So, as I’m sure everyone and their mother has already heard by now if they’ve been anywhere near a television or the Internet in the past 24 hours, NY governor Eliot Spitzer has been linked to a prostitution ring. He issued a televised apology to his family and the public on Monday, his wife standing at his side. Talk of a probable resignation is everywhere, and given his already embattled tenure as governor, it doesn’t look like he’ll last long.
Spitzer’s administration has been something of a disappointment, and he is just another fairly mainstream Democrat with the usual spate of disagreeable stances, but I still feel some regret and frustration that he’s gone and committed political suicide in such a royally stupid way. For all of his many shortcomings, he exhibited some glimmers of true progressiveness that I appreciated: his support for gay marriage (even though it was mostly a big old show given that his proposal was dead in the water and he had to know it would be), his push for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants (though the plan had major flaws and, again, failed.) OK, so maybe for the most part Spitzer talked some good talk and tripped over his own feet when he attempted to walk the walk, but still, this was more than what we get from most elected officials these days.
Another one of Spitzer’s good ideas happened to be front and center on Monday – until the scandal broke, that is. March 10 is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers (who knew?), and the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State convened in Albany. Governor Spitzer was scheduled to address the conference on Monday morning, in part to speak on the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, a bill that he introduced into the NY State Legislature last year and had declared a legislative priority for 2008. The bill declares that abortion is a fundamental right for women and would protect women’s right to safe, legal abortions even if the Supreme Court was to overturn Roe v Wade. Of course, the Catholic Church is all in a huff about the bill and is doing its best to defeat it, though luckily New York state has a fairly good pro-choice track record, even when targeted by Rome’s most fervent efforts.
Perhaps this is just the conspiracy theorist in me, but it does seem all too convenient that Spitzer’s scandal should emerge just as he was about to renew his public push to get this tremendously important bill passed. The timing was so perfect that he had to cancel his address to the conference at the last minute. OK, so it’s probably unlikely that this was all orchestrated to defeat the reproductive rights bill, though taking down this bill at the same time as taking down Spitzer does seem like not-so-far-fetched icing on the cake for his conservative political enemies.
Regardless of whether the timing was coincidental or deliberate, it’s maddening that the passage of such an important bill may now be in jeopardy because Spitzer paid for sex. One only hopes that whether we’ve got Governor Spitzer or Governor Paterson by the end of the week, the bill will survive the scandal and ensure that women in NY State are protected in the face of an increasingly tenuous Roe v Wade.
And when it’s all said and done, it’s absurd that Spitzer can be taken down for paying for sex and infidelity, former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey resigned over being outed as gay (and infidelity), and Bill Clinton was impeached for cheating with an intern, while Bush and Cheney look like they’re going to finish their terms without so much as a hint of impeachment after they’ve waged illegal war, violated the civil rights of countless people, and endorsed torture. Yeah, the scandals that embroiled Clinton, McGreevey and now Spitzer also involved some perjury, illegality and corruption, but apparently breaking the law is only really bad if it involves sex taboos. Torture, murder and illegal imprisonment? Apparently not nearly as much of a threat to one’s political career. And that’s the true perversion.