Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What goes around comes around

New York’s governor has encountered a life altering event. Mr. Goody Two-shoes, or as he prefers to call himself, Mr. Clean, or Sheriff of Wall Street, has gotten himself caught in a moral bear trap. He was identified on tape setting up a tryst last month with an expensive call girl. This was not the first time; he said things indicating he is a repeat customer.

Eliot Spitzer is a man who set out to eliminate corruption in his current post as governor and previous position as New York’s attorney general. Whatever good he accomplished came at the high price of his holier-than-thou attitude. His campaigns to ensnare Wall Street transgressors frequently took the form of personal attack.

Immediately after the disclosure, the Governor issued a vague public apology to his family and constituency. He didn’t say what he was apologizing for, only that it was a private matter and he needed time alone with his family to work through it. The implication was that the issue is the sex scandal and the obvious victims are his humiliated wife and daughters.

But sex is not the issue. I personally couldn’t care less if this immature man gets his kicks from cheap (okay, expensive), empty, pay-as-you-go sexual encounters. That certainly makes a statement about his maturity and character, but he’s right, it’s a private matter; he privately chose that degrading form of expression, a highly self-destructive course of action in this case.

What is the issue then? In my opinion, it’s about his ego. In his quest for power and recognition, he broached all boundaries set up by others and pierced their public displays of propriety. In proving them culpable, one expects Spitzer to hold himself to the higher moral standard he demands of others. The surprise is he has set himself above the law, in fact exempted himself from it. He placed himself above the morality he publicly held dear. He lived a life of hypocrisy.

"He has to step down. No one will stand with him," said Rep. Peter King, a Republican from Long Island. "I never try to take advantage or gloat over a personal tragedy. However, this is different. This is a guy who is so self-righteous, and so unforgiving."

I found this quote on the internet amid all the reporting and speculating about Spitzer’s sex life and possible illegal doings. Peter King got to the heart of the matter. It was my first thought also on hearing the news: How can anyone in Albany continue to work with this man knowing what a hypocrite he is?

One further thought: I know from personal experience that life can change in an instant. It happened to me with my diagnosis last June. It happened to Eliot Spitzer earlier this week. His situation has been brewing quietly for many months, as mine was also. Maybe either one of us could have exerted more control at certain times to keep from getting into such deep trouble. Or maybe both events were inevitable, given the personalities. All I know is that once in this position, it’s terrifying. You look out over a canyon you can easily fall into, and it takes all your strength to keep from slipping at the edge. You wake up sweating in the night, wishing you could take back the last few moments. But there are no do-overs. We just have to keep going.

On some level it’s gratifying to see that the rules of human behavior apply even to the most powerful, living the most perfectly crafted lives. But I can’t help it; much as I dislike the man and his behavior, I feel very sorry for him.


Cathy Pountney said...

I certainly don't feel sorry for him. Like you said, what he does with his own time is his own thing and I'm not judging him for that. However, the hypocracy is what I can't stand. If you believe in something and you shove it down everyone else's throat, you damn well better practice what you preach. I have no tolerance for this type of behavior.

SusieQ said...

I agree about the hypocrisy. That's the worst part. Too bad David Vitter and Larry Craig haven't resigned, too, since they based their campaigns on "family values" (whatever they mean by that) and then proved themselves hypocrites.

Ceil said...

Spitzer's big legal trouble is actually not about the sex. It's the tricks he played with money. It's hard to imagine how he thought he wouldn't get caught when his whole career has centered on investigating those same, suspicious maneuverings. The money movement drew attention of authorities. The icing on the cake, so to speak, is that the money was being used for something he championed against.

Just another powerful man, pretending the law doesn't apply to him.