Posted by Lex, on March 11, 2008
It is not often that the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal arrive to the same conclusion, but they’ve done so today even after having traveled differing routes. The WSJ characterizes New York governor Elliot Spitzer’s recent woes as an inevitable example of unchecked power and prosecutorial ambition:
In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.
The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer’s recklessness with the state’s highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.
The Times meanwhile disagrees with the governor that this was a purely personal matter and concurs that he has broken the public trust, but mostly seems to lament the lost opportunity of Wise Government to set everything aright:
A further tragedy here, beyond the personal one of the Spitzer family and the damage he has done to the reform cause, is that Mr. Spitzer’s targets are now relishing their tormentor’s torment. Those on Wall Street who fumed at having to make their world fairer for ordinary shareholders can now chortle with satisfaction in their private enclaves. For New York Republicans, who have blocked some of the most important reforms in Albany, it is hard to imagine the private glee — especially at a moment when they are fighting desperately to hold their majority in the State Senate.
So from the Times point of view, the real crime is not prostitution, nor the damage to a family, but the public disgrace of a powerful politician whose documented excesses were tolerable so long as they were focused on the right sort of targets. Not mention all the tragically lost opportunities to continue persecuting prosecuting chortling class enemies. The bastards. Nor the collateral risk that the people of New York might choose to exercise their democratic privileges in ways uncongenial to the editors’ own preferences. Seen this way, the whole thing is almost unbearable. A second “Camelot,” like.
It is to weep.
Over at Protein Wisdom, contributor Karl rounds up the prog blogs that have weighed the evidence of a politician “structuring” money exchanges in such a way as to draw the mandatory interest of both the banking system and the IRS, the investigation into which revealed – so far as we now know – no evidence of the bribery that was first intuited, but rather an intent to disguise cross-state movement of funds supporting a little extracurricular sheet-tweening. Having done so to their own satisfaction, these tribunes of the Greater Good have come to the unsurprising conclusion that this is all Bush’s fault. Somehow.
All of this partisan circling of the criminal wagons, this “it can’t be a crime if you guys catch us doing it,” it just seems so… so 1990’s.
What about all that Hope? For Change?