2008-03-20 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

"Sheriff" Run Out Of Town By His Own Moral Arrogance
By Neil S.Friedman

This Week's Attitude
"Sheriff" Run Out Of Town By His Own Moral Arrogance
By Neil S.Friedman 

Former Governor Eliot Spitzer, in the final undertaking of his abbreviated term in office, had little choice - with escalating political and public pressure - but to resign last week just 48 hours after federal court documents tied him to a pricey Internet prostitution ring.

He was obviously motivated to quit because of the criminal allegations, but, also, perhaps, by the betrayal of trust to his family that instigated their disgrace and humiliation, which will certainly resurface if he has to endure a trial. If only he had his wife and three teenage daughters in mind in the first place, he wouldn't have ended up in a scandal over alleged sex with a call girl in the second.

The biggest surprise in the wake of the news was the drawn out two-day period it took Eliot Spitzer to announce his resignation, which took effect Monday. After making a brief statement, he went into seclusion, probably to seek advice on his next move. It was rumored that his closest aides learned of the accusation shortly after the 48-year-old governor was tied to a prostitution ring busted by the FBI on March 6. That followed an IRS probe into the Web site's finances prompted by a portion of the Patriot Act giving the Justice Department powers to look into questionable large banking transactions. Spitzer was wisely advised to go public ahead of the release of the federal affidavit that cited him as Client 9. (Those of us with a cat's curiosity are eager to learn the identities of clients one through eight.)

This is the kind of scandal over which political pundits and comedians salivate. No sooner did the New York Times break the story on March 10, than the criticism, including calls for Spitzer's impeachment, and the jokes started flying.

As late night talk show host Jay Leno once asked Hugh Grant, weeks after the actor was arrested and charged for lewd conduct in public with a Hollywood prostitute - governor, what the hell were you thinking?

When Spitzer campaigned for governor two years ago, his rhetoric contained a good deal of high-minded political rhetoric about cleaning up the legislative log jam in Albany that many voters, including yours truly, believed he might accomplish, considering his admirable track record as an uncompromising prosecutor who rooted out corruption. The latter earned him a pack of enemies and the moniker "Sheriff of Wall Street" for his unrelenting pursuit of offenders.

He was also a crusader who busted a Staten Island prostitution ring after which he displayed a superior degree of moral authority when he denounced that sort of criminal conduct. However, in the end, that righteousness was exposed as nothing more than hypocritical hype since he supposedly engaged in similar illicit behavior prior to his fateful evening before last Valentine's Day.

Spitzer's 14-month term appears to be one the most troubled administrations in New York history, albeit one governor was impeached and removed nearly a century ago. While he defends himself in the sex scandal, he still faces questions on whether or not he used New York State police to seek dirt on arch foe, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, in the ongoing Troopergate scandal. His popularity rating dropped to under 30 percent, faster than any politician in recent memory.

Distinguished public careers are ruined, particularly when sex scandals are involved. When elected governor Eliot Spitzer appeared to be a rising Democratic star with some even projecting he could one day become the first Jewish president. However, his assumed indiscretion has cost him any future in politics and he has no one else to blame but himself.

Perhaps the only way for politicians to have secrets is to have none, because even minor lapses in judgment - from smoking pot as a teenager to cheating on a college exam to a long ago one-night stand - inevitably come back to haunt public figures and scar their careers.

Goodbye, shalom, ciao, adieu, auf wiedersein, sayonara, hasta la vista Gov. Spitzer. Now, we'll never know if he could have achieved the noble expectations he promised New Yorkers from Day One. Eliot Spitzer's betrayal of the public trust brought a swift end to his term on Day 435.

As his legal team tries to minimize any forthcoming criminal charges, the ex-governor's biggest challenge, for the sake of his family, is to triumph over his "private failings." After the personal tragedy and public shame he caused for his wife and three teenage daughters, Eliot Spitzer can only hope they have an infinite capacity to forgive the shame he has brought them as a result of what seemed to be more than a midlife crisis of recklessness, arrogance and idiocy.


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