I really wanted to make one long post on this issue, and then put it behind me. Having Lois as a conscience made me behave otherwise. So, in my last post, I kept it simple, and just translated Eliot Spitzer’s resignation speech.
What follows are completely unrelated, random thoughts on this fiasco. It’s a mixture of comedy and commentary. It’s not news. If you stumbled on this post looking for anything important, please move along swiftly…
On Monday night, David Letterman had a Top 10 Eliot Spitzer Excuses. Some are clever, some are lame, some are deep.
While his #1 excuse:
I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago
was excellent, I propose knocking one of the lame ones off the list (you can pick your own), and replacing it with mine (perhaps even in the #1 position):
I thought I was joining a Prosecution Ring!
Keeping with the same inspiration, but moving to commentary from comedy, let’s repeat the #1 excuse again:
I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago
OK, so obviously, Bill didn’t quite do that. But, the joke isn’t far from a different reality. Bill Clinton legitimized this years ago. While many people were horrified at Bill’s behavior, probably more were only too happy to excuse his behavior, at every opportunity. After all, it was a private matter.
Well, Bill’s indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky might not have been criminal (though other allegations against him would definitely be criminal if true!), Eliot Spitzer is only too happy to be lumped in the private matter queue, even though his was clearly a crime.
One of the best words used by many commentators to describe Spitzer’s behavior is reckless. This too applies to Bill’s behavior in the White House. Why? Because at best, you leave yourself open to blackmail. Do you think that the people behind a high-end prostitution ring would be above blackmail?
How far do you think Bill Clinton or Eliot Spitzer would have gone to protect their secrets? I think pretty darn far, if they had the slightest notion that it might be kept under wraps. At best, that’s reckless, at worst, it’s disastrous. Thankfully for all of us, both of them were caught.
What’s the point of that line of reasoning? The point is that is has nothing to do with morals. To be clear, I would support legalizing prostitution, so I am not moralizing against this specific crime. But, until that happens, this is most definitely a crime, and engaging in it is simply reckless (or, in the immortal words of Wicked the Musical, well, not that simple).
Many commentators have pointed out that he has specifically prosecuted prostitution rings in the past. So, he can’t easily claim that he didn’t think it was a crime. What is more interesting (and has also been commented on many times already) is the fact that he was well aware that his banking transactions would likely be flagged!
He called the bank to ask them to break up a large transaction into smaller parts and was told that it had already gone out. He then asked for his name to be removed from the transaction and was told that this couldn’t be done.
Folks, think about it for a minute… Are you done thinking yet? This guy knows exactly what happens next. The IRS (in the past), and now likely the FBI as well, immediately start looking into what might be behind this kind of money movement.
So, even though they might have pieced together his past indiscretions (oops, I fell into the trap, as I should have said crimes), they might have had some trouble making an air-tight case if he hadn’t continued, allowing them to catch all of his conversations on his cell phone once they got a warrant based on the suspected money laundering.
People are calling that arrogant, or showing his hubris. That’s just plain kind. To me, it’s just plain stupid. Do we want a leader in any position of power to behave so stupidly that they can’t think through the consequences of the predicament they are in, and alter their behavior at least a bit?
I would whole-heartedly endorse a new set of laws on the books that would allow prosecution based on over-the-top stupidity. Sure, it would be abused with prosecutorial zeal at times (ironically, by the likes of Spitzer himself!), but in the end, we’d get some really stupid people off the streets. 😉
So, we’ve shifted gears already, so lets use the last theme to shift into a related one. (If you weren’t paying attention, that theme was stupidity.)
None of what I’m saying has anything to do with party affiliation, though I’m sure that a very few staunch Democrats will want to read that bias in this piece. A number of commentators on the cable news shows came out earlier this week and immediately started screaming about the comparisons between this fiasco and the ones surrounding Larry Craig and David Vitter (as if any prior bad act somehow excuses a current one).
Before you think I’m just picking on some obscure commentator, here’s an article in the vaunted Washington Post, making exactly that comparison. Some of the comments show that this is hardly an isolated opinion.
