What's to be of Elliot Spitzer? Is his whole life in the trash because of one mistake?
As recently reported by Huffpo, Spitzer says his life as a columnist sucks. The public outrage is strong, but is it deserved?
If anyone should be angry, it's this lady here. Mrs. Silda Wall Spitzer.
And she hasn't divorced him. The Huffpo article says that, "Spitzer's wife, Silda, helps edit his columns for Slate"
I'm not making excuses for what he did, even though I believe someone's personal life is their own business. I just think we need to consider appropriate punishments for appropriate crimes. It might be a better idea to actually convict this man of something, then to sentence him the unspoken crime of a lifetime blacklist from politics. I will examine previous similar political scandals to see what the potential will be for the rehabilitation of the newly scandaled Elliot Spitzer, and others like him (Larry Craig + David Vitter).
Spitzer wasn't as depressed as the headline makes it out to be- Eliot Spitzer: Life As Slate Columnist "Sucks" but, certainly he seems disappointed.
Mr. Spitzer this month started to write a column for Slate as part of his comeback - he wrote last week about the Detroit bail-out - and so he showed up at the Slate party to be sociable.
I went over afterwards to ask him how he was enjoying life as a columnist. "It sucks," he said with a grin. "I used to be governor of New York".
Despite what Spitzer did in his private life, he's the type of guy we need to regulate Wall-Street. And as a governor that tried to legalize same sex marriage, we could use his help for that too. From his first article with slate
Last month, as the financial crisis and the government rescue plan dominated headlines, almost everyone overlooked a news item that could have enormous long-term impact: GE Capital announced the acquisition of five mid-size airplanes--with an option to buy 20 more--produced by CACC, a new, Chinese-government-sponsored airline manufacturer.
Why is that so significant? Two reasons: First, just as small steps signaled the Asian entry into our now essentially bankrupt auto sector 50 years ago, so the GE acquisition signals Asia's entry into one of our few remaining dominant manufacturing sectors. Boeing is still the world's leading commercial aviation company. CACC's emergence--and its particular advantage selling to Asian markets--means that Boeing now faces the rigors of an entirely new competitive playing field and that our commercial airplane sector is likely to suffer enormously over the coming decades.
So the question remains. What's to be of Elliot Spitzer's political career? I decided to go back and take a look at other notable scandals, sexual and otherwise.
Who's made it back from (non-sexual) scandal?
Political Scandals of the US
Newt Gingrich (R-GA), the Speaker of the House, was accused of financial improprieties leading to House reprimand and $300,000 in sanctions leading to his resignation (1997)... (now he's a top contender for the 2012 Presidency)
John Conyers was one of 22 singled out by the House Ethics Committee in 1992.... (now he's the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee)
John McCain was one of the Keating Five...
Alcee Hastings (D-FL), federal district court judge impeached and convicted of soliciting a bribe (1989). Subsequently elected to U.S. House of Representatives (1992)...
and probably the most famous example...
Ted Kennedy Senator (D-MA) drove his car into the channel between Chappaquiddick Island and Martha's Vineyard, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended sentence of two months (1969)
And then there's the Sex Scandals
But he remains popular earning many honors and accolades.
My favorite of which are:
The President of the Czech Republic awarded Clinton the Order of the White Lion, First Class with Collar Chain in 1998...2005 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for My Life, 2005 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding...He received an honorary doctorate of laws from Tulane University in New Orleans (along with George H. W. Bush), and also from the University of Michigan. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Pace University's Lubin School of Business, from Rochester Institute of Technology, and from Knox College....
(picture left) On June 2, 2007, Clinton, along with former president George H.W. Bush, received the International Freedom Conductor Award, for their help with the fund raising following the tsunami that devastated South Asia in 2004
Hart declined to run for re-election to the Senate, leaving office when his second term expired with the intent of running for president again. In January 1987, he was the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 election.
