March 11, 2008

There are going to be some who spot mere rank partisanship in the Spitzer investigation, but I could really care less. There is a much higher standard we set for holders of power in any executive branch, be they President or governor, since that person is charged with ensuring that the law is enforced equitably and fairly. David Vitter or Barney Frank might violate the same laws, but as legislators, they are mere political actors, charged with debating and enacting the laws that go into effect. Spitzer's duties were different, so the consequences that follow are exponentially changed.

My favorite attempt at rationalizing this debacle within familiar blogospheric parameters has to be Jane Hamsher, who innocently asks:
Why would the bank tell the IRS and not Spitzer himself if there was a suspicious transfer? Spitzer is a longtime client, a rich guy and the governor. We're talking thousands of dollars here, not millions. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense that they spotted a "suspicious transfer" made by the governor, and that this is how things began. It's possible it was just ordinary paperwork the bank had to file with the government whenever some particular flag was raised, but if that's the case, why did the DoJ go to DefCon 3?
Why, indeed? If the bank had just asked the Governor why so much money seemed to be floating around from shell company to shell company under various pseudonyms that were connected to him, I'm sure he would have just told them not to worry, these weren't bribes or kickbacks he was hiding, just payments for concubinage. It's not like Spitzer wouldn't have given the same benefit of a doubt to any Wall Street honcho back when he was the A.G. of the state of New York. Nothing to see here....

Let's not treat this as being on the same level as the persecution of Dan Siegelman. If you want to argue that prostitution should be legalized, or that what Spitzer does outside of marriage is a personal matter, fine, but you still have the matter that he is charged with executing the laws, all of the laws, even those he disagrees with. If Spitzer had libertarian leanings on this issue, he could have simply asserted that the state wasn't going to be in the business of prosecuting victimless crimes anymore, and urged the legislature to change the law. Former Illinois Governor George Ryan, a Republican, took much the same approach to the death penalty a few years, and helped change the public debate on that issue. Unfortunately for Spitzer, he chose to prosecute others for what he was doing privately. He deserves what he's going to get.

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