New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is expected to resign today in the wake of charges he frequented a house of ill repute. Some observers seem to think that the chief problem is that Spitzer has cultivated an image of such good repute, and that the activities he engaged in were in such stark contrast to his public image.
This is certainly a problem for the soon to be ex-governor. But there are things he could have done differently that would have lessen the public consequences of his acts.
Some have suggested that Spitzer quickly develop an alcohol problem so he could enter a alcohol rehab program, which in most such cases implicitly sends the message that the person was himself a victim, and not really responsible for his actions. This would have been an excellent strategy for Spitzer's handlers to suggest if it were not for the fact that there simply was not enough time to accomplish it. Developing an alcohol problem in a 48 hour period is close to impossible.
The biggest mistake Spitzer made was in how he performed the scandalous acts in the first place. Spitzer was in engaging in heterosexual scandalous behavior. Had he, like ex-New Jersey governor James McGreevey, engaged instead in scandalous homosexual behavior, he could have counted on a better reception in the media.
As I mentioned during the McGreevey scandal, it was noteworthy that the first thing McGreevey did was to take refuge in the fact that he was "a gay man," knowing that that would lessen the criticism of his acts. It would have made his general promiscuity more palatable, since everyone knows we're supposed cut gays slack on such things, and it would also have lessened his culpability in his relationship with is wife, since we don't hold gays who leave their families to pursue a gay lifestyle to the same standards in term of keeping their promises to their spouses as heterosexuals who do it.
If you are married and commit adultery with someone of the opposite sex, it's "cheating". But if you are married and commit adultery with someone of the same sex, it becomes a matter of being "true to yourself." Being a "gay man" covers a multitude of sins.
What was Spitzer thinking?
Many are speculating that this scandal is the end of his political career, and it probably is. But it could be only the beginning of his academic career. As reported last year, James McGreevey got a teaching spot at Kean University, teaching (prepare yourself) ethics.
Surely there is such a spot for Spitzer at one of our institutions of higher indoctrination.