New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned over the revelation that he was a customer of a prostitution ring. Spitzer—who was known for his high-profile crusades against corporate malfeasance and corruption in his previous job as the state’s attorney general—will leave office on Monday, and Lt. Gov. David Paterson will officially succeed him. Paterson has already begun putting together a transition team as he prepares to become the state's first black governor, and only the third in the nation since Reconstruction. (New York Post, free registration)
What the commentators said
If nothing else, Eliot Spitzer's downfall provided a long list of lessons for politicians -- and ordinary people -- everywhere, said Patricia O'Connell in BusinessWeek.com. Lesson No. 1: If you claim to be a reformer, "you've got to deliver constantly." The one thing Americans can't tolerate is a hypocrite. Once you make people "feel foolish for having trusted you," it's "nearly impossible to regain their trust."
One lesson in the Spitzer case should comfort us all, said The Christian Science Monitor an editorial. “The public can be grateful that a system set up to catch financial misdoings of those entrusted with high offices apparently works. Perhaps this will serve as a cautionary tale for other officeholders.”
Hasn't Spitzer shown that it's dangerous to trust any politician? said Gail Collins in The New York Times (free registration). “The Spitzer scandal has completely undermined my confidence as a voter. You pull the lever for your feisty clean-up-the-government candidate with years and years of experience putting the bad guys in jail, and it turns out he’s into high-risk, high-priced hookups.” How do you recover from that? “Maybe this democracy thing is overrated.”
There’s one surefire way to keep sex-for-hire scandals from disrupting American politics again, said Patty Kelly in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). Decriminalize prostitution. “It's not terribly uncommon. It's a part of our culture, and it's not going away any time soon. Perhaps Spitzer's resignation will help convince Americans that it is finally time” to deal with the issue of prostitution “with a little less moralizing and a good deal more honesty.”
But soon Spitzer—or Client 9 as he was known to the call-girl service—will be a private citizen again, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. He betrayed the public trust, and he is paying for it. But "the fairest course of action" is to treat him the same as the still anonymous "Clients 1 through 8" from here on out.