Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Five ways Elliot Spitzer is not Anthony Weiner

The punditocracy is trying to convince us that the implosion of the Weiner campaign seeps automatically over to Elliot Spitzer’s. It might, but they aren’t the same guys by a mile. Here’s why:

1. Spitzer doesn’t lie.

Well, unless you count not telling his wife about the top-dollar prostitutes, which is admittedly not a minor point. However, once the facts were out, Spitzer swallowed the medicine, copped and quit. He did not spend $45,000 of his campaign funds to pretend to be investigating how someone who looks just like him could possibly be stealing his identity to bang hookers. Weiner, by contrast, who compounded his original goofball act by trying to cover it up and then, incredibly, went out and did it all again, is an order of magnitude more deceitful.

2. Spitzer is not trying to push the reset button and go back to where he left off.

Spitzer is aiming for a technocratic gig and conceivably could stay there for years digging around in pension investment contracts and keeping the expert looters away from our hard-earned retirement money. He could also snoop around city spending and keep those guys from carrying out the sorts of egregious scams that have occurred under Bloomberg—the supposed finance expert. Meanwhile, Weiner is trying to get back on the big stage. He was always much cleverer at the sound bite than at legislative achievement, and he needs the limelight to be effective—Spitzer doesn’t.

3. Spitzer may actually be remorseful.

This is tricky because one cannot ‘see into the hearts of men’, as Werner Herzog would say. And sincerity generally should not be admitted as a political category—who cares if our public figures believe what they’re saying? That’s not the point. But in this case, of personal failings that bring the mighty down low, it’s fair to ask whether lessons have been learned or not. In Weiner’s case the negative answer is so painfully obvious that he has ‘turned shamelessness into performance art’ (Maureen Dowd). Spitzer, on the other hand, shakes his head at himself and knows he can only aspire to a modest role toiling in the corners of the system that he once towered above. One catches in him a glimpse of humility, a rare coin in this realm.

4. Spitzer has the right enemies and a lot of them.

Weiner has plenty of people trying to shoo him away, but not because he’s any particular threat to their interests. He’s just a distraction and a laughingstock, but had he not self-immolated, he would be pulling in chits and racking up endorsements and campaign cash from all sorts of dubious types. He’s a crafty political operator who had a saleable product, which was going to be available to the highest bidder(s). But the mere idea of Spitzer in the Comptroller’s job is giving bankers, hedge fund runners and union chiefs sphincter spasms. They’re writing massive checks to get teddy-bear Scott Stringer elected instead. If it were Weiner, they wouldn’t give a shit because they’d know his stint would be business as usual until he could get a new shot at something more glamorous. But it’s impressive how Stringer rolls up the endorsements steadily from all sorts of people across the political spectrum. In part, it’s because he’s a decent enough guy, but it also suggests that Spitzer is scaring the boots off people.

Yves Smith had another densely argued technical piece this week on how pension funds are scammed by hedge funds and their law firms. She knows about this stuff from her gigs at Mackenzie and Mitsubishi, and her columns lately have provided Spitzer with a detailed road map of how to cost these professional crooks mucho cash in a short time. Stringer, by contrast, has neither the chops nor the skills to worry these types even if he had the will. His latest announcement that he would go after welfare cheats taking advantage of Hurricane Sandy relief money is not reassuring—crimes by inept hucksters are the type of low-hanging fruit that the big crooks are more than happy to support.

5. Spitzer is on his own.

This is really just a reiteration of #4, but it’s also worth remembering that Spitzer is now completely outside the Democratic Party structure, a fact pounded home daily as those still inside it line up against him. If he wins, he will owe nothing to anybody and have no reason to think he can go any further in the face of universal hostility and resistance. The only reason he has a shot now is that his entry into the race was such a huge surprise that the party apparatus could barely mobilize in time to block him. That isn’t likely to happen again. In short, Spitzer could set up shop and prepare for a very long tenure making the political establishment uncomfortable, and that, fellow citizens, should gladden our heavy hearts.


Anonymous said...

Another bit difference: how would the world be different if Spitzer hadn't fallen from grace? Maybe a lot. And Wwiner? Who cares?

Tim Frasca said...

Very true.