A New York Post OP-ED By JOHN FASO
March 17, 2008 -- LIKE every New Yorker, I was amazed by the events that cul minated in Eliot Spitzer's resig nation as governor - saddened for his family and shocked to see a once-promising political career end this way.
Of course, since I lost (in a landslide) to Spitzer in 2006, the thought has crossed my mind as to what might have been had all this come out during the campaign. But "what if" is one of the most pointless exercises in life. That said, this sad story holds a lesson on the state of our democracy in New York state - on how voters and the media consider candidates, their positions and their qualifications for office.
I knew my bid for governor was a long shot. But I believed Spitzer's policies for New York were wrong and unlikely to work. And I hoped that the public might see why Spitzer's persona was wrong for a governor.
I take little pleasure now in having argued back then that Spitzer wasn't what he appeared to be - in questioning whether he was temperamentally suited to be governor. Few listened when I said he seemed to have one set of rules for himself and another set for everyone else.
Spitzer could be an engaging and convincing candidate, and he'd earned a reputation as an effective and innovative prosecutor. But his bullying of respected people like former Wall Streeter John Whitehead and others convinced me he shouldn't be entrusted with the governorship. And some of his cases, such as those against former stock exchange CEO Dick Grasso and tax giant H&R Block, seemed motivated more by headline-seeking than any desire to actually protect the public.
Spitzer didn't seem to care who or what he ran over, so long as it advanced his political career. Yet many New Yorkers thought that was just fine, so long as he was going after "rich guys" or "big business." What I didn't count on was the credulousness of the media in simply buying - hook, line and sinker - the claims made by Spitzer's campaign. The spin, buttressed by millions in TV advertising, created the absurd notion of one man able to change everything on "Day One."
The media treated the race as a foregone conclusion. One prominent New York journalist even addressed an open letter to the new governor the day before the election. In the short term, New York faces real problems that aren't going away anytime soon. Finances at the state and local level are a mess. Our new governor, David Paterson, and the Legislature will have their work cut out for them as they tackle serious budget and economic issues. Longer term? Well, after the experience of the last 14 months, perhaps all of us will pay a bit more attention to the issues, the promises and the candidates' records the in 2010, when New York next elects a governor. John Faso is a partner in the law firm of Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP.
New York Post Letter to the Editor
March 23, 2008 -- It is apropos for John Faso to be the first individual to throw his hat in the ring for the 2010 gubernatorial campaign ("Enabling Eliot's Illusion," March 17). In the 2006 race, neither the voters nor the media looked at the issues. Both became overly involved in Eliot Spitzer's frequent headline-grabbing spectacles of bullying respected Wall Street figures and giant corporations.
Faso can cry all he wants about media coverage and voter irresponsibility, but the bottom line is that no governor will be effective while obstructionists Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have powerful positions in Albany. Get rid of the dynamic duo; then elect a no-nonsense governor. Easier said than done. Elio Valenti, Brooklyn
Faso writes about the media's "credulous" failure to analyze Spitzer's campaign claims and record in the 2006 gubernatorial election, yet Faso is silent about his own failure. As the Republican nominee, Faso failed to expose what the media had long known but not reported: Spitzer's record of corruption as attorney general - from the hoax of his "public integrity unit" to the modus operandi of litigation fraud to defeat citizen lawsuits challenging the very governmental corruption his unit was neither investigating nor prosecuting.
Exposing this would have won the election for Faso, bringing Spitzer's candidacy to an explosive and scandalous end. We wrote this to Faso in a letter entitled "Informing the Voters: Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's readily verifiable corruption in office - covered up by an election-rigging press." That was more than four months before the election and is available on our Web site. [www.judgewatch.org]
If the media have learned any lesson, they will now probe Spitzer's record as attorney general. That would propel systemic reforms more sweeping than any Spitzer, or Faso, might have advanced. Elena Ruth Sassower, Director Center for Judicial Accountability Inc., White Plains