The Current Discussion: New York State governor Eliot Spitzer admits he hired a prostitute. Should people care, and why?
The election process is about public trust as well as law and order. The public invests its trust in a legally defined bond with that person to carry out the duties spelled out in the law and compliance with it. The case of Mr. Spitzer and his suspected involvement in aiding the interstate sex industry, a crime under American laws, is a stark reminder of limits that test the abuse of trust. Unlike Bill Clinton, it seems that Mr. Spitzer did in fact inhale!
The matter is hardly about the personal life of a public official. The case is reported to have originated as an investigation of cash movements, payments to front companies, house accounts and purveyors of personal services. That subsequently led to the discovery of a prostitution ring as the investigators stumbled upon the name of the New York governor by accident. The rest is simply an exemplary enforcement of laws. Whether or not laws against prostitution fit modern life and ought to be modernised is an entirely different debate. The debate about privacy runs into a much different discussion on its own.
However, we have to remind ourselves of the personality under investigation and his comprehensive awareness of criminal statutes. Mr. Spitzer made a name for himself as a tough prosecutor. He attempted to roll up an imperial zeal, a benchmark of ethics and universal rule of law into a single persona for himself with extraordinary publicity that often resembled a bully. He encouraged the media to film the “perpetrators” in handcuffs as they were taken from their Manhattan offices even though they were subsequently found to be innocent. He reportedly asked CEOs to convey messages of “going to get him” to other CEOs in New York. It all appeared as an attempt to set up a new standard of nobleness in law and politics as he crystallized all the world's ill will and bad behavior into a few cartoonish characters from Batman comic books. As such, Mr. Spitzer ought to be at the receiving end and answerable to the public with the same yardstick.
In his brief speech yesterday, Mr. Spitzer demanded time to regain the trust of his family. He said nothing about regaining the trust of the public.
Perhaps the only positive aspect of his “importing program” from New York could be his allegiance to his home state of New York. He was in Washington DC that night and he was preparing to testify before a congressional subcommittee on the next day, Valentine’s Day, on the state of the bond insurance industry in New York. However, that is another realm of trust and bonding altogether and perhaps another lucrative industry that might find itself under investigation! And I wonder.....could this be a staging opportunity for a newly-minted prosecutor and all the theater that goes with it?
Please e-mail PostGlobal if you'd like to receive an email notification when PostGlobal sends out a new question.