Eliot Spitzer: Lessons After Scandal
Eliot Spitzer is a former Governor of New York State. He served as New York State Attorney General from 1998 until 2006 and as the 54th Governor of New York from January 2007 until his resignation on March 17, 2008. He is currently a Slate magazine columnist and professor of political science at City College of New York.
Question: Has your own scandal given you a new perspective on the people you prosecuted as Attorney General?
Eliot Spitzer: Well, inevitably when you’ve gone through what I’ve gone through and I would hope that – not to talk about other people, but obviously it generates a bit of self-analysis and reflection and questioning. So, sure, it has driven home what I’ve always appreciated, which is that we are all fallible and through everything I did as a Prosecutor, I was always very aware of my own capability to err, and in fact I did, as everybody now knows. And what I think it makes one appreciate is violations in certain domains does not speak to the totality of one’s personality. Some of the people, for instance, whom we had to prosecute or entities we had to prosecute for market violations were in many respects good institutions or individuals. And so, there are more subtleties to these dynamics than are always or often apparent and so one realizes that.
Question: What was your darkest moment during the scandal?
Eliot Spitzer: I think the hardest piece of this is recognizing the pain I’ve caused to my family, which is a heavy burden to carry, as it should be. And the sense that I have let down, not only my family, but friends, colleagues, the voters who had asked me to do a certain type of job and I desperately wanted to do that job and wanted to do that well. I think we were trying, we were in many ways doing that job, but I let them down. And that is a very heavy burden to carry.
Question: Do you feel you’ve earned the forgiveness of your family and the public?
Eliot Spitzer: I don’t think it’s for me to judge whether or not I have earned it, or deserve it. All I can do is ask for it at a certain point in time and obviously my relationship with my family is what I care about first and foremost, and I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have a remarkable wife, three spectacular daughters, and we as a family are in certain respects stronger than we’ve been and they have been forgiven and I have been the very lucky beneficiary of that.
Question: What would you advise Tiger Woods or other notable people who have generated similar scandals?
Eliot Spitzer: Look, again, I hesitate to give advice. I would just say, what I’ve tried to do is look within and that is where one must ultimately one’s sense of self and purpose and that’s all one can do. The other interesting thing in moments like this is, of course, you find where your friends really are and you realize who you can depend on and who is there and who tries to help. And that’s also important.
Question: Scandals like yours keep recurring. How would you advise politicians to avoid them?
Eliot Spitzer: When you know something’s stupid, don’t do it. It’s really – there often isn’t a lot of subtlety to the things that cause trouble. And it’s not a lack of capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. It’s the failure to exercise that judgment at the particular moment whether out of hubris, out of a sense of entitlement, out of a sense of adrenaline, whatever it may be. But, you know, it’s stupidity that brings people down.
Recorded January 21, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
How his fall from grace has changed the former State Attorney General’s view of criminal wrongdoing, and how he would advise other politicians to avoid his own mistakes.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
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