Winners and Losers from the Spitzer Affair


New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s acknowledged encounters with a prostitution ring probably hurt Hillary Clinton and help Barack Obama.

This will remind some folks of the distractions and costs associated with Bill Clinton’s philandering with Monica Lewinsky and may compel others to wonder if Bill really has behaved all of these years since. It’s not that Bill Clinton is playing around that matters to most folks, it’s both the costs of distraction and the question of how Hillary Clinton manages it.
I wonder some times if Hillary Clinton would have been better off divorcing her former president husband before her own presidential bid. I don’t really want to go further than that; the content of their relationship is their own business. But, at a practical level, Hillary has been dragged down by Bill Clinton in this race more than buoyed by him.
It’s a bit weird to have been on the movie set of State of Play yesterday with Robin Wright Penn speaking to a mob of reporters about the affair that her husband, a Congressman played by Ben Affleck, had been engaged in. She said something along the lines that she wouldn’t allow their relationship to be marked by this single incident — that they were about much more. . .and that the media should be focused on other, bigger things.
Today, Spitzer made a statement that sounded a lot like what Affleck would have said — and that Robin Wright Penn would have responded to:

“Good afternoon.
“For the past nine years, eight years as attorney general, and one as governor, I have tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York and that will continue.
“Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.
“I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the state of New York. But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.
“I will not be taking questions. Thank you very much. I will report back to you in short order. Thank you very much.”

— Steve Clemons


22 comments on “Winners and Losers from the Spitzer Affair

  1. Tahoe Editor says:

    “As a practical matter, Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer were never close, he very reluctantly endorsed her last year, while David Patterson, the new governor, was actually standing right next to her on the night of the Iowa primary. So she’s a lot closer to David Patterson than she ever was to Eliot Spitzer. No one was close to Eliot Spitzer.”
    –Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.


  2. peter says:

    Please, please, please, please, please- Barack and Hillary- If either of you has had an extra marital affair, tell us NOW! If you have had one, it will come out and it will end your candidacy for President. Tell us now before it is too late! Thank you.


  3. Tahoe Editor says:

    The story is the hypocrisy, not the prostitution.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Paying for sex is OK, unless you pay for sex while prosecuting others for paying for sex. End of story”
    What if your respect for your sworn duty does not parallel your own personal beliefs?
    Don’t we expect our representatives to dispense the law as it is written, not based on their own personal beliefs in regards to morality, religion, or party affilliation???


  5. Tahoe Editor says:

    Paying for sex is OK, unless you pay for sex while prosecuting others for paying for sex. End of story.
    Making this a loser for Hillary is beyond a stretch of the imagination.
    David Paterson is supposedly a Clinton supporter, and while Hillary said early on that giving licenses to illegals “makes a lot of sense” given the Bush administration’s failure to act, Barack has endorsed the idea whole hog. He’ll have to do some major backtracking if he gets the nomination.


  6. Chesire11 says:

    The fact that frequenting prostitutes exposes a person to the possibility of extortion is a significant issue for a public official. Had any of his numerous enemies discovered his predilection for hookers, they could have extorted any number of concessions from him in his official capacity as governor in order to keep things secret. The opportunities offered by a compromised governor would be far more valuable to his enemies than the chance to get him out of office.
    Bottom line is that this isn’t about uptight, puritanical American sensibilities, it is far from a meaningless scandal nor should it be dismissed as merely a politically motivated prosecution. This is an extremely dangerous instance of public corruption, right up there with accepting bribes. Spitzer exposed the governor’s office to the threat of blackmail and that goes to the very foundation of public integrity.


