Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eliot Spitzer

The Media and the End of President Christie

For supporters of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, it’s difficult to look at this past week’s events in any but catastrophic terms. A week ago, Christie was still basking in the glow of his landslide reelection and at the top of polls for Republican presidential candidates in 2016. Today, he is drowning in a sea of negative stories about Bridgegate. Yesterday’s apologetic news conference and penitential trip to Fort Lee did little to halt the avalanche of criticism from the mainstream media. Though most political professionals thought his performance at the press conference at which he answered every question was good, most of the reviews have been scathing with pundits denouncing even his straightforward apologies as merely more examples of his self-centered nature. Indeed, his claim that “I am not a bully” will inevitably be compared to Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”

As I wrote on Wednesday, there is neither proof nor reason to think the governor had any direct involvement in Bridgegate, Christie brought much of this firestorm on himself. He built his tough-guy reputation with an arrogant, pugnacious style that lends credibility to the notion that he created an environment that might lead some staffers to think he would approve of a petty, vindictive prank on a town run by a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse the governor’s re-election bid. Christie deserved every bit of the crow he was forced to publicly consume, and if many observers are saying his professions of ignorance about what happened are indicative of a faulty management style that is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s excuses for ignorance about his administration’s scandals, there is no obvious defense to the charge. Christie’s dream of winning the White House has been dealt a fatal blow and given that the same media that lionized him last fall will never let him live this down, it is far from clear exactly how he will be able to get back on message in the coming weeks and months. The betting here is that this marks the unofficial end of the governor’s presidential hopes. Two years is a lifetime in politics, but not long enough for this crisis to recede from public memory in time to rebound and recapture the enthusiasm for his 2016 candidacy.

That is the major fact to be understood about Bridgegate. However, once we acknowledge that Christie’s political brand is so tarnished by this episode that he won’t be able to reassume the mantle of the GOP frontrunner, it will then be time to ask whether the mainstream media that helped create Christie’s popularity was entirely correct in the way they destroyed it.

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For supporters of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, it’s difficult to look at this past week’s events in any but catastrophic terms. A week ago, Christie was still basking in the glow of his landslide reelection and at the top of polls for Republican presidential candidates in 2016. Today, he is drowning in a sea of negative stories about Bridgegate. Yesterday’s apologetic news conference and penitential trip to Fort Lee did little to halt the avalanche of criticism from the mainstream media. Though most political professionals thought his performance at the press conference at which he answered every question was good, most of the reviews have been scathing with pundits denouncing even his straightforward apologies as merely more examples of his self-centered nature. Indeed, his claim that “I am not a bully” will inevitably be compared to Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”

As I wrote on Wednesday, there is neither proof nor reason to think the governor had any direct involvement in Bridgegate, Christie brought much of this firestorm on himself. He built his tough-guy reputation with an arrogant, pugnacious style that lends credibility to the notion that he created an environment that might lead some staffers to think he would approve of a petty, vindictive prank on a town run by a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse the governor’s re-election bid. Christie deserved every bit of the crow he was forced to publicly consume, and if many observers are saying his professions of ignorance about what happened are indicative of a faulty management style that is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s excuses for ignorance about his administration’s scandals, there is no obvious defense to the charge. Christie’s dream of winning the White House has been dealt a fatal blow and given that the same media that lionized him last fall will never let him live this down, it is far from clear exactly how he will be able to get back on message in the coming weeks and months. The betting here is that this marks the unofficial end of the governor’s presidential hopes. Two years is a lifetime in politics, but not long enough for this crisis to recede from public memory in time to rebound and recapture the enthusiasm for his 2016 candidacy.

That is the major fact to be understood about Bridgegate. However, once we acknowledge that Christie’s political brand is so tarnished by this episode that he won’t be able to reassume the mantle of the GOP frontrunner, it will then be time to ask whether the mainstream media that helped create Christie’s popularity was entirely correct in the way they destroyed it.

As much as shutting down lanes on the George Washington Bridge as “revenge” was an astonishingly stupid thing for Christie’s aides to have done, at this point it’s time to note the disproportional nature of the attention to this story. The liberal media that spent a year treating questions about Benghazi as a Republican distraction and refused to draw any dire conclusions about the politicization of the IRS are now treating a traffic jam as more important than the deaths of four Americans at the hands of terrorists or the unconstitutional behavior of the most powerful agency in the government. Moreover, if Christie were a liberal Democratic star  who abused power in this manner rather than a Republican, it’s fair to assume the scandal wouldn’t be front-page news. We know that to a certainty because then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer used the state police to spy on his political opponents—a maneuver that is at least as egregious if not far more serious than Bridgegate—without it being treated as front-page news in the New York Times or dominating cable TV news.

That the political press would go all-out on a story as juicy as this one is neither surprising nor, in and of itself, necessarily indicative of bias. But the idea that this was not only an embarrassment and worthy of censure but also merited calls for Christie’s resignation is the sign of how quickly this incident became a political stick with which to crush the man widely thought to be the most electable Republican in the 2016 field.

It should be stipulated that if proof ever emerges that Christie directly ordered lane closings on the bridge for political purposes, this will get a lot worse for him. But given the way he openly mocked suggestions that he had personally taken part in the scheme only last month, that seems unlikely. Even those who are rightly outraged at this abuse of power must admit the nature of the scandal doesn’t rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

While I think a thorough investigation of the affair is warranted, it’s far from clear what laws were actually broken other than the informal rules of political conduct that ought to prevent those in power from abusing their prerogatives. Many people were inconvenienced in a prank that still makes no sense, but no money was stolen and, despite efforts to hype the angle of ambulance delays, no lives were lost as a result of the lane closures. It’s doubtful that anyone who would claim this should be enough to force Christie’s resignation from office (the subject of a New York Times “Room for Debate” feature) would be doing so were he not a Republican who looked like a major obstacle to Democratic hopes of winning the 2016 presidential election.

The overkill on Christie may be excused by his presidential ambitions, but the attention paid to this story and the refusal to accept his explanations stands in stark contrast to the willingness by many of the same media outlets to accept President Obama’s excuses about his administration’s scandals last summer. The same New York Times that now dismisses any attempt by Christie to disavow personal responsibility scoffed at anyone that would try to hold the president or his then-secretary of state accountable for what had happened on his watch with respect to Benghazi, the IRS, or spying on the media.

It should also be remembered that while Spitzer was brought down by a sex scandal, prior to that we knew he used New York State Troopers to spy on his political opponents, an abuse of power that is far more frightening from the point of view of democracy than the creation of a traffic jam. Like Christie, that, too, was in keeping with Spitzer’s reputation as a political bully earned while he played the “Sheriff of Wall Street” as New York’s attorney general. But if the liberal media paid any attention to it at the time, it was considered merely business as usual in the rough and tumble world of Albany politics. The fact that virtually no one on the right is making this point is an indication of how unpopular Christie had become among conservatives who can usually be counted upon to speak up when one of their own is under liberal media siege.

After three days, attacks on Christie have risen to the level of overkill and can’t be reasonably sustained without further material that is unlikely to exist. Saying this doesn’t diminish the damaging nature of the revelations or undo the damage that was done to his political career. But once the dust has settled, it will be time to ask ourselves whether the hysteria we’ve witnessed this week was entirely justified and why the same media that has all but buried Governor Christie stands silent and remains unmotivated to do the same amount of digging to expose the inner workings of the scandals in the Obama administration.

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Let Us Now Praise Public Morality

By the time New York’s Democrats voted in their primary this week, the issue that transfixed the chattering classes earlier in the year had virtually disappeared. As it turns out, both of the disgraced celebrity politicians who sought redemption in this year’s municipal elections were soundly thrashed. The prospect that the political careers of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are over is a source of understandable grief to headline writers and the bottom lines of New York’s tabloids, but the rest of the nation surely breathed a sigh of relief at the demise of the hopes of that unholy duo. That should cause those of us who wondered about what the ability of such figures to survive personal scandals meant for America to not be quite as shy about putting forward a case for public morality in the future.

The idea that public figures should be held to a standard of moral conduct is widely ridiculed by most of the chattering classes these days. It’s not that they approve of aberrant or immoral behavior, they tell us, but when those in the cross hairs of scandalmongers are either useful or popular, especially if they are liberals, then we are told not to confuse private conduct with public duties. The notion that there can be any link between immorality and qualification for high office is generally considered to be either passé or downright perverse. But it is also possible that after Weiner and Spitzer flopped at the polls, what we are seeing is that many voters, even in cosmopolitan New York, expect more from those they entrust with public honors than pop stars. If so, then that is something we should not only welcome but also encourage.

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By the time New York’s Democrats voted in their primary this week, the issue that transfixed the chattering classes earlier in the year had virtually disappeared. As it turns out, both of the disgraced celebrity politicians who sought redemption in this year’s municipal elections were soundly thrashed. The prospect that the political careers of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are over is a source of understandable grief to headline writers and the bottom lines of New York’s tabloids, but the rest of the nation surely breathed a sigh of relief at the demise of the hopes of that unholy duo. That should cause those of us who wondered about what the ability of such figures to survive personal scandals meant for America to not be quite as shy about putting forward a case for public morality in the future.

