Gov. Blagojevich within Spitzer’s distance

By Jonathan Jacobson

It’s always unfortunate to see a tireless crusader exposed as a feckless hypocrite, even if it does seem like something of a thread running through American politics these days.

It’s too bad New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s case is no exception. Tuesday’s lead New York Times story on Spitzer’s tryst with a high-class prostitute in a hotel room even mentioned in the closing line that Spitzer had once helped to close down a Staten Island prostitution ring.

“This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multi-tiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said back in 2004 when he was a go-getter attorney general prosecuting with all the zeal of an amphetamine-riddled Giuliani. “It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”

Yikes. That kind of quote comes back to haunt you like, well, a nasty rendezvous with a call-girl.

Like most journalists – and, I suppose, many Americans – I have very little veneration for politicians. Often, I barely trust the ones I vote for. But, at a bare minimum, I expect the following things from an elected official:

1. That they will not break laws.

2. That they will not sleep with prostitutes.

Although this list is not entirely comprehensive – and one of the rules sort of falls within the bounds of the other – I believe it hits the mark well enough. Spitzer broke the contract and his blatant hypocrisy is an embarrassment to the governor and his family, to the state of New York and to the general public.

Fortunately, any attempt to ride out this little affair Larry Craig-style and remain in office was squandered Wednesday when the unlucky John retired into obscurity. If we ever hear about Spitzer again – which is unlikely, since he’s probably halfway to Rio by now – it will be at his high-profile trial for concealing the means by which he paid the young ladies. And with a five-year potential prison term, he might end up away for about as long as ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan.

Which should remind us: the truly sad thing is that this nasty erosion of trust doesn’t stop in New York or with “Client 9,” as Spitzer is referred to in an affidavit detailing the charges brought against the service, “Emperor’s Club V.I.P.”

As Illinoisans, Spitzer’s pseudonym should start us thinking about “Public Official A,” our very own Gov. Blagojevich, who is so named in an ongoing ethics investigation. Blago is currently boiling in his own stew of ethical missteps, even if he has thus far avoided the tabloid guillotine.

The two figures are somewhat similar. Blagojevich’s workout regimen, his boasts of “testicular virility,” and his love of Elvis all seem to mesh nicely with Spitzer’s competitive basketball games and take-no-prisoners attitude toward governance. Both have been highly polarizing figures in their respective states, pushing their own agendas even against the will of their party.

With the Tony Rezko trial in Chicago likely to reveal some dirty little secrets about our governor, it seems like a good time to start processing the possibility of losing Blagojevich to a scandal. Rezko was a big-time donor to Blago and, unfortunately, to presidential hopeful Barack Obama, though the latter has pledged that he already donated all those contributions to charities.

When Blagojevich became our state’s chief executive, he promised to clean up the trash of Illinois politics. To rid the state of the George Ryans and the Rezkos and the back door dealings which have characterized our system for years. He didn’t sound much different than Spitzer, who assumed office with the same brand of vows.

“I see a state where ethics laws are respected. Where doing good is once again honored. This – is my pledge to you,” Blagojevich said in his 2003 inaugural address.

Spitzer in his from 2007: “We must transform our government so that it is as ethical and wise as all of New York.”

It’s understood that words don’t always align perfectly with actions. But when they clash directly and promises are not just broken, but crushed, the public has a duty to be angry.

Let’s just hope Blagojevich can steer clear of Springfield’s notorious brothels.

Jonathan is a senior in English and Rhetoric whose ethical record is superb. He, of course, has no dirty little secrets of his own.