Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Talk about a guy who just can't catch a break. He was mendng fences, working with the legislature, and his main opponent was getting wrapped up in an ethics scandal. Things were starting to get back on track for New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Then something like this happens.

We don't know the facts yet, but the situation is bad however it turns out. The word right now seems to be that the Governor paid about $4,000 for a night with a prostitute. The newscasters yesterday must have used the word "stunning" (as in "stunning revelations", "stunning charges", etc.) about 10,000 yesterday, but I don't blame them. After all, this was the guy who was supposed to clean up Albany.

While we wait for more facts to come out (and see how the Governor responds), here are a few loosely connected thoughts.

1. Note to politicians: You will ALWAYS get caught.

If we haven't learned anything else from Bill Clinton, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, and now Eliot Spitzer, it's that politicians will always get caught. Brilliant people though each of them may be in their field, they are very dumb about this. What Spitzer lacks is a plausible excuse for why he thought he'd be able to get away with hiring a prostitute. Larry Craig demonstrated pretty clearly that even trying to solicit anonymous sex in an airport bathroom gets caught. What did Spitzer think was going to happen if he paid for a prostitute.

2. Even smart guys can be dumb.

This is kind of a corollary to the first point. By most accounts Eliot Spitzer is pretty brilliant. Well, he was. But this has to rank as one of the more boneheaded moves we can expect to see from a politician. I don't know if it's ego, libido, or something else entirely, but this was not a smart move.

3. The perfect storm of circumstances.

In addition to being dumb, Spitzer set himself up in a perfect storm of circumstances and revelations. First of all, coming to Albany as a crusading ethics reformer and then sleeping with prostitutes is obviously going to be made a big deal of. Every news report is going to make note of that fact and the phrase hypocrite is going to be in pretty heavy circulation for the next few days. In addition, as more and more details come out it becomes clear that this is like some sort of tabloid writer's fantasy. Prostitutes, Client-9, "Kristen", wire taps, "unsafe acts," and the sadly ironic detail that the whole thing took place the day before Valentine's Day means there will be plenty to write about for a while.

4. The New York Times is not afraid to pull the trigger.

Just weeks after being roundly panned for running a thinly and anonymously sourced story about possible sexual indiscretions from Republican presidential candidate John McCain, the Times was back in action again. The story, as posted when I first read it at around 2 p.m. yesterday seemed to have one or two unnamed sources. That was it at the time, though now the floodgates have opened and the story has been fleshed out. It's interesting that these allegations are much more sensational (stunning even) than what was released on McCain. But the Times ran with it. Give them chutzpah points for not being afraid to pull the trigger.

We'll see what happens today and in the next few days. My guess is that soon Eliot Spitzer will have plenty of free time to dedicate to regaining the trust of his family.

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