Flickr: Photo by AMagillIt's been over two years since Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York state. Caught up in a prostitution ring and scandalized by reports that he wore black socks to bed, Spitzer stood next to his wife and admitted what he'd done.
Unlike President Bill Clinton, who wagged his finger at the TV cameras and insisted that he hadn't done what everybody was already pretty sure he had, Spitzer didn't issue denials or prolong the agony. He resigned and faded into the shadows -- for a while, anyway.
Slowly, Eliot Spitzer has been working his way back into public view. He's made appearances on MSNBC and CNN, and in print and online media. He writes for Slate and teaches at City College.
President Clinton was re-elected for a second term. Can Spitzer make a return to politics? More importantly, should he try?
Much as I hate what he did, I'm inclined to say yes.
Consider Spitzer's tenure as New York Attorney General. Dubbed "the Sheriff of Wall Street," Spitzer took on investment banks, hedge funds, and insurance companies. He brought to light fraud such as false stock analysis reports and trading stock ratings for preschool admissions. He handed down indictments and issued press releases.
It sounds wrong to say that a guy who railed against prostitution rings (and then repeatedly patronized one himself) is devoted to doing the right thing. However, his history as a lawyer demonstrates his commitment to justice. His history as governor is admittedly less stellar, in spite of his landslide election victory.
I don't know many people, other than Wall Street execs and United States senators and representatives, who supported the bank bailouts. I also don't know whether the situation on Wall Street would have unfolded any differently if Spitzer had still been governor. The groundwork for the financial meltdown had already been laid before he was elected, thanks to loosey-goosey lending practices that produced exceedingly risky mortgage derivatives.
I do know that Eliot Spitzer isn't intimidated by big money, unlike other politicians on both sides of the aisle. Our financial problems aren't even close to being resolved yet, and we need minds that are smart on money without being driven by it. His penchant for the ladies aside, Eliot Spitzer just might be one person we really need to help fix this financial mess.