  7. pauline says:

    Some Questions About the Spitzer Incident
    By: Jane Hamsher Monday March 10, 2008 5:39 pm
    ABC is reporting that Eliot Spitzer came under the attention of the Feds because his bank reported “suspicious money transfers” to the IRS. The Justice Department brought it to the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad, who looked into it and found that payments were made to a company called QET, which did business as The Emperor’s Club.
    All kinds of questions arise here:
    1. Why would the bank tell the IRS and not Spitzer himself if there was a suspicious transfer? Spitzer is a longtime client, a rich guy and the governor. We’re talking thousands of dollars here, not millions. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that they spotted a “suspicious transfer” made by the governor, and that this is how things began. It’s possible it was just ordinary paperwork the bank had to file with the government whenever some particular flag was raised, but if that’s the case, why did the DoJ go to DefCon 3?
    2. What is a USA doing prosecuting a prostitution case? This isn’t normally what the feds spend their time with.
    3. Mike Garcia is a Chertoff crony. Sources familiar with the investigation say that he sent a prosecution memo to DC two months ago asking for authority to indict a public figure (Spitzer). Which means they had their case made long before the wire tap of February 13. Why did they then include this line from that conversation in the complaint?
    LEWIS continued that from what she had been told “he” (believed to be a reference to Client-9) “would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe — you know — I mean that…very basic things….”Kristen” responded: “I have a way of dealing with that…I’d be like listen dude, you really want the sex?…You know what I mean.”
    This salacious detail does not seem like it’s necessary to make their case, and appears to be added for no other purpose than to destroy Spitzer’s career.
    4. How did Spitzer’s name get leaked to the media, and who did it? Didn’t happen to Dave Vitter.
    5. Why did Mike Bloomberg suddenly start talking about running for governor recently? And why did he give $500,000 to Joe Bruno? He’s good buddies with Mike Mukasey. What did he know and how did he know it?
    6. The Mann Act? Are you kidding?
    7. Spitzer’s been in the line of fire of the GOP hit squad for a while. Roger Stone, Roger Stone, Roger Stone.
    There are all kinds of things about this that just don’t pass the smell test.
    see —


  8. jim says:

    Govenor Spitzer has now crossed the Clinton threshold to be commander and chief…


  9. Donald from Hawaii says:

    Can’t we even examine this particular case for what it is, instead of forever analyzing current events through the prism of a contested Democratic primary?
    Scott Horton of Harper’s reports that the department’s investigation of Gov. Spitzer was opened by its now-discredited Public Integrity Section under an anachronistic and archaic statute called “The White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910.”
    This disreputable law was first enacted and then used by authorities to successfully prosecute a black man, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, in line with our country’s then-tradition of legal misagenation, for his open dalliance with a white woman, Lucille Cameron. It was also used to drive actor Charlie Chaplin into exile in Switzerland in 1944 for his affair with an actress several decades his junior, Joan Barry.
    If the Bush White House was in fact specifically stalking and targeting Mr. Spitzer, rather than investigating a prostitution ring, then it’s potentially a whole ‘nother ball game. ABC News reported tonight that the investigation was triggered when the IRS had initially opened a line of inquiry to Spitzer’s bank, which Horton strongly suggests is a sign that this was a politically motivated sting.
    I, for one, would really like some more specific answers from Attorney General Michael Mukasey, before we acquiesce to throw Elliot Spitzer under the proverbial bus.


  10. dckrl says:

    The Spitzer affair, a disadvantage for Sen Clinton? Gov Spitzer’s presumptive successor would be Lt.Gov David Paterson, the first legally blind U.S. Governor in history, the first black NY Governor as well – and a supporter of Sen Clinton’s. He has stumped in Iowa for her.
    Hillary Clinton would win a prominent black voice advocating her candidacy and her cause.


  11. Tahoe Editor says:

    I think the point is, don’t pay to get laid if you’re going to go on a crusade against people who pay to get laid.


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing, isn’t it? This piece of garbage Mukasey tells Congress to go fuck themselves, that if Bush orders you to break the law, you can’t be prosecuted or questioned about your crimes. And theres nary a word about it here.
    But let some poor horny bastard pay a hooker to fulfill a few fantasies, and Washington is all abuzz and atwitter.
    If ya don’t wanna be held accountable, murder a million or so Iraqis.
    But by golly, you better not pay to get laid.


