I'll cop to schadenfreude at seeing Eliot Spitzer metamorph into Malvolio, even though I basically agree with Kerry Howley on the moral merits of the case. Some of the man's allies are, however, taking it too far. In this MSNBC interview with Norah O'Donnell, Spitzer friend Alan Dershowitz compares him to FDR, LBJ, and Mao Zedong (I made this last one up) "all people who greatly governed during the day and at night behaved like adolescent boys." (It's beside the point, but LBJ's legendary habits of pissing with the door open and whipping out his schlong didn't, uh, occur at night.)
Dershowitz isn't helping Spitzer at all with this, but I'm not surprised by the reasoning. The problem with the presidents who worked hard and played hard was that they abused their power to do so, be it by using and then trashing staffers (i.e. Clinton and Lewinsky) or humiliating employees cowed by the office. The irony of Spitzer's scandal is that, unless we find out something far worse than what we know, this is the rare case of him not abusing power. He took some time off from a hard day of ruining careers with innuendo and novel applications of the law to buy some sex. Fine by me.
Later in the interview, Dershowitz alleges a conspiracy.
I know a lot about banking laws. I've represented a lot of people who have been involved in money laundering and structuring. This case smells. I believe that somebody must have dropped a dime on him and they started looking at his records.
O'Donnell follows up, and Dersh answers:
I do not believe the cover story that appeared in the New York Times. I think that's a story that was put out by federal officials to cover what really went on here. The banks simply don't go around accidentally finding transactions of $15,000. What banks look for is $25 million being sent to the Caymans or structured deposits of money laundered money.
In the wake of the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama the deep skepticism about this case (more from Glenn Greenwald) is to be expected. Still, sniffing out fraud by elected officials who are moving around money in a shady way is basically the only thing I want the IRS to do, and one of two things I want the FBI to do. (The other, obviously, is to do something about that poor Britney Spears woman.)
UPDATE: From the Times:
In one of the last and desperate rounds of the end game, a top Spitzer administration official reached out to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's staff on Tuesday to see if the governor could avoid an impeachment vote. But the prospects were grim.
Republicans have pledged to try to have Mr. Spitzer impeached and only 34 of the more than 100 Democrats in the Assembly would be needed for the matter to be referred to the Senate for an impeachment trial. It was clear during the discussions that 34 or more Democrats were almost certain to vote against the governor.
Too bad: If the impeachment had gone through, Silda Walls Spitzer could have run for governor in 2010. That seems to be the voter forgiveness pattern of these things.