Spitzer’s Very Hot Water

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, takes a look at some of the possible criminal charges that could result from Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY)’s prostitution scandal. Spitzer, who’s been one of the most crusading state AGs in recent years, is in some very hot water. He’s likely to face several federal racketeering charges, violations of the Mann Act and potentially money laundering charges as well.

Gov. Spitzer was known for being unwilling to compromise with the white-collar defendants he prosecuted in New York. He shouldn’t get any disparate treatment because of his position.


You Call This A Scandal?

The New York Times‘s rather weak story linking John McCain to a female lobbyist seems to say a lot more about the internal politics of The New York Times than it does about John McCain. The story, which contains a few paragraphs of innuendo and a lot of old news, seems to be the least interesting part of the story. The more interesting part is the internal deliberations that went on before it was published:

Beyond its revelations, however, what’s most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: The new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain’s former staffers to justify the piece–both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves–the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories about McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain’s aides that the Senator shouldn’t be seen in public with Iseman–and departs from the Times’ usual authoritative voice. At one point, the piece suggestively states: “In 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, ‘Why is she always around?'” In the absence of concrete, printable proof that McCain and Iseman were an item, the piece delicately steps around purported romance and instead reports on the debate within the McCain campaign about the alleged affair.

What happened? The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn’t. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable.

Here’s what’s particularly telling about this piece. The New York Times knew of these allegations since at least late November of last year. Yet in late January, they decided to endorse McCain for the GOP nomination, and didn’t give so much as a breath that would imply that the contents of this story had any impact on that choice. If the Times had any problems with the Senator’s ethics, one would think that they’d at least hint at them in their endorsement. Yet there is not even the slightest insinuation of any ethical concern in the Times‘ op-ed.

The timing here is deeply suspect. Why did the Times choose to publish a story that was clearly not ready for publication?

The question to be asked here is cui bono—who benefits from this story coming out now?

The Times may have been pressured to get the story out by The New Republic piece. That seems the most logical explanation, even if it doesn’t involve a great deal of common sense on the part of the Times‘ editorial board. They were facing pressure to run the story and they didn’t want to get scooped, so they went ahead when they shouldn’t have.

Of course, they’re not the only ones who could benefit. Could the Huckabee camp have pushed the story to give Huckabee some bounce in Texas? Perhaps, but that seems to be an unlikely scenario. Unless Huckabee thinks that he can force a brokered convention, he’s got no chance, and if the connection were to come out, he’d be toast.

Could it be Hillary Clinton? If she can get McCain down in the polls, her electability argument gets stronger. Even though the Clintons are capable of all sorts of Machiavellian maneuvers, I’m not so sure this is one of them. For one, it’s far too subtle, and far too indirect. It’s not implausible, but still unlikely.

Of course, when one examines anything that The New York Times does, it should be viewed in light of how helpful that would be to the Democratic Party. The Times is their Pravda, and their primary source of received wisdom. Yet even then the timing still seems suspect. Why break this story now? Yes, McCain has the nomination virtually in hand, but if you want to make McCain look good in the eyes of conservatives an attack by the Times will help rally the troops. The effect of this would have much more impact in the general election, not months away.

My guess is that the Times knew they had no story, but didn’t want to take the risk of someone else scooping them. Ultimately, McCain has plenty of time to deny what is clearly a weak story, helping to rally Times-hating conservatives to his side. Meanwhile, the Times gets caught in yet another case of poor journalistic ethics and political hackery. If this is a scandal, it seems to be a scandal that backfired on those who launched it.

Campaign 2008

Are The Claws Coming Out?

Robert Novak writes on the rumors flying around Washington that Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has “scandalous information” about Sen. Barack Obama. Allegedly, the Clinton campaign is holding on to the information for now and won’t be releasing it.

It’s a classic Clintonian strategy—and it probably has to do with Hillary’s sagging poll numbers in Iowa. Instead of the story being about how Obama is catching up to Hillary in Iowa, now the story is about what sort of dirt she has on the Illinois senator. In fact, she may be bluffing, but it doesn’t matter politically. The story is already making the rounds, and in the chance there is some dirt to be dug up (and there always is), the oppo people from all the other campaigns are going to be combing Obama’s record in order to find it. If there is something, Hillary can sit on it and look above the fray and let another candidate like Edwards discover it independently and leak it. She gets the benefit of getting the damaging information out without the trouble of doing it herself. It’s the sort of Machiavellian politics that the Clintons just love to play.

As for Obama, it was a mistake for him to run in this cycle. He had plenty of time to build up a national name for himself, running either in 2012 or 2016. Instead, he got too ambitious, and now a man who has never once had to run in a competitive local race is plunging himself into national politics against a well-oiled and vicious political machine. By the end of all of this, Obama will end up being such damaged goods that it may keep him out of national politics for the rest of his career. He still has a chance to beat Hillary, but only a slim one, and even then she’ll end up destroying him in the process. Hillary feels entitled to be President, and if she can’t have it, she’ll make sure that no other Democrat does.

While the Clinton camp is naturally saying this is all a Republican dirty trick, it’s the sort of political maneuver she’s famous for. Hillary’s claws are coming out, and the more Obama threatens her ascendancy, the more likely she will be to use them.