March 10, 2008
Since news came out around 3:00 this afternoon that New York Governor Elliott Spitzer was involved as a client with a prostitution ring we have learned ... virtually nothing. We don't know if he will resign or even if he will be indicted, as some sources initially reported had already happened. What we do know is that an unsealed court affidavit refers to a "Client 9," who was identified as Spitzer. His very brief statement to the press made clear that he regards this as an entirely private matter between him and his family ... as if his duty to uphold the law or his former duty to prosecute corruption cases were entirely irrelevant. As CNN reports:
Spitzer, who built his career on rooting out public corruption as New York attorney general, became a national figure with a series of high-profile Wall Street investigations. He is also known for prosecuting prostitution rings.
(Ouch!) It's a truly bizarre, shocking development that makes you wonder how many other top officials are equally culpable. What does this case say about fair treatment by the media? Well, it's certainly a relief that a Democrat got caught, for once. Carnal sleaziness is bipartisan! What about Barney Frank, Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, and all the other morally frail men from the distant past like Gary Hart or Wilbur Mills? We should note that Larry Craig still has not resigned from the U.S. Senate, six months after promising his Republican colleagues he would do so in order to spare the party any further embarrassment. Never mind! Perhaps this latest episode will provide Craig the political cover to resign at last; Spitzer certainly should do so, immediately.
Why do so many politicians, star athletes, and celebrities engage in risky behavior that could ruin their careers? Mainly because the power they wield (or the glamour they possess) inflates their ego to the point where they think they can get away with anything, and indeed that they are entitled to such indulgence. It's called hubris.
The Spitzer scandal should also remind us of the inherent risk of hypocrisy whenever we apply puritanical standards of morality to public officials. (The French are giggling hysterically at us right now, without a doubt.) You never know who is being naughty behind closed doors, and prudence dictates that politicians refrain from pontificating about morality when someone in their own party might get caught tomorrow.
Hillary Clinton's big wins in Texas and Ohio last week were good news for John McCain and Republicans in general. It gave her the opportunity to raise once again the possibility that Barack Obama could serve as her vice president. How generous of her! It's true that getting both Hillary and Barack on the ballot this November would be a "dream ticket" for the Dems, but there is little chance that either one of them is humble enough to take the number two spot. Hillary's continued presumptive attitude, spoofed by the fake 3:00 A.M. phone call TV campaign ad on Saturday Night Live, is startlingly out of step with the actual political situation. Unless, that is, she plans to use her bag of dirty tricks to pressure or even blackmail superdelegates to pick her instead of the candidate who will almost certainly end up with more delegates and more total votes. How un-democratic that would be! On CNN, Dick Morris said that if Hillary resorts to such measures, it would cause a civil war to break out within the Democratic Party that would last 20 years.
In contrast, Mike Huckabee conceded to John McCain in a very gracious way. He might actually get the veep offer, which would raise hopes that the Republican factions might pull together in November.