I was on Mike Duffy's partisan's panel today. We talked briefly about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's half-confession that he has been involved with a prostitution ring. News reports suggest he's been doing so for the better part of ten years.
Of course it's morally wrong for a married man and father of three to do so. And any man who would cheat on and lie to his own family would surely cheat on and lie to mere strangers such as taxpayers. And though strict libertarians hold to the theory that prostitution is a victimless crime -- a consenting transaction between consenting adults in which the state has no business -- in reality, many prostitutes are in that "profession" under extreme duress, including violence from their pimps.
The fact that Spitzer's job, first as a prosecutor, then as attorney general, and then as governor, involved upholding and enforcing the law -- including laws against prostitution and prostitution rings -- makes this a far graver act than mere infidelity. A law-maker and law-enforcer cannot be a law-breaker.
But it's worse again than that. As Ron Moore pointed out -- a comment I repeated on the show -- Spitzer exposed himself to extreme risk of extortion and blackmail. A multi-year relationship with organized crime, in which he paid with bank transfers(!) put him at the mercy of everyone at the organization, from the prostitutes themselves to the pimps and anyone else "in" on the deal. Did they try to blackmail the governor? Did they ask him to look the other way on some of their crimes? It goes without saying that he looked the other way on the crimes he himself was participating in. Anything else? Drugs? The organization's associates in other criminal ventures?
There's immorality; then there's criminality; and then there's putting the entire integrity of the governorship in jeopardy.
We did talk about a few other issues on the show; a breathless Dominic Leblanc stopped by to share his excitement about some arcane details of parliamentary procedure in a house committee. I admit that his side of the story made things sound a little bit odd, but I was confused about the matter, and all I could think about was: does anyone other than the 1,000 or so people who work on Parliament Hill give a fig about what happened on that committee? It was so obscure, so "inside the beltway", and in that sense it was a giant placebo, a replacement for any real Parliamentary work by the opposition.
The Harper government has given the Official Opposition much to oppose. But instead of opposing it by voting against it in the chamber, or even going to the polls, Stephane Dion backs down from the big battles every time, choosing instead to deploy his MPs to the kind of trivia that Leblanc was talking about. If Leblanc's point was really such a scandal, then he ought to bring down the government over it. If not, the Liberals should actually dig into the real matters of government.
There's another showdown coming with the Liberals over a substantive matter: the Liberal bill to allow parents to deduct $5,000 a year, per child, for their kids' RESPs. That's a substantive matter, and there are reasonable arguments to both sides. If I were arguing for the Liberals, I'd say that any tax cut is a good tax cut, and this one encourages education, and encourages Canadians to save and invest, too. I also see the merit in Jim Flaherty's objections: budgets are about priorities, and giving upper-income Canadians (and that's who would be using this deduction) a billion or two dollars means that's money that's not available for broader-based tax cuts.
So here comes the showdown. The Liberals said their bill was a coup, and important. Flaherty and Harper will now call their bluff, and will effectively turn the matter into a confidence vote, by embedding the RESP bill's defeat in the upcoming budget. Of course the Liberals will cave in again -- if they did on Afghanistan and crime and the Senate, they surely will on this trinket of an issue.
Oh well -- all the more time for Dominic Leblanc to squabble over procedural minutiae over non-scandals about which severely normal Canadians just don't give a damn. My prediction: no election until 2009.