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The Un-Reformed

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At a memorial service for Barbara Bruno in January, Governor Spitzer and Bruno shake hands.   

Other than that, Spitzer and Bruno haven’t spoken in eight months. “The relationship is dead,” the Spitzer source says.

On February 27, the day after the North Country defeat, Bruno is back in his capitol-building sanctum. “We lost the battle, but we’ll win the war; that’s my statement, and that’s the way I feel,” he says. He is having lunch at his desk. “Oysters scampi. It’s just delicious, if you like oysters. I love ’em.” He is eating alone, and that is unusual. Bruno can’t remember the last time he had lunch by himself. He has just come from a press conference to defend his party’s poor showing, and reporters ribbed him about whether he still had any “fire in the belly” and wondered if a coup would form to oust Bruno or if, finally, Bruno would simply retire. “Everybody thinks about retiring,” he says. “Everybody thinks about doing something different.”

But not him. Not now. “I am so energized and so charged up that it’s hard for me to describe my feelings.” He says this, but his tone is flat and he’s chewing his scampi and the battle cry is unconvincing. Earlier, Bruno held a meeting with his fellow Republican lawmakers, half of whom were past retirement age, some older than Bruno. They had been so loyal to him in the past. This meeting was different. “An airing,” he says. “It was a loud discussion, a lot of people sharing points of view, which I invited.” Behind closed doors, the Republican lawmakers talked about what went wrong. Bruno gave a speech, to boost morale, and in doing so he recited his favorite, defiant lines: Fight on, my men. I’m wounded but not slain. I lie me down and bleed awhile. And rise and fight again.

This time, there was protest from one lawmaker. “Don’t talk about bleeding.”

The poem itself is not Byron’s. Its origins are unclear. It was probably first published in 1658, in a collection of traditional English and Scottish ballads. Titled “Johnie Armstrong’s Last Good Night,” it tells the mythic story of a regional warlord summoned before the king of Scotland. He arrives with his armed clan, intending to pledge his loyalty. But the king declares him a traitor. A battle ensues. Armstrong is stabbed in the back. He does not rise and fight again. And all his men die.


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