The idea that public figures should be held to a standard of moral conduct is widely ridiculed by most of the chattering classes these days. It’s not that they approve of aberrant or immoral behavior, they tell us, but when those in the cross hairs of scandalmongers are either useful or popular, especially if they are liberals, then we are told not to confuse private conduct with public duties. The notion that there can be any link between immorality and qualification for high office is generally considered to be either passé or downright perverse. But it is also possible that after Weiner and Spitzer flopped at the polls, what we are seeing is that many voters, even in cosmopolitan New York, expect more from those they entrust with public honors than pop stars. If so, then that is something we should not only welcome but also encourage.

It must be admitted that each such case of a transgressor seeking redemption is different. The free pass much of the nation gave—and continues to give—President Clinton for his lies about sex and dalliances with a White House intern in the Oval Office led some, like William Bennett, to lament “the death of outrage” and to rightly point out the deleterious impact this would have on society as a whole. Perhaps if Weiner or Spitzer had not both been generally despised as obnoxious political loners even when they were riding high, they, too, might have been quickly forgiven and their detractors ostracized as Puritan hypocrites. Perhaps also the nature of some of these offenses has something to do with it as straight-forward adultery, such as that committed by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, was more easily understood by voters in a society where divorce is commonplace than the bizarre doings of Weiner or Spitzer’s money-laundering that enabled his patronage of prostitutes.

Indeed, in Weiner’s case, it was, as was true of Clinton, the lies that were most damnable. Perhaps the time has not yet arrived when Americans will think nothing of a member of the House of Representatives tweeting photos of their genitals to strange women, but I doubt there will ever be much tolerance for those who do such things and then claim that the journalists (like the late Andrew Breitbart) who reported it were perpetrating a hoax. Nor will the public ever accept a politician who claims he’s reformed and then is revealed to have continued his mad behavior long after he said he went straight, as Weiner did.

But in a country whose worst problems are caused in no small measure by social pathologies such as illegitimacy and the breakdown of the family, can we really afford to be blasé about those who aspire to lead the nation whose personal immorality becomes a matter of public record?

To praise public morality doesn’t mean that we should be putting politicians who can’t behave in the stocks. We all make mistakes and those who are not reticent about casting the first stone should remember what happened to the political careers of adulterous House Republicans who impeached Clinton on charges relating to sexual impropriety. Neither party has a monopoly on morality or truth.

But it does mean that we should not treat these matters as lightly as many in the media would have us do when their favorites are not the targets of the tabloids. Outrage about wrongdoing doesn’t mean we must chain those who sin to a rock. A nation with high moral standards need not be a nation of saints, but it is one that knows the difference between right and wrong. Heaven help us if we ever become a country where not knowing that difference is no longer a political problem. The idea that there is no connection between loose morals and public integrity is a theory that admirers of John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and others adhere to. But that is a case that is hard to make for most ordinary politicians whose honesty is usually a fungible commodity.

Earlier this year, Mark Sanford ran for and won a congressional seat by apologizing endlessly for his misdeeds. That played well in a religious state where belief in redemption is widespread. Weiner and Spitzer’s apologies were perfunctory and quickly abandoned and they found out that in sophisticated New York, not so many people love a former sinner as in the south. Let’s hope their defeats will serve as an example that will help remind our leaders that their belief that they have impunity to misbehave says more about their egos than it does public opinion.

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“Empty”: Eliot Spitzer’s Creepy New Ad

The best thing Eliot Spitzer has going for his race to be New York City comptroller is that voters don’t pay enough attention to the job to be overly concerned about the potential damage someone as destructive as Spitzer can cause in the office. (Stop random New Yorkers on the street and ask them if they even know who their current comptroller is; many won’t, even though he’s currently also running for mayor.)

But they should be concerned, because the job of comptroller, which involves financial management and oversight for the city, is one that Spitzer is almost uniquely unqualified for. What’s more, Spitzer is so lost in his own world of narcissistic hyperactivity that his campaign is determined to remind voters just how unqualified he is for the job. Take his latest ad, titled “Empty,” which is predicated on the belief that New Yorkers would vote for someone who promises to bring the city to financial ruin:

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The best thing Eliot Spitzer has going for his race to be New York City comptroller is that voters don’t pay enough attention to the job to be overly concerned about the potential damage someone as destructive as Spitzer can cause in the office. (Stop random New Yorkers on the street and ask them if they even know who their current comptroller is; many won’t, even though he’s currently also running for mayor.)

But they should be concerned, because the job of comptroller, which involves financial management and oversight for the city, is one that Spitzer is almost uniquely unqualified for. What’s more, Spitzer is so lost in his own world of narcissistic hyperactivity that his campaign is determined to remind voters just how unqualified he is for the job. Take his latest ad, titled “Empty,” which is predicated on the belief that New Yorkers would vote for someone who promises to bring the city to financial ruin:

    

Turning the city’s financial district into a ghost town is the kind of dystopian fantasy that may–may–run through the minds of Occupy Wall Street-style Chomskyite pseudoanarchists. But Spitzer wants to be elected to a vital position of power over the city’s finances. He is not a college freshman, when this sort of thing would have a certain idealistic charm only because of the near-certainty that the kid would grow out of it. That Spitzer’s admiration for bringing financial ruin to the private sector has only increased as he has aged tells you all you need to know about him.

But this should be no laughing matter to New Yorkers. In October 2011, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report detailing how the ongoing Wall Street sluggishness was hurting the city. DiNapoli is the comptroller for the state, not the city, but he made clear the damage being done to both. As the New York Times explained at the time:

Wall Street’s struggles will most likely be reflected in New York City’s tax revenue, as well as in the revenues of nonfinancial businesses, like high-end real estate firms and expensive restaurants, which depend on a steady flow of well-off customers. The comptroller’s report estimates that for every job lost on Wall Street, two are lost in the city in other industries, and one additional job is lost elsewhere in the state.

“These developments will have a rippling effect through the economy and adversely impact state and city tax collections,” Mr. DiNapoli said in the statement. “As we know, when Wall Street slows, New York City and New York State’s budgets feel the impact and that is a concern.”

Again: for every job lost on Wall Street, the city loses two more and the state an additional job. At the time, DiNapoli was warning that the securities industry could shed 10,000 more jobs over the following year. Tax revenue plummets, which for those who lost a job because of the city’s struggles and now rely more on city services is a perfect storm of financial crisis.

DiNapoli had been interviewed by WNYC radio about the report, and said that to put the numbers in perspective, the prior year Wall Street had been the source of 14 percent of the state’s tax revenue and 7 percent of the city revenue. DiNapoli was asked about the Occupy protests and how the protesters were calling for policies that could impoverish those they were claiming to represent. He responded, diplomatically:

When employment contracts, that’s personal income tax revenue, and money that’s spent in neighborhoods on goods and services, so that’s where that ripple effect happens.

That’s how a responsible comptroller speaks about basic economics. It’s also the opposite of how Spitzer sees the world. An empty financial district and taxpayers fleeing the city is a scene that leaves Spitzer grinning like a madman. It is disturbing both that Spitzer finds this so amusing and also that he thinks voters would too, hence the ad. As CNN reports:

The new ad is part of a $450,000 buy premiering this week and will be featured primarily on major news websites. Its twin came out Monday, a less triumphant spot that instead featured Spitzer’s admission of the personal failing that lead to his resignation as New York governor in 2008.

Making creepy, “triumphant” videos about New York City as a ghost town is how Spitzer spends his own money. New Yorkers can be forgiven for wondering just what he’ll do when he has access to theirs.

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A Penalty for Polluting the Public Square?

In recent weeks there’s been a lot of self-congratulation on the part of some pundits who believe the relative acceptance of scandal-ridden politicians by the voters is a sign of maturity in the American body politic. If, we were told, men like Rep. Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, and Eliot Spitzer could be embraced by the public—Sanford won a special congressional election in South Carolina while the latter two have risen to the top in polls in this year’s New York City municipal elections—then it was taken as a sign that Americans were no longer interested in public morality and had left any Victorian inhibitions about public life behind. There was already plenty of evidence for this trend prior to this year. Former President Bill Clinton’s disgraceful carrying on with a White House intern is practically forgotten. Similarly, Louisiana voters seem to have forgiven Senator David Vitter for his patronage of prostitutes. But if Anthony Weiner survives the publication of more embarrassing evidence from the scandal that ended his congressional career, an entirely new boundary will have been crossed.

