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Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Time Event
8:14a
Power Makes You Stupid
Meditating on the various scandals that have plagued our body politic over the last decades, that is our conclusion. Power corrupts, but power also stupefies. That really is the only explanation for why now ex-Governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, would do something as stone dumb as hire high-priced call girls, have them travel interstate to service him, and pay for it by bank transfer out of his personal account. This was extraordinarily foolish for a number of reasons, number one being that Spitzer still had a potentially brilliant career ahead of him: he was a young, energetic politician following the arc that Theodore Roosevelt had carved: from successful crusading prosecutor and trust-buster to Governor of New York. With the likelhood of Democrats taking over the New York legislature in the fall being high, there was every potential that the rocky start to his gubernatorial career would have been swiftly forgotten, and that an eventuall Presidency was well within possibility.

Second, no one would know better than Spitzer, bane of a couple of prostitution rings, that patronising prostitutes ("soliciting prostitution") is an offense, and causing women to be transported interstate for that purpose is a Federal crime, no matter how seldom the "Mann Act" is actually invoked these days.

Third, and what evidently tripped him up, anyone who's done organized crime prosecution as Spitzer has knows that bank wire transfers are subject to scrutiny. Wire transfers are frequently the medium of choice for clandestine money movement because they take place without any external mechanisms: they are direct deposits from one account to another, and other than actual account statements (from one number to another) do not leave any potentially embarassing checks, credit card statements, or receipts. However, in this country, wire transters by individuals are very unusual, unlike in Europe wher they are commonly used in preference to checks. Just ask your local bank some times. It is very likely the first person you ask won't even know how to do it, and there will be a fifty-dollar or similar service charge. And, it is precisely because of the discreet nature of these transactions that they are now being so closely watched, since they have been the medium of choice for gangsters and terrorists to move money in the past.

So, why? There's no question Mr. Spitzer is very smart: perhaps too smart for his own good. He thought he was clever enough to hide his tracks by playing out of state and using sophisticated payment means. He was wrong.

But there has to be more to it than just the sense of one's own cleverness. It is, I think, that sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT that creates the feeling of invulnerablity. Since the world has ratified your sense of worth by making you a Governor, President, or CEO of a major corporation, you must really BE a genius, true? If YOU, master of all you survey, figure that you are bulletproof, you MUST be correct, right? Why shouldn't you accept free blow jobs from admiring interns, or troll for them in airport bathrooms, no one can touch you, can they?

Although many have come to grief due to greed, as we have seen, sex is just as powerful a snare. Other better qualified commentators than I are now expounding on the primal drive of alpha males for sex. If it weren't that Spitzer had dabbled in actual crime to get it, making him a hypocrite, I think the situation, although damaging, would be shruggable. After all, if it were just infidelity, why shouldn't a man who could be President of France be Governor of New York? (Or President of the US or Senator or Governor of several other states--.) Partly it is because of our culture of "self-indulgent Puritanism," as Georgie calls it. Privately, we are encouraged to grab for all we can, and success is measured by how much we succeed in getting; whereas, particularly if one is a politician, in public life one is expected to pretend to be simon-pure. Methinks the French have the better of it, sexually. I can just see the analysis over there: "$80,000.00 on prostitutes? What a fool! For that, he could have had a full-time mistress!"

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