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June 11, 2009

Eliot Spitzer's Unfortunate Rehabilitation

Today, June 11th, Spitzer's got favorable coverage in the NY Daily News by critizing the Legislature (which incidentally hated him, resisted him, and eventually buried him). He's peddling the same story over at Slate.

Who is Eliot Spitzer?

Eliot SpitzerEliot Spitzer. Tireless advocate for the people. Egotistical politician. He told one politician, "Listen, I'm a f---ing steamroller and I'll roll over you and anybody else,". Challenger of the status quo. Threat to established power brokers. Zealous corruption fighter. Busted the Gambino family. New York State Attorney General. New York Governor. And then...

He resigned the Governor's office after public disclosure of his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring.

"I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work," Spitzer said at a news conference in New York City. "Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor."

So far, so good. Let us acknowledge several things:
  • Lots of NY power brokers were very happy to see Spitzer go.
  • It was pretty easy for his opponents to trip him up.
  • It is not difficult to see this as a Charles Foster Kane / Boss Jim Gettys scenario
  • Spitzer did the right thing in resigning.
  • New Yorkers believe Spitzer out-classed New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's resignation in a homosexual scandal.

And so, Eliot Spitzer shuffles off into private life, to make his peace with his Maker, his Wife and family. A sad story and a family tragedy are closed.

That didn't last long. He couldn't stay away. He wants to get back in the game. He misses the adulation, the attention, the urgency. He misses being The Steamroller™.

We are witnessing The Rehabilitation of Eliot Spitzer. Mel Gibson movies have nothing on this. He went on the Today show and admitted, "What I did was egregious". He did a Newsweek interview about his Confession that got him on the April 27th cover.

New York magazine gave him a cover and an article describing that he was drawn to the dark side by his exposure to "covert ops" while busting the Gambino family. He appeared in Newsweek to warn us about the excesses of populism.

The current financial and economic woes have been a gift to Spitzer, who has the mind and the grasp of the financial interactions to call foul on occasion. He's decried the AIG bailout.

Eliot has been writing in Slate. Here's a roster of his score of opinions Slate has seen fit to offer their readers. He challenged the "too big to fail" economic perspective. He suggests we should pay for college with smart loans. Eliot wants us to know that being a Governor isn't easy. And, hey: the US economy is worse than anybody's saying, except for Eliot, who shoots straight. Trust him. Eliot Spitzer knows what he's doing. This time, he's got the media on his side. He's signed with The Washington Post.

Micheal Wolff writes: As it happens, Spitzer is openly engaged in a more or less formal comeback strategy with various entities of the Washington Post Co., of which Newsweek is one. In addition to writing for Newsweek, he also writes a regular column for Slate, the Washington Post-owned website.

Newsweek, Slate, and the Washington Post have all given Spitzer a "bully pulpit" from which to make announcements and a media opportunity to frame his rehabilitation as an independent thinker who cares about the little guy. What's interesting is that Newsweek, Slate, and the Washington Post are all owned by the same company.

Jeff Bercovici blogs in Spitzer and 'Newsweek': A Case Study in Coziness
"There are other nations that have a very different set of parameters on these things," says a still-shameless Spitzer, asked by the half-asleep mag whether he thinks Americans ought to care about politicians' sex lives.
Oh, to be in Italy, where they appreciate Silvio Berlusconi!

Roger Stone wrote that Spitzer turned a blind eye to Bernard Madoff, a friend of Eliot's father. Stone says SPitzer drove AIG CEO Hank Greenberg out of the business, and his replacements took the company into risks that eventually ruined the company. Stone writes, "Spitzer is an unbalanced megalomaniac and would-be dictator whose only regret is the exposure of his penchant for prostitutes. He violated state election laws in his campaign for attorney general when he received multi-million dollar 'loans' from his father, which he lied about under oath in a law suit, but then subsequently admitted the truth. He lied about his abuse of power and he used his office to cover up his crimes. Eliot Spitzer is not fit for public service and will not be allowed to crawl back- he destroyed lives and companies without justification, other than his own warped political ambitions."

Michael Wolff's thoughts on this are worth reading: "In effect, Newsweek, by reporting on Spitzer's rehabilitation, is rehabilitating its own asset." When Newsweek or the Washington Post give favorable coverage to Spitzer, they're polishing one of their colleagues at Slate. And they'll own him in the future.

Gawker declares that Spitzer's public rehabilitation is almost complete. The New York Post reports that he may be considering a 2010 run for Attorney General. He's also in the July 2009 Vanity Fair.

Rehab Models for Disgraced Public Servants

The New Jersey Model

Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey teaches ethics, law and leadership at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. He's taken on a new lover that he's made a serious commitment with. He has been accepted to General Theological Seminary, where he will pursue a Master of Divinity degree, a prerequisite to the ex-Gov. becoming an Episcopal priest. He has a lovely house in Plainfield, New Jersey.

A refined approach from a more civilized time

The Profumo Model

John Profumo was Britain's Secretary of State for War, and in 1963 he had an affair with showgirl/callgirl Christine Keeler. The affair became public. Tabloids reported that another paramour of the woman was Yevgeny Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London. Given the nature of the Cold War, the head of the MoD sharing a woman with a Russian intelligence officer was somewhat disquieting. Keeler's salacious portrait on the cover of a London newspaper sealed Profumo's political career, and brought down the government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Aftermath of the Profumo Scandal

After his resignation, Profumo never uttered a public word about the events that led to his downfall. He began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life. Eventually, Profumo volunteered as the charity's chief fundraiser. These charitable activities helped to restore the fallen politician's reputation; he was awarded a CBE in 1975, and in 1995 was invited to Margaret Thatcher's 70th birthday dinner.

His NY Times obituary said: By working in the East End, washing dishes, tending alcoholics, Mr. Profumo's friends said, he paid his dues. Lord Deedes, a friend, told the BBC today: "He atoned for his mistakes and I think will, on death, receive his reward for that."

After Profumo's death was announced, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "I think he will be remembered not just for the events that brought his political career to an end, but also he will be remembered with a lot of gratitude and respect for what he achieved in his later life," he said. "It must have been very difficult to do it, but he did do it. He and his family showed a lot of dignity and a lot of honor in the way they behaved."

Why Does Spitzer Want To Get Back In?

I think understand why Eliot Spitzer wants to get back in the game. These politicians have deep needs that are met by the crowds, excitement, adrenaline, and testosterone. The images of Eliot Spitzer, Jim McGreevy, and John Edwards, all standing with their pretty wives, confessing transgressions to their supporters, as if the voters are their true lovers -- these events are too similar to not constitute some politician's pathology.

The public only has so much forgiveness at one time. We're a single-issue society with a very fast news cycle. I think Spitzer wants to get back in the public eye as early as possible because (1) he doesn't want to become known as the "used to be", (2) the economic recession/depression is made to order for his niche, and (3) he wants to get on the Rehabilitation Bandwagon before John Edwards does -- because John Edwards will tie it up and make it all smarmy for a decade.

I think that Eliot Spitzer could learn a lot from John Profumo's example.


Mark said...

Very informative, thanks. The Post/Newsweek/Slate thing is good to know, and their relationship to Spitzer as you tell it suggests that there is more of this sort of thing going on throughout the media. Also nice to be refreshed on the Profumo thing, as I would have been hard pressed to recall those details. Another top-notch posting.

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