Friday, March 14, 2008

Eliot Spitzer, what's the big deal?

AOG, Madrid

I suppose that if you have lived long enough outside of the US, you come across events like the ones surrounding the (now) ex-Governor of New York with slight amazement.

Eliot Spitzer's short tenure in office as New York's Governor started on January 1st, 2007. He did so with a record margin of victory and a profound sense of promise- here was yet another Democratic "presidentiable".

He resigned on March 12, 2008, in a scandal over his involvement in a sex ring, bringing an abrupt close to a legislature marked by, according to the New York Times "an almost unbroken string of stumbles and frustrations."

Surprisingly, to many, perhaps to most, all of his previous work and achievements mean little when compared to his sex life, by all means a private and personal affair.

According to the New York Times:

"Mr. Spitzer's difficulties were a stark contrast to his long and steady rise. Over the previous eight years as attorney general, Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, gained national recognition as the 'Sheriff of Wall Street' for his pursuit of corporate corruption and his self-styled role as the defender of the American investor. During his campaign, his signature promise was to change state politics "on Day One" of his new administration, with ethics reform high in his sights."

I read this and I am amazed at his downfall. Some call him a hypocrite. And yet, here I am thinking, aren't we the hypocrites? Is this man not allowed to have a brilliant career, be good at what he does, and nail whosoever he desires, be it man, woman or banana tree?

Are we to understand that having sex with a prostitute is an offense capable of erasing all of your past achievements?

Would this happen to an NFL player? Would it take away his accolades? No. Hollywood star? No, certainly not. President of the US? Well, I don't know for a fact that Clinton and Kennedy used prostitutes, but according to popular lore, they both slept around. And they remained in office. One of them was even re-elected.

So I ask, what is the big deal? Are politicians not allowed private lives? And if they are not, then certainly they retain to sleep with whomever they want (short of paedophilia). I think public life obligations stop just above the belt line.

Ok, so he booked $1,000 an hour prostitutes. So? Whose business is this? Did he pay for them with public money? If so, then there is a different issue. There is a crime. He misappropriated public funds. And, no, sorry, I don't buy the whole "prostitution is a crime" spiel. It is a crime only because people choose to make it so. It is known as one of those "victimless" crimes. Thus, no crime at all.

If there is a crime at all it is that he overpaid for sex. One thousand dollars an hour is certainly well beyond the scope of normality. Like those nails that cost the Pentagon $200 each. An abuse on the part of the provider, but little else.

It would appear that even his wife,
Silda Wall Spitzer, finds this as not too big a deal. Certainly she has stood by her man during the public resignation speech, as political wives often do.

According to the Washington Post, "hers was the loudest voice in Spitzer's inner circle urging him not to resign". Here was the main injured party, and it appears like the injury is not bone-deep.

So why are we all tearing our tunics in shame and anger? I hope the charge of "sin" does not come up. We live in the XXI century. Such concepts are outdated. So then, what is the charge?

In Spain, something similar has happened this week, though in a much lower scale.

A local ex Town Councillor in Palma de Mallorca (Rodrigo de Santos López) has been accused of spending 50,000 Euros in one of Palma's male brothels. He is a member of Spain's Conservative party. It has already declared that if found guilty, he will be expelled from the party.

Apparently he used the Town Council's credit card to charge for his foray into the sex trade. But, in Spain, his crime is that he broke people's trust by using money that was not his own to pay for something which was his own: his pleasure. Therein lies the fault, not in that he used prostitutes, or even male prostitutes. I rather the US gained this perspective one day and lost the one it has now.

I certainly am not holding Spain up as any sort of example (no country on Earth gets to be held up as an example of good or evil, we are all people after all), however, Spain is a good representation of, not so much Europe's more laid back attitude towards extra marital affairs, but rather at the division between the public and the private.

No, no one here finds infidelity a joke, but when it does happen, the approach is slightly more pragmatic, and (although there are always exceptions) less histrionic. Certainly so when it comes to the lives of others. And politicians are others.

For all the Christians out there, perhaps the line "He who is free from sin...", throwing the first stone and all that, should take note. No politician on Earth is perfect. Not Fidel Castro, not Nicolas Sarkozy, not Bill Clinton nor George Bush, nor Napoleon or Charles V. No one.

We cannot chastise politicians for not being perfect. They are not. No one is. And if the fault is rooted in his private life, then shame on us for being so prissy.

But, as I said, these observations I'm making only come about after my not having lived continuously in the US for many years now.

I don't expect the majority of Americans to understand, just as they don't understand why health care should be free and universal because it is a basic human right. But that is another post.

1 comment:

bhamgrad said...

Amusing post....I suppose?!