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Eliot Spitzer’s big mistake

Published: March 14, 2008
Section: Opinions


How can he have done something so incredibly stupid? That has been the question that every political junkie from Albany to Los Angeles has been posing since Monday, as if it is somehow possible to figure out why people with power can be so self-destructive. Eliot Spitzer, a man who for the last four years has inherited the all-encompassing title of “rising star”, has proven himself to be a hypocrite, an idiot, and perhaps most of all- a disappointment.

It is necessary to inject a little personal history here. In 2003 and 2004 during my senior year in High School I had the privilege to work as an intern in the State Assembly and later the Senate of New York. Working with the Democratic Party in both houses of the State Legislature, I was constantly hearing about this savior in the Attorney General’s office who would soon replace the ineffective (and frankly corrupt) Governor Pataki. Eliot Spitzer, the embodiment of the new, combative, yet populist Democrat was going to clean house in Albany and restore power to party that would most represent the values of this proud blue state. The same year that my parents moved from Albany, I watched on TV as Spitzer took office and immediately start to fix a broken government, or so I thought.

If anyone wants to know more about the plethora of problems that Spitzer encountered in his first year in office, read The Humbling of Eliot Spitzer by Nick Paumgarten of the New Yorker. It is an amazing look profile of a driven and intense man who seemed at times to be succumbing to the usual problems that a reformer endures in is first year. How fortuitous this article was in retrospect is simply astonishing.

Despite the disgusting nature of this story, and the moral indignation that should greet a man that cheated on his wife and embarrassed his daughters, there is a need to step back and really take into account what should happen to the Governor. For one I am not convinced that he should have resigned, unless there is more information concerning questionable monetary issues (i.e. did he get involved with organized crime or break federal financial laws besides the idiotic Mann Act during these trysts). Secondly, the media needs to stop interviewing Assemblymen James Tedisco (R) of Niskayuna, my former State Representative. He is an idiot and a universally despised member of the Assembly who spends his days planning “prayer breakfasts” and boring Boy Scouts with speeches about how Democrats hate freedom (He also has a personal vendetta against Spitzer as he was once told by a Governor that “I’m a fucking steamroller, and I’ll roll over you” after Tedisco was quoted as saying, “Osama bin Laden is somewhere in a cave with his den of thieves and terrorists, and he’s probably sabering the cork on some champagne right now, saying, ‘Hey, that governor’s really assisting us.”). Thirdly, and this is hard to say, Alan Dershowitz has a point in saying that historically some of our best leaders have been scumbags in their personal lives and that it really is not any of our business. Dershowitz is (gulp) right in assuming that this would be a non-issue in Europe.

But then we come down to the original issue of Hypocrisy. Partisans, like myself, wait in eager anticipation every time a sexually themed scandal to confirm whether or not the person in question is in our party or not. Obviously the Spitzer story was a huge let down for his supporters and people who have followed his career, but not for the fact that he had the gall to have adulterous sex. Rather I found myself saddened by the fact that this crusader, this moralist (who bordered on self-riotousness) would stoop to such a low level to satisfy himself and in doing so engage in the very sort of clandestine, scandalous dealings that he promised to destroy. I understand those who have a large degree of schadenfreuden after this event, as we on the left certainly held it after the recent bouts of Sen. Craig (who apparently only likes gays on the inside of men’s room), Sen. Vitter (whose wife took so much pleasure in Hillary’s problems before her husband’s prostitute habit was exposed), and of course Ted Haggard. Hypocrisy is an easy criticism to pose against politicians, as we elect them for their ability to condemn behavior with a degree of vitriol that can in the end, only come from someone with intimate knowledge of these same faults.

In the end Spitzer will never recover from this stinging defeat, and while the Democrats have lost a potentially great politician and leader, the world will soon move on from this scandal (hopefully). I have met David Patterson, and I can attest to the fact that he will be an extremely capable governor, and the fact that he is a generally nice guy will go a long way towards healing the rifts created by Spitzer even before this current debacle. After that, New Yorkers will probably just have to wait patiently for Governor Bloomberg in 2010. What a waste.