Posts Tagged ‘Eliot Spitzer’

Eliot Spitzer’s Comeback

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

In the past few weeks, Eliot Spitzer has been all around us. His Slate columns have become a must-read. He was against AIG before it was cool. He was railing against the excesses of Wall Street while everyone else was enjoying the fake boom. 

If it were not for the scandal that forced him to resign, this would have been Eliot Spitzer’s time. Vice Presidential buzz would be growing; he would be one of the go-to guys that Obama would call to give him cover as he dealt with Wall Street. It is based on this that David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy listed Spitzer as one of the “losers of the week” saying that:

[T]he A.I.G. scandal and the collapse of Wall Street could have been [Spitzer’s] apotheosis, the moment the howling dogs of ambition in his breast might have finally gotten enough red meat of press exposure.

But despite his current disgraced status – and no doubt in part because of it – he has been able to talk more candidly about the “real scandal” of the AIG bailout: that it “has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.”

This sets up Spitzer to now say, “sunlight is the best disinfectant“! Ironic for a man brought down by too much sunlight.

I’m going to repeat what I said before – as the conventional wisdom states that the only things that can truly destroy a political career are “a dead woman or a live boy,” Spitzer will be back. Given the magnitude of this scandal, he may be back sooner than we expect. Interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show last week, his politic answer on whether he is planning to make a comeback as a media person made it clear he is still intent on winning back the public’s good graces.

His understated and calculated public appearances are not consistent with a man looking to become a media personality – he would want more appearances and try to adopt a more strident tone if this was his goal; they are not consistent with a man who is done with politics – as he does not have the gravitas and devil-may-care honestly and looseness that comes with this life decision; instead, he seems to be staging a comeback. He waited just over a year from his resignation before giving his first interview – despite the increasingly clear Wall Street scandal that he had been brewing. He’s focusing on policy, substance, and seriousness to avoid as much as possible talking about his past scandals. But his answer still have the slipperiness of a pol.

It’s only a matter of time before he runs for office again.

“The Disgraced Former Governor” on WNYC

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

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.)

The Real Scandal of AIG

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Eliot Spitzer, in what is becoming a must-read column for Slate, gets to the nub of the real scandal of AIG:

The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.

As I’ve quoted former Governor William Weld before:

There’s no one so brave and wise as the politician who’s not running for office and who’s not going to be…

Yet it is almost as likely that former Governor Eliot Spitzer is following an alternate path that seems similar but has a different conclusion. Let me propose a corollary to Weld’s statement:

A bit braver and a little less wise than the politician who’s not running for office and who’s not going to be is the chastened politician who seeks redemption in the form of speaking truth to power from his exile until he has established his moral bona fides enough to be allowed back in.

A bit less snappy though. Meanwhile, Jay Leno has his own suggestion for how to deal with the AIG bonus issue (the one that Spitzer points out is a side issue):

You have to appreciate the subtle balance Jay manages here – and the craft and delicate political sensibility that goes into a joke like this. Aiming for a mass audience, he can’t offend either Democrats or Republicans. Yet a political joke that is offensive to no one just isn’t funny. So Jay manages to cram two alternate jokes into one – with one interpretation for Democrats and the other for Republicans, and a certain cognitive dissonance allowing both interpretations.

On a superficial level, Leno is chastising the Obama administration and saying that it should emulate the Bush administration. 

But he undermines this suggestion by invoking as a fact – which it is, even if the mainstream media does not often acknowledge it – the lawlessness of the Bush administration – and perhaps even mocking their oft-used Jack Bauer defense.

Yet on another level, what he is proposing – that Obama just forget the law and go after AIG – has a certain elemental satisfaction to it – and would probably be a popular move. There would be a catharsis there, instead of the interminable responsibility of the Obama administration. 

As I mentioned above – there is a certain craft to this. Often, Leno’s monologues are seen as without edge but when they work, they allow multiple edges such as this joke does. 

As a side note to all of this – once something becomes the premise of a joke by Jay Leno, you know it has been popularly accepted as true – or true enough. The fact that the premise of this joke was Bush administration lawlessness is pretty significant in that regard.

Eliot Spitzer v. Sarah Connor

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Eliot Spitzer has some good ideas about how to spend the stimulus money, including this technology which I’d heard of but not understood until reading:

[Smart meters] would permit, with a smart grid, time-of-day pricing for all consumers, with potentially double-digit reductions in peak demand, significant cost savings, and consequential remarkable energy and environmental impacts. These declines in peak demand would translate into dramatic reduction in the number of new power plants. The problem with installation of smart meters has been both the cost and, often, state-by-state regulatory hurdles. Now is the moment to sweep both aside and transform our entire electricity market into a smart market.

However, Spitzer has another more controversial proposal which Matt Yglesias fears will lead to the end of the human race, “Provide funding for robotics teams at every school. Yglesias:

After the human race is enslaved by robots, there are going to be small rebel groups hiding out somewhere and Elliot Spitzer’s going to be writing op-eds about how “no one could have predicted” that the robots would rebel and overthrow their masters. And it’ll be left to DFH bloggers to observe that this is in fact one of the most widely predicted scenarios in all of science fiction. From the proto-SF of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein through to Karel Capek’s R.U.R. and The War Against the Newts all the way up through Terminator and The Matrix. Yes, yes, yes eventually the Butlerian Jihad will allow us to re-overthrow the Thinking Machines and establish human rule but do we really want to fall into that trap?

Just say no to robots. And certainly say no to robots in our schools.

You just know that Spitzer – for promoting this idea – would be on Sarah Connor’s hitlist.

Irony Watch

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

As Justice Brandeis observed, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

So says the man whose governorship was felled by a bit too much sunlight on his sordrid sex life.

But an excellent new column by Eliot Spitzer in Slate on reforms to bring transparency to Wall Street.