The big news this week is the scandal surrounding Eliot Spitzer, Democratic Governor of New York who has been caught in a pattern of gross hypocrisy.
Spitzer is hardly the first politician to be caught in a situation of moral compromise. But he is in a very awkward position – his entire public career was built on being the ethics enforcer. The prosecutor. The one going after the transgressions of the rich and powerful. Eliot Spitzer was all about fighting corruption. But, more than that, Spitzer managed to gain a reputation for ruthlessness, pettiness, selfish ambition and arrogance. Some of his moves as Attorney General – and as Governor – were highly questionable. And so, when someone like that is caught in hypocrisy, there is little chance of recovery. If the charges prove true, he’s done.
No person holding public office is flawless – in fact, everyone of us is rife with embarrassing flaws, weaknesses, and inconsistencies. Even good men and women stumble morally. But if Spitzer has been involved in prostitution, he is more than flawed – he’s a fraud.
(Fraud (n): a person who makes deceitful pretenses, practices trickery, betrays trust)
And there is a lesson here for the pharmaceutical industry, and any of us involved with it. Companies and people make mistakes. Errors occur, drugs sometimes show previously-unknown side effects, processes fail, flaws exist in all that we do. We can expect some level of understanding and forgiveness when we (as companies or individuals) have our flaws exposed – and we seek to rectify them. But when we can legitimately be accused of being a fraud, not merely flawed, then a whole new level of accountability is introduced.
It’s getting much harder to hide, folks. Digital cameras, electronic files, blogs…fraud is very difficult to conceal nowadays. Scrutiny and exposure can occur in nanoseconds. Pretty scary if you have something to hide!
I’ll never be any better than flawed. But I hope and pray that I won’t be a fraud.
[note: Eliot Spitzer has just resigned from office. Which was the only right and honorable thing to do. He sounded the right notes about taking responsibility, but he certainly took the legally "safe" road by not really admitting to anything specific except "private failings."]