My novel BMOC included an incompetent and power-abusing Senator who managed to remain a darling of the press as long as he focused his attention on pork-barrel spending and using government power to help and hurt his friends and enemies. However, the press finally turned on him when it became known he was involved with prostitutes. The fairly cynical (if not realistic) moral was that it was fine to abuse government power, just don't get caught in a sex scandal.
Well, it seems that we will get to test that notion in real life. Apparently, NY governor Eliot Spitzer has been dallying with prostitutes. Now, I couldn't really care less about his purchase of sex -- I have argued many times for legalization of prostitution. But it will be an interesting test of my book's cynical hypothesis, since to date the press has been in love with Spitzer despite (even because of) his abusive practices as AG and governor. The radio news a few minutes ago actually said "Mr. Spitzer, who to date has had a squeaky clean reputation..." Huh? Only if you read the fawning PR work done for him by the NY Times in the past.
Update: Here is the passage from the book. Sound familiar?
Taking a deep
breath, Givens said, "Senator, there is a reason that this one is not going
away. I will spell it out: S-E-X. The press doesn't give a shit about a few billion dollars of waste. No one tunes in to the evening news if the
teaser is "˜Government pays too much for a bridge, news at eleven.' The Today Show doesn't interview the
contractors benefiting from a useless bridge."
"However, everybody and his dog will tune in if
the teaser is "˜Your tax dollars are funding call girls, film at eleven'. Jesus, do you really think the CBS Evening
News is going to turn down a chance to put hookers on the evening news? Not just tonight but day after day? Just watch "“ Dan Rather will be interviewing
hookers and Chris Mathews will be interviewing hookers and for God's sakes
Barbara Walters will probably have a weepy interview with a hooker."....
"You guys in the Senate can get away with a lot,
as long as long as a) you don't get caught or b) the scandal is so boring or
complex that it won't sell newspapers. Hell, I saw a poll the other day that a substantial percentage of
Americans to this day don't understand or even believe what Richard Nixon did
was wrong. But if you polled those same
people, every freaking one of them would say that they knew and believed that
Bill Clinton got [had sex with] an intern.
Update #2: Disclosure -- I did not like Spitzer, even at Princeton. This, however, was not uncommon. In fact, Spitzer managed to inspire a jihad in response to his governance of the student council there.
Update #3: ROFL! I got this email from a reader:
I eagerly await your
comments on the latest imbroglio involving your favorite Princeton
classmate. Please don't take the high road.
It seems I may not be the only person who does not care for Mr. Spitzer.
Update #4: I hope the girls paid sales taxes on their transactions and have all their payroll taxes in order. Certainly Mr. Spitzer has established the principle that illegal businesses still owe taxes.
That seems to be the axiom in New York these days, where Gov. Eliot L.
Spitzer (D), struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, has
proposed making drug dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs.
The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and could be
paid with pre-bought "tax stamps" affixed to the bags of dope.
Update #5: Libertarians like myself will point out that this is all between consenting adults. Of course, that did not stop Eliot Spitzer from trying to prosecute Dick Grasso for a pay package that was approved by consenting (and quite sophisticated) adults.
Update #6: It is being reported that Spitzer will resign. QED folks. Spitzer uses the state police to spy on political rivals and the press continues to call him a squeaky clean reformer. But pay for sex with a consenting adult, and your gone.
Update #7: Tom Kirkendal has been all over Spitzer for years. He writes:
But I hope that the most important lesson that
Spitzer's political career teaches us is not lost amidst the glare of a
tawdry sex scandal. As with Rudy Giuliani
before him, Spitzer rose to political power through the misuse of the
state's overwhelming prosecutorial power to regulate business
interests. In so doing, Spitzer manipulated an all-too-accommodating
mainstream media, which never misses an opportunity to take down an
easy target such as a wealthy businessperson. Spitzer is now learning
that the same media dynamic applies to powerful politicians, as well.
However, as noted earlier here,
where was the mainstream media's scrutiny when Spitzer was destroying
wealth, jobs and careers while threatening to go Arthur Andersen on
American Insurance Group and other companies? Where was the healthy
skepticism of the unrestrained use of the state's prosecutorial power
to regulate business where business had no available regulatory
procedure with which to contest Spitzer's actions?