So we have a new governor, or at least will have one on Monday. It has been a wild ride the last couple of days. I think Spitzer did right to resign. I feel terribly sad for his family, and even for him. His behavior was remarkably reckless. I do think he can't function as governor.
More opinions behind the cut.
- Some have suggested that the press have gone after Spitzer in a disproportionate way, but I'm not seeing that, at least not here in NYC. In general, the press here love Spitzer. He was considered the darling of the media since his AG days. He prosecuted Wall St. movers and shakers, which made great copy, and he was nice to media folks and accessible and always had something good to say. I say this by contrast with Giuliani, who was generally hated by the press and they definitely kicked him when he was down (and wished they could have when he was up).
- He has thoroughly made his reputation as Mr. Clean battling against the forces of corruption, including expressing pretty credible disgust at prostitution. I think it's worth considering that kind of hypocrisy.
- He was instrumental in passing of a new law that increases penalties for men patronizing prostitutes. In the views of reformers, he was on their side in this: seeing sex workers as exploited and the johns as the criminals and they were getting away with it.
- As recently as a few months ago (while he was spending $4000 a session on call girls) he called up Nicholas Kristof at the NY Times - who often writes about human trafficking and sexual slavery issues - and asked him to write a piece about how he, Spitzer, had closed down and prosecuted a big international prostitution ring when he was Attorney General. The level of chutzpah in that makes me shake my head and wonder who this guy is. More to the point, the people who know him seem to all be shaking their heads and wondering who he is.
- He violated several federal laws, including financial corruption ones. This is a guy who made his name investigating financial fancy footwork and yet he was taking large cash withdrawals and giving money orders to fake corporations to hide his illegal activities. It's not like with Clinton, where the only legal issue was perjury (and it wasn't proven) so it was pretty clear the real issue was sex. This is layers of illegality to cover up the sex.
- If not for the above, I don't think this would be such a big deal, at least here on the ground. If he were found to be having an affair with a state senator, for example, I think he could have kept his job. But he committed at least a couple of federal crimes as well as state ones and the idea of a sitting governor being prosecuted while he's got a budget to deliver and plenty of issues to be dealing with in a large and complicated state government is just too much for many people to contemplate. People are pissed off that he just left everything in limbo for two days without any word to his lieutenant governor, who could have been starting a transition process. There's a state to run here!
- People close to Spitzer politically appear truly shocked. The press is shocked. Some people are happily shocked (some of the Republicans seem beside themselves with glee) but I'm quite convinced that nobody expected this, not even his closest associates. From what I've read FBI apparently thought they were going to find an underlying financial crime he was covering up and they were shocked, too, to find out it was prostitution.
- The shock is reflected in the news accounts. A governor getting caught in something big (and I do think it's big) and resigning is big news, anyway, but there's a different spin when it seems completely at odds with what everyone who knew him thought of him. McGreevey was news, too, but in a different way - nobody but his wife was shocked. Press, politicians, average citizens - all of NJ knew he was gay. So I think the shock is there and it's going to show up in the media. With McGreevey, Craig, Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, Vitter, the press coverage was "Now we're talking about what was previously an open secret." With Spitzer, it's "ZOMG WTF happened!"
- I don't know much about Paterson but he seems competent and well-regarded. And I think it's exciting and historic that New York will have its first black governor and its first (and maybe the country's first?) blind governor.