The Corner

“A Private Matter”

Today we learned that Governor Eliot Spitzer has been caught arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month. We can add this to the long list of people, Democratic and Republican, who have influence and power, who stumble and fall, and who, in the process, wound and embarrass their families and make people even more cynical about politics and politicians. It is a depressing spectacle.

Governor Spitzer made one comment that’s worth pausing over. He said he wanted to address “a private matter.” But read this excerpt from the New York Times story today on the Spitzer matter:

Mr. Spitzer gained national attention when he served as attorney general with his relentless pursuit of Wall Street wrongdoing. As attorney general, he also had prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force. In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island. ”This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. ”It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”

So much for it being simply a “private matter.” If it were only that, then Governor Spitzer would not have spent some of his time as attorney general prosecuting prostitution rings. The reason Spitzer was involved in these matters was presumably because violations of law were involved. On top of that, of course, public officials who engaged in this kind of behavior open themselves up to blackmailing and extortion.

Incidents like this aren’t shocking, given the fact that the human heart is divided against itself. The struggle between nobility and corruption is an on-going one for people in every profession, every circumstance, every faith. People who act honorably in some areas of their lives can act dishonorably in other areas. And those who fail can be redeemed.

But it’s still a depressing spectacle.  

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