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The Democrats' Future, And Past
Kimberly Strassell writes about how a fawning media enabled Eliot Spitzer:
...from the start, the press corps acted as an adjunct of Spitzer power, rather than a skeptic of it. Many journalists get into this business because they want to see wrongs righted. Mr. Spitzer portrayed himself as the moral avenger. He was the slayer of the big guy, the fat cat, the Wall Street titan -- all allegedly on behalf of the little guy. The press ate it up, and came back for more.
Actually, I think they were right. Eliot Spitzer does represent the party's future. Which is to say, that it is facing a massive meltdown resulting from its own internal contradictions and self-righteous coddling of corruption.
I have to be amused at the charges being flung in the presidential race between the two identity-politics-based campaigns of Obama and Clinton. Her people say that Obama's campaign is behaving "like Ken Starr." His people say that they're using "Republican" tactics. All of this projection is hilarious, since it is the Clintons who refined the "politics of personal destruction" to a high art, particularly when it came to destroying anyone with the temerity to tell the truth about them.
Poor Gerry Ferraro is now being pilloried for stating an obvious truth--that Barack Obama wouldn't have a prayer of almost having the Democrat nomination sewed up if his skin had a lower melanin content. I listened to her this morning, having to defend herself against accusations of racism. The delicious irony, of course, is not that they're "acting like Republicans." No, what's really happening is that they're behaving toward each other the way Democrats and the left have always behaved toward Republicans--accusing them of "hate" when they simply want people to obey the law, accusing them of "racism" when they want the law to be color blind, accusing them of "fascism" if they oppose the latest "liberal" fascist project.
And funny thing, they don't seem to like this kind of treatment any more than Republicans have enjoyed it when they've been on the receiving end for decades. But I doubt that they'll take any lessons from it. I expect them to continue to engage in it, and I hope that it shreds the party, and causes it to finally implode from its own toxic politics, just as Eliot Spitzer has.
But in another way, Spitzer also represents, or is on a continuum with, the party's past.
There was another Democrat politician, who was vaulted to power by an adoring press that ignored (and even helped cover up) his negative aspects. He was another politician who was all in favor of laws that would help "the little guy (or gal)," but apparently didn't think that they should apply to him. He signed a bill with his own pen, to much applause at the time from the so-called feminists, that made sexual harassment (which was broadly defined to include any sexual activity between a boss and subordinate, even consensual, particularly when the power was greatly disparate) a federal affair, subject to federal civil law suits. Beyond signing the law, he was the person who had taken an oath of office to defend the Constitution, and see that the laws of the land were faithfully executed.
Yet, when sued under that same law by a state employee for an incident that occurred when he was a governor--having a state policeman escort her to his hotel room, where he allegedly demanded oral sexual services from her--he brazenly declared that the law didn't apply to him. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.
And when the law suit progressed, he not only lied under oath, but suborned perjury from others, both through bribes, and through threats, both direct and relayed through others, to prevent her from getting a fair hearing in court. It came out that he had not only engaged in the incident for which he was being sued, but had also indulged in sexual activity with another extreme subordinate, on company time at the work place, and (as the most powerful man in the world) exposed himself to potential blackmail through this reckless behavior.
And all throughout, much of the press defended him, and stenographed the spin and lies, and attacks, of his defenders. A woman who was one of those who had had her family threatened if she didn't perjure herself, but who despite that told the truth in the affair was vilified, and called a liar, and mocked for her morality and even for her physical appearance. And in the end, with the aid of the media, after all the mendacity, after all the hypocrisy, after all the continued arrogance, the man survived politically, and even maintained a positive approval among many in the public.
And Eliot Spitzer no doubt observed all of this, and took what he thought to be a valuable lesson from it. Why in the world wouldn't he have thought that he could do exactly do the same thing and get away with it? After all, the press loved him, too.
This morning, as he is about to announce his resignation, he's got to be wondering, how did this happen to him? What did he do wrong?
[Update early afternoon]
Well, there are a few attempts to defend him from the left. They're pretty lame, though. But then, so were the defenses of Bill Clinton, so maybe hope springs eternal.
As a commenter notes, I was mistaken above about Bill Clinton signing the law that expanded sexual harassment law suit discovery procedures (how did that myth start?--I've believed it for years. No doubt some of the detritus from the hyperbole of impeachment years).
President George Herbert Walker Bush caved and did it the year before Clinton's election, as a result of bullying in the wake of the Clarence Thomas imbroglio. But there's no reason to think that Clinton wouldn't have signed it, and Bill Clinton was just as obliged to obey laws signed by his predecessors as he was to obey those he signed himself. Despite his ongoing narcissism, arrogance, and corruption, he was not a king.
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