Considering how low Eliot Spitzer had sunk in his previous behavior, his resignation speech, as Phil Weiss notes, was simple, thoughtful, humble (not something Spitzer is known for) and even elegant:
In the past few days I have begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children, and my entire family. The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me. From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much: the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.
I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, but I also know that as a public servant I, and the remarkable people with whom I worked, have accomplished a great deal. There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor…
I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family. Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children. I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission, and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service.
But after reading the NY Times’ coverage of the story today, I half wonder whether this passage doesn’t indicate that before Spitzer had been identified, the U.S. attorney WANTED the media to find out it had Spitzer in its sights:
Just one fact piqued interest for some in the room: The lead prosecutor on the case was Boyd M. Johnson III, the chief of the public corruption unit of the Manhattan United States attorney’s office.
Later that day, reporters at The New York Times learned of the unusual presence of three lawyers from the corruption unit, including the boss of that division and an F.B.I. agent from one of the bureau’s public corruption squads. The public corruption units often look at the conduct of elected officials.
Within hours, the reporters were convinced that a significant public figure was involved as a client of the prostitution ring.
There has been much talk of late about the Rovian strategy of dragooning U.S. attorneys into doing the political bidding of the Bush Administration. I’m not saying that the same thing happened here. But the idea that a politician should be subject to a wiretap and full-fledged federal investigation merely because he frequented prostitutes seems over the top to me. I realize that Spitzer did more than just frequent prostitutes, he violated a federal law (the antiquated Mann Act) in doing so, in addition to creating dummy corporations to hide his payments. I don’t see that the crime rises to the level of severity to make a federal case out of it (in both senses of that term). Unless you’re a partisan Republican U.S. attorney who is reveling in taking down a powerful Democratic political operative.
Finally, I wonder if anyone else sees any irony in the fact that sleazy as Spitzer’s behavior was, if he’d merely had an affair like Bill Clinton, FDR, Ike or countless other elected officials; or frequented a New York prostitute and not attempted to conceal his catting around–that he might still be governor. In other words (and this has been widely spoken of in other circumstances), that people aren’t necessarily caught because of their bad behavior, but because of their attempts to conceal it.