Spitzer resigns after 2 days of chaos in NY politics

After two days of scandal, Eliot Spitzer could not hold on any longer and resigned this morning in a short speech with his wife at his side. And just like that the powerful New York Governor ended a political career that not so long ago seemed assured of becoming national, as Spitzer could have acted upon presidential ambitions in 2012 or 2016 (or even later, given that he is only 48).

His collapse was as sudden as it was unexpected. Not a single rumor had circulated about Spitzer's involvement in this prostitution ring prior to the NYT dropping the bombshell on Monday afternoon, and pressure built extremely quickly on the Governor to call it quits. Spitzer had few allies in Albany and that was the main cause for this quick downfall: Not only did no one rush to his rescue, but Republicans (led by Majority Leader Bruno, Spitzer's archnemesis) forced the Governor's hand by threatening him with impeachment. And Democrats did nothing to help their leader: The NYT reports that Spitzer reached out to Seldon Shilver (the House Speaker) and sono realized that enough Democratic assemblymen would join with Republicans to make impeachment probable.

I have to say, however, that the rapidity of Spitzer's collapse is troubling. Yes, this is a very clear example of political hypocrisy; Spitzer has put ethics and morals at the forefront of his political life and insofar as this defies all of the principles he claims to be fighting for it is fair to hold him accountable. But how many politicians have gone through much worse scandals and come through alive?

This looks to be more than a sex scandal -- it started with an investigation into his bank accounts, and he was a member of a prostitution ring that was dismantled last week. This isn't your average scandal of a politician being involved with an escort or in an adulterous relationship... But the details of his involvement with the prostitution ring are still very murky; and the amount of information about an ongoing investigation that has been leaking (and rather easily and steadily) is troubling. The fact that Spitzer was "Client 9" can be deduced from the public charges filed against the ring's members who were arrested last week, but what about the IRS's concern about Spitzer's bank acconts or the revelation that Spitzer's calls had been wiretapped?

The main reason that this scandal is being hyped so much is the sexual component. That is also clear in the latest version of the NYT recap article that explains that the wiretap reveals that Spitzer is into some kinky activities that some would considered to "not be safe" (whatever that means); this paragraph is already being quoted left and right, and the interest in this woman named "Kristen" is spreading as quickly as the interest in soon-to-be Governor Paterson.

If the sexual component was not so dominant, I doubt there would have been this much pressure this quickly. Rhe sexual component in itself is not I believe enough to prove Spitzer's hypocrisy; the man was after all running on ethics not on sexual purity, and there is a difference there. And I also believe people would have hold off at least a few more days to get more details about the financial and criminal components, for as they stand now they are still unclear enough to not justify forcing.

This is not to say that Spitzer did not engage in illegal activities or that he did not knowingly finance a prostitution ring of the sort he tried to dismantle when he was Attorney General, but merely that we should give someone at least a minimum of time to propose a defense and wait for more specifics to be revealed and confirmed. What the last 48 hours revealed is merely that we are still as stuck in compulsive law and order reflexes and in a self-righteous sexual witch hunt as we were in the 1990s. Do let me know what you guys think.

A quick note, finally, on what will happen next -- this is after all a blog about elections and campaigns. Paterson is the new Governor, and very little is still known about him. He will be only the fourth black Governor in the country's history -- a shockingly low number -- and the first legally blind. He will serve until 2010 and of course it is still totally unclear what he will do then and whether he will run again. Bloomberg (term-limited out of his NYC Mayor job) was rumored to be interested in running for governor even before all of this, and given how long it took Bloomberg (who would have the huge advantage of being able to buy his way into the Governor's mansion as he did his mayoral position) to squash presidential speculation you can be sure that talk of a gubernatorial candidacy will pick up more intensely.



  • It's a shame that NY is losing such a great mind. We all expect that people of such high intellect are prone to sexual deviances, so it's no real surprise. The real key here is the way "suspicious" transactions are being watched so closely under the 9/11 excuse and how they're being used to catch totally unrelated criminal acts. Merely taking out cash at a bank is now a "red flag" event. With the media out there insinuating with-out cause that Eliot is involved in a money laundering prostitution ring, no one is really safe from accusations. Pulling out a hundred bucks for a garage sale could land you in jail if that garage sale is at a "suspicious" home. I guess cash is nearly illegal to possess now. Welcome to the Bush world.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 12 March, 2008 16:59  

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