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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.

Time magazine bestowed upon Mr. Spitzer the title "Crusader of the Year," and likened him to Moses. Fortune dubbed him the "Enforcer." A fawning article in the Atlantic Monthly in 2004 explained he was "a rock star," and "the Democratic Party's future." In an uncritical 2006 biography, then Washington Post reporter Brooke Masters compared the attorney general to no less than Teddy Roosevelt.

...What makes this history all the more unfortunate is that the warning signs about Mr. Spitzer were many and manifest. In the final days of Mr. Spitzer's run for attorney general in 1998, the news broke that he'd twisted campaign-finance laws so that his father could fund his unsuccessful 1994 run. Mr. Spitzer won anyway, and the story was largely forgotten.

New York Stock Exchange caretaker CEO John Reed suggested Mr. Spitzer hadn't told the truth when he said that it was Mr. Reed who wanted him to investigate Mr. Grasso's pay. The press never investigated.

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.

[Evening update]

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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» "Crusader of the Year": from The Volokh Conspiracy

Kimberley Strassel complains about the media's "act[ing] as an adjunct of Spitzer power, rather than a skeptic of it," and points out,

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nerdbert wrote:

I disagree. The only reason Spitzer is in trouble is because he was that EXTREMELY RARE Democrat who campaigned as a moralist, was exposed to be flawed, and is thus being treated as a Republican. Clinton had no pretensions to being other than the randy, pandering man he was exposed to be and thus survived having those faults exposed.

Rand Simberg wrote:

I disagree.

You disagree with what?

MPH wrote:

Both parties are experiencing a melt-down. I'm not sure how this is going to work itself out. Could we be looking at a 3 or 4-party system in 2012?








Percy Dovetonsils wrote:

I am enjoying the schaudenfreude of l'Affair Spitzer, but this line stopped me short:

"...a massive meltdown resulting from its own internal contradictions"

Considering how the Republicans in Congress spent 2000-06 spending money like drunken Democrats, those of us on the right can't crow too loudly.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Considering how the Republicans in Congress spent 2000-06 spending money like drunken Democrats, those of us on the right can't crow too loudly.

That's nowhere near as big a problem as the Democrats have. All the Republicans have to do to fix it is to start performing consistently with their stated principles. The donkeys don't really have that option available to them without destroying their own party.

jag wrote:

Both Clinton and Spitzer are classic narcissists.

They are prolific liars and know only one thing; their personal desires.

They are ruthless people who will take risks that most sensible people would never imagine undertaking. They do it because they have zero self control when it comes to satisfying their appetites for a) power b) sensual gratification.

Narcissists, as a consequence of their pathology, are incredibly dangerous and destructive people. They're capable of anything simply because they have no conscience, period.

Mac wrote:

The other classic sign of narcissim is never believing you're wrong. Everything you do or did was or is right, therefore, anything that is wrong is someone else's fault. Dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder is tough enough, but Narcissism I think is worse, because the person in question does not recognize a problem at all.

Navigator wrote:

"That's nowhere near as big a problem as the Democrats have (Republicans spending like drunken Democrats)."

There IS a problem, and it IS a big one: nobody considers incompetence or malfesance of elected officials a problem anymore! It's become the standard mode of behavior for the Congress, and at worst, generates a "what else can you expect" moment and we move on.

Republi-crats, Demo-cans, we're screwed either way.

bc wrote:

Our family is high level in insurance. We've been waiting for this guy to fall for ten years. The wait
was worth it. I wonder which of his enemies got him.
Not all Dems are this big of an A--hole. Believe me, Elliot Spitzer will never have hemorrhoids because he is the perfect a--hole.

Russ Goble wrote:

Not to nitpick, but I think the sexual harrassment law that Clinton got nailed with was actually signed by Bush I to make up for the Clarance Thomas nomination. It was however, written by feminists lobbyists and shoved down his throat by a Democratic congress, so the point still stands. We were told by the feminists that sexual harassment was all about power. As I remember it, that law that Bush I signed essentially made a man's sexual "history" fair game in sexual harassment cases (previously, it was a forbidden line of questioning I think). It would display a "pattern". Well, he was Governor and Paula Jones was a secretary of some sort. Clinton was the President of the U.S. and Lewinsky was an intern. Sure, there is no reason to think this latter relationship wasn't totally consensual. But, I defy folks to find a better definition of a power imbalance than POTUS and an intern. That law is the very reason that Clinton's relationship with Monica was even relevant. And yet, the feminists who wrote the bill got amnesia and then stood by their man.
The more disturbing thing about Spitzer is that we yet have another well educated intelligent woman who apparently intends to stay with the "flawed" husband. Three cheers for girl power! Just another example of the internal contradictions of this self righteous political party.

