Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's Illegal

I didn't have much to say about the Spitzer debacle before now except perhaps "There goes another one!" But frankly, some of the commentary coming from people on the left about it is beginning to rub me the wrong way. The responses on left-leaning blogs thus far seem to be "Prostitution ain't so bad!" to "Republicans set him up!" to "Don't give Republicans cover by going after him too hard!" (that in email from colleagues.) Here's Glenn Greenwald, for example:

With all of the intense hand-wringing abounding, it's very difficult to discern the standard being applied here. Are any public officials who commit adultery engaged in such morally intolerable behavior that they ought to resign, because that didn't seem to be the standard back in the 1990s? Or is that any illegal behavior of any kind -- no matter how serious or frivolous, whether victim-creating or victimless -- merits resignation? If a political official smokes pot, or gambles in a poker game, or commits adultery in a state where adultery is a crime, are they now so morally beyond the pale that it is time for them to go? Is that the standard here?

I like Greenwald, but I couldn't disagree with him more here. I for one tend to think prostitution should be legal. That does not change the fact that it is certainly illegal now, and any man who secretly engages in the services of a very expensive prostitute as arranged by a service that provides for such, certainly knows that he is engaging in a highly illegal enterprise. Spitzer also allegedly went out of his way to hide the money he was using to pay for the prostitute's services, further indication that he was quite aware of the wrongfulness of his acts. Greenwald and others seem to think that prostitution, as a consensual act between two adults, should not be considered disqualification for political office anymore than adultery. And Greenwald downplays the illegality of the act by comparing it to silly examples like gambling in a card game. But what if that official shifts his money around to hide his thousands of dollars in gambling losses? What if that official routinely spends thousands of dollars going out onto the street to personally buy pot that he then smokes while he's on official business? Greenwald seems to have trouble discerning a standard of conduct here, but I can tell you that it's not difficult to discern at all. If you systematically engage in illegal conduct, fully aware of the illegality of the conduct, and you make every effort to hide that conduct from others, then you are not fit to be the mayor of a small rural town, let alone the governor of a major American state. No, Spitzer is not guilty merely of hypocrisy (though he is certainly guilty of that too.) He is guilty of flouting the law, doing so deliberately and in a manner that reflects a capacity for deceit. Why wouldn't he resign?

I pay no heed to what Republicans have to say about Spitzer. But the fact that the Republican party has its own issues with sex and prostitution does not excuse Spitzer, nor is it a reason to let him off the hook. If Democrats want to attack conservative pundits and bloggers for their willingness to defend disgraced politicians, then we cannot hypocritically defend our own politicians who are clearly undeserving of our defense. As for the conspiracy-mongering...I'm more inclined to be suspicious of conspiracies to pervert justice when the targets don't deserve to go to jail. Spitzer is no Siegelman.

UPDATE: Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

UPDATE: Spitzer resigns.

1 comment:

Nat-Wu said...

Exactly. And of course this is an opportunity to prove to noncommital voters the Democrats can and will clean up their own house and speak against corruption from a position of moral authority. Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is.