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.