Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer will probably complete the trifecta

This is why they call NY-NJ-CT the "tri-state area". Because we are bound together geographically, economically, and politically in many ways.

Here's another reason why we're similar:

New York will probably become the final state in the grouping in which the governor resigns in disgrace.

First, there's good ol' John Rowland, disgraced governor of Connecticut who was forced to resign in the wake of a corruption scandal.

Then we can't forget Jim McGreevey, the New Jersey governor who resigned after admitting that he had had an extramarital affair with a male employee.

And now, we have Eliot Spitzer, former Attorney General and current governor of New York. He set the record for brevity, managing to screw up his prestigious job only 14 months after taking office. We're waiting for an announcement any time now that Lt. Gov. David Paterson will assume the office of governor for New York. Even a fighter like Spitzer won't want to see this thing get dragged out any more than necessary.

One thing I've noticed on the news in relation to this scandal is the amazing frequency of the question "What was he thinking?"

This question always seems to be asked with a little exasperated snicker, and a hint of condescension. But let's look at what he really might have been thinking.

There's no doubt that expansive power often brings arrogance and a sense of entitlement. That arrogance often helps a person get through all the bullshit one goes through when seeking a high office. But it's very tempting to start seeing yourself as different than the people you represent, especially considering the way a governor is treated: being chauffeured everywhere, attending important events as a VIP, and being the recipient of the respect that the office generates. It's easy to imagine that a governor starts seeing himself as more of a king than an elected official, and his constituents as serfs.

With that kind of arrogance, it doesn't require a quantum leap of imagination to picture someone in that position behaving the way Spitzer apparently did. He obviously began to see himself as someone who deserves the perks of being the king. And that means, in his case, taking huge liberties with the law that he so valiantly pursued and protected as Attorney General. Because he started seeing himself as "above" everyone else.

The downside of that kind of reasoning is that when they first get away with something illegal/immoral/just plain dumb, it only reinforces the behavior and the sense of "invincibility". That leads to more and more instances of these legal/moral lapses. Eventually, they get caught. It happens all the time.

Like former governor Rowland. He started using state contractors to do work on his summer cottage. Soon he was involved in all sorts of shady behavior, like taking gifts from subordinates and taking partial ownership of businesses immediately prior to them being awarded government contracts.

At some point, as inevitable as Hamlet, the downfall will occur.

And it's never pretty.


Bob Symmes said...

As a wannabe candidate, I think this blog is a "must read" (" or Politics 101, Lesson 1") for ANYONE who wishes for public office.

sellitman said...

What was that expression?

Absolute power corrupts absolutely?

CT Bob said...

Thanks Bob, I truly appreciate that.

Although, I hope anyone with serious political aspirations would be wise enough to take anything I write here with a large grain of salt...I'd hate to wreck anyone's chances with my inane prognostications!

Sellitman, I was sorely tempted to use that phrase, but in the end I decided to paraphrase CT Keith and run with the "arrogance of power" theme, from his memorable appearance in the Jim Amann video.

Keith deserves way more props than he usually gets; he's one of the people who inspired me to get involved in this crazy game of politics.