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.
Listening to an interview with Wayne Barrett investigative journalist for the Village Voice confirmed my suspicion there was more to this than is apparent.
I’m not overly sympathetic to this multimillionaire, I’ll save my sympathy for women who walk the streets of New York City for $50. not $5000. an hour.
BUT, anybody who is hated by Wall Street can’t be all bad. He did what he was supposed to do as Attorney General; he took on the fat cats. And I don’t know any other state Attorney General who is doing that. Spitzer’s “hit list” is impressive: AIG, New York Stock Exchange, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Enron…
I’m not a conspiracy nut, but it would be naive not to think that people whose wealth and influence is beyond comprehension would not have liked to bring him down.
I have to agree with you here, Richard, it looks like they were out to get him. As the NKVD in the old USSR used to joke “You give me the man, I’ll get you the charges”. Just remember this when you hear about Israeli political figures who are being prosecuted, too.
Bill Pearlman says
Rich, we still have plenty of organized crime in NY. And generally speaking a high end call girl service operates under the protection of somebody. The Italians, the Russians, the Albanians, hell the Chines tongs. Could have been anybody. Spitzer put himself in a position to be blackmailed.
tin foil hat on:
You have it backwards, Mr. Silverstein. Spitzer was targeted the same way Siegelman was targeted by the crooks in the DoJ. Now, in this case, they actually found something – I can imagine them gleefully rubbing their hands, as that would mean no need to mount an (expensive) smear campaign.
Spitzer did good work investigating Wall Street excesses – he simply had to go.
/tin foil hat
Norman Weinstein says
I am amazed at the almost saintly forgiveness and sympathy, even though at times faint, being bestowed either directly or by implication on this disgusting wretch by all commentators herein. Ellen’s “I’m not overly sympathetic to this multimillionaire…” I think represents much of the tone of the posters, including Richard’s. Applying such terms as “sleazy” and the rather cute “not overly sympathetic” it seems to me strikes an ersatz judgmental balance. It was Chaucer who wrote a long while back “”That if gold rust, what shall iron do?/For if a priest be foul, in whom we trust,/No wonder is a lewd man to rust.” This man, Spitzer, won 72 percent of the gubernatorial vote – 72 percent, my vote included! Yes, I believe it’s bloody damn right that those who hold the public trust should indeed be held to the same standard as Caesar’s wife, and then some. Victim of Republican enthusiasm, Wall Street avengers, etc.? Possibly, given the depth of civic and political degeneration gifted us by our present regime. But that in this case I find secondary to what this foul, guilty man has demonstrated; namely, his contempt for that seventy-two percent of those of us who elected him and thus his solid contribution to the continued destruction of trust in our government. His crash is an obscene farce; the tragedy is ours and his family’s. This individual, selfish beyond any kind of self-restraint, is more than insensitive, he is cruel. My God, it was nauseating to see his wife standing by his side, her face a study of deep pain and personal courage. Why not put his daughters up there, too, while he’s at it? To praise those final public words of his might represent some kind of noble magnanimity, but I thought they were no more than words, a clever articulation of someone whose epiphany occurred because, quite simply, he got caught. “Sleazy” hardly begins to describe what this man is and what he has achieved.
Richard Silverstein says
Just remember amidst all your rage for justice that Judaism is a religion of mercy. We are all fallible. We all fall prey to urges whether they be sexual or otherwise. I don’t defend what he did. He’s a wretch for all that. But he’s one of us despite his failings. And he’s also capable of following a path of teshuvah if he wants. That’s up to him, but I hope it happens in his case.
Norman Weinstein says
Yeah, Richard, maybe we sure as hell are all fallible – I may be the exception, of course – but also just as sure as hell we the little folk haven’t been overwhelmingly mandated to bring reform to the government of a major state, which government is at best a laughing stock damned close to dysfunctional. Seems to me that the dual sine qua non for a real democracy is a knowledgeable electorate and trust in those who represent us in carrying out our fundamental business. Judaism may indeed be a “religion of mercy” – sometimes – but as a not very observant Jew I don’t feel overly guilty at feeling less than kindly disposed to this rampant hypocrite, who apparently chose the path more traveled by. It was that cynic H.L. Mencken who once observed that the more he saw of people the better he liked dogs.