- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spitzer’s pals

“The fall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer holds many lessons, and the press will surely be examining them in coming months. But don’t expect the press corps to delve into the biggest lesson of all — its own role as his enabler,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“Journalists have spent the past two days asking how a man of Mr. Spitzer’s stature would allow himself to get involved in a prostitution ring. The answer, in my mind, is clear. The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press. ‘You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don’t get caught,’ said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices,” the columnist said.

“Journalism has many functions, but perhaps the most important is keeping tabs on public officials. That duty is even more vital concerning government positions that are subject to few other checks and balances. Chief among those is the prosecutor, who can use his awesome state power to punish, even destroy, private citizens.

“Yet from the start, the press corps acted as an adjunct of Spitzer power, rather than a skeptic of it. Many journalists get into this business because they want to see wrongs righted. Mr. Spitzer portrayed himself as the moral avenger. He was the slayer of the big guy, the fat cat, the Wall Street titan — all allegedly on behalf of the little guy. The press ate it up, and came back for more.”

Returning a favor

Mike Gravel was included in most of the early Democratic presidential debates last year, despite having little name recognition and almost no supporters.

This week, the former U.S. senator from Alaska returned the favor, by blasting the Democrats and endorsing Jesse Johnson, who is seeking the Green Party presidential nomination.

After a meeting between the two men in Washington on Friday, Mr. Gravel said, “My political party long ago walked away from taking the necessary steps that will safeguard our nation’s and our children’s futures. I worked dedicatedly throughout my career as a U.S. senator to protect the precious resources our country had within its boundaries as well as to mitigate the negative impact our businesses and individuals were having on the planet. I have watched the ever-important job of stewarding these gifts vanish from the political landscape, and I hold the Democratic Party leadership responsible for giving up that fight.”

Mr. Gravel intends to travel and campaign with Mr. Johnson as their schedule allows, according to a press release from the Johnson campaign.

Mr. Gravel served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1981.

Party poopers

“Just as occurred Monday night, viewers of Tuesday’s ABC and NBC evening newscasts never heard the word ‘Democrat’ applied to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, nor did they even put a ‘(D)’ on screen by his name as ABC did briefly Monday,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“CBS didn’t announce his party either on Tuesday night, but Katie Couric had done so Monday night. The ABC and NBC newscasts, however, did put ‘(R)’ on screen over soundbites from Republicans and NBC’s Mike Taibbi twice referred to the reaction from ‘Republican’ politicians.

“Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas avoided any party tag: ‘New York’s Governor, Eliot Spitzer, spent most of the day today huddled behind closed doors debating whether to resign after being linked to a prostitution ring.’ On NBC, substitute anchor Ann Curry led: ‘Tonight, the investigation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace is broadening.’

“Viewers could only figure out Spitzer’s party by implication as both shows aired a soundbite from Republican Congressman Peter King with an ‘(R)’ on screen. ABC’s Brian Ross led into it by referring to how Spitzer will soon ‘end what even his political enemies called a once-brilliant career.’ NBC’s Taibbi cited King’s party as he described ‘Republicans threatening impeachment if he doesn’t resign.’ Before video of state Rep. James Tedisco with an ‘(R-NY)’ on screen, Taibbi also noted how ‘some Republicans in Albany would welcome’ the move up by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson.”

Illinois blues

“This will come as news to Washington politicians and pundits, but the Republicans lost former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s seat not because it represents a political sea change, as Democrats would have it,” Dennis Byrne writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“Nor should they buy the Republican explanations that it was some kind of fluke,” Mr. Byrne said.

“Truth is, the loss of the historically Republican district has virtually no national meaning. It is a measure of the moribundity of the Illinois Republican Party, whose national consequences seem not to be fully appreciated by the GOP’s national proprietors. The once proud and powerful party of the late senators Everett McKinley Dirksen and Charles Percy, and more recently former Gov. Big Jim Thompson, has sunken to such depths it didn’t even bother to field token candidates in the populous Cook County.

“In many respects, Illinois should be a swing state, much like Ohio, where Democrats and Republicans slug it out on an even playing field. Illinois is rural and urban, agrarian and industrial, with all the demographic makings of both major parties. Despite the conventional Potomac wisdom, Illinois should not be racked up as a permanent blue state.

“But the loss of the Hastert-endorsed Republican candidate, Jim Oberweis, to Democrat Bill Foster, a businessman, physicist and political novice, had less to do with national issues than it is confirmation that the Illinois Republican Party has slipped into a near-comatose state.”

Thanking a state

John McCain made a triumphant return to New Hampshire yesterday, thanking the state that propelled him toward the Republican presidential nomination and telling voters he will need their support again to win in November.

“Can I give you a little straight talk?” the senator from Arizona said, using his trademark expression at the end of one of his trademark town-hall meetings. “The state of New Hampshire will be a battleground state. I intend to be back and back and back.”

He also used the visit, little more a week after he officially won enough delegates to be the nominee, to publicly make peace with some of his primary rivals. He singled out Mitt Romney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson, the Associated Press reports.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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