The unnoble fall of Client 9

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer's fall. There is none. Governor Spitzer, who made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men, is himself almost certainly ruined.

Mr. Spitzer's brief statement yesterday about a "private matter" surely involves what are widely reported to be his activities with an expensive prostitution ring discovered by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Those who believe Eliot Spitzer is getting his just deserts may be entitled to that view, but it misses the greater lesson for our politics.

Mr. Spitzer coasted into the Governorship on the wings of a reputation as a "tough" public prosecutor. Mr. Spitzer, though, was no emperor. He had not merely arrogated to himself the powers he held and used with such aggression. He was elected.

In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.

The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer's recklessness with the state's highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.

...

His abuses of power are listed. He appears to be a man without boundaries when it comes to prosecuting others and controlling his own urges. Powerful men get in real trouble when they ask the question "Why not ...?" and don't have a good answer. Client 9 was such a man.

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