Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"I look at my time as Governor with a sense of what might have been."

Those are the words of the man who will be Governor of New York, only until Monday March 17, 2008 -nearly three years before the actual end of his elected term. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation, to what seems like the tired relief of the entire state, and in some ways the rest of the nation, due to the potentially negative effect he might have had on the Democratic race for the party nomination that is still without a clear end. It’s been a long two and half days.

It’s ironic that Eliot Spitzer had endorsed Hillary Clinton, a former first lady whose most distinguished accomplishment as a person in public life (aside from galvanizing most of the irrational hatred leveled at the Clinton administration and becoming its new focus and target) was standing by her husband during his own extramarital scandal while in the white house.
Governor Spitzer has been rumored to have been strategizing, consulting with lawyers, weighing his options, possibly angling to use resignation as leverage to avoid indictment.

"There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work." he said. Too late Mr. Governor, lawmakers are set to vote on New York’s budget bills Wednesday afternoon. Calls for his resignation came Monday from Republicans who were threatening impeachment only a day later.

Eliot Spitzer built a legendary political reputation as the State Attorney General. They called him “Mr. Clean” and they called him the “Sheriff of Wall Street”… Oh, and he also cracked down on prostitution by the way, in a number of well publicized busts, but no nick-name there. He was looking more and more like “Eliot Ness” come to life in 2000 and the years after. He was elected Governor of New York by an overwhelming margin of over 70%, soundly defeating Republican John Faso. Eliot Spitzer promised New Yorkers that he would root out corruption in New York state government in his inaugural speech, only to be caught up months later in a plot by his own aides to smear his Republican nemesis in the legislature, Joe Bruno... And now the allegations of soliciting prostitution and possible financial dissembling, known as “structuring”, going back almost a decade.

This is not a “private matter” as Governor Spitzer put it Monday. A person’s marriage and relations with other persons are private matters (although those are boundaries are rarely respected by the media and public anyway). Breaking laws that you are sworn to uphold (as he has been alleged to have done starting while he was State Attorney General) are not a “private matter”. Eliot Spitzer has sent people to jail for the very thing he is alleged to have done. It is a grievous violation of trust and profoundly disappointing to me as a voter.

As sorry as I am to see a Liberal progressive of this fortitude and this procedural muscularity go in such a disastrous and shameful fall from power, his resignation is ultimately welcome. We already have far too many elected officials and their federal-level appointees choosing which parts of the constitution they consider valid and advantageous, and conversely which passages they may freely interpret and step over. It’s obvious that we cannot have State Attorney Generals and Governors breaking the law, or at least it should be to anyone considering whether Governor Spitzer could have survived this scandal. The point is; he shouldn’t survive it. This is not the fall of Charles Parnell, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Jim McGreevey or even Charles Foster Kane. Eliot Spitzer is alleged to have paid ten of thousands of dollars for prostitutes and it is alleged he did this across several years and as recently as last month, all while attempting to hide his transactions. Eliot Spitzer is alleged to have committed a crime. This is a crime and illegal industry that he was charged with prosecuting (and did prosecute). It’s not a scandal; it’s a series of criminal acts.

Now I am forced to wonder; who will pick up where this man left off? Traders cheered on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange upon hearing the news of the allegations. Why wouldn’t they? Eliot Spitzer made a mission of exposing the horrible abuses of trust and predation of analysts and traders on investors. So ends the promising career of Eliot Spitzer, a man once proffered as a future presidential candidate, a man I proudly voted for.

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