To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, Why does sex make everyone so crazy?
Today Governor Eliot Spitzer joined a long line of people in the public eye who have been caught keeping company with sex workers. Unlike Hugh Grant, he can't go on the Tonight Show and laugh it off -- although I'm sure Leno would love to have him since there's nothing more popular than sex jokes. The more resonant joke, however, is the reaction of the media. The headline "Governor of New York's Hotel Visit With a Hooker" has elbowed the presidential election out of the news cycle today. Who cares that we're fighting two wars and the top candidates of a major party are in a steel cage death match. The Governor with hooker? Stop the presses!
Make no mistake, I am not defending soon-to-be-ex-Governor Spitzer. Someone with his predilections might have thought twice about railing against call-girl rings when he was the, ahem, Attorney General of New York. That this East Side Savonarola was in violation of the Mann Act is certainly rich with irony. But come on. The last time I checked, we were having a spirited debate about government surveillance powers because the terrorists are trying to kill us. If that's true, and many people believe it is, perhaps law enforcement might find better use for their time? And I don't really want to mention Iraq right now, since everyone is more focused on Client #9, but how many billions of dollars are unaccounted for there? Might some government sleuth deployed on the Catch-Eliot-Spitzer-With-His-Pants-Down detail be put to more profitable use figuring out exactly what happened to that bundle?
In the calm of this hurricane is the Spitzer marriage which, if his wife's proximity is any indication, seems solid. Frankly, I am amazed he got his wife to appear with him at the news conference, given the media frenzy. If I recall, James McGreevey, the part-time homosexual former Governor of New Jersey had his wife glued to his arm when he faced the media during his excoriation. Do these guys drug their spouses? My wife would knee-cap me. But I digress. Good for the wives, they're the ones with the backbones (ask Hillary).
The unhinged reaction on the part of the media and, by extension the public, is a national embarrassment. Once more, the French are laughing. I don't really care what the French are doing, but still...do we have to keep making them laugh? The Republicans hate the French but their joy in Spitzer's downfall is surely mitigated by the fact that the French, having barely recovered from their national, Bill Clinton-induced paroxysm of hysteria, are at it again.
Sure it's a confusing situation. Eliot Spitzer was not patronizing a sex-slave operation. He has standards! He had sex with someone he was not married to. He has no standards! But he paid her a lot of money. That's good for the economy. But she didn't intend to pay taxes on it. That's bad for the government. Prostitution is not going away any time soon. That's awful. But it's legal in Nevada. That's fine. But do we want the rest of the country to look like Las Vegas? Oh, wait. It already does.
While everyone is piling on Spitzer, I am reminded of President Bush's deathless words: "I don't do nuance."