Eliot Spitzer has resigned

Let’s hope that he can now get his family and moral life on a better footing. Let’s also hope that this experience will cause him to approach the world in a less arrogant, more humble way.
Spitzer’s wife was once again at his side. Unless this was her idea, her presence reflects poorly on Spitzer, it seems to me.
JOHN adds: The text of Spitzer’s resignation announcement is here. Michael Barone wonders about the fact that prostitution, while illegal nearly everywhere, is in fact tacitly condoned in many parts of America. This raises, he argues, the threat of selective prosecution. Michael concludes:

Obviously Spitzer should resign. He held an office in which he was responsible for enforcing the laws and violated prostitution laws (though they’re generally not enforced) and, perhaps, laws on currency transaction reports. As a former federal prosecutor he can hardly claim ignorance of the law. But I’m still troubled by aspects of the case. The law says prostitution is illegal. But it is an openly practiced business. Something’s wrong here.

I don’t think it is quite true that prostitution is “openly practiced” in most places, but Michael has a point. Similarly, pornography is illegal, but is now tolerated in all its forms, with the single exception of child pornography. Immigration is another instance, perhaps a more serious one, where law enforcement authorities in many areas have simply decided not to enforce existing law.
Widespread toleration of activity that remains nominally illegal can be problematic for a number of reasons, including the possibility of discriminatory enforcement. On the other hand, there may be situations, perhaps including prostitution, where the wisest course is not to bless the activity by making it legal, but at the same time not to expend a lot of law enforcement resources on rounding up violators. If prostitution is in that category, I don’t hesitate to say that public officials, like Governor Spitzer, should be expected to follow the law, and that if they are caught, they can hardly complain that others have violated the same law without penalty.
PAUL adds: By breaking the law, Spitzer assumed the risk that a prosecutor would “throw the book” at him, as Spitzer himself has done to others so often. However, unless there’s activity beyond what we know about, I think it would be somewhat unfortunate if Spitzer were prosecuted, given how rare it is to prosecute “johns.”
JOHN adds: For what it’s worth, I believe that anti-prostitution groups applauded Spitzer because of his initiative to go after “johns.”
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