Sorry, folks, there’s just no help for it. Try as I might, everything I want to write about this week keeps getting blocked by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, and the precipitous fall of the man who as recently as last week sat atop the Empire State.
Here in America, we like our scandals simple. So it’s either money or sex, except in those really juicy cases, such as the one that concerns us here, when it’s money and sex, or money for sex.
The governor resigned earlier today (March 12) and most of us in the office were crowded around the TV watching CNN to not only see what he had to say but to see how he would comport himself. At times like this I find myself wondering how these public figures do it–that is, have the ability to face the banks of cameras while in full humiliation mode. The kind of mental and emotional compartmentalization required in these circumstances seems to be almost inhuman.
In any case, Spitzer did resign, although in truth it came two days after it should have. There was no way in the world that he could have held on to the job. So one wonders about those press reports that said certain people were urging him not to quit (his wife among them, if you believe the reports) and what they could possibly have been thinking.
Communing with prostitutes was bad enough, but what put the seal on it in Spitzer’s case is the replay of another American archetype–the holier-than-thou crusader with the all-too-human failings that go right to the heart of the crusader’s crusade. The symmetry is as astounding as it was in the Bizarro Jerry episode on Seinfeld.
In this case, Spitzer made his imprint on the public’s consciousness as a particularly aggressive and echt-New York type of avenging angel. As Attorney General of New York he was so ruthless, heavy-handed and obnoxious that he was almost a caricature of the thuggish and evil world he pursued with fury, all the while reaping the accolades of the public. And he rode it to getting 70% of the vote in the state when he ran for governor in 2006. Do you remember that there was even talk about Spitzer being presidential timber sometime in the future?
And through it all one assumed that he was the ultimate Mr. Clean. Above reproach. Spotless. Wouldn’t even think about doing wrong.
It’s this moralistic intensity that was revealed to be a sham and whose upending has spawned a veritable epidemic of Schadenfreude in the offices of many Wall Street firms and other financial companies, including insurers and brokers.