August 18th, 2019

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer – ***1/2

DVD Pick

One of the most arrogant things a person can do is send another person to prison.


When you order someone to go to jail, you are essentially saying: “I am a man. You are an animal. Now go into your cage until I decide it’s okay to let you out.”


As arrogant as that is, it is not nearly as arrogant as sending people to prison for a crime and then committing that same crime yourself. That’s what Eliot Spitzer did.


In the early 2000s, Eliot was a rising star in the Democratic Party. He was the most well-known and most feared State politician in America.


As Attorney General of New York, Spitzer worked to uncover corruption, ethical violations, and sleaze. His targets were the rich and the powerful; the guys who thought they were above the law.


One of Attorney General Spitzer’s targets was the high priced call girl industry that thrived in Manhattan. He closed down escort services and put their owners behind bars.


Somewhere along the way, though, Spitzer took a different kind of interest in escort services. During his later years as Attorney General and during his entire time as New York Governor, Spitzer spent an estimated $80,000 on prostitutes.


When the scandal broke in 2008, the tabloids had a field day. “Ho No!” the New York Post exclaimed. Governor Spitzer promptly – and rightly – resigned in disgrace.


That’s my version of the Eliot Spitzer story. In the entertaining documentary “Client 9,” director Alex Gibney defends Spitzer at every turn. He argues that the only reason the governor got caught is because he made such powerful enemies.


And that’s certainly true. As Attorney General – to his credit – Spitzer fearlessly went after big banks, insurance companies, and brokerage houses. Spitzer accused them of cooking their books, lying to clients, and manipulating the market so that they made more money and the average investor made less


Eliot Spitzer basically predicted the financial crisis of 2008 and tried to prevent it. And he bravely called out some of the most powerful men on Wall Street along the way.


Even if it was vindictive CEOs who uncovered the dirt that ruined Spitzer, however, that doesn’t change the fact that he did actually frequent prostitutes and that he is actually a shameless hypocrite.


Alex Gibney does anything he can to make Spitzer seem less sleazy and contemptible than he really is. His wife is mentioned only one time during the first hour of the film. And if you blink, you’ll miss the five seconds in which it shows that Spitzer has three daughters – daughters who are approximately the same age as the young women he paid for sex.

“Client 9” is a good movie. A smart movie. But it is wrong. Alex Gibney let his passion for Spitzer’s politics get in the way of the basic truth that Eliot Spitzer is a bad man.


When he took people away from their families, ruined their lives, and tossed them in prison for their involvement in prostitution, and then slept with call girls himself, Spitzer lost the moral high ground forever. And he has lost the respect of all decent people.


I hope that New Yorkers agree with me and do not vote for him for Comptroller on Sept 10th.



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