By Ben Bowers
on 1.7.09

Sad Variations on a Theme

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GP.EDITORIAL.gifBy Ben Bowers: The end of one year and the begining of the next is often a time rightly used for reflection. So, considering the kind of year 2008 has been, I felt this fleeting moment should be used to comb for lessons that we can all learn from by witnessing high profile debacles of others.

Of course, every year is filled with mistakes; sometimes, the consequences of which extend only to the perpetrator, while at other times they affect an entire nation. 2008 however was a particularly interesting year in this regard, because major errors seemed to run in pairs.

Don’t believe me? Click the link below to find the lessons that stand out from 5 pairs of moronic miscues that went down in 2008.

Lesson 1: Married Democrats Should Stick with Monogamy | As Taught By: Elliot Spitzer and John Edwards

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For some reason, it appears that well-known Democrats longed for something extra in their sex lives in 2008 – extramarital, that is.

On March 17, Elliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York, due to his association with the Emperor’s Club prostitution ring. Considering that as District Attorney, he actively prosecuted prostitution cases and helped draft the laws that ultimately were applied against him, labeling this moral misstep as ironic seems more than appropriate.

For man with an undergraduated degree from Princeton and law degree from Harvard, he should have known better. What made him think that paying to slip between the sheets with Ashley Dupree would turn out any diffirently than it has for other politicians is beyond me. Citing private failings as the source of his mistakes simply added to the farce. Shakespeare could’nt have written it better!

Then, on August 8th, John Edwards’s televised confession to sleeping with Rielle Hunter proved that Spitzer wasnt the only politician with a 7-year itch. The fact that, unlike Spitzer, Edwards didn’t pay for it is also debatable. Hunter’s role as a paid consultant for Edwards’s campaign definitely smelled fishy.

Clearly, these two missed the memo about their party’s ability to handle only one prominent figure’s adultery at any given time. The fact that their career-ruining temptations were better looking than Monica should serve as little consolation.

Lesson 2: Professional Football Players Aren’t Cut Out for Crime | As Taught By: Returning expert O.J. Simpson and newcomer Plaxico Burress

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2008 demonstrated that pro football players should stick to playing ball, because they sure suck at crime.

For any person with even a few brain cells left, being acquitted in one of the highest profile murder cases in all of history should have stripped the glitz from thug life. Sadly, that wasn’t the case with O.J. “Second Chance” Simpson. Instead, he decided to reenter the crime world “reeaal smart-like” by busting into one of the least secure places in all of christendom – a Las Vegas casino. How could he have known that his armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and first-degree kidnapping would all be recorded?

His sentencing on December 5th to nine years in prison, teaches retired players to stick with commentating instead of confiscating. Plaxico’s fulfillment of the age old expression “Shooting Yourself in the Foot” was a far more poetic approach, yet equally dense.

Lesson 3: Founding Tech CEOs Need to Let Go | As Taught By: Jerry Yang of Yahoo and Steve Jobs of Apple

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Lord knows, it must be hard letting go of something you started from scratch. However, this year proved that when it comes to stock prices of multi-billion dollar corporations, paternal love leads to disaster.

Jerry Yang’s handling of the Microsoft takeover bid has my vote for the Biggest Business Blunder of 2008. While at the helm of Yahoo, the company’s stock prices tumbled precipitously from a high of $29.87 to a five-year low of $9.39. Put this into the perspective of Microsoft’s $34 a share takeover evaluation, and it’s safe to say his personal interests caused him to woefully neglect that of his shareholders.

The accidental publication of Steve Jobs’ obituary by Bloomberg also illustrated that hostile takeovers aren’t the only aren’t the only arena a where a founder’s control can rear its ugly head. Immediately after the bungled announcement, Apple’s stock suffered a $9 billion dollar loss in market value. Despite not being his fault, the event quantified to the world just how much of Apples value is attached to Steve Jobs, and put into sharp relief his continued hesitancy to groom a successor to the throne.

Lesson 4: In Politics, Passionate Supporters Dont Always Help | As Taught By: Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and Ashley Todd

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The Presidential Election of 2008 highlighted that fervent supporters can become a tremendous liability.

Rev. Wright’s zealous stumping for former parishioner Barack Obama exploded in controversy after lines from his speech titled “A More Perfect Union” were pounced on as being racially polarizing. Considering that racial issues already represented a gigantic elephant in the room, having them dragged through the spotlight again and again was the last thing the Obama campaign needed, at the time.

Similarly, the crazed actions of McCain aid Ashley Todd when she went Sweeny Todd held even scarier implications. I shudder to think about how things might have turned out (with the help of the media, of course) if her plan had been executed properly. Thankfully, sheer stupidity saved the day, spoiling her plot to frame Obama’s supporters as mere hoodlums.

Note to all would-be potential face-carvers: beware the text-reversal effect created by mirrors.

Lesson 5: When it Comes to Watch Dog Groups, Dont Trust Government Sponsored Enterprises & Regulatory Bodies | As Taught By: Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae, and the S.E.C.s Investigation of Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme

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Though countless errors contributed to the financial turmoil that ultimately plunged the nation into a recession in 2008, the faulty sub-prime mortgages and mortgage securities foolishly backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are largely to blame for it.

By becoming the largest buyers of subprime mortgages over the last 3 years, they single-handedly amplified the growth of the subparmortgage market and compounded the costly ramifications of its collapse. Now, the middle and lower classes of an entire nation left homeless and jobless from the fallout will surely be left asking Why? for years to come.

Thanks to similarly incomprehensible lack of critical analysis, how Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion dollar Ponzi scheme managed to elude two previous investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (one going back as far as 1992) will continue to puzzle the financial elite. Personally, I’d start with his niece being married to an S.E.C. staff member. Then I’d look into how in the world a thing like reputation could stand in the way of something as important as money.

So there you have it men. Five lessons we all should take to heart in the year to come. If history is the greatest teacher, I hope for all our sakes that we’ve paid attention to the lesson plan.

Also See: Gear Girls: The Complete Archive 2007-2008 | Letter From the Editor: 2008

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