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