When former lieutenant governor Paterson was sworn in as real governor, underdogs around the state rejoiced. Like Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, here was a person who faced impediments that would have stymied a lesser man, emerging triumphant as the people’s new superhero. Even with the chips stacked against him — he’s a legally blind African-American in a state that’s never elected a black governor, and possibly in a sham marriage — he rose to the top to patch up the damage wreaked by super-villain Spitzer.
But, just when we thought we had the underdoggiest politico around, the New York Times had to go bust our bubble and Wikipedia some other politician who was blinder. Completely sightless, Bob Cowley Riley served for eleven days as governor of Arkansas back in 1975 and had to be perpetually led around by the hand by his wife. (The Patersons could have learned a thing or two from Riley: If you can’t keep an eye on your spouse, keep a hand on him.)
We were crestfallen to learn that there are, in fact, many visionary world leaders who couldn’t see all that well. It’s not looking good (pun sort of intended) for Paterson in the stakes for blindest leader. Here’s a sample:
Gordon Brown, British prime minister
Gordy came out of a college rugby scrum with a detached retina; three unsuccessful surgeries later he was left blind in the left eye. Rumors abound that he’s got a glass eye in its place, which would make for one hell of a party trick. Like Paterson, he’s unable to drive (we hear Teddy Pedersen is available).
David Blunkett, former British home secretary
Blunkett was born blind from a poor family and rose to be a member of parliament and then leading government official, considered a rival of Brown’s for the heir to Tony Blair’s prime ministership. (Brits used to joke about how when Brown, Blair, and Blunkett were all in a room together, they only had three working eyes.) In 2004, Blunkett’s political career was ended by a sex scandal and allegations of special favors. No joke.
Eamon De Valera, prime minister and president of Ireland
De Valera’s sight failed for the last 35 years of his 57-year-long political career, during which time he orchestrated peace talks and made nice with the Brits, despite being unable to see them across the round table.
King George III, sovereign of the British Empire
Not only was his vision almost completely impaired by cataracts for the last several years of his reign, but stark raving mad George was instrumental in making sure his new American colonists had plenty of taxation without representation, which ultimately lost him the colonies. Now that’s blind.
Oedipus Rex, king of Thebes
Approximately 450 B.C.
Mythological Oedipus solved riddles and defeated the Sphinx. He put out his own eyes after learning that he’d inadvertently bedded his mom and murdered his dad, despite the auguries that he’d do just that — which leads us to think that maybe he was deaf, dumb, and blind. —Sarah Maslin Nir
Who are we missing? Help us out in the comments!