By Brian Lafferty
November 12, 2010 (San Diego) – At the beginning of Client 9, Eliot Spitzer describes his rise and downfall as a classic Greek story archetype. You have the hero who overcomes all odds and becomes successful. Then he makes a fatal mistake that brings his downfall. What makes this story fascinating is that it isn’t fiction.
Spitzer was New York’s Attorney General from 1999 until his election to the governorship in 2007. He was a man who aggressively went after bad guys no matter what the cost. He always looked out for his constituents’ interests. He wasn’t afraid of anybody and would never hesitate to bring down those who dare victimize his people. He wouldn’t think twice to even prosecute out of state businesses for crimes against his state.
He was elected governor. Soon he had to deal with stalemate Republicans who became difficult to deal with. It wasn’t long, however, before tragedy of his own making struck. He cheated on his wife by seeing hookers, particularly one named “Angelina” (to protect her privacy, she is portrayed by an actress who transcribes her interview with the filmmakers). News got out and he resigned after an explosive scandal.
What makes the documentary transcend “talking heads” is the passion in both the story and the people interviewed. Spitzer inspired a lot of hatred in his enemies and idolatry in his supporters. These feelings and the degrees of passion inherent in them show in their interviews. You have the corporate executives who play the “victim” card, feeling they were “harassed” by Spitzer. They take perverse pleasure in talking gleefully about Spitzer’s downfall and how they helped “contribute” to it.
Another figure in the scandal was Ashley Alexandra Dupre, a call girl. While she isn’t interviewed, her appearances on talk shows are shown. Any notions of her being a victim are quickly dispelled and replaced with disgust when she is shown using the scandal for her own fame. She snags a gig as a sex columnist for the New York Post and even states boldly that whenever Spitzer’s name is in the news, she’ll make her appearance felt. This despite the fact that Spitzer, according to the documentary, only saw her once or twice.
Despite the actions of these abhorrent figures, Spitzer does not get off the hook. Even he knows it. What Spitzer did was wrong and he admits everything he did was his fault alone. There is nothing defensible about his actions. What makes it all the more worse is that he is a hypocrite. He went after escort services only to use one himself in secret.
The consequences are not limited to embarrassment and resignation. Important pieces of legislation introduced during Spizter’s tenures as both Attorney General and governor have been second-guessed and repealed or are in the process of being repealed. Just as heartbreaking is that the antagonists, the corporate executives he went after as Attorney General, have, in a sense, “won” and are free to continue their morally ambiguous practices without fear of being prosecuted. Meanwhile Spitzer is relegated to a new talk show on CNN, a man now powerless. Not even a full bottle of Listerine can wash that bad taste out of my mouth.
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