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During the last sex scandal involving a prominent politician, I contended that the real issue was not so much the scandal’s lurid details or the politician’s hypocrisy, but Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s “absence of judgment.” Here again, the issue seems to be judgment, but there is much more to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s woes than that.
If the only issue were the Democratic governor’s use of prostitutes, I might agree with his statement yesterday that this is “a private matter” where he, in his words, merely violated “obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong.” To be sure, there would be the added issue of whether a man who took his marriage vow so lightly might also show a similar disregard for other vows he had taken, namely his oath of office of governor of New York.
Being pretty libertarian, I oppose the criminalization of prostitution. This is not to say I believe prostitution to be a good thing, just that I think it don’t think it should be illegal. On that score, Governor Spitzer’s actions are, as he said, a private mattter.
That said, however, this is a man who, for eight years, was chief law enforcer for the nation’s third largest state. Â Such an individual should respect the laws–or use his position to push for their repeal. Not only that. A state attorney general chooses the cases he prosecutes. Â And he chose to prosecute “at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force.”
That’s not all. He appears to have involved in structuring, moving money around to “obscure the true purpose of his payments” to the prostitutes. The issue here was as much financial as it was sexual (Via Instapundit).
If Larry Craig’s foot-tapping had not been in a public place, that would indeed have been a private matter and not merited media scrutiny. And for the Idaho Republican, it wasn’t just that one episode. He had been the subject of rumors regarding similar behavior in another public restroom ten months nearly a year before his scandal broke. That should have served as a reminder to him that what one does in a public space could easily become public knowledge.
As Governor Spitzer, ambitious man that he is, should also have been aware that would he called a “private matter” could easily become public knowledge. I mean, he prosecuted not one, but two, prostitution rings.
Or was it his arrogance? Like another smart and politically savvy Democrat, did he think he could get away with his sexual shenaningans?
That Democrat too showed a terrible absence of judgment. Given that Republicans had been making an issue of his sexual behavior while he was still Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton should have exercised some restraint while in the Oval Office, especially given that he was (at the time of his indisccretions) the subject of a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment. And the woman filing that lawsuit first came forward at a conservative political conference.
What links these three scandals is not just the sex, it’s also the circumstance. Each man had had experience knowing that such sexual antics could lead to public exposure, litigation and even prosecution. And yet, he acted as he did.
All three showed a terrible absence of judgment. And we rely on our leaders to exercise judgment on matters of concern not just to themselves and their families, but to all of us as well. Let us hope that in the future, our leaders have better senses of judgment than these men.