Hart officially declared his candidacy on April 13, 1987. Rumors began circulating nearly immediately that Hart was having an extramarital affair.
And then Hart went the full Blago before we knew of the Elvisian Governor.
Hart responded to the rumors by daring the press corps: "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."
and they followed him up on that invitation.
Hart was dogged with questions regarding his views on marital infidelity. In public, his wife, Lee, supported him, claiming the relationship with the young woman was innocent...
On May 5, the Herald received a further tip that Hart had spent a night in Bimini on a yacht called the Monkey Business with a woman who was not his wife.
The Herald obtained photographs of Hart aboard the Monkey Business with then-29-year-old model Donna Rice, sitting on Hart's lap. The photographs were subsequently published in the National Enquirer. On May 8, 1987, a week after the story broke, Hart dropped out of the race...
A Gallup Poll found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the U.S. respondents it surveyed thought the media treatment of Hart was "unfair." A little over half (53 percent) responded that marital infidelity had little to do with a president's ability to govern...
In December 1987, Hart returned to the race, declaring "Let's let the people decide!" He competed in the New Hampshire primary and received 4,888 votes, approximately four percent. After the Super Tuesday contests on March 8, he withdrew from the campaign a second time.
Gary Hart never ran for political office again.. That's a sad story right? Well.. maybe not. This might be one of those diaries where I learn something by researching. Gary Hart has had a very accomplished career since then. Too many things to list He's received another degree, done a lot of writing, he's a member of the CFR and other boards. He's a leading contender to be Barack Obama's Director of National Intelligence of Secretary or Homeland Security.
Next Up is the 52nd Governor of New Jersey James E. McGreevy.
After being elected to the governorship on his second try, McGreevey inherited a $5 billion budget deficit. During his term, McGreevey raised the tax on cigarettes and increased the state income tax for the wealthy. Raised as a Roman Catholic but maintaining a pro-choice stance on abortion, he stated as governor that he would not receive Communion at public church services.
Among McGreevey's accomplishments were implementing a stem cell research plan for New Jersey, heavily lobbying for the state's first domestic partnership law for same-sex couples and signing such a law in early 2004.
McGreevey's term was controversial, with questions about the credentials of several of his appointees to pay to play and extortion scandals involving backers and key New Jersey Democratic fundraisers.
Despite scandal he sure had a lot of progressive success in his short 2.5 year term of service. But that wouldn't be enough for him to keep his job...
On August 12, 2004, faced with threats...(of) a sexual harassment lawsuit against him...McGreevey announced at a press conference, "My truth is that I am a gay American." He also said that he had "engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man" ...and that he would resign effective November 15, 2004. "
Since returning to the private life
McGreevey teaches ethics, law and leadership at Kean University in Union, New Jersey.
Congressman Wilbur Mills
This fascinating tale dates back to the 1970s - Washington D.C.
Mills was involved in a traffic incident on October 7, 1974. His car, driven by a former Nixon staffer, was stopped by U.S. Park Police late at night because the driver had not turned on the lights. Mills was intoxicated, and his face was cut from a scuffle with Annabelle Battistella, better known as Fanne Foxe, a stripper from Argentina. When police approached the car, Foxe leapt from the car and jumped into the nearby Tidal Basin. She was taken to St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital for treatment.
Despite the scandal, Mills was re-elected to Congress in November 1974 in a heavily Democratic year with nearly 60 percent of the vote, defeating the Republican Judy Petty.
But that was only part one of the Mills story. Time Magazine had the rest on Dec 16, 1974, The Fall of Chairman Mills
From the stage of Boston's Pilgrim Theater,
a seedy burlesque house in the city's newly designated "Combat Zone" for sex films and ecdysiast exhibitions, a shapely, silken-gowned Fanne Foxe, "the Argentine Firecracker," had a surprise for her audience. "I'd like you to meet somebody," she said, then called to the wings: "Mr. Mills, Mr. Mills! Where are you?" Onto the stage strode Arkansas Congressman Wilbur Daigh Mills, 65, the redoubtable Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Placing a hand on Fanne's shoulder, Mills began a brief exchange of quips with the audience, then received a kiss on the cheek from his favorite stripper and calmly walked offstage. With that unlikely bit of business, Mills' distinguished 36-year legislative career came crashing down around him.
