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A Commentary by Susan Estrich

TMI stands for Too Much Information. That's how I feel about David Patterson and his sex life. I know more than I want to know, or need to know, about whom he's slept with and why, and when, and about whom his wife slept with, and who was getting even with whom, and when it stopped.

If you haven't been following this story, or if you're still stumped about how Eliot Spitzer could be that stupid and how Joe Francis, the recently released (from prison) enthusiast behind the Girls Gone Wild empire, could get so lucky as to have the tape of the woman my son calls "Eliot's whore," then you might not have heard that Spitzer's successor, David Patterson, the first black and first blind governor of New York, spent his first two days in office, with his grim-faced wife by his side, making statements and taking questions about her affair and his.

One day one, he only mentioned one affair apiece, and it sounded like they happened awhile ago. On day two, one (for him) became several, 2001 became 2003, one of the women is now on his payroll, another he helped out with a health care problem, and his aides are scurrying around looking for hotel receipts to prove that he paid for the hotel rooms with his own credit card.

On day three, the tabs had pictures on the front page of him with one of the other women, and there were questions being raised as to whether any of the trysts at the Days Inn might have been paid for by his campaign.

Oh, yes, and there's a multibillion dollar budget to be done in the state of New York. As one of my friends put it, only half in jest, it's no wonder New York is in trouble; its highest elected officials have been too busy with their own affairs to deal with the affairs of state. Or too busy explaining them.

Unlike Spitzer, David Patterson was not caught engaging in illegal activity. He is not being investigated by federal or state prosecutors. Even his Republican opponents in the legislature are saying, at least publicly, that they have no desire to make political hay out of his infidelity, suggesting that they may have learned from Spitzer's downfall that you can get badly cut throwing stones from a glass house.

So why do I smell a field day coming on the subject of a blind man's credit card receipts?

Maybe there's some overeager aide we can blame, who counseled the brand-new governor to "put it all out" on his first days in office so no one could use it against him later. Maybe they didn't get past Politics 101, the part about getting ahead of a story, to Politics 200, which teaches you that some things don't need to be a story, and won't be unless you make them stories.

Maybe he should have called California's governor, who has managed to avoid turning his own history into a story by fighting it when it seeps out rather than putting it "out there," which is where it tends to stay.

Now, with the issue of credit card receipts, everyone can hide behind the fig leaf that this isn't about sex, it's about campaign funds -- as if you would make the front page of the tabloids because of that.

My friends in the press who are pushing this will surely argue that they're just giving the public what we want. I'm not so sure. Of course, we eat it up when it's put on the platter, in the same way that kids (and, let's face it, grownups) would eat junk food three times a day if we let them, or ourselves. But somebody's got to be the grownup in every family, the person who insists on the occasional vegetable. And somebody in the press -- and on the governor's staff, as well -- needs to be able to say enough is enough. Too much information is as bad as too little. Sometimes worse.


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