Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Lust Potion #9, or 'Spitzer? I Don't Even Know Her'

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.


Sarah Laurence Blog said...

Is it only that the politicians get caught or is there a certain type of man who is drawn to ruling over subjects in law and in bed? I don't recall any scandal of a female politician and a gigolo. Does power corrupt a man's morals?

Anonymous said...

He'll be the next person in rehab!LOL. That seems to be the trend. It does make you wonder if this isn't the first time. He might have quite a record.

But I also like the fact that he couldn't get a call girl in DC. He would have to pay big bucks! LOL.

Anonymous said...

Your Brother Said…AND if you're going to become a politician and hook up with a call girl make sure that during your press conference you don't make any stupid faces because that's the one every "news" organization will print!

Candadai Tirumalai said...

The Profumo scandal of the earlier 1960s, involving a Minister (in the British sense of the word), prostitutes, and, yes, Soviet agents, gripped Britain and the world for months. Profumo was indeed repentant in later years, worked with the disadvantaged of the East End, and when he died a year or so ago, was eulogized in the papers as a rehabilitated man. At least one of the women involved told her life story in a book some years ago.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Sigh - you know, you have to wonder whether a really remarkable record as public servant has to be completely negated by a personal failing? I understand that Spitzer's talk about ethics in government and law enforcement simply wouldn't carry as much force as they used to (none, whatsoever, really); so I suppose he might as well go. But, geez, I wish we didn't expect our politicians to be superhuman.

Of course, NY prostitutes are better than DC prostitutes. Get over it. NY is better at everything - don't even get me started on bagels.

And what's with the political wife standing by her man at the microphone while he confesses (remember the NJ governor a few years ago?)? It seems to be almost the equivalent of a perp walk - a perv walk, if you will.

Henry said...

In response to suburbancorrespondent I suspect the issue for a lot of people is that Spitzer has so proudly taken it upon himself to legislate personal morality for everyone else. So I don't think it's unreasonable to expect him just to live up to the standards he imposes on other people.
He's not as bad a hypocrite as Sen. Larry Craig (the anti-gay bigot who got busted for soliciting male prostitute) but I reckon (without knowing much about it) that he brought down on his own head.

Jo said...

I had a chat with a Brit last week where we discussed Bill Clinton and George Bush. His comment was that both men (being human) had weaknesses, and that Clinton's weaknesses were at least in areas that didn't have catastrophic impacts on the rest of the world.

There are sex scandals, and then there are moments where sex scandals involve breaking the law -- ala prostitution (Spitzer) or perjury (Clinton). Contrast those with France's Sarkosy, who did something perfectly legal that would nevertheless doom him in U.S. politics -- divorcing 6 months after being elected and marrying a model 6 months after that.

mark from alexandria said...

I have to agree with Suburban Correspondent. As a former New Yorker, I have no doubt that this is another commodity, like pizza, bagels, and Italian and Jewish delis that New York does best.

New York's Lt. Governor is a fascinating man. He might be the Empire State's first African American governor and also its first legally blind governor. His father was one of the great NY pols of the last generation.

Of course, in the not too distant past, we had the widowed Governor Hugh Carey who married property developer Engie Goulatis (sp?) who, it later turned out, had more previous marriages than anybody knew about. The popular bumper sticker at the time was "Honk if you have been married to Engie" Imagine what bumper stickers Spitzer may be seeing.

John Kelly said...

@Sarah: I think you're right. There is something about powerful men. Not being one, I can only imagine. But I think they may feel that since they've accomplished so much, they ought to be able to have anything they want,get away with anything they want.
@bro: That's a priceless face, isn't it? He's not a handsome man to begin with and now that JPEG is winging round the internet. I wonder if he'll make it his Facebook picture.
@Candadai: Evidently the famous photo of Profumo's mistress, Christine Keeler, naked and backwards on a chair is for sale in the National Portrait Gallery gift shop.
@suburbancorrespondent: It is a shame that we're obsessed with sex and it can ruin a person's career. But it's the hypocrisy that rankles here. And the way Spitzer had to be so secretive. Plus, think how much time and brainpower he had to devote to his charade, time and brainpower that could have served the Good People of New York.
@Jo: You're right, those French politicians wouldn't last a day in the States. Then again, look how many of our "family values" pols are on wife number 2 or 3.
@Mark: I just wondered: Is it possible to be ILLEGALLY blind?

Joyce said...

As a Montreal native, all I can say is that it's *so Canadian* to dig out the absolutely most neutral, bland angle on this story to write about.

mary said...

Check out "Joyce's" blog that shows a video of an upper level Dressage test. Yes, Joyce, it is absolutely beautiful. It takes years to train a horse [and rider]up to that level.

Oh, how I miss this beautiful sport.