Dude! You mis-spelled her name! And I just realised that I don't know how to spell mis spell, so why am I talking?

Anyway, as she notes, Spitzer had them scared half to death. He was quite frank about the fact that if you didn't toady up to him, he would get you. ask Sean Hannity. None of them had the guts to take him on.

Orion wrote:

Considering how the Republicans in Congress spent 2000-06 spending money like drunken Democrats, those of us on the right can't crow too loudly.

Repeating the Lame Stream Media's talking points doesn't make it true. Give the Democrats a fillibuster proof majority in the Senate and the White House and you'll REALLY see how drunken Democrats spend. in 1993 Bubba tried to ram through a $50 Billion dollar giveaway to the cities as a reward for helping him get elected: it got quashed in the Senate. If there hadn't been 40+ Republicans in the Senate that would have only been the first of many lootings of the Treasury.

PersonFrpmPorlock wrote:

If there hadn't been 40+ Republicans in the Senate that would have only been the first of many lootings of the Treasury.

Er... there have been 40+ Republicans in the Senate for years and the looting's been going very well....

Xennady wrote:

If you think the looting has been going well so far, just wait until the Democrats have 60+ senators, the house, the presidency, and a supreme court controlled by justices chosen by the above. You ain't seen nothing yet.

Adrian Reilly wrote:

Speaking of serious narcissists, Sen. Obama absolutely fits the bill, and is perhaps more of one than Spitzer, either of the Clintons, or anyone else. I'm willing to go as far as to say he is the most narcissistic candidate to ever run for President.

The empty faux-eloquence, the presumption that he can lead the World's single most powerful nation, and "transform" it to boot, despite his very thin resume. His need for a teleprompter, and his impatience with "impertinent" questions that stray from his puddle-shallow non-message. When a man is a walking, talking house of cards, what else has he got but his giant gas bag of an ego?

DWPittelli wrote:

Russ Goble,

Do you know the name of this law or details thereof? I am willing to stand corrected, but the articles I saw in 1998-1999 said that it was a law that Clinton had signed which led to his thus being hoist on his own petard, for example, from

There is, as has been widely noted, one pungent irony about Clinton's policies. In 1994, he supported the Violence Against Women Act at the behest of women's groups. The act permits much more expansive discovery into the sexual history of defendants in sexual harassment and sex crimes cases. Judges and legal scholars warned that the new rules would be intrusive and prejudicial, but Clinton signed the bill into law anyway. Four years later, he found himself a victim of the sort of voyeuristic, nasty snooping that the law authorizes.

Loge wrote:

IIRC, it was the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which Cinton signed, that directly burned him by allowing the Lewinsky matter to be introduced in the Jones lawsuit.

Wikipedia says that Joe Biden's office drafted it and that Clinton signed it on 9/13/94. This was the law which, as someone noted above, made a defendant's sexual history, especially in the workplace, admissable in a harrassment suit.

Chuck Divine wrote:

Rand, haven't you remarked more than once that you wished for better choices?

The Democrats' problems are already being discussed in the Washington Post. Some self identified liberals think McCain will win -- OK, not lose.

Expect a narrowly divided Congress -- both houses.

Oh -- McCain is 71. His father died at 71. His grandfather at 61. Both were 4 star admirals. Did you know his grandfather was also a "prisoner of war" during WW II? What? Didn't he work in the Pentagon? Well, according to Wikipedia, he worked himself down to 100 pounds before the end of the war. Although in poor health, he attended the Japanese surrender ceremony on September 2nd, 1945. He flew back to the United States and died in California on September 6th, 1945.

Here's an off the wall prediction. McCain wins -- becoming only the third sitting U.S. Senator to win the Presidency. The other two were Harding in 1920 (died 1923) and Kennedy in 1960 (assassinated 1963). McCain -- with health problems stemming from his captivity in Vietnam -- also dies in office, providing lots of fodder for the superstitious tabloids. His VP becomes President. Hmm? Who could that be? Why not Christine Todd Whitman? Former New Jersey Governor, former EPA Administrator. 61 at the present time. Prochoice. Bipartisan appeal. From a big state in the Northeast.

You read it here first, folks.

TGGP wrote:
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.
So what are your predictions for the coming election? I say the GOP is going to get beat again like in 2006. Ron Paul offered them a chance to redeem themselves and go back to the ways of the Old Right, but they prefer beings RINOs.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 12, 2008 6:47 AM.

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