Legitimacy to Lead

At least Eliot Spitzer had the decency to step down.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, in an awkward effort to break the rhythm of his own negative sex scandal story, enlisted lightning rod words like "nigger" and "lynch mob" to paint himself - rather than his city - as the victim.

Detroiters don't seem to be buying it.

The cases of messieurs Spitzer and Kilpatrick are the latest examples to illustrate the crisis of leadership now plaguing America's Heartland. And that is sad because each of these once powerful politicians rose as effective advocates for many of the types of fundamental changes the region must embrace to regain its greatness.

Both men publicly advanced broad agendas based on recommitments to education, innovation, and urban revitalization. And both men had - still have - a stage presence and delivery that seemed to unite citizens in the confidence and belief that even the most ambitious plans could be achieved. What more does the region need now but hope for a brighter future? Like any strong leader, they both radiated personality, authenticity, and vision.

Now both men also are linked by arrogance, as Detroit News Columnist Daniel Howes effectively argues. They seem like phonies. They violated the civic trust they were sworn to protect. And, as a consequence, they laid down the legitimacy to lead.

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer came to that conclusion the second day after scandal broke. Kwame Kilpatrick's deception - and Detroit's distraction - is moving in to its second month.