Saturday, August 2, 2014

Welcome Back, Spitzer

Nature abhors a vacuum, and Eliot Spitzer didn't have much to do after his foray into TV punditry crashed and burned, a few times. It was a match made in...New York.  The disgraced former governor, marauding attorney general, overly ambitious assistant district attorney, horn-dog hypocrite and liar, now wants to do the books for New York City.

Well, not really do the books, as he wants to use the oversight authority of the Comptroller's office to once again become the sheriff of something. He got a lot of mileage out of playing sheriff, as the public loves the pretense of someone in public officer "fixing" the people they hate. Few were able to create targets of derision better than Spitzer, enough so that when he used bazookas to go after flies, even innocent flies, the only sound from the groundlings was applause.

At Cato, Walter Olson reminds us of who this Spitzer guy was before his fall from grace. But hubris never takes a day off, so Spitzer made his pitch:

On “CBS This Morning,” Spitzer said, “I sinned, I owned up to it, I looked them in the eye, I resigned, I held myself accountable. I think that was the only right thing to do. There’s a record there that I hope they will look to and say, ‘yes, the comptroller’s position is one that fits his skill set and we hope that we can bring him back for public service.’”
Some might think the generous thing to do, particularly from someone inclined toward redemption as befits a criminal defense lawyer, would be to accept his concession of wrongdoing, the price he paid by giving up the post of governor with his wife (could she be described as cuckolded?) forced to stand next to him as if this wasn't a humiliation so far beyond anything she could ever imagine happening to her. 

And yet, while his announcement has produced no end of hilarity in some circles, it should be taken with brutal seriousness.  George Santayana's warning comes to mind, though it strikes me as needing a slight adjustment here. It's not that we've forgotten the past of Eliot Spitzer, but maybe we just can't muster the will to reject him despite the past. There just isn't anyone else around who has enough name recognition, star stature, to interest us, unless Kim Kardashian jumps into the race. 

It's not that there aren't other people whose ideas are worthy of our political consideration, but, heck, Americans need to be spoonfed what they think because critical thought makes our head hurt and takes us away from important bonding time at fast food restaurants and in front of computer gaming consoles.

"Spitzer? Yeah, I remember that name. He was, like, somebody once, right?  Pass me a beer."

Even local newspapers aren't particularly outraged. In fact, because of what the New York Post calls a "talent drought," they are preparing to do what they never do: forgive.  Newsday says his candidacy is "worth a look," a curious position given its rush to convict the amorphous unindicted and forgive the admitted criminal. The Daily News takes a more level headed approach, relating the hard facts of his failures as governor to the job of comptroller to remind people that Spitzer would be a disaster even if he wasn't pond scum otherwise.

Since SJ isn't political, you might wonder why I've written a post about Spitzer, who wouldn't be eligible to vote no less run had he been prosecuted like a regular guy for what he did.  Because Eliot Spitzer would be the first guy, aside from Rudy Giuliani and Joe McCarthy, to string you up for a millisecond of adoration.

Is it unduly hopeful to believe that the age of the popular appeal of the avenging angel is over?  Is it wrong to hope that the public bloodlust for "getting" someone, anyone, so that we can pretend we've rid society of all the people who make our lives unpleasant and can go back to a time when we can only take for ourselves? 

Eliot Spitzer reflected the worst of us. Then he was gone, destroyed by his own hand as the overly righteous should be.  And now he's back?  Will we reject him and all he represents because we've had enough of the avenging angels?  Or are we as still as angry and mindless as we were when he was crowned governor?

Go away, Spitzer. Just go away.


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