Politics

Spitzer Deserves What He Gets

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In reading blog coverage and comments about the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, I’ve gotten the sense that there are a lot of people who think this is no big deal. The underlying assumption is the either prostitution is not worth enforcing or that this particular case should be a private matter for the Spitzer family. Both assumptions, in my mind, are wrong.

First, hiring a prostitute and having a consensual affair are two very different things and we shouldn’t confuse the two. An affair is a personal matter as is any consensual sexual relationship between adults. The government has no business monitoring or regulating such acts and most of us have no business throwing stones. Prostitution, on the other hand, is a commercial matter and one that is excessively exploitative. It’s very much in the realm of matters the government should regulate or prohibit. And the rest of us have every right to expect our politicians not to hire call girls.

There’s a reason why only one state in the union permits prostitution and, even then, with plenty of regulations that would still consider what Spitzer did to be criminal. Prostitution places women at high risk for violence, disease and a multitude of other problems. Not to mention that, if we accept that our culture should have at least some standards, we hardly want prostitution to become a legitimate career aspiration for young women. Sure, we can’t wipe it out through enforcement but our society and culture are stronger for not tolerating such physical exploitation (as distinct from the less harmful voyeuristic exploitation that occurs in legal pornography).

As for enforcement, it’s usually a local matter and some jurisdictions place more emphasis on it than others. But as long as the majority want it to be a law we have to expect it to be enforced. And as long as it’s enforced, we have to demand it’s enforced on all levels – not just on the street but in the highest offices as well. Spitzer got caught because of his own clumsy use of wire transfers. No one pried into his personal life and then discovered the criminality. There was more than enough probable cause for an investigation because Spitzer gave them cause.

Ultimately, the Spitzer case is not about sex. It’s about a governor committing a federal felony (it became federal when paid a prostitute to cross state lines). This is not some over-reaction to a politician getting caught with his pants down. This is an appropriate reaction to a politician betraying his oath to uphold the law. Unless Spitzer claims he’s not guilty, there’s absolutely no reason the citizens of New York should tolerate him staying in office.

  • http://centristcoalition.com/blog/ kritter

    I don’t really agree that it’s “not about sex.” It’s all about sex, the desire that brough the sin.

    But I think you’re right that it’s not simply about sex when it comes to what the ramifications ought to be. He was the attorney general, and now he’s governor, so that means he has to be held to a higher standard, in much the same way that it’s more irresponsible for a pregnant mother to smoke than it is for a wino down on the street corner.

    He broke his public oath to uphold the law, and he left himself subject to blackmail.

    And he also has to be held to a higher standard because he implicitly requested it by being unforgiving and sanctimonious throughout his public career.

    Thanks for playing Eliot. Time for you to learn about forgiveness. In the private sector, BTW.

  • http://sourcejunk.blogspot.com/2008/03/hookergate.html Max

    If the scandal had not come out, New York wouldn’t have been any worse off. Why call on him to resign now? How could one possibly think that our state will be better off shaking up the Executive when we have a $4B deficit and the budget deadline is fast approaching?

    The legislature has come to a complete standstill. The media hoopla surrounding this debacle has been a thousand times more detrimental to New York than the actual offense. From the way the papers have been attacking the poor sap, you’d think he was the kingpin of the organization.

    After months of fumbling, Spitzer finally started to learn the ropes as Governor. If this spectacle wasn’t blown out of proportion there is no reason this indiscretion would have prevented him from serving New York honorably.

  • Ickybits

    NYT’s has a story just out about Spitzer pushing through legislation making much stiffer penalties for johns who hire prostitutes just this last year, combined with his having prosecuted prostitution as attorney general hiring prostitutes from his office. If Spitzer stays then the people he put in jail for prostitution should be released and hopefully file suit against him for malicious prosecution.

  • http://maverickviews.blogspot.com/ Alan Stewart Carl

    Max, how is it the media’s fault and not Spitzer’s fault for committing a felony? Hey, I appreciate that you consider prostitution an “indescretion” but I think it’s quite a bit worse than that and given that it’s illegal in 49 states, most voters must agree. If he just had sex with his secretary, I’d be on your side. But a felony is a felony. Hard to argue that a felon is fit to serve in office when anyone else caught in this situation would be serving parol or hard time.

  • Nelson

    This is a simple matter of government invading privacy. Just say NO to Big Brother.

  • Roy Mandina

    Are you really that stupid? Tell me you had just woken up and you weren’t thinking. Tell me something other than it’s no big deal for a former prosecuter, who wrote the law (so to speak) on prostitution and punishing the johns more severely, to become the governor, and not only brake his own law, but used mine and yours’ tax dollars to do it.