up for a fall and he fell. The number of press helicopters circling like buzzards over his home, however, ought not to be news, because they ought not to be there to be reported on by their colleagues on the ground below who apparently have nothing to report other than the fact that they are there.

The op-ed page of this morning's The New York Times featured the expected column by Maureen Dowd, ruminating on the high price of Spitzer's "high end" hookers, an article seizing the Spitzer scandal as a moment to remind us that prostitutes are always victims, and, my personal favorite, an essay by Dina Matos McGreevey, recalling her own Governor-hubby-in-a-sex-scandal moment, and suggesting (ironically, given the venue) that the media leave the innocent wives in these situations alone. Explaining those helicopters whirling over the house to the children is bad enough, but imagine having the kids read about how you had to explain them in the very media that sent them to besiege you!

Alongside this detritus not one inch of precious editorial space could be found to raise questions about the resignation of Admiral Fallon. I've generally followed the rule that three needlessly emphatic official denials equal an affirmation. The Associated Press reported this morning that Defense Secretary Robert Gates "dismissed as 'ridiculous' any notion that Fallon's departure signals the United States is planning to go to war with Iran." That's one. Will we miss the next two because Eliot Spitzer paid for sex?

Perhaps in the next few days, our national reporters will recall Sy Hersh's article. "Last Stand" in the July 10th 2006 New Yorker and ask some questions.

If they haven't forgotten Fallon by the time they overcome a preoccupation with whores, which one supposes is, for them, a kind of narcissism.