As he told us when he entered this year’s race to become the next mayor New York, there was more proof out there of his bizarre use of the Internet. But while New Yorkers may have been willing to support Weiner on the assumption that his aberrant behavior was in the past, the publication of sexually charged text exchanges between the former congressman and a woman who is not his wife may be a bridge too far for even the enlightened citizens of Gotham. Weiner’s initial admission that at least some of what has been made public by a gossip website is accurate, as well as the possibility that some of the exchanges took place after he was forced out of Congress, alters the political calculus of his comeback. Not only is Weiner compelled to relive the shame of the initial scandal, these revelations may show that his misbehavior continued even after he vowed to change his ways and affect the willingness of his wife to continue vouching for him as she has throughout the campaign. Given the deluge of ridicule that is about to land on his head again, I think it’s now even money as to whether Weiner’s candidacy survives this incident and highly doubtful that he can ever be elected mayor.

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In recent weeks there’s been a lot of self-congratulation on the part of some pundits who believe the relative acceptance of scandal-ridden politicians by the voters is a sign of maturity in the American body politic. If, we were told, men like Rep. Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, and Eliot Spitzer could be embraced by the public—Sanford won a special congressional election in South Carolina while the latter two have risen to the top in polls in this year’s New York City municipal elections—then it was taken as a sign that Americans were no longer interested in public morality and had left any Victorian inhibitions about public life behind. There was already plenty of evidence for this trend prior to this year. Former President Bill Clinton’s disgraceful carrying on with a White House intern is practically forgotten. Similarly, Louisiana voters seem to have forgiven Senator David Vitter for his patronage of prostitutes. But if Anthony Weiner survives the publication of more embarrassing evidence from the scandal that ended his congressional career, an entirely new boundary will have been crossed.

As he told us when he entered this year’s race to become the next mayor New York, there was more proof out there of his bizarre use of the Internet. But while New Yorkers may have been willing to support Weiner on the assumption that his aberrant behavior was in the past, the publication of sexually charged text exchanges between the former congressman and a woman who is not his wife may be a bridge too far for even the enlightened citizens of Gotham. Weiner’s initial admission that at least some of what has been made public by a gossip website is accurate, as well as the possibility that some of the exchanges took place after he was forced out of Congress, alters the political calculus of his comeback. Not only is Weiner compelled to relive the shame of the initial scandal, these revelations may show that his misbehavior continued even after he vowed to change his ways and affect the willingness of his wife to continue vouching for him as she has throughout the campaign. Given the deluge of ridicule that is about to land on his head again, I think it’s now even money as to whether Weiner’s candidacy survives this incident and highly doubtful that he can ever be elected mayor.

For redemption to work there must be closure, and it’s almost certain that this ridiculous discussion will continue. Moreover, given Weiner’s initial lies about his behavior two years ago, any denials issued today about the dating of this exchanges must be taken with a shovelful of salt.

Americans love comeback stories and seem willing to give people second chances. But even if this episodes dies down, Weiner must now ask New Yorkers for a third chance, and that seems a stretch even if you consider the weakness of his competition.

It’s also an interesting question to see if Weiner’s decline either helps or hurts Spitzer. It may be that the collapse of Weiner will make it easier for Spitzer to win the post of controller, but it’s also entirely possible that some of the disgust of the voters for Weiner’s continuing antics will attach to Spitzer. It remains to be seen if the “ick” factor of Weiner’s Internet fetish will ultimately be considered less forgivable than Spitzer’s more traditional employment of call girls.

But however this shakes out in New York, the spectacle of voters being asked to give politicians a pass for this kind of misbehavior is also an argument for reverting to a moral code that might require them to stay out of public life once they’ve transgressed. None of us are perfect and we all require forgiveness at times. But the notion that it is too much to ask those given the honor and the responsibility of power to behave themselves is one that can sink under the weight of ridicule.

If Anthony Weiner accomplishes anything this year, it might be to remind us that there is a case to be made for probity and decorum in the public square and that Americans prefer not to be led by sexual scoundrels. If that makes us prudes who want to preserve supposedly antiquated ideas about public morality, then so be it. Let’s have an end to faux campaigns of redemption and fake apologies. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with requiring politicians who can’t avoid personal scandal that brings dishonor on their offices and their families to simply go away. It’s time for Weiner or anyone like him to stop bothering us with their addictions to power and sexual misconduct and find peace out of the public eye. There ought to be a penalty for polluting the public square in this manner, and Weiner should pay it.

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Why Everybody Hates Eliot

Earlier today, MSNBC’s Morning Joe program provided a public service when it supplied us with an answer to the question that had been bothering me for the last day: why is it that the liberal political and media establishment is so unwilling to give one of their own a second chance? Given an opportunity to sell a national audience on his quest for personal redemption and a renewed political career, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer talked about his regrets about his hubris as well as his desire to return to public service by running to be controller of New York City. But not satisfied with that, Spitzer felt the need to eschew the intellectual arguments for his return to the public eye and tried for some emotion. When asked how he had changed in the years since he crashed and burned in the midst of his prostitution scandal, Spitzer attempted to manufacture some tears when speaking about “the pain” he had gone through. But, like his brief term as governor that was disrupted by out-of-control behavior that involved both public and private misconduct, the effort was a failure. No tears fell.

It was the sort of transparently false and feeble performance that has killed many a theatrical career but it also may have provided something of an explanation as to why the same liberal organs that once lionized Spitzer are now determined to thwart his comeback bid. Hypocrisy is a common failing among the chattering classes—especially its liberal battalion—but chutzpah on this scale in which a fallen pol seeks to use money and celebrity to reclaim his hold on power appears to be a bridge too far for most of them. That was shown today as the New York Times responded to Spitzer’s assault on the electorate with a two-pronged counter-attack. A front-page feature highlighted the dismay of the city’s liberal elites about his candidacy as well as the disgust of labor unions and the business community, and was echoed by a scathing editorial. The editorial made it clear that unlike the equivocal if not largely favorable response to fellow reformed miscreant Anthony Weiner’s comeback attempt, the Times and its main constituencies were prepared to stop at nothing to derail him. The would-be redeemed sinner’s chutzpah is simply too much to take even for the Times. Everybody, it seems, hates Eliot Spitzer.

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Earlier today, MSNBC’s Morning Joe program provided a public service when it supplied us with an answer to the question that had been bothering me for the last day: why is it that the liberal political and media establishment is so unwilling to give one of their own a second chance? Given an opportunity to sell a national audience on his quest for personal redemption and a renewed political career, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer talked about his regrets about his hubris as well as his desire to return to public service by running to be controller of New York City. But not satisfied with that, Spitzer felt the need to eschew the intellectual arguments for his return to the public eye and tried for some emotion. When asked how he had changed in the years since he crashed and burned in the midst of his prostitution scandal, Spitzer attempted to manufacture some tears when speaking about “the pain” he had gone through. But, like his brief term as governor that was disrupted by out-of-control behavior that involved both public and private misconduct, the effort was a failure. No tears fell.

It was the sort of transparently false and feeble performance that has killed many a theatrical career but it also may have provided something of an explanation as to why the same liberal organs that once lionized Spitzer are now determined to thwart his comeback bid. Hypocrisy is a common failing among the chattering classes—especially its liberal battalion—but chutzpah on this scale in which a fallen pol seeks to use money and celebrity to reclaim his hold on power appears to be a bridge too far for most of them. That was shown today as the New York Times responded to Spitzer’s assault on the electorate with a two-pronged counter-attack. A front-page feature highlighted the dismay of the city’s liberal elites about his candidacy as well as the disgust of labor unions and the business community, and was echoed by a scathing editorial. The editorial made it clear that unlike the equivocal if not largely favorable response to fellow reformed miscreant Anthony Weiner’s comeback attempt, the Times and its main constituencies were prepared to stop at nothing to derail him. The would-be redeemed sinner’s chutzpah is simply too much to take even for the Times. Everybody, it seems, hates Eliot Spitzer.

The Times editorial was remarkable in a number of respects. For an editorial column that has seemed to pride itself in recent years on unrelieved stuffiness and terminal pomposity, the paper’s willingness to cut loose on Spitzer in this manner was as refreshing as it was unexpected. The piece lambasted Spitzer and Weiner as “charter members of the Kardashian Party,” who seek to use their notoriety as “the quick, easy path to redemption.” It even referred to Spitzer as “Client 9”—the infamous codename for the former governor used by the prostitution establishment that he patronized—an astonishing breach of the paper’s normally highfalutin tone. Honestly, I didn’t know they had it in them. Spitzer’s odious character is apparently enough to cause even the most hidebound liberal talking shop to lose their cool.

To the Times’s credit, the paper rightly noted (as our John Steele Gordon did yesterday) that his predilection for purchasing illicit sex wasn’t the only thing wrong with Spitzer when he was forced to resign. The lying and the cheating (as well as the illegal money laundering methods he employed to hide his rather extravagant payments to the “escort” service) about sex was bad. But it was not as awful as what he did in Albany as the self-described “steamroller,” which alienated allies as well as opponents. The reason his sexual transgression resonated with so many people is that it seemed of a piece with everything else he did. It made sense that a man who acted like a thug and bully in public would feel the need to purchase women whom he could command in that manner.

