SPARE US THE CHARM, ELIOT
- Last Updated: 5:00 AM, August 15, 2007
- Posted: 5:00 AM, August 15, 2007
WHY is everybody so surprised that Eliot Spitzer says he likes automobile racing?
After all, for one NASCAR driver to win, all the others must lose. They drive in circles, have spectacular smash-ups - and every now and again someone gets killed.
Seems like a perfect fit.
Whether Spitzer is actually a NASCAR fan is an open question, but he certainly played the part in a gushy New York Times feature story yesterday.
Apparently someone in the gubernatorial brain trust has had an epiphany: When Spitzer calls state senators and threatens to cut their heads off, the soccer moms cringe.
So a charm offensive of sorts seems to be underway. And what could be more charming than Gov. Fifth Avenue at Watkins Glen?
Don't expect too much, though. Spitzer can smile wide, but those cobra eyes give him away every time.
That, and the fact that Spitzer seems not to have a conciliatory bone in his body, add up to this: It's only a matter of time before the governor again stubs his toe on reality - and threatens to cut off someone else's head.
Spitzer is an odd duck.
Oddest of all is that he made it to the Executive Chamber without learning that politics and government are much more than zero-sum propositions. Product is more important than process.
Most pols get that instinctively. Not Eliot Spitzer and his lieutenants. For them, as with NASCAR drivers, for every winner there must be an unambiguous loser.
And it's not enough that Spitzer's opponents lose: They must be humiliated - maybe eradicated.
As former Spitzer assistant AG David Brown once put it, "Eliot lends a speed and violence to this process that you wouldn't believe. We will come to your house at night."
So it also wasn't enough:
* That then-Attorney General Spitzer disagreed with former Goldman Sachs stalwart John Whitehead years ago. He had to declare "war" on him, too.
* That Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco lives on scraps from Speaker Sheldon Silver's table and knows it; Spitzer needed to humble him further with his crude "steamroller" analogy.
* That Silver himself, after besting Spitzer in the matter of a replacement for disgraced state Comptoller Alan Hevesi, then had to be removed. "[Spitzer] has very serious concerns with [Silver] remaining as speaker," a key aide threatened at the time.
* Or that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, having similarly beaten the governor on a matter of legislative substance, then got the attention of the New York State Police - a pathetically flubbed "black op" that succeeded only in paralyzing the Spitzer administration while turning Bruno into a sympathetic character.
So Eliot Spitzer, who came to office with 70 percent of the vote, has accomplished nothing that Silver and Bruno didn't want him to accomplish, for reasons of their own - and the public-opinion polls say 50 plus percent of New Yorkers now think their governor is a liar.
That's truly remarkable.
But back to Watkins Glen.
That Times story wasn't so gushy that it didn't capture a telling Spitzer snapshot. At the end, readers learned that Spitzer's favorite driver, Jeff Gordon, got nipped at the finish line by a rival, Tony Stewart.
Reports the Times: " 'It's all over,' Mr. Spitzer said, with a smile. 'We should have impounded Tony's car'."
A charm offensive?
Eliot Spitzer needs a DNA transplant.