Taunters are taunting me. “What’re you going to do with your Eliot Spitzer category, Sheepandgoats, hmmm? It’s right there on your front page. What you going to do, now that he’s gone down in flames?….sigh….Oh, very well. I guess we can close out the category. He’s been such a colorful character, and local, that I just had to post a few times about him, here, hereand here.
“On Day One, Everything Changes!” That was the promise following his crushing (69%) victory to become New York State Governor. We all waited for day one to arrive - he was almost a messianic figure. He’d nailed several Wall Street firms with billions of dollars in fines and sent some fat cats to jail. The Sheriff of Wall Street, he’d been nicknamed. Some pictured him a future President. What he did with corrupt financiers surely he could do with the obstructionist politicians that plague New York! But on Day 439 everything changed in a way he hadn’t foreseen, or anyone else. He was caught with prostitutes and resigned in disgrace. Cheers broke out on the NYSE trading floor [!], and prices soared*, temporarily snapping a dismal down trend.
*perhaps not for that reason, though there are pundits who maintain it was exactly for that reason.
These were no ordinary prostitutes. The one that triggered his downfall cost him $4300. For a single stand! Who would have thought they could cost so much? Had he economized with cheaper ones he might have escaped detection, for he had to transfer large sums of money to various shell corporations to pay the bill… allegedly $80,000 through the years! Now, in the United States, if you transfer $10K or more from a bank, that bank must notify the feds. And you can’t bust up the transfers into lesser amounts to avoid the $10K trigger…that’s a crime here, and that’s what they say Spitzer did. They dreamed up that law to thwart terrorists. But it’s netted many unintended victims, like philandering politicians. Crossing state lines to promote prostitution is also a crime here (the Mann Act).
Spitzer resigned on TV, wife at his side. “I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people 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." The couple has three teenaged children. The wife’s plight provided silent ammunition for those feminists who say that a woman should never, ever, put her career on hold (which Mrs Spitzer had done, sort of) for the sake of raising children - you just can’t trust husbands and when they go bad you’re behind the 8-ball.
Learned psychological types, the sort who buy into evolutionary psychology, quickly weighed in. At last we know the real reason for Spitzer’s zeal in crushing wrongdoers, they lectured knowingly. It was all a sham! He’s just an alpha male, with all the vulnerabilities of the species. And what about the prostitution rings he’d broken up? Even more Freudian: he was just exorcizing inner demons, purging his own soul through nailing others! But I’m not so sure how valid that argument is, or how relevant. After all, he was elected to knock heads together, not to teach Sunday School. Still, once exposed, he hadn’t a chance. Americans want their politicians squeaky clean, a reflection of what they imagine themselves to be.
Besides, his “knocking heads together” style hadn’t worked well of late. Opposing politicians aren’t like corporate shysters whom who can throw in jail. They get mad, and they fight back. Though Spitzer scored some impressive early wins, he later bogged down amidst a style so abrasive that there was nobody to stick up for him when he got in trouble.
I’m not so sure the abrasiveness was wrong. At any rate, what had proceeded it sure hadn’t worked. New York is well known among states for its dysfunctional government. Years ago then-Governor Pataki appeared on TV with leaders of the two opposing parties. He hoped to project the image of firm and steady moderator, guiding these powerful but noble opponents to a consensus for the lasting good of New Yorkers. Instead, the two foes squabbled like children, and Pataki looked like an ineffectual ass, the other parties themselves being immune to embarrassment. The governor steered clear of TV after that.
With Spitzer’s resignation, state leadership defaulted to David Peterson, the Lieutenant Governor. Unexpected, the politically correct media had something to swoon about, for not only is Peterson black, he is also blind. A new category! He’s black and he’s blind, they gushed, as if one quality somehow augmented the other. Plus, he’s amiable. He gets along with everybody, they gushed again, forgetting that a year ago they had praised Spitzer for his being the exact opposite.
No sooner had Peterson been sworn in than he, too, confessed to some extramarital affairs. He wasn’t going to be blindsided the way Spitzer was! But all was cool with the media….he’s black and he’d blind, after all, and he enters with lots of good will. We’ve never had a black and blind governor! Besides, his marital woes were more garden variety. He hadn’t broken any laws, and he hadn’t hired any prostitutes.
A week later he admitted that in his younger days he had used marijuana and cocaine.
Alright, Mr. Peterson, don’t push it! Sure, Bill Clinton smoked (but didn’t inhale) pot and George Bush drank (but didn’t swallow) booze, but you’re only a governor. He’s probably okay for now, but one more Oprah confession, like shoplifting at K-Mart, and he’s outta here.
As NYS Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer took a lot of bad people out of circulation, including some high finance types usually thought untouchable. That should not be taken away from him. New Yorkers can be grateful. Advocates for market fairness say he’s done more to clean up Wall Street than anyone else in decades. For that, anyone who invests can be grateful. Still, I confess I wondered a bit when I read about the Theodore Sihpol casein the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Sihpol wasn’t a Big Guy, at least not in the financial world. He was mid-level. He had allowed a hedge fund to secure some closing prices after hours. There was no price favoritism. The fund got the closing prices, but it was after hours. Spitzer’s office threw everything they had at this fellow. He might even had settled, but the plea bargain they offered included jail time. So he fought back. At trial, his attorneys called no witnesses. They simply read the law. And it was clear he’d not broken any! Case dismissed.
Now, what are we to make of this apparent abuse of power? You can’t make omelets without cracking a few eggs? But as George Orwell said, any time someone uses that line on you, you should immediately ask to see the omelet.
All in all, it’s rather a sad story. Isn’t there some scripture somewhere about humans not being able to rule themselves?