I imagine not much work got done in New York yesterday, except for in the newsroom of the New York Times. The rest of the state, and much of the country, was obsessed with the amazing public downfall of New York governor Eliot Spitzer. Early headlines on the Times' web site made it sound as if Spitzer was perhaps running a call girl ring, and that seemed more believable than the crusading former attorney general as a customer ("involved" with the ring? "linked to" the ring? what did that mean, I wondered). But, no, Spitzer was apparently a client of the Emperors Club V.I.P. escort service.
That name has a certain resonance. Do men willing to pay $5,000 for a prostitute consider themselves modern Caesars, able to flout the law with impunity?
This is no doubt a tragedy for Spitzer's family, but it's the sort of story journalists love: a total bombshell that can be gleefully picked apart over the coming weeks. Eventually we will know more about Eliot Spitzer's sex life than we know about our own. (But pity the poor reporters who have to nibble the less interesting aspects of the story, such as this article from the Globe and Mail on how the scandal will affect the troubled bond insurance market. Who cares? Tell us why Client 9 was "difficult"! Did he like to keep his socks on or hum the "Good Times" theme song?)
The Post's Hank Stuever has a nice essay about the appeal of the hotel room to men. "Men lose their minds in hotels." Hotel rooms are like mini-Las Vegases: What happens in Room 871 stays in Room 871.
Unless you're a politician.
When will politicians learn that they will always get caught? Is it only politicians that we care about? If a Hollywood exec or a corporate CEO were to be revealed as an Emperors Club customer, would we expect him to resign? Then again, it's the hypocrisy that bugs us. If you're charged with prosecuting prostitutes don't use them.
Washingtonpost.com's Mary Ann Akers points out that Washington's prostitutes apparently weren't good enough for Spitzer. He preferred to order one from New York. Not only did that increase the tawdry transaction's carbon footprint--the train, the taxicabs--it was just more disrespect for my birthplace. First we can't get a voting representative in Congress or a commemorative state quarter and now this....
It seems to me that British political sex scandals have cooled off lately. We Americans used to find them so entertaining, especially since they involved Soviet spies and riding crops. The tabloids here are still full of illicit sex but it's usually about footballers or pop stars. The gutter press seems to want photogenic people for their scandals, not pasty-faced politicos. Being under an under-secretary just doesn't sell like it once did.
Spitzer has to resign, right? There's no way he can govern after this. He doesn't strike me as the kind of man to do a full Oprah: tearfully confessing and begging forgiveness on national TV. I think he'll silently slink away. And we'll await the next politician who thought he could get away with it.