stupid spitzer

Posted on March 10, 2008

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Yet another politician looks likely to be brought down by a sex scandal.

I am just sorry that poor Mrs Silda Spitzer had to endure the indignity of doing the “stand by your man” routine, after her husband New York governor Eliot Spitzer was caught for being a client in a high-class, high-cost prostitution ring that charges as much as $5,500 an hour. Spitzer was believed to have paid $4,300 for his, to go from NY to meet him in a hotel in Washington DC. All this is was recorded on a federal wiretap.

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New York Times photo

Spitzer, known as “Mr Clean of Wall Street”, made a name for himself for being a fierce and relentless attorney general in New York persecuting high-profile cases against white-collar crime and Wall Street’s excesses. He brought down the likes of the Gambino mafia in New York, and Dick Grasso, the former Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, for receiving a bloated salary incongruent with the NYSE’s non-profit status.

Spitzer, who will now enter pop culture lexicon as “Client 9”, issued a public apology that had the networks abuzz but stopped short of saying he would resign from his job as the Empire State’s governor.

“Today, I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violated the obligations to my family and that violates my — or any — sense of right and wrong. I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to the public, to whom I promised better. I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good and doing what is best for the State of New York. But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard that I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family,” he said in his statement to the media, refusing to take questions.

Putting it into perspective, what Spitzer did was wrong. But the people he most wronged were his wife and three kids, not his constituents. It is their trust he betrayed, not the New York voters’. Technically, he does not have to resign, as demanded by his gleeful enemies, led by the Republican Governors Association. Ironically, Republican politicians Senator David Vitter and Larry Craig, who were also caught in sex stings, are still in Congress. So Spitzer’s political career may yet survive this debacle.

Defenders have already rose to speak for Spitzer. Alan M. Dershowitz, a prominent legal mind and Harvard Law School professor, pointed to the holier than thou attitude of Americans, by stating that if the same thing happened to a European politician, the incident would just elicit yawns.

But Dershowitz forgets that this is the US, not Europe. Voters here do take into account shenanigans such as a sex scandals and prostitution. Even if his constituents forgave and forgot, Spitzer is likely to face the nastier prospect of facing the federal charge of violating the Mann Act, which criminalizes the transportation of a person through state lines for the purpose of prostitution. It is a sticky situation that Spitzer might not find himself getting out of easily.

In addition Spitzer, who is a rising Democratic party star with some believing he would one day be a serious presidential candidate contender, must be held to the higher standards that he himself set when he was the legendary crime-fighting and corruption-busting NY attorney general.

In 2004, Spitzer was a team of investigators which busted an escort service in New York City. That yielded the arrest of 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution and related charges. And Spitzer was captured on the record for railing against prostitution rings. It is disappointing that his hypocrisy has been exposed in such a humiliating manner for his family. Are there no ethical politicians out there anymore?

The Spitzer scandal has further ramifications beyond New York, to the presidential race.

Spitzer is known as a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter. Expect to see people pressuring Clinton to denounce him very soon. Interestingly, the start of the stumble in Clinton’s campaign could also be traced back to Spitzer, who had mooted the idea of issuing drivers’ license to illegal immigrants in NY state. Clinton tripped up when confronted during an early Democratic debate on whether she supported it. Though she was known to have backed Spitzer’s idea, her vacillating answer was seen as one of her first of her missteps in the race. Clinton might just lose this superdelegate.

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