Et Tu, Spitzy?
Against my better judgment I’m going to devote this edition of the Fucked-Update to good ol’ Client-9. Yeah, I know, everybody is sick of hearing about it at this point, but I think it’s still worth discussing on the basis of the moral/ethical issues surrounding the Spitzer controversy. Political sex scandals have been (and will be) around forever and they’re all basically the same. Sometimes it’s a President and an intern. Sometimes it’s a congressman cruising an airport bathroom. This time it’s a Governor and a high-priced escort. Next time…well, only time will tell.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last three days, you already know the basic story. On Monday the New York Times printed a story announcing that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had been implicated in a federal investigation involving a prostitution ring. You can read the Complaint and Warrant Affidavit for yourself if you want to, but it’s pretty fucking boring. The Feds sure know how to suck all the fun out of a prostitution scandal. Client-9 isn’t mentioned until paragraph 73 of the complaint, where all the details of his transaction are listed.
So. Spitzy hired a hooker. No big deal, right? Well, clearly it’s a big deal to some people because he felt compelled to resign yesterday. Actually, it’s a big deal to me too, but not because he’s fucking hookers. While i certainly think it’s problematic that he screwed over his wife, that doesn’t actually bug me all that much either. I mean, for all we know his wife could’ve known he had a thing for call girls and been a-ok with it. Maybe they had some sort of arrangement. Or maybe she had no idea and he just broke her heart and betrayed her, solidifying his status as a supremo douchehound. But even that scenario wouldn’t necessarily make him unfit to be Governor. He could be a total asshat in his personal life and still do alright by the good people of New York.
The thing that really pisses me off about this whole thing is that I thought Spitzer might be one of the good ones. I mean, he had the requisite amount of skeeze for a rich, attractive, white, politician, but for a politician he seemed pretty ok. Not too long ago, I was watching him on the Daily Show, thinking, “This dude is the future of the Democratic party.” And I was pretty happy about that. He showed all the signs of being a legitimate progressive candidate who would someday leave the governor’s office for bigger and better things.His record was strong on reproductive rights and environmental issues and he showed real cojones fighting greedy Wall Street white-collar criminals. Hell, he even won a settlement that required record companies to pay royalties that had been withheld from musicians and to stop labels from bribing radio stations into playing the same shitty songs over and over and over again. Oddly enough, one of the things I didn’t like about his record was that he crusaded against prostitution rings, but moral posturing notwithstanding, I had high hopes for Eliot Spitzer.
And now he’s proven himself to be no better than other power-hungry egomaniacs: he lived above the law. He expects citizens of his state to be accountable to the laws as they’re written, but didn’t feel the need to follow them himself. And that’s a big problem. It’s a problem that’s symptomatic of the widespread corruption in American government. Getting elected to public office doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly earned a free pass on crime. Swearing to uphold the law carries the implication that you’ll follow it yourself. This was Spitzer’s real wrongdoing–not disappointing his family and his constituents, not fucking a prostitute, but thinking he’s too privileged to be bothered with obeying the law.
Some liberal commentators have tried to develop conspiracy theories about this whole fiasco. They all go basically like this: Bush’s Department of Justice leaked Spitzer’s name to the Times to discredit a popular Democrat and make the party as a whole look bad. Sounds plausible. Hell, it could totally be true. But it’s totally irrelevant. He broke the fucking law. It’s not like they invented the whole thing. He’s guilty. The Republicans got lucky this time.
Personally, I think that law needs to change anyway. Prostitution is often referred to as a “victimless crime” and while that’s not always the case (specifically in terms of human trafficking), it seems to be largely true. Prostitution is, at best, problematic for feminists, but I tend to think decriminalizing the act is in everyone’s best interest. My opinion, in this case, would almost make it easy for me to give Spitzer a pass. After all, he committed a crime that I don’t think should be a crime. But Spitzer has never made it a point to fight for sex worker’s rights or the decriminalization of prostitution; in fact, he made a name for himself doing just the opposite. And even if he had taken action to get the law changed, he’s still obligated to uphold it while it’s on the books.
In short, Spitzer’s a turd. A power-grubbing, elitist turd. New York is better off without him.
I hope, for the sake of New York and the future of the Democratic party, that David Paterson, who will be the first African-American governor of New York and the first legally blind governor in the history of our nation, will live up to his impressive record on progressive issues, while respecting the law he has sworn to uphold and the people he is supposed to represent.