A walk down Spitzer Memory Lane

Just in case the governor of New York decides to “spend more time” with his family after getting tied to a prostitution ring by federal wiretaps, let’s recall what made Eliot Spitzer such a special kind of politician. In an era where politicians try to gussy up their power plays in politically correct language and strive for plausible deniability, Spitzer provided a refreshing lack of manners — as long as you like politics as bloodsport. For instance, even before becoming governor, Spitzer made his displeasure clear to John Whitehead after the former chair of Goldman Sachs had the temerity to criticize his prosecutorial methods (via Dean Barnett):

After reading my op-ed piece, Mr. Spitzer tried to phone me. I was traveling in Texas but he reached me early in the afternoon. After asking me one or two questions about where I got my facts, he came right to the point. I was so shocked that I wrote it all down right away so I would be sure to remember it exactly as he said it. This is what he 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.”

I tried to interrupt to say he was doing to me exactly what he’d been doing to others, but he wouldn’t be interrupted. He went on in the same vein for several more sentences and then abruptly hung up. I was astounded. No one had ever talked to me like that before. It was a little scary.

Spitzer wasn’t always scary. In fact, sometimes he was a little too nice — with those who could do him favors. Facing an ethics probe for his use of the State Police to probe a political rival, he got a crony to head the investigative board. Herbert Teitelbaum then got a $15,000 raise, and promptly left in the middle of the investigation:

THE man supposedly leading a key state probe of Gov. Spitzer and the Dirty Tricks Scandal has abruptly taken a 21/2-week vacation in South America – after secretly receiving a $15,000 pay raise, The Post has learned.Recently hired Public Integrity Commission Executive Director Herbert Teitelbaum’s extended vacation in Argentina has left stunned commission employees questioning his commitment to a probe aimed at determining if Spitzer and his aides broke the law by using the State Police in an effort to politically damage Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer.) …

Teitelbaum, a longtime Manhattan lawyer with close ties to Spitzer’s aides, was named in mid-July by another Spitzer appointee, commission Chairman John Feerick, as the $140,000-a-year head of the Ethics Commission. ….

Teitelbaum’s $15,000 pay raise two weeks ago was approved without public notice by Feerick, a former Fordham Law School dean accused by Bruno aides of seeking to cover up the scandal.

The nearly 11 percent pay hike came at a time when the state faces a massive, $4 billion-plus, projected deficit.

No one would be surprised to hear that the New York Times had supported Spitzer in the past, but an editorial from May 2007 really takes the cake. In an editorial titled “Targeting Human Trafficking”, the Times scolded the federal government for prioritizing larger trafficking rings rather than smaller brothels and sweatshops, but hailed Spitzer’s “muscular nudge” towards the state legislature to focus on the lower-rent operations:

After years of shameful recalcitrance, New York will take the lead in the nation’s effort to combat sex and labor trafficking with a new law that targets this modern form of slavery. The issue is an urgent one. Each year, thousands of people are brought into the United States — often through New York — to be used for forced sex or labor. Yet New York has lagged behind at least two dozen states in enacting laws to go after the traffickers and help their victims.

Federal law enforcement tends to focus on the largest trafficking rings rather than local brothels and sweatshops, and federal efforts need bolstering in any case. But attempts over the last two years to pass anti-trafficking legislation in New York ended in failure. Assembly Democrats resisted imposing tough new criminal penalties, and the Republican Senate objected to providing services for trafficking victims. Given Albany’s penchant for partisan gridlock, the deadlock might have continued for many more years absent a muscular nudge from Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The result is being applauded by both prosecutors and victims’ advocates and will give the state one of the strongest anti-trafficking laws in the country.

Anyone now wonder why Spitzer seemed more interested in the low-priced prostitution rings?

Alan Dershowitz wants to scold America over its revulsion at Spitzer’s hypocrisy:

Sorry. I don’t think anyone can buy that line. If Spitzer thought that prostitution should be legal, he has been in uniquely well-suited positions to make that argument. Instead, he positioned himself publicly as disgusted by the exploitation of women through prostitution, even campaigning on it. That isn’t just a story about a married man going to a prostitute, it’s a story of hypocrisy and deception.

Exit question: when will liberals discover that “Europe would shrug at this” arguments don’t actually impress anyone?