Governor Spitzer: Bloody But Unbowed
Day One - Everything changes.
Day 257 - Yes, it changed, but not for the better.
Day One was just 36 weeks ago. The governor’s inaugural speech on that chilly day in Albany was uplifting. At that time, we believed that a new era lay ahead, and that a discredited and dysfunctional state government was about to be reformed. Unfortunately, we were mistaken.
The key to effecting change is strong leadership. Governors like Alfred E. Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas E. Dewey and Nelson A. Rockefeller have had a significant impact on the state, in public works like the Thruway and the State University, in fighting racial and religious discrimination, and in improving working conditions and standards in the early 20th century. They were men who, whether you agreed with them or not on a particular issue, were widely respected as leaders, people of stature. What they said and did mattered. And they influenced, or commanded, legislators.
Through a succession of miscues, Gov. Eliot Spitzer has forfeited his position of leadership. He has made intemperate statements, used foul language at inappropriate occasions, acted and spoken autocratically, denounced colleagues personally, caved where he should have stood firm, engaged recently in Nixonian behavior, and pretended not to know what most rational people think he must have known, for if he did not he was more foolish than they believe him to be.
This dossier of deficiencies, which may be exaggerated for rhetorical purposes, does not take into account the good and sensible things he has done in the last eight months, but when one is elected to a high office, people expect high quality, not only in integrity and intelligence, but in human relationships. The governor is the chief executive of a state with over 18,000,000 people, a few thousand of whom, at least, are as smart as he is, and have earned their fortunes on their own.
Many of us who supported him enthusiastically less than a year ago are disappointed. There is not one public official in the state, Democrat or Republican, who defends the way he has conducted himself. This is not an ideological issue, he is neither a radical or a reactionary, his ideology, his views are mainstream liberal. Senator Larry Craig did him a great favor by taking people’s minds off the governor’s travails, and hopefully this will continue for a while.
Gov. Spitzer has to pick himself up and start doing worthwhile things.
Leadership in government depends on persuading people to do what may not be directly in their own interest, but will be in the public interest. Persuasion is more possible when there is a relationship between the parties that is not laced with personal contempt and threats of litigation. It’s too bad we can’t start the year 2007 on Rosh Hashanah.
Through that year, we want Gov. Spitzer to do his best, and we want people to treat him with dignity and respect, in the hope that that will encourage him to do the same. We know he can do it, and we want him to succeed. He is, after all, the only governor we have. He deserves a fresh start.