Friday, March 14, 2008

The Amoral Editorial Reaction to Spitzer

USA Today has provided some chop quotes from various news outlets commenting upon the Spitzer mess.

Most of the commentators have been so scrupulous in avoiding all talk of the sanctity of marriage that they have fallen headlong into a vat of secular verbiage. This avoidance is the obverse of sanctimony, but it really amounts to the same thing. Even atheists can be sanctimonious, and Spitzer fell from grace this time because he was not sanctimonious.

The Daily News allowed that Spitzer’s fall from grace chipped away at his “moral authority.” Character and honesty are important, and “his blithe willingness to order up a hooker by telephone revealed an abysmal and disqualifying lack of judgment.”

Ah, so that’s what it was, a lack of judgment. Only in the age of Madonna -- no, not that one -- can you have moral authority without having morals.

Spitzer also lacked “perspective,” which “cast him into a freefall in the polls.” He showed his “dark side” to an ever recoiling New York. The paper body-checked Spitzer on “recklessness and hypocrisy of such magnitude that you had to question his sanity.” It is not eros that makes men mad; it is madness that makes men erotic.

The San Francisco Chronicle cautioned politicians to beware of “sanctimony,” Spitzer’s undoing. It is nearly impossible to discover from the reference what the paper finds repulsive in sanctimony, the sanctity or the lack of it.

“Some politicians,” the lead on its editorial began, “might have been able to survive a scandal involving close encounters with a prostitution ring. Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York will not, and should not.”

What it was that made Spitzer’s offense more condemnable than, say, that of New York Rep. Barney Frank was the issue of – You guessed it – “righteousness.” No one has ever accused Frank of righteousness.

An openly gay legislator from Massachussetts, Frank also solicited sex from a prostitute on the quiet, but recovered from the media flogging, if we are to believe the Chronicle, because Frank thoughtfully spared the rest of us his unseemly righteousness. Spitzer’s adventure in the skin trade and Sen. Larry Craig’s bathroom adventures were equally odious, the paper thought,“But Spitzer does not win this game by being no worse than the common politician. He cast himself as superior - and proved himself uncommonly smarmy."

Smarminess is the second deadly sin, lagging behind hypocrisy.

Linda Hirshman flogged Spitzer at the blog, Slate this time, and advised women like Mrs. Spitzer not to give up their day jobs. One may ask of Spitzer and his wife, of the sinner and the sinned against, did they fall asleep at Harvard Law school when their professors touched upon “reasoning by analogy?” Ms. Hirshman’s blog is blessedly free of moral unction. Perhaps she read the Chronicle editorial and did not wish to appear sanctimonious.

It’s not about the sex, the Philadelphia Inquirer proclaimed, for sex is a matter best left to Spitzer and his wife. No, it’s about the “betrayal of the public trust.” The man New Yorkers thought honest when they elected him governor “is a liar.” Such liars erode “public confidence.” How does the saying go: When people tell you it’s not about the money, IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY? Likewise, when people tell you it’s not about sex and marital infidelity, it’s about …

The Nation speculated that some of the mud kicked up by Spitzer may splash upon Sen. Hillary Clinton’s virginal countenance, soiling it. She wanted Spitzer’s endorsement for president, got it, and now the lady has an awful headache.

Clinton very shortly “will be answering breathless questions about all her governor's troubles, about whether he should resign and, of course, about her impressions of what it means when prominent political players -- like governors or, say, presidents in the 1990s -- get wrapped up in sex scandals.

“Double ouch!”

We have come a long way since the days of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, both of whom would have reached into their religious thesauruses to condemn the disgraced governor. Edwards, perhaps the most brilliant theologian Connecticut produced, lost his parish for insisting that some boys had besmirched the honor of God when they had passed around a medical text that Edwards considered prurient.

In the modern period, it is considered backward to object on religious grounds to a governor patronizing whores. How much safer it is to bring them up on charges of hypocrisy, the only “sin” -- sin itself being an antique and outmoded notion – that secularists will allow. To them, lying and hypocrisy are never in fashion.

As for the rest of it – help yourself, but don’t get caught.
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