Spitzer: The World Is Not Black And White

Another clip from my chat with Eliot Spitzer last week…

If there’s one thing I can attest to, it’s no fun to fall from grace. 

Yes, you could just disappear, crawling away into anonymous ignominy.  But if you cared about the responsibility and privilege of having people trust you, you will soon be overcome by a desire to redeem yourself.

If you’re like me, you won’t want to do this so you can regain your former status–or any specific job, goal, or position, for that matter.  You’ll want to do it because you simply can’t stand the thought of having let so many people down and then exiting stage left.  If the effort of earning back some of that trust leads to new opportunities, great.  But it’s not the prime motivation.

Eliot Spitzer re-emerged on the public scene about nine months ago, and he’s moving fast.  For understandable reasons, he’s spending a lot of time with his family.  He has also once again become a prominent guest on radio and TV. 

Any time a former politician launches a media blitz, it’s natural to ask, “Is he running for something?”  So I asked Eliot that. 

He said that public-service feels like his mission in life.  And, ever the politician, he didn’t rule out anything.

I also asked Eliot whether the world seems as black and white now as it did when he was a prosecutor–good and evil, innocent and guilty–or whether his own fall has caused him to take a more nuanced view of life.

Prosecutors have to see the world in black and white, he said.  The real world is more complicated.

Lastly, this being only the second time I had ever met Eliot Spitzer–the first not being when he was pulverizing me, but later, when he was running for governor, at a Slate magazine retreat–I asked Eliot whether he had anything he wanted to say to me. 

It was never personal, he said.

In my case, I have actually always believed that.  But I know a lot of other folks Eliot Spitzer went after didn’t get that impression.  And I think that that perception contributed to the sense of poetic justice a lot of people felt at his downfall.

Personally, I didn’t agree with some of Eliot Spitzer’s conclusions as Attorney General, and I didn’t like some of his tactics.  But I have always admired his strength, boldness, and willingness to shake up the status quo.  And I completely supported his effort to make Wall Street a fairer and more transparent place for small investors.

The world needs more leaders with qualities like that.   And I would not be surprised to see Eliot Spitzer eventually become one of them again.

Also from the interview:

  • Who Killed Wall Street?
  • Spitzer’s Verdict: Pay Citi Trader $100 Million
  • Is It Spitzer’s Fault AIG Nearly Destroyed the World?
  • Spitzer to Failed Regulators: “Do Your Job” – Don’t Got to Lunch with Investment Bankers
  • Spitzer’s Wise Investment Advice: You Can’t Win So Don’t Play

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