July 30, 2007
New York State politics is in uproar once again. This time it is Governor Spitzer who is on the hot seat. Two of his close staff members are accused of using State resources (taxpayer’s money) to investigate and then defame Council member and former rival to the Governor, Joseph Bruno. It was reported by a leak to the press that Bruno might have used the State airplane inappropriately. The Attorney’s General Office investigated the matter and concluded that Bruno’s use of the State aircraft was legal.
Eliot Spitzer reacted properly to this scandal when he said: "As Governor, I am accountable for what goes on in the Executive branch and I accepted responsibility for the actions of my office."
He also took action and suspended indefinitely his communication director, Darren Dopp and assigned William Howard, the liaison to the State Police to a job not connected with the Governor’s office. (If Richard Nixon had reacted in the same way, he would not have had to resign!)
The Governor claims that he was not aware of the actions of his associates. Some question whether this is true, such as Henry J. Stern, former City Councilman and Park Commissioner, in his weekly StarQuest blog. The "Watergate" question: "What did you know and when did you know it" will have to be answered.
Eliot Spitzer may do so if and when he appears before the State Ethics Committee.
The Governor was a strong defender of ethics and corporate governance when he was Attorney General and promised, when he became Governor, that ethics would be high on his agenda and that his objective would be to make the government "ethical and wise"
This incident proved to be neither. However, we are all fallible and should be very careful, particularly if in position of authority and responsibility not to stray from the right course.
The saddening aspect of this story is that it may provoke a public reaction of cynicism. "What do you expect, this is politics, and politics is dirty" one might be tempted to say.
That is a dangerous reaction. Cynicism destroys idealism and society needs ideals and hope. We can change for the better, we can make progress and as a nation we have.
Dinesh D’Souza once said "America is the greatest, freest and most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world."
We have to continue to believe this is true and when it is not, do what we can to make it so.