Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I still think Eliot Spitzer ought to resign. I understand the argument that there's a double standard when Larry Craig and David Vitter are still in office. But Spitzer's been a lousy governor and will be no loss. More important, resignations don't have to be a sign of political weakness, which is why there were two big ones in the GOP in late 1998.

Remember 1998? The GOP's pursuit of impeachment was wildly unpopular and Democrats gained seats in Congress in the midterms, something that never happens in the sixth year of a president's term. And so Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned -- not revealing that had been engaging in adulterous conduct during the Monica period. And Gingrich's designated successor, Bob Livingston, also resigned, after his adultery was revealed.

And so it was generally accepted that the GOP could now resume the pursuit of impeachment unburdened by charges of hypocrisy. Bill Clinton was impeached, the GOP refused to allow a censure after failing to secure a conviction, the GOP whined that he'd gotten away with something awful, and Al Gore was unable to win the presidency in 2000.

Sometimes a resignation isn't the worst thing in the world. It depends on how you use it.


I say that even though I've been reading what people such as Scott Horton of Harper's are writing about the case:

...Note that this prosecution was managed with staffers from the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. This section is now at the center of a major scandal concerning politically directed prosecutions. During the Bush Administration, his Justice Department has opened 5.6 cases against Democrats for every one involving a Republican. Beyond this, a number of the cases seem to have been tied closely to election cycles.

...The Justice Department has yet to give a full account of
why they were looking into Spitzer's payments, and indeed the suggestion in the ABC account is that it didn’t have anything to do with a prostitution ring. The suggestion that this was driven by an IRS inquiry and involved a bank might heighten, rather than allay, concerns of a politically motivated prosecution....

(If you haven't read it yet, the ABC report he cites is here.)

I'm actually surprised that this bomb wasn't dropped next fall rather than now -- not only because of its likely impact on national elections, but because of what it might do to the makeup of New York's legislature, state legislatures having been a particular obsession in the Rove years. New York's lower house, the Assembly, has been Democratic for years, while the State Senate has been Republican, but a special election a few weeks ago got Democrats very close to a State Senate takeover:

In a major victory for Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his party, a Democratic assemblyman won a stunning upset in a State Senate election on Tuesday in a district that has been in Republican hands for a century.

The win reduces the Republicans' majority to one seat and will intensify pressure on the majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, as he tries to maintain his party's grip on the Senate, which it has controlled for more than 40 years.

The Democrat, Darrel J. Aubertine, a dairy farmer, leaned heavily on Mr. Spitzer's media consultant and the state Democrats' money as he waged a costly campaign against the Republican, William A. Barclay, a lawyer and an assemblyman whose father once held the Senate seat.

Mr. Aubertine won 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Mr. Barclay, according to unofficial results. Republicans outnumber Democrats 78,454 to 46,824 in the north country district, and Mr. Barclay had been favored to win....

An all-Democratic legislature elected in '08 would probably still be in place for any redistricting resulting from the 2010 census -- after which the state's rapidly dwindling Republican congressional contingent might dwindle even further.

So, sure, there are political reasons for this. But the story is out now, and that means the damage is done. A weakened laughingstock Spitzer who remains in office isn't going to do the Democrats any good.

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