Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Israeli behind Spitzer's fall

Surprising maybe only because it took two days, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned this morning. He was brought down by a sexual liaison with an odd Israeli angle, just as former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey was four years ago.
A fast-rising Democratic governor, an out of control sex drive and an Israeli enabler — it feels like deja vu all over again on the Hudson.
Unlike McGreevey, who was accused of a homosexual affair with his Israeli-born former homeland security chief, Spitzer stands accused of utilizing the services of Mark Brener, an Israeli who allegedly pimped high-class hookers.

Not much seems to be known about Brener. He has lived in the United States for 20 years, most recently in a posh Manhattan apartment, where federal agents reportedly found $600,000 in a safe.

In The Forward, Alan Dershowitz argues that, as I mentioned Monday, though without legitimizing prostitution, our endless appetite for the failings of public figures is the bigger problem behind the Spitzer scandal.
Throughout our history, men in high places have engaged in low sexual activities. From Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton, great political figures have behaved like adolescent boys in private, while at the same time brilliantly and effectively leading our nation in public.

The laws criminalizing adult consensual prostitution — especially with $5,000-an-hour call girls — are as anachronistic as the old laws that used to criminalize adultery, fornication, homosexuality and even masturbation. These may be sins, but there are no real victims, except for family members.

Our nation, unique among Western democracies, is obsessed with the private lives of public figures. Whether it be Larry Craig soliciting favors in an airport bathroom or Rush Limbaugh getting illegal pharmaceuticals in a parking lot, this obsessive focus on the private imperfections of public figures threatens to drive many good men — and soon, good women — out of public life for fear that they will be brought down by their private peccadilloes.
Case in point, check out Slate's "Map of Shame" guide to trysts within the Beltway.

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