Spitz take

It is a commonplace in literature that the most righteous moralizers are those who lead lives of secret vice. Everyone's favorite caped crusader, Eliot Spitzer, demonstrates that life mirrors art:

An affidavit in the federal investigation into a prostitution ring said that a wiretap recording captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a hotel room. The person briefed on the case identified Mr. Spitzer as Client 9.

Mr. Spitzer today made a brief public appearance during which he apologized for his behavior, and described it as a “private matter.”

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Mr. Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda at his Manhattan office. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.”

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

Before speaking, Mr. Spitzer stood with his arm around his wife; the two nodded and then strode forward together to face more than 100 reporters. Both had glassy, tear-filled eyes, but they did not cry.

The governor spoke for perhaps a minute and did not address his political future.

He declined to take questions and promised to report back soon. As he went to leave, three reporters screamed out, "Are you resigning? Are you resigning?", and Mr. Spitzer charged out of the room, slamming the door.

The indignant proclamations that anything and everything involving sex is a private matter has gone beyond tedious into ludicrous. If he were a businessman or an entertainer caught using a prostitute, my sympathies would be all on his side--well, first his wife's, then his. However, this gentleman was the man charged with upholding the laws of the third most popular state in the country--including its prostitution statutes. As governor, he is responsible for signing those laws. Is it a private matter when other people are arrested for consorting with call girls, or is a private life a privilege reserved for high ranking Democratic officials? To be sure, we already knew that Eliot Spitzer had no respect for the letter of the law--his signature move was going after people on the basis of moral outrage, rather than, say, violating a statute. But his behavior since he got into governor's office has been, in the deepest sense of the word, scandalous. His use of the state police to prosecute petty political battles, and now his flagrant violations of statutes that he himself used to enforce, seem to indicate that Spitzer thought he had been elected to the position of Third World Dictator. To call him a hypocrite is too kind--he isn't even paying tribute to virtue. If he had an ounce of shame, he would resign.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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