The Saga of Eliot Spitzer Part II: Resignation

As expected, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announced
his resignation
today, effective next Monday, March 17. 

It’s sad for me to see him go as he was a bullish crusader
against corporate and white-collar criminals during his eight years as New
York’s attorney general and looked to similarly shake things up as
governor.  While his strong-arm style of
governance is denounced by some, I feel that such a style is often necessary
and proper in public office, especially when dealing with intractable
Republicans.  Now his political career
is over after just a year in the governor’s office and having swept into that
office with 69 percent of the vote.

Let’s hope his replacement Lt. Governor David
Paterson (who is, for better or worse, a more conciliatory figure than Spitzer)
continues the good fight in Albany.

The Saga of Eliot Spitzer Part I

What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer got caught with a
prostitute but that doesn’t mean he should have to resign.  Why should have to resign?
It will be a shame to see Spitzer go if he does, as he
was a good Democrat throughout his eight years as Attorney General and one year
as Governor. 

On Monday, March 10 2008, the story broke that New York
Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) used the services of a prostitution ring.  What followed was the media circus and
hysterical hoopla one would expect in a nation with the maturity of a five-year
old.  Then came the overused verbal
attack ubiquitous in political sex scandals – calls for Spitzer’s resignation,
mostly coming from Republicans.

As I stated in The
Saga of Larry Craig
, concerning another high-profile politician
embroiled in a sex scandal, I believe a politician should resign only if their
activities are compromising their ability to perform their duties in office,
have done so in the past and/or will do so in the future.  Generally speaking, sex scandals do not fall
under this category (unless it’s a case where, for example, sexual favors are
exchanged for political ones). 
Spitzer’s case is no exception; hiring a prostitute in and of itself
hardly compromises political duties and I don’t even think it should be a
crime, period (more on that in the soon-to-come second part of this column).

Like most politicians snagged in sex scandals, Spitzer is
certainly guilty of hypocrisy, having himself busted two prostitution rings
during his distinguished tenure as New York’s Attorney General.  But hypocrisy is not a crime and, despite
what some may argue, isn’t grounds for resignation either.  Politicians practice hypocrisy all the time
(though they even more commonly use hypocrisy’s kissing cousin, the
flip-flop).  Unless there’s a direct
conflict involved, hypocrisy doesn’t inherently suggest an inability to perform
the duties of the office.

Yes, he did seek to vigorously present himself as having
high ethical standards.  But I always
thought that his moral bona fides were in the context of the boardroom, not the
bedroom.  To put white-collar corporate
crimes that afflict thousands of people on the same moral level as hiring a
prostitute is – how do I put this – STUPID.

I have yet to hear a good reason as to why Spitzer should
resign, but in all likelihood that will be the outcome.  Which brings up the question: if Spitzer has
to resign for using a prostitute, why shouldn’t Senator David Vitter (R-La.),
who has also used prostitutes, have to do the same thing?  It’s totally unfair for Spitzer to “have to”
resign when Vitter apparently doesn’t. (And don’t fret, little Republicans,
there’s a nice conservative Republican governor now to pick Vitter’s

P.S. Besides my belief that there are no grounds for
resignation here, I will be especially sad to see Spitzer go because he was
such a strong Democrat.  During his
eight years as Attorney General he went after corporate criminals and Wall
Street with a vengeance (which might explain why cheers
erupted in the New York Stock Exchange upon news of the scandal
and in the first stormy year of his governorship he tried to bring reform to
the state government in Albany.

P.P.S. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m putting columns on
scandals (especially sex scandals) under the title “The Saga of [insert
person’s name]”.  It’s a pattern I
started with Larry
and Vanessa
.  In all these
cases, the scandals are usually blown way out of proportion and
hypersensationalized, mostly to feed the appetites of Americans who still have
their heads stuck up their asses when it comes to the relative importance of
public figures’ private lives.

MARCH 11 2008 ADDENDUM: Just to be perfectly clear on
this, I’m hoping that Governor Spitzer does NOT resign, and I would not
resign if I were him, and I would be calling for him to stay in office if I
were a fellow New York Democrat.