Spitzer Must Go

If the facts as we currently know them are true, NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer must resign.

As a general rule, I think that office-holders who commit crimes while in office should not continue to hold that office. (I do take shockingly bold positions, don't I?) This case seems to fall into that general rule. I admit that I have exceptions to my rule. For example, I can imagine excusing some — but only some — crimes involving entrapment, or highly technical and basically harmless violations of complex rules in the context of a good-faith effort to comply, or reliance on reasonable advice of counsel. But this case — from what we know so far — isn't even close to one of those exceptions.

The problem is not infidelity. It's not even the overweening stupidity (“worse than a crime: a blunder”). Nor even the incredible assumption that so many politicians and CEOs seem to have that the rules that apply elsewhere don't apply to them — although that gets close. The problem is that this is criminal behavior. And we really can't define our minimum requirements for public life that low and still hope to get this country out of the ditch.

The charge of “structuring” cash withdrawals seems to me the sort of technical issue I would be inclined to forgive; the suggestions of a Mann Act claim are silly on these facts; but the basic fact remains that hiring prostitutes is a crime. Maybe — maybe — it should be legal. (I don't feel well enough informed as to how 'victimless' a crime this is to have strong views; the expensive market may differ from the street, further complicating matters.) But it's not legal. And I think we must expect basic legality from public officials (and if they don't like the rules, let them lead the charge for better ones). That this particular crime is rarely prosecuted, and even more rarely prosecuted by the feds doesn't change a thing. That Spitzer once trumpeted his office's prosecution of a prostitution ring just adds hypocrisy to the mix.

Even if it this case were shown to be highly selective prosecution of a Democratic Governor by a partisan Justice Department — and we don't at present have nearly enough facts to allow us to reach any conclusions on this question — my conclusion remains firm: if indeed the facts are as we currently know them, then Spitzer must go.

(And so too should Senator David Vitter. And no doubt many others.)

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4 Responses to Spitzer Must Go

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    I think you get it right, and so does Lance Mannion.

  2. Bret Fausett says:

    What I found especially interesting was the thought that he was caught by virtue of moving money around in a suspicious way. According to this CNN story, the thing that brought him to the federal government’s attention was that he was moving large amounts of money from account to account. The Bank Secrecy Act and Patriot Acts both require this sort of watchdogging by lending institutions. The goals of these acts are to stop money laundering and terrorism, but here it’s just the oldest crime in the book.

    — Bret

  3. tb says:

    You’re an upstanding citizen, the kind who’s earned the right to wear a bow-tie, but I think your analysis is a bit one-dimensional.

    Many people break the law; some are more or less widely known to do so; a very few are formally, officially “caught.” Despite his blanket, vague admission, Spitzer remains innocent until his guilt is proven or admitted in detail. So, the media frenzy aside, his situation is similar to that of many other prominent citizens who’ve made use of such services. If the standard is indeed that he committed a crime while in office, then he’s far from alone. I’d like to know who the others are (there’s many more than the ten numbered in the documents in this case); and if I can’t, then I’m reluctant to impose such a harsh standard on Spitzer. And let’s not be naive: there are quite a few private citizens in New York who are MUCH more powerful than public officials. Why not them as well? Merely because they weren’t elected? Please.

    Spitzer may well know of at least one other client—whoever connected him with the service. And, as a former AG, who no doubt has heard much more than he acted on, he probably knows a great many more things about which pillars of the community do what and with whom. So would it be wrong of him to, say, play ball with the prosecutors and bring down a bunch of “pillars of the community”?

    Spritzer hasn’t been the best NYS governor ever, to be sure, but he’s a damn sight better than Pataki. If we’re going to lose him, let’s lose more. Many more.

  4. dilbert dogbert says:

    If I was a voter in NY I would vote for him to be governor for life if he could put most of wall street in jail for a good long time.

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