There were many pols who would have qualified for “undistinguished pol of the week” starting with the president. It was a bad week for the entire administration.
To find someone who distinguished himself in a positive fashion we had to look outside the Beltway. No one is more deserving of recognition and of New York’s thanks than Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who won the primary and kept Client No. 9 — Eliot Spitzer — out of public office, we hope permanently. Spitzer jumped out to a big lead early in the campaign by double digits, but Stringer wisely kept the spotlight on Spitzer not only for the prostitution scandal but also for his vicious bullying and over-the-top crusades against Wall Street:
In addition to about $4.2 million of individual contributions and $1.9 million of public matching funds, Stringer received about $1.3 million from outside groups affiliated with unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and the Central Labor Council, an umbrella group representing 1.3 million workers.
“We built a coalition,” Stringer said in his victory speech. “We had labor, we had parents, we had the next generation of Democrats.”
Stringer says his own views on using pension funds’ shareholder clout to influence corporate management and decision-making parallel Spitzer’s.
“You have to be aggressive with corporate-governance work, and need to press for reforms that improve accountability, transparency, efficiency and performance, because that’s good for business,” Stringer said in a July interview.
“But you have to approach this work with balance and maturity and work with a lot of people,” he said. “It’s wrong to think you’re the sheriff of our pension fund.”
Balance and maturity are two words you’d never associate with Spitzer.
Spitzer used the powers of his office to pursue political enemies and to paint successful executives as criminals. Longtime New Yorker John Podhoretz wrote that Spitzer would wage “bizarre personal vendettas against politicians he could have co-opted to create a governing coalition that would have made his governorship a triumph rather than a catastrophe. Instead, he threatened and screamed and denounced and went around using the state police to gather political intelligence against a foe — a felonious act.”
Whatever damage he wrought and whoever’s career he ruined was seemingly justified in service of a greater cause — Eliot Spitzer. (“Spitzer managed to frighten the AIG board into driving Greenberg into retirement, all criminal charges against Greenberg were eventually dropped. Spitzer has never apologized for what amounted to an act of slander.”) His career is a cautionary tale about how ego and power can be wielded by a sharp legal mind to ensnare individuals in a web of dubious lawsuits and public vilification.
Stringer is a low key, diligent pol. He wound up getting the endorsements of three New York papers, largely because of the dread of seeing Spitzer back in public life. (The New York Post: “We would not trust Eliot Spitzer to manage our 401(k), much less take our teenage daughter to the movies, so why should the city trust him with its entire pension fund?”)
In this election, Stringer’s record of sober and honest service and his considerable tenacity were sufficient for victory. So for winning and keeping an arrogant, vindictive man away from the levers of public power, we say, well done, Mr. Stringer.