Don’t expect to see any “Eliot Spitzer Is My Homeboy” t-shirts in Ghana anytime soon. The former New York Governor’s fall from grace with the discovery of his involvement in the Emperor’s Club, a high-priced prostitution ring, joins a long line of sex scandals heard ’round the world.
Spitzer, victim of his own indiscretion, has become the subject of many conversations on campus at the University of Ghana, with students finding about as little sympathy for him as most New Yorkers.
Many have questioned Spitzer’s sincerity in apologizing for his misconduct and suspect that he feels more regret for getting caught than for the mere fact he was soliciting sex from someone only four years older than his eldest daughter.
His two press conferences since the ordeal began have not helped his cause, either. In the first, he admitted wrongdoing, but didn’t elaborate on what his wrongdoing entailed.
His address was so utterly ambiguous it was like he was saying: I did it, but I didn’t. His resignation announcement was even less impressive.
As Allan Chernoff, a CNN correspondent covering the event wrote, “the words from Gov. Spitzer were there, but the emotion, the body language was not. It was virtually the same determined tone he almost always presented to the media.”
Chernoff concluded, “[Spitzer] had apologized, had abdicated the state’s highest post. Yet he had not conveyed a sense of true contrition.”
Of course, whenever a public figure is embroiled in a scandal of this magnitude, the question always arises whether considerations about his or her private life should have any bearing on his or her governing capacity. This argument is reminiscent of the Monica Lewinsky affair that lead to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton in the House.
Supporters of Clinton maintained that, even though he had an affair while in office, Clinton’s presidency was one of the most successful in U.S. history.
Spitzer, too, has been an accomplished public servant.
Spitzer, a self-described “steamroller,” has clamped down on corruption on Wall Street and, ironically, even prosecuted prostitution rings.
After eight successful years as Attorney General in New York and a landslide victory in the gubernatorial election, he was a rising star in the Democratic Party and considered by many as the first potential Jewish president.
For many students, however, Spitzer’s accomplishments do not redeem him from his personal impropriety.
“I believe that, if you are a public figure, what people expect is that you serve as an example,” said Liberian banking and finance major Paylay Halay.
For other students like Ghanaian Stella Quansah, a social work major, the poor decisions a politician makes in his or her personal life should not necessarily preclude him or her from continuing to serve the public. She cited a case in Ghana where the Minister of Transportation was found to have impregnated a woman he had an affair with while attending an AIDS conference in the United States.
Quansah said that while the affair caused public outcry and lead to the Minster’s resignation, he was later reelected because the constituency recognized that, although not morally righteous, he nonetheless got the job done.
However, the prospect of Spitzer reemerging as a public figure seems bleak.
For starters, there are rumors circulating that he wants to ship his daughters off to boarding school in Switzerland to protect them from their father’s new claim to fame as New York’s most notorious John. Unfortunately for the Spitzters though, if we here in Ghana are up-to-speed on the whole fanfare in New York, chances are it’s the same in Switzerland.
Maybe he should try North Pole High.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major and is currently studying abroad from CSU in Ghana. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.