Athenian lawgiver Solon offered two words of guidance that have echoed through the ages: Know thyself. These words were inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and also attributed to numerous sages, including Heraclites, Pythagoras, and Socrates (who proposed that “the un-examined life is not worth living”). Why would such sages recommend self-awareness above other human qualities? Perhaps it’s because self-knowledge informs all our choices and decisions (in education, careers, and relationships) and thereby shapes the quality of our lives.
~ Dan Millman ~
Former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was once described as relentless by Robert Abrams and Joel Cohen (Barrons, March 22, 2004).
Eliot Spitzer pursued cases in both state and federal courts involving pollution, entertainment, technology, occupational safety and health and other fields in which New York plays a part in setting and maintaining national standards of conduct.
Over the course of my twenty years working in and around the New York City area, I met a number of celebrities, Walter “Clyde” Frazier former basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), David Melvin Franklin (October 12, 1942 – February 23, 1995) better known by the stage name Melvin Franklin, an American bass singer, and member of Motown singing group The Temptations from 1960 to 1994, Brooke Shields, American actress, model and former child star, former Senator Bill Bradley who served in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997 representing the state of New Jersey, and Anthony “Tony” Robbins, American self-help author and motivational speaker.
Among those individuals that I have seen in New York City and wished that I had the wonderful opportunity to actually speak with are David Albert DeBusschere (October 16, 1940 – May 14, 2003) an American NBA and major league baseball player and coach in the NBA, and named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and Eliot Laurence Spitzer, American lawyer, political commentator, and former New York Sate Attorney General and Governor.
Out of all these men and women that I have mentioned, the one person that most captured my interest was Eliot Spitzer. When I saw him walk past me in front of the Brown Brothers Harrimon & Co. (BBH) headquarters located at 140 Broadway in New York City, I was struck by both his confident and regal demeanor. It seemed quite fitting for such a high level public servant. Roger Donway, Business Rights Center Director of The Atlas Society actually referred to him as follows:
Eliot Spitzer: Aytollah General”, …[who] used a broad anti-fraud statute to conduct a series of aggressive and well-publicized campaigns against businesses, most notably in the financial industry. His purpose in these campaigns has not been the narrow one of punishing law-breakers. Rather, he has sought a sweeping restructuring of the business landscape in order to make it accord with his moral vision, as though he were a religious dictator suddenly transplanted from the Middle East to Manhattan.
In 2007, Spitzer was inaugurated Governor of New York after defeating Republican John Faso. During his time in office, he proposed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York and issued an executive order allowing illegal immigrants to be issued driver’s licenses; both attracted controversy. In July 2007, he was admonished for his administration’s involvement in ordering the State Police to record the whereabouts of State Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno. On March 10, 2008, it was reported that Spitzer was a client of Emperors Club VIP. The scandal prompted him to resign as Governor on March 17.
Spitzer was born on June 10, 1959 in the Bronx, the son of Anne (nee Goldhaber), an English Literature professor, and Bernard Spitzer, a real estate mogul. His paternal grandparents were Galician Jews born in Tluste, Poland (now Ukraine). His maternal grandparents, born in the 1890s, were Jewish immigrants from Palestine. Spitzer is the youngest of three children. He was raised in the affluent Riverdale section of The Bronx in New York City. His family was not particularly religious, and Spitzer did not have a Bar Mitzvah.
He is a graduate of Horace Mann School. After scoring 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT exam, Spitzer attended Princeton University and majored in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. At Princeton, he was elected chairman of the undergraduate student government, and graduated in 1981. He claims he received a perfect score on the LSAT, and went on to attend Harvard Law School, where he met and married Silda Wall. They married on October 17, 1987, and together they have three daughters. Spitzer was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
By most standards, Eliot Spitzer was afforded every advantage; a superior education, expert mentoring, and was tremendously well-positioned for unimaginable success. So what went wrong?
March 10, 2008, 3:18 pm
Following is a transcript of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s brief statement to the public, delivered at his Midtown Manhattan office on Monday afternoon:
Good afternoon. Over the past nine years, eight years as attorney general and one as governor, I’ve tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York and that will continue. Today, I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and that violates my — or any — sense of right and wrong. I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better. I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good and doing what is best for the State of New York. But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family. I will not be taking questions. Thank you very much. I will report back to you in short order. Thank you very much.
