Wednesday, 12 March 2008


Originally published 3/12/08, 3:23 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
This is not a comment on the behaviour of Eliot Spitzer. The question still emerges: should he have resigned?

For me, this question can be divided into two parts. One is regarding the fundamental question of how we choose someone to lead, specifically in pragmatic terms. Do we judge based upon the results or the essence of the person? Of course, one whose actions and essence are in unison is the best choice -- but what to do in such a case when one's results as a leader do not coincide with one's personal behaviour? Do we want someone who delivers in terms of results even though he is personally lacking or do we choose one whose essence is fine even though he may not deliver as well? Or do we say that one whose essence is inherently tainted will eventually fail in delivering results in any event?

There is another issue as well. I have seen Mr. Spitzer referred to as a hypocrite and this made me think about the problems with that label. Does teshuva not necessitate that we all recognize ourselves as hypocites? Do we not have to accept that we are not living up to our standards in order to embarke on a path of teshuva? I do not know what Elitot Spitzer really believes in regard to what is right and what is wrong -- and that in itself is an issue and colours any comments I may make. Yet I wonder who I want as a leader. Do I want someone who argues for a certain value system although never meets this standard or do I want someone who argues for a different standard? Is one who wold be in favour of prostitution and subsequently uses prostitutes be better than one who is against prostitution yet still uses prostitutes? Is Spitzer's crime that he prosecuted prostitution yet used them himself - thus the label of hypocrite? Is that better than one who openly argues the prostitution is okay and then uses them? What if the one who argues against prostitution says that he just can't control himself even though he knows that it is wrong? What if he says he was just arguing against prostitution because he wanted to win the election but really thought it was fine, and the proof is that he used it?

As I said above, I don't know what Eliot Spitzer is really like but I find that there are more questions that need to be asked -- about ourselves and what we need and should want in such circumstances.

Rabbi Ben Hecht


Anonymous said...

You make things more complicated then they are. If Eliot Spitzer does repent his sins (whatever they are) and comes back, let's say a year from now and teaches us Ethics, based on his newely acquired experience and repentance, I would not join his accusers at that time and will choose to believe he did Teshuva. I am reluctant, for example, to believe McGreevy (who IS teaching ethics now,) not because of past hypocritism, but because he does not seem to have made real teshuva. But on the oother hand, I do not have any proof that he did not do teshuva, so I do cut him a slack. Here, in Spitzer case, today, on the other hand, the guy clearly has had two standards, one applied to everybody else and another, secretely, applied to himself alone. Based on the public, high standard he prosecuted and caused damage to people (probably, justified!) Now he is facing the same music and would have a chance to do teshuva (real or fake.)

The political issue of delivering leader must coincide with reasonably non-corrupt leader because if he or she are corrupted then, in the long run, deliverance would be the victim as well. I have a prime example, here in New Jersey, we have a high profile prosecutor, Christi, who is prosecuting corrupted officials left right and center. He spoke about the need to keep it honest for everybody including himself. So far, nobody had found anything about him, so it looks like he believes in one standard for all. The only thing that they have found against him is that maybe he had some favoritism towards his ex-boss, former AG Mr. Aschcroft. However, this has been done in the open, within the normal authority of a federal prosecutor and is open to public scrutiny and the worse they could do to him is slap him on the wrist. So despite this little affair, Christi is still reasonably non-corrupt. This is far cry from the Spitzer affair, McGreevy affair and Rawland affair (in CT.)

Garnel Ironheart said...

The unique position of a state governor is that he not only runs the state but is also its senior representative. He is "New York State" to important visitors and therefore must live a standard of life that is exemplary so that the inhabitants of the State can take pride in themselves.
To wit: Bill Clinton ran the Oval Office during the day as a competently functioning president, which is what his job was. But at night he ran it as a brothel. Who cares if he was a good president? The average American should because there's a reason the president LIVES in the White House and just doesn't show up at 9 am each day for work like the rest of us. He is THE example of America to the rest of the world.
So of course Spitzer should have resigned. His need for a white slave call girl is personal, sure, but when you're the governor you're always working and no one would consider that acceptable work behaviour, again, other than Clinton.