Along with Weiner, Spitzer has condemned New York to what the Times rightly calls “a summer of farce” in which their personal quest for ego gratification after being deprived of the attention they crave will overshadow discussion of the issues. No doubt we will have more fake tears from Spitzer as well as more tedious attempts from the former governor to portray himself as the solution to New York’s problems rather than the embodiment of the cancer eating away at our public life.

I don’t know whether the revulsion toward Spitzer on the part of so many liberal elites will be enough to offset his advantage in name recognition and money stemming from his family’s vast personal fortune. Perhaps, as the Times editorial seems to indicate, there is a growing recognition that the Bill Clinton paradigm of giving politicians a pass for misconduct undermines public ethics. All of us are flawed and Americans love the idea of second chances, but we also know that it isn’t too much to ask those entrusted with high public office to behave themselves or to ask them to stay out of the limelight when they cannot. But whether or not Spitzer or even Weiner can be stopped, it is a sign of health in our political culture that so many who might have once been counted on to give them a pass in the name of solidarity with liberal stalwarts are no longer willing to silently acquiesce to this sordid circus. 

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Eliot Spitzer Wants Back in Politics

The New York Times is reporting, in its lead article this morning, that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was forced to resign after his liaison with a high-priced call girl became public knowledge, is going to run for city comptroller in this year’s New York City elections. Like Anthony Weiner, who is running for mayor after being forced to resign from Congress because of a “sexting” scandal, he is asking the public to forgive him.

Personally, I’ve never thought that one’s private sexual peccadilloes, even if they become public, should automatically disbar someone from public office. After all, both Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were capable presidents while being chronic philanderers. Finding that the high and the mighty have feet of clay is irresistible journalistic catnip, but it’s a poor way to choose leaders. After all, as Catholics say, we are all miserable sinners.

But let’s take a look at Spitzer’s performance as a public servant, specifically his career as New York attorney general. In that office he was far more interested in his own political advancement than in anything else, choosing his cases with an eye to generating publicity as a crusader against Wall Street peculation. And his tactics in these cases were often abhorrent: As Ben Smith writes:

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The New York Times is reporting, in its lead article this morning, that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was forced to resign after his liaison with a high-priced call girl became public knowledge, is going to run for city comptroller in this year’s New York City elections. Like Anthony Weiner, who is running for mayor after being forced to resign from Congress because of a “sexting” scandal, he is asking the public to forgive him.

Personally, I’ve never thought that one’s private sexual peccadilloes, even if they become public, should automatically disbar someone from public office. After all, both Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were capable presidents while being chronic philanderers. Finding that the high and the mighty have feet of clay is irresistible journalistic catnip, but it’s a poor way to choose leaders. After all, as Catholics say, we are all miserable sinners.

But let’s take a look at Spitzer’s performance as a public servant, specifically his career as New York attorney general. In that office he was far more interested in his own political advancement than in anything else, choosing his cases with an eye to generating publicity as a crusader against Wall Street peculation. And his tactics in these cases were often abhorrent: As Ben Smith writes:

Spitzer was, as New York State Attorney General, a terrifying and fascinating figure. He had learned from his legendary former boss Robert Morgenthau that under-resourced public prosecutors can’t beat deep-pocketed law firms on a level playing field, and that where banks and wealthy defendants may have time and money on their side, prosecutors can use the press to erase at least the first advantage. He leaked shamelessly, and even as he denied leaking, playing extremely high-stakes games with the stock prices of major corporations. He understood the power of fear and the innate conservatism of corporate executives, and persuaded much of New York City’s financial elite that he was actually out of his mind — an incredibly valuable perception in high-stakes negotiations.

Bullying was standard operating procedure for Spitzer as attorney general. When the former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, criticized his prosecution of a financial executive, Spitzer called him and said, “Mr. Whitehead, it’s now a war between us and you’ve fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter.” His language was often far worse with other victims of his wrath.

Indictment for an individual is, certainly, bad news. But for a corporation it can be a death sentence, especially on Wall Street where trust is everything. Credit dries up, deals disappear, the stock price collapses. So when Spitzer went after Hank Greenberg, the long-time head of A.I.G., the insurance giant, the company felt that it had no choice but to have Mr. Greenberg—who had built the small company into one of the world’s largest insurance companies—resign. Greenberg was replaced by a mediocrity and in 2008, the company—which was “too big to fail”—had to be bailed out by the federal government. We’ll never know if Greenberg could have prevented that calamity, but he was never indicted criminally and most of the civil charges have been dismissed.

There’s no reason he wouldn’t bring the same tactics to the office of city comptroller. New York City is quite uncivil enough as it is without the likes of Eliot Spitzer’s bullying, threatening, and self-aggrandizing.

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Schneiderman’s Partisan Fishing Expedition

Liberals are still seething over the way the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Citizens United decision in the Montana campaign finance law case where state restrictions on political spending were rightly overruled. But this defense of free speech rights will not go unanswered by a Democratic Party that thinks allowing citizens and groups to support ideas and candidates is a scandal. That’s why New York’s left-wing attorney general is launching a brazenly partisan attack on the right of political speech in the guise of an investigation of alleged violations of the tax code.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a hard-line liberal who has been itching to use his post to both fight for restrictive campaign finance laws and to garner the publicity that will enable him to advance his career. On the surface, Schneiderman is merely conducting a probe into contributions to tax-exempt groups. But by focusing his attention on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business conservative group, the political intent of the investigation is obvious.

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Liberals are still seething over the way the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Citizens United decision in the Montana campaign finance law case where state restrictions on political spending were rightly overruled. But this defense of free speech rights will not go unanswered by a Democratic Party that thinks allowing citizens and groups to support ideas and candidates is a scandal. That’s why New York’s left-wing attorney general is launching a brazenly partisan attack on the right of political speech in the guise of an investigation of alleged violations of the tax code.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a hard-line liberal who has been itching to use his post to both fight for restrictive campaign finance laws and to garner the publicity that will enable him to advance his career. On the surface, Schneiderman is merely conducting a probe into contributions to tax-exempt groups. But by focusing his attention on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business conservative group, the political intent of the investigation is obvious.

Schneiderman isn’t the first Democrat to try to use the post of New York attorney general to conduct politicized prosecutions to burnish his reputation. The now disgraced Eliot Spitzer’s attacks on Wall Street paved the way for his path to the governorship of the state. Current Governor Andrew Cuomo also used the post in this manner. But Schneiderman is not just another New York Democrat on the make. He’s an ideologue who campaigned on support for campaign finance laws and now appears to be willing to use his power to conduct an inquisition of conservative non-profits that will make him the darling of the left around the nation.

There is no obvious evidence of wrongdoing of any kind or legal violations on the part of the National Chamber Foundation, the Starr Foundation or the Chamber itself, though all have received subpoenas from Schneiderman. There is nothing unusual in the financing of some of the group’s activities by non-profit foundations. But what they are guilty of is being conservative groups in the crosshairs of leftist opponents seeking to brand their donations as somehow running afoul of the laws governing non-profits because of their advocacy for tort-reform, a cause that doesn’t sit well with Democratic constituencies such as trial lawyers and unions.

The same amorphous questions could be put to any non-profit involved in public advocacy. But political observers on both sides of the aisle understand that when probes like this are conducted, the only possible motivation is not respect for the law but a desire to criminalize political opponents.

Local political payback is also involved here because the Starr Group is headed by former AIG chair Maurice R. Greenberg, who was driven out of the country by a vindictive and ultimately failed prosecution launched by Spitzer during his climb up the greasy pole of New York politics.

Above all, the Schneiderman fishing expedition is an attempt to supply some proof that the Citizens United decision has unleashed a wave of political corruption, a key talking point for liberal critics of the landmark free speech case. In spite of their allegations that allowing organizations, including labor unions and other left-wing groups, to spend to promote their ideas, has despoiled politics, all Citizens United has done is to increase the amount of political speech. That is antithetical to leftists who wish to regulate the marketplace of ideas and repress the efforts of grassroots groups to fight back against big government initiatives.

Given the almost unlimited power of Schneiderman to conduct his probe, conservative groups should expect to be harassed in the coming months and years. But while Schneiderman and his cheerleaders in the mainstream press will represent this investigation as a public spirited attempt to rein in corruption, there can be no doubt that it is merely an unprincipled political witch hunt whose purpose is to cripple the efforts of conservative groups.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

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Parker-Spitzer — You Gotta Be Kidding

I haven’t been motivated to watch CNN’s new talking-heads show hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. Howard Kurtz’s column reviewing his own network’s show and the work of his colleague at the Post’s — why is this remotely acceptable, even with a disclaimer? — doesn’t entice me to reconsider. Kurtz pulls his punches a bit and explains that the show’s problem may be the insufficient amount of conflict. Parker is so darn nice. And she and Spitzer talk past one another without engaging in much debate.

