Mar 132008
 
Authors: Joseph Haynie

In what can be considered one of the worst cases of the “Mondays,” New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, with distraught wife in tow, apologized to a crowd of journalists after allegations of his involvement in a prostitution ring surfaced earlier that day.

The Democratic governor apologized to his family and to the public, to whom he “promised better.”

According to the New York Post, “Spitzer was heard confirming plans to have a call girl . travel from New York to the Washington hotel where he was staying.”

Spitzer now faces criminal charges for violating the Mann Act, which makes the transportation of someone across a state line for prostitution a federal crime. He, because of the way he transferred the money used to fund his nefarious activities, also violated federal money laundering laws.

Even as New York Republicans threaten impeachment and Democratic leadership calls for him to resign, Mr. Spitzer shouldn’t lose hope just yet. Hey, even his wife is encouraging him to stand his ground.

As the New York Times pointed out this past Tuesday, there have been other elected officials “who have survived scandals of this sort.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was reprimanded by the House of Representatives in 1990 for having a homosexual relationship with a male prostitute. Notwithstanding allegations of being involved in a male prostitution ring, Frank was reelected to the seat he holds today with 66 percent of the vote.

President Bill Clinton, despite being impeached for perjury by the House, has enjoyed unrivaled success and celebrity in his post-presidential years. He even left office with a 65 percent approval rating even though he failed to capture a majority of the popular vote in either of the two previous presidential elections.

However, unlike the charismatic 42nd president, Spitzer’s future seems to only be paralleling that of former Gov. Jim McGreevey (D-NJ) and former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO).

As the Times noted, “Spitzer’s own record of prosecuting such cases gives him scant breathing room.”

According to USAToday, Spitzer, during two terms as attorney general, gained a reputation as the “the people’s lawyer” who “made ethics his trademark.” Once regarded as a future presidential candidate, the widely popular governor – he won the Empire State with 69 percent of the vote in 2006 – is now as hip as a hypocrite, with only a probable resignation and divorce to look forward to.

Spitzer’s fall from grace has rehashed the arguments often heard during the Lewinsky scandal.

Those who supported Clinton argued that what the president did in his private life was of no importance to the public. Although the public may not be concerned with what television shows their elected officials watch or what their hobbies may include, if their activities could jeopardize the trust of their constituency and tarnish the office they hold, the public is entitled to know.

Because Clinton’s crime revolved around sexual liaisons many deemed it as none of their business and dismissed it as nothing serious. The same arguments have been made for Spitzer, especially since he has some of the highest approval ratings ever for a New York governor.

What if the embattled politician had been physically abusive toward his wife or three teenage daughters? Would the “good job” argument still hold?

The answer is an emphatic no. The fact that Spitzer lacks fidelity speaks volumes about the quality of his integrity.

With a presidential election approaching maybe we should divert our attention to the quality of the candidate’s character.

If one can’t even keep promises to their family, it doesn’t matter how much experience they have or the eloquence of their speech, because at the end of the day, a lesson Elliot Spitzer is learning at this moment, their word is worthless.

Joseph Haynie is a senior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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