Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hypocrisy at High Tide -- 'Client 9' is Busted!

I will venture to bet that nearly everybody at some point in his or her life has told an untruth, even if only a little ‘white lie’. While some would argue ideologically that any form of dishonesty is unacceptable, the reality is that many weigh the gravity of a lie is by to whom and to what extent the mistruth betrays.

The mother protecting her four-year old son from the truth about a favorite uncle’s death by homicide can be considered an honest white lie. The cashier stealing from the register and lying about a shortage as an honest error can be considered a deliberate lie. Insider trading or cover-up of real financials by Kenneth Lay and others can be considered a deliberate lie of larger magnitude. New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, posing as ‘Client 9’ and soliciting a high-end ‘call service’ for prostitution with questionable financial transactions is a deliberate and hypocritical lie. A politician considered by many to be riding high with significant future opportunities...brought down by his own ego.

Spitzer’s deceit is the most disturbing form of lying…both because of the hypocrisy and his position in our society. Portraying himself as a righteous individual, he asked for your vote; he asked for your trust; he betrayed his family and the public.

Several years back, I recall watching news stories and hearing interviews with then New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. My initial reaction, quite candidly, was that Spitzer came across as too confident, crossing that fine-line into arrogance. The adjective ‘blow-hard’ came to mind. Spitzer struck me as a public official who strived for the limelight and cameras, centered in his own stardom as what apparently was considered a successful career convicting bad guys. Spitzer eagerly portrayed himself as New York’s moral compass and gloated about putting prostitution ring criminals behind bars.

Now, here is New York’s governor apologizing for his illegal and hypocritical behavior…only AFTER he was outed by the FBI. The preliminary news reports suggest solicitation of prostitution, money laundering and tax evasion. I really want to exclaim, “I knew it!”, but would have more credibility if I had written about my disdain for Spitzer previous to these developments.

I am sorry for his wife, children and family, and the citizens of New York. Here is a public official they were led to believe was an honest and morally centered family man. After lying to his wife and family, Spitzer’s deceit began with luring and convincing the citizens of New York to place their trust in him with their vote for governor. The lies continued then as governor, with an ongoing charade of high family values and personal integrity. I wonder how Spitzer was able to look himself in the mirror every morning; how he was able to smile to his wife and children; how he was able to rant and rail against moral ineptitude (as he did on the news show 60 Minutes a few years ago) without blinking an eye. His sham ended with an investigation and discovery by federal investigators of covert illegal activities; the IRS contacted the FBI after suspicious financial transactions.

It’s not difficult to understand why the public is generally skeptical and mis-trusting of elected officials. Because elected officials ask to be entrusted and consequently live under the public microscope, every action is subject to significant public scrutiny. Mis-deeds are highly publicized, and oftentimes rightfully so. Individuals like President Richard Nixon, President Bill Clinton, Senator Larry Craig, Senator Tom Delay, Governor Neil Goldschmidt; Spokane Mayor Jim West have set a high bar for creating public mis-trust. This list goes on and on…and now, Governor Elliot Spitzer.

Had Spitzer broken the law by simply hiring a prostitute, he may have been able to survive politically. In that case, an immediate apology to his family and the citizens of New York would likely have nipped in the bud pressure to resign, effectively ending his public career. HOWEVER, reports to-date indicate that Spitzer was meticulous in preparation and planning of his illegal actions; HOWEVER, Spitzer set himself up as the moral compass for the public to entrust. Because of the deliberate nature of his actions and because of his hypocrisy, Spitzer should not, and I suspect will not recover from his deeds.

I am baffled by the actions of elected officials like these. The arrogance and sense of entitlement to believe that they are above the law; the lack of moral and ethical fortitude deserving of the public trust; the lack of simple common sense and consideration of the citizens they serve; the lack of respect for the rules and laws that we are all bound to. Making an honest mistake and admitting to that is acceptable to me; deceitful, deliberate and hypocritical dishonesty is not. It’s truly disturbing.


JenBGoode said...

It's easy to pass judgement on a situation like this. However, I personally think that anyone can easily find themselves in this position, albeit a high profile position as Spitzer, due to one poor choice in one situation that easily can heap/magnify itself.
I personally think that power is a capable seductress, and to dismiss that power is to dismiss the human condition. Everyone has their weaknesses, and even you, Tim, have things that I am sure you would rather keep hidden from the public eye... Even though you may not relate to this story, I am sure that there is some weakness in that shield of intelligence and servitude.

Tim Leavitt said...

Thank you JenBGoode for your entry on our blog.

Indeed, there are many circumstances that CAN cloud the judgment of good people…whether authority, fame or fortune. We see (because they are public personalities) examples routinely of those who are seducted and lose focus due to any one of, or a combination of those circumstances: Actors, Musicians, and politicians, to name a few professions. These professionals are human, just like you and I, and of course make mistakes also. No arguing that. Good people making bad decisions, I believe.

However, with Spitzer there is much more than a simple mistake. Unfortunately, his behavior wasn’t “one poor choice in one situation” as described. If that was the case, then I might have a bit of compassion for the man. In fact, since I posted the blog about his situation, more details of the truth have come to light that reveal Spitzer was a regular in this escort business for some 8-10 years, having spent thousands and thousands of dollars, and scheming/plotting to cover it up.

Here is a man who was the Attorney General of New York….THE ATTORNEY GENERAL. The person the public entrusted to uphold the law and put away the bad guys. Spitzer gloated about busting prostitution rings! Spitzer was the self-proclaimed “Mr. Clean”. The whole time lying to the public…that same public who he asked to trust him.

Bad enough that he’s a married man, bad enough that he was the Attorney General, bad enough that he was the Governor of a state of the union….but the hypocrisy of his statements versus his actions is just too much. It all compounds…and leaves me with really no compassion for him. As a result, it is much easier to pass judgment – Spitzer deliberately and proudly shaped his own image to be the person we were supposed to trust to uphold the laws of the land. It is reasonable to expect that he would carry himself with integrity. “Do as I say, not as I do”??? That doesn’t work for me.

The challenge for those who seek elected or public office is to keep grounded in the purpose for which they serve…assuming they were altruistic in the first place. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some other representatives become seduced… they allow the position to become their identity. That is when arrogance and entitlement enter. If elected officials remain focused on the purpose of their position and the responsibilities of their job…not that they ARE the position…I’m convinced circumstances like Spitzer’s would be less likely.

Although this issue has nothing to do with me, I will address your closing remarks about my own weaknesses and simply tell you that I have never professed to be a choir boy, and in fact have made numerous poor decisions in my life…hopefully all of which I have learned from. None of those poor decisions were illegal actions that I’ve deliberately tried to hide…I have earned my share of encounters with law enforcement, and have faltered morally on occasion in my history. We’re all human…right?

Thanks again for visiting and posting on the blog.