It should be a plus when television commentators know what they’re talking about. James Carville? Since he helped run Bill Clinton’s legendary 1992 campaign, he should have enduring insight into electoral politics. Karl Rove? “Bush’s brain” must have the inside dope on Republican strategy. But as anyone who has squirmed while watching Eliot Spitzer discuss the latest political sex scandals on CNN knows, there is such a thing as having too much skin in the game. ¶ The former New York governor’s evening show, “In the Arena,” plus his candid interviews for “Client 9,” a documentary about the 2008 prostitution scandal that led to his resignation, should have put his own downfall firmly in the rearview mirror. But that’s a difficult feat when you’re in the news business — and the news is all about sex and politics. A review of Spitzer’s coverage of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and the congressman’s tweets, denials and admissions shows that the governor’s past has an awkward habit of intruding:
Eliot Spitzer speaking with CNN contributor James Carville, the Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz and former congressman Rick Lazio, on Monday
Carville: I know the Ethics Committee is going to be in, and he’s certainly got to tell the truth there. He’s got a ways to go. He’s in a sticky spot right now, no doubt about that.
Spitzer: Look, no question about that. And look, the decision to resign is a deeply personal one, and let me be very upfront about this, as most folks probably know.
Spitzer: I made the other decision. I did resign.
Spitzer: It seems to me that Anthony’s web of untruths, lies — there’s no other way, nothing else you can call it — last week where repeatedly he just said over and over, he denied it, denied it, denied it, did come clean today. Doesn’t that make it that much harder? Will the media let him get away with this over the next weeks, months, into the foreseeable future?
Kurtz: Probably not. I mean, I remember the embarrassing day when you resigned as governor, Eliot, but the difference is you hadn’t given 27 television interviews the week before saying that you didn’t do something, and you had, as Weiner has done here.
Lazio: And you know, I just think that the honorable thing to do is when you mess up, you screw up, and this situation where you lie for over a week and try and manipulate the system and try to destroy someone else’s reputation . . . there ought to be some accountability, personal accountability.
Spitzer: All right, look. Interesting and important points from all of you. . . . Unfortunately, this story probably is not over.
Spitzer and Mediaite founder Dan Abrams, on Tuesday
Spitzer: Would he have been able to overcome this, or is this the media saying the greatest sin here is the lie?
Abrams: Yes. I mean, he had a better chance, a much better chance. I mean, when you see him in interview after interview, not just lying, but lying in a way where he’s indignant at the questions — “You deem to ask me that question” — I think that’s a really tough position for him to be in. I mean, look, let me ask you, I’ll turn the table on you for a moment. I mean, you’re someone who we know —
Spitzer: Wait a minute. This is a —
Abrams : I know. But just quickly — I mean, I would think that this is something that you know about. You come out, you make your statement, you come clean — I mean, do you think that that helped your situation?
Spitzer: Look, let me be very clear. I sympathize with Anthony Weiner. I know he is going through torment like virtually no other, but his greatest sin from the perspective of the public was not being truthful at the moment of crisis.
Spitzer and CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, BigGovernment.com founder Andrew Breitbart and Kurtz, on Wednesday
Spitzer: But you know what, Dana, it seems to me that in the calls that Congressman Weiner is making to colleagues asking forgiveness, he must also be asking for them to voice some element of support or at least to slow this train down that now seems to be hurtling in only one direction. And as you just said, that clearly — that piece of the request is clearly not going anywhere.
Bash: You know, I wonder if he is. He must be, you’re right. I mean you — you know, you probably know that the idea of this better than I — but members of Congress that I’ve talked to who have spoken to him, they have not said that he said, “Please go out there and support me.” That he just said, “Please, please” — you know, “take my forgiveness.” . . .
Spitzer: All right, Dana, this is going to play out in the next, I think, 24 to 48 hours at most. And for better, for worse, I guess we’re all going to be covering this.
Breitbart: Do I think that there are skeletons in many a closet? Do I think that there are other people sexting? I mean my goodness, within the last six months we have two congressmen in peril because they took shirtless photos and put them on the Internet.
So I think these guys just need to be a little bit more careful about what they do in their private life because if they do things that can compromise this country, reporters like me, journalists like me and organizations like mine have every right to expose it.
Spitzer: The question I want to ask you as a media consultant, though — a media maven — is, is his crime, was his crime the action or was it the lie to the press that so inflamed the media that it said, “Now we’ve got you in our pincers, we’re not going to let go”?
Kurtz: I would say it was the lying. Had there been no lying and somebody found out that Anthony Weiner had texted some photos or had engaged in sex talk with women, somebody would have reported it, it would have made a flap, but you know, it’s not exactly like the head of the IMF being accused — accused, I say, allegedly, you know — of attacking a hotel maid, or Arnold Schwarzenegger fathering a child with a household staff member.
But because Weiner recklessly, in my view, went on so many television shows and said this didn’t happen, and he was outraged, I think it ticked off a lot of journalists. And it also made the story — made it easy for us. It made a story of credibility and not of the underlying sexual bantering conduct.
Spitzer: Yes. I mean, look, I can tell you, and as the world knows, I have been in both of these camps. The political world — resigned. I also am now here as a journalist. What’s mystifying to most people is that he sat in front of camera after camera last week, flat-out denying it, when he must have known that this trail of e-mails, texts, tweets, whatever the technology was, was about to pour out.
How do you square that with as smart a guy as Anthony Weiner?