"He didn't know he was a geek, but he was," says James Cramer, a former hedge-fund manager who currently co-hosts a talk show on CNBC. He and Spitzer both attended Harvard Law School and met their first week there, in 1981. Spitzer may have been a geek, but he was a tireless geek. In Cambridge he worked as an editor at the Harvard Law Review. As a summer intern for Lloyd Constantine, then the assistant attorney general of New York in charge of antitrust enforcement, Spitzer worked on the prosecution of a price-fixing case involving ambulance services in Syracuse. ("I've had hundreds of interns and hundreds of students," Constantine says. "He was the best. He was different from the day he walked in. He had an air of confidence that said he was a leader. He reeked of it. He came in and in a very polite way his message was 'I'm smarter than you, and I can lick you.'") During the school year Spitzer was a research assistant to Alan Dershowitz, and worked on the appeal case of Claus von Bulow, which was later made infamous by the 1990 Jeremy Irons movie Reversal of Fortune.
"One time Dershowitz gave us his Celtics tickets," recalls Cliff Sloan, one of Spitzer's Harvard classmates and now general counsel for the online versions of Newsweek and The Washington Post, "and the Celtics were playing the Knicks [at Boston Garden]. And here we are in the middle of this very pro-Celtics crowd, and Eliot was on his feet cheering for the Knicks. He was angering everyone around us, especially the regulars—but he was unbowed in his full-blown enthusiastic support of the Knicks. Eliot's just fearless."
Perhaps the best thing Spitzer got out of his time at Harvard was Silda, a fellow law-school student, whom he married two days before the stock-market collapse of 1987. She is tall, blonde, and discreetly pretty in the manner of, say, a young Blythe Danner, and comes from an America that to the vast majority of New Yorkers seems as foreign and remote as Mars. The product of small-town North Carolina life, Silda arrived in Cambridge from an all-women's school, Meredith College, in Raleigh. Today she runs, without salary, a foundation she created for city children, and she can speak passionately, with a precision that matches her highly articulate husband's, about everything from parenting to international law. She is, in short, perfect first-lady material, though outwardly reluctant to contemplate that role.
"That's going to be Eliot's decision," she says of a run for governor. "We'll see where that ends up falling out. I think he'd be great. It's not something I'm pushing for anyway."
One could certainly sympathize if Silda were to approach her husband one day and say, "Enough." After all, she was five months pregnant with the couple's third child when Spitzer announced his 1994 campaign. And she was a completely sleep-deprived mother when Spitzer began one of the strangest political campaigns in New York history, four years later. After he emerged the winner, with only 41 percent of the vote, in a three-way Democratic primary, in 1998, the New York Times editorial page half-heartedly (at best) threw its support to him over his Republican opponent, Dennis Vacco. The Times wrote that Spitzer had "misled the public about how his father's wealth was used to support about $9 million in loans that financed his campaigns in 1994 and 1998," adding, "We endorse Mr. Spitzer because Mr. Vacco's performance and his key policy positions make him an even worse choice." Not the most ringing endorsement.