Let’s analyze this Eliot Spitzer situation without emotion, because there are lessons to be learned here. First of all, Spitzer is obviously a smart guy, having graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School, so his conduct is perplexing for its stupidity.
Spitzer made his reputation as a tough prosecutor; he understood money transfer traces, wiretaps, informants, and the rest of the law enforcement landscape. He also knew how to build cases against powerful people who were doing shady things.
So Governor Spitzer was no huckster preacher, trying to make bucks off God while privately playing games with devil. And he was no Wilbur Mills, the former Arkansas congressman who got drunk out of his mind with a stripper in the back seat of his limo.
No, Spitzer is a completely different animal.
If you watch cable TV news, you will hear the braying pack talk about Spitzer’s arrogance, his “I’m above it all” mentality. But if you examine the facts, this shallow analysis doesn’t wash.
Governor Spitzer had to know that repeated visits with people breaking the law, prostitutes, put him at enormous risk. At any time, any one of those ladies might have been arrested and, facing prosecution, could have easily offered authorities Spitzer’s name in return for having all charges dropped.
The ladies also could have blackmailed Spitzer, could have sold their stories about him to the tabloid media, could have done many things to destroy his life.
And then there’s the money. Spitzer well knew that wire transfers to offshore facilities are closely monitored because of terrorist surveillance. One of the ways that the Bush administration has damaged al-Qaeda has been to choke off its funding; money moved to and from the USA is closely watched by banks and the IRS.
Spitzer also knew that talking on the telephone to pimps, people setting up liaisons with prostitutes, left him open to being tapped, especially because the ladies were being moved across state lines, which is a federal offense. Spitzer knew all of the above.
So you’re telling me that Eliot Spitzer thought he wouldn’t get caught? Sure, and I’m Paris Hilton.
No, what’s in play here is what I call the “Belushi Syndrome.” That’s when a famous person who has money and success subconsciously tries to destroy himself. You see it all the time-movie stars, athletes, and politicians doing incredibly stupid stuff.
By all accounts, comedian John Belushi was repeatedly warned by his wife and closest friends that his rampant drug use could kill him. Nevertheless, he continued to take deadly combinations of heroin and cocaine, knowing the danger involved.
Death found him at age 33.
Eliot Spitzer also knew the danger he was facing. But some kind of deep self-loathing propelled him to dismiss the inevitable. I mean, think about it-you are a sitting governor spending tens of thousands of dollars on hookers? Come on. Maybe Caligula could get away with that, but not an American politician in a tabloid age.
This is not some dime store psychoanalysis. There are many people walking around who are deeply self-destructive and who will hurt themselves and others around them. That’s a fact.
A self-destructive, self-loathing personality will find a way to blow everything up, and it doesn’t matter what kind of career the person has. We all know people like this. Stay away from them.