Monday, January 18, 2010

An Unfinished Career

The new book "Game Change" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reveals what a big monster John Edwards was in documenting his affair with a freelance filmmaker and the love child it produced. Edwards carried on the affair even as his wife Elizabeth was battling cancer and tried to bargain with Barack Obama for the Vice Presidency, then a Cabinet position, before the baby was born in exchange for his support. The best he could get was a speaking slot at the Democratic convention. By the time the convention took place, the scandal broke and even that was out of the question, as Edwards's political capital was worth about as much as a Guyanese dollar. I take that back - the Guyanese dollar is worth much more. This story only makes me realize how a man with a potentially great career in public service threw it all away on a fling.
I refer, of course, to former New York governor Eliot Spitzer.
One other thing we learn from Halperin and Heilemann's book is that Edwards was a consummate phony, speaking out on the issue of poverty while making an obscene amount of money as a trial lawyer and living just as obscenely in a 28,200-square foot mansion, complete with a recreational annex that includes a basketball court, a squash court, two stages, a bedroom, a kitchen, bathrooms, a swimming pool, and a four-story tower. While Edwards talked about fighting for the little guy, Eliot Spitzer did fight for the little guy. He has a record. Not the police record form the prostitution sting, but his record as New York State Attorney General. He prosecuted cases involving white collar crime, securities fraud, environmental law violations, and even fraud at the now-discredited American International Group. He could have been one of the great governors of New York, and possibly America's first Jewish President. Now Spitzer is disgraced, and so is his state. Governor David Paterson has been a complete failure as the state's accidental chief executive, with the state budget a mess and the economy arguably in worse shape than the national economy.
I at least hope that New York State residents are grateful for the job he did as Attorney General. New York, Connecticut, and, yes, Massachusetts are fortunate to be able to elect their own attorneys general and have someone accountable to the people to fight for the people. In New Jersey, the attorney general is appointed by and serves at the pleasure at the governor.
As for Spitzer, he's still an important voice to listen to, and people do listen to him - he's appeared on Ed Schultz's MSNBC show periodically to tell people how Wall Street is still screwing us. He may have a thing or two to tell us about hedge funds, which benefited Edwards.
It's only too bad he's no longer in a position to do anything about any of this.

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