The (Entertaining) Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
One man's tragedy is another man's farce. But, then, I always thought that W. Somerset's Maugham's Rain would have played far better as a comedy than as an overwrought melodrama. I am referring, of course, to the plight of Eliot Spitzer. Boy, talk about buyer's remorse!
Frankly, I was delighted to read about the governor's recent downfall, and not because he's a prominent liberal. Okay, have it your way -- not just because he's a prominent liberal. It's because he's a big phony and also because he built his own reputation by gleefully bringing down people who did very much the same thing he did.
Because Spitzer is extremely wealthy and because he was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, he felt himself impervious to criticism, let alone cataclysm. Think of him as God with a comb-over.
Even those who supported his political aspirations knew him to be a totally arrogant human being. I even suspect that part of the prostitution ring's appeal to him was its pompous name, Emperors Club VIP. One wonders if Spitzer wrote off the thousands of dollars he spent canoodling with the hired help, by identifying them as (monkey) business expenses or, better yet, as club dues.
For all of his 48 years on this earth, everything had come pretty easy for the guy. But instead of being grateful for his good fortune, one only had to look at him, cold-eyed and glowering from one dais or another, a face like a clenched fist, to know he felt he was entitled. Some people would say that it's not fair to judge someone by his looks. But I say there's a difference between judging someone by the shape of his nose or the color of his eyes and judging him by the look he chooses to present to the world at large. Spitzer always looked like he was posing for a statue. All that was ever missing was the horse and the raised sword.
Time magazine once named Spitzer "Crusader of the Year" and, just last year, this self-righteous ninny convinced 69% of New York voters to elect him governor. But, alas, Time is the rag that continues to name various despots Man of the Year when they mean Newsmaker or even Nuisance of the Year, and New York is the place that thinks nothing of electing the likes of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate.
Some people feel sorry for Silda Spitzer, the man's wife. Well, there's no denying it makes one's skin crawl when you see these political wives dragged out time and again during these endless mea culpa occasions, but why would anyone marry this cold fish except for his money and the possibility of some day getting to be the First Lady? Frankly, I am cynical enough to agree with those women who think that the wife isn't nearly the last to know that she's married to a philandering husband. And with someone like Spitzer, who'd been VIP client #9 for several years, I think it highly unlikely that Silda was the female equivalent of Rip Van Winkle. Like the wives of many rich and influential men, I suspect she carefully weighed the pros and cons, and decided that, on balance, she liked her life even if she didn't particularly care for her husband.
Of course I have sympathy for their three daughters. Not only did their father embarrass them for no good reason, but the way he tossed money around on his bimbos had to seriously deplete their eventual inheritance.
The part that continues to confound me is how stupid politicians are, whether they're Democrats like Spitzer and William ("Money on Ice") Jefferson or Republicans like Larry ("Twitchy Toes") Craig and Randy ("If my nickname's Duke, I ought to be able to live like one") Cunningham. No matter if their scandals involve sex or money, weren't any of them awake when Gary Hart saw his presidential hopes vaporize overnight simply because he couldn't keep his pants zipped up even long enough to reach the Oval Office? And let us not forget Ted Kennedy, who watched his own presidential dreams sink right along with his mom's '67 Olds and Mary Jo Kopechne.
I realize that politicians have enormous egos and a lot of time on their hands, and that successful politicians will always be surrounded by political groupies eager to tell them how wonderful and sexy they are. But how can they continue to be so oblivious to the fact that so long as we have a two party system, the opposition is always going to be gunning for them? And as for reporters, no matter how partisan they may be, they'd trample over their own grandmothers in order to get a scoop on a sex scandal. Even in the case of super liberal Spitzer, it was the New York Times, the paper that hitherto would have had us believe he walked on water, that broke the story.
Unfortunately, the damage wreaked by Spitzer has only just begun. On top of everything else, I think it's safe to assume that Ashley Dupre, the petite $2,000-an-hour hooker better known as Kristen, will soon be all over the tube, telling all to Diane Sawyer and Larry King, and be making book deals and Viagra commercials, and eventually hosting her very own TV talk show.
Still, there are important lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of Eliot Spitzer. But knowing politicians as I do, the only one they're likely to come away with is to never again use a phone to hire a prostitute, as it, too, might turn out to be a party line.
Ah, well, we might as well take the philosophical approach, for when all is said and done, New York has a new governor, and producer Dick Wolf has a new episode of Law & Order just waiting to be written.
Television writer Burt Prelutsky is the author of Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco (101 Reasons Why I'm Happy I Left the Left).
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