Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eliot Spitzer and Reality

Susan Estrich attempts to make sense of Eliot Spitzer:

My old roommate used to call it "getting stupid." In the beginning of the story, the guy might be smart, thoughtful, good-looking and funny. But when it came to sex, she'd just shake her head. Lord, could guys get stupid or what?

That's the phrase that kept running through my head as I listened to the reports, read the affidavits and plowed through the details of the mess surrounding my very smart former student Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

How could one smart guy get that stupid?


Rich, powerful men don't need to pay women to have sex; there are plenty who will do it for nothing, save the expectation that they be treated as people. I have never understood why such men prefer to pay for it. Or, more accurately, I have understood, and I think less of them for their choice. What does it say about a man that he'd rather pay for sex? That he is willing to offer nothing but money?

Estrich fails to understand that sex is more than just physical pleasure, more even than psychology. Sex is an affirmation of metaphysics.

Eliot Spitzer's entire career was at war with reality. Why shouldn't his sex life reflect that war as well?

Spitzer was a statist thug who persecuted innocent businessmen.

As he declared war on Wall Street and other corporate abusers, Spitzer also declared war in effect on his own oath of office: a commitment to the state and federal constitutional guarantees of the presumption of innocence.

Time after time with high-profile corporate officials - most conspicuously, former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg - Spitzer railed on national television that his targets had broken the law.

But in most cases - after the damage to reputations was already done - no charges were brought.

Robert Tracinski notes that Spitzer had the soul of a power luster:

Spitzer's "crusading" career as New York's attorney general is a catalog of abuses of prosecutorial power. He tried cases in the media instead of the courts by releasing embarrassing documents at press conferences and leaking carefully selected facts to sympathetic reporters. This is slander under the color of law, an attempt to ruin a target's reputation without actually have to prove the allegations against him. Spitzer smeared his victims by digging into their personal lives and spreading rumors about their infidelity (another disgusting irony of this affair). He blackmailed businesses into paying massive fines by threatening to file corporate indictments that would cripple a firm's ability to operate, even if it were eventually acquitted. He threatened respectable businessmen with the prospect of being hauled off in handcuffs in front of their families.

He did everything he could, in short, to bully the rest of the world into a solicitous state of submission—the state of terrorized subjects groveling before a tyrannical emperor.

Gus Van Horn writes,

He prosecuted citizens for victimless "crimes", some of which were forms of productive activity. The laws that made these acts crimes were legal codifications of arbitrary religious and altruist proscriptions against behavior that violated the rights of no one and, therefore, did not belong on the books.

In other words, Eliot Spitzer was not motivated by a desire to protect the individual rights of the people who elected him, but by a moral code that is incompatible with personal freedom because it calls for the sacrifice of individuals. Whether Spitzer was benevolent but misguided at first (which seems very unlikely to me) or a power-luster from day one is irrelevant.

Eliot Spitzer's public career was at war with reality because his ideals -- altruism, statism and collectivism -- are also at war with reality. They are an affront to justice, a massive con game in which the rights of the strong and able are violated in the name of the weak and disable.

The welfare state breeds creeps like Spitzer and Bill Clinton, who seek affirmation in the bedroom that they are above reality, that the rules don't apply to them, that they can get away with whatever they want.

Reality caught up with Spitzer and Clinton, and someday it will catch up with the welfare state. There will be hell to pay when those chickens come home to roost. Spitzer's problems, if they are then remembered, will seem insignificant.


C. August said...

Great insights, Myrhaf.

I laughed when I read the Susan Estrich quote, but after reading your points, I see it in a different light. I agree with you that she doesn't really understand why popularly successful men fall from grace in the bedroom. But it's very interesting to see the issue posed in the "girlfriends talking to each other" way of "gosh, men are just so stupid when it comes to sex!"

I say this because, to people who haven't identified that sex is an expression of an individual's highest values, and also -- more importantly -- haven't identified what those values should be, a scenario like Spitzer's must seem like a tragic, incomprehensible mess.

They see otherwise successful men do unbelievably stupid things in the bedroom, because that is where people most commonly let down their public persona enough to act on their fundamental principles. (most people would call it "opening up" or "acting on true emotion") It's the Hugh Grant Phenomenon. People we may fantasize have the prefect life end up cruising the seedy streets of Hollywood for a broken down crack whore. OK, that was harsh, but you know what I'm saying.

After reading your post, the first thing that came to mind was Peter Keating.

And then I thought about Hank Reardon, and his tortured devotion to his wife because he was trying to live up to a value system he felt guilty about not believing... it all just proves your points about the man Spitzer is, and his choice in sexual partners.

GDW said...

c. August,

All of it very well said. I found your comment about Hank Reardon in this context especially interesting. It provoked a thought that I found worth mentioning.

Perhaps Reardon and Spitzer were experiencing the same guilt, but for opposite reasons. Rearden was tortured because he tried to live up to a morality he didn't believe in. Spitzer tortured himself (psychologically, and eventually professionally) because he couldn't live up to a morality he did believe in. Whereas Rearden was primarily a victim of the immoral ideas and actions of others, Spitzer was, and always would be, a beneficiary solely because of the moral achievements of his victims. And he knew it.

Reardon was reminded of his actual, legitimate guilt (which D'anconia helps him to realize), not when he dutifully slept with his wife, but when he allowed himself to enjoy sleeping with Dagny. For this, he externalized his shame by reacting with malice towards her; I think not because of having betrayed his concious convictions, but for having betrayed his subconcious ones outside of that act.

Spitzer, similarly, was reminded of his guilt, not when he conscientiously performed the role of the defender of the people's interests, but when his nature as a human - to pursue his own selfish pleasure - made it's presence felt. He sensed that he had allowed himself to become his own betrayer. For this, he reacted in the most crass, self-deafeating, and self-abasing way possible. Not because he was proud of whatever shred of legitimate desire for personal happiness he still possessed, but because he was ashamed of how low his concious convictions had brought it in his hierarchy of values. I suspect that the act of hiring a prositute was meant to remind him of his belief, in the most intimate way possible, that selfishness and private pleasure were seedy, corrupt emotions.

I liked your post also Myrhaf :)

Myrhaf said...

Thanks to you both.