Commentary Magazine


Topic: close adviser

Paterson, Spitzer, Sharpton — An Eternal Golden Braid

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

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Privileged, Indeed

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

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