Soon after this second public incident, Mills stepped down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged his alcoholism, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and checked himself into Palm Beach Institute at West Palm Beach. He did not seek re-election in 1976, devoted his time to counseling individual alcoholics, and raising funds for alcoholic treatment centers, including one founded in his honor at Searcy, Arkansas, the Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center for Alcohol and Drugs. He also became affiliated as of counsel with Washington office of the New York political powerhouse law firm Shea & Gould...
Wilbur Mills died in Searcy...
Various schools, highways, and other structures in Arkansas are named for Mills, particularly in White County.
There's this statue of Mills in Tumbling Shoals, Arkansas.
And this picture was just taken on Sept 18, 2008! He's still quite popular locally.
Next up: Bob Packwood
I wish all Republicans had Senatorial records like this one..
Packwood was elected to the Senate in 1968...He was reelected in 1974, 1980, 1986 and 1992. Packwood chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee...he was instrumental in passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, and again in 1995...His voting record was moderate. He introduced the Senate's first abortion legalization bill in 1970, and was a strong advocate of abortion rights, earning the loyalty of many feminist groups, and the opposition of pro-life groups.
He supported restrictions on gun owners and liberal civil rights legislation. In 1987 Packwood crossed party line to vote against the nomination of Robert Bork into the Supreme Court, and he was one of only two Republicans to vote against the nomination of Clarence Thomas into the court. In 1993 he was the only Senator to vote against mandatory life imprisonment for persons convicted of a third violent felony.
That type of Senatorial record for a Republican is so refreshing, but his personal story is disturbing..
Packwood's political career began to unravel in November 1992, when a Washington Post story detailed the claims of sexual abuse and assault by 10 women, chiefly former staffers and lobbyists. Packwood was able to delay publication of the story until after the election, in which he defeated Democrat Les AuCoin...
As the situation developed, Packwood's diary became an issue.
As Time Magazine put it
No Thanks For the Memories
The writings were to have served as Bob Packwood's monument, to be published years after his death. For more than two decades, every morning for 30 minutes, he scribbled his recollections of the day before, thoughts both philosophical and quotidian, ranging from political ruminations to juicy gossip. As he described it, the writings contained "the hopes and the dreams and the despairs of all of us." The diaries, in fact, may turn out to be Packwood's greatest despair.
Was the diary admissable?
Wrangling over whether the diary could be subpoenaed and whether it was protected by the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination ensued. He did turn over 5000 pages to the Senate Ethics Committee but balked when a further 3200 pages were demanded by the committee. It was discovered that he had edited the diary, removing what were allegedly references to sexual encounters and the sexual abuse allegations made against him. Packwood then made what some of his colleagues interpreted as a threat to expose wrongdoing by other members of Congress. The diary allegedly detailed some of his abusive behavior toward women and, according to a press statement made by former Nevada Senator Richard Bryan, other, possibly criminal activities.
Notwithstanding public pressure from NOW and others for open and public hearings
, the Senate ultimately decided against public hearings. With pressure mounting against him, Packwood finally announced his resignation from the Senate on September 7, 1995, after the Senate Ethics Committee unanimously recommended that he be expelled from the Senate for ethical misconduct.
His story does not end as well as the others. And for good reason. Even though the Republican leadership just two years later were willing to work with him.
"I haven't had an occasion to talk to him - not that I wouldn't," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said last week. "He's certainly a brilliant expert on that subject."
Although they downplayed his influence on their work, Senate leaders agreed that Packwood remains a respected member of their community - even if he no longer is in office.
