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The Anti-Spitz

August 19, 2010

Kathleen Rice, the Nassau District Attorney who is running for state attorney general, met with the New York Post editorial board yesterday and volunteered the notion that she is completely unlike Eliot Spitzer. 

She’s not a “bully” and not into “victory laps.” Instead, she’s reasonable and has good judgment, where Spitzer lacked it. 

These comments are advantageous for Rice in the following ways: The Post still hates Spitzer and her barbs were music to the editors’ ears. Reminding people of Spitzer’s negatives may hurt the main heir to the Spitzer legacy, former top aide Eric Dinallo, who may be making some in-roads in his campaign at Rice’s expense. In addition, the criticism may help rally women voters whom Rice needs to turn out in force in the September primary. 

On another level, Rice’s comments are revisionist, disingenuous and cheap. 

With regard to history, we believe Spitzer was a lousy governor, but an extraordinary AG. The faults she attributes to him in terms of temperament emerged when he was governor, not AG. 

With regard to politics, we think her comments are at odds with what the public really wants in an AG – someone who is a real fighter for average New Yorkers. 

With regard to form, we don’t think it is ever appropriate to trash people who have left office and who aren’t part of the current debate. Of course, it happens all the time. Pataki spent the better part of 12 years citing Mario Cuomo’s “failed policies of the past.” 

Some people thought it was poetic justice when Spitzer, in his inaugural remarks, noted that the state had “sleep-walked” during much of the previous decade under Pataki.  Others thought this remark was unbelievably harsh and in bad form, since Pataki was in the front row for the speech. 

Four years later, Spitzer’s criticism seems rather mild, but maybe it’s kharma that some AG aspirants are now taking shots at him. 

Still, we don’t think it reflects well on Rice to have leveled this criticism. It struck us as pandering from someone who has yet to distinguish herself in terms of grasp of issues or vision for the office.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. societax permalink
    August 20, 2010 1:50 AM

    Your description of Rice’s comments as “revisionist, disingenuous and cheap” hardly scratches the surface. But you’re right that the stench of pandering is everywhere. But I don’t think you give your readers enough information to understand why her assertions are so disingenuous.

    What she condemns now as “victory laps” she later will call “press releases” and “press conferences.” She’ll be doing plenty of those laps, just like every other politician who wants to be elected, or re-elected.

    As for bullying, she couldn’t possibly have done her job as DA or earlier as a homicide prosecutor without routine bullying. But then it was bullying just one person, not large institutional players with very different political and economic calculations, and there were fewer statewide “victory laps” to be had. The real question is whether she thinks Cuomo bullied Wall Street via press releases about impending prosecutions and subpoenas? That’s exactly what Spitzer did, too.

    But Rice also knows full well that very few criminal cases actually go to trial; instead they plead out. She didn’t have coffee klatsches to achieve the results she’s now touting. Additionally, her campaign website already contradicts her statements: she proudly announces that she “forced the global retailer” Walmart to change its business practices. Force = bullying. (And of course there is the fact that when she became DA, she told all the part-time [mommy-track] prosecutors to go full-time or quit. She’s within her rights to run the office that way, but the people of Nassau County lost some good prosecutors, and in daylight women voters will not be swayed by her Spitzer-bashing.)

    Finally, on Rice being cheap: Spitzer has chosen to insert himself in the debates on regulation and prosecution of Wall Street. He became a columnist and repeatedly appears on news programs to provide commentary. So he is “part of the current debate.” In reality, Spitzer achieved several big-headline results that were more like shavings off an iceberg. And when targets fought back, his office lost; the Dick Grasso litigation from the NYSE was a prominent example. But Rice probably never thought about these actual shortcomings before talking to the Post.

    **NB: I’m neither in politics nor working for any candidate in any capacity. And given that I never registered with a party, I cannot vote in the upcoming primaries.

  2. August 20, 2010 9:59 AM

    Isn’t it time that you took off the blinders and re-examined Eliot Spitzer’s accomplishments as AG? In the end he generated a lot of smoke on his own behalf, but not much fire on behalf of the citizens of New York.

    While chasing down a few Wall Street bad guys, he totally missed the activity that led to the 2008 financial crisis. In other words he picked off some low hanging green apples while letting the rotten apples get wormy and overripe before they fell on the American people.

    The arrogance that he displayed as governor was always there, but the attorney general doesn’t have to play such a public role or negotiate between competing parties which is why it was so well hidden.

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