“Sign the petition! Spitzer on the ballot!” So cried the nice young man with a clipboard stranding in front of Fairway, the premier foodie full-service emporium on the Upper West Side. If you want to find where progressive Democrats buy their groceries in Gotham, this is the mother ship. The young man had chosen his spot wisely.
Or had he? As I walked up, he was immediately beset by a fiftyish woman. “Are you kidding? You have some nerve! That bastard!….” and, well, you get the idea.
“Everyone deserves a second chance.” replied the young man.
“I’ll pay you ten dollars just to get the hell out of here!”
“He’s paying me a lot more than that,” he said, smiling.
In no particular hurry, and curious to see what sort of person might sign, I stood a few feet away and watched.
After about five minutes, not one person had signed. I thought I would at least wait until someone did — I wanted to see what kind of person it might be — someone young, with a firm belief in forgiveness and an open mind? An older and wiser former firebrand, now more apt to take a judge-not-that-ye-be-not-judged stance?
Nope. No one at all. I gave up, and went in to buy my family’s dinner.
Still, yesterday Spizter announced that he had obtained the requisite signatures to run, and run he will, this time for the more modest office of Comptroller of the City of New York. This marks his first attempt at public office since resigning from — or, more accurately, being hounded out of — the governor’s office in disgrace for getting caught red-handed cavorting with a $4000 a night joy girl, and hardly for the first time, either. This, according to the FBI, was a reasonably regular occurrence.
Spitzer tried to brazen it out initially, asserting that:
a. it was a private matter between himself and his wife, and
b. it wasn’t our money he spent, which, in New York State, is rare enough to at least cause people to pause and consider.
Eventually, after much foot-dragging, mealy-mouthed sophistry and sullen pouting, even his outlandish sense of entitlement finally bowed to the ensuing hurricane of public outrage, and he slunk reluctantly away into a short-lived seclusion before re-emerging as a television person. Now, he tells us, he “deserves a second chance.”
This would play on more sympathetic ears, perhaps, if his first chance had not been such a barefaced catastrophe. The fact is, for all his wheezing outrage, Spitzer did fuck-all to clean up the cesspool of New York State politics while governor, preferring instead to continue the thuggish bully-boy grandstanding that he displayed while state attorney general, when state legislators were already deeply mired in the wholesale looting of the public purse that continued unabated and unchallenged during his interrupted stay in the Executive Mansion.
In fact, for many voters, his silly peccadilloes in D.C. may be largely irrelevant, save for the perfectly sensible objection that someone accustomed to blowing several grand a night on tattooed ladies might not be the best person to control the public purse strings. Yet one other thought lingers.
Spitzer specialized in hounding opponents with all the might his office could bring. Those who failed to fall in line were threatened with endless investigations, serial prosecution and eternal damnation. The message was clear: my way is the way of truth and justice, and all who stand in the way shall be flattened. “I am a fucking steamroller,” he famously declared.
Well, it’s one thing to wield the flaming sword of divine retribution while garbed in white-robed innocence and pristine moral purity. It’s quite another to do so while lolling about on the rumpled sheets of a rented seraglio with your nubile nymphet (that girl was kinda young, wasn’t she?). It’s as if the town drunk had suddenly barged into your living room declaiming the virtues of temperance even as he gulped down a pint bottle of Borzoi vodka. There’s more than a touch of the double standard here, and those rejecting the notion of a “fair shake for Spitzer” might justifiable wonder why this should be a purely one-way street, as fairness and consideration never seemed to play much a role in his own script.
The final irony, of course, is that Spitzer, throughout his political career, had been a fierce proponent of public funding for campaigns, insisting that a candidate’s private wealth should not provide an unfair advantage. Backed by a powerful state Democratic machine, Spitzer could count on easily raising enough contributions to qualify for the maximum in matching funds, which in New York State, is six for one.
This time around, however, with public enthusiasm for Spitzer at a very low level indeed, he has opted to pay for his campaign out of his own (or, more accurately, his family’s) pocket. It seems that principle, where Spitzer is concerned, is more a function of convenience than conviction, and expedience triumphs over piety after all. Does this shock those who have clung to the hem of his garment as he smote the evildoer? Elsewhere, perhaps. Welcome to New York State. “Excelsior,” the state motto, translates as “Higher.” Those of sufficient age may also recall it was the general term for the fluff used to fill up the empty spaces in packing crates, or, in this case, the empty suit of a sanctimonious fraud.