Feature

Can Spitzer survive?

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was identified as a customer of a high-end prostitution ring broken up by federal agents, said Walter Shapiro in Salon, and he might have been able to survive the scandal if he hadn't made his reputation as a "zealous&#034

What happened
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was named as a customer of a high-end prostitution ring broken up by federal agents. Identified as “Client 9” in wiretapped phone conversations recorded by the FBI, Spitzer allegedly paid to have a prostitute travel to a Washington, D.C., hotel for a tryst. Spitzer, a rising star in the Democratic Party, on Monday publicly apologized to his family and the public for failing to live up to “the standard I expected of myself,” but did not address the allegations. (The Wall Street Journal)

What the commentators said
Spitzer could probably survive a “sex scandal among consenting adults with no cash changing hands,” said Walter Shapiro in Salon. But as a “zealous” crusader who busted at least two “sex rings” while attorney general, he probably can't bounce back from “the sin of hypocrisy.” Such is the fate of self-proclaimed “moral exemplars” who fail to meet their own standards. The “tragedy” is that he seemed “on the cusp” of being able to reform the “corrupt political culture” in New York State’s capital.

That’s why Spitzer “could not have been more wrong” in claiming this as a “private matter,” said The New York Times in an editorial. “He betrayed the public” and seriously damaged “the reform cause” he champions. If he has any hopes of staying in office he has to make “a strong argument for why he should be trusted again.” And soon.

Whatever Spitzer does, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, he is "almost certainly ruined." And somehow it makes sense that this is how it would all end for a man who rose to prominence as a prosecutor whose "lack of self-restraint" ruined people on Wall Street, many of them innocent. "One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer's fall. There is none."

Spitzer has certainly "been hoisted by his own petard,” said Daniel Gross in Slate. And nobody is happier about it than his former targets on Wall Street, where news of "Spitzer’s disgrace” sparked “a bull market in schadenfreude.” Ironically, Spitzer is the victim of “the same type of investigation he pioneered.” He should have known to avoid leaving an “unnecessary digital trail,” and that just because a practice is common and “generally tolerated” doesn’t mean it’s legal.

Spitzer might be able to hang onto his job if he cribs from the “Larry Craig playbook,” said Brian Faughnan The Weekly Standard’s Blog. After his own sex scandal, the Idaho senator said he was going to “resign the same day,” but then “strung people along” by repeatedly pushing back his retirement date — and he’s still a sitting senator. Might “Spitzer figure that he can do the same?”

As with Craig and Rep. David Vitter, also stung by a prostitution bust, “my official position is: who cares?” said Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog. “This stuff shouldn’t be illegal,” and it shouldn’t matter “what these guys do in their private time.” But that isn’t “a majority opinion,” and when you throw in the “usual hypocrisy charges,” Spitzer’s “survival odds” are probably “at less than 10 percent.”

"Three words to the man: Just get out," said the New York Daily News in an editorial. Spitzer's "moral authority," is gone, and "his blithe willingness to order up a hooker by telephone revealed an abysmal and disqualifying lack of judgment."

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