Spitzer and the Speech of Apology

So, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer gave a speech of “apology” for paying for sex (reportedly, $4300) with a call girl. Funny thing was, he really didn’t apologize. The media are calling this a speech of apology because he apologized to his family and the residents of NY. But, he never said what he was apologizing for, which surely must be one of the essential elements of the speech of apology.
Let me clarify: Personally, I see no reason why prostitution should not be legal and if Spitzer wanted to visit a call girl, as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine and should be of no concern to the government. But, that is not the current law and certainly not the law that Spitzer swore to uphold. What is so reprehensible and so underhanded is that he presented himself as “holier than thou,” as a loving and devoted husband, and as a crusader who had these high ethical standards but at the same time never held himself accountable to the same standards. In fact, he not only committed a criminal act, he also violated his oath of office by engaging in behavior he knew to be unlawful. So far, no charges have been filed against Spitzer and there is no certainty that he will be held accountable or even forced to resign. If other politicians are involved in this same or similar call girl operation—and there seems reason to assume this, after all, it is based in D.C. and who else has the money to pay $1500 an hour for sex?—then they will likely make light of this and help Spitzer plea bargain, just in case they too are implicated.
What makes this speech of “apology” even more ludicrous is that he had the nerve to espouse ethical principles in this speech, as if he were in a position to teach others morality. Politics, Spitzer said, “is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the State of New York.” Is he implying that he has been doing this or that he even tried to do it?
Toward the end of this speech he said, “I will not be taking questions.” Now, here is something the media and all persons interested in the ethics of communication should question. If he admitted to wrongdoing—as he did—then he should have to answer questions. After all, he’s a public official and is accountable to the people. I’m not suggesting that this should be a rule or a law but rather than we should come to expect a politician to answer questions; it should be the norm in a free democracy and when that norm is violated, it should signal an alarm.
And Mrs. Spitzer—just like Mrs. Craig, Mrs. McGreevy, and (let’s not forget) Mrs. Clinton before her—stood by her man, giving credibility to someone who held others to standards that he was above following himself. Spitzer not only needs to resign; he needs to be indicted and convicted.

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