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.