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Bill Emmott

Great Britain

Bill Emmott is the former editor of The Economist magazine, a leading international current affairs publication from England. He is now an independent writer, speaker, and consultant on international affairs. Close.

Bill Emmott

Great Britain

Bill Emmott is the former editor of The Economist magazine, a leading international current affairs publication from England. more »

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Spitzer, Hypocrite and Idiot, Must Resign

The Current Discussion: New York State governor Eliot Spitzer admits he hired a prostitute. Should people care, and why?

Eliot Spitzer should resign, immediately. Although a person's sexual behavior should by rights be a private matter, and irrelevant to his fitness for public office, that presumption of privacy must be overruled when the officer concerned has been acting to attack the very thing that he has been doing, namely prostitution. We do not expect our politicians to be saints. But when they are shown to be rank hypocrites, they are finished. Their credibility is gone.

I keep saying "we". Does this apply everywhere in the world? Well, it would certainly apply in Britain. A person in an office as high as Spitzer's, with a background of attacking prostitution and of taking a generally self-righteous approach, would also be finished. Whenever we Brits have a sex scandal in politics, a certain chorus goes out that they do things differently in continental Europe and that neither French nor Italian leaders would suffer in the same way. I suspect that that is changing, in fact. But also I suspect that the charge of hypocrisy would also destroy a similar political career in France, in Germany, in Spain, though perhaps still not in Italy.

In the end, though, this story, like so many others before it, is not just a story about sex or a story about hypocrisy. It is a story about how power corrupts, or about how power destroys judgment. Powerful people like Spitzer seem to come to think of themselves as untouchable, as somehow entitled to indulge themselves in this way. What Spitzer is, though, is much simpler than that. He is an idiot.

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» M. A. George | What is most egregious in Spitzer's behavior is dragging his innocent wife out to face the spotlight and to deflect embarrassing coments or ...
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