Before I make some observations, using the previous theme, let me state clearly that I think Larry Craig should be in jail! Not for the crime he’s accused of, but because he’s as stupid as they come in having plead guilty to said crime! I don’t care whether he’s gay. I don’t care whether he’s a hypocrite who railed against gays, even though he’s very likely gay. I care that he’s making laws for this country, but didn’t think to consult a lawyer as to the consequences of his guilty plea? Lock him up!
Sorry, it’s not entirely out of my system yet, so here’s one more thing. On February 19th, 2008, the situation comedy show According To Jim did a phenomenal parody of the Larry Craig bathroom encounter. It perfectly portrayed my original reaction when this story broke.
Let’s see if you think Larry Craig is guilty of this crime or not? To be clear, guilty of solicitation, not guilty of being gay! If he isn’t gay, how likely would he be to have a clue as to how to solicit someone in the next stall? I certainly wasn’t clued in to this technique. But, as Jim Belushi deftly showed us, there are possibly some situations whereby you could accidentally engage in this coded behavior.
OK, so now you’ve done the unthinkable, and accidentally solicited an undercover officer. When confronted with those facts, what do you do? Admit it, just to make it go away? Huh? It’s not even a matter of his position as a Senator. It’s a matter of complete incredulity that you might have done such a thing, a thing that you had never even heard of before.
The alternative is more obvious. You were soliciting, you got caught, and you panicked. In the famous words of a great comedian (Bill Engvall):
Here’s Your Sign
OK, are you satisfied that I can skewer a Republican as well? Good. Unfortunately, that’s not the point. There is very little similarity in their plights. Spitzer prosecuted this exact crime, and can’t pretend to not understand that it’s a crime. We’ve already covered the stupid defense of Larry Craig, and no, it’s not plausible, but it’s certainly not the same level of ridiculousness that would apply had Spitzer claimed a similar defense (thankfully, his stupidity has some bounds…).
They are similar in that Larry Craig was an anti-gay moralist, so they are both hypocrites, for sure. Larry Craig and David Vitter can’t enforce laws directly, and they can’t even pass laws without a majority of their colleagues agreeing with them. So, if they are influenced (as in my assertion above regarding blackmail), they can do damage, for sure, but not as much as someone who was Attorney General, and recently Governor.
Shifting gears again…
Did you notice that the only senior Democrat who didn’t immediately denounce (let alone distance themselves from) Spitzer was Hillary Clinton? There’s little doubt that she was wildly uncomfortable when asked to comment, but in the end, she wouldn’t disclaim his behavior, even after he publicly admitted it. You can read an article about it here, but the important quote was:
Let’s wait and see what comes out of the next few days
Why wait? Was there a possible good outcome or spin possible from this admission? No. She was caught between a rock and a hard place. If she denounced his behavior, the follow-up question would inevitably be Why didn’t you denounce Bill’s behavior? It would feel like splitting hairs to answer Well, Bill didn’t commit an actual crime…
While this may not cause her any more grief than losing one committed superdelegate, it shows one small consequence of Bill’s former reckless behavior. It put her in a position of having to be an apologist for someone that no one else felt a need to defend.
Ultimately, whether it hurts Hillary or not, her behavior has hurt all women. The phony stand by your man speech (when they obviously hate each other beyond description) has made it more difficult for other woman to stand up for their basic human rights to be treated with dignity by their partners. It’s interesting (and even a little amazing) to me that so many women look up to her. I only hope those women don’t have to live the private life that Hillary does…
Just to make sure that the last point isn’t misunderstood, I’m not saying that none of the aggrieved woman (no pun intended on McGreevy’s name) 😉 should stand by their man. If there is love between them, or for the sake of the kids, etc., they should try to work it out. But, if it’s expediency, and in particular political expediency that keeps you together, then it harms all women.
I honestly think I can write for a few more hours, but I have probably lost all of my readers by now already. So, I’ll end with one last irony.
Since this scandal broke, the name of this particular prostitution ring (or rather, Escort Service) has been splattered all over the Internet. Even The New York Times printed their name: Emperors Club.
One has to wonder how much more money they are going to make in 2008 now that people know that a super rich person, who knows a ton about the industry, specifically chose them, including having women brought from out of state to pleasure him. I’d say the IRS has it’s work cut out when auditing this enterprise next year! 😉