March 11, 2008

Is Eliot Spitzer Playing ‘Survivor’? (at UPDATE 2: The Answer Is ‘Yes’)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:57 pm

I don’t like it when my worst instincts about someone appear to be coming true.

Unfortunately, I believe this is one of those times.

Yesterday, my reaction to Eliot Spitzer’s press statement was, “He’s going to gauge public reax first before deciding whether to give it up.”

I believe he’s still gauging.

The strategic elements in the Spitzer strategy look to be:

  • Lawyer up.
  • Hunker down; don’t say a word.
  • Wait for the “private life” and “everybody does it” crowd to weigh in.
  • Wait for the press to remind everyone of “how much good” you’ve done.
  • Wait for the opposition to give an appearance, fed by the press, of overreacting. The opposition’s calls for impeachment while festively celebrating are, in my opinion, helping Mr. Spitzer quite a bit (“Sources told CBS 2 that Republicans were literally popping open bottles of champagne…..”).
  • Wait for his defenders to start going after the people who want him to go away.
  • Pray novenas that something else in the news cycle comes along to get the mess off the front pages (Hint: The Mississippi Primary isn’t it).

It’s too early to tell if Spitzer’s waiting game will work, though the unsurprising yet disconcerting news that “Spitzer allegedly used an escort service for at least six months and paid more than $15,000 for numerous meetings” isn’t helping his cause.

+++++++++++++++++

Update, 9:50 p.m.: Did I say six months? Try somewhere between 6-10 years, per the New York Post

isgraced Gov. Spitzer dropped up to $80,000 on sex with prostitutes, sources revealed tonight.

Spitzer, a millionaire, was hopping into bed with harlots for as long as 10 years and traveled as far as Florida for call-girl trysts, sources said.

How long will we have to wait before some defender says something like “See, he was doing a great job all this time. It proves that it wasn’t a distraction”? This could actually improve his gubernatorial survival odds. Marriage survival odds, not so much.

+++++++++++++++++

But Eliot Spitzer’s game of “Survivor” might work.

Larry Craig and David Vitter in the US Senate are still hanging on in “related” matters (please, don’t bother me about the differences; I know). But, while many states’ chief executives have made it through their terms in trying circumstances, surviving in the Senate is a different matter than running the gauntlet as a state governor.

In much less severe and not sex-related circumstances, Ohio GOP Governor Bob Taft held on after pleading guilty to ethics-code violations.. He seriously damaged his party in the process, while the state’s majority-GOP legislature stood by and allowed him to do it. Democrats saw the political advantage of letting a wounded Taft go through the motions for another year, and won the next gubernatorial election handily.

In Kentucky, GOP Governor Ernie Fletcher spent most of his four years in ethical hot water, and the last couple in extramarital-affair-with-state-favors hot water too. He hung on, ran for re-election, and got whipped badly.

In Maryland, Dem Governor Parris Glendening had a girlfriend on the state payroll while he was married, and suffered no consequences. But again, the other party won the next gubernatorial election.

In Illinois it appears that second-term Dem guv Rod Blagojevich is in over his head in ethical and state-business scandals (some of which, IIRC, comes back to onetime Barack Obama mentor Tony Rezko). But he’s not going anywhere either. The Illinois GOP is so weak it may not be able to take advantage of the Dems’ problems.

In 2003, Dem governor Gray Davis was forced from office in California in a recall election over the Golden State’s budget nightmares and the state’s cover-up of those problems during the 2002 election. Alleged Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger took over from there.

These are the statehouse examples I can think of, though there may be others.

Given the history just recited, I wouldn’t bet against Spitzer surviving, though he has the following working against him:

  • Nearly 3 years remaining in office if he stays. Can the country’s third-largest state afford to vegetate that long? I doubt that many think it can without severe consequences.
  • A Democratic Party that just got the New York governor’s mansion back after 12 years in the wilderness. It does not want to face a bloodbath in 2010 after what would likely be three more ineffectual years under Spitzer. I don’t see how Empire State party Democratic Party leaders can stand by and let this happen. But — This is the same party whose national leadership snatched narrow defeat from the jaws of near-certain landslide victory in the 2000 presidential election by not forcing Bill Clinton out when they could have. Al Gore running as an incumbent would have been very tough to beat.
  • If Spitzer stays on, the fallout may be bad enough that it puts New York’s 31 almost always Democratic presidential electoral votes in play for John McCain. You would think that Howard Dean et al will have none of that (but see previous item). I suspect the potential danger of that is being focus-grouped as you read this.
  • Relentless media ridicule on the late-night and Comedy Central shows that will only get worse as more details come out.
  • Spitzer’s already checkered history with the Troopergate situation last year.
  • The possibility of an indictment, and the chance that Spitzer might be able to reduce his personal legal consequences in exchange for resigning.

