March 11, 2008, - 10:42 am
By Debbie Schlussel
It’s hard to add more to the Eliot Spitzer story. A thug–who terrorized corporate America and Wall Street for no apparent legitimate reason–is finally feeling what those he went after felt. Sadly, they didn’t commit the multiple crimes he apparently did. Will he get the misery-filled “justice” they got, but–in their case–didn’t deserve? The liberal Democrat epitomized the oft-used quote that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I love the way he started his non-speech, yesterday, talking about how he’s always fought for progressive stuff and making things better. Who the heck cares? What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? So, his agenda makes his behavior as simultaneously a bully, lawbreaker, and john okay? Since he didn’t immediately resign, he must apparently believe so.
Here are excerpts from a front-pager and, following that, an editorial, both from today’s Wall Street Journal, which I think tell it best about this white collar thug and his politics-of-envy victims:
It’s Schadenfreude time on Wall Street.
Eliot Spitzer, the New York governor who made his name taking on the titans of finance, apologized yesterday in vague terms following reports that he used the services of a prostitute in a case being investigated by federal prosecutors.
The news stunned traders on Wall Street, where Mr. Spitzer long has been viewed with fear and contempt. Some view the revelations as a huge hypocrisy for a man, who as New York’s attorney general, had aggressively pushed for ethics and fair play on Wall Street earlier this decade. People who clashed hardest with Mr. Spitzer are among those crowing the loudest.
“He actually believes he’s above the law,” said Ken Langone, a former New York Stock Exchange director who now heads a small investment-banking firm. In his role as prosecutor, Mr. Spitzer sued Mr. Langone for his role in doling out the large pay package of former New York Stock Exchange CEO Dick Grasso. “I have never had any doubt about his lack of character and integrity — and he’s proven me correct.”
“This is not a victimless crime,” said U.S. Rep. Peter King, Republican of Long Island. “I’ve never known anyone who was more self-righteous and unforgiving than Eliot Spitzer.” . . .
Mr. Spitzer brought fines against some of America’s largest companies for industry practices that were routine, if not accepted. . . .
Critics said he bullied opponents, threatening to publicly reveal embarrassing details of a company’s business or an executive’s conduct to force management changes or headline-grabbing fines. In the case against Mr. Grasso, lawyers working for Mr. Spitzer asked the former Big Board chairman in a deposition about personal relationships and collected information about Mr. Grasso’s spending habits and his family’s travel.
After the news broke yesterday, Andrew Sabin, a friend of Mr. Grasso’s who lives near him on Long Island, said he spoke briefly with Mr. Grasso’s wife, Lori. “I said I’d buy Dick some champagne,” said Mr. Sabin, owner of precious-metals firm Sabin Commodities. “I’m sure he’s happy. I’m sure everybody on Wall Street is happy.”
Mr. Sabin described Mr. Spitzer’s alleged conduct as “the most hypocritical thing in the world.”
As attorney general, Mr. Spitzer prosecuted cases far afield from Wall Street, including prostitution. In 2004, Mr. Spitzer indicted 18 people associated with popular “escort services” operating in New York City and its suburbs for promoting prostitution and related charges. That same year, he prosecuted individuals who promoted prostitution through tours in Asia, known as “sex tourism.”
Last year, as governor, Mr. Spitzer helped pass legislation that toughened penalties for “sex tourism” operations and “sex traffickers” who bring foreigners into the U.S. and force them into prostitution.
One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer’s fall. There is none. Governor Spitzer, who made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men, is himself almost certainly ruined. . . .
In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.
The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer’s recklessness with the state’s highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.
He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG’s Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of “illegal” behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.
In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer’s lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. “I will be coming after you,” Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead’s account. “You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done.”
Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone — embroiled in Mr. Spitzer’s investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso — that the AG would “put a spike through Langone’s heart.” . . .
These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats — some rhetorical, some acted upon — by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.
Eliot Spitzer’s self-destructive inability to recognize any limit on his compulsions was never more evident than his staff’s enlistment of the New York State Police in a campaign to discredit the state’s Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno. . . .
Where were the media before this? With a few exceptions, the media were happy to prosper from his leaks and even applaud, rather than temper, the manifestly abusive instincts of a public official. . . .
He came to embody a system that revels in the entertainment value of roguish figures who rise to power by destroying the careers of others, many of them innocent. Better still, when the targets are as presumably unsympathetic as Wall Street bankers and brokers.
Acts of crime deserve prosecution by the state. The people, in turn, deserve prosecutors and officials who understand the difference between the needs of the public good and the needs of unrestrained personalities who are given the honor of high office.
How do you spell “hypocrite”? E-L-I-O-T–S-P-I-T-Z-E-R. You can spell hubris that way, too.
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