Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Long and Short of It

Eliot Spitzer never imagined this was how he would be exposed to the public. When he thought of something big being shown to the nation, this was not what he had in mind. Governor Spitzer has now subjected himself to a public flogging. While it is unquestionably a product of his own hubris and stupidity, the larger question is whether what we are now about to do to him is appropriate.

Of all politicians, Governor Spitzer has established a very definite black and white in the way we are to conduct ourselves. Follow the law , and if you fail to do so there will be severe consequences to pay. There is right and wrong, and in the world he has fashioned through his career, never the twain shall meet. So how, given the groundwork that he himself has laid out, can we feel any compassion for his predicament? Is there any way , given the course that Governor Spitzer himself laid out, to give him a slap on the wrist, tell him he was naughty, and let him move forward with his career?

Certainly there are members of Congress who still retain their seats after wrongdoing was alleged , and sometimes proven. There are, we can be certain, many more who have committed transgressions, large or small , which remain secret. 'Let he who is without sin' is certainly a thought that should be considered when the rhetoric reaches a crescendo.

Further, is there never a time when private wrong does not equate to public wrong? Is there never a moment , not only for Governor Spitzer, but for all those in the public spotlight, where the errors they make in their own lives do no translate to the errors which preclude them from being effective, or appropriate leaders in their public lives? Can there not be a time when we don't have the right to look behind the mask? Is there ever a time when enough is too much?

From what I can tell, Governor Spitzer has made many enemies along the way. Given his holier than thou pronouncements, and his willingness to strike down any foe, large or small, who dares to question his judgment or position, I am certain there are legions of people now calling for his head. For them, Governor Spitzer has made his bed and must now sleep in it. Yet, for me, I have a hard time lowering the guillotine.

Maybe I am naive. Maybe I want to think that whatever bad Governor Spitzer has now done might be outweighed by the good he can do in the future. Maybe, with a dose of reality and a touch of humility, Governor Spitzer will be a better man and a better leader tomorrow than he was yesterday. Maybe I am a bleeding heart. I just think that for this Governor, and for the multitude of leaders who are sure to commit similar transgressions in the future, there must a weighing process that goes on. It is too simple to say that one wrong cancels out all the rights. It may be an error in our own judgment to be so quick to pull the trigger.

I am in no way attempting to excuse the conduct of which we are learning. Once all the facts come forth, the scope of the problem may be insurmountably large. There may be consequences to these actions that find the Governor facing divorce and criminal charges, as well as removal from office. I do not know where this will lead us. I only know that the feeding frenzy that surrounds events like these feels wrong. It is like we wait to pounce at the first opportunity. We smell blood and attack. When there is only carcas remaining, then we reflect on the wisdom of our actions.

I am just asking that we , at the very least, step back and take a deep breath, before making our move. Governor Spitzer will still be hanging in the wind when we decide what is the right thing to do. He is not going anywhere. Let us be circumspect and not find the black and white in this situation. I know this a lesson that Governor Spitzer may not have yet learned himself, but maybe we can be the ones to learn from his mistakes.

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