Regardless of how this turns out, the fact that Spitzer appears to be trying to ride out the storm after the damage he’s inflicted on the people he allegedly cares about is what should really be galling people, regardless of their politics.

But apparently we’re too “sophisticated” for that.

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UPDATE, 10:20 p.m.: From CBS, “Spitzer Resignation Expected Wednesday” —

Governor Negotiating To Cut Deal With Federal Prosecutors

Gov. Eliot Spitzer is set to resign Wednesday, sources tell CBS 2 HD political reporter Marcia Kramer, but insiders say he’s going to use the resignation as a bargaining chip to cut a deal with federal prosecutors and he won’t step down until that happens. The talks have been going on since Tuesday morning.

The governor’s fate rests in the hands of two people: U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia and Michele Hirshman, the head of his legal defense team. The deal they cut will determine Spitzer’s future.

Criminal law experts say Spitzer will definitely have to resign the governorship and that what’s involved in the deal is key.

So the highest office in the state of New York is reduced to a “bargaining chip” that can be pulled off the table if “the deal” isn’t sufficiently satisfactory. My guess is that Spitzer can do this because he has assurances from the Democrat-dominated state legislature than they wouldn’t allow any impeachment attempt to succeed. Where’s the outrage?

UPDATE 2, 11:15 p.m.: A “See I told you so” moment, from AP at this link (backup in case of further AP updates) —

Democrats privately floated another option, telling The Associated Press that Spitzer was considering what was almost unthinkable immediately after Monday’s bombshell apology: hanging on.

“If the public is fine, he’ll stay,” said a Democrat who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

UPDATE 3, 11:30 p.m.: The New York Times, which in yesterday’s related editorial appeared to be holding out hope that Sptizer could survive all of this (“Mr. Spitzer did not seem to understand on Monday what he owed the public — a strong argument for why he should be trusted again. The longer he hesitates, it becomes a harder case to make.”), all but slammed the door tonight:

To put it bluntly, Mr. Spitzer must either resign immediately or explain why he deserves to continue in office. It is almost impossible for us to imagine how he can survive this scandal and provide the credible leadership that New York needs.

UPDATE 4: Somebody needs to explain to me how, within 24 hours, the New York Post could find 6-10 years of history when the Times had owned the story for at least 3 days before that (a weekend yes, but three days nonetheless)? Is it possible that the Times thought that the public could handle the “one-time” situation it portrayed, simply hoped that there wouldn’t be more, and decided the risk of being scooped bigtime was less important than the possibility of saving their beloved Eliot? If I’m right, old-line newspaper people have to be aghast.

From ABC: A Comprehensive History Lesson in ‘Name That Party’

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:46 am

NewsBusters posters have already given Old Media deserved grief about its reluctance to pin the Democratic Party label on Eliot Spitzer, who, as of this moment, is still governor of New York (Brent Baker on evening news show coverage; Ken Shepherd on the BBC; Shepherd on the AP).

But, as blogger Ace noted last night (warning: some profanity at Ace’s link), ABC has outdone the other outlets one better.

ABC’s “Political Sex Scandals Redux” popup slideshow has a series of 13 slides relating to current and past politicians. If Republicans are or were involved, the network, with one rare and minor exception, consistently applies the “R” label almost immediately. With Democrats, with one very old exception, the party label isn’t there.

Here are the specifics:

Summary:

  • Six Republicans immediately identified; one relatively obscure GOP member not ID’d.
  • Four Democratic affiliations not noted; one, involving a matter dating back a quarter-century, immediately identified.
  • One party affiliation not clear, and apparently not known.

Ace’s key comments:

This is all in our minds, huh, MSM?

It’s all accidental, right?

Then why does it keep happening, and why do you stubbornly refuse to make a simple style guide change — requiring the party ID of any and all politicians caught in scandals upon first mention, in the first paragraph?

It’s because you want to preserve your freedom to continue doing this. Only Republican scandals are, in fact, Republican scandals. Democratic scandals are never identified as such, and instead are, in your “nuanced” telling, either scandals of a particular man alone or of “The System” generally.

Exactly.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: At the Corner, Mark Hemingway notes that ABC “somehow” overlooked former Democratic Congressman Mel Reynolds. It makes you wonder who else is absent who should be there.

