I hadn’t intended to make any comments on the self-destruction of Eliot Spitzer. I’ve tended to avoid discussing the sexual behavior of politicians, for a variety of reasons: the most prominent being that the personal vices of individuals doesn’t really relate to ideological issues. Heaven knows we’ve seen people in every camp fall prey to temptation. But I’ve had many people ask me about my opinion, in person or over email, so I thought I might as well share some belated thoughts.
We live in a carnal world. We human beings are frail creatures, easily given to sin. Sexual sin is very prevalent in our world, much more so than I was lead to believe growing up in a supposedly upstanding religious community. Even “good” people often succumb to the lures of the flesh. I have been very saddened to learn this. I see the heartache this causes in families, the lives it can wreak. I pray humanity can learn to vanquish this part of our world. But as of this moment, it is an immense trap for many of us.
I believe in forgiveness and compassion. No scarlet letters, please. History has shown that people who might succumb to temptation can be effective and even socially transformative leaders. Personal sins should be considered just that: personal. Adultery is between sinner, spouse, and God. We should leave it there, and not make it a political issue.
Spitzer’s case, however, isn’t merely about extramarital sex. It is about participating in prostitution, sexual trafficing. And as I understand it, we’re talking about a felony offense for the means by which he attempted to cover his tracks. Nothing proven yet, but Spitzer’s immediate but vague confession certainly seems to justify the charges. The citizens of New York should not tolerate such activity from the chief executive officer of their state. While I question the motives of the NY Republican drive to impeach, it was indeed absolutely imperative that Spitzer be removed from office. I’m glad pressure mounted for his resignation.
Same goes for Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, by the way. The apparent affair might be forgiven. The manner in which he has apparently abused his power to obstruct justice and protect his hide is a betrayal of the public and should not be tolerated.
I was disappointed to learn that Spitzer has been harboring such crimes. From what I had followed of his career, he had seemed a strong advocate for the public. He had worked hard to hold Wall Street to decent ethical standards and to be more accountable for the harm its excesses caused. But no amount of good deeds can excuse crimes such as those in which he apparently indulged. If we allow politicians this sort of license because of their party affiliation, we cede any claim to moral legitimacy.