“The Disgraced Former Governor” on WNYC


By Joe Campbell
March 24th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Eliot Spitzer was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show about AIG last week (in what I believe is his actual first interview post-resignation, contra Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars and Fareed Zakaria):

Brian Lehrer: Before you go, some of the commenters on our website are angry at us for even having you on.

Eliot Spitzer: Mhmm.

Brian Lehrer: They ask, “Can’t we find any other expert to talk about AIG besides  a disgraced former governor?” and things like that. To those listeners, we’re having lots of AIG-related guests this week. We chose Mr. Spitzer for one perspective because of the unique history between him and the company when he was the only government entity really giving them a hard time. But Mr. Spitzer, it was a year ago yesterday that you left office. How do you feel now about having taken yourself out of the position of being more directly involved with all this?

Eliot Spitzer: Well, I’m obviously disappointed in what led to that; I’ve apologized and have acted in the past way that I should have which is to say that I will remain quiet …

As you suggested, there was a… period when as Attorney General of New York, I was pursing issues that no one else wanted to pursue. We pursued AIG and Wall Street structural failures  in a way that others shied away from because it was politically unpalatable for them to address these issues. Now it is the flavor of the month and everybody’s jumping up and down, serving subpoenas and beating their chests trying to be tougher than the next person.

That’s wonderful.

But as you say there was a moment when that was not the case and so perhaps I can add a slightly different perspective if I can…

Brian Lehrer: You said you would stay quiet but you’re not totally staying quiet. You are a Slate columnist…Are you trying to kind of make a comeback as a media person?

Eliot Spitzer: No. I’m simply trying to add a few words occasionally as I best can to shed light on some very vexing policy problems that are out there and that have not been addressed necessarily in the best way by our leadership. And we all have to work together to do what we can do to move forward and to the extent that writing a few columns and adding my perspective can help, I’m thrilled to do that and help in any way. I think that’s what we all owe to our society.

The clip is from the end of the interview which you can listen to here.

You have to appreciate Brian Lehrer asking questions “tough interviewers” like David Gregory seem to shy away from. It’s not so much that Lehrer asked if Spitzer was attempting a comeback – you can picture David Gregory calling on the control room to “run the tape” with some old footage of the Governor saying something like, “If I’m ever caught in a scandal, I’ll never run for office again!” and then pressing him on that point – but the way Lehrer followed up and challenged the line that Spitzer gave about “staying quiet,” as well as the way he confronted Spitzer with what his listeners were saying – that seems on par with Lehrer’s tendency to ask what most interviewers would be afraid to ask. (Another example being when he asked Sandra Day O’Connor, “Why did you deny the state of Florida the right to recount votes in its own state?” to her annoyance.)