If Kurtz were less conflicted (interest-wise) and less timid, he’d come out and say it: Parker isn’t an impressive representative of the right. She is the sort of conservative whom liberals love — scornful of Sarah Palin, uncreative, and ineffective. In other words, she isn’t going to advance the conservative agenda, so it’s fine to have her on. Meanwhile, Spitzer isn’t a representative of anything other than the debasement of “news.” He resigned in disgrace, spied on his enemies, and is regarded as entirely lacking in judgment (political and personal). So exactly what expertise does he bring to the show? Why should we accept the premise that he has some viable analysis to offer? Put aside whether he deserves public rehabilitation. He is utterly unqualified for the role he is assuming — political guru.

Jon Klein, the former head of CNN, came up with this show. He’s since been booted. Let’s hope this embarrassing excuse for a serious political program will as well.

I haven’t been motivated to watch CNN’s new talking-heads show hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. Howard Kurtz’s column reviewing his own network’s show and the work of his colleague at the Post’s — why is this remotely acceptable, even with a disclaimer? — doesn’t entice me to reconsider. Kurtz pulls his punches a bit and explains that the show’s problem may be the insufficient amount of conflict. Parker is so darn nice. And she and Spitzer talk past one another without engaging in much debate.

If Kurtz were less conflicted (interest-wise) and less timid, he’d come out and say it: Parker isn’t an impressive representative of the right. She is the sort of conservative whom liberals love — scornful of Sarah Palin, uncreative, and ineffective. In other words, she isn’t going to advance the conservative agenda, so it’s fine to have her on. Meanwhile, Spitzer isn’t a representative of anything other than the debasement of “news.” He resigned in disgrace, spied on his enemies, and is regarded as entirely lacking in judgment (political and personal). So exactly what expertise does he bring to the show? Why should we accept the premise that he has some viable analysis to offer? Put aside whether he deserves public rehabilitation. He is utterly unqualified for the role he is assuming — political guru.

Jon Klein, the former head of CNN, came up with this show. He’s since been booted. Let’s hope this embarrassing excuse for a serious political program will as well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton sounds like he swallowed a eugenics textbook. “[T]he most delicious part of that [slur on the Russian immigrants to Israel] performance was his extraordinary—no, his fantastical, his risible, his marvelously ludicrous—foray into sociology, with the ranking of Israelis’ attitudes toward peace according to their national origins.” Yup, it sure was a “spurious, illiterate, and really amazingly racist lesson in Israeli politics.”

But it sounds like he has an excuse: a protein deficiency. But even if he had a chicken leg now and then, I suspect he’d still say dumb things.

Rush Holt sounds like an AIPAC board member. The Emergency Committee for Israel ( whaich ran ads against him) sure does get results.

Nancy Pelosi sounds loopier than usual. “The momentum is with us.” And what’s with the Evita Peron pose?

Eliot Spitzer sounds like he’s peddling himself as a guru to “the dirtiest, nastiest” politicians. He’s found his niche.

Obama sounds like he’s got a plan to flee the midterm election recriminations. He will finally get to Indonesia — in November.

Chris Christie sounds like he’s an overachiever. “Part of Gov. Chris Christie’s belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.” He says he’s not interested in running for president, but that’s what Obama said in 2006. (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Independents sound like Republicans these days. “In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. … The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.” Wait — 62 percent?!

Bill Clinton sounds like he swallowed a eugenics textbook. “[T]he most delicious part of that [slur on the Russian immigrants to Israel] performance was his extraordinary—no, his fantastical, his risible, his marvelously ludicrous—foray into sociology, with the ranking of Israelis’ attitudes toward peace according to their national origins.” Yup, it sure was a “spurious, illiterate, and really amazingly racist lesson in Israeli politics.”

But it sounds like he has an excuse: a protein deficiency. But even if he had a chicken leg now and then, I suspect he’d still say dumb things.

Rush Holt sounds like an AIPAC board member. The Emergency Committee for Israel ( whaich ran ads against him) sure does get results.

Nancy Pelosi sounds loopier than usual. “The momentum is with us.” And what’s with the Evita Peron pose?

Eliot Spitzer sounds like he’s peddling himself as a guru to “the dirtiest, nastiest” politicians. He’s found his niche.

Obama sounds like he’s got a plan to flee the midterm election recriminations. He will finally get to Indonesia — in November.

Chris Christie sounds like he’s an overachiever. “Part of Gov. Chris Christie’s belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.” He says he’s not interested in running for president, but that’s what Obama said in 2006. (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Independents sound like Republicans these days. “In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. … The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.” Wait — 62 percent?!

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Doesn’t sound kosher: “Decoy Jews.”

Doesn’t sound like a problem easily fixed: Noemie Emery on the oil spill writes, “Initially, the diagnosis was that Mr. Cool perhaps had an emotional deficit — the downside of all that cerebral detachment — but this wasn’t quite accurate: He had, it turned out, a lot of emotion, but most of it (like with Hayward and the rest of the people at British Petroleum) turned more or less on himself.”

Doesn’t sound like a nominee who’s going to be much help to Obama: “Forty-two percent (42%) of U.S. voters now believe Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan should not be confirmed following the Senate hearings scheduled to begin next week. That’s up nine points from the week President Obama announced her nomination and the highest level of opposition to date.” Maybe it’s not Kagan but anything Obama that so many Americans are opposed to.

Doesn’t sound like they are kidding: “Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker will co-host a new hour long CNN primetime news program starting in the fall as the nation prepares for the 2010 midterm election, the network announced Wednesday morning.” I look forward to Parker’s unbiased take on Sarah Palin’s impact on the races and Spitzer’s insights on morality. Maybe John Edwards can guest-host.

Doesn’t sound like California Democrats are thrilled with their nominee: “California Democrats are starting to worry that gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown — who hasn’t had a truly competitive election in three decades — isn’t ready for the 21st-century campaign trail. Since the general election kicked off two weeks ago, Brown — the state attorney general and former governor with a well-known penchant for micromanaging all aspects of his campaigns — has made news for all the wrong reasons, while motoring along without any evidence that he is assembling a basic infrastructure for a statewide race.”

Doesn’t sound like government can spend its way out of a recession: “Purchases of U.S. new homes fell in May to the lowest level on record after a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support.”

Doesn’t sound like switching generals is going to change things. James Carafano: “It is still the president’s job to win the war and he is the one accountable to the American people. Nothing has really changed: the timeline is bad; by the military’s own estimate there are too few enough troops; and failure is not a good option.”

Doesn’t sound like the family name is an asset: “Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid (D) is on the air with his first campaign ad and it’s missing one thing: his last name.”

Doesn’t sound like the 17 percent have been paying attention: “New York State government is dysfunctional, 83 percent of voters say, the highest number ever measured in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … ‘New Yorkers are fed up with Albany. The resentment is bigger than we’ve ever measured. Just about half think that the whole Legislature should be voted out of office — even their own state senator and Assembly member,’ said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.”

Doesn’t sound kosher: “Decoy Jews.”

Doesn’t sound like a problem easily fixed: Noemie Emery on the oil spill writes, “Initially, the diagnosis was that Mr. Cool perhaps had an emotional deficit — the downside of all that cerebral detachment — but this wasn’t quite accurate: He had, it turned out, a lot of emotion, but most of it (like with Hayward and the rest of the people at British Petroleum) turned more or less on himself.”

Doesn’t sound like a nominee who’s going to be much help to Obama: “Forty-two percent (42%) of U.S. voters now believe Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan should not be confirmed following the Senate hearings scheduled to begin next week. That’s up nine points from the week President Obama announced her nomination and the highest level of opposition to date.” Maybe it’s not Kagan but anything Obama that so many Americans are opposed to.

Doesn’t sound like they are kidding: “Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker will co-host a new hour long CNN primetime news program starting in the fall as the nation prepares for the 2010 midterm election, the network announced Wednesday morning.” I look forward to Parker’s unbiased take on Sarah Palin’s impact on the races and Spitzer’s insights on morality. Maybe John Edwards can guest-host.

Doesn’t sound like California Democrats are thrilled with their nominee: “California Democrats are starting to worry that gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown — who hasn’t had a truly competitive election in three decades — isn’t ready for the 21st-century campaign trail. Since the general election kicked off two weeks ago, Brown — the state attorney general and former governor with a well-known penchant for micromanaging all aspects of his campaigns — has made news for all the wrong reasons, while motoring along without any evidence that he is assembling a basic infrastructure for a statewide race.”

Doesn’t sound like government can spend its way out of a recession: “Purchases of U.S. new homes fell in May to the lowest level on record after a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support.”

Doesn’t sound like switching generals is going to change things. James Carafano: “It is still the president’s job to win the war and he is the one accountable to the American people. Nothing has really changed: the timeline is bad; by the military’s own estimate there are too few enough troops; and failure is not a good option.”

Doesn’t sound like the family name is an asset: “Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid (D) is on the air with his first campaign ad and it’s missing one thing: his last name.”

Doesn’t sound like the 17 percent have been paying attention: “New York State government is dysfunctional, 83 percent of voters say, the highest number ever measured in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … ‘New Yorkers are fed up with Albany. The resentment is bigger than we’ve ever measured. Just about half think that the whole Legislature should be voted out of office — even their own state senator and Assembly member,’ said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.”

