Integrity Matters
March 19, 2008

Spitzer's fall isn't devil's fault

Question: (E-336)

The crime-fighting governor of New York resigned. Ex-governor Eliot Spitzer claims that his expensive sexual behaviors were an addiction. This former state attorney general and prosecutor developed a hard-nosed reputation for rooting out evil-doers; and, according to members of the New York state Legislature, he has become like the lawbreakers he put behind bars. So, what does his behavior indicate about the integrity of leadership - specifically in politics?


Really, not much! Certain people are arrogant - in many and sometimes strange ways. Mr. Spitzer appears to be one of those people. Hubris is an egotistical self-justification drug, all-too-common to powerbrokers. And, regardless of their activity or station in life, they really do believe they can "outsmart" others including family members, voters, investors, partners and the law. Destructive misbehavior includes sociopaths disguised as petty thieves, pedophiles, prostitutes, con artists, crooks of various stripes - including public servants, cheating marriage partners and dollar-churning financial wizards. Fortunately, most people don't behave that way.

Years ago, on his weekly television variety show, comedian Flip Wilson cleverly explained away his inappropriate behaviors invoking his favorite "don't blame me" retort: "the devil made me do it." We laughed at the utterly ridiculous phrase, because down deep, where we hold our values near and dear, we knew his "cop out" phrase was just that - a cop out. However, today, with commonplace acceptance - or at least tolerance - of rudeness, crudeness, out-of-bounds actions, immaturity, sloppiness and irresponsibility - not enough people are standing up to say the following:

"Enough, this is wrong! We expect more from you and we are demanding you take responsibility for what you are doing. Hiding behind 'REHAB' does not replace personal accountability."

Media spotlights transform slime behavior, catapulting folks who should be isolated from society into instant millionaires with tell-all book contracts and lucrative speaking tours. Today's "pseudo-news" platform includes a pen with ink, talk-show microphones, film crews hungry for glitzy-teases to capture a ratings-improving audience and photographers with low-rent pictures, eager to make a fast-buck from tabloids. Electronic and print organizations combine interactive dollar-generating and celebrity-creating chemicals, too often creating a toxic disaster - especially for impressionable young people. Message: Despicable behavior makes money!

Sports television has learned how to reduce the disgusting antics of attention-craving fans running onto playing fields, interrupting competition. Camera operators no longer video their misdeeds, refusing to make disruptive-chumps appear like courageous rule-breaking-champs. Why not the same reaction by the media when individuals break their social contract - in business, politics or anywhere else?

Once inappropriate behavior has been "caught" - it is the responsibility of legal authorities to administer appropriate disciplines. Turning individuals who exhibit inappropriate behavior into famous and rich folk heroes is a signal every child understands. Destructive role models are still role models! Help isolate them!


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