March 17, 2008
The front page of the Globe and Mail in Vancouver, where I was lecturing last week, explained on March 12 that the “sex scandal” that had engulfed former Governor Eliot Spitzer and which had precipitated his resignation left “Albany in disarray yesterday still struggling to comprehend revelations” that “the governor had paid thousands of dollars to an escort service for a tryst with a high-paid call girl.”
Of all the misdeeds that should have ended Spitzer’s career, his dalliance with a prostitute seems at the very bottom of the list. Having made his mark by illegally wiretapping and bullying in other ways those suspected of “white collar crimes,” the former governor had gained a favorable reputation for doing things that a decent society would have held in contempt. Among his tactics while a public prosecutor for getting at people like his parents, who had made a fortune in high finance, was leaking charges for which no court had yet condemned his targets. Although some of his charges could never be made to stick, Spitzer had waged crusades, with press connivance, against those he happened not to like, and particularly and most fiercely against banking investor John Whitehead.
But the New York public, and not least the New York Post which backed him for governor, may have liked Spitzer because of his progressive social views. Among his stands that were favorably presented in the New York City press was showing a commitment to “women’s choice” that included support for late-term abortion and Spitzer’s enthusiastic endorsement of gay marriage. In such states as New York and New Jersey, where Governors Jon Corazin and Jim McGreevey have combined corrupt politics with progressive lifestyle views, it actually pays to move in sync with NOW and the National Gay and Lesbian Alliance. What is therefore mind-boggling is why the citizens of New York would be thrown “into disarray” by something as conventional and indeed old-fashioned as Spitzer’s employment of a call-girl. The only reason that I can figure out is Spitzer, by violating a law against prostitution that he himself had rammed through the legislature, was doing something far graver than being hypocritical. He was acting against the latest twist or turn of feminist dogma, which probably condemns the economic transaction in which Spitzer had engaged.
This reminds me of the very trivial reason that my colleagues at another college once gave for having turned against the Soviet Union, namely that the Soviet government would not allow its Jewish citizens to bake Matzos for Passover. Although those seeking to bake the unleavened bread would have been allowed to do so under a decent government, what struck me about the cries of indignation against the Soviets” refusal is that they came from people who in some cases had adamantly denied the existence of Gulags. Others among those who were signing protests against Soviet insensitivity sounded like one of my co-participants at the conference that I attended in Vancouver. This participant found it “debatable” that the Communists had engaged in the kind of mass murder that had characterized Western Christianity. Yet these lifelong apologists for Communists crimes were galvanized into shrieking protests, as soon as the Soviets had denied certain amenities to a fraction of its Jewish population. (For the record most of these moronic protestors were “anti-fascist” non-Jews.)
In a similar way most of Spitzer’s current critics would have continued to put up with his temper tantrums and his widely reported outbursts of obscenity not only against all the “rich b——-ds” but also against those politicians who had the temerity to disagree with him. Nor would his whacko social agenda have caused the least discomfort to those who were expressing shock, if only Eliot had not frequented the call-girl in question. Some of his shocked or at least unsettled critics may be those who continue to celebrate Ted Kennedy as the “senior statesman of the Democratic Party.” It is in that way that I hear his Democratic colleagues and the fawning media refer to the badly aged Senator from Massachusetts, who, as Arthur Schlesinger used to remind us, has “survived true ordeals.” Apparently getting soused with some regularity, and killing your mistress while in a drunken stupor, and then going on to mistreat other women, including one’s spouse, is the kind of ordeal that creates “senior statesmen” associated with the PC Left. Note it’s not that I have anything but loathing for Spitzer and I was certainly happy to see him fall. But what is less welcome is the selective moralizing that has caused this to happen. New Yorkers seem disproportionately upset about the tip of the iceberg, which is Eliot’s uniformly foul career. And those who are shocked by his immorality are often quite indulgent about the far worse behavior of those who continue to be liberal Democratic heroes.