As political corruption goes, news that New York Governor Elliot Spitzer consorts with high class call girls is pretty low on the sin-o-meter. It was, however, a shock to learn a man mentioned in some circles as presidential material could have been so careless and stupid.
Just what possesses a man who has everything going for him to become enmeshed in such an embarrassing scandal?
We see it time and time again and ask the same questions over and over. The fact of the matter is, these politicians exist in a political (and social) system that makes them feel entitled to break the law, play around on their wives, and use their elected position to sate their appetites. In Spitzer’s case, we have no idea how long he has been visiting prostitutes. He may have been doing it all his married life.
As the product of a wealthy family that carries its own set of entitlements, Spitzer’s dalliances as governor might be explained as simply an extension of the entitlement he felt as a rich man’s son. And his hubris in believing no one would ever find out is part and parcel of a powerful politician’s sense of invulnerability - a fool’s belief in their own indestructibility.
It all caught up with the soon to be former New York governor yesterday:
The federal investigation of a New York prostitution ring was triggered by Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s suspicious money transfers, initially leading agents to believe Spitzer was hiding bribes, according to federal officials.
It was only months later that the IRS and the FBI determined that Spitzer wasn’t hiding bribes but payments to a company called QAT, what prosecutors say is a prostitution operation operating under the name of the Emperors Club.
As recently as this past Valentine’s Day, Feb. 13, Spitzer, who officials say is identified in a federal complaint as “Client 9,” arranged for a prostitute “Kristen” to meet him in Washington, D.C.
The woman met Client 9 at the Mayflower Hotel, room 871, “for her tryst,” according to the complaint. Client 9 also is alleged to have paid for the woman’s train tickets, cab fare, mini bar and room service, travel time and hotel.
The suspicious financial activity was initially reported by a bank to the IRS which, under direction from the Justice Department, brought kin the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad.
One of the more delicious ironies of this entire matter is the fact that Spitzer led the feds to the prostitution ring through his suspicious money transfers rather than the feds catching him as a result of any investigation into interstate prostitution. In short, Spitzer brought the world down on top of himself by his own actions - a truly biblical happenstance.
The comparisons to Republican politicians caught up in similar circumstances are being denied by liberals in the most uproariously amusing fashion imaginable. World Famous Sock Puppet Lambchop supplies the jaw dropping explanation:
But how can his alleged behavior — paying another adult roughly $1,000 per hour to travel from New York to Washington to meet him for sex — possibly justify resignation, let alone criminal prosecution, conviction and imprisonment? Independent of the issue of his hypocrisy — which is an issue meriting attention and political criticism but not criminal prosecution — what possible business is it of anyone’s, let alone the state’s, what he or anyone else does in their private lives with other consenting adults?
With all of the intense hand-wringing abounding, it’s very difficult to discern the standard being applied here. Are any public officials who commit adultery engaged in such morally intolerable behavior that they ought to resign, because that didn’t seem to be the standard back in the 1990s? Or is that any illegal behavior of any kind — no matter how serious or frivolous, whether victim-creating or victimless — merits resignation? If a political official smokes pot, or gambles in a poker game, or commits adultery in a state where adultery is a crime, are they now so morally beyond the pale that it is time for them to go? Is that the standard here?
Evidently, only Republicans who engage in these affairs are evil. Here’s Lambchop on Senator David Vitter after that hypocrite got outed:
So, to recap: in Louisiana, Vitter carried on a year-long affair with a prostitute in 1999. Then he ran for the House as a hard-core social conservative family values candidate, parading around his wife and kids as props and leading the public crusade in defense of traditional marriage.
Then, in Washington, he became a client of Deborah Palfrey’s. Then he announced that amending the Constitution to protect traditional marriage was the most important political priority the country faces. Rush Limbaugh, Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich supported the same amendment.
As always, it is so striking how many Defenders of Traditional Marriage have a record in their own broken lives of shattered marriages, multiple wives and serial adultery. And they never seek to protect the Sacred Institution of Traditional Marriage by banning the un-Christian and untraditional divorces they want for themselves when they are done with their wives and are ready to move on to the next, newer model. Instead, they only defend these Very Sacred Values by banning the same-sex marriages that they don’t want for themselves.
Lambchop is very careful in his dismissive piece on Spitzer to point out the hypocrisy (on one level) of the governor who prosecuted prostitution rings while US Attorney. That’s a pretty shallow analysis when you consider Spitzer’s entire campaign was based on his adherence to a higher ethical standard than his opponents as well fostering the belief that he was a dedicated family man. I guess just as long as you support gay marriage, you get a virtual pass from Mr. Lambchop who has had a change of heart about politicians and prostitutes now that a Democrat is in trouble.
What a tool.
In the end, the Vitters, the Foleys and the Spitzers of the world have one thing in common; an inability to resist the temptations that go with holding high office and a moral blind spot when it comes to justifying their own behavior. One might add that politicians who continue to abuse the public trust by not holding themselves to a higher personal standard than the rest of us must believe that they will never get caught. Perhaps many never do and the ones who make the front pages of newspapers are simply careless and stupid.
All the more reason to employ a healthy cynicism when supporting any politician - even one who claims to represent “change” and proclaims himself a new kind of politician practicing a new kind of politics. An informed citizenry in a democracy looks at its leaders with a jaundiced eye and sees beyond the claims of moral superiority to make a decision based on what they see of a candidate’s judgement and experience. Hero worship will only lead to bitter disappointment and the revelation that their man on a white horse has feet of clay.
They are, after all, human. And that might be the best reason to vote for them in the first place.