Spitzer Deserves What He Gets

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In reading blog coverage and comments about the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, I’ve gotten the sense that there are a lot of people who think this is no big deal. The underlying assumption is the either prostitution is not worth enforcing or that this particular case should be a private matter for the Spitzer family. Both assumptions, in my mind, are wrong.

First, hiring a prostitute and having a consensual affair are two very different things and we shouldn’t confuse the two. An affair is a personal matter as is any consensual sexual relationship between adults. The government has no business monitoring or regulating such acts and most of us have no business throwing stones. Prostitution, on the other hand, is a commercial matter and one that is excessively exploitative. It’s very much in the realm of matters the government should regulate or prohibit. And the rest of us have every right to expect our politicians not to hire call girls.

There’s a reason why only one state in the union permits prostitution and, even then, with plenty of regulations that would still consider what Spitzer did to be criminal. Prostitution places women at high risk for violence, disease and a multitude of other problems. Not to mention that, if we accept that our culture should have at least some standards, we hardly want prostitution to become a legitimate career aspiration for young women. Sure, we can’t wipe it out through enforcement but our society and culture are stronger for not tolerating such physical exploitation (as distinct from the less harmful voyeuristic exploitation that occurs in legal pornography).

As for enforcement, it’s usually a local matter and some jurisdictions place more emphasis on it than others. But as long as the majority want it to be a law we have to expect it to be enforced. And as long as it’s enforced, we have to demand it’s enforced on all levels – not just on the street but in the highest offices as well. Spitzer got caught because of his own clumsy use of wire transfers. No one pried into his personal life and then discovered the criminality. There was more than enough probable cause for an investigation because Spitzer gave them cause.

Ultimately, the Spitzer case is not about sex. It’s about a governor committing a federal felony (it became federal when paid a prostitute to cross state lines). This is not some over-reaction to a politician getting caught with his pants down. This is an appropriate reaction to a politician betraying his oath to uphold the law. Unless Spitzer claims he’s not guilty, there’s absolutely no reason the citizens of New York should tolerate him staying in office.