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The Spitzer-Cuomo Dustup

April 26, 2010

One thing about Eliot Spitzer: He never did care about who he pissed off. And he still doesn’t. In fact, this is what defines him most. That and you know what. 

His criticism of both Cuomos in the Sunday Times was payback for what he regards as their efforts to undermine him over a long period. We’re not sure whether there’s a real foundation for that belief. It sure seems like he did more than anyone else to undermine his administration.

The Cuomo camp did the right thing strategically in not responding directly to Spitzer’s attack, but its choice of surrogates was curious. If the substance of Spitzer’s attack is that Cuomo is too political and too much a part of the Albany establishment, then it seems strange to have Shelly Silver respond, and stranger still to have Hank Sheinkopf.

For his part, Silver was measured. He tried to say the right things as the party’s elder statesman. But the Cuomos weren’t doing him a favor by putting him in the middle of this fight.  

As for Sheinkopf, he used to work for Spitzer and had a falling out with him. Hank is a “dial-a-quote” for whoever is in power at the moment.

Some pushback from the Cuomo camp was necessary. They couldn’t simply ignore the comments. But back to our original point, Spitzer is not likely to be influenced by anyone. He’s determined to continue in the role of aggressive critic and, surprisingly, the media is playing along with it. (Why did the Times put the diatribe on the front page?)

The danger for Cuomo (and the Democrats) is that Spitzer becomes an even more animated critic. Spitzer seems to be flailing around a bit, but he still has the ability to make cogent arguments and could certainly be a long-term annoyance, if not a threat.

The danger for Spitzer, though, is that he gets lumped into the mix of Pedro Espada and Hank Morris as Cuomo foils. Another danger is that being “a bad Dem” will delay his comeback plans.

For our part, we love a good policy argument. But this isn’t it. This is a little too personal and, frankly, weird.

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