"He's not a warm and fuzzy person," says his ex-wife, Georgie Packwood, whose marriage to the Senator ended in 1991 after 26 years and two grown children. She says her husband was never comfortable discussing intimate matters. It was probably no coincidence that he chose as his chief area of expertise the United States tax code. "The intellectual idea of tax reform is absolutely the most titillating thing in the world to him," says Georgie Packwood. "How it affects Mrs. Jones on 13th Street, he doesn't give a darn about."
Packwood lives alone in a two-bedroom basement apartment in Northwest Washington. At the time of his divorce, he testified that his combined checking and savings accounts held $700. He has never been driven by the need for money. Only power. He has whittled down his life to the one thing he cares about most: horse trading in the Senate, where he is the ranking Republican on the pivotal Finance Committee
A Lawyer, Sheriff, Mayor, Governor, and President; Grover Cleveland held many high offices. Scandal almost kept him from becoming President.
Maria Halpin was a young widow of Pennsylvania family who, leaving two children behind her, came to Buffalo from Jersey City about 1871...
For a time she accepted the attentions of several men, including Cleveland, who was a year her elder -- she was thirty-six in 1874. When a son was born to her on September 14 of that year, whom she named Oscar Folsom Cleveland, she charged Cleveland with its paternity. Although, as he wrote a Boston friend when President, he did not know whether he was really responsible, he consented to make provision for the child...
All these events of 1874-76 were kept out of the press, and but for partisan malice need never have been lifted from the sphere of Cleveland's private concerns, where they belonged. Those who knew all the facts were never inclined to judge him harshly. A weaker or more callous man in his place would have tried, with some prospect of success, to deny responsibility for the child; but Cleveland saw the matter through in the most courageous way...
Had this scandal been brought out during the Chicago convention, it would doubtless have prevented Cleveland's nomination; had it been brought out in the last fortnight of the campaign, it would doubtless have defeated his election. But appearing when it did, it soon fell into its proper proportions.
While in his first term as President the 49 year old
Cleveland (age 66 in picture) entered the White house as a bachelor, but did not remain one for long. In 1885, the daughter of Cleveland's friend Oscar Folsom visited him in Washington. Folsom's daughter, Frances, was a student at Wells College, and when she returned to school Cleveland received her mother's permission to correspond with her. They were soon engaged to be married. On June 2, 1886, Cleveland married Frances in the Blue Room in the White House.
He was the second President to marry while in office, and the only President to have a wedding in the White House. This marriage was unusual because Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom's estate and had supervised Frances' upbringing, but the public did not, in general, take exception to the match. At twenty-one years old, Frances was the youngest First Lady in American history, but the public soon warmed to her beauty and warm personality.
Despite this awkwardness after four years in the private life the 22nd President Grover Cleveland was made the 24th in 1892. President Cleveland was honored on the $1000 bill and is to be honored again soon on the dollar coin.
Finally from PBS, Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1757, in Nevis, British West Indies. His father, James Hamilton, was a Scottish trader. His mother, a French woman named Rachel Fawcett Lavine, was married to another man, John Michael Lavine, at the time of Alexander's birth. She had been cast out of Mr. Lavine's home for adultery. When Alexander was still an infant, James Hamilton abandoned his family. They struggled to survive.
Owing to his intelligence and willingness to work, Alexander Hamilton quickly rose above his station. At age 11, he went to work as a clerk in a countinghouse owned by a St. Croix businessman, Nicholas Cruger. Impressed with the boy, Cruger joined with a minister, the Reverend Hugh Knox, to send young Hamilton to study in America.
The young Hamilton traveled to America alone and sixteen years later he would take part in
The First American Sex Scandal.
At age 16, Maria Lewis married James Reynolds...Throughout their marriage, James Reynolds was abusive to Maria and their children, but the two would nonetheless conspire... to use the media against a public figure.
