Analyze this: A sordid finish for the potential 'Jewish president'

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March 12, 2008 02:40

In 2003, Eliot Spitzer met with senior editors of the 'Post'.

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Analyze this: A sordid finish for the potential 'Jewish president'

spitzer gapes like fish . (photo credit: )

In the summer of 2003, while visiting Israel, then-New York attorney-general Eliot Spitzer asked to meet with the senior editors of The Jerusalem Post. A colleague less conversant with the ways of NY politics asked me at the time why the so-called "sheriff of Wall Street," whose official mandate didn't include international affairs, was bothering to take the time with a foreign paper. I explained that Spitzer was already tipped as the most likely Democratic contender in the next race for governor, and like any serious candidate for that office, he was traditionally beholden to familiarize himself with the "three I" countries of most relevance to that state's ethnic politics: Ireland, Italy and Israel (a cliché that probably only holds true today regarding the latter). In his meeting at the Post, Spitzer displayed the qualities for which he was already well known: intelligence, intensity and perhaps a touch of arrogance. He demonstrated a good grasp of the issues involving Israel and spoke more strongly in support of the recent US-led invasion of Iraq than many other Democrats: "If you're the one superpower in the world, you have to be willing to use that power to stand up to genocide and those types of tyrants who shouldn't be allowed to exist in the international community," he said. It was easy to see how the impressive Spitzer could easily gain the governor's position in 2006, and on the basis of his work as America's No. 1 crusader against corporate corruption, already be tipped for greater things - political achievements that no American Jew had yet realized. "Son of a wealthy New York real estate man, educated at Princeton and Harvard, Spitzer had been told forever that he would be 'the first Jewish president,'" - Newsweek wrote. "Eliot Spitzer was a populist avenger, a media darling, a rising Democratic star, a progressive's Rudy Giuliani, a panacea-in-waiting, a front-runner in the first-Jewish-president race," the New Yorker declared. Alas, no longer. The shine had already begun to fade from his once sterling reputation during his first year in Albany, when his aggressive, take-no-prisoners style, so popular when aimed against greedy plutocrats, seemed excessive and even unethical when directed against political opponents. But Spitzer seemed to recover his gubernatorial footing somewhat in recent weeks and had at least one asset that remained undiminished: his reputation as a loving husband and a devoted family man. Even his critics paid tribute to the public charms of his North Carolina-raised Protestant-born wife, Silda, an attractive and successful Harvard-educated attorney in her own right - with whom, he told the Post, he was raising their three daughters in the faiths of both parents. That image is shattered now, along with so much else, with the revelation Sunday that Spitzer had been paying thousands of dollars, most likely illegally, for the services of prostitutes. Another political figure might conceivably survive this scandal - but not Spitzer, who portrayed himself throughout his career as an upholder of the highest ethical standards and an avenger of those who failed to meet that test. Having made so many enemies pursuing those goals, it is no surprise that there is no shortage of critics with a healthy dose of schadenfreude at the spectacle of his hypocritical downfall. The question of the day in New York and elsewhere is: How could Spitzer, so smart and shrewd in so many other ways, have so let his sexual urges so distort his judgment? It's a question asked again and again in similar such instances all over the world - for example in the recently concluded case here of former president Moshe Katsav. It's an old story, one of the oldest in politics, and the man now dubbed "New York's naked emperor" by the New York Post would have done well to have better heeded the story of an ancient Jewish king whose lordly lust also got the better of him: "David arose from his bed, and walked on the roof of his palace; and from the roof he saw a woman bathing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David asked about the woman and was told: This is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah the Hittite." Eliot Spitzer, a child of privilege whose millionaire father was reportedly the first to tell him he might be the first Jewish president, probably never believed as he consorted with prostitutes that this day would come - the day when it would be him picking up the phone and hearing law enforcement officials say to him, as Nathan told David so long ago, "You are the man." Calev@jpost.com


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