15 March 2008

The Point of Eliot Spitzer

If you go to the office of the Governor of New York website, you find this charming quotation:

Eliot Spitzer was inaugurated as New York’s 54th Governor on January 1, 2007. In his inaugural address, Governor Spitzer said: "Every policy, every action and every decision we make in this administration will further two overarching objectives: We must transform our government so that it is as ethical and wise as all of New York, and we must rebuild our economy so that it is ready to compete on the global stage in the next century".

Now we know that Eliot Spitzer, once New York's Attorney General, was not what he presented himself to be — a knight in shining armor riding to avenge the downtrodden little guy. In case you have been in a cave the last couple of weeks, Eliot was caught laundering money to pay for his visits to $5000/night prostitutes. It's the very same kind of corruption Eliot fought against when he was a prosecutor. One could say that Eliot was a hypocrite, but that doesn't tell us much. The point is that all the while Eliot was fighting corruption, he was actually fighting his own inner demons — by attacking them as he found them in other people.

His fall is well-deserved, considering the suffering he brought via his overzealous prosecutions of people, not all of whom had committed crimes. But it is also pathetic, considering that he fell prey to the most common of temptations — not the sex — the urge to fight one's demons in other people, rather than face them in himself. To illustrate how common it is, that particular urge plays a big part in making war, policing our communities, preaching, prejudice, etc. It is a bad thing that can be harnessed to get us to do good things, but only when it is channeled and checked.

So, I view Eliot as a kind of Everyman. I do not rejoice at his fall. But I am relieved that one can still so fall, even if one is a Democrat. Indeed, contrary to the example set by Bill Clinton, Spitzer has come clean, and resigned his office. I hope he seeks psychotherapy to root out those inner demons and become a free man.

Certainly we, a free people, must insist on having free leaders. Not leaders who are slaves to their own desires or other temptations.

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