In 1791, twenty-three-year-old Maria Reynolds approached the married thirty-four-year-old Alexander Hamilton... requesting his help. Claiming that James Reynolds had abandoned her and her daughter, Maria asked him for enough money to transport them back to New York City...Hamilton consented, and delivered the money in person to Maria later that night whereupon the two also began an illicit affair that would last at least three years.
James Reynolds was well aware of his wife's unfaithfulness. He continually supported the affair to regularly gain blackmail money from Hamilton...Hamilton eventually paid Reynolds more than $1000 in blackmail over several years to continue sleeping with Maria without his interference. But when Reynolds, being a professional con man, became entangled in a separate scheme involving speculation on unpaid back wages intended for Revolutionary War veterans, he quickly implicated Hamilton... Hamilton chose to... admit his sexual indiscretion to Congressional inquirers James Monroe and Frederick Muhlenberg, and even turning over his love letters from Maria to them.
The letters proved Hamilton's innocence in the speculation scandal. In addition, because his confession was made in confidence, Hamilton's involvement with Maria Reynolds was not made public ...Monroe did tell his close personal friend, Thomas Jefferson, of Hamilton's admission. Jefferson and Hamilton were self-described nemeses, and Jefferson used the knowledge to start rampant rumors about Hamilton's private life.
The final straw came in 1797, when pamphlet publisher James Thomson Callender obtained the secret letters and printed them in his newspaper.. Now Hamilton had no choice but to respond, so he printed his own pamphlet called Observations on Certain Documents in which he denied all charges of corruption. He did not...deny his relationship with Maria Reynolds; instead, he openly admitted it and apologized for it.
Hamilton actually at first accused Monroe of making his affair public and challenged him to a duel.
While his candor was admired, the affair severely damaged Hamilton's reputation. Prior to this, Maria Reynolds had divorced James Reynolds; her attorney in the proceedings was none other than Aaron Burr, who would eventually kill Hamilton in their infamous 1804 duel.
Hamilton's affair and the improper paying of blackmail fees to prolong it, didn't tarnish his legacy. He's still featured as the big head on the $10 bill. And the biography at the US Treasury site doesn't have a word about the extramarital affair.
There are people who were reprimanded for torture that are already working again in political positions. See Congressman Mike Rogers' Chief of Staff. Can we lock Spitzer up so that he can serve his time (if people demand punishment?), or will this follow him around for the rest of his life? Will he be doomed to be a tragic figure, only to appear again as trivia in an advertisement?
David Vitter was caught in his own Prostitution scandal and he's still an active Senator. Will he be primaried out in 2010 or lose to a Dem, or even attempt another term? If history repeats itself Vitter will be in the private sector sooner rather than later.
Last but not least there is Larry Craig. Who lost his Senate seat for what amounts to asking for extramarital sex by tapping his foot under an adjacent stall in the men's room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.
Though I yurn for the days of 1874, when the President's personal business was kept out of the national news, if it didn't involve their ability to perform their job. I imagine Alexander Hamilton would have preferred such discretion from the press as well. Now that you know the history, how do you feel about the future? Not just Elliot Spitzer, but others like him. How long will the morality police continue to use someone's private life to destroy their public one?
UPDATED: (As if it needed to get longer ;) From Robert Wexler's Fire Breathing Liberal..
I was leaving the Democratic evidence room one afternoon at the same time Florida representative Charles Canady was leaving the Republican room. We knew each other a bit. But as we walked down the hall he said in disgust, "He's just a pervert. He's just perverted."
I believe I responded, "As far as I'm concerned, the only perverts here are us. We're the people looking at this stuff." To me, the fact that members of the United States Congress were wasting our time examining this evidence was the true perversion. And for somebody to make that proclamations about a private, consensual affair, in that judgmental tone of complete disgust, actually frightened me. But when I heard him say that, I realized that they were not going to stop. These people believed they were on a moral crusade, and in their fit of righteousness they were going to do an unthinkable thing and no one was going to be able to stop them.