Monday, July 08, 2013


Thank you, Libby and Aimai, for some smart posting while I was gone. I'm not sure I can live up to your standards, but I'll try.

I come back to blogging and find that Eliot Spitzer is running for city comptroller here in New York. Now, I actually think Spitzer is a smarter guy that Anthony Weiner, and he's got an awful lot of the right enemies -- yes, Weiner has a lot of the right enemies as well, but he's been all talk, and Spitzer, at times, has been quite effective. I agree with Ben Smith's characterization of the two:
Weiner is a talented politician who left Congress with no major legislative accomplishments and everything to prove. Spitzer was a major force in American public life for eight years despite having no particular talent for politics. Weiner's online romances brought him down because they were weird. Spitzer's ordinary sin -- any number of politicians have survived prostitution scandals -- ended his tenure as governor because his governorship was already going terribly.
It's complicated -- he was a highly accomplished attorney general for New York State, but he never had the political chops to succeed as governor. His approval rating was already underwater months before his prostitution scandal emerged -- and his own coiled-spring anger was a big part of the problem. As Ben Smith says, it worked for him when he was attorney general, in part because it made financial high rollers think he was sufficiently crazy that they needed to fear him. In hindsight, it's hard not to want to applaud him for this:
One of the better-documented examples of Spitzer's methods comes from John Whitehead, the octogenarian former chairman of Goldman Sachs (and thus perhaps no slouch in a knife-fight), who claimed that after he criticized one of Spitzer's prosecutions of a finance executive, Spitzer called him to say:
Mr. Whitehead, it's now a war between us and you've fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter.
Scary, yes. But who now thinks that prosecutors and regulators were too hard on bankers in 2005?
But Spitzer treated too many enemies that way. Once he was governor, you had moments like this:
... Eliot Spitzer directed the Troopergate smear of political foe Senate GOP leader Joe Bruno, Albany District Attorney David Soares declared Friday....

In his second report on the Troopergate scandal - which was originally opened to look into whether former Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp should be prosecuted for perjury - Soares found Spitzer likely fudged the facts when he denied he led the plot against Bruno....

Dopp testified that his then-boss directed him to sock Bruno by leaking his use of state police aircraft to reporters - despite Spitzer's bogus claims to the contrary.

Dopp even sought a final green light before leaking the documents from Spitzer: "Boss, you're okay with the release of the plane records?" He recalled Spitzer replying, "Yeah, do it."

"Are you sure?" Dopp then asked.

Spitzer, according to Dopp's testimony, responded: "F--- him. He's a piece of s---, shove it up his a-- with a red-hot poker."
Spitzer was a new governor doing this to a guy who'd been in the state Senate for thirty years and had a lot more friends in high places than Spitzer did. It was not a smart way to play hardball.

Minus the rage, there's something oddly impulse-driven about Spitzer's run for comptroller -- he's joining the race with no support from his party and with three days to gather signatures to get himself on the ballot. He's running against Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president and a former state assemblyman, a genial guy and reliable liberal with party backing. If you're not from around here, Spitzer would seem to have the advantage on name recognition, but locally, stringer is a very familiar name, and very few people seem to dislike him.

So Spitzer may have set himself up to fail. It doesn't strike me as the act of a guy who's matured. I'll sign his petition if someone asks me to, but I'm wary of this comeback attempt.


UPDATE: Did I say "impulse-driven"?


aimai said...

Comptroller is a big job that is well off the beaten path for a lot of people. A friend of mine (to my surprise) turns out to have been Comptroller for a while. With spitzer's background in politics and in the law and specifically in financial malfeasance I think he'd be fantastic and he would certainly end up with a lot of information on where even more bodies are buried. I think, for him, its a great move and maybe for New York as well.

I think the country has changed a lot sinc ehis prostitution scandal and I just don't think its very relevant to the way people think about NY politicians at this point. I'm interested to see if he can make a comeback.

Buford said...

Elliot missed the "gravy train" of corrupt he is trying to catch up...

Victor said...

I used to like Spitzer, back when he first was elected Governor.

But he forgot one cardinal rule: If you're going to be that kind of attack politician, you'd better have a spotless life outside of politics, because at the first hint of scandal, everyone will want to join in on the beatings.

He's an intelligent man, but not a politically smart one.

Perhaps he should stick to being a lawyer or TV host, or writer, and stay out of politics.

Victor said...

Oh, and welcome back.... whatever your name is. ;-)

aimai said...

I would doubt very much that something said in public reflects anything at all about private decisionmaking. Also, there is a real difference between the moment of decisionmaking ("Yes, I'll run for X office") and the process of coming to all the subsidiary conclusions necessary to actually comiit to the run. Sure, a decisioncan be made "over the weekend" but that doesn't mean anything about the amount of thought and preparation or intention behidn the decision.

flipyrwhig said...

I don't recall the caustic and aggressive Northeasterner Spitzer as the recipient of desperate media man-crushes -- but the caustic and aggressive Northeasterner Christie, totally. What explains that difference? Just party identification?

Steve M. said...

Spitzer aimed his barbs and rich and powerful people -- bankers and other powerful politicians. These are insider journalists' friends (and people insider journalists wish were their friends).

Christie aims his barbs at teachers and liberals and poor people -- y'know, scum like us. That's considered perfectly fine.

Dark Avenger said...

Christie appeals to the NJ inner bully, which is why one of the exports of that state is young women.

Examinator said...

Dark Avenger,
You said ["one of the exports of that state is young women."]
Really?? individually gift wrapped or just in bulk ? :-)

It's called playing to 'HIS' audience, they are looking for someone to blame (for their own myopic reasoning, so who else but 'them'(who ever doesn't agree with them)?

Roger said...

Isn't every decision made in a short period of time, e.g., "over the weekend"? You think about something for whatever period, and then, at one point in time, you decide.

I wouldn't sign Spitzer's petition, even if I was eligible. But it seems you don't need an exploratory committee and polls and weeks of prayerful reflection and to decide to run for comptroller.