More than 100 reporters, along with 30 television cameras and 20 still photographers, had awaited Mr. Spitzer’s announcement — originally scheduled for 2:15 p.m. — in a packed briefing room at the governor’s office at 633 Third Avenue. As the door opened, Mr. Spitzer had his arm around his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer; the two nodded and then strode forward together. Both had glassy, tear-filled eyes, but they did not cry.
The governor — addressing reports that he had been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-price prostitute at a Washington hotel last month — spoke for just 64 seconds, declining to take questions and remaining silent on his political future. As he prepared to leave, three reporters screamed out, “Are you resigning? Are you resigning?”
Holding his wife’s hand, Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, strode quickly from the room, saying nothing, until the metal door slammed behind him.
Allow me to set the stage for what followed; "Although Albany is in turmoil, so far, public response has been muted. Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who is speaker of the State Assembly and one of the three most powerful officials in state government, said in a statement, “The allegations against the Governor are before the public. I have nothing to add at this time.”
James N. Tedisco, the leader of the Republican minority in the Assembly, appears to have been the first state official to call publicly for Mr. Spitzer’s resignation. Mr. Tedisco said in a statement:
Today’s news that Eliot Spitzer was likely involved with a prostitution ring and his refusal to deny it leads to one inescapable conclusion: he has disgraced his office and the entire state of New York. He should resign his office immediately.
Public service is a public trust — Eliot Spitzer violated this trust and has forsaken his oath of office. For the good of his family, for the good of our state, for the good of the governorship, Eliot Spitzer must resign immediately. He is unfit to lead our state and unfit to hold public office.
Joseph N. Mondello, the chairman of the New York State Republican Committee, said in a statement:
The stunning allegations of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s personal involvement in an interstate prostitution ring are a shocking disappointment to the people of New York. This is a sad day for Governor Spitzer and his family as well as for the citizens of our state.
It is hard to see how Governor Spitzer can hope to govern effectively while the political, governmental and legal consequences of his behavior swirl about him.
New Yorkers are facing hard times. They need a Governor who is fully focused on serving their best interests. Governor Spitzer should do the right thing, not only for himself and his family, but also for all the people of New York.
He should resign immediately, so New York’s government can effectively return to serving its citizens.
Legislative leaders would not say much about the allegations. Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, called the situation “very, very unfortunate” and said he felt sorry for the governor’s wife and children. He made a vague remark about how important it is that “people in office do the right thing.” But he did not respond when asked whether Mr. Spitzer should resign. Curtis L. Taylor, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic leader, Malcolm A. Smith, said in a statement, “This is a difficult day for all New Yorkers but most of all our hearts and prayers go out to the Spitzer family.”
United States Senator Charles E. Schumer, who was elected in 1998 and has sometimes been mentioned as a possible governor some day, said in a statement, “I feel bad for him and his family but until he makes a more complete statement, I have nothing more to say.”
David Kocieniewski contributed reporting. (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/i-apologize-to-the-public/)
Regardless of how tough-minded any of us thinks that we are, this level of public humiliation and the associated feelings of shame often lead to alcoholism, drug abuse, intense stress and upheaval, depression and despair, and even possible suicide. No matter how angry, disappointed or shocked we may have become over this situation, our own failings at some point or even those of others whom we love, most of us would still prefer to see those who have misconducted themselves shown some mercy, repentant, transformed and eventually made useful once again as opposed to their becoming completely destroyed, or worse.
If in general, people could experience a measured degree of the pain and suffering that accompanies some of the most appalling of decisions without actually engaging in the actions themselves, I doubt that any of us would fail to turn and run away as quickly as possible. However, in the absence of such an alarming deterrent, let us each remember that "One often learns more from ten days of agony than from ten years of contentment (Fenchuk, 1998: Merle Shain, P. 92).
My hope for Eliot Spitzer is that he is able to spend time privately with a familiar, and compassionate rabbi that he respects. One who is good at teaching the word of G-d, such that he may receive grace, understanding, bring himself to express his remorse, discuss how to effectively tend to the wounds of his family, and ultimately be restored as a man, husband and father, and then possibly one day firmly recommit himself to living in dignity, with real integrity and a renewed capability of being of service to others.