Admiral of Morality: The last good man

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The last good man

Eliot Spitzer campaigned for governor as the last good man in New York, the only one with enough integrity and chutzpah, to root out the corruption and waste that permeates all levels of New York’s byzantine government.

No one could challenge Spitzer on his claims to integrity, only fear him and hope he wouldn’t cast his righteous indignation in their direction.

He’d done an impeccable job as New York Attorney General. He reined in titans of Wall Street for corruption and malfeasance, when no one else, much less the federal government, could be bothered.

He went after companies and businesses that nickled and dimed and cheated citizens on everything from photocopies and plumbing to insurance and electricity, in the process winning the affection and respect of millions who, rightly, viewed him as their honorable advocate.

Informing his sense of mission and obligation were a deep rooted faith and sense of personal honor. They were twin strengths he’d hoped would flow from him into government, as honesty and transparency. In the glare of his public humiliation and personal failing, these, his greatest strengths and the sources of his ability to live and govern, seem dim shapes on a misty horizon.

With him, for a season at least, go his hopes for a more representative and responsive government.

With him, for a season at least, also goes the notion of the honorable man, for who was more honorable than Eliot Spitzer? His name was synonymous with integrity. As the knives sharpen in the days and weeks ahead, it may come to mean something else entirely.

He is not alone in his personal failings and human weaknesses but to see it happen before our eyes with such rapidity and definitiveness, is saddening and terrible.

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