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Spitzer vs. Reagan

Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York, offers such a sad illustration of the opposite of humility. As I have discussed this tragedy with friends on Wall Street and others, I hear an interesting theme repeated regularly.

Most are not troubled by his actual bad behavior but rather by the contradiction of his behavior given Spitzer’s crusading style and judgmental actions toward others. The former Governor railed against corporate evil doers and even spoke out against prostitution rings. He referred to himself as a ‘steamroller’ and threatened to take down any and all who stood in his way.

My friend and mentor, John Whitehead, experienced the wrath of Mr. Spitzer in an unpleasant exchange. Whitehead, former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs among his many accomplishments, stood alone on Wall Street for his integrity and kindness. The fact that Spitzer would attack and threaten John for urging the prosecutor to be measured and careful lest he destroy good companies and reputations, tells much about Spitzer.

As a young White House staffer during the Reagan years, I found myself one day in a smallish room off of the oval office. Present along with President Reagan were the troika, Chief of Staff James Baker, former attorney General Edwin Meese and the late Michael Deaver, head of White House Communications, and for some inexplicable reason, I was there.

What struck me most profoundly about that hour was the kindness and lack of judgment of President Reagan. Anytime one of his political enemies, such as Senator Kennedy, was mentioned in some less than flattering way, the President would strongly speak up and point out their virtues and fine traits, and in Kennedy’s case, how that remarkable family had suffered.

I counted at least four times that he acted so nobly. I wandered back to my office with the thought in my mind,

‘I want to be like that.’

The Spitzer moments offer a teachable opportunity for me. May I look within, change myself first. Our nation is a contradiction on so many levels. One that jumps out is that fact that we are the most permissive society ever, and yet we are the most judgmental.

Change must begin with me. The bar is high. Judge not, lest you be judged. A lot to think about.

Thanks, Eliot, for the reminder.

~ The author is J. Douglas Holladay who was a general partner in Park Avenue Equity Partners, LP and a Senior Fellow of the Case Foundation. Prior to Park Avenue he was a senior officer with Goldman, Sachs and Company and prior to this he held senior positions in both the State Department and the White House. ~

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2 thoughts on “Spitzer vs. Reagan

  1. Wonderful story. It is a good reminder to us now as we go through so much controversity in Washington. So much finger pointing, and everyone seems to know what the real story is with this issue or that issue. Perhaps we can be more like President Reagan and be less judgmental and let everyone do their jobs, and have more honest reporting about it in the press.

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