Like everyone else in the New York region today, I’m thinking a lot about Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Unless you live in the Biodome (does that even exist anymore?), you know that the crusading governor of New York admitted yesterday to involvement in a prostitution scandal. I first heard the news yesterday afternoon when I overheard an editor outside my office relaying it to another editor. Then I saw the news flash in my e-mail inbox from The New York Times. Still disbelieving, I Googled “spitzer scandal” and was flooded with sketchy, breathless reports.
Here’s Time.com‘s treatment, by Nathan Thornburgh:
On a day of heavy ironies for one of America’s most prominent and promising politicians, there was this: the prostitution ring that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer allegedly patronized was called the Emperors Club VIP. It was the governor’s own imperial mien, after all, that will make this fall from grace particularly bruising.
The news made me sad. Like many people in my region, I had watched his career with admiration and respect. Here was an A.G. with the balls to take on, well, really, anybody. Wall Street! Insurance giants! His ascent to governor seemed inevitable. That his clashes with the Legislature put a few dents in his shining armor only made him seem slightly less invulnerable.
Of course, his public stature, his cloak of morality and his power makes his fall all the more spectacular. Others have fallen before him. Consider the Texas prosecutor caught participating in a pedophile ring, who later committed suicide. (His sister is now suing NBC and Dateline for exposing him in its To Catch a Predator series.)
I used to think ordinary citizens were safe from losing their jobs via a sex scandal. But it occurs to me: in this day and age of lightning-speed news, private acts can take anyone down. What would happen to you if you were caught on a police wiretap arranging the services of a high-class prostititute? If that news came to light, would you get a slap on the wrist—or an out-and-out firing?