Wednesday, March 12, 2008

All The News That Gives Us Fits

Well, this is the week that was, as someone used to say, and it's only Wednesday. First of all there's New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who has apparently made it his habit, for at least the past eight months, to dally with call girls from a prostitution ring called The Empire Club. This has all the trappings of a Gilded Age scandal--I mean, the "diamond ratings" for the girls, the secret arrangements and lush meeting hotels from Dallas to Florida to Washington D.C. I spoke with a reporter from the Chicago Tribune about the scandal Monday night and my remarks are recorded here in a nice article (although my name is misspelled--the bane of us Cumminses is that "g" tossed in at the end. We spend our lives crying "Cummins! No "g!"). The point of our conversation, as you might expect, is that nothing is new under the sun. However, Spitzer's downfall is astonishing. Somehow or other--and this is the interesting question--the IRS was watching his bank accounts during a "routine tax investigation" and saw large amounts of cash going out to a shell corporation through which clients of the Empire Club paid their bills. Were the IRS set on him by a political enemy, of which he has many, and in both parties? And in the meantime, where is Kristen, the young woman with whom he spent the night of Feb. 13 in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington? As a friend emailed me last night, as giddy as the stocktraders who broke out into the laughter on the floor of the Exchange on hearing the Spitzer news this Monday, "We want Kristen We want Kristen! Whips, butt plugs, and all!" (Eliot supposedly had a predilection for sex that was "not safe," according to the young woman.)
We'll the meantime, the fact that he has not yet resigned only goes to show how tenaciously these guys want to hold onto power. According to news reports, his wife, Silda, is supposedly urging him to stay and fight. Supposedly. She had that Dina McGreevey look at his press conference, as if someone had just handed her a large, dripping, decapitated head--that of her husband, of course. But I have to say, like the James McGreevey "I am a gay American" scandal, which brought us out here in New Jersey out on the streets to talk to each other, the Spitzer news has become great conversation fodder. I was taking a stress test yesterday and I guess my heart must be okay because while the treadmill churned away myself, the cardiologist, and two nurses chatted nonstop about Spitzer.
In other news, there's a presidential primary going on, right? Almost forgot. As expected, Obama trounced Hillary in Mississippi, but even here Hillary lucks out a bit, as the Spitzer news has driven the Mississippi contest from the top of the fold. More interesting are the increased tensions between the two camps. My friend Diederik, a staunch Obama supporter, has been emailing me tidbits that have flown through the internet. The comedian Sinbad has contradicted
Hillary's account of a supposedly perilous 1996 trip to Bosnia, saying the only "red phone" moment was, "Do we eat here or the next place?" And there's Geraldine Ferraro's claim that Obama would not be where he was if he were not black. The Obama camp called this remark "racist" and "outrageous." Best of all were Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod's comments, which show that this campaign is ready for the big time, Anything for a Vote style.
"All this is part of an insidious pattern that needs to be addressed," Axelrod said, re Ferraro's comments and Clinton's "60 Minutes" claim that Obama was not a Muslim "as far as I know." Axelrod went on to depict Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson (whom he described "as a friend" ) as "a kind of junkyard dog."
Well, as Silda Spitzer knows to her regret, politics makes strange "friends" and bedfellows.

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