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Strange Herring

Porn star drops out of Louisiana race, compares herself to Sarah Palin. Would have been worse if it had been the other way around.

Germans fine Catholic bishop $13K for denying Holocaust. I always thought you couldn’t put a price on stupid. Leave it to the Germans.

Italy is the safest place on earth to give birth. And it has nothing to do with prenatal care or better midwifery. It’s because God loves Italians better than anyone else and wants to make sure there are always plenty around. It’s a proven fact. Look it up in one of those newfangled science books already…

Anthropology prof insists degrees should be offered in UFO Studies. They already exist. I mean liberal arts degrees, not UFOs.

Seems Blago is going to be charged with a “near-constant conspiracy of extortion and kickbacks after his 2002 election.” Near constant, but not constant. So he has that going for him.

And seems Eliot Spitzer’s a multitasker. (Oh I can see those campaign ads now…)

Comet eaten by the sun. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg insists calorie content be displayed prominently.

Speaking of NYC, it’s about to charge the homeless rent. Because they have all that disposable income. Because they don’t pay rent. Because they didn’t have any money in the first place. (Your turn.)

More NYC news: An agreement has been reached to finally close those “rubber rooms.” No, not at Bellevue, but at your local “reassignment center,” where abusive, drunk, stupid, and/or lazy public school teachers spend the day fast asleep — sometimes for years, and on full salary — while their “cases” are investigated. Instead of closing these centers, they should put abusive, drunk, stupid, and/or lazy students in the same room with them. There would at least be some kind of symmetry, not to mention poetic justice.

Steven Seagal’s reality TV show, where he plays a reserve deputy-type of law-enforcement type, is being suspended until the whole sex-slave business is resolved. Or turned into a reality TV show.

Krugman vs. Sorkin over who’s the authentic Communist and who’s the poseur. Or something. I fell asleep as soon as I read “Krugman…”

One more reason why I wish Dante were still among the living. We need yet another level of hell.

Sale of iPad overseas delayed. Apple fears that the product’s awesomeness will destabilize fragile foreign minds, resulting in civil wars and widespread economic collapse. That and the company didn’t make enough.

Bernanke says not to worry about inflation. Unemployment will probably hit 65%, so no one will have money to buy anything anyway.

You know, for a country that no one can place on a map, and that some people confuse with Greenland, and others with the Lost City of Atlantis, Iceland sure does know how to stir up trouble.

And finally, a third-grader was found dealing heroin. He was suspended when it was learned that he was cutting the stuff with Count Chocula.

Porn star drops out of Louisiana race, compares herself to Sarah Palin. Would have been worse if it had been the other way around.

Germans fine Catholic bishop $13K for denying Holocaust. I always thought you couldn’t put a price on stupid. Leave it to the Germans.

Italy is the safest place on earth to give birth. And it has nothing to do with prenatal care or better midwifery. It’s because God loves Italians better than anyone else and wants to make sure there are always plenty around. It’s a proven fact. Look it up in one of those newfangled science books already…

Anthropology prof insists degrees should be offered in UFO Studies. They already exist. I mean liberal arts degrees, not UFOs.

Seems Blago is going to be charged with a “near-constant conspiracy of extortion and kickbacks after his 2002 election.” Near constant, but not constant. So he has that going for him.

And seems Eliot Spitzer’s a multitasker. (Oh I can see those campaign ads now…)

Comet eaten by the sun. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg insists calorie content be displayed prominently.

Speaking of NYC, it’s about to charge the homeless rent. Because they have all that disposable income. Because they don’t pay rent. Because they didn’t have any money in the first place. (Your turn.)

More NYC news: An agreement has been reached to finally close those “rubber rooms.” No, not at Bellevue, but at your local “reassignment center,” where abusive, drunk, stupid, and/or lazy public school teachers spend the day fast asleep — sometimes for years, and on full salary — while their “cases” are investigated. Instead of closing these centers, they should put abusive, drunk, stupid, and/or lazy students in the same room with them. There would at least be some kind of symmetry, not to mention poetic justice.

Steven Seagal’s reality TV show, where he plays a reserve deputy-type of law-enforcement type, is being suspended until the whole sex-slave business is resolved. Or turned into a reality TV show.

Krugman vs. Sorkin over who’s the authentic Communist and who’s the poseur. Or something. I fell asleep as soon as I read “Krugman…”

One more reason why I wish Dante were still among the living. We need yet another level of hell.

Sale of iPad overseas delayed. Apple fears that the product’s awesomeness will destabilize fragile foreign minds, resulting in civil wars and widespread economic collapse. That and the company didn’t make enough.

Bernanke says not to worry about inflation. Unemployment will probably hit 65%, so no one will have money to buy anything anyway.

You know, for a country that no one can place on a map, and that some people confuse with Greenland, and others with the Lost City of Atlantis, Iceland sure does know how to stir up trouble.

And finally, a third-grader was found dealing heroin. He was suspended when it was learned that he was cutting the stuff with Count Chocula.

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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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The Gray Lady Discovers It’s 2006 All Over Again

Even the Gray Lady must recognize the trend:

The ethical woes facing Democrats are piling up, with barely a day passing in recent weeks without headlines from Washington to New York and beyond filled with word of scandal or allegations of wrongdoing.

The troubles of Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, followed by those of two of the state’s congressmen, Charles B. Rangel and Eric J. Massa, have added to the ranks of episodes involving prominent Democrats like Eliot Spitzer, Rod R. Blagojevich and John Edwards.

Taken together, the cases have opened the party to the same lines of criticism that Democrats, led by Representatives Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, used effectively against Republicans in winning control of the House and Senate four years ago.

The Times breaks the news to their readership that voters are already mad and that this just makes it worse (“with voters appearing to be in an angry mood and many already inclined to view all things Washington with mistrust, the risks for Democrats could be that much greater this year”). Left unsaid, of course, is why voters are mad. (It might have something to do with pushing an agenda quite popular on the Upper West Side but not elsewhere.)

Democrats are scrambling to give back money they snagged from Rangel’s fundraising committees, and Pelosi is predictably pronouncing that she is too presiding over an ethical Congress. But even Pelosi’s defense has a jumbo loophole. She insists: “My commitment to the American people is that the public trust will always be honored. … And on the floor of the House, that happens.” Yes, the scandals generally happen elsewhere.

Oh, and if that weren’t all, the Times reminds us that Blago’s trial will come along “at the very moment that Democrats are battling in several races, including a campaign for the Senate seat once held by the man who now sits in the Oval Office.” That would be the race in which the Democratic nominee is Tony Rezko’s banker. Well, for Republicans, let’s just say it’s a golden political opportunity.

Even the Gray Lady must recognize the trend:

The ethical woes facing Democrats are piling up, with barely a day passing in recent weeks without headlines from Washington to New York and beyond filled with word of scandal or allegations of wrongdoing.

The troubles of Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, followed by those of two of the state’s congressmen, Charles B. Rangel and Eric J. Massa, have added to the ranks of episodes involving prominent Democrats like Eliot Spitzer, Rod R. Blagojevich and John Edwards.

Taken together, the cases have opened the party to the same lines of criticism that Democrats, led by Representatives Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, used effectively against Republicans in winning control of the House and Senate four years ago.

The Times breaks the news to their readership that voters are already mad and that this just makes it worse (“with voters appearing to be in an angry mood and many already inclined to view all things Washington with mistrust, the risks for Democrats could be that much greater this year”). Left unsaid, of course, is why voters are mad. (It might have something to do with pushing an agenda quite popular on the Upper West Side but not elsewhere.)

Democrats are scrambling to give back money they snagged from Rangel’s fundraising committees, and Pelosi is predictably pronouncing that she is too presiding over an ethical Congress. But even Pelosi’s defense has a jumbo loophole. She insists: “My commitment to the American people is that the public trust will always be honored. … And on the floor of the House, that happens.” Yes, the scandals generally happen elsewhere.

Oh, and if that weren’t all, the Times reminds us that Blago’s trial will come along “at the very moment that Democrats are battling in several races, including a campaign for the Senate seat once held by the man who now sits in the Oval Office.” That would be the race in which the Democratic nominee is Tony Rezko’s banker. Well, for Republicans, let’s just say it’s a golden political opportunity.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Uh oh: Eliot Spitzer is back in the political ring, “acting as an unofficial adviser to New York’s current governor, the hapless David Paterson, whose campaign for re-election is basically in the toilet.” But not to worry, he’s going through an intermediary, an arrangement with which the shameless Spitzer “has had rather a lot of experience.”

Uh oh: Cliff May reviews the troubling trends in Iraq and efforts by Iran to ban candidates and manipulate the Iraqi elections. “It would be a cruel irony — not to mention a terrible defeat — if the sacrifices Americans have made were, in the end, to produce an Iraq dominated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad [sic], enemies of Iraq, freedom, and democracy — enemies sworn to bringing about a ‘world without America.’ Why don’t Biden and Obama recognize that? And why are their critics not more vocal about the fact that they do not?”

