This weekend, disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer peeked out of hiding and published an editorial in the Washington Post. Entitled “How to Ground the Street,” it claims to be a set of advice for Barack Obama on how to rescue the national economy. But one quick skim proves otherwise: It’s obviously a thinly veiled set of lessons for other men out there secretly cheating on their wives with prostitutes. “Learn from watching me!” he cries between the lines. “If it could happen to a genius superhero sex god like myself, it could happen to anyone.” Here’s a handy-dandy translation guide:
What he wrote: “During my tenure as New York state attorney general, my colleagues and I sought to require investment banking analysts to provide their clients with unbiased recommendations, devoid of undisclosed and structural conflicts.”
What he meant: “I thought I was being careful. The Emperors Club had a scientific seven-diamond system of rating its prostitutes. I never bought any girl ranked under four!”
What he wrote: “For long stretches of the past 30 years, too many Americans fell prey to the ideology that a free market requires nearly complete deregulation of banks and other financial institutions and a government with a hands-off approach to enforcement. ‘We can regulate ourselves,’ the mantra went.”
What he meant: “My mantra was, ‘nobody rules the guy who writes the rules.’ In the end, that really didn’t fly.”
What he wrote: “As one lawyer for a company charged with malfeasance stated in a meeting in my office (amazingly, this was intended as a winning defense): ‘You’re right about our behavior, but we’re not as bad as our competitors.’”
What he meant: “Surprisingly, the ‘everybody does it’ explanation is one that rates incredibly poorly with the wife.”
What he wrote: “No major market problem has been resolved through self-regulation, because individual competitive behavior doesn’t concern itself with the larger market.”
What he meant: “Any dude who says, ‘I am in control of my insatiable urge to have sex with spectacular twentysomething prostitutes with magical vaginas’ is lying to himself. And apparently, lots of people really end up caring about what you do in perfectly private Washington hotel rooms.
What he said: “One of the great advantages U.S. capital markets have enjoyed over the decades has been the view — held worldwide — that there was an underlying integrity to the representations market participants made, because the regulatory framework in which they were made was believed to provide genuine oversight.”
What he meant: “It doesn’t matter whether you actually are a moral crusader. People just have to think you are.”
What he said: “No longer can Garrison Keillor’s brilliant observation about our kids — that they are all above average — apply to CEOs and propel failed leaders’ paychecks through the roof.
What he meant: “My kids are totally above average.”
What he said: “We need better control of systemic risk. The currently splintered federal regulatory authority, the continued presence of off-balance-sheet transactions for financial entities (even post-Enron) and the failure to subject major players to any government oversight means that nobody can really understand the full risk facing the financial system.”
What he meant: “Don’t make too many secret account transfers and withdrawals. You never truly know how much you have to lose until the madam goes before the grand jury.”