Lloyd Constantine on Eliot Spitzer

Mark Scott of WBFO, the NPR affiliate based at the State University of New York at Buffalo, interviewed Lloyd Constantine last week about Constantine’s new book, Journal of the Plague Year. Constantine is a longtime friend and adviser of Eliot Spitzer. In 2007, Spitzer resigned as governor of New York after just over a year in office when the New York Times broke a story of his involvement with a prostitution service in New York City. Spitzer had taken office as a cleanup candidate after an eight-year stint as attorney general, where he pursued white-collar crime with a vengeance – and where he had busted prostitution rings in the past.

The interview is found here. The interesting part starts at about 5:27, where interviewer Scott brings up Spitzer’s frantic call to Constantine on the eve of his political demise. Constantine describes the call and his response:

“I told him immediately that he didn’t have to resign. It was almost instantaneous with me. When he told me what he had been involved with, I had in my mind a complete answer for why he had behaved so erratically in the last couple of years. And so I – my immediate conclusion, I mean within a second, was, ‘Okay. I get it now. Now I understand why you were performing so badly, so erratically, why you were losing your temper, you know, making all these misjudgments, and now that this is out, you have to fight to keep your job. You have to fight to keep your job because now that you’re free of all this stuff, you can still possibly go on to be the great governor that you were destined to be.'”

Constantine goes on to describe how Spitzer’s family – wife, sister, daughters, parents – joined him in his pleas for the embattled governor not to resign.

The idea that Spitzer had thrown away a great destiny over a little nothing like involvement in a prostitution ring is Constantine’s refrain in the interview. He frames it in terms of personal responsibility, reciting a list of governors who have resigned and stating that he doesn’t agree with “that position: this is a personal decision, you know, ‘I no longer want to do this’. I think that once you have run for office, been elected, taken all that money from your supporters, you have a responsibility to serve until you have been removed by constitutional means or you have been thrown out of office by the voters.”

Convenient manslation: Bro got caught with a prostitute? Whatever! He’s a good guy! Why should he have to face a penalty? Puny concepts of rule of law, ethics, and public responsibility are nothing in the face of a great man who’s destined for great things. Look, even his wife doesn’t care that he spent more than a middle-class salary’s worth on prostitutes during his tenure in public office. What a wuss to resign over something like this! A real man would have stuck it out, stayed the course, shown that he was above that noise.

This is the American man, packaged neatly and accessibly. And he nearly made me vomit in my lap on my drive home this morning.

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