Uh oh: ” Both the number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance and producer prices unexpectedly surged, dealing a setback to hopes the economy was showing a strong recovery.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, up from an upwardly revised 442,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.”

Uh oh: “The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for January totaled $42.63 billion. That left the total of red ink so far this budget year at $430.69 billion, 8.8 percent higher than last year when the deficit soared to an unprecedented level of $1.42 trillion. Obama, in sending Congress a new budget plan on Feb. 1, projected that this year’s deficit would hit $1.56 trillion and would remain above $1 trillion for three consecutive years. He forecast the 2011 deficit, for the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, would total $1.27 trillion.”

Uh oh (for the Obami): A new low — only 24 percent of voters think health care is the most likely achievement for Obama.

Uh oh: Evan Bayh is going to lose his halo in the mainstream media. “Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.” Translation: he’s against a government takeover of student loans.

Uh oh: Michael Bennet’s embrace of the public option and reconciliation isn’t playing well back home in Colorado: “Most Americans want Congress to start over on health care reform, but it seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats. Ignoring the message that voters sent in Massachusetts, and shedding any notion that he intends to be a moderate Democrat, Bennet is leading a pack of liberal senators who want to push through health-care reform using a process known as reconciliation. How is it possible that Sen. Bennet, yet to receive one vote from a Coloradan, has such a tin ear for what most Coloradans and Americans want?” Colorado is already rated a “toss-up” (subscription required), but recent polling had Bennet down by double digits.

Uh oh (for the Left): Politico runs a forum entitled “Liberals( progressives) are they finished?” Hard to say any major political movement is ever “finished,” but it isn’t a healthy sign when you have to ask.

Uh oh: Eliot Spitzer is back in the political ring, “acting as an unofficial adviser to New York’s current governor, the hapless David Paterson, whose campaign for re-election is basically in the toilet.” But not to worry, he’s going through an intermediary, an arrangement with which the shameless Spitzer “has had rather a lot of experience.”

Uh oh: Cliff May reviews the troubling trends in Iraq and efforts by Iran to ban candidates and manipulate the Iraqi elections. “It would be a cruel irony — not to mention a terrible defeat — if the sacrifices Americans have made were, in the end, to produce an Iraq dominated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad [sic], enemies of Iraq, freedom, and democracy — enemies sworn to bringing about a ‘world without America.’ Why don’t Biden and Obama recognize that? And why are their critics not more vocal about the fact that they do not?”

Uh oh: ” Both the number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance and producer prices unexpectedly surged, dealing a setback to hopes the economy was showing a strong recovery.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, up from an upwardly revised 442,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.”

Uh oh: “The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for January totaled $42.63 billion. That left the total of red ink so far this budget year at $430.69 billion, 8.8 percent higher than last year when the deficit soared to an unprecedented level of $1.42 trillion. Obama, in sending Congress a new budget plan on Feb. 1, projected that this year’s deficit would hit $1.56 trillion and would remain above $1 trillion for three consecutive years. He forecast the 2011 deficit, for the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, would total $1.27 trillion.”

Uh oh (for the Obami): A new low — only 24 percent of voters think health care is the most likely achievement for Obama.

Uh oh: Evan Bayh is going to lose his halo in the mainstream media. “Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.” Translation: he’s against a government takeover of student loans.

Uh oh: Michael Bennet’s embrace of the public option and reconciliation isn’t playing well back home in Colorado: “Most Americans want Congress to start over on health care reform, but it seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats. Ignoring the message that voters sent in Massachusetts, and shedding any notion that he intends to be a moderate Democrat, Bennet is leading a pack of liberal senators who want to push through health-care reform using a process known as reconciliation. How is it possible that Sen. Bennet, yet to receive one vote from a Coloradan, has such a tin ear for what most Coloradans and Americans want?” Colorado is already rated a “toss-up” (subscription required), but recent polling had Bennet down by double digits.

Uh oh (for the Left): Politico runs a forum entitled “Liberals( progressives) are they finished?” Hard to say any major political movement is ever “finished,” but it isn’t a healthy sign when you have to ask.

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They Aren’t Thrilled With The Remarks?

Well what explanation could the Obamaphile punditocracy come up with for the Great One’s gaffe? There really is none.

One gamely offers the contrite approach, as if acknowledging that Eliot Spitzer could use “a tad more self-control”:

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

Notice the vain attempt to insist that Obama really did have a working class upbringing like all the folk he slandered. (Generally it helps to live on the same continent with your countrymen and not rely on Harvard sociology professors to brief you later in life on the habits of your fellow citizens.) And, you see, those nasty Republicans will “use” this outburst because ordinary Americans can’t tell for themselves when they have been insulted.

Others are more honest:

Not only is this pretty darn condescending on its face, but the trade comment adds another whole layer of insult. He’s almost admitting that he does not believe his previous trade talk!

(Somewhere Austan Goolsbee is smiling.)

And Obama wasn’t getting many takers for his convuluted explanation that this was a mini-exegesis on What’s the Matter With Kansas?:

And even if it was what he meant, it isn’t what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

Well don’t expect Andrew Sullivan to admit Obama’s comments were meant “pejoratively” (because “cling to guns” was meant with the deepest reverence for the right to bear arms?). But if this is the reaction on the Left blogosphere imagine how this will go down in Altoona.

Well what explanation could the Obamaphile punditocracy come up with for the Great One’s gaffe? There really is none.

One gamely offers the contrite approach, as if acknowledging that Eliot Spitzer could use “a tad more self-control”:

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

Notice the vain attempt to insist that Obama really did have a working class upbringing like all the folk he slandered. (Generally it helps to live on the same continent with your countrymen and not rely on Harvard sociology professors to brief you later in life on the habits of your fellow citizens.) And, you see, those nasty Republicans will “use” this outburst because ordinary Americans can’t tell for themselves when they have been insulted.

Others are more honest:

Not only is this pretty darn condescending on its face, but the trade comment adds another whole layer of insult. He’s almost admitting that he does not believe his previous trade talk!

(Somewhere Austan Goolsbee is smiling.)

And Obama wasn’t getting many takers for his convuluted explanation that this was a mini-exegesis on What’s the Matter With Kansas?:

And even if it was what he meant, it isn’t what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

Well don’t expect Andrew Sullivan to admit Obama’s comments were meant “pejoratively” (because “cling to guns” was meant with the deepest reverence for the right to bear arms?). But if this is the reaction on the Left blogosphere imagine how this will go down in Altoona.

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The Only Sin

The only mortal sin in politics is hypocrisy. Conservatives, especially social conservatives, have been easy targets for their sexual peccadilloes (which the media contrast with their public advocacy of family values): think Ted Haggard or Larry Craig.  Liberals tend to get hoisted on financial hypocrisy (although Eliot Spitzer and James McGreevey are exception). To wit: John Edwards’s $400 haircuts, hedge fund employment, and high-paying speeches on poverty.

Barack Obama is coming close to that latter line. He identifies himself as the “throw the lobbyists out” champion and “money corrupts politics” truth-teller. But wait! His “parallel public financing system” is populated by 79 “bundlers,” you say? Can’t be. Plus the media has finally woken up to the fact that Obama’s “I don’t take corporate money” is a ruse for the rubes and that millions of dollars from supposedly nefarious sources (drug and oil companies and banks) are underwriting the Obama-mania road show. (Feeling the heat, Obama is now dialing back on his suggestion that he has definitively decided to opt out of the real public campaign finance system.)

There is, of course, a bit of Captain Renault-style incredulity in the reporting. But it was Obama who elevated himself to mythical levels of political purity. That his image would eventually collide with reality was only a matter of time. The question now is whether it survives intact.

The only mortal sin in politics is hypocrisy. Conservatives, especially social conservatives, have been easy targets for their sexual peccadilloes (which the media contrast with their public advocacy of family values): think Ted Haggard or Larry Craig.  Liberals tend to get hoisted on financial hypocrisy (although Eliot Spitzer and James McGreevey are exception). To wit: John Edwards’s $400 haircuts, hedge fund employment, and high-paying speeches on poverty.

Barack Obama is coming close to that latter line. He identifies himself as the “throw the lobbyists out” champion and “money corrupts politics” truth-teller. But wait! His “parallel public financing system” is populated by 79 “bundlers,” you say? Can’t be. Plus the media has finally woken up to the fact that Obama’s “I don’t take corporate money” is a ruse for the rubes and that millions of dollars from supposedly nefarious sources (drug and oil companies and banks) are underwriting the Obama-mania road show. (Feeling the heat, Obama is now dialing back on his suggestion that he has definitively decided to opt out of the real public campaign finance system.)

There is, of course, a bit of Captain Renault-style incredulity in the reporting. But it was Obama who elevated himself to mythical levels of political purity. That his image would eventually collide with reality was only a matter of time. The question now is whether it survives intact.

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Freedom Fighter Called “Terrorist” by INS

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.

Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”

The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?

The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.

