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Spitzer suffers from Belushi syndrome

Let's analyze this Eliot Spitzer situation without emotion because there are lessons to be learned here. First, Spitzer is obviously a smart guy, having graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School, so his conduct is perplexing in its stupidity.

Spitzer made his reputation as a tough prosecutor. He understood money transfer traces, wiretaps, informants and the rest of the law enforcement landscape. He also knew how to build cases against powerful people who were doing shady things.

So Spitzer was no huckster preacher trying to make bucks off God while privately playing games with the devil. And he was no Wilbur Mills, the Arkansas congressman who got drunk out of his mind with a stripper in the back seat of his limo.

No, Spitzer is a completely different animal.

If you watch cable TV news, you will hear the braying pack talk about Spitzer's arrogance, his 'I'm above it all' mentality. But if you examine the facts, this shallow analysis doesn't wash.

Spitzer had to know that repeated visits with people breaking the law - prostitutes - put him at enormous risk. At any time, any one of those ladies might have been arrested and, facing prosecution, could have easily offered authorities Spitzer's name in return for all charges being dropped.

The ladies also could have blackmailed Spitzer, sold their stories about him to the tabloid media or done many things to destroy his life.

And then there's the money. Spitzer knew that wire transfers to offshore facilities are closely monitored as a part of terrorist surveillance. One of the ways the Bush administration has damaged al-Qaida has been to choke off its funding. Banks and the IRS closely watch money moved to and from the United States.

Spitzer also knew that talking on the telephone to pimps, people setting up liaisons with prostitutes, left him open to being tapped - especially because the ladies for hire were being moved across state lines, which makes it a federal offense. Spitzer knew it all.

So you're telling me that Spitzer thought he wouldn't get caught? Sure, and I'm Paris Hilton.

No, what's in play here is what I call the 'Belushi Syndrome.' That's when a famous person who has money and success subconsciously tries to destroy himself. You see it all the time - movie stars, athletes, politicians doing incredibly stupid stuff.

By all accounts, comedian John Belushi was repeatedly warned by his wife and closest friends that his rampant drug use could kill him. Nevertheless, he continued to take deadly combinations of heroin and cocaine, knowing the danger involved. Death found him at age 33.

Eliot Spitzer also knew the danger he was facing. But some kind of deep self-loathing propelled him to dismiss the inevitable. I mean, think about it: You are a sitting governor, spending tens of thousands of dollars on hookers? Come on. Maybe Caligula could get away with that, but not an American politician in a tabloid age.

This is not some dime-store psychoanalysis. There are many people walking around who are deeply self-destructive and who will hurt themselves and others around them. That's a fact.

A self-destructive, self-loathing personality will find a way to blow everything up, and it doesn't matter what kind of career the person has. We all know people like this. Stay away from them.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His "Radio Factor" can be heard weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.