Phone Home, Eliot


Fred Siegel, whom our own Tim Cavanaugh called Prince Rudy's Courtier, has an interesting parallel career as a demolisher of other rising New York political stars. He's tackled Michael Bloomberg before, and his new target is troubled Gov. Eliot Spitzer (whom I appraised in 2006). It's a bit of a kitchen sink, less an argument against Spitzer's governing brain as it is a K-Tel hits album of his weirdness and blow-ups. Example:

After quitting the Manhattan DA's office in the early '90s, Spitzer toyed with starting a local think-tank modeled on the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, and, in the days when Giuliani was shaking up Gotham, was a rare Democrat saying nice things about the GOP mayor. Yet Giuliani, also a former prosecutor, did not return the favor. He once joked that, after being in a room with Spitzer, "I feel like I need a shower."

Ouch–sort of funny how Giuliani is more cognizant of his roughness than Siegel is, too. Spitzer's abrasive personality has usually been excused with a comparison to Rudy, or Ed Koch, or Nelson Rockefeller, or one of the other family of meglomaniacs who rise up through New York politics like rancid meat chunks up a defective garbage disposal.

A legislator who had the nerve to gently question Spitzer was speechless when the governor referred to himself as a "f–ing steamroller" who would smash everything in his path. Another lawmaker described Spitzer in a private meeting as "eyes bulging and neck veins popping." The target of that attack later said: "I've never seen an eruption like that, except in a child who's 6 or 7 years old. If we'd had a camera, we would have had to have the governor committed."

None of this would matter (and the rich daddy-funding of Spitzer's first campaigns wouldn't matter) if Spitzer hadn't actually abused his office, the fact Siegel and co-author Michael Goodwin get to at the end. Should we have predicted his use of state police to screw over his enemies from his previous behavior? That's an interesting question, especially for people now arguing we should hand the White House to Rudy Giuliani.