My Dad had a terrific insight on the lessons learned from the Spitzer fiasco and the rise and tarnishing of his successor, David Paterson. In Ethics of our Fathers we are told that Hillel “once saw a man’s skull floating on a body of water: whereupon he said: Because you drowned others, you shall be drowned and ultimately those who drowned you they themselves will also be drowned.” (2:7)
There were far too many people gleefully cheering at Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. They were mimicking Spitzer’s own glee, but ultimately the ones who had the biggest joke played on them were the people themselves. For only a few hours after the honorable David Paterson took the oath over the Bible and was inaugurated in as Governor of New York, he admitted to having his own infidelity problems. And so who really is the joke on? Of course Paterson’s and Spitzer’s situations are radically different but the point remains the same: When we go on witch hunts the hunts will eventually come to our own doorsteps.
Celebrating downfalls is one of the saddest cultural mores of our society. It creates a world that encourages its own destruction. Its not that we should be lax with our standards, but that the most important trait a lawmaker can have is a sense of compassion and understanding. Divorcing compassion from judgment was Spitzer’s first great sin, everything after that is only commentary that repeats the very same offense.