Monday, March 10, 2008

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer- Love Client Number 9?

It may be too early to comment on this breaking scandal regarding Eliot Spitzer, but since I have no desire to make political points over this issue, I will go ahead and give my take as things stand now. I will not recount the details as they have been reported, rather try to put it into perspective.

First of all, it would not be fair to try and frame this in political terms-liberal vs conservative or Democrat vs Republican. Suffice to say that this story serves to prove the point that these transgressions by public officials cut across party lines. Today, we have a scandal by a Democratic politician, the Governor of the State of New York, Eliot Spitzer. In recent months or years, we have seen similar sexual scandals by Republican politicians, specifically, Mark Foley, Larry Craig and David Vitter. We have also seen the indictment of Democratic Congressman, William Jefferson of Louisiana, for bribery. Other bribery investigations are still in progress against both Republican and Democratic politicians. No doubt, many Republicans are cheering the news today. Spitzer is not regarded as a well-liked personality, and he has few defenders.

In today's press conference, Spitzer, while not going into details, all but confirmed that the breaking story against him has merit. Will he resign? He did not say, and speculation is strong that he is holding that option open as a bargaining chip against any possible indictment.

Should Spitzer be indicted if he, is in fact, involved in patronizing a high-priced prostitution ring? I will let the evidence dictate that. Is there a crime possibly involved? Very possibly- especially if the New York Governor participated in ordering that a prostitute be sent from New York to Washington DC (across state lines) for his use-as is reported.

More importantly, if all this is true, should Spitzer continue as Governor? In my view, unless this is all a big mistake or misunderstanding-no, he should not. Once a public official violates the law, he or she no longer belongs in public office. Let us not forget that, as New York Attorney General, Spitzer prosecuted prostitution rings-in 2004 holding a strongly-worded press conference in announcing prostitution indictments.

Am I morally outraged at Spitzer's conduct? No. He is hardly the only man who has cheated on his wife and utilized the services of prostitutes. But he is the Governor of New York and formally Attorney General. First of all, a man in Spitzer's position who engages in this activity, automatically leaves himself/herself open to blackmail.

In addition, sexual transgressions, may or may not violate the law, public sensibility, or what have you. Sometimes, with everyday people, it is no one else's business. Not so with elected officials. Is it too much to ask that an elected official reign in his/her desires when they could interfere with their public service? As for patronizing prostitutes, there are legal ways to engage in that behavior. For example, Spitzer could have gotten on a plane and gone to a legal brothel in Nevada, thus not violating any laws. He could have traveled to any one of a number of foreign countries where prostitution is legal. Had that been the case, then I might argue that he should not have to resign. Unfortunately, Spitzer chose to engage in an illegal activity-supporting a lucrative and illegal enterprise and opening himself open to blackmail in the process.

In the coming days, further developments are sure to come. What I don't think will change is the principle behind this posting. While not trying to portray this as some typical Democratic scandal, hopefully, people like Nancy Pelosi or Howard Dean will think twice before talking about the so-called "Culture of Corruption" in the Republican Party. It affects both parties, and we as Americans, need to think about what is wrong with our system of politics that we are continually attracting people like Eliot Spitzer into "public service".


Lance Christian Johnson said...

The funny thing about Larry Craig (and Ted Haggard - not a politician, I know) was that he would come down against equal rights for homosexuals. And then he had the nerve to say that he wasn't gay!

Personally though, I have little sympathy for any public official who does this sort of thing, be he Democrat, Republican or Whig.

Gary Fouse said...

"Against equal rights for Gays"..

What equal rights? Right to vote? Right to hold a job? Right to run for public office?

Oh yes, right to marry. Well, we do agree to diasagree on that one.

As for the Whigs, maybe we could make an exception for them.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Not just the marriage thing; he also voted no on adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes and another no on prohibiting job descrimination based on sexual orientation.

But yeah, I do think of marriage as an equal right. Not a fan of "separate but equal".