  13. SpunkyChick says:

    Most men cheat. Those who do are beyond creeps but I also despise these stand-by-your-meal/ power ticket women like the wives of Spitzer, Craig and Bill Clinton (that last one would be Hitlery to anyone who’s been sharing a cave with Osama for the last 25 years…). They should castrate their men rather than stand by them.
    Spitzer was meeting with prostitutes within the last month, and NOW, since he’s been caught 😉 is talking about his wife, his family and how he needs to make amends to them first????
    Ever heard of AIDS, Elliot? Hep B & C? Herpes?
    But sex, especially sex that only impacts a person’s relationship with their family, is nothing close to what both Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Bush Sr., did which is start wars and/or sanctions that killed millions.
    Who the hell cares? Note to Spitzer’s wife: get tested — the sooner you’re on the meds the better.
    For the rest of us, let’s get the sleazebag out of office, but anyone over ten would know that almost every single male politician has the number of a madam on speed dial.
    And that touches on my final point — the powers that be routinely use blackmail on politicians, especially sexual blackmail.
    Who wanted Spitzer out and why?


  14. ... says:

    Spitzer has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, and is a superdelegate at the Democratic national convention. As of 6 PM ET, Clinton has yet to respond to the scandal, though Radar notes that Spitzer’s endorsement has apparently been stripped from her web site.


  15. Dan Kervick says:

    I agree with Cheshire. This is a relatively small, typical and mundane political story. Politician caught with pants down = dog bites man. And it’s a local story involving a state governor, not a national office-holder. In a day or two, the media glare will have shifted away from the Spitzer affair with barely any noticeable effect on the national discourse.
    Of course, the effect will be more permanent in New York, and no doubt this affair seems mind-numbingly important to those whose mental lives are confined within the scope established by the city edition of the New York Times. But New York has already had it’s primary, and the rest of us don’t really give a shit what happens in Albany, Manhattan and the Hamptons.


  16. ToddinHB says:

    Is Spitzer a superdelegate?


  17. JohnH says:

    Chesire11: I agree. This is approaching tabloid blogging: lots of sensationalism but little practical impact (unless you live in NY).
    But it helps avoid having to address the serious issues of the day, like: “Why are we still in Iraq?”


  18. ... says:

    watch and see how the repub party plays it..


  19. Chesire11 says:

    I hate to be a pain in the backside today, but the Spitzer bombshell has absolutely nothing to do with the race for the Democratic nomination. They are completely irrelevant to each other. The problem isn’t that your analysis is flawed, the logic is perfectly reasonable, however, you’re trying to measure the effects of the ripples in a pond on a stormy day! Outside of the world of New York policies, this story has no weight. Nobody is going to put away their checkbook or pull the switch for Barrack Obama because Elliott Spitzer likes hookers.
    This is precisely the sort of Washington bubble effect we discussed earlier today. Inside the bubble, insulated from the common man’s nightly fear of losing his job, his health insurance, his home, it must be very easy to assume that the major political story of the day must have significance to the public’s approach to the major political story of the year. Outside of New York state, however, this is nothing more than salacious gossip about just another pol caught with his pants down. Yes, it will remind some people of Bill Clinton’s philandering ways, but outside of the more sexually immature members of the Beltway crowd and those who were never going to vote for a Clinton (or any Democrat for that matter), nobody cares! Our democracy is being strangled, our neighbors are serving their country in a pointless, endless war in Iraq and we’re all scared to death that we’re on the brink of losing everything we own – we’ve got bigger, more serious fish to fry.
    The only losers in this story are the people who invested their trust in Elliott Spitzer.


  20. idiotic says:



  21. Ajaz says:

    At the end of the day Hillary or Barack will win based on their message and how comfortable voters feel with them. But this truly is Spitzer’s come uppance. He has trashed so many people and taken high moral ground and now he is at the wrong end of things. So much for his aggressive designs to reach the white house one day soon.


  22. SonnyL says:

    Obama’s return is very impressive. The polls are up and the
    momentum keeps on coming. He is trending higher and higher on
    I think this maybe because we are seeing somekind of inbuilt
    solidity increasing in how Obama is being percieved, especially as
    he is wrapping up this nomination.
    On a note. There is talk of a Obama tour to Berlin, Vatican, Israel,
    Iraq and possibily Asia/Africa.


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