There are few more riveting spectacles than the public exposure and humiliation of a major hypocrite. So it was with New York State's fallen governor, Eliot Spitzer.
As a former prosecutor Spitzer relentlessly crusaded against financial, political and moral malefactors, including those involved in prostitution cases. Some saw him as a future presidential candidate.
Watching this modern Savonarola exposed dallying with outrageously priced call girls suggests there is indeed natural justice -- except, of course, for the humiliation inflicted on his brave, loyal wife.
U.S. media has overflowed with silly commentary by feminists and shrinks about "why did he do it." He did it because he was a typical man, genetically programmed to lust after multiple sexual partners. As the old saying goes, if a man isn't thinking about sex, his mind is wandering.
Too many Americans still have adolescent views of sex and marriage.
Europeans, by contrast, shrug off men's need to stray as normal and acceptable, provided it is done discreetly. Powerful, busy men such as Spitzer who have no time to court and romance women resort to prostitutes for simple physical release.
However ruthless, self-serving and hypocritical Spitzer was about prostitution, he was doing one good thing: Going after Wall Street's crooks and fraudsters largely responsible for the current financial crisis.
Spitzer's downfall this week unfortunately obscured two far more important events.
Saddam and al-Qaida
First, the White House refused to release an exhaustive Pentagon review of 600,000 Iraqi documents that found no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any links with al-Qaida.
This al-Qaida connection was the second big lie propagated by the Bush White House to justify invading Iraq. So successfully was it spread by the administration and tame media, that on the eve of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, 80% of Americans blamed Saddam for 9/11.
A small, al-Qaida affiliate appeared in Iraq only as a result of the U.S. invasion. But most misled Americans still believe they are fighting Osama bin Laden's men in Iraq. No wonder the White House is trying to suppress the Pentagon study.
Spitzer's pillorying also masked another profoundly shameful act. On Tuesday, 188 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to uphold President George Bush's veto of a Democratic-sponsored bill to ban the CIA from using torture to interrogate enemy detainees. Their party-line vote was strong enough to prevent the 225 Democrats who voted to overturn the president's veto from achieving the required two-thirds majority.
Republicans now have become the party of torture. Never has the Grand Old Party sunk so low. Those great Republicans, Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan, must be weeping in their graves.
Among tortures America now routinely inflicts on captives: Water torture, near suffocation, beatings, confinement in cramped positions, sleep and sensory deprivation, freezing rooms, ear-splitting noise, mock executions, psychotropic drugs, food laced with excrement and, of course, water-boarding.
The White House and Republicans claim none of these is really torture. Republicans just love euphemisms. These tortures are merely "enhanced interrogation." Overthrowing foreign governments is "regime change;" assassination, "taking them out." George Orwell warned such double-talk was the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. Even the KGB did not use all these tortures.
The president and his party are violating American and international law, and UN agreements against torture.
Their sanction of torture, and its apotheosis in the Guantanamo gulag, have disgraced America's name around the globe and will continue to haunt the United States for decades to come. Captured American soldiers now know what to expect.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain -- the latter a torture victim -- all properly condemn the White House for promoting torture. But McCain, who should know better, fudges, saying he won't restrict the CIA to interrogations in the Army Field Manual, which bans most forms of real torture. That is ominous.
The Spitzer follies should not distract us from the Bush administration's continuing violations of American and international law, and the values America used to hold dear. Nor ally Ottawa's slide in the same illegal direction.
Eric Margolis writes a regular column for The Toronto Sun.
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