Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day 436. . .

. . .And The Steamroller Runs Into A Brick Wall

Talk about a fall from grace. The Spitz hits the fan!

Not only sex for money -- and lots of it -- but allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and transit across state lines for who knows what purposes.

The Governor -- or perhaps, by this hour, former Governor -- of New York would have likely survived Troopergate, best efforts of Joe Bruno to condemn aside. Even the foible of drivers licenses for illegal immigrants -- the right thing to do in the wrong political climate -- would not have derailed Eliot Spitzer.

But this?

Client 9 from Mr. Clean?

Politically, there's little likelihood that the Gov can survive the fallout. No "I did not have sex with that woman" lines here, disingenuous or not.

Personally, Mr. Spitzer has relationships to mend -- if such a thing is possible after transgressions that transcend the Governor's private life -- and no time to squander the opportunity to save his family with a long, drawn out mea culpa in an attempt to salvage his crumbling political career.

This whole affair (no pun intended) is a tragedy. All too often repeated across the great political landscape of America -- with New Jersey, Connecticut, and now New York having created the perfect storm -- but a tragedy none the less.

One cannot help but feel for the Spitzer family, and to lament that a public servant who held the ethical bar so high -- and the public trust so inviolate -- has come to this sad end.

David Paterson, the man who serves quietly as New York's Leiutenant Governor, little known outside of political circles (in which he is well liked and highly regarded), awaits the call.

Now is the time for Eliot to phone home.
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From The Albany Times Union:

Mr. Spitzer's shame

It would have been a cowardly performance by anyone, really. The boilerplate apology to the humiliated family. The acknowledgment that the public that employs him deserves better. And then the hasty exit, no questions and no explanations.

But this was Gov. Eliot Spitzer, chosen by an already disgusted electorate to clean up state government, not to further diminish it.

"I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

So went the parting words of a once-promising leader on Monday as he went off into what had all the signs of self-exile.

It was the last thing the people of New York needed to see and hear. If the governor has violated the public trust, as it appears he may have, he must resign. If he thinks otherwise, he has to make the case for how he can lead this state, particularly in such daunting times. He has to address the public's profound anger and sense of betrayal.

He can't think, even for a New York minute, that his appearance before the press for those few minutes in Manhattan on Monday afternoon suffices for an accounting of how he's embarrassed himself and quite possibly lost the moral authority necessary to govern.

A prostitution ring, Mr. Spitzer? "Client 9" of the Emperors Club VIP?

Explain yourself, quickly and completely.

For Mr. Spitzer to have even a chance at surviving such a scandal will require a sense of humility, self-examination and, yes, candor that might be beyond him at this point.

Forthrightness is now required for someone more used to zealously demanding an accounting for the weaknesses and failings of others.

This is not the "private matter" Mr. Spitzer says it is. Such a desperate suggestion, in fact, is painfully indicative of the hubris that complicates his fate.

These are the words of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, announcing the breakup of a high-priced prostitution racket in Staten Island in 2004:

"This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure," he said. "It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring."

It's nothing short of sickening to realize that this man somehow could be part of something like that.

Unsettling, too, is the realization that Mr. Spitzer's supposed involvement with a prostitution ring has been captured on a federal wiretap.

A brilliant lawyer needs an equally brilliant lawyer. A once-triumphant state needs an able leader.


Perhaps not today and perhaps not for a very long time.

THE ISSUE: The governor is linked to a prostitution scandal.

THE STAKES: He needs to level with the people, whatever his future.
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From Newsday:
Pride goes before a fall

Irreparably damaged, Gov. Eliot Spitzer must resign

What a stunner. The last time Eliot Spitzer and "prostitution ring" were mentioned in the same sentence, the reformist governor was enacting a new felony statute to punish human trafficking.

Before that, it was Spitzer the crusading attorney general, busting call girl businesses on Staten Island.

And now all the promise that rested on this leader with the wide vocabulary and the pugnacious jaw comes to this: a tawdry rendezvous - in fact, probably many of them - with a hooker, this time at Washington's Mayflower Hotel.

Of course, the governor has to resign. Fifteen months ago, he was the chief legal officer of the state. Hiring a call girl was not only against the law, but procuring her to cross state lines turned the $4,300 evening into a federal crime. Spitzer, 48, is either viciously self-destructive or pathologically arrogant, believing he wouldn't be caught.

He cannot stay and play the odds, as he has with the Troopergate investigation, in which his aides were accused of misusing the State Police to embarrass a political rival. Spitzer can't blame an underling for this one. Federal investigators caught him in a wiretap, red-handed, in a series of telephone calls to the Emperors Club VIP to negotiate payment details.

Here is the busy governor of New York, on the phone, working out who pays for the prostitute's use of the hotel minibar. The decorum of the office can't withstand this man's abuse of it. From the moment of yesterday's shocking, sordid revelation - and his pitiful apology - no more state business can be done with Spitzer at the helm.

The governor's job would pass to the hands of David Paterson, 53, the former State Senate Democratic leader from Harlem. Paterson is respected on both sides of the aisle, but the state's business has suffered a grave setback. Paterson is smart and likable, but the question will be whether he's up to the task of righting this seriously listing ship.

The story of Eliot Spitzer's demise would be Shakespearean in its tragedy, had he really been the man we thought he was. When New York State Democrats rallied for him at their holiday party in 2005, Spitzer strode through the gala like a man at a coronation. Admirers formed a column behind him. He promised to reform the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation and to kick off the dust of the do-nothing latter years of Gov. George Pataki's administration.

All the momentum he amassed as he collected 69.6 percent of the vote in a landslide has been wasted. New York needed his push for higher ethics and campaign finance reform. We needed to focus on education, the environment, the soaring cost of health care and unmanageable tax burdens. The momentum is utterly lost, but the causes themselves should not also die.

As Spitzer said yesterday, he has violated his obligation to the people around him. Many gave up private-sector jobs to follow him into government. His wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, put her legal career on hold when he chose to run for public office. For all of them, his paying a hooker for sex is a betrayal. And the Spitzers have three teenage daughters who must now grow up living with this knowledge.

Should we have seen the real Spitzer more clearly? He lied about taking a loan from his father, Bernard, to fund his 1994 campaign for attorney general. His Wall Street and insurance targets, such as John Whitehead, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and Richard Grasso, warned about the man's temper and bullying tactics. This page endorsed Spitzer for governor. After all, as Rep. Charles Rangel quipped derisively, Spitzer was the smartest man in the room. Until he wasn't.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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