Monday, March 14, 2011

Metamorphosis – The Eliot Spitzer Way

I just finished watching Eliot Spitzer’s CNN hit show ‘In the Arena’ on CNN. Since the show started, I have never ceased to admire the eloquence, oratorical skills and the debts of intellectual knowledge Mr. Spitzer displays on TV. Although the show is currently not the top rated cable TV news program, most people agree that it has broadened the quality of intellectual discussion on TV. For me, Mr. Spitzer’s performance on the show makes him a star that is bigger than any ratings the show has garnered so far. He has acquired a faithful audience for his show and his performance is no different if not better than most of the television anchors today.  Yet it surprises me to think that this was the man who was so ruled out by many of ever having a public career just recently. When his scandal hit the airwaves three years ago I was one of the many people who hastily concluded that Mr. Spitzer has dug himself a hole so deep and wide that not even the saving Grace of Christ can give him a second chance in the public domain. I am eating ‘humble pie’ right now because he has metamorphosized so drastically and endeared himself so much to the public that you cannot recognize the Eliot Spitzer who stood pitiful on national TV admitting to patronizing high end prostitution and the Eliot Spitzer who sits gracefully in the anchors chair on CNN brilliantly discussing and analyzing the many important issues of American politics. 

For those of you who know very little of Mr. Spitzer, here is a little background. Eliot Spitzer a product of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and also Harvard Law School. After a stint in private legal practice, Mr. Spitzer was elected the 63rd Attorney General of the State of New York. As the AG of the State of New York from 1999 to 2006, Eliot was so successful in pursuing white color crime and other civil wrongs that he was labeled the Sheriff of Wall Street. Although he made many enemies as he relentlessly pursued the fat cats on Wall Street, he endeared himself to the ordinary people of New York and the country. It came as no surprise when Mr. Spitzer was sworn in on January 2007 as the 54th Governor of the state of New York after a successful electioneering campaign. By December 2007, although his approval rating had taken a dive as a result of dealing with a number of divisive policies like gay marriage and immigration, he was still very popular in the Democratic circles. With a good educational background, a stellar public service record and a sharp intellect, many people mentioned him as a possible future Democratic nominee for president. In fact by February 2008 some pundits were already tipping Eliot Spitzer as one of the front runners for vice presidential candidate if Obama was lucky to clinch the Democratic nominee for President.   

All these came crushing down when the New York Times reported in March 2008 that Eliot Spitzer had previously paid up to $15,000 for high priced prostitution services. A couple of days after the initial report, like the proverbial dog with his tail between his legs, Eliot Spitzer, flanked by his visibly shaken wife were broadcasted live on cable TV to the entire world announcing his resignation. The fall was very devastating especially as the weeks and months that followed was filled with daily commentaries, innuendos and parody of the Spitzer scandal. Contrary to what many people thought, Eliot has managed to save his marriage and he has gradually worked his way back into the limelight. There are even rumors of a possible run for public service again.

Watching him on TV a couple of minutes ago, I couldn’t help but think to myself that the guy is a chameleon – maybe a good chameleon if there is anything like that. He has been able to adapt so well to his new life. One thing I have quickly learned in my rather young existence is that life and its circumstances are full of twists and turns – a lot of surprises. You fall when you least expect – and the fall can be very distressing and life threatening when you go down from such a great height like Mr. Spitzer. One thing that I have also realized is that the successful people are those who are able to get up from a fall, wipe their tears, straighten their dresses, deal with the embarrassment and then get right back on the road again. Although I pray that I never experience the humiliation and disgrace people like Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Clinton have experienced in their lives, I pray that I develop their kind of tenacity and hardwork which helped them to get back on the road of success after they has fallen so hard.   

1 comment:

  1. I think the Eliot Spitzer story creates lots of opportunities for all of us in many ways. In one sense, the story reminds us about our responsibilities toward society. This is because, it is impossible to separate what we do as private individuals and public officials since the two are inextricably linked. In "third world politics: an introduction," Christopher Clapham argues that since persons, whether as office holders or as private citizens are firmly anchored in a social and political order, it is essential that all our actions reflect that which is socially permitted.

    In another sense, I think Mr. Spitzer's story has provided him a fresh opportunity to reorient himself and live the life that the larger society expects of him. It is reassuring that CNN has acknowledged Mr. Spitzer's potential and contribution to America's political and social development. Events like these are perfect teachable moments for not only for those who aspire to be in public life but it could also be a shining example for our individual private endeavors as well. Thank you, Kweku for the spotlight on Mr. Spitzer's issue and the lessons it offers to all of us.