Thursday, 13 March 2008

The End of the Affair(s)

Eliot Spitzer resigns and Michael Todd kills himself. Those are two different outcomes from alleged bouts of infidelity. Both are just plain sad.

Spitzer is the New York governor caught up in a high-class prostitution ring, though one wonders how a prostitution ring can be said to be "high-class." "High-price" maybe, given how much the Emperors Club V.I.P. charged. Todd was a high-ranking English police chief, head of the Greater Manchester force. He was found dead halfway up a Welsh mountain, a half-empty bottle of alcohol beside him. He may not have meant to kill himself, but the Daily Mail suggests he was distraught that an alleged affair with a "high-flying married mother-of-two" was about to be exposed. (What is it with the "high-" prefix lately? Can no one or nothing just be normal any longer?)

Spitzer apparently dithered over resigning. It would have been interesting--or at least novel--to see him argue for keeping his job. "You know what," he could have said, "I behaved like a jerk. I may have broken the law. But I think I'm a pretty good governor and, after chemical castration, I will go back to doing the people's business." But, no, that really wouldn't have worked. The alleged scale of his subterfuge was just too much. (Slate has a great video showing the different ways politicians 'fess up to their indiscretions.)

And for those who might argue that Spitzer was wrapped up in a victimless crime, just read about "Kristen," the call girl who serviced Client 9. Ashley Alexandra Dupré sounds like the sort of fragile, damaged person you'd expect would end up a hooker, not the self-actualized feminist that some TV producers serve up. Spitzer's conversation with his teenaged daughters--the oldest not much younger than Dupre--must have been the most uncomfortable of his life.

And what of Chief Constable Todd? I wonder whether exposure of his alleged affair really would have ended his career. It wasn't illegal. (I also wonder who he worried would expose it. Which tabloid was poking around?) It sounds as if he may have suffered from depression, which could have made him feel that walking up a Welsh mountain in a storm with a bottle of gin was the only recourse he had left.

I'm not sure there any any lessons to be learned from either of these events. It's not like anything new happened. As I said, it's the shamed politician who doesn't resign that would be the real story, man bites dog instead of man behaves like dog. For as Nick Lowe sang:
All men, all men are liars;
their words aren't worth no more than wornout tires.
Get rusty pliers to pull his tooth,
Cause all men are liars and that's the truth.


SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Ruth Marcus (yesterday,in the Post) is right - it's like a Greek tragedy, happening before our eyes. Almost too painful to watch.

On a different note, I like the NY state constitution - it appears the new governor cannot leave the state, for fear of the Republicans taking over. I wonder why he isn't allowed to appoint a new lieutenant governor?

feckless man said...

As Letterman said last night, Spitzer couldn't handle the temptations of the big city: Albany.

mark from alexandria said...

I dare say that Spitzer had squandered his political capital by the end of last year, if conversations with my family in NY are anything to go by. Out of the tragedy comes the remarkable story of Governor-designate Paterson. I hope my home state flourishes under his leadership. The story of the Chief Constable is so much sadder and makes me wonder about things like a right to privacy and the scrutiny under which we put public figures. In Spitzer's case, there appear to have been legal issues, but even so, was this scorched earth policy of the media worth it, even for his indiscretions, Do Ms. Wall Spitzer and their daughters deserve this? Was Mr. Todd's alleged affair in any way impacting his police work? When is discretion the greater part of valor and shouldn't a need to know trump a right to know sometimes?