News Analysis: Don't Do It, Eliot!
Why NY governer Eliot Spitzer should refrain from resigning over sex scandal
Posted Mar 11th, 2008 05:00 AM by Mark Kernes
— Fox News, whose credibility rivals that of George Bush, "reported" Monday (citing unnamed sources) that "New York governor Eliot Spitzer is expected to resign" over his admitted employment of a prostitute during a visit to Washington, D.C. on Feb. 13 ... and all we have to say is: DON'T DO IT!
Yes, it's a presidential election year, and yes, Republican operatives (like Fox News) will be doing everything in their power to put Democrats (like Spitzer) in a bad light, and as far as the religious fundamentalists are concerned, nothing does that better than a good sex scandal. And the fact that Spitzer is a Dem "super-delegate" who's already pledged his support to Hillary Clinton makes the prostitution revelation that much sweeter for the fundies.
Spitzer is arguably in a more honest position than was Bill Clinton, who always denied "having sex" with blowjob-providing intern Monica Lewinski, although in his (first) public statement on the matter, Spitzer never actually said, "Yes, I hired a hooker." Instead, he said, "I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better. I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."
Apparently, giving a name to the act that has made Spitzer America's most famous "john" is something he's as yet unwilling to do, and we have to encourage him to do it - in fact, the sooner the better. Why? Because it's about time that America - and, yes, even fundamentalists - faced up to the fact that most adults have sex, and that some of them even pay
to have sex.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Mark Brener, Cecil Sewal, Tameka Rachelle Lewis and Tanya Hollander, Spitzer, identified only as "Client-9," sent the defendants, who ran the emperorsclubvip.com website, a deposit of about $2100 to secure the services of one of their prostitutes, "Kristen," to meet him at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C. for certain unnamed activities, a clue to which may be found in the FBI's recording of a conversation that took place in the early morning hours of Feb. 14. In that conversation Kristen told Tameka Lewis, when asked how the "appointment" went, "I don't think he's difficult. I mean, it's just kind of like ... whatever ... I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is. I am not a ... moron, you know what I mean ... Let's not get it twisted - I know what I do, you know." (It's unclear whether the ellipses represent pauses in the conversation or words [like "fucking"] that the FBI was too chicken to include in its affidavit.)
In any case, if Spitzer did hire Kristen to travel from New York to D.C. for sexual services, that would technically make Spitzer guilty of a violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2422: "Coercion and enticement," which reads, "Whoever knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual to travel in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, to engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."
It's part of the Mann Act - officially, the "United States White-Slave Traffic Act" - passed in 1910, which not only prohibited "white slavery" but also banned the interstate transportation of females for "immoral purposes." Among the luminaries who've been prosecuted under the act were actor Charlie Chaplin, musician Chuck Berry, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and would-be-deity Charlie Manson.
Interestingly, the amount of the fine is not specified in the law, even though 20 years is a hefty prison term for a consensual sexual act ... and let's face it: It's unlikely that this law could survive a Supreme Court challenge where the (present) Court took the holding in Lawrence v. Texas
seriously. After all, it was Antonin Scalia who mentioned "prostitution" as one of the laws "called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding."
The point, however, is that people have sex. Some people have sex with people to whom they're not married. Some people marry for sex. Some people get divorced over sex. Some people accept payment for sex by way of expensive meals, expensive gifts and/or fully paid vacations, while others just "cut to the chase."
What will be interesting will be how this situation develops. We're apparently already past - in fact, have entirely circumvented - the denial stage ("Monica who?"), as well as the stage where the perp, with his wife by his side, makes the initial public statement on the situation, though Spitzer's first big mistake has been to claim that the paid sex was (is!) "a private matter." Ennnhhhh - wrong answer! At this point, it's about as public a matter as you can get, and considering that more than 90 percent of all radio talk-show hosts are conservative Republicans, and that Sean Hannity devoted more than half Monday afternoon's show to the subject, it will remain so for many months to come. Oh, they won't talk about details of the sex act(s); just the fact that any occurred is all they need to know, as much as they may salivate over any details that do
Speaking of Hannity, part of his rationale for why there was a problem with what Spitzer did is "because if you're involved in illegal activities with hookers, and living a life you shouldn't lead, and you're breaking the law, then you're also a person that would be subject to some type of blackmail."
Interestingly, that was the same rationale given for why Walter Jenkins, top administrative assistant to Lyndon Johnson, should resign after having been busted by D.C. police while having sex with another guy in a men's room, and it makes as little sense now as it did then: How could someone whose sex life has made the front page of newspapers across the country and the subject of every nightly news program on TV and radio possibly be blackmailed over the now-all-too-public revelations?
But Hannity and freres
will probably also talk about Spitzer's hypocrisy, in that as Attorney General of New York, Spitzer prosecuted several escort agencies, declaring in relation to one 2004 case which resulted in the arrest of 18 people operating out of Staten Island, "This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure. It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring."
Quoth Larry Flynt, "It is matters like these that brings hypocrisy to the forefront of American politics. Although I didn't have anything to do with his outing, I wish him well."
Therefore, Spitzer's best course of action is to bring a discussion of prostitution - and of sex in general - into the public forum. Spitzer might start by holding a press conference with his wife, wherein they discuss their sex lives with each other; their views on sex in general; whether his wife knew that he sometimes employed prostitutes, and how she felt about that; and why "sex" and "love" don't necessarily have a lot to do with each other - that people may love others that they're not sexually attracted to, and have sex with those they don't necessarily love. He might reveal some "new understanding" of how women (and men) have a right, in the 21st century, to do pretty much whatever they want with their bodies sexually, since after Lawrence
, it's been confirmed that the government has no business inquiring into the private sexual activities of its citizenry - even the ones they advertise for sale over the internet.
Of course, Bill Clinton could have done the same, but instead, he kept insisting that nothing sexual had taken place between him and Lewinski, to the point that Congress voted to impeach him - allegedly because of lies about his sexual exploits that he had told in depositions, but in reality because a President of the United States had dared to make public the fact that he was a sexually-normal human being in a sexually-repressive culture.
Let's hope Eliot Spitzer doesn't make that same mistake - but we're not taking any bets that he won't.