Soon after former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer took office, New York State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco remarked in the New York Post, “He has a different side to him that a lot of people realize.” During his campaign for governor, the Democrats’ rhetoric styled Spitzer as an enlightened attorney general, an altruistic defender of the middle and working classes against dangerous corporate interests. Nevertheless, various missteps – culminating in his recent implication in a prostitution ring – revealed Spitzer’s “different side”: a self-serving, single-minded politician.

Call me overly skeptical, but Spitzer’s actions as attorney general seemed to have been a way to consolidate his base of support rather than having stemmed from genuine care for those he defended and represented. Like many other Democrats, his background as the son of a millionaire and high-profile lawyer belies attempts at truly representing the working class. Unfortunately, the majority of New York voters were duped by Spitzer’s phony record, as he was elected a year and a half ago.

Soon after his election, though, a man once heralded as Eliot “Ness” became a veritable Al Capone. In response to a valid question posed to him – the aforementioned Tedisco asked why, as the leader of the opposition, he wasn’t part of negotiations of an ethics law change – Spitzer responded, “Listen, I’m an [expletive] steamroller, and I’ll roll over you and anybody else.” The irony that he was discussing ethics laws notwithstanding, Spitzer’s comments demonstrate his adversarial character that he honed as a lawyer and attorney general, marked by aversion to compromise and inability to respect the opposition. Such tendencies ironically parallel the alleged Republican mantra toward counterterrorism: “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

A few months later, allegations arose that Spitzer’s office used the state police to monitor his political opponent, Senate Majority Leader (and current acting Lieutenant Governor) Joseph Bruno; this faux pas was just more proof that Spitzer is more Nixon than Ness. Unfortunately, such a misuse of state resources is nothing short of what is expected from New York Democrats. Former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, for example, pled guilty to defrauding the government for using a state employee to drive his wife around (a plea he conveniently entered after he was re-elected, no less).

Then, a few weeks ago, word broke that Spitzer was caught participating in a prostitution ring. Even though “johns” (or the solicitors) rarely get prosecuted, Spitzer – who should know esoteric laws better than anyone else, after all – might get in trouble because of suspected money transfers and transporting a woman across state lines for prostitution.

Ultimately, as many pundits have astutely observed, Spitzer simply didn’t believe that the laws and policies he overzealously upheld applied to him. Perhaps his usurpations weren’t in the context of an allegedly phony war; perhaps his abuses weren’t in the context of erosion of our civil rights; but any American who doesn’t feel threatened by a law-breaking politician is guilty of self-deception. No one is above the law in this country, state governors included.

So, New York Democrats – excuse me for lifting a phrase from your erstwhile standard bearer Spitzer – consider your credibility steamrolled.

Have fun knowing that you were in a position to inflict a coup-de-grace on the Republican Party in New York (the state senate clearly within your grasp), only to see it evaporate in a combination of half-heartened apologies, tabloid journalism and amateurish music from MySpace. Instead of planning for the GOP’s endgame in the run-up to November’s election, you’ll be scrambling to do damage control every time “Kristen” decides to give an interview and/or sign with a major record label.

You doubtlessly were planning an uninspired, unintelligent cookie-cutter approach in which you associate everyone with an “R” next to their name with President George W. Bush and the Republican National Committee; this strategy is a proxy to imply that your opponents are unwilling to compromise, willing to do whatever is necessary to sully the name of opponents and thinking that they are above the law. In light of recent events, don’t insult the voters of this state and pretend your Democrats are guaranteed to be any different.

Scott is a member ofthe class of 2008.



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