With Eliot Spitzer's announcement today that he was a client of a recently busted prostitution ring, and the speculation on his resignation flying, it's probably safe to say that his Governorship will not, in the end, be remembered as the glorious flowering of a new and reformed Albany. How the hell did it ever come to this? And, uh, are we the only ones who think he shouldn't resign?
Back when Spitzer was a crusading Attorney General, he was maybe the most respected and beloved man in New York politics, especially by the sort of New York City residents who both ignore Albany politics and are exhaustingly cynical about New York politicians (this is the Bloomberg electorate). But how could we not love our tough-talking liberal fighter? He seemed as happy in a scrap as mean old Giuliani, but unlike Giuliani, he went after the fucking banks, not modern artists and ferret-owners.
Spitzer waged high-profile campaigns against AIG and investment banks and even anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers." He was the great hope of reform in Albany and he won his gubernatorial election in a landslide. With his reputation the way it is today, it's hard to remember how much he was beloved back then. The Daily News even wrote a story on how to deal with your straight man-crush on him.
Then he was suddenly the Governor of New York and everything went to hell for him. He immediately came up against a state assembly full of life-long gridlock enthusiasts who refused to change the way they did business and hated newcomers. They frustrated him, and the real Spitzer emerged. He's an angry asshole, it turns out, who doesn't play well with others. The fact that starry-eyed New Yorkers hadn't noticed this when he was "crusading" (i.e. expanding the purview of his former office to take on high-profile cases that endeared him to said starry-eyed New Yorkers) says more about them than him.
30 days into his Governorship, Spitzer said to Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, "I'm a fucking steamroller, and I'll roll over you and anybody else." That remark, immediately and widely reported in the tabloids, proved to be as utterly untrue as it was impolitic. Spitzer has accomplished nothing but the creation of bullshit scandals (gold star to the first commenter who can succinctly explain STATE TROOPERGATE, in a way that actually makes it seem worthy of a "-gate" suffix). All of these things, from the Steamroller comment to the flap over his plan to give licenses to illegal immigrants, were the mark of a man who, it turned out, was not actually all that good at politics. But this? The hooker thing? The mark of a man who's a fucking idiot.
As AG, Spitzer had prosecuted prostitution rings. He knows, especially with the classy ones, that the client lists are well-maintained, and they get out, eventually. So to head down to DC and hook up with a whore the night before a CNBC appearance (at 7 a.m.!) and a Congressional appearance is the height of abject stupidity. D.C. is quite boring, in Eliot's defense, but still.
Now he's maybe retiring, and everything in Albany will return to normal, and the Democrats probably won't pick up that Senate seat they need to secure a majority and force reform bills through. But you know what? We think he should stick around. Not even just to piss off Joe Bruno.
2010 is a long, long, long ways away, especially in politics, and especially in New York politics. If he doesn't resign, he can redeem himself (after the storm of boring moralizing bullshit that is sure to follow). How long could it be before the golden boy long since brought down to size would be able to recast himself as a changed, meeker man, human as everyone else, and enjoy a quiet resurgence in the polls? And Jesus, what better way is there to get everyone to forget the bullshit of his first year in office than this? Doesn't he see? Getting caught up in a high-class prostitution ring could've saved Spitzer's legacy!