UPDATE 2, 10 P.M.: Aw, this is getting ridiculous —

  • From NewsBusters’ Brent Baker — “For Second Night, ABC and NBC Refuse to Utter Spitzer’s Party ID”
  • Another from Baker — “USA Today Never Labels Spitzer as Dem, But Tags Craig and Vitter”
  • From NB’s Geoffrey Dickens — “‘Today’ Spends 4 Hours Ignoring the ‘D’ Next to Spitzer’s Name”

At this point, they’re just pulling this crap to keep us busy.

Spitzer Then and Now: WSJ Establishes the Linkage

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:08 am

In a hard-drive saver of an editorial this morning, they let him have it, and he bloody well deserves it:

Spitzer’s Rise and Fall
March 11, 2008

One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer’s fall. There is none. Governor Spitzer, who made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men, is himself almost certainly ruined.

….. In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.

….. Mr. Spitzer’s recklessness with the state’s highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG’s Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of “illegal” behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.

In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer’s lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. “I will be coming after you,” Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead’s account. “You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done.”

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone — embroiled in Mr. Spitzer’s investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso — that the AG would “put a spike through Langone’s heart.”

….. There really is nothing very satisfying about the rough justice being meted out to Eliot Spitzer. He came to embody a system that revels in the entertainment value of roguish figures who rise to power by destroying the careers of others, many of them innocent. Better still, when the targets are as presumably unsympathetic as Wall Street bankers and brokers.

Acts of crime deserve prosecution by the state. The people, in turn, deserve prosecutors and officials who understand the difference between the needs of the public good and the needs of unrestrained personalities who are given the honor of high office.

The sad thing is that Spitzer’s “success” while Empire State Attorney General may have given rise to a new generation of AGs who see their jobs as hounding targets and intimidating them into surrender to avoid the vagaries of the legal process and the standards of evidence that accompany it — all while maximizing publicity. Ohio’s Marc Dann, for one, seems intent on following this path in his pursuit of “justice” (?) in the subprime mortgage situation by inventing criminal and civil liabilities out of whole cloth. If you touched it, you must be guilty — and “we don’t need to stinkin’ trial” to “prove” it. Horse manure.

AGs such as these need to be put in their place — which is out of public office. Sometimes, as in Spitzer’s case, they do it to themselves. Others, if they cross the line from enforcing the law through the legal process into bullying and intimidation, need to be shown the door by the voters at the earliest opportunity.

Positivity: Woman Earns Silver Star in Afghan War

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Afghanistan (HT Dave in Texas at Ace’s Place):

March 9, 2008

A 19-year-old medic from Texas will become the first woman in Afghanistan and only the second female soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor.

Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown saved the lives of fellow soldiers after a roadside bomb tore through a convoy of Humvees in the eastern Paktia province in April 2007, the military said.

After the explosion, which wounded five soldiers in her unit, Brown ran through insurgent gunfire and used her body to shield wounded comrades as mortars fell less than 100 yards away, the military said.

“I did not really think about anything except for getting the guys to a safer location and getting them taken care of and getting them out of there,” Brown told The Associated Press on Saturday at a U.S. base in the eastern province of Khost.

Brown, of Lake Jackson, Texas, is scheduled to receive the Silver Star later this month. She was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil in the eastern province of Paktia on April 25, 2007, when a bomb struck one of the Humvees.

“We stopped the convoy. I opened up my door and grabbed my aid bag,” Brown said.

She started running toward the burning vehicle as insurgents opened fire. All five wounded soldiers had scrambled out.

“I assessed the patients to see how bad they were. We tried to move them to a safer location because we were still receiving incoming fire,” Brown said.

Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in front-line combat roles — in the infantry, armor or artillery, for example. But the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no real front lines, has seen women soldiers take part in close-quarters combat more than previous conflicts.

Four Army nurses in World War II were the first women to receive the Silver Star, though three nurses serving in World War I were awarded the medal posthumously last year, according to the Army’s Web site.
Brown, of the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, said ammunition going off inside the burning Humvee was sending shrapnel in all directions. She said they were sitting in a dangerous spot.

“So we dragged them for 100 or 200 meters, got them away from the Humvee a little bit,” she said. “I was in a kind of a robot-mode, did not think about much but getting the guys taken care of.”

For Brown, who knew all five wounded soldiers, it became a race to get them all to a safer location. Eventually, they moved the wounded some 500 yards away and treated them on site before putting them on a helicopter for evacuation.

Go here for the rest of the story.