The INS revealingly refers to the KDP as an “undesignated” terrorist organization. Which suggests it’s aware that the KDP isn’t a terrorist organization but has unilaterally labeled it as one regardless. The blogger Callimachus thinks it may be because the Patriot Act defines terrorism as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place it was committed.” He correctly points out that Jews in Hitler’s Warsaw Ghetto were “terrorists” according to this brainless definition.

This is an absurd inversion of the already absurd “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” slogan. Usually this sophomoric claim is made by terrorists or by leftists who make excuses for terrorists. This time, the INS is calling an actual freedom fighter a terrorist.

Somebody should tell Vice President Dick Cheney. He met with the KDP’s Barzani himself just a few days ago. “That was a unique and interesting opportunity,” he said, “to go look at what’s happened in a part of Iraq that was obviously freed of Saddam Hussein’s influence when the U.S. went in there and established the Operation Provide Comfort at the end of the Gulf War, and then set up the ‘no fly zones,’ and so forth.” Someone might also want to inform President George W. Bush, who invited Ahmad to the White House in 2007.

It’s worth comparing this case with two others.

Sayyed Rahmatullah Hashemi was a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, yet he was admitted to Yale University in 2006, though he wasn’t given a green card, as far as I can tell. And just a few days ago, drug-trafficking prostitute and Brazilian national Andreia Schwartz was offered a green card if she would reveal what she knows about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. But Saman Ahmad faces deportation to a country where actual terrorists threaten to kill him? The law (to say nothing of the INS) truly is “a ass,” as Mr. Bumble once observed.

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More About the Goofball

Yesterday I wrote about Thomas P. M. Barnett, the author of the Esquire profile of Admiral Willam Fallon, head of Centcom, who resigned following the article’s publication. I have long known that Barnett is a goofball, but it turns out that I didn’t know the half of it.

Back in 1989, when one East European Soviet satrapy after another was collapsing, Barnett, as I noted yesterday, wrote a fawning article about the “shrewd and farsighted” Nicolae Ceausescu who had just been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist-party congress” and whose “grip on power appears firm.” Two weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Ceausescu were shot dead, and Barnett had egg — sunnyside up — on his face.

But what I did not know was that a few days after penning “Romanian Domino Stays Upright,” Barnett returned to the scene of the crime with another op-ed in the same newspaper, where he explained “Why Ceausescu Fell.” The beauty of this particular piece was that he failed to say a word about his previous analysis. Just a few weeks after telling readers about Ceausescu’s firm hold on power, here he was going on about the “people’s deep anger over their long history of oppression” and how Romanians became “ready to choose death over Ceausescu.”

This deft intellectual switcheroo evidently helped win Barnett an appointment at the Naval War College, “where he taught and served — in a senior advisory role — with military and civilian leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Central Command, Special Operations Command, and Joint Forces Command.” The quotation comes from Barnett’s autobiographical statement, available on his website, a remarkable piece of self-inflation for someone whose accomplishments, like his analysis of the Romanian revolution, have arguably subtracted more than they’ve added to the sum total of human knowledge.

Another typical example. On his website, www.thomaspmbarnett.com, Barnett exhibits a consistent fascination with what he calls the “apartheid structure” of Israel. As a self-described “prolific blogger,” he has written numerous posts that are variations on the theme of Israel as “pariah state.”

One of them is an analysis of Israel’s laws of citizenship, which Barnett describes as “defined by blood or faith.” The “historical basis for Israel as a state,” he writes, “is to recollect that tribe that got spread all over the planet in centuries past, and it doesn’t get much more racial than that.”

But in the same post, Barnett then pulls a modified, limited Ceausescu:

Now, if I’m wrongly interpreting what it takes to be an Israeli citizen, somebody please correct me and much of this post’s logic will gladly dissolve, but it’s long been my impression that only Jews (defined by blood or faith) are eligible to become full citizens of the state of Israel.

If this proposition is false, and non-Jews can enjoy “all the same citizenship and political participation rights as any Jew living there,” continues Barnett,

then I withdraw this post entirely and confess my profound ignorance on this particular subject.

Of course, the readily ascertainable fact is that many Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and even Wiccans live in Israel and enjoy “all the same citizenship and political participation rights as any Jew living there.”

What can one say, except to ask why, when writing on a politically delicate subject, does this distinguished goofball disdain to do his research first instead of proudly parading his “profound ignorance”?

Michael Scheuer undoubtedly knows the answer to this question, and so, in his own way, does Eliot Spitzer. Obsessions and compulsions can get one into deep trouble, intellectual and otherwise.

Yesterday I wrote about Thomas P. M. Barnett, the author of the Esquire profile of Admiral Willam Fallon, head of Centcom, who resigned following the article’s publication. I have long known that Barnett is a goofball, but it turns out that I didn’t know the half of it.

Back in 1989, when one East European Soviet satrapy after another was collapsing, Barnett, as I noted yesterday, wrote a fawning article about the “shrewd and farsighted” Nicolae Ceausescu who had just been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist-party congress” and whose “grip on power appears firm.” Two weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Ceausescu were shot dead, and Barnett had egg — sunnyside up — on his face.

But what I did not know was that a few days after penning “Romanian Domino Stays Upright,” Barnett returned to the scene of the crime with another op-ed in the same newspaper, where he explained “Why Ceausescu Fell.” The beauty of this particular piece was that he failed to say a word about his previous analysis. Just a few weeks after telling readers about Ceausescu’s firm hold on power, here he was going on about the “people’s deep anger over their long history of oppression” and how Romanians became “ready to choose death over Ceausescu.”

This deft intellectual switcheroo evidently helped win Barnett an appointment at the Naval War College, “where he taught and served — in a senior advisory role — with military and civilian leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Central Command, Special Operations Command, and Joint Forces Command.” The quotation comes from Barnett’s autobiographical statement, available on his website, a remarkable piece of self-inflation for someone whose accomplishments, like his analysis of the Romanian revolution, have arguably subtracted more than they’ve added to the sum total of human knowledge.

Another typical example. On his website, www.thomaspmbarnett.com, Barnett exhibits a consistent fascination with what he calls the “apartheid structure” of Israel. As a self-described “prolific blogger,” he has written numerous posts that are variations on the theme of Israel as “pariah state.”

One of them is an analysis of Israel’s laws of citizenship, which Barnett describes as “defined by blood or faith.” The “historical basis for Israel as a state,” he writes, “is to recollect that tribe that got spread all over the planet in centuries past, and it doesn’t get much more racial than that.”

But in the same post, Barnett then pulls a modified, limited Ceausescu:

Now, if I’m wrongly interpreting what it takes to be an Israeli citizen, somebody please correct me and much of this post’s logic will gladly dissolve, but it’s long been my impression that only Jews (defined by blood or faith) are eligible to become full citizens of the state of Israel.

If this proposition is false, and non-Jews can enjoy “all the same citizenship and political participation rights as any Jew living there,” continues Barnett,

then I withdraw this post entirely and confess my profound ignorance on this particular subject.

Of course, the readily ascertainable fact is that many Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and even Wiccans live in Israel and enjoy “all the same citizenship and political participation rights as any Jew living there.”

What can one say, except to ask why, when writing on a politically delicate subject, does this distinguished goofball disdain to do his research first instead of proudly parading his “profound ignorance”?

Michael Scheuer undoubtedly knows the answer to this question, and so, in his own way, does Eliot Spitzer. Obsessions and compulsions can get one into deep trouble, intellectual and otherwise.

Read Less

High Moral Fiber

Eliot Spitzer’s not alone. The chief of Tehran’s police was arrested Monday when caught—literally—pants down in a brothel, in the company of six equally naked prostitutes (h/t: Gateway Pundit).

As the news report indicates, Reza Zarei was in charge of enforcing the Islamic Republic’s harsh public modesty laws. In this capacity he supervised the police crackdown on lax public morals, issued warnings to tens of thousands of women for their immodest dress, and forced thousands to take “guidance classes” on how to dress and behave in public. Clearly, the moral fiber needed to implement such a task requires that a man lives up to certain standards—which exclude, I imagine, engaging in paid-for group sex. So, is this a classic case of private vices hidden by public virtue? Maybe. Or maybe was he carrying out, deep undercover, a sting operation . . .

Eliot Spitzer’s not alone. The chief of Tehran’s police was arrested Monday when caught—literally—pants down in a brothel, in the company of six equally naked prostitutes (h/t: Gateway Pundit).

As the news report indicates, Reza Zarei was in charge of enforcing the Islamic Republic’s harsh public modesty laws. In this capacity he supervised the police crackdown on lax public morals, issued warnings to tens of thousands of women for their immodest dress, and forced thousands to take “guidance classes” on how to dress and behave in public. Clearly, the moral fiber needed to implement such a task requires that a man lives up to certain standards—which exclude, I imagine, engaging in paid-for group sex. So, is this a classic case of private vices hidden by public virtue? Maybe. Or maybe was he carrying out, deep undercover, a sting operation . . .

Read Less




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