Nothing like a filthy sex scandal to set light to the media's puritanical tinderbox, and this time it's a trifecta: a crusading moralist, a Democrat, and a Clinton superdelegate. Yes, Elliot Spitzer's stunning fall this afternoon had the acceleration of a plummeting political suicide - one minute, it was an unconfirmed report on the Times' blog (and what does that say about deadline shifts in the digital age), and the next there were blind sources claiming the New York governor would resign momentarily. He did not, but may soon.
It all seemed remarkably well-coordinated, from the Times post to the leaked FBI affidavit to the rushed news conference, in which a pinched and dour Spitzer read a statement of regret while his wife stared at the podium and held back her tears. I suspect there's more to this story than we know tonight, but I also agree with Digby: talk of invoking the Mann Act over an expensive call girl's Amtrak ticket made the black and white B-roll of fedora-clad G-men run on that old reel-to-reel projector in my brain.
When you build your career as a self righteous crusader, you don't get the benefit of the doubt on stuff like this. But there are questions that should be asked. It is unusual to release the names of johns and it's weird that we still don't know why the feds were wiretapping on some seemingly inconsequential prostitution case in the first place. Is that something the feds spend a lot of time doing these days?
Of course, the requisite Clinton angle made the rounds almost as quickly as prurient photos of the human merch at the Emperors Club VIP website on cable - at The Field, for example, Obama blogger Al Giordano gloated that "at the moment when NY Governor Spitzer resigns, Clinton’s delegate tally will drop by one." One of his regular commenters, Mary in Seattle, pushed her belief in the audacity of hope a bit further: "The only good thing about the Spitzer deal is that some of the MSM will be rehashing the pecadillos of former politicians. ABC already is, and the last of the group is Hillary’s Bill. I don’t think this hurts, though don’t know if it helps either."
The only good thing indeed, the downside consisting of a progressive agenda squashed, a career destroyed, a family broken, a state party without a leader - and as Chris Bowers noted, a Democratic presidential bench short one contender. But what the hey, it's good for Obama.
Elliot Spitzer came to office on a moderate platform, driven by a vague, advertising-hyped promise to change "everything." We've had a lot of big promises lately - and plenty of arrogance - but this seedy little chapter shows that mostly, the song remains the same.