All I can say is, “wow.”
If you’re reading this from inside NY State, you definitely know what I’m referring to. If you’re reading this from outside the state, you probably do, though just in case, I’ll give the quick and dirty summary (no pun intended) – Eliot Spitzer, Governor of New York, resigned his post effective Monday at 12pm after it was revealed he had connections to a high end prostitution ring (specifically, so we’re told, as “Client 9”).
From reading this blog, you know I voted for him. From reading it, you may also infer that since he’s taken office, I haven’t been a huge fan of his. I, like everyone else, voted for him with extreme optimism, to simply be let down by his, well, steamroller tactics. He had some good ideas, but he had no idea how to play ball to get them. He was treating New York like a prosecuting attorney, when really someone should have handed him a copy of John Kingdon’s Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. For example – when the country is in a xenophobic frenzy, it’s probably NOT the best time to suggest issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Anyhow, I, like many New Yorkers, was disappointed in his performance so far. And, also, working in “Agencyland” (as we bureaucrats like to refer to State employment that is not very politically connected), saw more of it than most. Believe me – we certainly didn’t scoff at the contracts handed to CSEA and PEF (which will result in some pretty raises for me between now and the end of June), but we also knew it was quite fiscally irresponsible. Though, I maintain that a lot of our fiscal irresponsibility in this state has to do with other issues, State employment in itself being the least of it.
So, being in Agencyland, this week has been interesting. Some of the residents of Agencyland didn’t get quite the bird’s eye view that I did – that is, knowing that most of this is not going to directly affect me, but watching the behaviors of people who it may directly affect. The executives in my agency were abuzz when it happened. I got an email from a friend (who works at another agency), and I thought it was a joke. I then saw from a quick Google News search that it was not a joke. As I started to send a quick email to some coworkers, I heard the Execs. The worried, stressed, adrenaline-pumped Execs, as they ran to the Public Information Office to watch the news.
Now, the head of my agency was visibly distraught. This particular agency head has some job security (for reasons I’d rather not explain as to not give away too much personal information), however I can understand this. Her boss was just fired (for all intents and purposes — yes, he “resigned,” but he didn’t want to), and for some pretty shocking reasons. However, there were others I witnessed who were downright giddy.
I wouldn’t say I’m giddy over this. I’m really not sure how I “feel.” I think he needed to resign. However, while watching NY 1 last night, one pundit compared the situation to Bill Clinton. How come everyone gave Bill Clinton a pass, but not Eliot Spitzer.
“Well, Clinton didn’t break the law!” Actually, he did – he perjured himself.
“Well, yeah, okay, but he never should have been asked in the first place.” Noted, but he was. And, now, all elected officials know that when accused of these things, to just admit it – or end up in Clinton’s shoes.
The bottom line is, while having an affair with your intern is hardly the same thing as paying for a high class call-girl and transporting her to other clients over state lines, we gave Clinton a pass because we LIKED Clinton. We thought he was doing a good job. Clinton left office with a 70 percent approval rating. Spitzer, on the other hand, had an approval rating that was rivaling that of George W. Bush.
I think, too, as another NY 1 pundit explained, is Clinton wasn’t sanctimonious. We weren’t surprised when we heard about Monica Lewinsky, and we all scoffed and rolled our eyes when we heard, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” “Yeah, right,” we all said. With Spitzer, we were shocked and appalled. Mr. “I cleaned up Wall St.” is involved in this business? Really? Mr. “I send my employees Christmas cards with pictures of me skiing with my family” cheated on his wife with a hooker? When we saw “sex scandal” linked with Clinton in the headlines, we smirked and said, “Here we go again, who the hell cares anymore? He’s a dog, we get it.” When we saw these headlines, we searched the webpage for some indication that this was fake, that it was a joke.
How could anyone be so stupid?
So, are we judging Eliot by a different standard than Clinton? Absolutely. I think his popularity (or lack thereof) had something to do with it, though I think more it was our expectations. We held him to a higher standard, and the higher the pedestal, the harder they fall.